Chapter 4 : Coming Home
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Chapter 3: "Coming Home"
“A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no awe, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”
- Agatha Christie
Evening was settling in at the Burrow as Molly Weasley sat at the kitchen table quietly drinking a cup of peppermint tea and listening to the silence around her. It was a strange silence, one that spoke of changes and new directions, but thankfully not the overwhelming pain and sorrow that it could have.
The clock on the mantle chimed seven as she took another sip. She needed to get back to the hospital shortly. The girls had brought her home almost six hours ago, forcing her to get the rest she knew she needed even if she didn’t want to admit it. She had slept for a while, but her emotions and thoughts were still too raw and battered to rest for long. Fleur and Ginny, also completely exhausted, were still sleeping, but Molly had finally admitted defeat and sought refuge in her kitchen, allowing her tumultuous feelings to surface in the solitude. It was her favorite room and always seemed to offer comfort when she needed it, which she certainly did now. Alone there with her familiar things around her and without the throng of her family, she allowed herself the luxury of a small melt down. Grief, astonishment, months of stress and worry, extreme thankfulness – they all filled her and overflowed into the empty room. Grief for things lost: Fred’s health, dear friends, Ginny, Ron and Harry’s – who was every bit as much her own son as any of the others – lost childhood. Overwhelming joy for things returned: Percy, Fred’s life, Harry’s life, peace and safety. Once the floodgates were opened, she couldn’t stop it, and Molly Weasley let these emotions along with a million others pour from her and be swallowed up in the silence of the room.
Now, as she sipped her tea almost an hour later, she felt worn out but somehow refreshed and renewed. Things had changed and would never be the same – such was life – but she was ready to deal with it now and to help her family through it as well.
She Summoned the teapot and poured another cup. One more and a few more moments with her thoughts and then she would wake Fleur and tell her daughter-in-law she was going back to St. Mungo’s to stay the night with Fred. And George, she reminded herself, knowing nothing on earth or in heaven would convince her son to leave his twin’s side.
It was good, though, she thought proudly, to watch her family come together. It always warmed her heart to see that her sons and daughter had grown from squabbling, rowdy children into young adults who supported each other. Granted, they were often still rowdy, and often still squabbled spectacularly, but that wasn’t what she meant. Her boys had become good, brave men who stood staunchly beside each other – her daughter a strong and passionate young lady. What more could a mother ask for?
Sighing contentedly, she gazed out the window at the familiar view. The trees were sprouting their leaves, and the flowers in her garden were beginning to poke up through the ground again. After a long, hard, cold, winter, spring had arrived. The symbolism of it all certainly wasn’t lost on her.
Looking farther, out beyond the borders of their property, she saw the road that stretched and twisted toward the Village that was hidden behind a hill. Movement caught her eyes and she straightened, setting down her teacup.
A lone figure was walking down the lane. He wore a formal if faded Muggle suit, but the top button of the shirt was left undone and the tie was simply looped around his neck and shoulders. He walked slowly, his head lowered and his hands shoved into his pockets, kicking at the gravel with his toes as if unsure if he should continue forward.
Molly’s heart clenched at the sight and tears filled her eyes. Her lost boy was finally coming home. He was among the walking wounded – of that she had no doubt – but he was coming home, and the rest they could work out.
Resolutely, she swiped away any moisture from her eyes. With a flick of her wand the pot of leftover soup Fleur had made earlier hopped onto the stove and began heating. Another wave and a loaf of bread commenced slicing itself. She Summoned a second cup and saucer and then just waited at the table. She still needed to return to the hospital, but she knew Fred would understand her delay.
Finally, after many long moments where she fought the urge to jerk open the door and rush to the boy, there was a hesitant knock on the kitchen door.
“It’s open, Harry,” she called, standing to check on the soup.
The door opened and he came in, a look of mild astonishment on his pale face. “How did you…?”
“I saw you coming down the lane, dear,” she told him with a gentle smile.
“Oh,” he muttered, then seemed to remember he was still standing in the open doorway and turned around, shutting the door behind him.
“Why didn’t you Apparate here?” she asked, placing a bowl and spoon on the table.
“I did,” he answered, still standing uncertainly by the door. “Well, I Apparated most of the way here, and then I walked the rest. I…I was thinking.”
Molly glanced at him again as she pulled a goblet from the cupboard. He looked so lost and young and unsure, standing there with his hands still shoved deeply into his pockets and his eyes glued to the tops of his shoes. Minerva was right; the boy was floundering and in desperate need of some mothering.
“Well, come in and have something to eat. Fleur made the soup, an old family recipe, and it’s delicious,” she said, acting on instinct. Her mother had always held firmly to the belief that all of life’s problems were best solved over good food.
Harry, however, didn’t move but remained standing awkwardly in the doorway. “I’ve just been to visit Fred,” he said quietly, still not meeting her eyes.
