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Between Heartbeats by navygirl529

Format: Novella
Chapters: 15
Word Count: 29,549
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature

Genres: Drama, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Mundungus, Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Molly, Fred, Ginny
Pairings: Arthur/Molly, Bill/Fleur, Harry/Ginny, Remus/Tonks, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 05/29/2006
Last Chapter: 09/02/2008
Last Updated: 09/27/2009

Summary:



Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny go home to the Burrow for Christmas in the trio's seventh year. Little did they know that Christmas morning would bring more than gifts.

Warning! Pre-Deathly Hallows!


Chapter 1: Waiting for a Sign
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DISCLAIMER: I own nothing, and J.K. Rowling is a genius!

The snow fell gently outside the window of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. As Ron Weasley watched the blizzard rage on outside, he became painfully aware of the activity around him. Purple clad healers ran in and out of the ominous swinging door, each carrying a variety of bottles filled with shimmering potions and dazzling, whirring instruments, while a continuous montage of flying papers flitted in and out of the vents above the doors. As Ron looked around the room, his sister Ginny caught his eye. She was blankly gazing off into space, her eyes focused on a spot just above Ron's left ear. He turned to check, but all he found was a yellow painted wall. Ron studied his sister a moment more, before turning his gaze to the person leaned against him. As he brushed back a curl from her face, Hermione Granger stirred. She slowly opened her eyes and gazed up at Ron, her amber eyes still shining with sleep.

“Wha' time is it?” Hermione asked, as she shifted to sit up.

“ Bit past two,” Ron replied, as he stood and stretched. “I can't believe they haven't come out to tell us anything yet. Mum should have come back by now.”

“No news is good news, I 'spose,” yawned Hermione, rubbing her eyes. ”Maybe he's asleep, or… or something.”

The two paused, chancing a look at Ginny. She was still curled up in her chair, staring at the spot on the wall. Ron walked over to her, pausing to rest a hand on her shoulder. She flinched, almost imperceptibly, and turned her head slowly, until she was staring right at Ron.

“Why don't you go get some rest? If anything changes, we can come get you…” Ron's voice trailed off as Ginny's face changed. Her small mouth formed a thin line, and her eyes locked into his eyes, full of fire and determination. She resembled their mother so much, Ron could have laughed. But the severity of the situation quickly jarred him back into reality.

Hermione touched Ron's arm. “Let's go for a walk,” she suggested. “Maybe we can find some tea for everyone.”

“Yeah…yeah alright,” said Ron vaguely, still staring at his sister. Ginny turned away, and again let her gaze rest on the wall behind them.

“She'll be alright. Fred and George will stay with her,” said Hermione, motioning towards the opening elevator doors, where Ron's twin brothers had just appeared.

Ron and Hermione left the small waiting room, where Fred and George were doing their best to talk to Ginny. As the two walked, Ron peered over at Hermione. She was in flannel pajama pants and the Ireland Quidditch sweatshirt he'd given her for Christmas the morning before. Ron could barely believe it had happened less than a day ago. They'd all been so happy, opening gifts and enjoying Mrs. Weasley's treacle tart. The girls had gone into the kitchen to help start Christmas dinner, and the boys had been examining their gifts when it had all gone wrong. It had all happened so fast…

“Ron?” Hermione's voice intruded on Ron's thoughts. “What are you thinking about?”

“Hmm? Oh, no…nothing…”stammered Ron, pushing a red strand out of his eyes. He looked over at Hermione and managed a grin. “Fancy a snog?” he said, trying desperately to change the subject. All he wanted to do was forget.

Hermione bopped him on the arm, and walked towards a small window with purple curtains. She pulled on the gold cords, and the drapes pulled back, revealing a swirling black background. A menu of teas and baked goods drifted across the window and paused, waiting for their order. Hermione began fishing for her moneybag. Ron placed his hand on her arm to stop her, and removed his own money. “I've got this,” he said simply., and stepped next to her in front of the window. After ordering a pot of tea, he grabbed two cups of the stack on their tray and filled them. Thank Merlin I got that job taking orders at school for Fred and George, or else I'd barely be able to afford the sugar cubes. Ron thought to himself.

He and Hermione settled on a pair of scrolled café chairs at a matching table by the now-closed window, both silent, left alone in their thoughts.

