Author's Note: I can't thank my beta theelderwand enough for his help with this and all my other stories! He not makes sure I don't have silly mistakes but also is always there to discuss ideas and help me out of writer's block. Thanks bro!
Chapter 5: “Some Rain Must Fall”
“Into each life some rain must fall, some days must be dark and dreary.”
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“This is hopeless! We’re never going to find them!” cried Hermione, slumping onto a park bench and pulling her jacket tight around her, the very picture of misery.
“Hermione, you know you don’t mean that,” said Ron gently, sitting beside her. Tentatively, he put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her toward him, still marveling that she allowed it. “We’ll find them, I promise.”
“How do you know that, Ron? How can you be sure?” she asked, her voice laced with desperation and pain.
“Because you’re you,” said Ron simply. “You’ve never failed to find what you really wanted before.”
Hermione gave a little hiccup of a sob and turned her face, burying it in Ron’s jumper. After only a moment’s hesitation, Ron reached up and pulled her close, running his hand softly down her hair as her tears really started to fall in earnest. He wasn’t very good at this sort of thing, but Hermione wasn’t objecting so he hoped he might be getting better at it.
The truth was they really weren’t doing so well in their search for Hermione’s parents. Just getting to Australia had been tricky. After taking the ferry to France, they’d worked their way through Europe by moving from one Apparation Point to the next. Even at the top of his game, Apparation had never been Ron’s forte. With the Battle of Hogwarts not even a week behind them and neither one of them having taken time to really stop and rest yet, he found each jump harder and harder. By the time they left Europe and moved on to India, he was completely exhausted. An Apparation jump to another continent across a very large ocean was beyond him at the moment and he knew it. That left them with only a few options: pay for an International Portkey to Australia and all the legal fees that went with it or pay for Muggle transportation instead.
Money. Somehow it always boiled down to money, and neither one of them were exactly rolling in it at the moment. Hermione had completely exhausted her savings during their ten months on the run, and Ron had never had any savings to begin with. Harry would have gladly given them the contents of his entire vault if they needed it, but he was currently banned from even setting foot in Gringotts, let alone accessing his accounts. Ron figured he and Hermione would just have to wing it, as usual, but before they’d left, Charlie and George had pulled him aside and given him a bag of Galleons, leaving him shocked and deeply moved. He tried to protest but they’d forced it into his hands, claiming their rights as his older and wiser brothers to look after him and pound him into the floor if he didn’t. They’d do it, too.
He took the money.
But that didn’t mean he was unaware of what he was taking. He was quite certain that they had probably just handed him all the money they had. The twins hadn’t been able to go to work for weeks which left their cash flow rather limited, and Charlie, the only Weasley who’d actually been able to maintain his job in the time leading up to the Battle, didn’t exactly rake in the Galleons as a dragon keeper. Humbled, he’d carefully pocketed it, never more proud to be a Weasley.
And they’d needed it. In the end, they’d had to pay for the Portkey. It got them safely to Australia, but they used more than half their money doing it and they hadn’t even started their search.
Completely exhausted, they’d immediately found the wizarding district of Sydney and checked into the cheapest hotel they could find. There’d been a brief moment of embarrassment and uncertainty when confronted by the clerk with the question of one room or two, but it was funds, or the lack thereof, that ended up making that call. They compromised: one room, two beds. They both knew their fledgling relationship wasn’t ready for a leap that big yet.
Still, Ron’s face had burned rather brightly as the clerk winked cheekily at him and handed over the key. Hermione just rolled her eyes.
“Honestly, Ron,” she muttered, shaking her head as they climbed the stairs with their bags, “have you forgotten that we did just spend ten months living in the same tent? I think I can trust you to stay in the same room as me without worrying you’re going to ravish me in my sleep.”
Ron was very glad he was walking behind her when she’d said that; if she’d seen his expression she would have read his thoughts like one of her beloved books and he would have been sleeping in the hall.
They’d started searching bright and early the next morning, far too early in Ron’s humble opinion, but he didn’t complain. He simply allowed Hermione to drag him blinking owlishly to the Australian Ministry and kept his thoughts to himself. He could hardly blame Hermione for her anxiety; they were searching for her parents after all.
Gaining entry to the Ministry via a letter of introduction from Kingsley, Ron figured they’d be done with their task by noon and sharing drinks with Hermione’s memory-restored parents over dinner. Seriously, how hard could it be to find two people?
