Harry Potter stood at the window of the front room of the Burrow looking out on the smooth surface and dazzling beauty of new fallen snow as it lay over the yard, covering the lane outside the house. The house wasn’t exactly quiet, but he had found this moment of peace and was thoroughly enjoying it. He and Ginny were the first to arrive at the Weasley’s for what would be the family celebration of the holidays, and they had taken advantage of the opportunity to announce their engagement to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. After some initial objections and a bit of explaining about what they had in mind, Harry and Ginny had been given the blessings of her parents. Ron and Hermione knew, and of course were delighted, but Harry was feeling a bit anxious in regards to the reactions of the rest of the Weasley brothers that would be forthcoming over the next few days. This was after all a very new thing, being engaged, and as he stood looking out the window thinking about it, Harry knew that it made him very, very happy.
“There you are,” Ginny said drawing up behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist. “I wondered where you’d gotten off to.”
Harry shrugged. “Just trying to stay out of the way. Your mum is so busy in there.”
“And you’re afraid if you stayed in the kitchen she’d give you something to do,” Ginny accused playfully.
Harry flashed a crooked smile as he put an arm around her waist. “Something like that,” he admitted.
“What were you thinking about Harry?” Ginny asked curiously.
“What makes you think that I was thinking about anything in particular?” Harry replied.
“I know that look, that far away expression you get in your eyes when you’re thinking about something serious, or solemn.”
“Okay, you caught me, you’re right. I was thinking about something, last year actually. There was fresh snow then too but I was so miserable I couldn’t appreciate it,” Harry said softly to her.
“Tell me. Why? Where were you last holiday?” Ginny asked gently.
“At Godric’s Hollow, with Hermione. Ron was still missing, and I’d just been attacked by Nagini, and I had this vision from Voldemort from when my parents were killed. Hermione had broken my wand. We were freezing our arses off and frankly had run out of ideas. I remember being so mad at Dumbledore, wondering how he could have left us in such a mess, with nothing to go on. It seemed impossible then that we’d ever be able to end it, to come out alive, much less happy.” He turned to Ginny, his face glowing with the realization of how far they had come. “Thank you Ginny. Thank you for making me happy.”
“You’re welcome Harry.” She smiled up at him and kissed him on the cheek.
“Where were you last year?” Harry asked curiously.
“Why do you ask?”
“You never talk about your last year,” Harry said. “I’ve told you about mine, more or less, so I was just wondering.”
Ginny looked up at him oddly. “I was here on Boxing Day, thinking about you, worrying. We hadn’t heard from any of you since the summer. We didn’t even know that Ron had showed up at Shell Cottage, so we all were just wondering what you three could be up to. Remus was here,” she remembered. “And Tonks.”
“Are you ever going to tell me what school was like with the Carrows?” Harry asked.
Ginny let go of him and strode a few steps away. “No,” she said flatly. “I don’t think I will.”
“Not ever?” Harry asked thoughtfully.
“Why do you want to know Harry?” she replied evasively, dodging the question.
“From what Neville said, and bits we were able to pick up from Phineas Nigellus, it sounded like it was pretty bad,” Harry recalled. “I remember watching your dot…you know on the map…and wondering, hoping you were okay.”
“Nobody was okay, not anywhere. Why should Hogwarts have been any different?” Ginny said irritably.
“We were so isolated we generally didn’t know what was happening anywhere,” Harry reminded her. “We had no idea what was going on beyond the walls of our tent or the places we visited. I still don’t really. I mean people talk like we should know, but …”
Ginny turned to stare at him. “You don’t, do you?”
“No,” Harry told her. “I try to imagine what it must have been like, but nobody wants to talk about it anymore.”
“Do you blame them?” Ginny asked, folding her arms across her chest. “I
know I don’t.”
Harry walked up behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders and rubbing them just a little. “I’m sorry Ginny. I didn’t mean to put a damper on today, not when we were so happy. It’s just that I feel there is this gap from when we were apart. I’ve tried telling you what we were up to, like I said I would, so I just thought…”
“You thought I would do the same?” Ginny asked defensively.
