It was late when Hermione and Ron returned from the Library. No other students were there so they had free run of the place. Neither could find records back far enough to substantiate Griphook's belief about Harry and Neville. "As long as they believe it that's what counts" Ron told Hermione. Two meals ( or snacks as he called them ) brought by Winky got him through the marathon search. He suspected Hermione would keep at it until she got answers. Which was fine with him because it gave them a chance to spend more time together in the one place in the World she was happiest.
Hermione and Ron awoke early the next day. They had decided to enlarge a bed on the other side of the curtain to sleep together easier. Both their backs were sore attempting to fit onto a single bed. He quietly got up to check on his sister and Harry and was mildly shocked to see her in bed with him, her head resting on his shoulder. Her left hand was placed in between the two scars, like she wasn't sure if it might hurt him putting it directly on one.
Ron felt the back of his pajama collar being pulled as he turned to see Hermione trying to drag him away. "But they aren't married" he hissed once they got back onto their side.
"Neither are you two" he heard Ginny say from her side.
"Exactly. And it's not like Harry is in any condition to do anything. Hannah told us how Neville had nightmares the first night after the Battle and it helped calm both of them down."
"Yes Hermione I know but ... "
"But nothing Ronald Weasley unless you want both Ginny and I to bat bogey you!!!" Hermione told her boyfriend as she kissed him. She pushed him back to apologize.
"Ginny I'm sorry I over reacted. I guess I still see you as my little sister" Ron sheepishly told her.
"Ron Harry and I love each other. You both heard us say it" she said still in bed with Harry. She pushed his now longer black hair (it was a side effect of the potion Professor Dumbledore invented). "Good Morning Sweetheart" she said as she kissed Harry. During the night he had put his arm protectively around her, pulling her closer.
"Good Morning!! How did we all sleep?" Kreacher asked as he arrived with trays full of food.
"Much better Kreacher" Ginny replied. "I think Harry did too." She gestured to his arm around her.
"That's excellent Mistress Ginny. Please remind Kreacher later to thank Mistress Abbott."
"I thought Kreacher it was Mistress Longbottom" Hermione teased.
"Kreacher sees them together one day, as he does with all four of you" he replied. "Today Kreacher asks for your help. Could Mistress Ginny and Mistress Granger please come with Kreacher this morning? I promise it will not take long."
"Ginny I can stay with Harry. It's my turn and we need to catch up" Ron stated. He remained with Harry while the girls got ready. "Mate I want to apologize. I shouldn't be giving you and Ginny a hard time. Doing that makes me no better than my Family. Coming from me it's worse because I should know better. You have stood by me and Hermione, patiently waiting for us to realize our feelings for each other. I am going to ask one favor. I know you love Hermione as much as I do. If I ever get stupid or too thick to appreciate her I give you permission to hex me. But not too bad or she will never speak to either of us again." Ron felt Harry's grip tighten for a moment then release, like they shook hands. "Thanks mate. Come back soon. We all miss you."
When the girls came out of the loo Kreacher was waiting. "Mistresses thank you for humoring Kreacher. As I said I need your help." He waited while the girls ate and kissed their guys goodbye (Ginny kissed Ron too thanking him for staying), took Kreacher's hand and disappeared.
"Kreacher can we open our eyes now?" Ginny asked as she felt her feet land on a hard surface.
"Yes Mistress you may" he replied. His hands were trembling, hoping they would be happy with him. The two gasps he heard answered that question.
"This is gorgeous!!! Kreacher where are we?" Ginny whispered. One hand was still holding Kreacher's tightly and the other was touching a black countertop which shone like glass. She was in a kitchen, but not just any kitchen. It was the perfect blend of coziness and sophistication. The jet black counter (remarkably similar to Harry's hair color) rested on white cabinets which covered two walls. In the center of the longer wall was a farmhouse sink, the front inlaid with the symbols of all four Houses of Hogwarts. A chrome gooseneck faucet arched over it, matching the handles on the cabinet doors and drawers. Above it was a window with white lace curtains. It was open and a gentle breeze caused them to be softly blown inwards. On either side of the window were more white cabinets, these ones having glass doors. They were illuminated from the inside, the soft white light reflecting off the assortment of cups, plates, and saucers of various sizes. Each bore the four part seal of Hogwarts. She leaned back thinking she might pass out when her hand struck something. She turned to see a center island containing an eight burner stove which had two double ovens built in below it. It was surrounded by a white marble top which had black and grey veins running through it. Above it was a pot rack with over a dozen copper pots and pans of assorted sizes, and more were stored inside the open cabinets which flanked the stove. The counter was raised on the other side, allowing room for four bar stools, each with white legs and polished oak seats.
