Chapter 21 : Year 3: A family gathering
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She may not have given birth to him or raised him, but in terms of the love she felt for the young man, Harry Potter was without doubt her son. Lacking a mother of his own, he had become attached to her already in the beginning of their acquaintance, and her maternal instincts had turned out to stretch farther than her ties of blood. When they had been away hunting Horcruxes, Molly had worried about Harry the same way she had worried about Ron, and nothing could have made her happier than seeing him and Ginny together, happily in love. She hadn’t been able to stop herself from thinking it: it will be perfect when the two of them get married – then, he’ll be our son for real. So her sadness at finding out about their breakup had not only been for Ginny’s sake, but for his as well and, although she was too ashamed to admit it out loud, for her own – she was absolutely devastated over not being able to see him, over having to exclude him from their family gatherings. Two years ago, she has lost one of her sons. Now, she was on the verge of losing another one.
Mrs Weasley had never even considered the possibility of Ginny and Harry breaking up before. In a way, the dynamic between the young couple had reminded her of the beginning of hers and Arthur’s relationship, and so she had thought it self-evident that they would stick together. And then, without warning, Harry had been forced out of Ginny’s life – of all of their lives. It wasn’t until Mrs Weasley had seen him again at St. Mungo’s a few weeks earlier that the realization had truly hit her: he had lost everything. The thoughts that had followed had stirred up another wave of guilt inside Mrs Weasley, but for a brief second, she had been furious with Ginny – with her own daughter – for not forgiving him. For keeping him from them, even if that had never been her intention. Mrs Weasley knew that she wasn’t supposed to feel that way, and so she had tried her best to stay away from her black-haired son, to not think about the pain he was going through, in order to maintain her loyalty to Ginny.
But she quickly learned that not thinking about it was not an option; it was always there, in the back of her mind, another type of guilt: the guilt of abandoning Harry. The guilt of not being there the way she had promised herself, the way she had promised Lily Potter that she would when visiting her grave in Godric’s Hollow. It had been only a few months after Fred’s death, and she had knelt down beside the Potters’ grave, closed her eyes and whispered into the summer wind:
“Hello, Lily. We’ve never met, but I think you may be aware of the fact that I know your son. And now I suppose you’ve met mine. I hope he’s not causing too much trouble up there.” Here, Mrs Weasley had made a pause to supress her tears – she would allow herself to cry later, once she had said all that she needed to say. “Harry is so brave, so strong. He’s done so well, and I’m sure that you’re immensely proud of him. In a way, he and Fred are alike now: Harry’s family was taken from him, and Fred was taken from his family. So maybe we can ma- make a deal,” she sobbed – the will of her tears turned out to be stronger than her own determination. “If I take care of Harry, can you promise me that you’ll take care of our Freddie?”
Two years had passed since she had made that promise, but she hadn’t forgotten it. And she couldn’t let herself give up on it.
“Boys,” she said, making five heads covered in red hair turn towards her. “I’m going to invite Harry over for lunch.”
Charlie, who had returned to England for the forthcoming wedding between George and Angelina, began laughing. “You can’t be serious, Mum!”
“Yes, Charles, I am.” Mrs Weasley placed her hands on her hips and let her stern gaze wander between her sons. “Harry has practically been part of this family for ten years, and regardless of what happened between him and Ginny, we shouldn’t just shut him out. Bill, Ron and George… you met him at St. Mungo’s; you could tell how miserable he was, couldn’t you? And he’s like my own son. I would have never shut any of you out.”
“Yeah, but he’s not your son!” Ron said. “You’re not his mother. Do you know whose mother you are, though? Ginny’s – remember her?”
“Yeah, Mum,” Bill agreed. “I don’t know how you can even suggest it. In the future, if anyone ever does something like that to Victoire… he’d never set his foot in my house again, I would make sure of it!”
“I’m not asking for your permission,” said Mrs Weasley determinedly. “I am inviting him, and you’re not even going to think about being rude to him, do you hear me?”
“Go on, then,” Ron said. “Invite him. But don’t expect me to be nice to him. Perhaps I can stretch it to not talking to him at all.”
Mrs Weasley shot her boys another stern look before spinning around on the spot and walking over to the fireplace. Then, she knelt down and stuck her head into the flames. Green light blinded her, and then, as her vision slowly came back, the furniture of Harry’s living room materialized in front of her. “Harry!” she called. “Harry, are you home?”
The sound of steps answered her question. In the next moment, a pair of gymnastic shoes appeared before her eyes, and then, as he sank to his knees, Harry’s face replaced them.
