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Children's Crusade by theelderwand
Chapter 13 : War On All Fronts
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 13


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AN:  There are some brilliant "Book Eights" out there, so I've never had the courage to write one myself, although I have filled in a fair bit of the back story for Crusade - those tales comprise the Crusadiverse.  However, I've mentioned a few of the more spectacular book eights that I've read, but my absolute favorite is "Healing" by my adopted little sis, 1917farmgirl. It's in my favorites.  So, stop reading this story and read that one first.  You'll thank me latter.

This chapter is dedicated to siledubhghlase, who passed away on May 26, 2011.  Her inspiration made this chapter two fold what it once was.
   I don't own Harry Potter.  The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.


**********

Harry couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. His entire life lay broken on the bed before him. Why fight? Why even live? 

He clutched Ginny’s hand ever tighter, praying for a sign. From the link, all he felt was blackness. Darkness. But at its center, was a tiny speck of light. And it was that light that Harry clung too. Like a man hanging on for dear life to a piece of flotsam as the raging storm carries him away on waves of anguish.

For hours he stayed that way, unmoving, his fingers intertwined with Ginny’s. His Ginny. My fault. I never should have let her come. We shouldn’t even be here. Why? Why? 

As he looked at her, he had to bite his lip to hold back the pain. Her eyes were black and blue, her arms swollen from the numerous broken bones that had yet to begin to heal. Her breathing was shallow and labored. And that’s what troubled him the most. Harry had begun to count each breath, begging that it would be followed by another. Pure terror began to grip him. What he had feared most, the real reason he’d lost so much sleep over the last week, that which he dreaded above all else appeared to have come to pass.

I’m going to lose her…And it’s my fault.

From the sitting room he could hear voices as the hours dragged on. Crying. Yelling. Muffled sobs and hushed whispers. Then silence.

Slowly, the sun finally began to sink below the horizon, the shadows growing longer in the tent. As the day died, Harry could feel his spirit dying with it.

To have come so close to finally achieving true happiness, only to have it so brutally ripped from him was crushing. After everything that had been lost, he’d finally started to build a life. But that life began and ended with Ginny. His mind drifted. So many years wasted… 

Cho. Ginny being “Ron’s little sister.” That day in the common room when they’d finally become a couple and their walk...His birthday kiss. Then, the months apart, months in which she’d nearly been killed because of him. After the Battle he couldn’t measure the joy of holding her again; in the few weeks afterward, before Kingsley sought him out, he’d caught a glimpse of what his life could be, should be.

The Weasley’s had taken him in. Molly had insisted. Harry was too exhausted and undernourished to argue, as Molly aptly pointed out. Once the heartbreak of Fred's funeral was behind them, everything seemed idyllic.  No Dursleys, just Molly’s hugs and cooking, Arthur’s antics, his best mate’s and Hermione’s company and…Ginny.

The first time they’d made love had nearly been a comedy of errors, dodging her parents, Ron, even Hermione. The whole time, Harry was so nervous, so apprehensive. It was their first picnic.

Harry never knew that Molly had helped with the cooking; Ginny never knew that Molly was acutely aware of what her daughter really had in mind when she suggested a “picnic,” until the engagement party.

“What if we get caught? What if I hurt you? What if the contraceptive charms don’t work?” Harry’s face betrayed pure panic.

“Merlin, Potter. You’re the one that killed Riddle?” She laughed, tossing her fiery locks over her shoulder as she rolled over on top of him. A secluded spot in the orchard behind the make-shift pitch was her favorite spot. Later, it proved to be
their favorite spot.

They were barely clothed. Harry had pulled off her halter-top, she had literally torn off his shirt and shorts in the course of their extremely intense snogging session. But his passion had come up short after he slid her shorts over her ankles. I
nstead of feeling, Harry started thinking.

“Gin, this is different.”

“So, I’m more terrifying than the worst dark wizard in history?” She smiled as she toyed with him.

Harry was exasperated. “No. Dammit, Gin. Stop twisting my words!”

She laughed. “Harry, maybe you haven’t been eating enough. Mum said you were too skinny for your own good. It can cause dementia, ya’ know?”

“Gods, do we have to talk about your mum now?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether or not you love me?”

“You know I do. Ginny, you’re what kept me alive out there. More than life itself, I love you.”

Ginny’s smile faded as she fixed him with her honey-brown eyes, eyes that peered into his soul. “Then love me.” 


“More than life itself,” Harry croaked. Overcome, he buried his head in his hands.