"I bet that is where we will find Ron sitting with a fork in each hand" Hermione joked of her boyfriend. She visualized him sitting there testing each pot and pan 'to make sure it was good enough for everyone to eat'.
Just past the island was a farmhouse style table, similar to the old one. This one had a polished wood top matching the medium oak seats and the floor, with sturdy white legs. Ginny walked along, tracing a finger along the smooth finish. "It has a version of the room extension charm, as does many other parts" she heard Kreacher say. Her eyes were drawn to the next wall which had a series of tall narrow doors. "Go ahead" they heard Kreacher say.
Hermione opened the one on the far right and was amazed to see a Butler Pantry. It extended another 20 feet and had shelves full of extra plates, cups, etc. Also the larger pots and serving platters. Ginny opened the adjacent one to find an equally large food pantry. "We could feed Ron for a week with all this" she said dumbfounded. In the Burrow they did not starve, but food was watched closely.
Two more doors were left. They each opened one to find a refrigerator and a freezer, fully stocked. Like it was waiting for them to move in.
"Kreacher I don't know what to say" Ginny told him. His big smile told her there was still more. The final wall appeared to be four large windows but when she approached them she realized they were two sets of sliding French doors with floor length billowy white lace curtains. She and Hermione grasped a handle each and slid them aside, revealing a dining area with glass walls and ceiling. It had a black wrought iron table with four chairs in the center, and several couches and comfy chairs for guests to sit on. A small fireplace (not connected to the floo network) was in one corner to warm it on cold winter nights.
"Mistress please wave your wand and say 'Recedo' " Kreacher asked.
Numbly Ginny did so, becoming more shocked with each passing moment. "Recedo" she commanded, and the glass walls and ceiling for the 30 by 30 foot disappeared. They were now outside enjoying the beautiful summer day.
"Mistresses you may choose how you wish the room to be based on your mood or the weather" he replied. " 'Reverto' will bring the ceiling and walls back. Also if it is too sunny you may change the color of the ceiling just like at Hogwarts."
Hermione and Ginny sat at the table too astonished for words. Rustling sounds were heard around them and they saw they were surrounded by dozens of House Elves. "Here Mistresses" Winky told them, sliding a tray of tall glasses of ice cold lemonade and gingerbread cookies towards them.
"Did all of you do this?" Ginny finally asked.
"Yes Mistress. Kreacher came to us the first night after ... after it happened. He said the Minister wanted him to go to Grimmauld Place and prepare it for Harry Potter's return. It was terrible what the Death Eaters had done Mistress. Graffiti on the Walls, curses every other step. Dark traps everywhere. Two days ago we finished removing all of them, and work began. Once Harry Potter finishes his travelling we believe he will wish to come here, so we want this to be ready" Winky replied.
"His travelling? What do you mean Winky?" wondered Ginny. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Kreacher scowl at Winky.
"Kreacher can you duplicate these so everyone can enjoy them?" Hermione asked in an attempt to distract him.
"Yes Mistress" he replied. He snapped his fingers and enough glasses appeared for all the Elves, and extra pitchers. "Mistresses 'travelling' is probably not the best word to use. Master Harry is on a journey." He closed his eyes for a minute and the other House Elves quietly left. Sounds of activity could now be heard in other portions of the house.
"We House Elves know our lot in life, to serve our Masters. Now Mistress Granger before you say anything you and Master Weasley have given us many things to think about. As did Master Harry. The way he has treated Kreacher, who had nothing but evil and wicked things to say to him when we first met, has caused us to look at things differently. When you cried for Dobby, burying him like one of your own, it did much for both ourselves and the Goblins. That was why Griphook was willing to help you. Not because of your relationship to Godric Gryffindor.
As I said, Master Harry is both here and not here. A part of him remains in another place. It is up to him to decide where he wishes to be. It is Kreacher's hope, along with the hopes of all the House Elves, that he chooses to return."
"Kreacher this journey he is on, do you know where that is? Can we go there and help him find his way back?" Hermione fearfully asked.
"No Mistress. Each human goes through this at some point in their lives. A search for themselves, and their place in this World. Master Harry has succeeded in his mission, and he wonders what happens next? We believe if we can give him reasons to came back he will. That is why we are here, preparing this for you."
"Ginny wasn't that on your mind last night? Sleeping next to Harry?" Hermione wondered.
"Yes. I thought if I held him, or if he felt me with him it might help him snap out of it. Hermione this is much more involved than we thought. Maybe we should ask Professor Dumbledore what to do?"
"It can't hurt Ginny. Before we go back can we see what else has been accomplished here? Kreacher the work all of you have done is phenomenal" Hermione told him.
"Thank you Mistress Granger. And we do need your help for two things. First is money. Kreacher has used his access at Gringotts to get at the money Master Sirius had for household expenses which is now gone. If Mistress Ginny could please return there when the Goblins ask things will go better. Second we need help with decorating decisions" he said smiling at the two girls. "Let's start with the other rooms completed and move on to the bedrooms."
