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Chapter 9 : Depression
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It was three days later, or July 14th, that Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt noticed a piece of paper stuck in a book his new secretary was reading 'Lusting After Harry Potter'. He laughed at the title, seeing the version of Harry Potter on the cover. The artist had drawn him to be almost seven feet tall, with broad muscular shoulders. His unruly hair hung down over his face, leaving an exaggerated version of his scar visible. In his arms was a gorgeous blonde, and brunette and red headed witches clung to each side. 'I guess this covers all the bases' he thought.
He exploded when he saw who the note was from. "MISS PENDERGRASS!!!" he roared at the woman who was gossiping with Arthur's secretary.
"Yes Minister" she replied running to see why he was so upset.
"When did you get this note?" he asked barely keeping from screaming.
"I think a couple of days ago Sir" she responded looking at the floor.
"First off, you ALWAYS pass messages on to me. Did you see who left it here?"
"Yes Sir. Two kids."
Kingsley handed her the note. He saw her face turn white when she saw who the note was from, remembering hearing the rumors the following day. "Please report to my assistant's office for reassignment."
* * *
Hermione began growing more restless as she and Harry finished getting things ready for her parent's return. By Saturday morning she had had enough. "Harry I can't wait any more. We have to do something!"
"Why don't we go back again? We won't get mobbed like last time” Harry replied, thinking about their escape through the floo. This time it was on Saturday, and they apparated to the side entrance entering through the special phone booth. Relieved that there was no one in sight they quickly made their way to the lift and the Minister's Office. To no surprise Kingsley was in, doing paperwork while he had some peace and quiet.
"Good Morning Minister. Do you have a moment?" Hermione asked as she knocked.
"For you two I have all the time in the world" he replied, pushing aside the pile of papers he needed to read and sign. It made him almost wish he had not given the job as his Assistant to Arthur's son Percy. 'The guy is just too damned efficient' he thought.
"Yesterday I found the note you left Miss Granger. I apologize for that. My former secretary can go back to her reading while she is guarding the loo" he stated, trying not to smile.
"I didn't know I was so tall" Harry replied trying hard not to laugh too.
"And did you see those women? I think their shirts were going to explode" Hermione added, smiling at their exaggerated figures. And wondering if that was one of the trashy novels Ginny used to read.
"But now on to more important things. I would make me very happy Hermione to help you. I only need the names you gave your parents and we can begin. The Australian Ministry is aware of the situation and has promised to help."
"Thank you Kingsley. Their names are Monica and Wendell Wilkins. I am not sure where they might be. Oh and they are dentists" Hermione replied.
"Not to worry. Their Aurors will make this a top priority" he told them. "But now on to other things. Harry you and Ron earlier this summer asked me about becoming an Auror. Is that still what you want?"
"To be honest with you Kingsley I don't know what I want anymore. I'm sure you heard?" Harry asked.
"Arthur told me. Is there anything I can do?" he wondered in a gentler voice.
"I don't think so Sir. We all need to move forward with our lives" Hermione responded trying not to make eye contact.
"Very well then. I will let you know as soon as we have something" he told them as he got up. "Take care of yourselves."
"Thank you Kingsley we will" Harry replied. He and Hermione left the Minister's Office and ran into Arthur Weasley as they were getting onto the lift.
"Hermione! Harry! How are you two?" he enthusiastically asked.
"Just fine Sir thank you. How are you?" he politely asked in return.
"We are all getting better" he replied lying about Ginny and Ron's depressed state. "Can we expect you over for dinner tomorrow? You two are always welcome."
"I'm sorry Sir I don't think that is a good idea" Harry replied, remembering how much fun the Sunday night dinners were. "I'm afraid we have other plans anyway."
"Maybe another time then? You know how much Molly and I love both of you. We have always considered you to be part of the family."
"Thank you Mr. Weasley perhaps another time" Hermione blankly answered, turning away to leave. She felt Arthur's strong arms around her as she started to cry. "I'm sorry" she said, pushing him away and running down the deserted corridor.