Apparently, it was bloody hard. The Australian Ministry had no records of a Wendell or Monica Wilkins entering the country at all. Memory modification spells, especially ones as intricate and thorough as those Hermione had used, usually left magical traces behind. Magical governments the world over used these to keep a distant, unobtrusive eye on people with modified memories, to make sure things remained as they should. But Hermione, fearing for her parents’ lives, had done such a powerful and perfect spell it was completely untraceable. It was bloody brilliant, as the Ministry workers said over and over as they questioned Hermione, their awe growing by the minute for the young witch standing in front of them.
Ron’s chest had swelled with pride as he listened. That was his Hermione, all right. He wouldn’t expect anything less from one of her spells. Yep, bloody brilliant…too bad it was now also bloody inconvenient.
Magic being useless, Hermione swept him off to the Muggle library the next morning. They’d practically lived there for the last few days, Hermione ensconced in tombs of Government records or spending hours staring at one of those kerputers using some sort of invisible Muggle net, while Ron felt extremely useless as he sat around trying to offer support and not put his foot in his mouth by talking about magical things while surrounded by Muggles. It was probably helpful for their small amount of Galleons that she was usually so engrossed in her tasks she forgot everything else, including food, but it had been murder on Ron’s stomach. He’d done his best to be patient and ignore the rumblings, until eventually Hermione had looked up and seen the pained, puppy-dog expression on his face and agreed to stop for lunch, or dinner, or whatever the closest meal had been.
That was four days ago and they were no closer to their object than they had been when they arrived. Their money was swiftly running out and Hermione’s spirits were sinking lower and lower. As Ron now sat on the park bench and cradled her sobbing form in the chilly Autumn air, he felt extremely helpless. He wished with all his heart he could just wave his wand and make all her pain go away, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t Harry – strong enough to save a whole world. He wasn’t the twins – blessed with the ability to always say the right thing to cheer someone up. He wasn’t even Hermione – brilliant and clever and able to think herself out of anything. He was just Ron – impulsive, hot-headed, foot-constantly-in-his-mouth Ron.
“Hermione?” he said after a while when her tears had slowed slightly.
With her face pressed to his chest, he couldn’t make out her response as it was muffled by his jumper.
“Hermione,” he said again, gently pulling her head up and forcing her to look at him. Her face was rather red and blotchy and tears still streaked down her cheeks.
“You can do this,” he said firmly, ducking his head to keep eye-contact when she tried to look away. “I know you can.”
“It’s impossible, Ron!” she hiccupped.
“It’s also impossible to infiltrate the Ministry, or break into a vault in Gringotts and get out alive, and I seem to remember a certain witch masterminding both of those successfully,” said Ron pointedly.
“This is different, Ron!” she snapped, brushing harshly at the tears on her face and sitting up straighter.
Ron smiled slightly to himself; that was more like his Hermione.
“Yeah, I know. No one’s trying to kill us this time.”
“Ron!” Hermione wailed, the ghost of a smile showing through her tears. “There are thirty-three Monica Wilkins in Australia! And fifty-six Wendells!”
Ron shrugged. “We’ve had worse odds.”
Hermione plowed on, not even listening. “This is Australia! Not just a country to search, a whole continent!”
“Then we start at one end and work our way through it until we find the right Wendell and Monica.” Ron’s tone was firm and determined.
“We’re running out of money and we don’t know anyone!”
“So I’ll get a job,” said Ron seriously. He put his hands gently on Hermione’s shoulders and forced her to calm down and look at him. “And we don’t need to know anyone; we have each other. Hermione, we came here to find your parents and I’m not letting you give up until we do. Whether it takes us two weeks or two years, I’m staying.”
She stared at him for a moment, her expression unreadable, until finally, she sat up and straightened her hair and jacket. She took several deep breaths, visibly calming herself, and then nodded firmly. Her usual determination back, she stood to gather up her bag, but Ron reached out and took her wrist, pulling her back down onto the bench beside him.
He stared at her for along time. He couldn’t help it; his mouth seemed unable to function. She was so fierce and loyal and brilliant and beautiful… He’d wasted so much time, convinced she could never see him as he wanted her to, or even if she did he could never be good enough for her. Heck, he still wasn’t good enough, but he was sure gonna try to be.
“What?” she asked, looking at him with puzzlement when he didn’t speak.
“Will you be my girlfriend?” he blurted suddenly, well aware of the blood rushing to his ears.
“What?” she repeated, this time in shock.