Slowly, he looked up, resolved in what he had to tell her, his voice no more than an anguished whisper. “Gin, I…I know how much you hate Grimmauld Place. I want you to know I meant it when I said we’d move. It was gonna be a surprise. I haven’t even told Ron this, but…” Harry had to force his throat from constricting. “I think I’ve found a good piece of land. It’s in Cornwall; near Shell Cottage…I know how much you love it there. It’s by the sea…” The tears blurred his vision as he struggled to go on. “We’re gonna spend every Knut I have in Gringotts to build it, if need be. Just the way you want it…” Harry was simply unable to say anymore.

He was desperate to hold her, but knew embracing her or even resting his head on her shoulder might hurt her. When his fingers weren’t entwined with hers, he could only fumble with his hands. Every time he forgot himself and reached for her, he pulled back and shifted in his chair. Finally, he took to just wringing his hands in his lap. “Ginny, love…” The words stuck in his throat, the tears spilling over his cheeks. “Gin…It won’t mean anything to me without you…Ginny, come back to me. Please. Come back.” His head dropped back into his hands as the pain of it all overwhelmed him.

For hours he stayed that way, the evening fading into night.

Then a hand rested on his shoulder.

“Ron, not now…” But as he looked up, it was Hermione who was standing over him.

She didn’t speak. With tear-filled eyes, she handed him a coin. His Enchanted Galleon.

Then, in a very small voice, “I made it work.”

Harry took the Galleon. Breaking eye contact with her, he looked down at it. Then, back up at Hermione.

“Harry…” So much she wanted to say, she needed to say, but she couldn’t bring herself to speak the words. What happened to Ginny only filled her with horrid thoughts of Dover, of losing Ron, of her other self’s world ending. The tears finally spilled over her cheeks.

Harry felt lost. As he stared back at the coin, his mind was awash in conflicted emotions, but it was blinding rage that ultimately took him.

“This is supposed to make things better? She might die because of you!!” He rose from the chair, advancing on her. Hermione gave ground, retreating into the sitting room where a very concerned Ron looked on in shock.

“So, who are you now? ‘Mione? Hermione? Someone else who thinks they can buy off my pain with an effing Galleon!!!?” Harry spun out of control.

“Mate?” Ron tried to intercede.

“Shut it Ron! None of this would’ve happened if you’d managed to keep it in your pants!”

Ron’s concern began to turn to anger. “You’re way out of line, Potter.”

I’m out of line?! How many watches have you slept through? Huh? Have I got to do everything, while you two shag yourselves silly?”

Hermione burst into tears.

That clinched it; Ron saw red. “Ponce! That’s my sister in there! Don’t even unload that tripe on her or me! You think you’re the only one hurting?!”

“Hurting?” Harry was livid. “MY ENTIRE LIFE IS ENDING IN THAT ROOM!”

Hermione found her voice. “I know,” she screeched through her tears. “I’ve lost it before!”

Her grief missed the mark with Harry. “And now you get your honeymoon. Bravo! And because you can’t keep your hands off him, you can’t clear an effing beach of Portkeys! Enough! I thought it was bad when there were two of you, but at least then I could count on one of you to do their godsdamned job!”

Hermione’s grief turned into a boiling rage. “Don’t you dare make light of my pain, you bastard! She’s still alive. The Ron that’s supposed to be here isn’t; neither are you! You left! You don’t even have a hint of what real suffering or loneliness is. Take a walk in this reality, Mr. Chosen One, and I’ll show you what pain is!”

Harry seethed. “The git that chose to die in the Forest wasn’t me! But now his problems are mine. As if saving one world wasn’t enough. Well, I’m here now. And to top it all off, Ginny’s forced into this too. She stopped me from saying anything about the way you two have been carrying on and I let her!” Harry’s voice rose ever higher. “And now it’s finally caught us out! She’s paying the price!” He nearly spat the words at his friends’ feet.

“Here now? Really?” Ron’s voice was thick with sarcasm as he slowly advanced on Harry, his arms crossed over his chest. “I know this is the last place you wanna be. ‘Choices, Ron. It’s all about choices,’” Ron said in a sing-song voice. “Look around you! We’re in this godsforsaken reality up to our eyes just like you are and you’ve got the nerve to act like you’re doing this alone? And spare me the ‘mistakes’ shit. Like you never made one. When’s the last time you ever remember Hermione making a mistake? What’s wrong? Need more time to think? Save the righteous attitude! She’s entitled to be human too!”