Chapter 2: Memories Over Tea
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Hermione gazed at Ron over her tea. He was so distant, his eyes clouded with worry. She didn’t need to ask why, when their friend lay dying in a corridor a few floors below where they were seated. Hermione was transported back to yesterday in her mind, when they’d all been laughing together. The twins were up to their tricks, demonstrating for the group just how new and improved their “New and Improved Skiving Snackboxes” were. They now included a new morsel called Puking Peppermints, a revision to the Puking Pastilles. The red half of the candy caused you to vomit uncontrollably in red and white stripes, much to the group’s entertainment, until you ate the second white half, which returned you to normal, plus giving you minty-fresh breath. “A new feature for the lovers out there, as well as in honor of the holidays,” George had said, while Fred had given their brother Ron a pointed look, who had his arm draped around Hermione’s shoulders lazily.

Hermione had blushed, and placed a hand over her mouth, while Ginny giggled at her friend. The two girls had risen, and were headed to the kitchen to help prepare Christmas dinner, while the boys began looking through the other new features of the Snackboxes. Just as Fred and George had pulled out their newest inventions, everything changed. Mundungus Fletcher arrived, bursting through the front door of the Burrow with his ginger hair flying wild in the bone-chilling wind. The group had stared at him, not quite sure what to make of it all. Then suddenly, Mundungus drew his wand and fired a bolt of blinding white light directly at Harry.

Hermione looked on as the memory continued. She remembered that Mrs. Weasley had countered fast, managing to throw the curse off towards the huge iron belly stove in the corner of the kitchen. The force of the curse, however, was not all deflected. Harry’s unconscious body was thrown across the room, bashing into a wall, as patches of blood began soaking through his hooded sweatshirt. Suddenly, the room had filled with flashes of light and yelling. Bill and Charlie had attacked Mundungus, attempting to halt the onslaught of curses he was firing off from his wand. Mr. Weasley and Fred and George had all made mad dives for their wands, managing some incredibly narrow misses along the way. Ginny had run for Harry, closely followed by Ron, Hermione and Mrs. Weasley.

As Mrs. Weasley checked for a pulse on Harry’s neck, Mr. Weasley yelled, “Go! Get them to St. Mungo’s! We’ll meet you! GO!”

Ron had made a mad dash across the room, ducking as to not get hit by the curses still flying throughout the room. He grabbed the emergency Portkey, a muggle thermometer, out of the kitchen cupboard, and thrust it into his mother’s hand. The group around Harry touched the Portkey, while Ginny had clung to Harry’s blood soaked shirt, and the whole group was wrenched off the ground, landing moments later in the lobby of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

***


Hermione shivered at the memory, and turned towards her tea, which had grown stone cold. She sighed quietly, and looked up at Ron. “Ron?” she said gently. “How do you think Harry—“

“We should go!” cried Ron, as if Hermione hadn’t even spoken. He stood hurriedly, almost knocking over his chair. “ Dad could be here by now… Fred and George got here so maybe…”

Hermione quickly gathered their dishes and distributed them into a busily working self- scrubbing washtub, and hurried after Ron down the dimly lit corridor towards the stairs.

***


Once they’d arrived at the waiting room, they knew immediately something had changed in Harry’s condition. The question on both their minds was what. Mrs. Weasley was now sitting in the chair Ginny had occupied when they’d left, and neither Ginny nor Fred and George were anywhere in sight. Ron rushed over to his mother, followed closely by Hermione, both trying to ask her a thousand questions at once. “Where’s everyone? Is Harry… Did they go home or… What about Harry is he--”

After Mrs. Weasley had attempted to speak several times, she finally reached out and grabbed both of them, and said “QUIET!” in the loudest voice she could manage.

Once they’d fallen silent, Mrs. Weasley began. “Ron, dear listen. Hermione, you too. Harry is stable now, although he is still in danger. Mundungus hit—Harry was hit with some sort of dark curse, but it was only a glancing blow. It seems however, to have taken some toll on him. They gave him a sleeping potion so they could work on healing him. It should wear off in a little while. Ginny, Fred and George are in with him now. They said only small groups of two or three.. for now…” Mrs. Weasley swallowed hard, but she couldn’t prevent the flood of tears. She let her head fall to her hands which were balanced on her lap, and she began to sob.