“When you’re ready Gin,” Harry said.
“What do you think we were doing Harry?” she said irritably. “Going to school, attending classes, trying to come up with some way of helping you when we had absolutely no idea what you were doing. We got the DA going, Neville, Luna and I. We tried to interfere with the Carrows where we could, until it got too dangerous. Had lots of detentions, of a kind that made Delores Umbridge’s look sweet and gentle by comparison. We were fighting a war Harry, in the only way we knew how. We kept hoping and praying that you’d come through for us eventually, and people kept looking at me, expecting me to know something.”
“How could you have?” Harry questioned.
“You don’t know what it was like being the girlfriend of Undesirable Number One,” Ginny said heatedly.
“But you weren’t! We broke up to prevent that,” Harry said in dismay.
“And I never dated anyone else, ever. People never believed it Harry, not for an instant. The Carrows knew it too, and they kept trying to get me to give them information. They blocked our owls, there was no way to tell Mum and Dad what was happening. They tried everything.” Ginny turned away from him, tearing up as she spoke. “I used to wish I’d been with you, but I knew that with the trace on me…they’d have found you too. That’s why even in the castle, until Neville figured out the thing with the Room of Requirement, they could always find me. Even in Gryffindor Tower. No place was safe.”
Harry stared at her, aghast. “What did they do to you Ginny?” he asked in a low tone. “How did they hurt you?”
“Why are you asking that?”
“I know they did, and from what Neville told us it sounded like the punishments got pretty physical, at least for the blokes. It looked like he and Seamus got beat up pretty bad.”
Ginny nodded. “They did. They generally tried to use magic to punish the girls.”
“What sort of magic?” Harry asked hesitantly, thinking about her scar.
“Veritaserum, for one. They gave it to everyone I think at one point or another. They got awfully angry when they realized I really didn’t know anything about where you were or what you were doing.”
“They used the Cruciatus Curse on you,” Harry guessed.
Ginny nodded. “And Imperius, in an attempt to get me to talk. People kept telling me it was hopeless that you’d been caught or killed, but I didn’t want to believe them.… I couldn’t. I kept telling myself that if it was true, that somehow…I’d know.”
Harry considered that. Would she have known? He’d thought that too about Sirius when he’d been under attack, but was it possible that she could have?
“But then, eventually I wasn’t so sure,” she went on.
“When?” Harry asked.
“When what?” Ginny asked confused.
“When was it you weren’t so sure?”
Ginny shrugged. “I don’t know. About the time things got so bad and people started talking about going into hiding.”
“When was that?”
“Just before the Spring break. I remember feeling that way just as Bill took us into hiding at Auntie Muriel’s.”
Harry stared at her. “Do you know…that’s about the same time when we were caught?”
“It was?” Ginny asked somewhat surprised.
“Yes. I remember Bill telling us about that the same day we arrived at Shell Cottage, just after Dobby helped us to escape from the Malfoy’s. Do you think it’s possible that somehow you really knew?” Harry asked.
Ginny shrugged again. “I don’t know Harry. I think I imagined a lot of things last year.”
“What kinds of things?” Harry inquired.
“Well I was thinking about you a lot, not during the day so much, but at night when I was trying to sleep. And sometimes I imagined that you were talking to me.”
“When was this?” Harry asked curiously. “All year?”
“No…I remember thinking that in the fall, before the holidays. Not so much afterwards. Sometimes though.”
Harry looked at her speculatively. “I wonder….”
“I wonder if it really was your imagination.”
“Why? Why would you even say that?” Ginny queried.
“Because, that fall after Ron left.”
Ginny nodded and Harry went on.
“We didn’t tell you a lot of details from those days because there wasn’t all that much to tell, well there wasn’t much that happened, anyway. I mean Hermione was so upset after Ron left she was barely speaking to me, we were miles from anyone, and so sometimes in the evenings, I’d feel so alone, I’d pull out the Marauders Map and just stare at your dot.”
“Yeah, I know, you told me that.”