“You’re asking me this now?” she said incredulously, her eyebrows climbing her forehead.
“I’m a Weasley. We’ve never been big on timing,” he said with a shrug. “Besides,” he added, “you snogged me for the first time in the middle of the biggest battle in fifty years…”
She stared at him a moment longer, long enough that Ron was starting to wonder if he’d really done it this time, crossed that line and messed things up for good. Then, finally, she responded.
“Yes, Ronald Weasley,” she said, shaking her head and letting her radiant smile break through the worry and sorrow on her face. “I would love to be your girlfriend. Y’know, officially.”
“Yes!” cried Ron, punching the air and grinning like a wildcat.
“So,” said Hermione, eyeing him with a shrewd and knowing grin. “Does this mean you’ve just won a bet with Harry?”
“What? No!” cried Ron, highly affronted. “How could you even think such a thing?”
Hermione rolled her eyes and looked ready to launch into some speech about boys and such that Ron really didn’t want to sit there and listen to. He did the only thing he could think of to stop her – he kissed her.
And as they walked away from the bench a good ten minutes later, ready to start their search again, he vowed never to tell her about that bet with Charlie…
With a weary sigh, Harry sank into the hospital chair, wishing it was softer. After the last week he was convinced that there was some universal law that hospital chairs must be as uncomfortable as possible.
Harry looked up at George’s question and nodded.
“Kingsley had us out beating around in the Moors all day on the trail of some elusive Death Eaters,” said Charlie with a yawn of his own as he sank into another chair.
“Any luck?” asked Fred from where he sat carefully propped up in his bed.
Harry started to shake his head then remembered the bandages still covering the twin’s eyes and answered instead. “No. Gits managed to stay one step ahead of us the whole time.”
“Lucky for them,” said Ginny dryly. “I’d run for it, too, if I heard ‘The-Boy-Who-Lived’ was coming after me.”
“The way we hear it,” cut in George with a rather wry grin, “‘The-Boy-Who-Lived’ has been coming after you all week.”
The room erupted in chuckles from her brothers as Ginny reached out and smacked George. Harry joined in their laughter, but he still couldn’t stop the slight flush that crept onto his face. He chose to glance around in the hopes of avoiding a comment on that particular topic.
The little room was practically bursting with Weasleys. Bill leaned against the windowsill behind the chair Charlie sat in, both looking tired and dirty from a day spent chasing rogue Death Eaters. Ginny perched carefully on the edge of Fred’s bed while George sat in the chair at the head of it, never out of arm’s reach of his twin. George still hadn’t left his brother’s side long enough to go home to the Burrow, but he was at least taking better care of himself. He was wearing fresh clothes, had obviously showered and shaved, and the dark circles under his eyes were starting to fade.
In the bed that was the center of everyone’s attention sat Fred. The breathing charm had been removed several days ago and the twin was relishing in his ability to talk again, even if it was rather painful for him. Harry knew he’d absolutely hated the forced silence, especially with his sight also blocked by the bandages he still wore wrapped around his eyes. Just yesterday the Healers had, after a rather lengthy examination, given the young wizard permission to sit up for short periods of time. The internal damage wasn’t yet healed; the Killing Curse and resulting Petrification had slowed that process drastically, but it was on the mend. The shimmering Shield Charm on his horribly bruised chest remained, as did the bandages on his left wrist and around his head, but Harry had to admit that he looked much better gingerly sitting up in bed and talking. He was much more like the Fred Weasley Harry was used to seeing. He stared at his friend from where he sat in a chair on the far side of the bed, hoping the image of an alive and joking Fred would eventually push the image of a broken Fred with vacant eyes lying still on the floor of the Great Hall from his mind.
“Where’s Fleur?” Harry heard Ginny ask her oldest brother as he shook himself out of his thoughts and clued back into the conversation going on around him.
“Madam Maxime asked for her help with something at the Ministry this afternoon. I think Kingsley’s got Percy in on it as well. They said they’d meet us back at the Burrow for dinner later.”
“And you’re gonna smuggle me some of that dinner back here, right, Bill?” asked Fred.
“Sorry, little brother. Don’t think I’m authorized for a covert mission quite that large.”
“Aw, please!” begged Fred, his voice giving away his teasing. “Charlie?” he tried, appealing to his next oldest brother.
“Nope,” said Charlie with a grin.
“Heartless traitors,” Fred muttered. “This hospital food is gonna kill me!”
