Chapter 2 : Chapter 2
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Grinding free of the surrounding rubble, the stone block rose into the air. Swinging around, it hovered over to the side where it gently eased into a stack amidst others. Lowering his wand, Harry stopped to wipe the sweat off his face. He’d been helping clear the passageways for most of the day, removing the rubble and shoring up crumbling walls so that proper repair work could be undertaken later. It was tiring work, but it preoccupied his mind as much as any gruelling Quidditch practice had.
He looked around the corridor at the other people working in silence. A bit further on, towards a bend in the passage, Ron straightened up stretching and suddenly froze. Puzzled, Harry walked forwards until he saw what Ron had seen. They were near the remains of the Room of Requirement, the location of their struggle to destroy the Ravenclaw Diadem. What’s more, they were near the location of Fred’s death. There was no blood or anything left to mark the spot; for the bodies had been removed to the Great Hall the previous day and the battle grounds Scourgified. But the gash in the wall where it had been blown in, the rubble that had hit him; that all remained. Harry fought back the emotion, pushing it back behind his barriers lest it rise up and overwhelm him. By this stage Hermione and Ginny had also stopped by Ron and were staring distantly at the place ahead of them. Feeling hollow and empty, Harry walked over to join them.
“I... I want to... I need to see. The people. Those that died fighting for me. Fred...” Harry forced the words out of his constricted throat.
Ron turned to look at him and Harry could see that he was also struggling with his emotion.
“Of course mate, we knew you’d want to sooner or later.”
“Professor McGonagall,” Hermione called to attract the attention of the teacher leading their workgroup. “We’re done working for today. We’d like to go visit those at St. Mungos.”
“I’ll go make the arrangements,” she responded, a surprising look of tenderness on her normally stern face. “Be at my office in half an hour. I suggest you go shower and change in that time.”
Time passed slowly for Harry. Having removed the stone dust from himself and changed into clean clothes he went down to the common room with plenty of time to spare. Thankfully it was otherwise empty and Harry was left undisturbed as he stared into the flickering flames. Gradually the others joined him, though they too remained silent until they arrived at the hospital. It wasn’t until the sombre troupe entered the first ward though that the situation really hit home. Friends, family, people with lives that they’d built and were living; these same people were now lying dead or injured around them, while they were alive and unharmed. It was heart wrenching. He visited each of the dead and wounded, speaking words of praise and gratitude to mourning families and injured fighters alike. Without fail they thanked him for his thoughts and kindness in visiting them, though Harry knew he owed them at least that much.
Finally the time came to see the last of the casualties. Harry had been putting off seeing Fred for as long as he could. Seeing Remus and Tonks had been hard but they’d gone together as had many of their friends before them. And he had the chance to speak to Remus in the forest. Seeing Fred meant seeing the rest of the Weasleys. Mrs. Weasley crying her heart out, Mr. Weasley putting on a brave face as he slowly came apart on the inside and George having had half of himself ripped away. He didn’t know whether he could face it. Walk in, knowing that he was the part of the reason Fred had died and had dealt such a massive blow to the only family who had ever cared for him. Because, although Ginny had told him that he wasn’t responsible he still knew that it was out of Fred’s unshakeable loyalty and love that he had leapt to Harry’s defence so eagerly.
Bracing himself, he walked in, the others trailing behind him. It was just as he imagined. George sitting by him, eyes red. Mrs. Weasley crying softly in Mr. Weasley’s arms. And Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Percy standing or sitting around in mingled states of disbelief and sorrow. Then there was Fred himself. Lying on the bed with his eyes closed, but too stiff and formal to be asleep. His throat caught and he tried to clear it, making an odd squeak. And suddenly he was in Mrs. Weasley’s arms and she was crying over him. Time seemed to stop for Harry as he let go of the tears he’d been struggling so desperately to hold back burst forth.
Sometime later, having managed to regain control of his emotions he was returned to his surroundings at the sound of the door opening. Extracting himself, he turned to look at the newcomer, a Healer, who was looking apologetic at his interruption.
“I’m dreadfully sorry, but we need to formally catalogue his... death. May I?” He asked gesturing towards the bed.
Mrs. Weasley gave a small sob but nodded. George seemed completely oblivious.
He bent down over Fred’s body to examine him. Seemingly satisfied, he went to straighten up and walk away, performing one last check as he did so. He froze before a puzzled look crossed his face. Murmuring to himself, he repeated his examination much more thoroughly before lifting Fred’s arm with a loud exclamation.
“What? What is it?!” demanded Mrs. Weasley.
“I’m not sure... Never seen anything like it. He has no bruising or other external signs you’d expect to see. It appears like he was hit by the killing curse. Except more rigid than one would expect... Are you sure he didn’t get hit by such a curse?”
“I’m not sure. The wall came down and everything was chaos, he was just there one minute and gone the next” said a George who had apparently reawakened to his surroundings.
“Hmm... Maybe if...? Why that would be remarkable!”
And ignoring the cries and queries of the Weasleys, he wheeled Fred out of the room and tore off down the corridor.
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