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Chapter 2 : Breaking
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Arthur and Molly were just about as surprised to find the two “children” awake as Harry had been to find Hermione already up and in the kitchen, each of them giving a good start as they entered.
"Aho! Well... hello there you two!" Mr Weasley properly disguised the misgivings that flashed across his face.
"Good morning," Harry and Hermione both greeted them as cheerfully as they could.
"You sure are up early!" Mr Weasley gave a half-nervous laugh. "We just came down to start on breakfast."
Mrs Weasley was not so generous. "Shouldn't you two still be in bed?!" she made a fuss about it with her eyes tearing up. She had been like this over the last three days, a bundle of nerves and the slightest thing could set her off in a bout of tears.
Harry could not blame her. She had lost a son, his twin brother had lost an ear to a dark hex, her oldest had been mauled and scarred by a werewolf, and her youngest son was now forever marked as one of the Golden Trio, one who had brought down the Dark Lord, one who had a large target painted on his back for any would-be two-time loser wanting to make a name for himself. No, Harry could not blame her - and he could not help but feel at least partly, if not wholly responsible for it.
"I guess..." Hermione started, feeling the need to to defend herself.
Seeing her falter, Harry dutifully stepped in. "Too many mornings out in the open, I'm afraid we've become a bit of light sleepers." Harry immediately grimaced upon finishing. 'Now why did I have to go and say a thing like that for?!'
As he expected, both Arthur and Molly frowned deeply at this, "pitying the poor children." He'd seen the look enough to recognize it, "pity." More than anything, Harry could not stand to be pitied.
Harry swallowed the rush of anger that boiled up inside him. This was the Weasleys here, after all. "Not that bad a thing, is it?" He stood up and made his way to the stove – something, anything to keep him busy.
"Harry..." Molly tried to start, but was choked by a lump in her throat. They could see Harry's discomfort.
Harry poured himself a cup of Hermione's coffee, staring down into the dark, swirling liquid with his back to them.
"Harry..." It was Arthur now, just behind him. "You mind sharing some of that joe?"
Harry chuckled before turning to smile at the elder Weasley. Arthur was all cheeks. The tension immediately eased.
"How do you like it?" Harry asked in a lighter mood, pulling out the sugar and cream.
"Thank you Harry, but you don't have to do that..."
"I insist," Harry poured a second cup.
"Well then, two cubes and a helping of cream for the misses, I'll have mine black," Arthur grinned, eying the steaming cup greedily.
"Two coffees, coming up!" Harry levitated Molly hers and then Arthur's. "But I've got to worn you - this is some of Hermione's Hair-Raising brew! I don't really care for coffee in general all that much - I imagine hers tastes good enough - but you'll definitely be wired for hours!"
"Harry!" Hermione objected.
"What?!" Harry snickered back. "It's the truth!"
"Tastes wonderful, dear!" Mrs Weasley interjected after sipping hers. "And just what we'll be needing for the day ahead, I imagine."
"Oh yes, very good Hermione!" Mr Weasley jovialy seconded his wife after tasting his own.
"I do not recall you ever complaining about it before, Harry?" Hermione did not drop the subject, staring him down with a contemptuous look across her face.
“Not complaining," Harry countered, throwing up his hands. "This stuff was all that kept us going at times..." Harry trailed off, not wanting to have this conversation in front of the Weasleys. He kicked himself for saying as much already.
He looked to the floor, to the wall, to the clock with the nine hands - noticing the missing Fred and the addition of Fleur - anything but at the others. He knew what he'd find there, pity. The mood killed again, silence ensued.
"Harry..." a firm hand gripped his shoulder. Harry noticed Mr Weasley share a quick nod with his wife before Arthur turned back to him. "You must not judge us too harshly. Molly and I know you well enough by now to know that you don't appreciate all this... "special attention," but you must understand that you and Hermione are apart of our family now, and one day, when you have kids of your own... to know they're out there, fighting the fight, in grave, life threatening danger..." Arthur choked up for a moment.