"HERMIONE! I'm sorry Mr. Weasley" Harry hastily said, quickly shaking his hand. "HERMIONE WAIT FOR ME!" Harry yelled as he chased her.
Kingsley was waiting for Arthur when he returned. "Did you see Harry and Hermione?"
"Yes I did. They seem pretty upset too. Something is wrong about all this."
"I agree Arthur. I hope we can help them."
"So do I. Let's see what happens at dinner tomorrow night. Are you coming?"
"Yes" Kingsley replied to his best friend. 'All this seems familiar. If I could just remember what it reminds me of ... '. Kingsley shrugged his broad shoulders and went back to his pile of paperwork, wondering how Percy found time to add even more.
Harry caught up to Hermione at the other set of lifts. "Are you OK?"
"NO!!" she screamed. "I am not OK! This doesn't make any sense Harry. Things were going so beautifully. What went wrong?"
"I don't know. Let's go back to my place for a while" he replied, holding out his hand to help her up. Together they left the Ministry and apparated to the front porch at Grimmauld Place.
* * *
Arthur was pleased to see Kingsley show up for Sunday night dinner. Their friendship went back many, many years. Even before the Order of the Phoenix. "So you see Bill" Arthur was telling his oldest " I don't understand why they left."
"Mom do you have any ideas?" their son Percy asked.
"Not really dears. Like I said, they told me they felt they needed to leave, so they did" Molly answered as she slowly stirred her cup of tea.
Their second oldest, Charlie, had come to visit after hearing from Bill about what happened. He saw the smallest of smiles on her face. It reminded him of when he was at Hogwarts, and he would introduce them to girls he liked. His father was happy to meet them, but his mother would always have doubts. She even went as far as to say mean things behind their backs, which resulted in them breaking up. He was single to this day.
"Ronald have you thought about anything else? What about you Ginevra?" Percy asked in the pompous tone he used in dealing with Ministry subordinates.
"No Percival we don't" Ginny snapped back at him. It was only for 'Uncle Kingsley' that she had agreed to come out of her room.
"Yeah tell us Percy the Prognosticator" Ron asked with as much acid in his voice as possible.
"I am only saying that there has to be more to the story" he calmly replied, unruffled by his younger siblings. "Don't you agree mother?"
"Absolutely dear. So who wants pie?" she quickly asked to change the subject.
"I do Mom thanks" George replied. "You could see how much Hermione loves you Ron although I'm not sure why... "
"GIT!" Ron answered with throwing a roll at his brother, which showed you how upset he was since he never wasted food. He jumped up and stormed out.
"Molly don't you agree they were perfect for each other?" Ginny heard her father say as she chased Ron up the stairs too upset for words. "I mean how much more would Harry have to do? He saved our daughter's life, and sacrificed his own. What else could he do for her?" he asked, looking at his wife.
Molly Weasley was sitting very quietly during this discussion. She appeared to be calm but underneath she was a kettle waiting to explode. "I think" she attempted to reply as calmly as she could "that Harry and Hermione chose to leave. We may never understand completely why. What we must do now is to find someone else for our children. And now I am off to bed." Molly rose and went up the rickety stairs.
* * *
Harry and Hermione spent most of the next week finishing things up at #12 Grimmauld Place. Like Harry did for her, Hermione took the lead in getting things finished. "But Hermione why bother now?" he repeatedly asked. "Ginny doesn't want me. I don't want to be here without her."
"Harry what did you remind me? We can and will go on" she responded every time "We did in the Forest and we will now." She hoped in her heart that one of Ginny's favorite phrases would come true, 'Love will find a way', which she wrote in her diary every day she secretly kept while they were away.
But as each day passed things went downhill. Harry and Hermione began getting on each other's nerves, trying to cheer each other up. It got to the point that Hermione moved back into her parents house. This made things 1000 times worse. They both felt alone and abandoned. Harry felt he lost both his real and adopted families. Hermione had sent away her parents to save them, and like Harry had lost the only others who had loved her for who she was.