The walls were restored to the Indoor/Outdoor Dining Room, and learned there was a loo behind the last door they did not open. They next saw the Formal one. A massive oak table and chairs were in the center, and a hutch at the far end filled with crystal and china emblazoned with the House of Potter emblem. The next room was the old tapestry room, which had been cleaned and restored. The Potters, Weasleys, and other Wizarding Families and their relationships were represented, including the Longbottom's. The front parlor was enlarged, now holding several sets of comfortable leather furniture. The fireplace had been refinished in a darker oak than the floor to match the formal Dining Room furniture.
The front staircase had previously been at the back of the hallway. It was the most damaged so it was relocated to the front and enlarged to make it a flying grand staircase. What made it unique was no visible means of support other than contact with the wall. It traveled back and forth up the four flights to all the bedrooms.
Half of the Elves were busy working on the second floor. "Mistress Ginny we are glad you could come! We have many questions about what colors to paint the walls, how you want to arrange the room, ... " the Elf asked. She was peppered with dozens of questions much to Hermione's amusement.
"Mistress Granger could you come with us please?" another asked, leading Hermione up the next flight. Very little had been done so far, other than cleaning. "Mistress how large do you want the room? And how many windows? Where should we place the loo? Do you have a lot of clothes? What about Master Weasley?" she heard, getting as overwhelmed as Ginny.
"Excuse me? Can you give us a second?" Ginny asked from the soon to be entrance to the bedroom.
"Help?!?" Hermione stated looking shell shocked. "For the first time in my life I have no clue what to do."
"Let's talk to the guys and sleep on it. Maybe tomorrow you bring Ron and discuss your rooms. Maybe Hannah and I will come later in the day to look at ours. Maybe the fourth floor too. Let her help with that, in case she and Neville come they will have a nice place to stay" Ginny told Hermione.
"So that's the plan, to move in here?" Hermione quietly asked.
"This is our House, and neither my parents or anyone else are going to stop us" Ginny firmly answered. Hermione almost crushed her, squeezing her as tight as she could.
Kreacher returned them to Hogwarts, and found Neville and Hannah visiting with Harry and Ron. The two ladies gushed praise of what the Elves had done (it was mutually agreed to call them Elves from now on ) that they accepted Kreacher's suggestion to return that afternoon. All but Ginny went, grateful for the chance to talk to Harry alone about their House. She crawled in beside him again, talking softly about the changes made and her dreams of one day sharing it with him and starting a Family. She fell asleep not noticing the tears of joy streaming from him as he hugged her tighter than he had ever done before.
Ron asked the others not to interrupt them when they returned, hearing the sounds of Ginny sleeping soundly. "It's the best I've heard from her since ..." he whispered to the others. A note was left for them asking to meet in the morning concerning the attack, so they postponed their morning return visit.
* * *
At 8am The Headmistress, The Minister, Hannah, Neville, Luna, and Fleur arrived. Ginny, Hermione, and Ron were up much earlier, anxious for the news. Kreacher arrived with breakfast which they shared al fresco clustered in chairs around Harry's bedside.
"Minister we want to thank you for asking Kreacher to begin the project at #12 Grimmauld Place" Ginny told him. " And it is Ginny please. I am no longer using my last name" she replied. "No offense Fleur."
"Miss Weasley it was my pleasure to help you" the Minister answered.
"I don't know if your parents are going to like that" Minerva sadly replied. "Your Mother was very adamant about you returning to the Burrow and to School next Fall. She was also extremely upset that Harry, Hermione, and Ron might move out."
"It's almost the end of May. In less than three months I will be of age anyway. If they can't trust me with Harry, than I don't know what they think. Minister I believe you wished to discuss where things stand?" Ginny asked.
"It's Kingsley please Ginny. First it appears Harry is improving. Do you agree?"
"We do" Ron answered. "He still has a way to go, but progress is taking place."
"I can see that. So you no longer need to be touching him to be a part of him?" Fleur asked, noticing the three closest (Ginny, Ron, and Hermione) were covered in the same white glow Harry was even though they were several feet away.
"Yes. That started yesterday after we returned with Kreacher. Harry is now more aware of us, so as long as we are close and he knows we are safe he is fine. It's like he needed the direct contact before to satisfy him" Hermione added.
"That is a good word to use Miss Granger" the portrait of Albus Dumbledore said. He magically appeared floating next to Harry. "I see Hogwarts felt I should attend this meeting also. Unfortunately I will have to return to my former Office at some point, where I was entertaining Arthur and Molly Weasley."
"I'm sorry who?" Ron asked deadpanned.