Harry nodded. “Did I tell you that I also talked to it? That I kept telling the map that I wished there was some way you could hear me, so that you would know I was thinking of you and talking to you. And then I did. I just talked, like you were there. I never dreamed you might actually hear me.”
Ginny stared at him. “That’s what I always imagined you said.”
“What?” Harry asked startled.
“It would always start with your voice saying how you wished I could hear you, and then I could. Sometimes, you even said good night to me.”
“Yeah, I did,” Harry remembered with a small smile. “I felt a little bit silly talking like that to a map, but I guess …I was a bit desperate.”
“Harry, do you have any idea why I could hear you?” Ginny asked.
Harry shook his head. “No idea. The map is enchanted though, so maybe it had something to do with that.”
Ginny nodded thoughtfully. “Did you ever try to talk to me that way without the map? When I wasn’t at school?”
“Yeah, last year when we went to the Lovegood’s place actually. We were just outside of town and I remember Apparating to a little hill just ahead of Ron and Hermione and looking over this way. We could see the tops of the trees in the orchard from there, and I wanted to see you so badly, but given I was Undesirable Number One I knew that probably wasn’t a good idea. So I just stood there imagining you at your window here in this house and told you I missed you and wished you a Happy Christmas, and wondered if you could possibly know that I was that close.”
“I think I might have heard that too, so I don’t think it was the map.”
Harry stared at her inquisitively. “How?”
Ginny shrugged. “Magic I guess. I mean you used to do that with Voldemort didn’t you?”
“Well yeah, but that was different. I mean there was a ruddy piece of his soul trapped inside of me, that’s what made the connection. I don’t think there was any more magic involved than that.”
Ginny looked at him speculatively.
“Could he hear you too?” Ginny asked.
Harry started to shake his head, then stopped to consider the possibility, then shook it again. “I don’t think so. I mean, he tried to manipulate what I could see in his mind during my fifth year, but I never really got the impression he could see or hear things happening to me the way I could see them in him.”
“Is that the only example of such a thing happening that you know about?” Ginny asked.
“Well there’s Legilimens, but you have to be in the same room for that,” Harry said.
“But that has to do with the mind rather than the soul, doesn’t it?” Ginny asked.
“Well yeah, but what else is there Gin?” Harry asked.
“I dun know Harry. All I know is that I liked hearing you, I just wish I’d realized that I was, instead of thinking I was going mental or something.”
Harry frowned. “Maybe it was because I was so stressed out or something. You know, some weird form of accidental magic.”
Ginny shrugged. “Maybe. I wonder if Dad knows…or maybe George.”
“George? Why would George know about that?” Harry asked.
“It sounds a bit to me like what Mum used to call ‘Twin Magic’. It was like Fred and George knew what each other were thinking, but I never asked him if they actually could.”
“It would be interesting to know though,” Harry agreed.
Just then Mrs. Weasley’s voice called them from the kitchen.
“Harry? Ginny? Could you come here a minute?”
“Sure Mrs. Weasley.”
Harry and Ginny made their way arm in arm back to the kitchen from the sitting room.
“Oh good, you’re still here.”
“Of course we are Mum,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “You know we’re staying for dinner at least.”
“Well I wish your father would hurry up. He’s outside in that shed again and he promised me he’d help me with the table.”
“Is there anything I can do for you Mrs. Weasley?” Harry asked.
“Oh no dear. Arthur knows just how much to enlarge the table, though perhaps you could go out and nudge him along a bit.”
“Who else is coming for dinner Mum?” Ginny asked.
“Everybody it seems. Percy and Penelope were already coming for dinner. Charlie is of course already here, though he’s over to the store visiting with George at the moment. They will both be here for dinner. Then I told Bill and Fleur you both were here and they wanted to come, and then I just received an owl from Ron saying he and Hermione will be here by seven. ”
“I thought they weren’t coming until tomorrow,” Ginny said.
“Well it seems they’ve changed their mind,” Mrs. Weasley said distractedly. “Now Ginny dear, do get started on the potatoes, and Harry will you please go get Arthur?”
