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The Harder Struggle by Ericfmc
Chapter 9 : Return to the Burrow
 
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Chapter 9: Return to the Burrow

“You two!” chided Ron as the three, plus Ginny, headed to Hagrid’s Hut. “What happened to the opening statements we agreed on before the press conference? You both did a fair bit of ad-libbing.”

“I only added the bit about your family, Ron,” said Hermione. “You didn’t really expect me to show that bit to you beforehand, did you?”

“And I was hardly going to show you what I was going to say about you two, was I? It was hard enough lying to the press about how wonderful you guys are as it was,” added Harry.

This earned Harry a mock punch in the arm from Hermione. “What you said was beautiful, Harry. Thank you, I was very touched.”

“Yeah, same here, mate.”

“Actually, all three of you did brilliantly,” chipped in Ginny. “The only problem is that I haven’t told Mum and Dad much about what happened here at Hogwarts this year. I didn’t want them to worry or pull me out. I even made sure they didn’t get the fake Hogwarts letter. Now they’re going to want to know all about it. They’re going to be angry. So will Bill, probably.”

“They’re not going to be angry, Ginny. Not for long anyway. They’re going to be very proud of you, just as I am little sis.”

“Hey, I thought you were too scared to call me little sister?”

“That was what we seasoned media performers call comic relief.”

“Hah, you better back me up when I tell Mum and Dad about Hogwarts or you’ll see what a Bat Bogey Hex can add to comic relief.”

“Don’t worry, Ginny,” said Harry chuckling, “we’ll all back you up.”

They had arrived at Hagrid’s hut. Smoke was coming from the chimney and there was loud clanging coming from inside. Harry bashed on the front door.

“Harry, Ron, Hermione, yeh're come ter see me. An’ brave Ginny too,” said Hagrid after he’d opened the door.

“Hi, Hagrid, how are you doing?” asked Harry.

“Better now yeh're alive and You Know Who is dead,” said Hagrid, a deep frown forming on his forehead. “Bes’ come in then, I ‘spose. It’s a bit of a mess, mind. They made a right mess in here while me an’ Fang were gone.”

The four entered the hut and managed to clear some seats.

“I’m sorry I had to put you through that, Hagrid,” said Harry.

“Yeah, well I ‘spose yeh knew what yeh were doin’ seen yer alive an’ all. But Harry I don’ think I ever fel’ worse in me life, an’ that includes when me pa died.” Hagrid got out his huge tablecloth sized handkerchief and loudly blew his nose. “Harry, tha’ was the longest walk in me life tha’ was, carrying your body back to the castle. I never want to do anything like tha’ again.” Hagrid had fat tears in the corner of his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Hagrid, I really am. I know I hurt a lot of people doing that, especially the four of you here, but I had to do it.” Harry then explained to Hagrid about the horcruxes and what He, Ron and Hermione had been doing. He told him the truth about why he had given himself up to Voldemort and what had happened when he was hit with the killing curse.

Tears were streaming down Hagrid’s face when Harry had finished. He blew his nose once more.

“Yer shouldn'ta had to do it, Harry. Dumbledore shouldn'ta asked yer to do it. He shouldn'ta asked. Tha’ was wrong.”

“He didn’t have a choice, Hagrid,” pleaded Harry.

“Tha’s always a choice, Harry. Dumbledore were a great man an’ I won’t hear a word spoke against him. But, Harry, he were still just a man. He had his faults. He could use people if he ha’ to.”

“It was my choice in the end, Hagrid.”

Hagrid wrapped his massive hands around Harry’s shoulders and spoke softly. “It were wrong, Harry. It were simply wrong to ask ya.”

Harry looked into Hagrid’s kind, gentle eyes, into a plain and simple goodness, an unsullied love. A great upwelling of emotion overcame him and a wall inside him finally shattered. He was free to feel his anger and pain at the burden that had been placed upon him, anger at the unfairness of it. He was free to experience the horror of his decision to die, of his lonely walk into the forest and his unnatural acceptance of Voldemort’s killing curse. His body was racked by sobs. He remembered with mounting dismay, mounting incredulity, how he had been willing to leave Ron and Hermione, how he had walked past Ginny and was ready to give away any hope of a future with her. He thought of all the things, so precious to him now, that he had been ready to give away. He sobbed and he sobbed, both Ginny and Hermione holding him tightly, until, finally, he felt the pain and the horror ebbing away.

When he finished, he felt as if a dark fog had lifted from his soul. He looked up to see Hagrid and his friends watching him with concern. He felt such happiness that he was still alive and that these wonderful people were still with him and would be in a future he could now look forward to.