“What food?” laughed Charlie. “I thought you were still limited to Nutritional Potions?”
“Exactly my point!” the twin cried. “Have you tasted that stuff? It comes in only three flavors: gross, disgusting, and puke-a-licous!”
Harry snorted with laughter at that; he couldn’t help it. It was just such a normal thing for Fred to say. He’d never experienced this before, this comfortable, sibling banter and he couldn’t help drinking it in, despite the setting.
Fred heard his snort and turned his head in Harry’s direction. “Find my Torture by Tonic funny, do you, Mr. Potter?”
Harry didn’t answer; he was trying not to break out in real laughter. Instead, he dug around in the pocket of his jeans for a moment and came up with a slightly crusty, rather lint covered toffee. He stood and reached across Fred, lightly slapping it into the twin’s good hand. “There,” he said graciously as he sat back down. “Desert’s on me.”
Stunned silence filled the small room for a moment before it broke into roaring laughter. They were laughing so hard no one noticed the door open until Mr. and Mrs. Weasley stepped into the room, followed by Fred’s Healer.
“What’s going on in here?” demanded Mrs. Weasley, hands gravitating to her hips. “Fred is supposed to be resting quietly.”
“Fred is bored to death of resting quietly and rather enjoying the company of his brothers and sister, Mum,” answered Fred with a grumpy frown, and Harry felt a strange warmth spread through his chest as he realized Fred had included him in the term “brothers.”
Before she had a chance to reply to her son’s comment, the Healer stepped suddenly around her and up to the bed. “Who gave you that?” he asked, snatching the sweet from Fred’s open hand. Instantly, five fingers pointed straight at Harry, who cringed sheepishly and tried to disappear into his chair.
“I was just teasing him,” he hurried to explain, throwing his hands up in the air in surrender. “Given how long it’s been in my pocket, he’d be barmy to actually eat it! And thanks for the support, guys,” he added to the others.
The Weasley clan laughed again and Harry got the distinct feeling they rather enjoyed seeing him squirm. The Healer glared at him a moment longer, then shook his head and turned back to his patient, muttering something that sounded vaguely like “early retirement.” He fussed over the injured twin for a few minutes while the Weasley parents found chairs, Mrs. Weasley looking very much like she wanted to be the one doing the fussing.
From his spot on the far side of the bed, Harry watched curiously as Fred won a small argument with his Healer. The Healer wanted him to lie back down, telling him he needed rest. Harry secretly agreed; what he could see of his friend’s face looked tired and strained from the effort of hiding his pain, but Fred wouldn’t do it. He wanted to sit up while his family was there. He promised he’d lie back down after the Healer had delivered his news.
“Shall we get on with this, then?” asked Fred brightly as the Healer stepped back, shaking his head again.
“Yeah, what’s up?” asked Charlie. “Mum just said we were all supposed to meet here.”
“I asked that you all come,” the Healer responded quickly. “We need to discuss Mr. Weasley’s recovery. There are some issues that you, as his family, need to be aware of.”
A rather sobering mood fell over the room and everyone shifted slightly, giving the Healer their full attention.
“I’m sure I don’t need to remind any of you how extremely lucky this young man is to be alive today, or how extensive his injuries were and still remain.”
Harry shuddered as he listened, stealing a glance at his friend to again try and push unwanted memories from his mind.
“Mr. Weasley’s internal injuries were so grievous that they would have killed him instantly if not for the Petrification, but that Petrification has also caused problems. It has slowed his ability to heal and interfered with the spells and potions we normally use to correct such injuries swiftly. We’ve had to delve into rather uncharted waters with his case, using spells much stronger and longer-lasting than we like to.”
“But he’ll be okay, right?” asked Ginny suddenly.
The Healer paused for a moment and looked at her, his face softening slightly at the worry on her face.
“Yes, my dear, he’ll be okay. I suspect in a month or so your brother will be up and about and giving you the usual grief, if at a slightly slower pace. But he’ll have to be careful for a while, you all will. That’s what I needed to speak to you all about. The spells we had to use to put this young man back together again were so strong, and so unorthodox, they’ve rarely been used before. We know very little about how they react to other magic, especially over the long term. It’s one of the reasons we’ve allowed his broken wrist to heal the Muggle way; no point in exposing him to more magic than is needed.”
Harry looked at Fred’s left wrist, noticing for the first time that it seemed to be immobilized underneath the creamy bandages that wrapped it.