“Yes Mrs. Weasley. Right away.” Harry answered and he trotted out the back door, listening as it closed behind him with a slam.
Harry found Mr. Weasley puttering about with an old muggle radio out in the shed. He had the back of it off, wires and tubes all hung loosely out of the opening as he poked about on the inside of it alternately with a wand and a screwdriver.
“Mr. Weasley?” Harry said as he joined him at the work bench.
“Oh hello Harry. I just thought I’d give this another tweak while I’m out here,” Mr. Weasley said as he continued to poke at a screw with his wand.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked curiously.
“I’m trying to fix this Harry. I’m not really sure what’s wrong,” he explained poking another screw holding down a wire hopefully with his wand.
Harry looked at the array of parts spread out on the work bench. “I think it might be one of the tubes Mr. Weasley. This one looks bad to me.” Harry held up an old fashioned vacuum tube that had turned black on the inside.
“Is it really?” Mr. Weasley asked thoughtfully. “You mean it didn’t always look that way?”
“I doubt it,” Harry said. “Can you fix it?”
Mr. Weasley looked at the tube thoughtfully, pointed his wand at it and muttered “reparo.” The tube momentarily cleared before giving a slight pop and turning black again.
“Looks like I’ll have to replace it,” Mr. Weasley said. “Thank you Harry.”
“Sure thing. Mrs. Weasley sent me out here to get you. She wants help with the table.”
Mr. Weasley frowned. “It’s plenty large enough for six. Who else is coming?”
“Everybody,” Harry said. “Even Bill and Fleur.”
“I asked her not to say anything to the family until you did. I’m sorry Harry, but after your announcement this morning I’m afraid Molly just couldn’t resist. I hope you don’t mind.”
Harry smiled. “Not at all. We wanted it to be public, that’s why we did it,” he reminded him.
“Well I’m glad you feel that way, but Molly has got to learn to respect the privacy of our children.”
“Don’t worry about it Mr. Weasley. We wouldn’t have said anything if we didn’t want you all to know.”
Mr. Weasley paused in what he was doing and looked over his glasses at Harry.
“You know Son, I think it’s about time we stopped all this ‘Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’ nonsense. You’ve been part of the family for a long time Harry, and now that you’ve decided to make it official, I think we could go with ‘Mum and Dad’ or ‘Molly and Arthur’ if you prefer,” Mr. Weasley suggested.
“What?” Harry looked at him in genuine surprise then grinned. “Thanks Mr. Weasley…I mean Arthur. I’d like that.”
“’Arthur’ will do nicely Harry,” Mr. Weasley told him warmly. “Now since Molly is waiting, I suppose we should get going. Do take a box in while you are out here at least, and don’t say anything to Molly about the radio.”
“Not a word,” Harry promised and he took two large cartons from Mr. Weasley and held the door for him as he took two more. Together the two men walked through the snow back into the house.
“Oh you found the glasses Arthur,” Mrs. Weasley greeted them in the back porch. “Just set them on the washer dear. Thank you Harry.”
Mrs. Weasley kept them all busy well into the afternoon. By early evening the extended kitchen table had been laid, good glasses and china had been set out and the room was prepared for an impromptu party.
Shortly after five, the rest of the family began to arrive. Percy and Penelope arrived first, coming directly from work. Immediately Mrs. Weasley pressed them into service helping with the food. Bill and Fleur arrived closer to six, followed in quick succession by George and Angelina, Charlie, Andromeda and Teddy Lupin.
Harry looked up in surprise as Andromeda and Teddy walked through the door.
“Teddy!” Harry went to retrieve his godson from Andromeda.
The little boy screeched and turned his turquoise hair jet black in his delight at seeing Harry. Harry scooped him up into his arms and twirled him about, causing him to laugh wildly.
“Good to see you Harry,” Andromeda said as she pecked him on the cheek.
Harry grinned. “Good to see you too. I didn’t expect you though.”
“Molly!” Mr. Weasley rounded on his wife. “Who else did you invite?”