All he could say was “thanks,” as he looked at each of them with a smile of utter gratitude.

“Better out than in, I always say,” Hagrid remarked.

They all cracked up laughing.

They talked for a while about happier things, happier days and then Ron stood up. “We’d better be getting back. Mum and Dad will be waiting for us.”

“Don’ be making strangers of yourselves now,” said Hagrid.

“Course not!” they all replied

Hagrid gave each of them a mighty hug as they left to return to the castle.

When they got back, Arthur was waiting at the main entrance together with Molly, Percy and George.

“Ah, there you are,” said Arthur. “We’ve got the OK to return to the Burrow. You all ready to go?”

Hermione held up her beaded bag, “I’ve got everything I need right here.”

“Not quiet,” said Ron and he took Hermione’s hand in his. “Now you’ve got everything.” Hermione smiled.

“OK, let’s go home,” said Arthur wearily. He took Molly by the arm and headed off, followed by Ron and Hermione. Harry and Ginny, also hand in hand, were close behind.

George watched the three couples walk ahead, and then looked searchingly at Percy, momentarily confused, as if expecting to see one thing and finding something else. Percy put his arm around his brother’s shoulder and led him towards the gates.

When they had apparated back to the Burrow they were met by Bill, Fleur and Charlie.

“The house is fine,” said Bill. “They didn’t get in. They left some very nasty curses and booby traps though. I’ve gotten rid of those and we’ve strengthened the wards.”

“Thanks son,” said Arthur. “How’s the house?”

“Fleur’s restocked the kitchen and we’ve given the house a quick clean. We still have to get the Ghoul out of Ron’s room. He is very reluctant to go. The gnomes have taken over the garden, too.”

“Crookshanks ‘as been ‘aving a field day chasing them since I got ‘im from Aunt Muriel’s,” added Fleur with a big smile.

“Crookshanks!” shrieked Hermione. “Thanks, Fleur.” With that, a large ginger ball dashed across the yard and launched itself into Hermione’s arms, almost knocking her backwards. “Oh Crookshanks,” Hermione cooed too her cat, looking utterly ecstatic, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Who’s a handsome boy, then,” said Ron, reaching out to pat the cat. Crookshanks arched his back and puffed out his tail. He hissed loudly at Ron.

“Hey, I’m trying to play nice,” complained Ron.

“Crookshanks!” admonished Hermione. “Ron is with me now. You have to be nice.”

Crookshanks ignored Ron, curled up in Hermione’s arms and began to purr. Ron shrugged.

“Let’s get inside,” said Molly.

As they entered the living room they became aware of a delicious aroma coming from the kitchen.

“What’s that cooking?” asked Molly.

“Daube de Boeuf,” answered Fleur. “I ‘ope you do not mind, Molly. I did not know if you would feel up to cooking tonight.”

“That was very thoughtful of you Fleur,” said Molly feeling a little annoyed. She wasn’t a cripple. All annoyance fled when she noticed George, who was staring in horror at the family clock. For the first time in a year none of the hands were pointing to ‘Mortal Peril’. All hands were pointing to ‘Home’, all except one. Fred’s hand was pointing to a new section that had appeared on the clock. It said ‘Gone’. Everyone felt as if a giant fist had slammed them in the gut. The thin veil that the busyness of the last day had placed between them and the reality of Fred’s death was ripped away.

George collapsed into the sofa. He hadn’t cried for his brother yet, not really, only a few tears. Now he broke down completely, his body shook, he rocked back and forth, saying over and over “Fred, what have you done? What have you done?” Occasionally he would stop and then shake his head from side to side. The he would resume his back and fro rocking and his sad lament. Ginny sat on the floor beside him and held him tightly by the legs. Every now and again she, too, would glance at the clock and her lips would quiver.

Molly had felt her own leg’s buckle as she saw the clock. She half fell, was half assisted into a chair by Arthur who sat down beside her. He was trying hard to stay strong for everyone else, but his face was a study in absolute misery.

In time, George ceased his rocking and slumped back in his chair, silent at last. A gaunt silence descended over the Burrow.

“Fred would hate this quiet,” said George eventually, staring at the floor.

“He’d tell a joke or pull a gag just to get us all to cheer up,” added Ginny.

“I think I’d even be happy if he turned this cushion into a spider, if he was just here to do it….Just don’t get any ideas, George,” said Ron.

George smiled weakly.

“Tell me about when you and Fred left Hogwarts, I here that was one of your finest hours,” asked Charlie.

“You’re talking a true Hogwarts legend there, Charlie, it was absolutely brilliant … and just what the school needed,” said Ron.