"Well, to know that, to know it and not be able to do anything about it, to protect them as any parent would their child... I'm not going to lie to you Harry - it hurts something fierce." Mr Weasley took hold of both of Harry's shoulders now, squaring them off in front of each other.
"But I want you to know, Harry, we never lost hope. We never doubted you three. We could see what Dumbledore could see, and we knew our Ronald, out there with you two, that you all were going to take care of one another... that you could do it. And Molly and I could never put to words how proud we are of you, how proud we know Sirius and Dumbledore and your parents all are of you."
Harry forced a smile and gave a quick nod.
"Well, enough of all that!" Arthur did his best to try and lighten the mood, but he no sooner spoke than Percy came marching down, already dressed in his finely pressed robes for a day at the Ministry.
"Blessed girl, this is just splendid!" Mrs Weasley bustled once again after finishing her cup. "Percy, you must try some. Hermione has made us a most delicious batch!"
"Ah!" Percy spotted the pot. "Don't mind if I do, thank you Hermione!"
Harry poured Percy a mug as Mrs Weasley began attending to breakfast.
"Indeed mother, very good!" Percy gave a nod to Hermione.
"Thank you," she blushed, "I learned from the best. Harry's is even better."
"What?!" Harry slapped his forehead. "I don't even like coffee!"
"Doesn't mean you don't brew the best," Hermione said in her best matter-of-factly tone. "Perhaps it's due to all your potion proficiencies..." Hermione teased him.
"Heh.." Harry flashed her a knowing smile. She'd yet to forgive him for showing her up in their sixth year in potions, with help from the Half-Blood Prince's book or not.
Charlie was the next one down, though still in his striped pajamas.
"Morning all!" he greeted them merrily through a yawn. "You two finally get some decent rest?" he looked to Harry and Hermione. They could only smile and shrug.
Harry had to refill the pot after serving Charlie and joined him and his father at the table while Hermione tried to help Mrs Weasley with breakfast, over all her protests.
By the time Bill and Fleur were down, Charlie had Harry and his dad wrapped up in this hilarious story of a small dragon he'd named Toad, who'd managed to get himself stuck in a Ford Deloriean and of the muggles who'd found him!
With all three ladies going at it, it wasn't long before the kitchen was tantalizing them with aromas of sizzling sausage, frying eggs, hash browns and freshly cut fruit. Harry promptly forgot all about the cereal he'd had earlier as his stomach grumbled like an angry goblin with hunger.
With the delectable smells wafting up the stairs, George, Ginny and lastly Ron, all came trailing down, still half asleep, as zombies to a feast.
"Wha's on the menu?" Ron asked in a long yawn as he stretched at the entry. All eyes turned to him.
His long red hair was all swooshed to one side, curling straight up as if it were being held with Gobbly-Goo. Then there was a long, crusted drool stain running from the corner of his mouth all the way back to his ear. A cacophony of laughter erupted across the Burrow.
"Wha'?" Ron groaned, rubbing first at his eyes before twisting his neck to see if he had something on his back.
"Ron, you've got a little something... just here,." Ginny fingered her chin, messing with him as he then began to rub furiously at his.
"Oh, stop it!" Mrs Weasley waved her daughter off. "Come here, my dear boy. Let me tend to you!"
Mrs Weasley then wet the tip of her apron with some of her own spit and meant to wipe at Ron's cheek.
"MUM!" he wailed, throwing up his arms as he ducked away from her. "What's the big idea?!" Everyone laughed once again at him.
"You've got dribble all across your cheek!"
"Well I don't need you adding to it!" Ron fled around the kitchen table, scrubbing furiously across his face to the continuous laughter and now jostling from his brothers and sister.
"And straighten down your hair!" Mrs Weasley made to pat his head, "you look a ghoul!" But Ron beat her too it once again and skirted her towards an open seat.