“Only the family dear, and a few of their friends,” Mrs. Weasley said.
“Are Ron and Hermione the last ones then?” Harry asked.
“They didn’t say,” Mrs. Weasley answered.
Mr. Weasley frowned at this, while Harry looked slightly confused. Ginny on the other hand looked livid.
“Mum! How could you?” Ginny demanded.
“I thought it might be nice dear,” Mrs. Weasley said.
“Without even asking us?”
“Ginny, what…?” Harry started to ask still holding Teddy in his arms.
She didn’t have time to answer before they heard the front door open and slam closed again, and Harry heard Ron and Hermione’s voices in the front room.
“Harry, we’re here!” Hermione called.
Harry turned to make his way to the door when in walked Ron and Hermione. In between them was Dudley Dursley. Harry just stared open mouthed at the three of them, almost dropping Teddy in his shock.
“Hi Harry,” Dudley said holding out a hammy hand.
“Hi Dud,” Harry answered sounding stunned, but shaking his cousin’s hand with his free one. He turned towards Mrs. Weasley. “What have you told everyone?” he queried.
“Yes Mum, what have you been saying?” Ginny echoed.
“Only that I thought it would be nice to have everyone in the family here for tonight. And they all very nicely agreed to come,” Mrs. Weasley waived her hand at the room at large.
Harry stared at her. Never in his wildest imaginings could he have expected Mrs. Weasley to consider Dudley one of the family. He was a member of Harry’s family of course but that was something he didn’t want to consider most of the time.
“Now then, if we are all here, supper is ready so why don’t we all sit down.”
Mrs. Weasley conjured up a high chair that she placed at the end of the table between herself and Andromeda. Harry put Teddy into it while Mrs. Weasley motioned to them all to sit anywhere along the long table. Harry sat between Ginny and Dudley and across from Ron and Hermione. All the other brothers and their respective partners filled in around them, obviously noting the use of the good china and glassware, but true to Weasley form none of them said anything. They all just kept looking from Mrs. Weasley to Harry and Ginny somewhat expectantly throughout the meal. Harry found he had a hard time eating anything, though he knew all the food was good. There was just something about them all being there watching them, that made him feel that they, he and Ginny, were on display. Finally, they made it all the way through dinner. Molly served coffee and dessert, while Harry went round to collect Teddy, seating him on his lap to distract himself from all the eyes on them. Harry never had liked being the center of attention.
“Well then Mum,” Bill said finally when it looked as though the entire meal would go by without anyone saying anything unusual in the least. “Are you going to tell us what this is all about? Or do we all have to guess?”
“Oh, well I didn’t want to say anything,” Mrs. Weasley said trying not to grin. “After all it isn’t my place.”
“If it’s not yours I don’t know whose it would be,” Percy pointed out. “It is after all your house Mum, yours and Dad’s.”
“Perhaps, but your mother is absolutely right, this isn’t our news. It isn’t up to us to say,” Mr. Weasley said.
Harry was now paying even more attention to Teddy as he waved a spoon and tried to reach for various things on the table.
“Out with it,” George said. “What are you talking about Mum?”
“Not Mum, Harry,” Ron blurted out.
“Ron!” Ginny exclaimed.
“Well are you going to say anything?” Ron demanded. “I mean you lot have been pretty quiet, and it’s a bit obvious, don’t you think this has something to do with you and or Harry.”
Ginny glanced at Harry, who met her eyes, then looked up at all the expectant eyes now focused on the two of them at the table. Feeling a bit apprehensive, he held Teddy directly in front of him, trying to convince himself that he wasn’t really using the baby as a shield. After all, if their news didn’t go over well, the Weasley brothers would simply wait until later to go after him.
“Well yeah, it does,” Harry said looking at them all, even Dudley who was seated next to him. “Ginny and I…well I asked her to marry me last night and she said yes.”
“We’re engaged!” Ginny said excitedly and she held up her ring for all at the table to see.
Exclamations broke out from around the room.
“Blimey Harry, you’re only eighteen!” Dudley said his mouth agape.