“Mrs Weasley!” he said worriedly. “Is everything alright?”
“Everything is fine, dear,” Mrs Weasley answered. “I just wanted to invite you to lunch.”
Harry looked hesitant. “Lunch? Do you mean… at the Burrow?”
“Don’t worry, Ginny won’t be there,” Mrs Weasley said. “And I’ve told the boys that they have to behave. It’s just… I miss you, Harry, and I can’t stand thinking about you sitting here in your flat on your own, when you could be there, with your family.”
For a brief second, the hint of a smile lit up Harry’s face; then, as if it had been only imagination, it was gone again.
“Mrs Weasley,” he said. “Even if I do think of you as my family, and even if I miss you too, I don’t think it’s such a good idea for me to just show up like that. I mean, Ron, Bill… they all hate me.”
“Nonsense,” answered Mrs Weasley. “Now, you might as well agree to come, because I won’t take no for an answer.”
Finally, Harry smiled. Shrugging, he said: “I guess I have no choice but to come, then, do I?”
A few minutes later, having passed through endless of fireplaces all across Great Britain, a familiar one appeared in front of him, and he stepped out into the Weasleys’ living room. Half of him wanted to turn back, but the other half knew that he would never have been able to turn Mrs Weasley’s invitation down – not after everything she had done for him. Besides, even though sharing a meal with a whole bunch of Ginny’s angry brothers didn’t sound very appealing, maybe it would give him the chance to talk to Ron.
Harry couldn’t remember the Burrow ever being so quiet. It was such an unfamiliar atmosphere that didn’t suit the old, crooked house that had once been its home; this way, quiet and unwelcoming, it didn’t seem like it was the same place.
Out of all the people who were sitting at the table, staring at him, only three were smiling: George, Mrs Weasley and – much to Harry’s surprise – Percy. George stood up, walked over to Harry and shook his hand.
“How are you doing, mate?” he asked.
Harry shrugged. No matter what his reply would be, it probably wouldn’t sound too good – neither admitting that he was feeling terrible nor pretending that he was fine, which might give them the impression that he had stopped caring about Ginny, seemed like a good alternative. So he ignored the question and said:
“How about you, George? Are you still engaged?”
“Yeah.” George grinned. “Why? Did you think I would have fled already?”
“No, not you, but maybe Angelina,” said Harry, grinning back at the tall, red-haired young man. From the corner of his eye, he noticed that Charlie was smiling too – it wasn’t much, but it reinstalled a sense of hope somewhere inside him.
The sound of steps made Harry aware of the fact that another two people were entering the kitchen – Hermione and Mr Weasley. The latter stopped next to Harry and George and placed a hand on the younger boy’s shoulder.
“It’s nice to see you again, Harry,” he said.
Hermione gave Harry a hug and smiled brilliantly at him. “You’re here?”
“Obviously,” Harry answered, smiling back at her. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “Completely recovered. Ron says that the investigation is standing still at the moment, right?”
“Yes, we still have no idea who did it,” Harry said with a nod. “Don’t worry, though. We’ll figure it out somehow.”
The sound of more steps – and, of course, the number of plates on the table – indicated that not everyone had shown up yet. Sure enough, only a few moments after Hermione and Mr Weasley a few more faces turned up in the door way. Angelina walked directly over to Harry to hug him, and Fleur stopped next to them, holding little Victoire in her arms.
“Mon Dieu,” she said. “Eet ‘as been so long.”
“It really has,” Harry agreed. “I can’t believe how big Victoire is!” He reached out his hand towards the little girl, who instantly wrapped her fingers around his. Then she stretched her arms towards him. “Do you remember me?” he asked. “Harry.”
“I zink she wants to go to you, ‘Arry.”
Victoire happily climbed from her mother’s arms to Harry’s, her large, blue eyes fixed on his face. Harry smiled when she wrapped her small, soft arms around his neck, and when Fleur walked over to the table to sit down next to her husband he bent his head down, so close that his lips were almost touching her blonde curls as he whispered:
“I’m sorry I missed your birthday.”
As if to respond, Victoire reached up a chubby hand and placed it on his cheek. Harry was surprised to find how he moved he was by this – his vision went blurry as tears filled his eyes, and he stroked the baby’s back with his free hand. She was so little, too little to understand what went on around her; even if she would have looked around the room, she wouldn’t have noticed her father’s stiff posture, her Uncle Ron’s dark eyes or the fact that the distance between Harry and her family was much farther than the one between them and herself. She didn’t know any of it, and so she accepted him whole-heartedly; it was as if she forgave him for everything.