“So this is what it boils down to,” continued the Healer. “Mr. Weasley,” he said, addressing Fred first, “in order to insure that the healing spells we’ve placed on you continue uninterrupted and without any nasty or unforeseen side-affects, you must avoid using any magic for at least two months. You can, however, still use magical objects as long as you are not performing the magic yourself. After two months, if we decide you are sufficiently healed, you can resume using light magic, but under no circumstances should you use or be exposed to strong magic for at least nine months. It could cause the spells that are literally holding your insides together right now to fail. Do I make myself clear?”
Looking unusually sober, Fred gulped and nodded. “No magic – got it.”
Satisfied, the Healer turned back to the rest of them in the room. “It’s also going to be important to limit his exposure to magic for some time, especially strong magic. That’s where you all come in. It will take the combined effort of the whole family to help him get through this and insure everything goes as it should. You’ll all have to be careful to limit your use of magic around Mr. Weasley for a while. Can you do that?”
“Of course,” said Bill at once. “We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Everyone in the room either echoed Bill’s statement or nodded enthusiastically. Harry, knowing how magical life at the Burrow was, knew that wasn’t going to be an easy task, but he also knew they were Weasleys – for one of their own they’d all have willingly and without hesitation given up magic completely if it had been needed.
“Very good. I figured as much,” said the aged Healer, smiling for the first time. He quickly began to describe for them in more detail what they could expect from the next few weeks and months, exactly what kinds of magic could safely be performed dependant on how close Fred was or the strength of the spell, and a dozen other rather complicated instructions. Harry listened carefully, determined to do everything he possibly could to help out this family that had welcomed him as though he were one of their own.
“What about his eyes?” said George suddenly, speaking up for the first time and interrupting the Healer’s lecture. “Why haven’t you mentioned them and why are the bandages still on.”
Harry watched as the smile slid instantly from the man’s face and his shoulders sagged. He sighed before speaking. “I was just about to remove the bandages, actually, but…”
“But what?” prodded Mrs. Weasley, sitting forward on her chair and literally radiating worry. Harry again stole a glance at Fred who had been remarkably quiet through all this discussion of his own health and couldn’t help noticing that the older boy was clutching the blanket with his good hand tightly, as if afraid to hear what was about to be said.
The Healer sighed again, then squared his shoulders and launched into what sounded like a speech he had prepared by heart. “Unfortunately, the highest concentration of the Killing Curse entered Mr. Weasley’s body through his eyes. It caused his retinas to detach and die, something we unfortunately didn’t notice in a timely fashion because of the Petrification and the multitude of other more life-threatening injuries. By the time it was discovered, it was too late to heal them completely.”
There was a collective intake of breath from the room at those words, but the Healer went on before anyone could speak. “And sadly that’s not all. After damaging the eyes themselves, the spell continued on into Mr. Weasley’s brain, settling around his optic nerve and causing massive swelling. That swelling has come down slightly, but it still remains, as do the remnants of the spell. We’ve tried everything, but bare in mind we’ve never seen a case like this in all the four hundred and eighty two years St. Mungo’s has existed. There’s simply nothing else we can do.”
“What are you saying?” asked Fred suddenly, his voice quiet as he clenched the blanket even tighter in his fist.
“I’m saying,” said the Healer, turning to address Fred again, “that your eyes themselves are healed to the point you may remove the bandages, but sadly, it won’t make any difference. I’m horribly sorry, son, but your sight is gone. You’re blind now.”
“Forever?” blurted Ginny, her voice a high squeak and her eyes bright with tears she was trying desperately not to let fall.
“I can’t answer that,” said the Healer sadly, sounding very tired. “There’s a small chance the spell may dissipate and the swelling go down over time, but even if that does happen, his eyes are damaged to the point he would likely only receive roughly thirty percent of his vision back.”
Stunned silence filled the small room at those words. Harry couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. Fred Weasley, blind? That just couldn’t be possible! It was just so wrong!
Suddenly, with what sounded like a small, keening wail, Mrs. Weasley dissolved into tears on her husband’s shoulder. It shattered the spell of silence that had gripped the hospital room and sent the sobering news deep into the heart of everyone there.
Abruptly, George pushed himself roughly to his feet, knocking over his chair in his haste, and stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him. As the echo of wood hitting wood mixed with the wails of Mrs. Weasley, the rest of the room looked toward Fred, sitting pale and still in his bed.
“Well, bugger,” he swore softly, letting his head fall back against his pillow.