“Yeah well, that’s why were only engaged and not getting married right away,” Harry explained.
At that the room fell utterly silent again.
“What do you mean you’re not getting married right away?” Bill asked.
“Vell, there ‘ould be zee engagement, yes?” Fleur asked hopefully.
“A very long engagement,” Ginny clarified.
“How long?” Charlie asked.
“A minimum of two years,” Harry answered firmly.
“Blimey, why bother?”
Exclamations of surprise and questions of non-understanding erupted from around the room. Harry just sat there looking at Ginny. He didn’t even try to answer any of them. Ginny steadily met his gaze.
“That is our decision,” Ginny said. “I wouldn’t have accepted for less.”
Now her brothers simply stared at her.
“And you’re okay with that Harry?” George asked. “Cause if you’re not we could try to persuade her a bit for you.”
Harry held up his hand. “I’m fine with that George…all of you… really,” he added when they looked at him in disbelief. “As Ginny said we agreed on this together. I am finding that things generally do work out better when we do that.”
Ginny beamed at him.
“Yeah Dudley?” Harry looked to his cousin, who was after all his only blood relation there.
“Is that normal…for you …your…?”
“For wizards you mean?” Harry asked.
“Blimey no, it isn’t!” Ron told Dudley. “I mean there is no way I’m going to wait two years to get married once I’m engaged!”
“Oh, are you thinking about that then?” Ginny asked in a teasing tone.
“What? Oh who, me?” Ron blushed bright red, but to everyone’s surprise not nearly as red as Hermione.
“Is there something you’d like to tell us little bro?” George asked picking up on Ron’s discomfort.
“Not a chance George. Like I’d tell you lot anyway,” he added darkly.
“Oh so you’re plan is to just sneak off and not tell anyone then?” Charlie asked.
“Not exactly, no,” Ron hedged.
“Just trying to escape Mum taking over then?” Ginny asked as she glared slightly at her mum.
“Now Ginny, let’s not…” Harry began but Ginny cut him off.
“Just look around you Harry! I didn’t ask for this, neither of us did. And yet here we are, in the middle of a bloody party, the guests of honor and everything, and she didn’t bother to consult either of us.”
“Language young lady!” Mr. Weasley scolded.
“Sorry Dad. But you lot put Harry and me on the spot here, and I don’t blame Ron one bit for not wanting to say anything about it and risking similar treatment!”
“Ginny, really…it’s not that bad,” Harry said. “I mean this way everyone more or less finds out all at once, so it’s okay.”
“Well you are very sweet Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said. “I’m glad you at least don’t mind.”
“Not at all….What?” Harry demanded when Ginny stomped on his foot.
“Just as long as she doesn’t do this for the wedding,” Ginny growled.
“So back to the wedding,” Bill said. “You said in two years. Would you care to tell us why so long?”
“Well Ginny’s in school,” Harry began.
“She gets out in June,” George pointed out.
“And I’m in training…”
“You will be for the rest of your life Harry,” Percy told him peering importantly over his glasses.
“Not like he is now,” Mr. Weasley said. “Harry is quite right. The first two years of the Auror trainee program are very intense, and very physically demanding. I believe he is wise to take the precaution not to expose Ginny too early to this.”
“Did Kingsley say something to you about it Dad?” Bill asked.
“He spoke to me about it last evening. I believe he had some idea what you had planned for last night?” he asked Harry.
“More or less,” Harry admitted.
“And he feels there is some danger to it?” Mrs. Weasley asked anxiously.
“What, the training?” Harry asked.
“Aurors are on the front line Mum,” Bill pointed out. “There’s bound to be some I’d expect.”
“Well I think there might be more to it in Harry’s case than that,” Mr. Weasley said looking directly at Harry.
Harry returned his gaze.
“Kingsley said he discussed this with you?” Mr. Weasley asked to verify.
“Yes he did. I’m aware of the situation,” Harry assured him.
“What situation Dad?” Ginny asked.
“Harry has a price on his head,” Bill said bluntly.
“What?!” Ron nearly exploded. “What do you mean by that?”