It was all Harry could do to keep his wand in its clutch; his voice was low and smoldering. “So you’re going to kill Riddle this time? How? I’d like to know because none of the old tricks are gonna work. It’s me, Ronald. It’s always just me.” Harry shook his head as his frustration and anger rose. “Four years in the spotlight and you suddenly think you know everything there is to know about being me.” Then anger turned to bitter sarcasm. “‘Ron the Great,’ you don’t even have the vaguest idea what it’s like. Not an inkling. If you ever completely shed the git role, maybe then, you’ll understand.”

Ron was so furious he couldn’t speak; his hand went for his wand. Then, a voice stopped him from hurling the hex that was on his lips.

“Hard to sleep with you lot screaming at each other.”

“Gin?” Harry rushed to her, then held up, not wanting to harm her with an embrace.

“Just a little fragile, love.” She swayed slightly.

Harry immediately tried to steady her. “Are you okay?” Everything else was forgotten, as, slowly, Harry felt his life returning to him.

“No. I’m a Weasley. What do you think I need?” she asked through a weak smile.

“Food?” Harry replied.

“There’s hope for you yet.” Ginny moved, slowly, toward the kitchen table. Ron held a seat out for her, as Hermione began to cook. Harry sat down next to her, not wanting to let her out of his sight.

After Ginny eased into the chair, she slowly met everyone’s eyes. “If the last Horcrux hunt was at all like this, it’s a wonder any of you survived in any reality.”

The words were hardly out of her mouth when the Talisman Deschain vanished from around Hermione’s neck with a loud crack.

*********

“Nana Molly?”

“Yes, dear?”

“Why can’t mummy an’ me stay here?’

Molly had to suppress the tears that threatened to fill her eyes. She turned from the sink and looked lovingly at her new grandson, who sat at the kitchen table, his feet playfully swinging back and forth. “You like it here, sweetheart?”

“Yeah! Uncle George is so funny! And Teddy and I get to play together and I love your biscuits!” Ronnie had a mouth full of what had to be the third batch of biscuits she’d made for him today. He eats like his father. Again, Molly had to hold back her tears.

She couldn’t bring herself to answer; she just scooped him up and pressed him into one of the softest and most loving Molly Weasley hugs she’d ever given. “I love you, dear.”

“I love you too, Nana,” he said through his smile, wrapping his arms tightly around her neck. Then he pulled back and fixed her with a very serious look. “Can I have more biscuits?”

Molly smiled. “Just one more. Dinner’ll be ready soon.”

Ronnie grinned. He’d already snuck an extra biscuit and put it in his pocket. Molly knew he’d already snatched an extra one and didn’t have the heart to stop him. But she was impressed; even Fred and George, at Ronnie’s age, weren’t quite that quick.

“Tell me the story about Mum, Dad, Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny?” he asked through a full mouth.

Molly sighed. She’d tried to keep her promise to ‘Mione and not tell Ronnie too much about this reality. But, after a long talk with the Grangers, they all knew it was a promise they just couldn’t keep. They’d finally told him the truth about themselves and the people he’d met at Shell Cottage, parts of the truth, anyway.

After that, the Grangers and the Weasleys had set about spoiling Ronnie rotten in the days that followed, trying to make up for four years of lost time. The grandfathers regularly took him out to the shed to play with the newest Muggle toys that Grandpa G. had snuck in. GW, much to Molly’s and Kathy’s dismay, had introduced Ronnie to some very age-inappropriate Weasley Wizard Wheeze’s merchandise. He and Angelina had taken him flying. Molly and Kathy had stuffed him with every kind of food imaginable. And then, there were the stories, yarns spun as fairy tales that recounted the Wizarding Wars.

But, this morning, Arthur had to go into the Ministry for a few hours.  Despite his best efforts to keep work at bay, he felt duty-bound to at least move some of the more important paperwork off his desk.  As Senior Secretary to the Minister, he refused to completely neglect his duties to Kingsley, despite the Minister's protestations to the contrary.  Arthur promised to be home as soon as he could.  The Grangers had gone to the store in Ottery St. Catchpole, but would be back shortly.  For now, Molly had little Ronnie all to herself.

She picked her tea up off the counter and, pulling Ronnie into her lap, sat down at the kitchen table to tell him the story of his families' final confrontation with the dark wizards at Hogwarts, which had now become his favorite. Ronnie had definitely inherited Hermione’s brains; he knew the story nearly by heart now.

Hugging him close to her, she began, “Well, once upon a time there were two very brave wizards and two very brave witches.”

“Mum, Dad and Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny!” the boy shouted with glee.

“That’s right, dear. And there was a very bad, mean and evil wizard…”

“Baldemort!”

“Yes! Baldemort. And everyone was scared of him.”

“But not Mum!”

“No, your mum’s not scared of anything.”