It was Headmistress McGonagall who sent Kreacher to check on Harry. He was mortified to find a very pale, unkempt Master. "Master Harry, what is wrong?"
"Kreacher, Ginny doesn't want me" he replied from the couch he had not moved from for the last two days.
"That can't be Master Harry. Kreacher has seen with his own eyes how much she loves you!" the old Elf told him.
"No she doesn't" Harry responded. "I don't care anymore. I saved the World, but there is no one for me. I have a few things to finish before I go and see my parents. Kreacher, my final command is to check on Hermione for me. She has suffered the most because of me and I want you to do whatever she asks. After that I want you to return to Hogwarts."
"But Master" Kreacher quietly protested, knowing that he must obey any commands given.
"You have been a good loyal friend Kreacher. The Headmistress will have need of you. Hogwarts will be your home from now on" Harry answered as he got up. 'I look terrible' he thought to himself as he passed the mirror above the fireplace and headed upstairs to his bedroom.
* * *
With a 'POP' Kreacher apparated into the Granger home. He wandered from room to room, looking for Hermione. He found her lying in her parents bed, staring at the ceiling. "Mistress Granger" he said, gently shaking the bed.
"What? Yes? Oh hello Kreacher" Hermione replied sitting up in bed. Like Harry she had let herself go. Her bushy hair was matted against her face, which was very pale. Kreacher thought he could see her ribs through her pajamas, which were now several sizes too big from the weight she had lost.
"Mistress Granger. Master Harry has sent me to help you. What is your command?"
'That is so like Harry. Always thinking of others' she thought, crying again for all the friends she thought she had lost. "I don't suppose you know where my parents are?"
"No Mistress Granger Kreacher does not."
"Then I'm afraid you can't help me. Please go back to Harry and tell him so."
"Mistress Granger, Master Harry has commanded him to return to Hogwarts. He said he will be going to visit his parents."
"Very well then. Goodbye Kreacher."
Kreacher nodded, and with another 'POP' he disapparated.
* * *
Things in the Burrow were going downhill rapidly too. Molly tried to beg, coax, and scream for Ginny and Ron to snap out of their depression, but it was no use. She saw them wasting away right before her very eyes. And no way to stop it without admitting her involvement. After the Battle of Hogwarts she managed to get all four to eat once their appetites returned, but this time it was different. No matter what excuse or reason she gave them it fell on deaf ears.
The Longbottom Family lived nearby, and she sent an owl asking for Augusta's Grandson Neville to please come visit. He did eagerly, knowing that Harry and Hermione were no longer living there and was very concerned. Molly was disappointed Neville brought someone with him - his girlfriend Hannah Abbott. Molly had hoped Ginny might want to get involved with Neville, with him being from a strong Wizarding Family.
"Hey Guys" he said to them as he and Hannah walked into the Burrow.
"Hey Neville" they responded, not bothering to look up as he and Hannah entered.
"Ginny it's beautiful outside. Why don't we all go and take a walk" Neville told them. Reluctantly the foursome left the kitchen, heading down the path towards the pond. Molly stared at them for as long as she could, then began preparing lunch as she promised.
"So that is what happened. We can't understand it" Ron said after telling two of his best friends about why they thought Hermione and Harry left.
"We have seen them in Diagon Alley. They look as miserable as you two" Neville replied.
"And they definitely are not a couple. They walked closely together, but it was to watch out for each other" Hannah added. "No hand holding or anything like that. Just two very depressed people."
"Ginny it looks like they did not leave to be together" Ron responded feeling a little better. "But how do we find them? With Harry's money they could be anywhere."
"I tried to send an owl. It came back. My patronus did too. Do we have any other options?" Neville asked.
"Ginny we promise you and Ron we will find them somehow. I'm not going to give up" Hannah told them.
"Thank you" Ginny and Ron answered, not realizing how precarious the situation was getting.