"Thanks for that, Ginny!" Ron sneered at his sister as the three newcomers joined the others at the table.
"You're welcome," Ginny retorted sarcastically in return.
Harry felt Ginny run her fingers across his shoulders as she passed by him. He leaned his head back, smiling up to her as she took the seat beside him. He'd had nothing more than a few passing words and glimpses at her over these last three days since the battle. How many nights had he stared at her dot on the Marauders Map, and now, here she was...
"You look terrible!" she greeted him with a smirk and Harry responded in kind with a hearty laugh.
"Did you not sleep well?" Ginny was more sincere this time.
"Something like that..?" Harry shrugged a shoulder. "You?"
"Like a baby!" she admitted. "But I haven't been held up at St. Mungo's and the Ministry the two last nights either," she took Harry's hand. "It's over now. You're home."
"Yeah," Harry half-scoffed, half-laughed. "That's what I thought three days ago..."
Ginny grimaced. "I know what you mean."
Did she? It was a cruel and rude thought. Harry tried to suppress it. Over these last three days since their victory, he'd had little time for anyone, not even Ron or Hermione, and all the time for the countless Healers and investigators. Harry couldn't stop his temper from creeping. They kept them all shut away, he couldn't do anything about it - or until he did do something about it.
Memories of the endless nights watching her dot move about Hogwarts, thinking, dreaming of her, flooded his mind. And now here she was... but all he could feel was a deep chasm between them. One beseeched by a year of war, of hiding and fighting, and blood and dying.
He hadn't let her come along, "for her own protection," he mocked himself. "Oh how she must hate you!"
She'd want to know what'd happened. He'd be obliged to share with her, of course, but just the mere thought of it sapped all his strength. Harry took a sip of Hermione's Hair-Raising brew, goading on it's affects.
Harry was about to respond when he happened to glance up. Hermione startled him as she was carrying a heaping of scrambled eggs on a tray to the table. Her gaze was drawn down between him and Ginny and there was a... troubled look in her eye?
Harry followed her gaze down to his and Ginny's linked hands. His trance was broken however as he heard her shriek and the eggs went flying.
Everyone gasped - it happened so fast. The empty tray landed hard with a clatter, rattling upon the floor before an outstretched Hermione - she'd tripped. The eggs laid atop a fuming Ron's head, but all eyes were on Hermione.
Her eyes were clenched as she had braced herself for the impending impact, but it never came. She slowly opened her eyes to find herself hovering only centimeters from the wooden floor. She suddenly wobbled, unbalanced, floating in mid-air as her eyes trailed with the rest to an out held wand, clenched in the hand of a raven haired boy.
. . . .
"Don't forget we've got an appointment at St. Mungo's this morning!" Mrs. Weasley reminded them all as everyone began digging in.
"Ah, mum! Why'd you have to say a thing like that right before we eat!" George wailed, seconded by the rest of his siblings' groans, but she waved them each off in turn.
"And then to Aunt Muriel's this afternoon, important family business!" Further groaning and grumblings as everyone turned instead to their full plates. Harry did not regret that he, Ron, and Hermione would not be making it.
St. Mungo's and Aunt Muriel's be damned, the morning chatter and clatter soon turned to brighter things. Percy forced himself upon his father's ear, Arthur being the only one kind enough to listen to his ramblings on about the Ministry. George talked with his brothers about his plans for the shop, while Harry and Ginny stole a few brief minutes for themselves.
Charlie, to his mother's dismay, was already making plans to return to Romania, and Bill and Fleur to Shell Cottage. Mrs Weasley even started to cry before Arthur did his best to comfort her and they all promised to stay a few more nights. George thought it best not to share his plans of returning to Diagon Alley at the moment. Harry felt awkward, like he was invading their privacy.
Harry overheard Hermione telling Ron about school and Ron's excitement about another year at Quidditch. They hadn't had a proper season in three years after all. Harry didn't know why he hadn't thought of this before? Leave it to Ron!