Molly stopped her fussing with the meal and turned to face him, waiting. Eventually, he sucked in a huge breath and lifted his head, squaring his shoulders as he met her eyes.
“Mrs. Weasley, I’m so sorry,” he said, the words coming out in a rush. “He’s hurt so badly, in so much pain, and it’s all my fault! He never would have been there if not for me. I should have told you this days ago, but I…I didn’t dare.”
“Oh, Harry,” she cried, her heart breaking. She set the jug of pumpkin juice down on the table and stepped up to him, gathering him in her arms. He stiffened, but she didn’t let go. “Harry, none of this is your fault!” she told him firmly. “None of it! I know you don’t believe that right now, but I’m going to keep repeating it until you do.” She squeezed him tighter and felt him return the hug slightly. “And as for the part about Fred not being there if it weren’t for you, that’s hogwash and you know it. Do you honestly think anything could have kept Fred away? Or any of us?” She pushed him back and lifted his chin, forcing him to meet her eyes. “We picked sides in this battle years ago, long before we even knew you. He would have been in the thick of it no matter what, and he’d tell you so himself if he could.”
“But Mrs. Weasley,” protested Harry, not listening, “how can you not be...be upset with me? I dragged your whole family into the war!” He swallowed thickly. “Even Ginny. It was like that boggart. I…I made your worst fears come true!”
“A war you almost single-handedly managed to end at great personal cost, Harry,” she countered gently, brushing his shaggy hair off his forehead. “And my worst fears did not come true. Fred’s alive, and so are you. I would call that a miracle, not something to be apologizing for.”
“Even though he’s hurt so…badly?” His voice was timid, hesitant.
With a sigh, Molly placed her hands on his shoulders and guided him into a chair at the table. She then pulled another chair over and sat down so she was facing him. “Harry, I’m going to tell you something and I want you to listen carefully to me. That night, in the Battle, when I saw Fred laying there I…” She gulped. Harry needed to hear this, but her emotions were still raw and tender and it was hard to talk about. “I felt like my heart had been ripped into tiny pieces. He’s my son, my l-l-l-little boy,” her voice cracked, “how could he be d-d-d-dead and I still be here?” She wiped at the tears that were leaking from her eyes but didn’t bother to try and stop them. “I wanted to lie right down beside him and die, too, but I also knew I had other children who needed me.”
Harry looked away, guilt-stricken, tears of his own in his eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he muttered again.
“No, Harry,” said Molly firmly, reaching out to turn his face back toward her as she shook her head. “The thing is that I felt the exact same way when I watched Hagrid carry you out of that forest! I thought you were dead! That I’d lost another one of my sons!”
Harry swallowed, unable to say anything, which was just as well, because Molly wasn’t finished. “Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Fred, but the point is he’s alive! You both are! I know somehow it will all work out. And you’re going to be all right, too, you know.”
The young man shrugged. “I don’t know,” he muttered brokenly. “I spent so long not allowing myself to…to think of anything other than Voldemort and what needed to be done, now that it’s over I don’t know what to think, or feel, or do. I honestly hadn’t expected to have to worry about it much. Now…now I… What do I do?” The open, brutal honesty of his voice surprised her even as the anguished question tore at her heart. Harry had never been one to share his thoughts much, keeping them close and secret as a survival instinct. She was touched that he would trust her like this.
“You take it one day at a time, dear,” she said softly, squeezing his shoulders and not bothering to stop the tear that rolled down her cheek. “And you let those of us who love you help you through it.”
“But I…” He broke off again and looked away. Suddenly, he sucked in a huge, trembling breath. “Mrs. Weasley,” he whispered, a sob rising from his chest as he lost the battle to keep back whatever he was fighting, “I…I don’t have anywhere to go.”
The loneliness that poured from him threatened to drown them both. Here he was, only seventeen, and already ripped from the heart of one family and casually discarded by another. He’d had father-figures and friends thrust upon him and then torn away without care. The Wizarding World had willingly laid its salvation at his feet, and then tossed him unthinkingly aside when he shouldered its burdens without complaint and accomplished what it couldn’t do. He was an instant celebrity, the poster boy of the war. Everyone wanted his autograph, but no one thought to ask if “The Boy Who Lived” had a roof over his head, clothes on his back, food in his stomach…
“Oh, Harry,” she cried again, leaning forward and gathering the trembling boy into her arms, pulling his head to her chest. This time, he wrapped his own arms around her and clung on, as if for dear life, as great, wracking sobs gripped him. The front of her robes were soon wet from his tears, but she didn’t mind, especially since the top of his head was damp from where her own were falling. “Shh, Harry,” she soothed, swaying slightly and running a gentle hand through his hair as she used to do for Ron when he was small and needed comforting. She knew instinctively that the boy currently in her arms had never experienced this before, and that he desperately needed it. “It’s okay,” she whispered into his dark hair. “You’re not alone.” She kissed the top of his head, pulling him closer. “Harry, this house…this family…we’re your home and as long as we’re here you will always have somewhere to go. Don’t ever forget that.”