Ron sat on the chair next to his mother and gently placed his arm around her, his face devoid of the usual red tinge it got when anyone cried in front of him. Hermione sat in a chair opposite the mother and son, and placed her hand on Mrs. Weasley’s knee, trying to offer her some solace. After a few minutes, Mrs. Weasley looked up at them and sniffled. “I’m sorry dears,” she said, fishing for a tissue in her pocket. Hermione found one in a box on a nearby table, and handed it to her. “I guess I’m just so worried about him, and Arthur and the boys. Oh, I hope they’re all alright.”


Chapter 3: A Scream in the Night
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The houses on Privet Drive stood in a deep silence under a thick blanket of snow, the people inside them fast asleep. Suddenly a series of pops sounded, disturbing the quiet. Three redheaded men appeared out of nowhere, and each in succession dropped behind the frost-covered skeleton of a bush in front of Number 4 Privet Drive. The tallest man turned to the others. “Bill? Charlie? We need to go about this carefully. Mundungus could be anywhere: around a corner, in a room, or he could’ve even killed them already and left.”

“Do you think he’d kill ‘em though?” questioned Charlie, as he turned to face his father. “He didn’t kill Harry.”

“I just don’t get it,” said Bill, rubbing his scarred forehead. Bill still carried wounds from where Fenrir Greyback had attacked him at Hogwarts the previous year. “Why would Dung do this to all of us? To Harry? He’s always liked the kid, ya’ know?”

“I don’t know, Bill,” said Mr. Weasley. “I’m suspicious that there is foul play involved, but we can’t be sure. I wouldn't be surprised if someone had imperiused him. The one thing we do know for sure, however, is that Mundungus is dangerous, and not to be trusted, no matter what he says or does that seems normal. I know I can trust you two to understand that. Now we need to devise a plan boys.”

“How about just blasting in there and grabbing him, and to hell with the muggles?” said Charlie, as he ran an impatient hand through his thick red hair.

“Great idea, you stupid git. Let’s just get ourselves killed, nothing wrong with that!” said Bill, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he rounded on his brother. “It’s not like we’re married or we have families or anything—oh wait. How stupid of me to forget, with Fleur at her mother’s. WE DO!”

“You mangy oaf, I was just trying to come up with some sort of plan.” Charlie hissed back. “I’d like to know what you have to offer. Probably something flighty and stupid, knowing you—“

“BOYS! That’s enough!” snapped Mr. Weasley. He then dropped his voice back to the half-whisper it was before. “Let’s be logical here… Hrmm… Why don’t we—“

But before Mr. Weasley could finish, a scream ripped through the silent winter night, and a flash of green light issued from the windows of the house they were hiding in front of. The men ran for the front door of the house, and were instantly inside after a quick flick of Charlie’s wand at the door locks. They bolted up the stairs with Bill in the lead, but they weren’t fast enough. Just as they rounded the corner of the hall they watched as Mundungus spun around and apparated out of the hall, with a faint ‘pop’.

The ambient light from the street illuminated the hall. The men found themselves staring at a tall woman with a long, horse-like face, who was lying spread-eagle on the floor outside the master bedroom, dead. Her mouth was still open from screaming, and her hands were flung up across her eyes in fear, as if she thought that if she couldn’t see the evil, it couldn’t really be true. Charlie was the first to move. He stepped over the woman, and reached forward, pushing open the slightly ajar door of the master bedroom cautiously. Bill muttered Lumos, and the bedroom and hallway were bathed in a soft glow, one more appropriate for an intimate restaurant then a crime scene, as it was so apparent this had become one.

As the door creaked open, the room came fully into view. The men caught sight of another body, this one of Harry’s Uncle Vernon. The large, beefy man, was part way between the bed and the floor, as if he’d been trying to escape with his wife. On his face was an expression of the utmost terror. The men gently closed the door, stepping back over Harry’s Aunt Petunia, and Mr. Weasley turned and walked down the hall. Bill turned and pointed his wand at the door handle. And whispered Scourgify. Charlie looked at him, but said nothing as understanding dawned on him. He knew that they could be caught if their fingerprints came up in a muggle court case, and then where would they be? The two began to turn to leave, when Charlie said “Didn’t Harry have a cousin too? Dale…er…David…Dumbo? No wait that’s that mad muggle elephant “cartoom” or whatever dad calls them, hrmm…”

“Also makes sense with his size. Harry says he was monstrous…” laughed Bill.