"What do you say, Harry?" Ron asked him across the table. Harry glanced to Hermione, as she glared pointedly back at him.
"I don't know yet," Harry repeated his answer from earlier to Hermione. "I admit, I hadn't thought about Quidditch earlier though..." Harry smirked as he rubbed at his chin.
"Boys!" Hermione exhaled, rolling her eyes at them.
"What?!" Ron came to his defense, "not like you and Harry need anymore schooling, but one more go at the cup!" Ron turned expectantly back to Harry.
"We'll see mate," Harry smiled broadly to his friend.
"Harry, you've got to come back!" Ginny took up the cause as well, grabbing his hand. "We've been apart for so long now, I don't think I could stand it!" she finished by pouting, sticking out her bottom lip.
"Not you too!" Harry laughed. "It's only been three days. Can we get a little “R and R” first and then talk about it?" Harry asked pleadingly to all three. No one could argue with that.
"Well alright then, you all be off to get ready," Mrs Weasley announced as the last morsels were gobbled down by the pack of hyenas. "We're to be there within the hour! Chop-chop! Off with you now!" Mrs Weasley began shooing her children from the table to return to their rooms. All groaned in protest once again, George and Ron both stealing extra pieces of toast and bacon in the process.
"A-actually..." Harry abruptly stood up and winced as his chair legs screeched across the wooden floor, effectively drawing everyone's attention. As the room quieted and their eyes fell on him, Harry froze.
"What is it, my dear?" Mrs Weasley finally asked him, taking note of his distress.
"W-well... you see..." Harry began uneasily. Spotting his letter from the Ministry folded beneath his plate, Harry quickly fetched it up to support his story. "I... I received this post just this m-morning. It's the Dursleys you see. They're back... but they're all set to leave England today... and I was thinking about, you know, going to see them one last time..."
"Whaugh?!" Ron spewed out the mouthful of toast he had been chewing. "Go see the Dursleys, Harry? Have you gone mental?!"
"Ronald Weasley!" Hermione too shot up out of her chair, towering over Ron. "They are still Harry's family and in case you've forgotten, their lives have been in the same mortal danger for the past year as ours!"
"Yeah... so?!" Ron mumbled something else incoherently. "I still don't understand why anyone would want to willfuly go and see them!"
Hermione drew a deep breath to unload on Ron, but thankfully for him, Mrs Weasley spoke up.
"Harry, I don't know, are you sure that's such a good idea? It could be dangerous..."
Balling his fists, Harry had to once again remind himself that this was Mrs Weasley here, not Burns or one of the Aurors outside.
"Mrs Weasley..." Harry started uneasily, looking to the floor. "They are my only family."
Harry had played his card well. He'd hated to do it, but it was necessary. He heard a sharp sob from each of the women in the room, loudest and clearest from Mrs Weasley herself.
"Of course, Harry," it was now Mr Weasley who stood up. "Of course you'll be seeing your family before they're off. I'll see to it that Burns and a couple of the others are set to accompany you."
Harry winced. Just great, more bodyguards, but Harry had already assumed as much. It wasn't up to just Arthur.
"Well, don't think you'll be getting out of St. Mungo's and your Aunt's, Ronald!" Mrs Weasley piped in, not at all pleased about the news from Harry. "She'll just as likely leave you off her Will!"
"Sheesh!" Ron spluttered, "I don't know what's worse, St. Mungo's and my aunt's or the Dursley's?!"
All the kids erupted with laughter, including Harry, but not Hermione. She gave him a swift slap on the shoulder as she glared down at him.
"Gah, Herms! What was that for?!" Ron whined while rubbing at his arm.
"For being a prat!" she scolded him. "And stop calling me Herms!"