As they sat down at the table, the Burrow became silent once again. Angelina, Hermione and Mr and Mrs Weasley attempted to keep the conversations going, but with a few reluctant participants – mostly Ron and Bill – they quickly died out shortly after they had begun. Sighing, Mr Weasley turned to Harry, who had just been thinking about how he wished he hadn’t come, and said:
“So what have you been up to lately? Since last time we talked?”
“Oh, you know,” Harry mumbled. “I’ve been working. Spending time with Teddy.”
“… bringing random girls to his flat,” Ron continued, his voice full of spite. Then, he choked on the food he was chewing on as Hermione elbowed him in the ribs.
An old frustration began rising up inside Harry; he struggled not to let it burst out. Why did Ron refuse to try to understand him? Harry really didn’t know what he was doing there at all – why had he agreed to have lunch with a group of people who not only strongly disliked him, but who had put him in this situation to start with? Yes, he thought angrily, it was their entire fault – if they hadn’t doubted him and mistrusted him, he wouldn’t have been so frustrated that December night, and he wouldn’t have got so drunk, and he wouldn’t have…
He swallowed and lifted his eyes. “No, Ron,” he said calmly. “I haven’t seen any girls since then.”
“Oh really? Did the sensation wear off?” Ron continued. “Perhaps the Chosen Boy who Lived isn’t so interesting anymore? Especially not since the Daily Prophet revealed your true colours.”
Harry stood up so hastily that his chair fell over, but he paid it no attention. “Sod off!” he yelled, a little louder than he had intended. “You don’t know anything, Ron! You have no idea what I’m going through…”
Now, Bill intervened. “What you’re going through? What about what Ginny’s going through? That’s right – Ginny – do you remember her? You know, the girl whose heart you broke, whom you lied to and cheated on? Does it ring a bell?”
“No, it actually doesn’t,” Harry replied. “Because I didn’t lie to her, and I didn’t cheat on her. The only person who lied was that Ruby girl. And yes, I made the mistake of going out with my friends in an attempt to drown my sorrows with alcohol. When I woke up the next morning, there was a girl there with me. But for the life of me, I cannot remember what happened or how she ended up there. And believe me, nothing pains me more than knowing that I didn’t just hurt myself, but Ginny too.”
“Harry,” Mrs Weasley said. “Please, sit back down. You have barely touched your food.”
“I don’t think your sons would like that,” Harry said, his eyes meeting her tear-filled, brown ones. “Thank you for trying, though. And thank you for being like a mother to me all these years. I understand that it has to stop now, since your family won’t accept me. But thanks.”
Mrs Weasley’s lower lip was trembling – for a moment, Harry thought that she was going to have one of her infamous outburst and scold her eldest and her youngest son. But before anything happened, Mr Weasley pushed back his chair and rose to his feet.
“Boys,” he said. His voice was calm, but Harry knew it well enough to pick up on the seriousness behind it. “I’m not going to accept you treating Harry this way. I believe what he’s saying, and he doesn’t deserve such rudeness.”
“Yeah, I agree, Dad,” Charlie said. “So he hurt our sister, and we’re supposed to hate anyone who hurts our family. But honestly, hasn’t he been punished enough? He already lost Ginny.”
He and Harry exchanged a look, and Charlie nodded. Then, Harry smiled faintly at Mr and Mrs Weasley before turning around to leave. Before he had reached the fireplace in the living room, however, someone came after him.
Furrowing his eyebrows, Harry turned around. He must have heard it wrong – surely, it couldn't be him? But if his ears had tricked him, then so did his eyes. Percy was standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, his cheeks red and his glasses slightly askew.
“Whatever happened that night,” he said, “I just want you to know that I… regardless of what Ron says, or Bill… it’s okay.”
“It’s okay?” Harry repeated.
“Well, you know… it’s not okay, but I understand that it was a mistake,” Percy said, “and therefore, I forgive you.”
Harry blinked. “But… why?”
Percy cast a glance over his shoulder before turning his head back towards Harry. “Because I have to believe in forgiveness,” he said. “Had it not existed, then I wouldn’t have been here with my family – I would have been having lunch alone somewhere, forever paying for the mistakes I made.”
He reached out his hand, and Harry shook it.
A few more faces turned up behind Percy – Hermione, who smiled encouragingly at Harry, Mr and Mrs Weasley, George and Angelina.