* * *
It was several days later the Headmistress Minerva McGonagall noticed Kreacher had returned to the kitchens at Hogwarts. She summoned him to her office to ask why.
"Headmistress, Kreacher did as you asked. Master Harry sent me away, after telling me to see if Mistress Granger needed anything. She told poor old Kreacher no, and sent him away too!" he replied as he began pounding his head on the leg of the desk. He had almost let slip what else his Master had said.
"Kreacher stop that this instant!" Minerva commanded. "You will not injure yourself! Do you understand?"
"Yes Headmistress" he responded collapsing onto the floor near her feet.
Minerva had heard about what happened, and like (almost) everyone else it made no sense to her. Thinking back to her days as an Auror, she knew this needed to be investigated. First on her list was Molly. She invited herself over for tea that day, and Molly was happy to oblige her. Ron and Ginny briefly came downstairs to visit, and promised to help her later with 'a project' as she phrased it. Once they were gone she questioned Molly more closely. Molly became very evasive, looking down at her cup which she continually stirred. 'She knows much more than she is telling us. Who is she protecting? Her kids? Hermione and Harry? Or Herself?' she pondered that night.
The next morning she went to see Andromeda Tonks. She was very pleased to hear Harry had set aside a huge trust fund for his Godson, but he had only been by once since the beginning of summer. Both women felt this odd, sensing the bonds Teddy had formed with all four.
That afternoon took her to the Longbottom's Manor House. Augusta told her that her Grandson Neville and Hannah Abbott were asked by Molly Weasley to come and try to cheer her kids up.
"If I didn't know better Minerva I would swear Molly Weasley was up to her old tricks" Augusta Longbottom bitterly told her oldest friend.
"Old tricks? What do you mean?" Minerva asked as a chill ran up her spine.
"Molly Prewett was a student at Hogwarts the same time my Frank was. So were Arthur Weasley and Alice MacNaulty. They spent a lot of time together. Frank and Alice were very close by their fifth year, and Molly was unhappy. She began telling him bad things about Alice behind her back but he refused to listen."
"That's horrible Augusta!"
"My Frank did not care. Personally I think she fancied him, but she knew she had Arthur Weasley if she wanted him. Frank proposed to Alice their sixth year, and her parents could not have been happier! They chose to wait until they both turned 19 to get married."
"I remember now" Minerva replied, having attended the weddings of both Frank and Alice, and Arthur and Molly. And Harry's parents too. "Do you think she is behind this?"
"Possibly. I can see her disapproving for some reason, and trying to break them up. Frank told me once that he saw her do similar things to other people, including Kingsley Shacklebolt and his fiance at the time."
"Thank you Augusta. I believe I need to see the Minister on official Hogwarts business." Minerva waved her wand, and her cat patronus leaped out, looked at her, and vanished.
"Please keep me posted Minerva. I will tell you what my kids say when they return" she said as she hugged one of her best friends. She too was very afraid for the four of them. It was one thing to have Molly acting this way at school where there were hundreds of other students to diffuse the situation. But in her own home, under her thumb, blinded by what she thought she was doing in their best interest was quite another.
Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt flooed into the Headmistress' Office at 9 the next morning. Her message had been deliberately cryptic, saying only that it was of the utmost importance that she speak with him. "Headmistress" he solemnly said as he arrived.
"Minister" she responded "won't you please sit down. Tea?"
"Yes thank you" he replied, wondering why she was so formal today. He saw the age lines around her eyes were more pronounced, indicating to his Auror trained eyes that she did not get much sleep last night.
Minerva waved her wand, poured two cups and passed a plate of biscuits to where they were sitting. "As you may guess I did not get much sleep last night. We have a terrible problem we need to resolve, and quite frankly I am not sure how to go about it."
Kingsley stiffened at what she said. His fears began again 'Is there another Dark Lord? Marauding Death Eaters? His Auror ranks were seriously depleted after the Second Wizarding War, and it will take years to build them back up.' "Minerva please tell me what the problem is. We can work together to overcame it."