“Dudley.” said Mr. Weasley, who came walking back down the hall. His sons watched him as he approached. “I just saw him. He’s dead too. I can’t figure though, why he’d use a Killing Curse here, when he didn’t try it on Harry…Come on boys; better go before the muggles start turning up. You two go back to the hospital and get Fred and George; we’ll need all the help we can get. I never marked old Dung as a killer, but apparently… Well, I guess it’s like Moody says, eh? Don’t trust anyone, especially if they’re trying to be your friend. Not in these times anyway. We all learned that the hard way…”

Mr. Weasley’s voice trailed off; they all knew he was talking about Snape. Each man remembered the night he’d killed Dumbledore all too well. The three stood quietly, each unwillingly reliving the worst moments of the night. They remained silent until the sound of approaching sirens sliced through the quiet winter’s night. Mr. Weasley turned to Charlie and Bill. “To St. Mungo’s with you. I’m headed to the Ministry; that’s where the tracking spell says he’s gone to anyway,” said Mr. Weasley quickly, as he consulted a shimmering silver map his wand had just projected in front of him. The three-dimensional map lingered in the air before them, and a purple streak directed them to a shabby little phone box somewhere on a side street in downtown London.

“We’ll be there as soon as we’ve collected the others.” said Charlie. He turned on his heel and in an instant was gone with a slight pop. Bill too swished his cloak, and instantly disappeared from the chaos of the once-quaint and spotless hall.

***

Mundungus hurried down a dark hallway, somewhere in the depths of the Ministry of Magic. It had taken a fair bit of magic to get in this late at night, especially on a holiday, but he’d managed, although the visitor’s entrance would never be the same. He couldn’t figure out what was going on though. He remembered vague bits, scenes from both present and past times flitting in and out of his mind as if they were owls. His garbled thoughts were interrupted by the strong voice persisting in his head.

Only a bit longer, almost there...

The insistent voice in his head grew louder and louder, encouraging him to take the steps. He was no longer in control of his body. The steps he was taking were not his own. He didn’t understand what was happening. It was like he was an outsider, viewing what was happening, but unable to stop it. Like one of those ‘moobies’ Arthur had told him about that muggles enjoyed so much. Why he couldn’t he stop? He’d watched helplessly as he—no not him, not him, but somehow it was— had attacked Harry at the Burrow. Then he – no it couldn’t have been him— had killed those people. As Mundungus watched, he entered a dimly lit corridor. There was a faint thud each time his feet hit the stone floor, carrying him towards the darkness at the end of the hallway. As he felt his body pick up speed, he was able to make out the plain black door at the far end of the hall. Mundungus suddenly realized exactly what had happened. I should never have put it on… he thought to himself.

MEANWHILE AT ST. MUNGO’S

All Ginny could do was stare at the young man who lay before her. Harry looked so peaceful, as if he were sleeping in his own bed at the Burrow, where he truly considered home. He was sprawled across the length of the bed, his glasses neatly set on the bedside table. However, the one thing that did not fit was the large bandage that covered Harry’s torso and left shoulder. Beneath the dressings a green salve worked, a hopeful attempt by the healers to remedy the curse wound. Ginny turned to a healer by Harry’s bed, an elderly woman with brown and gray hair pulled into a loose bun. “What kind of curse do you think it was?” Ginny asked, in a voice barely more audible than a whisper. Fred and George gaped at her, as they hadn’t heard her speak since before they’d all left for the hospital.

“We’re not sure yet dear. We’ve never seen anything like this before, because there’s never been a reported case of this particular curse before. It seems to have similar effects to the Flagratio Curse, because the skin has no sensation except assumedly pain, although there are no burns present. However, there is a long slash across the skin, meaning it might also be—“ The woman stopped, as tears began to form in Ginny’s eyes and she became more distressed. “We’re really not sure yet dear. All we can do is try and make him more comfortable for now,” she finished quietly.

The matronly healer patted Ginny’s shoulder, and turned to leave. As she walked away, she paused, and flicked her wand at a set of curtains across the aisle. The curtains flew over to Harry’s bed, and formed a makeshift room around the small group. Ginny stood still, unable to move, silent once again.

George leaned down, and said “Go on, Gin,” gently pushing her towards the bed. Fred conjured her a chair, and helped her into it. Ginny looked up at them both and attempted to smile, but all she could do was nod in thanks. As she sat, Ginny looked once more into Harry’s face, now pale and expressionless.

