Chapter 2 : Chapter 2
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“Don’t ask me, I’ve looked everywhere that comes to my mind, look why don’t you sit down Hermione. That stretch of carpet had more wear in the last few hours than in the last four hundred years.” Hermione ignored the last part of his remark and kept up her pacing.
“Has anyone checked the Room of Requirement?” she reached the end of the room and started back. She was oblivious to Ron’s exasperated look.
“Yeah, Seamus and Luna did. It’s empty.”
“Think, think, there must be somewhere we haven’t looked.”
“Well, if we haven’t found them,” said Ron with a rare display of logic, “it’s obvious there’s somewhere we haven’t looked… unless they… no, they wouldn’t… they wouldn’t have left the castle, would they? Before Hermione could answer they heard someone shout ‘Can’t be bothered’ at the portrait of the Fat Lady who replied with a groan of ‘Neither can I’ as the portrait swung open and Neville Longbottom came bursting through the entrance to the common room.
“They’re back, just coming across the grounds.” Neville barely had enough breath to speak. Hermione and Ron fought over who was going out through the common room entrance first. Hermione won and the trio sprinted down the corridors and raced outside.
“Where the hell have you been? We’ve been worried sick.” Hermione screamed, her face a matter of inches from Harry’s. He backed away, desperately trying to think of an answer.
“Er... just went for a walk.” It was the best he could come up with.
“Just went…” Hermione started, and then stopped when she looked at Ginny who had a sort of half a smile playing around her mouth.
“Yeah, just a walk.” Ginny said, trying very hard to sound casual.
“Oh well, that’s alright then, nice to know that we needn’t have panicked after all.” Said Neville sarcastically.
“Just a walk. You’ve been gone a bloody long time for just a walk.” yelled Ron.
“Well we stopped for a break.” Harry was feeling braver now, and not a little irked that they were having to explain themselves.
“That’s right,” agreed Ginny mischievously, “twice.” Harry would never know how he stopped himself from howling with laughter. Ginny’s smile faded as she saw her mother, with a face like thunder, running towards them. Molly Weasley threw her arms around her daughter,
“Ginny are you alright?” The relief in her voice was obvious.
“Yes Mum, I’m fine.” Molly took a step back with her hands on Ginny’s shoulders and looked intently at her daughter.
“Are you sure?” She was obviously suspicious now, glancing at Harry, who for some reason was busy examining his fingernails.
“Yes of course Mum. We only went for a walk, but we should have told somebody. I’m sorry.” Ginny was desperately hoping that she wasn’t blushing as much on the outside as she felt inside. She felt bad, as though she was lying to her Mum. ‘But I’m not really lying,’ she told herself, ‘Mum asked if I was alright, and I am. In fact I feel… wonderful.’
“Right then, inside… now.” That it was not a request was clear. “I don’t know what you could have been thinking of, wandering off without telling anybody. I’ve been frantic. Haven’t we got enough on our minds without having to worry about you two?”
They entered the school foyer they saw Professor McGonagall talking to Mr. Filch the caretaker who was staring forlornly at the state of his school. “It’s going to take forever to clear this mess up.”
“Don’t worry about it today, Argus.” Professor McGonagall consoled him, “We’ll begin in a couple of days. We’ll ask for volunteers to help you then.”
“If you’re sure Professor, then okay.”
“I’m sure Argus. Now you must excuse me, I have to speak to the Weasleys.” He turned away and trudged off with his head down, mumbling at the ground. Had anyone bothered to listen they would have heard a string of curses and obscenities. Minerva turned and approached Molly as she passed, “Molly, could I trouble you for a quick word.”
“Of course Minerva.” she looked at Harry, Ginny and the rest and said sternly, “You lot go and wait in the Great Hall. I’ve got more to say to you.” their faces fell as they trooped away. Molly gave her attention to Professor McGonagall once more.