“I’m so sorry about this,” Mrs Weasley sniffled.
Harry forced himself to smile. “It’s not your fault, Mrs Weasley. And I’m fine. Really.”
“Don’t worry,” George told him. “Not all of us came in here to cry. I had something I wanted to ask you. I know that it’s kind of last minute, but I need another groomsman for the wedding. What do you say?”
“Is that really such a good idea?” Mrs Weasley asked. “Ginny is one of the bridesmaids, remember?”
“Bah,” George answered, waving his hand dismissively. “We’ll pair her up with someone else in the bridal train. Besides, it’s my wedding, not hers. She’ll just have to manage.”
“In that case,” Harry said, “I’d be honoured.”
Perhaps he was mad for agreeing to do it, but despite whatever protests his brain might have had, one thought drowned out all the rest: this was his chance to talk to Ginny again. Had he not just convinced parts of her family that he had been telling the truth? Then there was still hope. He could picture it happening – she would be sitting alone at one of the tables, and he would simply walk up to her, reach out his hand and ask her to dance. His warm fingers would close around her ever so cold ones, and while she would probably be a bit reluctant at first, after a while she would finally lift her head and he would get to look into those wonderful, deep eyes again – if only he’d get to do that, then the rest would work itself out.
Oliver Wood, being too busy eyeing the Irish-British Quidditch League table, wasn’t aware of the fact that his official girlfriend of exactly one week was staring at him. Her eyes were examining every inch of his face, from his almost unnaturally long eyelashes and sharp jaw lines to the newly shaved, soft skin on his chin. He was breathing slowly, and more loudly than he probably was aware of. Ginny smiled.
He turned his eyes away from the Sports Section of the Daily Prophet. “Yes?”
“Will you be my date to George’s wedding?”
“Do you really think that will end well?” Oliver said and laughed. “Have you even told your family about us yet? I know that Percy knows, because he lectured me about age difference in relationships when I ran into him in Diagon Alley the other day...”
“Well, did you remind him of the fact that I’m almost nineteen?” Ginny wanted to know.
“Yes,” Oliver said. “And of the fact that I’m actually a good guy.”
Ginny laughed. “Well, my Mum knows too,” she said. “Remember when you let Errol rest at your place for a couple of nights? I had to tell her where he was, so I decided to just tell her all about us. As for the others, they will have to find out eventually, right? And I don’t see what the problem would be – they all like you.”
“Okay, if you’re sure, then I’ll be your date,” Oliver said before leaning forwards to kiss her. When they broke apart, he grinned. “I can’t promise you that I’ll be able to keep my hands off of you, though,” he said. “I’ve seen the bridesmaids dress in your room, and I just know that you’re going to look irresistible.”
“You have to try,” Ginny answered, raising her eyebrow. “If you promise to be a good boy, I might let you see me not wearing it when we get back.”
“I think I’d like that even more,” said Oliver forcefully as he wrapped his arms around her. “Honestly, I don’t know what Angelina was thinking when she asked you to be bridesmaid.”
Ginny quickly wriggled out of his embrace and threw a pillow in his direction, but he reached out his hands and caught it before it hit his face.
“I only meant that it’s crazy, because you’ll put her in the shadow when you’re standing up there!” he added quickly. “And don’t forget – I was a Keeper. I might not be able to fly anymore, but I’ve still got my reflexes, Gin.”
Ginny’s heart fluttered at the mention of her nickname, said so many times by a different voice, in a different tone, with another depth that she couldn’t quite explain – after all, it was only a nickname. And yet, it did what most things seemed to do those days – it awoke the thoughts of Harry, it made his face appear before her eyes, and it set her imagination off to a place miles and miles away from Oliver.
A/N: Year 3, here we go! I'm exited for this - each year feels like a new start, in a way. What did you think of Mrs Weasley's actions/thoughts/feelings in this chapter? I really just felt that it was time she tried to do something. Even if Bill and Ron are still being total jerks to Harry, things are looking a bit better, aren't they?
For those of you who are tired of seeing Harry and Ginny apart, I think you will enjoy what year 3 has to offer. Next time, there will be a wedding... does anyone have any theories about what will happen?
Also, I reallly can't believe this, but my story was chosen as July Featured Story in the Hufflepuff Common Room on the forums! That just blows my mind. I am beyond grateful and flattered. I'm also beyond grateful to all of you wonderful readers, both for reading my story and for letting me know what you think of it. I can't really explain how much I appreciate it!
Oh, and by the way: "Mon Dieu" is French for "My God" :)
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