Off to the side, the teapot whistled softly and the soup bubbled, but Molly paid no heed to either one. Instead she sat at the kitchen table and rocked the young man in her arms as he released years of pent up pain and sorrow, marveling at how he could be ages old and so incredibly young at the same time.
The warm glow of the rising sun filled the small graveyard behind the church, bathing the place in a solemn, eternal kind of light. Reverently, Molly Weasley stood before the white headstone. It was early morning and she was exhausted, having spent the evening comforting one boy and the night watching over another, but she knew she needed to do this before she returned home.
With solemnity, she stepped forward and laid the bouquet of flowers on the grave. Daisies. Convention would have implied that she bring lilies, or at the very least roses, but Molly had never been one to put much stock in convention, and daisies had just seemed to fit. They were strong and resilient, and while she hadn’t known the woman she brought them for, she did know her son.
“Lily,” she addressed the gleaming headstone, the name strange on her lips, “I don’t know you, never had the chance to meet you, but if you are the kind of a mother I suspect, I’m sure you know who I am. My Ron’s been bringing your Harry home for years now, and I thought it was high time I introduced myself.”
She paused, but not because she felt odd, holding a conversation with the dead. She was the mother of seven wild children; odd didn’t exist in her vocabulary. The sunshine just felt warm and comfortable on her tired shoulders and she waited a moment, soaking it in.
“He’s a good boy,” she said with a smile, “but I’m sure you know that, too. Loyal, kind, brave. Full of mischief, when he lets himself be, but too solemn and much too skinny for my liking. We’re going to work on that, though.”
She paused again, memories filling her and the location sinking in. How close she’d come to leaving both Fred and Harry in a place such as this. She blinked back tears.
“He loves you – desperately,” she continued. “You and his father. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, he’s never told me, but I’ve gathered enough to know he’s had the odd moment to actually speak with you. That means the world to him, and he’d want you to know it. But, Lily, he’s lonely. Terribly lonely, and we both know that’s not good for a young man.
“I’m not trying to steal him from you, or replace you. I would never do that. But he needs love so desperately, and I was hoping you wouldn’t mind if I stepped in for you, while I’m here.”
She stopped, glancing up at the sun as it crept higher into the sky and drinking in the beauty of it before she spoke again. “We love him like a son, Arthur and I,” she said, quietly. “He’s a part of our family now and we’ll take care of him, make sure he’s all right, remind him to wear clean underwear and comb his hair once in a while, try to keep him from being so lonely. I wanted you to know that. If I were where you are, I know I would want someone taking care of my children, and so I give you my word, one mother to another, that he will be loved.”
“Besides, I have a daughter – fiery, redheaded, passionate little thing. I’ve seen the way he looks at her. You know that look, Lily, I’m sure you’ve seen it, too. And frankly,” she added with a conspiratorial wink and a glance at the name that shared the woman’s headstone, “you know what they say about apples and trees… I suspect it might not be too long before I have the honor of at least being his official mother-in-law. But, even if that never does happen, I promise you he will always have a place in our home.”
She gave a little sigh and arched her back, pulling on tired muscles and letting her spine pop. “It wears you out, you know, raising boys, even though you wouldn’t trade it for anything. They grow their hair out and hang fangs from their ears, or traipse across the continent thinking fire-breathing lizards make good pets. They grow up and run off, trying to save the world, or join wars they really have no business being in but you know you could never keep them away from. It gives you heart-failure and ulcers and gray hairs.” She chuckled slightly. “I’m not sure how things work where you are, on the other side, but I have a sneaky suspicion you might know this. You’ve probably had your work cut out for you, pulling strings to keep that boy of yours safe and alive. Who knows, you may even have had a hand in the miraculous saving of my own boy; if so, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for both of them.”
Molly didn’t really know why she was saying all of this; maybe she just felt a kinship with this woman, this other mother, knowing they both loved the same young man so deeply. She felt she could share these things. “I’ve got to go now,” she said quietly. “My Fred’s still in hospital and no one’s sure how completely he’ll recover, and Harry, Ron, George – they’re all a little lost and broken right now. We all are, I guess, and I need to be there. But you should know, Lily – and James,” she added, addressing the other name for the first time, “that he did it. Harry did it. Your son saved us all, and he survived again. You should be proud.”
She gave another little, warm smile and brushed her fingers across the top of the white stone. “We’ll take care of him for you, I promise,” she whispered, then turned around and walked toward the gate, waiting to Apparate until she was beyond the graveyard’s fence out of respect.
And somewhere, not so very far away, another mother watched her leave, tears glinting in her brilliant, green eyes. “Thank you,” she whispered, and she was almost certain the kind, good-hearted, and fiercely protective woman who was vowing to watch over her son somehow heard her words.
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