“Molly,” she began “I’m glad to see that you found Harry and Ginny at last, but Kingsley has asked for a meeting of the Order in the headmaster’s office shortly, there are certain ah… delicate matters to be sorted out,” she lowered her voice, “disposal of certain bodies’, arrangements for the families of the dead and so on, he feels the Order should take charge until the Ministry sorts itself out.”
“Arthur and I will be there of course, Minerva. Now if you will excuse me for a moment, I have some rollickings to give out.” A short time later Harry and Ginny, suitably chastened, headed back to the Gryffindor common room.
“Well, that wasn’t so bad was it? At least it’s over now.”
“I thought you would know Mum better than that by now Harry, this isn’t over by a long way let me tell you.”
The next morning at breakfast Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, George, Neville, Dean and Seamus sat together at one of the smaller tables that were still occupying the hall. They had talked late into the night and had drunk copious amounts of coffee supplied by the house elves in the kitchen. That was why when they eventually went to bed none of them could sleep. And so they had gathered again in the common room at a very early hour and talked some more. Ginny, George and Ron had huddled together mourning the loss of their brother. The rest of the group had left them alone, not wanting to intrude. They had nearly finished eating when they were joined by Charlie Weasley, who brought them news of the meeting of the Order of the Phoenix held the previous evening. The first thing he told them was that Hogwarts would be closed until further notice.
“The castle will require a full survey because there is a lot of structural damage that will have to be put right. In fact some areas are so unstable as to be in danger of imminent collapse. Ministry engineers will be here after lunch so the idea is that everyone will leave the castle by the end of today. The ban on apparating inside the castle and grounds has been lifted temporarily. If there is no urgent reason for you to remain, you can leave anytime you like. If you don’t fancy apparating, the Hogwarts Express is leaving at two o’clock. Just let Professor Flitwick know before you leave, he’s co-ordinating departures,” he glanced pointedly at Harry and Ginny, “we don’t want to spend hours searching the castle for someone who has already gone home.” Neville yawned and spoke,
“I’ll get the train, I’m tired enough to splinch myself if I try apparating. I might leave something valuable behind.”
“Yeah, like your Remembrall.” laughed Dean.
“Oh ha ha, very funny.” muttered Neville as everyone around the table had a good chuckle. Dean and Seamus also elected to travel by train and the three of them left to sort out their personal effects. Charlie turned his attention to the others.
“Have you all got your apparating licence’s?” he asked.
“I have.” George’s tone was flat and dull.
“I have.” echoed Hermione. Harry, Ginny and Ron shook their heads.
“I would have passed but for half an eyebrow.” Ron moaned.
“Not to worry, you can go Side-Along, with Mum, Dad and Percy.”
“What about Fred?” asked George quietly.
“Bill, Fleur and I are leaving in about an hour. We’ll be taking Fred back to the Burrow. Mum and Dad are leaving about lunchtime. They are just finishing an important job.”
“What job is that?” Harry was curious.
“They are helping to dispose of certain items of an unpleasant nature.”
“Don’t push it, Harry, I shouldn’t have told you that much. Just use your imagination. You’ll figure it out.” He did.
Early that afternoon Harry, Hermione and the remaining Weasleys’ apparated back to the garden of the Burrow. They stood staring at the ramshackle building.
“It’s different.” The remark came from Ginny.
“What’s different sweetheart?” Molly looked at her daughter.
“There’s no Fred.” Ginny replied, the tears rolling freely down her cheeks.
At the Burrow the next day, the atmosphere was depressed and heavy with grief. The death of Fred Weasley was devastating to everybody. The Weasleys sat around the kitchen table, their faces lined with the pain of their loss. It seemed that whatever topic of conversation came up, they always ended up talking about Fred. Harry was no less affected than the family; he had grown to love them all, and thought of Molly and Arthur as surrogate parents. He wondered to himself if his parents would have had more children had they not died at Voldemort’s hand. It would have been nice to have been a big brother, he thought.