"Whatever happens Ron and Ginny, they are still your parents. Minerva I understand you wished to update our friends with what progress you have made investigating this?" Albus asked.
Minerva waved her wand sending her tabby cat patronus. "I will update Molly and Arthur later. So far we have collected dozens of memories and have not come to a definite conclusion yet. Cleary something influenced them, but what? What we propose, with your permission, is to put them to use while we are investigating. Not all repairs can be done magically. We wish to assign them to two separate teams to help repair the Castle. Aurors will be with them constantly, overseeing them and reporting daily. At night they will go to the Burrow. If they make any attempt to contact Ginny, Harry, Hermione, or Ron they will be immediately taken to Azkaban. If all of you are in agreement I will discuss this with them. How does everyone feel about this?"
"What about their magic? How do we prevent them from using it and escaping?" wondered Neville.
"As an Auror there are spells used on prisoners. Their magic has been bound, and will be until we decide otherwise" Kingsley replied.
"Minister I am worried they would overpower whoever is watching them and escape" Ginny asked, thinking about anyone the size of Hestia Jones or Luna.
"We will put the trace on them. If they were to do that we could track them and send them to Azkaban while waiting for us to continue our investigation" Minerva stated. "I will do this personally, and take it as an admission of guilt."
"Ginny it's perfect!! They treated you like a little kid, so this is payback" Hermione replied. "Fleur how do you feel?"
"They are in no position to disagree. They could easily be in Azkaban right now while this process is happening. Thank you for not doing that" Fleur gratefully said.
"It's because they have no past record of anything close to this, and because Harry and all of you survived" Kingsley softly said.
"Headmaster when you get the chance could you please come back?" asked Ginny.
"Miss Weasley I shall." Albus was studying both her and Harry as everyone was speaking. He was smiling, which surprised Hermione greatly.
"Then if there are no other concerns we will go. Fleur please come with us. If they agree with the terms of this they can start immediately" Kingsley said.
"I will speak to the DA. If any are interested in having them help, or for that matter do not wish to work with them I will tell you" Neville promised.
"Maybe noon in the Room of Requirement?" wondered Luna.
"Lunchtime. It will be a nice break for everyone" Hannah told them.
"The Elves will help too. We can use our magic to keep them here, and have an extra person guarding" Kreacher said, still mistrusting the brothers.
"Molly will not be happy with this arrangement. She refuses to believe her children were involved" Fleur stated.
"We can't be concerned with that. This is bigger than any one person. Other than Fleur or maybe Angelina I refuse to have anything to do with any of them" Ginny firmly said.
"I agree. Yes of course our parents love us, but that isn't the point. If, and I do say if, it can be proved Charlie and Bill acted alone, without any influence of any other member of my Family then we will look at things differently. But that is only me speaking. Ginny, Hermione, and Harry have to make their own decisions" Ron spoke.
"Ron I will leave the choice up to you. If you feel comfortable then I do also" Hermione stated.
"It will take a long time until that happens. Until Harry and I can discuss this I will not allow anyone near him without my permission" Ginny firmly stated.
As she was speaking Albus noticed the white shimmer around her and Harry get brighter. And stronger. He saw the determination in Harry's face too. "No one will force any of you to see your Family until you are all ready. I promise you all that. Now I must return to my guests." With a flash his picture left.
"Thanks Kingsley" Ron said to the Minister as he shook hands, leaving a note inside the Minister's palm.
"Not a problem Ron. We will inform you of how they react" he replied, slipping the note into his pants pocket. As an Auror he was used to receiving messages covertly. He exited with Minerva and Fleur to see Bill and Charlie first, then Molly and Arthur.
"Luna now that they left how does this sound?" Hannah wondered. "Either one is bigger than you and I put together."
"We have to be careful. But with at least two with us, plus an Elf, it can work" she replied.
* * *
As expected Molly was hopping mad with Kingsley's idea. "Arthur Weasley you better tell him he can't do that to our children" she angrily said.
"Normally Molly they are taken to Azkaban. You know that. He is doing them and us a favor. You have no right to be mad, except at our children" Arthur stated.
"I should say so!! Ignoring us like this, avoiding our help and advice!" she yelled.
"Molly we are talking about Bill and Charlie. The others are fine" Minerva stated trying to calm her down.
"No offense Minerva but until I can see them they are not fine!!" Molly's voice began to rise, much like the tea in a kettle coming to a boil.
"All but you have agreed to this. If you do not wish them in your home, in light of what they did, I can understand. Personally I would not feel safe having someone sleeping nearby" Kingsley said.
"OF COURSE I WANT THEM THERE!!! I WANT ALL MY CHILDREN TO COME HOME!!!" she screamed.
"Molly if we can't explain how and why this happened none of them are" Fleur told them.