"That is what I was hoping you would say" she smiled for the first time to him, seeing him relax. 'But how will he feel when I tell him what I think is happening?' "Kingsley there is a conspiracy taking place against our students. I believe someone is telling lies about them and it is causing irreparable harm."
"Then we must act swiftly so the damage is not permanent. Do you know who is behind this?"
"I think I do. But I must ask you to promise me not to act on it until we have all the facts" she asked, not wanting to falsely accuse anyone.
"I agree. As an Auror we investigate first then make our arrests. Not the other way around."
"Thank you. Here is what I know so far ... " Minerva outlined the facts concerning the breakups, and all the people she had discussed it with so far. This took well over an hour, as she included the responses she received from owls she had sent to many people.
"So you can see why this does not make any sense to them or their family and friends. One person has been in the center the whole time. The one who was telling one what the other supposedly said, and vice versa."
Kingsley listened patiently during everything Minerva told him. He saw her Auror training had kicked in, and he could see himself drawing the same conclusions. But how can he tell his best friend that his wife had sabotaged their children's lives? "Minerva I need to get more information. I agree with your theory, but we still need more facts before we can act."
"Precisely. That is why I asked Charlie, Bill, Fleur, Percy, and George Weasley to meet us here at noon."
"Awful sure of yourself aren't you" smiled Kingsley.
"No, but as you said we need all the facts before we can resolve this. I believe I can hear our friends outside right now" she stated, waving her wand to open the door just as Percy knocked. "Please come in" she told them, conjuring chairs so they were seated in a circle.
"Minister we all received owls this morning, telling us it was necessary for us to come here today" Percy answered for them.
"And not to mention this to our parents" Charlie added.
"I am sorry for all the secrecy, but we have a crisis on our hands. I am afraid for Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny. We need to get to the bottom of why these four broke up" Minerva told each of them. "Now can we please go back to the beginning, after the Battle ended? Voldemort had died, and ... " She continued on to say everything she had observed. Kingsley then added his perspective, being careful not to accuse Molly in any way. He only stated what he saw.
One by one the Weasleys took their turn. Starting with the return to the Burrow, then Fred's funeral. All the events they each had seen during the summer, up until this morning.
"Charlie you don't have to say it" Bill said as he stood and paced.
"I wish I was wrong" Charlie fumed, pounding his fist on the arm of the chair..
"But why is she doing it? Mother is such a nice person" Percy added.
"Your Mother is a very kind, loving person. But unfortunately when she thinks something is wrong, or that two people should not be together, she feels she needs to separate them. I know this from firsthand experience. It was shortly after your parents joined the Order. I was engaged at the time to a woman by the name of Elizabeth Huntsman. She worked in the Magical Games Department. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, when suddenly 'Liz broke things off and went to be with her family in America. It was many years later that I learned it was because she was afraid with the War approaching she did not want to become a widow."
"When your Father and I first met, he had the desk right next to hers. Molly would come by to visit bringing Bill and Charlie. I remember your Father telling me how many times Molly told him she was glad he was not an Auror, out there fighting on the front lines."
"When I was talking to Augusta Longbottom she confessed your Mother had a nickname here at Hogwarts. 'Manipulating Molly' she was known as. On the outside she was the best of people, but if she did not like something, or someone, she was sure to tell you" Minerva sadly said.
The Weasley children sat there staring at the floor, ashamed at what their mother did in the past, and probably was responsible for now. "We need to fix this" George quietly said.
"We agree. As we are working on this, it is important not to tell either of your parents. Once we get the four back together, and find out what really happened, then we bring Arthur into the picture. He is very upset about this and I believe he suspects your mother is involved. But until Minerva began to put the pieces together we had no proof. That is how she operates. Once people are separated, they never got back together, so no one was the wiser" Kingsley told them.
"How can we help?" asked Charlie.
"By being our eyes and ears. Keep an eye on Ginny and Ron. Try to spend time with them without making it too obvious" Minerva instructed. "Our goal is to find Hermione and Harry and reunite them. Before it is too late."
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