“It was the beginning of the end of Umbridge,” added Harry.

“It started on the day Umbridge became Headmaster with the most brilliant fireworks display I’ve ever seen,” said Hermione, “though calling it a display is lame. An act of war would be more accurate. All day the most gorgeous fireworks stalked the corridors. The teachers refused to help Umbridge, claiming they didn’t have the authority or the skill. She spent her first day running around the school trying to end the mayhem. Idiot that she is, everything she tried made things worse. It was glorious!”

“There you have it, the ultimate accolade, mayhem that won the admiration of Hermione the prefect,” smiled Ron. “She was even inspired to skive off homework that night!”

Everyone laughed. Hermione glared at Ron and then she, too, grinned.

Ginny, Harry and Ron continued the story, bringing more laughter to the room. Ginny finished with the story of the swamp. “Part of the swamp is still there, left as a tribute to the two of you by Flitwick. The swamp became a bit of a shrine to the DA at school this year. What you did was the first open act of resistance in this war. It reminded me I was acting in a great tradition started by my own brothers.”

The family swapped their favourite stories about Fred for the next hour. The mood lightened considerably. The pain was still there but they had shared it and it had become bearable. It became harder and harder, though, not to notice that every story about Fred was also a story about George. They hadn’t just lost Fred; they had lost ‘Fred and George’. They would need to be there for George, for Molly and for each other in the days and months ahead. In the end, what else was there to do?

Fleur announced dinner was ready. No one had noticed her get up to finish its preparation. Molly looked up at her daughter in law with gratitude. Like George, Molly hadn’t said anything during the last hour; she had just let the stories wash over her, basking in the warmth of her family. Most of what she had heard would have scandalised her if she had heard it just three days earlier. Today, though, she found herself both amused and accepting. “Thank you Fleur, that is very kind of you,” she said and she meant it.

“Is nothing,” replied Fleur.

What little talk there was at dinner revolved around practical issues, then, about halfway through, Arthur spoke to Ginny. “I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about what’s been going on at Hogwarts this year; things we didn’t hear from you. Would you like to tell your family what really happened.”

Ginny went pale. Harry reached and held her hand.

“OK,” she replied in a thin voice. “After dinner? It’s a long story and, like last night, it isn’t particularly pretty.”

It was Molly’s turn to turn pale. It was Arthur’s turn to comfort his partner.

“We heard what Ginny had been doing at the DA briefing this morning, said Ron. “I wish she hadn’t had to go through what she did, I wish none of us had, but I am very proud of her, very!”.

“I’m very proud of you too, Ginny,” added George. “When you said that you and the DA gained some inspiration from our swamp, from what Fred and I had done, that was the highest compliment either of us have ever been paid.”

Arthur added gently, “We never doubted you would do us proud. We just need to know, OK?”

“OK.”

After dinner they all regrouped in the sitting room. Ginny sat on a sofa with Harry on one side and George on the other. She took them through the entire story much as it was told at the DA briefing that morning. She didn’t hold back or gloss over the distressing parts. They had asked for the truth and she didn’t want her parents raising it again when, inevitably, they heard from others painful things she had omitted. She wanted to get this over and done with and out of the way for all time.

When she told them about confronting Alecto in muggle studies, even provoking her, Bill was angry.

“You shouldn’t have done that. You shouldn’t have gone looking for trouble like that, that was stupid.”

“No it wasn’t. It was necessary,” Ginny replied defiantly. “This war happened because too many people were willing to turn a blind eye and take the easy path. They let Voldemort come back to power and went along with him when he did. This family has never been like that. We always stood up for what we believed in.”

“Ginny you’re too young, you shouldn’t have had to take up the fight,” Bill pressed.

“Yeah, well, there’s a lot of that too young stuff been happening lately,” she said, waving at Harry, Ron and Hermione. “I had to do it because I was the one who could. I was the one who was there. None of us wanted to do what we did. We did it because if we didn’t, no one else would.”

“OK, Ginny, OK.” Bill surrendered. “I’m just upset that you had to go through this, angry that you were hurt. You’re my baby sister. I’m supposed to protect you. It seems the youngest members of this family had to take on the greatest burden in this war. It’s not right.”

“Say’s he with vivid werewolf scars across his face,” replied Ginny.

“I’m not happy that Ginny got hurt this year either or that she had to do what she did. I am damn proud of her though,” said Harry. “She’s right too. Alecto had to be fought. What Ginny did not only helped win this war, it will help win the next war too. If we don’t fight the beliefs, the complacency that allowed Voldemort to come to power we will have to do it all again. Then it will be our children paying the price.”

