Chapter 13 : Back aches and thanks
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It was much later in the night when Lily found herself lying in the arms of her husband. It was an hour after they had left the lounge when the Weasleys decided to make their exit with promises of bringing over a picnic lunch tomorrow for everyone from Mrs Weasley and several vice like hugs for all of the Potters. Ron and Hermione had shared a meaningful look before Ron turned to Lily and James and politely asked if they could stay over at Potter Manor. Despite the politeness of Ron’s request, Lily could see by the fixed set of his and Hermione’s determined features that they had already made the decision to stay here, whether it be with permission in warm beds or on the cold doorstep after sneaking back from The Burrow. There was no way they were going to leave Harry to suffer and heal alone, besides both of them weren’t afraid to admit that they reckoned they would hardly sleep so far away from the other half of their quartet. Lily noted all this with a small smile as she seemed to acknowledge what had been in front of her all summer, and quite possibly for longer than that. It was no longer a trio but a quartet that her youngest was a part of and it was with this uplifting realisation that Lily had agreed unwaveringly; it seemed that it wasn’t just her teenager who had grown up without anyone noticing.
After another hour or so and still with no movement from the closed doors of the lounge and the residents of Potter Manor began to slowly drift away to their beds. Lily looked across the greatly emptier kitchen at the final two occupants sat at the table. They sat side by side in chairs, Ron with his arm around Hermione’s shoulders and his other hand clasped in both of Hermione’s. She had looked at them with a new kind of admiration as they showed no sign of moving anytime soon, so sign of abandoning their waiting vigil. Whispering a heartfelt goodnight she had taken James hand and taken him up to bed.
In the comforting familiarity of their bed Lily held James arms around herself, a small part of her curious as to whether she might float away with this new lightness she felt as the huge weight of maternal worry eased immensely from her heart. Her baby was coming back to them, slowly but absolutely surely, and it was this thought that brought a contented sigh of relief to escape her lips.
‘I know exactly what you mean,’ James whispered in her ear and unconsciously tightening his arms around her.
‘We’re finally starting to get our Harry back and after everything he’s been through, things that no-one should have had to suffer through let alone a boy, our boy...’ Lily’s increasingly angry voice broke off in a choked sob as she turned to bury her head in James’ neck.
‘Lils,’ James whispered quietly. When the only response he received was for her to turn further into the pillow James gently slid backwards a bit and pulled Lily out of the pillow so the two of them were lying facing each other on their sides. Lily’s face was no longer buried in the pillow but instead locked on James’ handsome features and his untameable hair. For a while neither of them spoke and the silence that filled the room was one of peace and contentment that covered them like an extra blanket.
It was James that eventually broke the comfortable silence. ‘We can’t go there,’ he said, eyes still locked on Lily’s green ones. Taking a deep breath he continued, ‘It’s not us that have the right to wallow in self pity and be angry at the world, we need to be there for him because Merlin knows he’s been through enough to be the centre of attention for a while, even if he doesn’t want it.’
At this, Lily couldn’t help but crack a small smile. She wondered in that moment how it was that despite everything she had put this man through he had still never given hoping, never given up trying to catch her. And even now, after years of marriage and children, he was still that same determined and hopeful boy that could always make her smile, even if she had hid that smile from him for most of their time at Hogwarts. Still the same man, just with the occasional wrinkle and odd grey hair that Lily knew James pulls out in secret, to her delight of future teasing.
‘You’re right and thank you,’ she said equally as quiet, not wanting to risk breaking the serene calm that had overtaken their bedroom. ‘We will get our Harry back,’ she added snuggling closer into James’ embrace.
‘We already are,’ James replied closing his eyes.
The following morning broke to see almost all of the Potter Manor’s inhabitants waking from the best night’s sleep many of them had had in too long. Lily and James walked down the staircase arm in arm, contented smiles evident on both their faces. These faces wavered in confusion as they reached the hallway and saw their eldest two sons, Sirius and Remus all huddled around the crack of the slightly open lounge door. All except Remus were grinning mischievously, while Remus looked on happier and more peaceful than James had seen his best friend for a long while.
Lily, recognising the warning looks of impending trouble, placed both hands on her hips. ‘What are you up to?’
Andy and Sirius whipped around with hurt looked on their faces and open mouths about to spew a load of excuses, when Remus interrupted them.
‘It’s not that,’ he said softly. And grinning added, ‘for once.’
‘Then what...’ began James, but was interrupted by J putting a finger to his lips in ‘quiet’ and indicated towards the a-jar doorway.
Lily moved closer to the gap into the lounge and felt her heart melt as she looked on the scene before her.
The two couples were in exact mirror images of each other. They had obviously moved the coffee table out of their way and Harry and Ron were sat on the floor facing each other with their backs against opposite sofas. Their respective girls were sat between their outstretched legs, leaning back against the boys’ chests. Both boys’ arms were wrapped protectively around the girls but Ginny had her hands clasped over Harry’s in her own form of protection for him.
She took a deep steadying breath and turned back to the crowded hallway, with a wide grin across her face, whilst pulling the door shut with a gentle click.
‘Time for breakfast then,’ she said to the group at large, the grin never wavering for a moment as she headed towards the kitchen. ‘I finally have all my boys back,’ she added to herself as her husband, sons and 2 best friends followed her lead, each carrying looks of contentment or impending mischief.
Half an hour later, the Potters sat down to their second attempt at breakfast, the first having been ruined by Sirius who had been under the impression he could fry eggs the muggle way. Suffice to say reality, Lily’s newspaper and half a dozen eggs having whacked him from several different directions, effectively dismissed that notion.