“Just what I said. Being who he is, with the past that he has, amongst those who would be of most interest to the Auror Department, Harry is their most popular target.”
“Like you said last spring Ron, they’d all love to be the one to bring me down,” Harry told his friend.
“But Harry…that’s just horrible!” Hermione exclaimed.
“Yeah, but not entirely unexpected is it Hermione?” Harry asked. “I mean every wizard in Britain…”
“In the world Harry,” Bill interjected.
“Well yeah…okay in the world. They all see me as the reason for Voldemort’s downfall. And for dark wizards that means…”
“You’re the one who finished their master,” Ron remembered. “I remember thinking that right after the war. I remember we were all afraid to leave you alone at first.”
Hermione nodded. “Then nothing happened, so I guess we just all stopped thinking about it.”
“Nothing happened because I was here at the Burrow Hermione,” Harry said. “Or in other locations with wards in place most of the summer. Even at all those funerals there were wards in place and Aurors present. Then once I started at the ministry in the fall, our training was mostly on site so that was fairly secure, but after the new year…”
“You said you’re going out into the field,” Ron remembered.
“Exactly,” Harry said. “I’ll be putting myself directly within reach of all those who would like to see me gone.”
Ginny stared at the side of his head. “You never told me about that,” she said in a low tone.
“I didn’t want you to worry Gin,” Harry told her earnestly.
“But you know how to fight Harry?” Dudley asked.
“Not like you do Dud, but yeah I can defend myself.”
“So what is an Auror…? Is that the right word?” Dudley asked.
Harry nodded. “That’s right. It’s sort of like a muggle detective or investigator. In our world that’s what they call dark wizard catchers.”
“And that Volde-thingy…he was one of those, right? A dark wizard? The one we were in hiding from.”
“Yeah, he was. He was the darkest of them,” Harry agreed.
“And you took him down?” Dudley asked a bit in awe.
“How did you hear about that?” Harry asked.
Dudley shrugged. “They were all talking about it at that safe house. That wizard bloke was all jumping up and down saying how you’d done it again, and one of the muggle-borns who was there with us showed me a paper that said you dueled him and won.”
“Yeah, I did, but it wasn’t quite that simple Dud,” Harry said.
“Yeah okay, I believe that. But you did, which is why they all want you,” Dudley reasoned.
“Yeah, that’s why,” Harry confirmed.
“So you must have a few good things up your sleeve.”
“Up your…what?” Ron asked looking confused.
“It’s a muggle expression Ronald,” Hermione said. “It means Harry has some unexpected skills or abilities that his opponents might not have. And I think he does.”
“Thanks Hermione,” Harry said seriously.
“Do you?” Mr. Weasley asked as everyone looked on curiously.
“A bit,” Harry said.
“Wasn’t that only for Voldemort though?” Ron asked. “I mean anyone else could probably kill you, right?”
“Oh!” Mrs. Weasley gasped.
“Ronald, you are so insensitive!” Hermione scolded and she slapped his arm.
Ginny just continued to stare intently at the side of Harry’s head, listening intently to the conversation. Harry was unable to tell for certain if she was in shock, angry, or deep in thought from this revelation.
“Yeah, they could,” Harry said. “But I’m not afraid of dying Ron. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to put myself in a situation unprepared where I know that’s going to happen, not again. But I don’t fear it, and that gives me an edge. Plus since I’ve been training, my reflexes are the fastest they’ve ever been, and I do know a few things they probably wouldn’t.”
“And they’re teaching you new things too, aren’t they?” Hermione asked anxiously. “New defensive spells and everything.”
“Well,” Harry said. “Like I told Ginny, most of these past three months have all been review.”
“The curriculum says it’s new,” Mr. Weasley objected.
“Yeah, it is for some of them, but we learned stunning, and disarming, and all that in the DA.”
“Blimey Harry, you taught us all that,” George pointed out.
“Well yeah, that’s what Susan and Ernie keep saying,” Harry mumbled.
“Susan Bones?” Hermione asked.