When Ginny had finished the story, her mum enveloped her in a great hug. “My poor Ginny, you should have told us Ginny, my poor Ginny.”

“It’s OK Mum, It’s over now.”

Arthur held Ginny firmly. “You should have told us.”

“Would you have taken me out of school?”

“Yes.”

“That’s why I didn’t tell you. It wouldn’t have been fair to the rest of the family. You could have gone to Azkaban. It wouldn’t have been fair to those still left at school. It was my fight, my responsibility.”

“I am so, so proud of you, Ginny.” He pulled her into a tight hug. “I am proud of each and every one of you. You have the proudest father in all England. That goes for you too Fleur. I’m proud to have you as part of our family.”

Fleur almost ran to Arthur who hugged her tightly.

“You don’t need to be proud of me Father,” said Percy. “I didn’t do anything.”

“Percy, Dear, you came through when it counted,” insisted Molly.

“Finally joining the right side in the last few hours of a war, no Mother, it just a bit too much like a death bed confession,” replied Percy. “I’m not proud of myself.”

“Then help win the next war, Percy. Help stop it from happening,” offered Harry.

“What do you mean, Harry?”

“It’s like I said before. It’s like what Hermione and I said at our press conference today; if we don’t change the values and attitudes that allowed Voldemort to come to power, to flourish, then sooner or later there will be a new Voldemort.”

“It’s what I want to do when I leave school. Join the ministry and work for reform,” added Hermione. “You’re an intelligent man, Percy, a brilliant administrator. You can do a lot of good. Winning the peace will be a harder struggle than winning the war.” At Ron’s look of horror, she added “or at least it will be the longer struggle.”

Ron nodded, them looked at his brother. “You know, Percy, it was bad enough last year without knowing that one of my brothers wasn’t exactly on our side. I thought you were the world’s worst prat, and worse. But you did finally come to your senses. I know how hard it is to admit you made a mistake and rectify it; it took more than physical courage to join us for the battle. Build on that.”

“OK,” said Percy, looking like a drowning man desperately grateful for a thrown lifeline. “OK, I can go with that. I can commit to that.”

“That’s something I can commit to too,” added Bill, “each of us working in our own way to make our society just that little bit more just and that little bit more resilient.”

“Me too,” chipped in Charlie.

Soon the whole room had voiced their assent.

Charlie conjured a bottle of fire whiskey and some glasses. Full glasses floated to everyone in the room.

“To the harder struggle!” Charlie lifted his glass.

“To the long struggle,” they all toasted.

“Mind you,” Charlie added, “it’s all a bit nebulous.”

“We need to have a lot of discussion about aims and we don’t have to all agree on everything; we almost certainly won’t. We also have to look at how we can achieve those aims,” said Hermione. “Fortunately we don’t have to do it tonight and we don’t have to do it alone. The war was like a sprint. This will be like a marathon.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Ron, smiling at Hermione.

“Something Kingsley said when he was talking to us about the press conference got me thinking,” Hermione continued. “The Weasley family will soon be among the most famous in wizarding Britain. We will have considerable prestige. So will many of our friends – like Neville. We can use that to help achieve some real improvements or we can just let it fade away. It’s up to us.”

Everyone noticed Hermione’s inclusion of herself as a member of the Weasley family. They could hardly object, as they had all told her, just yesterday, that that is what she was. Indeed, they were pleased. All the same, they found themselves wondering if Hermione meant something more by this usage.

Arthur looked at his wife who was clearly worn out. “It’s been a long day. We should call it quits.”

“We need to get the ghoul out of Ron’s room,” said Bill.

“I forgot about that. The room is still going to stink for hours,” said Ron.

“Charlie is coming back with Fleur and me to Shell Cottage,” said Bill. “You and Harry can sleep in our room tonight.” Bill watched the four youngest to see their reaction to this arrangement. He was wondering if they had plans for something else. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it if they did. In the event they all seemed happy to go along with the plan.

Bill, Charley, Ron and Harry all trooped up the stairs to evict the family ghoul. Charlie’s experience wrangling dragons came in handy. The ghoul definitely didn’t want to go. After much banging of walls and rattling of beds, they finally got the ghoul back into the attic. Ron’s room stank. After many scourgifies, a few tergeos and not a few freshening charms the stink was more manageable, but it was still noxious. The only thing for it was to open the window, close the door and let the room clear overnight.

They all returned to the living room. Molly and Arthur had already left for bed. Percy was saying to George, “would you like to sleep in my room tonight.”