They buried Fred a couple of days later in a quiet secluded corner of the garden. Naturally this was the worst day of all. There was a large gathering of the extended Weasley family along with many school friends. Mostly Gryffindor. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Minerva McGonagall also attended.
Nothing was done by magic. Harry, Ron, Neville, Dean and Seamus had dug the hole by hand. While digging, Harry could not help thinking about Dobby, the house elf he had freed from the Malfoy family and whom he had buried at Shell Cottage after his murder by Bellatrix Lestrange. He quietly resolved to visit there soon.
Fred was lowered to his rest by his four brothers, Bill, Charlie, Percy and Ron. George stood between his parents, his arms around them both. Harry could feel his own eyes brimming over as he held a bitterly sobbing Ginny in his arms. After the epitaphs and homilies had been spoken, the gathering returned to the area outside the Burrows’ back door where tables stood loaded down with Molly’s home-prepared buffet. The food preparation had occupied her mind. Ron picked up a spade ready to start work. Neville took the spade from him,
“No, Ron. Leave this to us, mate. Go and be with your family.” Harry released Ginny from his embrace.
“You go with Ron, honey. We won’t be long.” Ron’s composure finally broke down. Sobbing, he embraced his four friends one at a time, and then put his arm around Ginny’s shoulders.
“Thanks guys. Come on Gin. Let’s leave them to it.” He looked at the coffin in the ground, “See you, bro.” he said softly.
“Bye Fred. I love you.” said Ginny, “I’m sorry I never told you that before.” Fresh tears were flowing freely. With arms around each other they headed off to the house. The four remaining Gryffindor’s started to fill in the hole that was now a grave. The task completed, they arranged the floral tributes on top of the slightly raised mound of earth. They linked hands and with heads bowed they each said their goodbyes to Fred.
“There’s a lot less laughter in the world today. I’ll miss that.” said Neville.
“It’s the unpredictability that I’ll miss,” Dean said.
“That was the only predictable thing about him, that you couldn’t predict him.” commented Seamus. Harry smiled.
“Fred, you were mad as a bloody hatter, but God I’m going to miss you.”
They rejoined the family. Ginny had made a point of going to her parents and each of her siblings in turn. She had embraced them individually and told them that she loved them. The conversations were naturally subdued but in a short while the sound of laughter began to be heard. Hermione was disturbed by this.
“How can people laugh like that on an occasion like this?” she asked nobody in particular.
“They can’t help it, they’re talking about Fred.” it was Ginny who responded, “I’ve been thinking about him all day and more often than not I’ve found myself smiling. Weird isn’t it?”
“Well I’ve actually been stopping myself from doing that. I was worried about upsetting people. Especially when I think about the way they left school. I can still see the look on the face of that Umbridge cow. That was hilarious.”
“Hermione,” Ginny smiled mock seriously, “You’re laughing.”
“Point taken.” Hermione replied with a smile. Eventually people started to take their farewells of Molly and Arthur. Last to leave was Auntie Muriel, she moved around to each individual saying goodbye. She arrived in front of Harry and Ginny.
“Goodbye Ginevra, keep your chin up, no more tears after today. Fred wouldn’t want that would he?” She looked intently at Ginny, “You’re an attractive young woman now, but take my advice; don’t worry about boys for a while. They’re nothing but trouble at your age. Goodbye to you too, Potter.”
“Goodbye Auntie Muriel, no more tears I promise. I know what you mean about boys and trouble,” Ginny made a point of looking at Harry, “but I haven’t met one yet that I can’t handle.”
“Goodbye,” Harry shook Muriel’s hand, “and don’t worry about Ginny, I’ll keep an eye on her.”
“That’s precisely what I’m worried about, young man, yes indeed. Look now, you’ve made Ginevra blush.”
‘Now the healing can begin.’ Harry thought to himself.
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