“And Ernie MacMillian and Terry Boot. They’ve been recruiting from the DA,” Harry explained. “Do you know that except for our lot, all the other recruits were having trouble with their shield charms? It’s a bit pathetic really.”
George, Ron and Hermione nodded as they thought back to the early days of their DA meetings and all Harry had taught them.
“And from what Robards said, that training you did will speed up your Auror training considerably,” Mr. Weasley said a bit proudly.
“How many are in your class Harry?” Dudley asked.
“There are eight first year recruits, half of which came from the DA, and two second years, left from last year,” Harry said.
“Only two left from last year?” Bill said.
“There were more,” Harry explained. “But …”
“They got called out during the war…” Bill reasoned.
“Yeah, they did.”
“And they were killed…?” Hermione said faintly.
“Not only them Hermione. You know how many we buried,” Harry reminded her.
“Blimey Harry, no wonder they were so much in a hurry to get you in,” George said.
Harry rubbed his jaw looking at Ron. “They were after you too, weren’t they?” Harry asked his friend.
“Well Kingsley talked to me about it,” Ron said “but you know…”
“The life expectancy is generally much higher for shop owners I expect,” Percy said.
“Not necessarily,” George said somberly as he looked at his younger brother. “Do you want to do that Ron?” he asked seriously.
“Not much, not right now George,” Ron said.
“I thought you wanted to be an Auror Ron,” Hermione said.
“Maybe someday. But going out there right now…” he stared at Harry. “Blimey Harry, you know that puts you right out in front again.”
“Yeah, I know Ron. But did you know they’ve had Aurors tailing us …well me at least, since last May until the day I started? At least this way, they get that bloke back again, and I’m contributing to the solution instead of being part of the problem,” Harry said.
“But are there still that many Death Eaters out there?” Hermione asked. “I mean I’ve seen in the Prophet new arrests are made every week.”
Harry stared at her. “Since when do you believe what you read in the Prophet Hermione? You should know better than that.”
“So there really are a lot still out there?” Ginny asked softly in a slightly frightened tone.
“They think it’s on the order of several hundred,” Harry told her. “Not front line branded-with-the-dark-mark Voldemort supporter varieties, but all those blokes that got caught up with it after his return. You know snatchers, converts and the like. It wasn’t just Greyback you know.”
“So back to the wedding,” Mrs. Weasley said with a clap of her hands, obviously wanting to steer the conversation back to a happier subject.
“We’ll have it in two years,” Ginny said.
“And in the mean time?” Bill asked.
Harry grinned. “You’ll just have to put up with having me around a lot I expect.”
“Like that’d be any different!” George said.
“Yes Harry, you are always here,” Percy observed.
Dudley stared at Percy from across the table.
“Harry, have you been living here?” Dudley asked.
“Not now. I’m living in London now. But I did last summer Dud, and I do visit quite a lot. You see, they actually like me here, as opposed to …”
“Mum and Dad,” Dudley finished for him.
“Yeah.” Harry exchanged a look of understanding with his cousin.
Dudley looked from Harry to all the faces around the table. Harry could tell from Dudley’s face that he was quite aware that everyone in the room except himself had a wand, and yet to his surprise Dudley didn’t seem the least bit un-nerved by that.
The quiet of the moment was interrupted as a slight explosion was heard from Teddy’s back end and he started to cry. Harry lifted him sharply from his lap.
“Blimey Teddy!” Harry exclaimed trying to rise from the bench without his hands while holding Teddy away from him.
Everyone laughed and Andromeda quickly came to Harry’s aide, but by then everyone else was getting up too. The brothers all came round to hug their sister and congratulate Harry by clapping him on the shoulder or shaking his hand. Some turned to help with the dishes while others made preparations to leave for the evening. Harry saw Andromeda and Teddy and those with dates to the door in the front room, while watching Dudley curiously out of the corner of his eye. This was twice now he’d seen his cousin primarily in the company of mostly wizards and twice he’d seen him generally at his ease. Slowly the front of the Burrow emptied until just Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and Dudley remained.