It was just as Sirius was about to begin blaming the weather for his poor attempt at fried eggs, having already tried all the plausible excuses and was now running through steadily implausible ones much to everyone’s entertainment, that an exhausted but considerably happier Hermione and Ron entered the kitchen, arm in arm.
‘Morning,’ Sirius said suggestively giving the pair a stage wink as they slipped into chairs at the table.
Hermione, as per usual, blushed enough to do a Weasley proud but Ron’s sleep deprived brain seemed to put food as a priority over retaliating to Sirius’ jibe and simply began helping himself to bacon.
‘Are you two alright?’ Lily asked concernedly. She had always felt a maternal protectiveness for Harry’s two best friends, Hermione particularly, and after the scene earlier on this was only strengthened.
‘We’re fine thanks Mrs P... Lily,’ Hermione quickly recovered after being sent a glare from the Potter matriarch, ‘Just tired.’
‘What happened to you lot last night?’ James voiced the question on everyone’s minds as they all devoured the cooling breakfast before them. ‘I thought you went to bed after us?’
‘Well we got talking for a bit,’ Ron started, letting Hermione start her scrambled eggs on toast; he loved how her mind was always working but he’d become more and more aware of her having to inhale food at the end of meal due to too much conversation participation. ‘And then we wanted to check on Ginny and Harry before we went to bed, you know see if they wanted anything.’
Remus was struck by a new mature and caring side of Ron that he hadn’t previously seen before, but was delighted to see peeking out. Hermione really did bring out the best in him and vice versa.
‘So we went in quietly, assuming they’d fallen asleep, but they were still talking quietly. They saw us as we tried to leave and invited us in and... we talked.’
Ron finished his story rather anticlimactically and seemed to surprise even himself. ‘Well, Harry and Ginny had a few things they wanted to tell us and then I guess we just kept going. Didn’t even realize we’d fallen asleep there till woke up with a stiff back this morning,’ Ron added off handily.
‘Thanks for that mate, though I do blame you for the sore back. It was your idea to keep the fire going.’
All heads spun to the kitchen doorway where Harry’s voice had issued from. He and Ginny, sporting similar looks of exhaustion and calmness, took seats at the table and began reaching for the nearest food.
‘Yeah well you were the one, who insisted on sitting on the floor,’ Ron retaliated jokingly, while waving a sausage in Harry’s general direction.
Harry let a small laugh that warmed every heart around the table to hear before turning to his best friend and saying with utmost sincerity, ‘Thanks for last night, mate. I know I keep asking of things from you and Hermione and you always give i...’
Harry was cut off by Ron’s raised hand. ‘Harry, we are your best friends. It is what we are here for, will always be here for and be happy to be here for.’
Hermione stared incredulously at her two boys before giving Ron a smack round the back of the head.
‘Hey! What was that for?!’ Ron cried out indignantly.
‘Why do you never say anything that sweet to me?!’ Hermione cried back and then very quickly joined the rest of the family in fits of laughter.
‘Harry now that you’ve made such a huge leap towards recovery, how do you feel about starting some training again?’ James asked his youngest son. It was something he and Lily had discussed in the seclusion of their bedroom and both had agreed that it would be the best way of helping Harry come to terms with his past and impending future.
Harry considered his father’s words carefully for a moment before responding with what he knew was the entire truth. ‘I think it’s a good idea,’ Harry replied slowly, choosing his words carefully. ‘I need to start looking forward, I know that now,’ he added with a small smile, unconsciously taking Ginny’s hand in his own. ‘But I stand by what I said before; it shouldn’t just be me. My whole family needs to be as protected as possible.’
At these words Ron stared at this ‘brother’ in admiration while Hermione looked on proudly, a tear escaping from one eye.
‘I couldn’t agree more,’ said James grinning. His eyes found Remus’ and he could already tell the old professor was planning lessons. ‘Now Mad-Eye sent a message saying he was going to be over later today. Looks like the Order’s got some new intelligence about the Horcruxes; something to do with a locket.’
At this many of the smiling faces dropped slightly, at the sudden drop back into reality. The exception being Harry who still wore an expression of genuine calmness.
‘Well, we best make the most of breakfast then,’ Sirius said in an attempt to restore some lightness to the meal. ‘Knowing Mad-Eye he’s hardly likely to stop for lunch.’
And just like that the sudden build up of tension was broken by several chuckles of agreement, as the family dived into the remains of their breakfast. And as the family members struck up meaningless but entertaining conversations and telling jokes, Harry’s seemingly inconsequential question brought a smile of recognition to Andy’s face and he knew then that whatever was coming they would get through it as a family because their family was finally whole again.
‘Can someone pass the marmalade?’
Ok, I have to admit that this chapter had been the most difficult to write of all of them as i simply lost inspiration of how to get to the ending I wanted. But i got there eventually. I’m not entirely happy with it and might edit it in the future, but I figured you guys deserved your finale :D
Thank you to everyone that has read the whole story and especially big hugs to anyone who had reviewed- they do make me smile. If you have read this story and haven’t reviewed before then give it a go, pretty please. I’d love to know what you think, and if you have any story recommendations then please let me know as I need something new to read.
There will be a kind of sequel to this story, set in the same world, but set after the battle. I love those stories and always wanted to write my own version so I aim to give it a go. But I have a huge twist planned! Mwah ha haaa J
So stay tuned and a chocolate frog to you all.