Ginny could no longer hold back her tears as she took Harry’s cold hand. Slowly, one by one, the tears she’d worked so hard to conceal began to slide down her face. Every ounce of her being wanted Harry to wake up; to look into her eyes, and give her those feelings only his emerald green eyes and warm smile could. She thought of the first time they’d met on the platform at the train station. How she’d loved him. And when he’d rescued her from the Chamber of Secrets. Then there’d been last year before Dumbledore had died… Ginny cried, remembering all the times they’d had together. She’d thought this was over, when they’d destroyed the remaining horcruxes that summer after Bill and Fleur’s wedding. The Order had taken care of Voldemort and most of his Death Eaters, but obviously that wasn’t enough. They’d never found the original locket from Harry and Dumbledore’s mission, but had simply assumed that whoever R.A.B. was had taken care of it, like it said in the note. Stupid mistake thought Ginny bitterly. It was more than she could bear; Ginny began to shake as her body was wracked with silent sobs.

***


A while later, she felt a hand holding a tissue brush her arm. She looked up, and found that the offer had come from Ron. She gratefully accepted, and began dabbing at her tear-streaked cheeks. Once she’d calmed down a bit, she scanned the makeshift room, and found that Fred and George were gone, and Hermione had taken a chair in a corner of the enclosure. When Ginny noticed her, Hermione rose and approached her friend. The two young women caught gazes, and both began to quietly cry again as Hermione reached down and hugged Ginny. Suddenly the silence of the hall was broken. “Did someone die, or did you two peel too many onions for the roast for dinner?” came a voice from the bed they were surrounding.

***

Harry grinned groggily at his friends from his hospital bed. Ginny squealed, and almost leapt onto the bed, before she stopped herself, and settled with hugging Harry gently, before seating herself next to Harry's legs. Hermione mirrored Harry’s grin, although her forehead was still creased with worry, and Ron rather gently thumped Harry on the uninjured arm. “Knew you’d wake up sooner or later. Welcome back, mate.”

Hermione’s grin lessened a bit. “You gave us quite a scare,” she said to Harry.

“Thanks,” said Harry, as he grinned sheepishly at them. “If it’s any consolation, I wasn’t really enjoying what happened either.” He began to fumble for his glasses. Ginny smiled endearingly, her face still damp with tears. She reached over and took them from the bedside table. “Let me get those,” she said. “You’ll probably break them if you keep that up.”

She handed them to Harry, and he put them on. After his eyes had focused, he turned to look at Ginny. She began to wipe at her face, trying to dry the tears she had missed earlier. Harry reached up with his right hand, and began wiping away the dampness left with his thumb. He gently stroked her cheek, marveling at its warmth and tenderness. She smiled at him, and placed her own hand over his.

Once Harry had finished, he looked up at his friends. He took a deep breath, and winced in pain. The bandage around his chest had become soaked with the green salve, and it was apparent that Harry was in pain. “Are you all right, mate?” said Ron, looking worriedly at his friend.

“I’m going to go get the healer,” said Hermione.

“No, wait!” cried Harry, reaching out to stop her, his eyes determined. “Before you go, tell me-- what happened?”

Chapter 4: Dark Corridors
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Arthur Weasley apparated just outside the phone booth that lead down to the Ministry of Magic, where he’d managed to track Mundungus. What he saw when he arrived amazed him. The booth had been surrounded with some kind of black powder cloud that glistened like a night sky, causing the inside of the compartment to be pitch black when entered. Mr. Weasley cursed silently when he recognized the powder as none other than Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, which he knew his sons Fred and George exclusively supplied at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Mr. Weasley waited a bit longer, trying to calm himself as he waited for his sons to rejoin him. Charlie and Bill had gone to fetch Fred and George at the hospital to help them track Mundungus. He hoped they would also be able to tell him how Harry was.

At that moment, Mr. Weasley watched a shimmering bald eagle flying through the sky towards him. He recognized it at once as Moody’s patronus. Mr. Weasley tensed, hoping this was the response to the message he’d sent Moody about Mundungus. Upon landing the eagle began to speak in a low growl, reciting the speech Moody had undoubtedly dictated to it. “Catch him, Arthur. Capture is key. We need to know what we’re up against.” With that the bird had disappeared, shimmering into the dark night like a ghost, leaving Mr. Weasley deep in thought.