“And not Uncle Harry!”

“Merlin no, dear. Uncle Harry’s very brave.”

“And not Aunt Ginny!”

“Of course not. Matter of fact, I think Baldemort was very scared of her.”

“And not Dad! Dad’s not scared of bad old Baldy!”

Molly smiled. “No dear. Your dad’s very brave, just like you.”

“And they’re Aurees, too.”

Aurors, dear. Yes, Dad and Uncle Harry are Aurors.”

“They stop bad wizards?”

“Every time. Because they’re so brave. But everyone else was scared of bad old Baldy. Until your mum and dad and Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny stopped him.”

“At Hogwarts.”

“That’s right, dear. It’s where young wizards and witches go to learn magic.”

“Will I get to go to Hogwarts, Nana?”

Molly bit her lip when she heard the question. She was saved from having to answer when Arthur came through the kitchen door. “Our family versus Baldy, again?” he asked with a huge smile as he whipped off his traveling cloak

“Grandpa Arthur!” Ronnie jumped out of Molly’s lap and ran to the door, where Arthur snatched him up and threw the young boy over his shoulder. Ronnie began to laugh hysterically as Arthur spun him in a circle.

“Arthur! That boy’s had enough biscuits to stuff his father. You’ll make him sick!” she scolded.

Arthur shot her a wink. “Now, Mollywobbles, you know us Weasleys have strong constitutions. Don’t we, Ronnie?”

“What’s a cantatushan?”

“We don’t throw up.”

“Right. Nana Molly, we don’t throw up.”

“Arthur!” Molly tried to look stern, but the identical grins on the faces of her husband and grandson were contagious.

“Can I go play with the Gnomes?” Ronnie asked, once he was sure he’d dodged a scolding.

May, I go play with the gnomes,” Molly corrected. “Yes. But be careful.”

Arthur set his grandson down and ruffled his hair before Ronnie tore out of the kitchen. Molly’s eyes never left him as he headed into the garden. He inherited Ron’s courage, too. Gnomes twice his size ran in terror when they saw Ronnie coming for them.

Arthur kissed his wife and made to reach for one of the few biscuits still on the table.

Molly bit her lip. “He said he wants to stay here.”

That brought Arthur up short. “What did you say to him?”

Molly’s eyes finally spilled the tears she’d struggled to hold back all afternoon. “I…I didn’t answer him.”

Arthur pulled Molly into his chest as he tried to soothe her. “I don’t want him to go either, dear. But ‘Mione was very clear that we can’t control the magic involved.”

Pulling back, she looked up into her husband’s eyes. “That other place is so horrid. Voldemort’s been chasing the two of them for four years! Arthur, there has to be some way. I won’t let that bastard harm that child!” Molly’s tears had dried up. What replaced them was a burning rage Arthur hadn’t seen since Bellatrix had made the mistake of crossing his formidable wife.

“Molly, if ‘Mione couldn’t find a way, I don’t now how we could.”

“Then I’ll go back with him.” Molly’s voice was determined.

Arthur knew arguing with his wife on a matter as important as this would get him nowhere. Besides, after hearing about the horrors of ‘Mione’s reality and spending the last week with Ronnie, he agreed with her.

Then, Molly saw realization dawn on her husband’s face. “What is it, Arthur?”

“Well...” Arthur tilted his head as he thought aloud. “The way ‘Mione described it, it should work like side along Apparation. But, we’ll have to keep a close watch…OH MERLIN!” Arthur’s eyes were wide with alarm.

Molly’s blood ran cold as she looked out the window to see what had so startled her husband.

Ronnie had stopped chasing the Gnomes. With a curious look on his face, Ronnie lifted the tear-shaped amulet that had appeared around his neck. It had begun to glow brilliantly.

The Talisman Deschain had come for him.

“NO!” Molly beat Arthur out the kitchen door by a fraction of a second. If I can just reach him before he goes! 

Molly was only inches from grasping Ronnie’s hand when he vanished right before her eyes.

“R-ronnie?” She stumbled, collapsing to the ground. “Ronnie!”

Arthur kneeled down beside her. He wrapped her in his arms as she began to weep. “H-he’s gone, Molly. He’s gone.”

Molly was grief-stricken. “I didn’t get to say goodbye…Just like Fred.” Her tears began to soak into her husband’s shirt.

Arthur tried to sound strong. “Harry and Ron are there. So’s our Ginny and his mum. He’ll be looked after.” It was all he could do to keep his voice steady and even.

As the sun set over the Burrow, the Weasleys held each other, weeping in silence. For the second time in four years, they’d lost a child.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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