George looked pained. “Thanks Percy, but no. I have to face it and there’s no point putting it off. It’s not going to get easier. I’ll be OK.”

Bill said, “We’ll be off. We’ll come back tomorrow morning for breakfast.” With that, Bill, Fleur and Charlie left.

George stood up saying “I’ve had enough for the day. Good night.”

Percy did the same, following George out of the room no doubt intent on ensuring he was OK.

That left Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione. Each couple was on their own sofa, hand in hand. Ron and Hermione were looking at each other, but they weren’t smiling. A series of expressions flitted across their faces; raised eyebrows, questioning looks, rolled eyes and many others strange and unfathomable. Ginny was watching them totally perplexed. Harry knew precisely what they were doing. They were having one of their silent conversations. Harry swore that Ron and Hermione could communicate the entire contents of the Wizard’s Almanac to each other without using words.

“Usually when you two do that you’re discussing if I’ve really cracked up this time,” said Harry interrupting Ron and Hermione’s conversation.

“Not this time, Harry,” replied Ron. He turned briefly back to Hermione and they reached a quick decision.

“We were going to talk to you each separately about something tonight, but seen as we’re altogether and alone we may as well do it now,” said Ron.

“Talk to us about what?” asked Ginny.

“Hermione and I want to share a room together. I’m going to talk to Dad about it tomorrow.”

“Mum will go ballistic!” said Ginny.

“Maybe yes, maybe no. In any case, if they say no we intend to leave the Burrow after all the funerals and that. We’ve decided that it’s up to us how things go between us now, no one else.”

“Wow,” said Ginny.

“Where would you go if you left here?” asked Harry very business-like. He wasn’t sure how he felt about this.

“We were hoping you’d let us stay at Grimmauld Place for a while. But Harry, we don’t want to leave here if we don’t have to,” said Hermione.

“Of course,” replied Harry absently. After a while, he added with just a hint of annoyance, “This has implications for Ginny and me, you know.”

“Why, Harry Potter, I do believe you are shocked,” smiled Hermione.

“Maybe I am. I don’t know why though. It’s not as if I didn’t see this coming.”

“Everything is changing so fast. It’s normal. You’re not going to lose us. That’s never going to happen,” Hermione reassured Harry.

“It’s not going to be the same, though.”

“No, it’s not going to be the same. There are four of us now and we’re two couples.”

“Much as I find your taste in men strange, Hermione, I think it’s wonderful,” said Ginny.

“How were you planning on making this work? Where is everyone supposed to sleep now?” asked Harry, ignoring Ginny.

“Well Charlie is staying with Bill and Fleur, Hermione and I could move into Bill and Charlie’s room. You could have my room Harry,” explained Ron.

“Or Harry could have Bill and Charlie’s room,” Ginny jumped in.

This is what Ron and Hermione had always intended. Bill and Charlie’s room was on the first floor just across the stairwell from Ginny’s. An arrangement like this could work for everyone, even Ron’s parents. Ron had thought that even if they agreed to him and Hermione sharing a room they were in no way ready to let Harry and Ginny share a room. Ron wasn’t either. This was a compromise that could work.

“That could work, I spose,” replied Ron feigning reluctance “Although my room is a little small for the two of us.”

“Hah!” retorted Ginny, “you’re only going to need one bed.”

“Ginny!” Hermione was turning red. She knew her protest was silly. Of course they intended to share a bed. Hermione was just uncomfortable with it being said out aloud.

“Now who’s shocked,” laughed Harry. ”Look, I actually think it’s brilliant. As I said to you both, Merlin was it only yesterday, you two deserve all the happiness you can get.”

“So do you two,” replied Hermione.

 

Later that night in Ginny’s room, Hermione looked over at Ginny.

“You awake, Ginny?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s not ready yet.”

“I know.”

“He’s not ready to take on the responsibility. He’s been carrying so much for so long, it’s been crushing him. He needs to keep it light for a while, to get back to normal, well as normal as Harry is ever going to be.”

“I know, I know, but what about me?”

“You’re time will come Ginny, he loves you very much. He will make it his job to make you happy. You have to know, though, that if you take on Harry Potter you are taking on someone who will always need to save the world. He will always feel the pain because he can’t save everyone. It’s not easy. Ron and I have been doing it for years. He’s worth it though.”

“Yeah, he is. Now shut it. I need to go to sleep and dream of Harry sleeping just across the stairwell.”

And I have to dream about tomorrow night,” smiled Hermione.



oOo

 

Hope you enjoyed this chapter. If you liked it, hated it, disagreed or agreed with it  please let me know. I would really apprecaite your review.. Thanks!

 

 


 
 


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