Mr. Weasley was still contemplating the message when his sons turned up. Mr. Weasley immediately turned Fred and George loose on the Darkness Powder, promising not to tell their mother as long as they could remove it. The twins exchanged looks, and began viciously beating at it with their cloaks. As the other men looked on, the powder began to clear, revealing the remains of the phone apparatus hanging even more precariously off of its hinges. The receiver was torn off its chord, and was lying in a pile of what seemed to be the rest of the broken glass from the windows of the phone booth. “Whoa,” growled Bill in a hushed tone from behind the twins. “Guess we’re not getting in that way.”

“Well we could at least try,” said Charlie, drawing level with the others. “That funny curved thing doesn’t have to be attached does it?”

“Well I ‘spose not, although that could make it quite a bit more difficult to get in. Let’s just hope Mundungus didn’t do any spell damage.” Mr. Weasley said, as he began dialing the five-number combination into the keypad, while the others jammed themselves into the nearly destroyed booth. Miraculously, the cool female voice came out loudly through the booth, asking them for their names and purpose. Each gave their name, and gave their reason simply as “Chasing”. Promptly 5 badges popped out of the coin return slot, each silver with their names and “Chasing” emblazoned across them. The men hastily fastened the badges to their cloaks, and waited as the floor gave way slowly, letting the telephone booth slowly grind its way through the ground.

Once they’d finally reached the Atrium, the men sprinted across the long room towards the golden gates at the far end of it. As they drew closer, the men saw that the gates had been blasted open by what looked to be an extremely powerful spell. They passed the now-empty security desk, and rushed through the dented gates that were currently hanging from their hinges haphazardly, hoping they would find Mundungus before he could apparate out again.

They kept running down the hallway that lead to the lifts at top speed, praying that one would be functional. Mr. Weasley arrived at the button plaque first, and began jabbing the down button with his pointer finger violently. “Come on, come on” he snarled, as he watched the dial above the doors of the lift nearest them slowly turning to the large “A”. “What floor do you think he’d head to?” asked Charlie, as his father was still attacking the buttons on the wall. Mr. Weasley ignored him, and Bill walked forward, stepping in front of his dad to halt his assault on the wall. “Which floor?” repeated Charlie in a louder tone.

Mr. Weasley turned to look at his four sons. He looked each in the eye, looking each over in turn. Bill, his oldest, was still handsome, despite the scars Greyback had left on his strong face. The werewolf in him had caused him to grow stronger, making him an even more worthy opponent in a fight. Charlie stood next to him, nearly a head shorter, although still tall. He had shining burn scars on his forearms, from his work with dragons in Romania. Then there were the twins. Both were muscular with a medium build, along with long fiery-red hair and intense blue eyes, just like their dad. Mr. Weasley grinned inwardly at this, but was shaken back to reality at the sound of gears grinding, announcing the approach of the lift.

Finally, the grilles in front of them slid away, and the lift doors opened. Bill rushed in first, followed by his brothers and finally his father, who turned and stabbed the number nine on the inner wall. When he turned back to the boys, Mr. Weasley had a grave look on his face. “Now boys,” he began slowly, looking at them as the lift slowly moved down to the basement corridor. “I think Mundungus is under the Imperio Curse. Do you all remember the prophecy Vol… You-Know-Who was after?” The men nodded, and Mr. Weasley pressed on. “Well there was another record of it, that’s being kept in the Department of Mysteries. We just heard tell of it after Dumbledore died last summer, from a spy in the Ministry. And you can bet that Voldemort heard about it too. And even though we were able to greatly diminish him and his followers, he still managed to survive. And somehow he’s gotten to Dung. He’s still after that prophecy, and he needed some way to get to it. But why Mundungus, and how he got to him, I don’t know. But what we need to focus on here is apprehending Mundungus. Moody said we should try to bring him back alive to question him properly, when I heard from him before you lot got here, but let me stress this: if it comes down to it, I don’t care if you kill him, just so long as you make it out alive. Do you understand?”

His sons all nodded, and turned towards the doors as the lift slowed to a halt. Bill caught his father’s eye, and smiled in a reassuring way. He stepped forward towards the open door, and slowly peered around the corner of the lift. The hallway was eerily empty, and the torches that usually bathed the hall in light were extinguished so the hall was left black. The door at the end of the corridor stood slightly ajar, and a pale light trickled through the crack, penetrating the darkness.