Ron rolled his eyes at her. Hermione saw it but chose to ignore him. Instead she turned to Mrs Weasley and squared her shoulders. "I'm afraid I will be missing St. Mungo's as well. I told Harry I would go with him," she stated firmly. All looked concerned, but Ron was the first to respond.
"What?! But Hermione, you can't..!"
"And why not?!"
"I believe Ronald is right Hermione, I don't-" Mrs Weasley began.
"Please, Molly..." Harry butted in, calling her by her first name and with the most pleading tone he could muster. All fell silent once more. Hermione would be going. Harry didn't miss the scoff that came from behind him from Ginny.
"But then what about me?!" Ron shot up out of his seat. "I want to go!"
"No you don't!" Hermione shot back at him. "You just said. And besides, you've got an appointment at St. Mungo's," Hermione had her revenge.
"No buts, Ronald!" Mrs Weasley cut back in. "The Dursleys don't need to be overrun with witches and wizards on their first day back! You're going to St. Mungo's - all of you!-" she looked pointedly to her daughter, "-and your Aunt's afterwards, very important business! No buts!" she glared down any of their protests. "Now all of you, shoo! Off to your rooms to get ready!" she quickly began herding them out.
. . . .
"This is rotten, that's what this is!" Ron grumbled as he shucked his pajamas and began dressing. "It's not fair! I should be going with you two!"
"It's not like we're going on holiday, Ron," Harry sighed as he began preparing his own things. Ron missed just how extensively Harry was packing.
"So! It's better than having to go to St. Mungo's!"
"And then Aunt Muriel's..." Harry added with a cocked smirk. Ron launched a pillow at him.
It didn't take Ron long to get ready and as he turned to leave, he found Harry with the door cracked, peeking carefully out into the hallway.
"Blimey Harry, what are you..?!" Ron seemed alarmed by his mate's odd behavior.
"Sshh!" Harry cut him off as he closed the door back before going over to his trunk and pulled out a black knight of a chess set.
"What's this?" Ron asked as Harry handed it to him.
"Today's the day, Ron," Harry said in a whisper.
"What? Today's what day? What are you going on about, Harry?!" Ron looked confunded.
"Sshh!" Harry quieted him again. "I've had enough of all this. The potion's ready. We're leaving today."
"Today... today-today?" Ron asked hesitantly as it finally began to dawn on him. Harry had already let him know all about what Ron considered as a, "right barmy idea!"
"But, we can't just... you can't be bloody serious about all this, Harry?!" Ron seemed flabbergasted. "What about the potion?!"
"How are we even going to get there?!" Ron flapped his arms,
"I'm taking care of that today," Harry said simply.
"What about my parents?!" Ron went on, continuing his objections.
"They can't know," Harry frowned, "not yet, I'm sorry..."
Ron just shook his head. "This is crazy, Harry. We can't!"
Harry looked back confused at his friend. What does he not get?
"We're leaving today, Ron," Harry stated more firmly.
"What's this?" Ron asked, changing the subject as he turned the wooden piece over within his hands.
"A Port Key," Harry said.
"A Port Key?!" Ron practically shouted.
"Sshh! Could you not let the whole house know?!"
"Sorry mate... but, how did you...?" Ron asked in a lower whisper now, staring with awe at the decorated horse's head within his hand.
"I've been doing some reading from our prison cells."
Ron half-laughed at this. They had basically been keeping them in jail, "protecting them for their own good." If Harry didn't hear that phrase one more time in his life, it would be too soon. Ron was just as annoyed with it. "And you learned how to make a Port Key?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, and I've made another one for me and Hermione. They'll surely have an anti-apparation jinx on your aunt's house as they do on the Dursley's, but that'll give us the perfect cover. Keep your eyes on that piece, it's paired with ours. When I activate ours, yours will go off too and these'll bring us back here to meet up and get our things."
"But Harry, you can't really be serious?! You're not really going through with this are you?"
Harry did not dignify his question with a response. What about all this did Ron not understand?
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