Bill turned back towards his family, and motioned for them to follow him. The five of them set off at a run, heading towards the open door. They pushed through it, and it banged against the wall behind them. Behind the door there was a circular room, lined with doors all around it. The one directly to their right was standing carelessly ajar, and a shimmering mist was seeping out of it, slowly and deliberately. Fred pushed it open gingerly, as he was closest. The men were instantly greeted by a blinding light, as if they’d walked onto the surface of the sun. Once their eyes had adjusted, they were able to make out what was in the room.

The walls were lined with bookshelves, full to the brim with papers and books, as well as littering the air and floor around the shelves. Arthur’s first thought was that the room was a library; this would have mad sense too, if there hadn’t been a massive glowing mist floating a few feet in the air. The room seemed to be in a time warp; the papers drifting down from the shelves were hovering almost in mid-air for lengthy stretches of time. Then, a silvery jet would snake out from the swirling mass of fog in the middle of the room and tap one of the papers. The paper would then rocket towards the ground, only to stop and float in midair once more, almost as if it were in wait for the mist to tap it again. The process seemed never-ending, for as soon as a paper would reach the ground, it would get scooped up by the fog and placed once again atop a bookshelf.

Arthur looked around at his sons lazily; they, like him self, had become transfixed with the mist’s odd actions. He was becoming languid; Arthur suspected the mist had something to do with it, but he didn’t really care. He felt as if he didn’t care for anything anymore, like the whole world was right, when suddenly a stack of papers and books came crashing down to the floor, interrupting his daydreaming. Arthur’s sons were jolted back to reality as well by the loud noise.

A scruffy head of ginger hair appeared out of the fog, followed by the body of none other than Mundungus Fletcher.

Chapter 5: Tears and Explanations
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Harry stared around the room, taking in the site of his best friends being so worried about him. His chest and shoulder were aching with a dull pain, and every time he moved, he felt as if a knife had been driven into the joint. But he wanted-no he needed to know what had happened. “Why did Mundungus attack like that?” Harry began, as Hermione cautiously moved back towards the chairs by the bedside. “What happened, and why am I at the hospital?”

Hermione looked at Ron, who was staring rather uncomfortably at the curtain walls surrounding them. Ginny sighed, and lifted her head so that her eyes locked with Harry’s. She began, her voice slightly shaking, but still strong. “Well, w-we really don’t know why Dung did it Harry. He just b-blasted in the door, like you saw, and began firing spells at you.” Ginny paused, and took a deep breath, trying to steady her voice. “Mum managed to deflect the first one he fired at you, b-but you got thrown back against the wall, and blood started coming... We got the emergency Portkey, and came here—me, mum, Ron, Hermione, and you of course...” Ginny’s voice trailed off, and her eyes darkened as the memory replayed before them in her mind.

Harry looked up, suddenly alarmed, and just barely able to hide the flash of pain as he did so. “What about Mr. Weasley, and Charlie and Bill? What about Fred and George? What happened to them?” Harry cried out, his eyes now franticly looking round at them. “Did they--?”

“No, no they’re fine, Harry.” Ron explained quickly, understanding where Harry’s outburst had come from. “After we got out of there, they kept fighting, but Mundungus got away. Dad, Bill and Charlie followed him to see if they could nab him before he got too far, while Fred and George came here to check on you and us. Mum’s been a wreck; she’s probably having kittens out in the waiting room, knowing how she is. But then again, when isn’t she?” Ron rolled his eyes, and even Ginny managed a small smile with the rest of them as she saw Mrs. Weasley in her mind’s eye wringing her hands.

Harry sank back onto the pillows relieved, but as soon as he had, he knew it was a mistake. A wave of pain hit him, emanating from underneath the oozing bandages. He bit back a holler of pain, but both Ginny and Hermione had both noticed the grimace playing across his face. “Are you alright Harry?” asked Ginny, her voice strained, as she stared alarmed into his eyes.

Harry gasped, and realized he was squeezing Ginny’s hand tightly. He couldn’t even manage to respond to her inquiry due to the intense pain that had overtaken him. He could feel the curse wound burning, like a white-hot poker had been stabbed into his chest. Hermione flew out of the curtained area, and Harry could hear her yelling for a healer. But her voice sounded as if she were yelling through water. The world had begun spinning, and he could hear Ginny calling his name, as everything went black.

***

“Harry? Oh Merlin, HARRY! Come on, talk to me! Hold on…”Ginny watched as Harry’s eyes slid shut, and his breathing became ragged. Oh no not him, please no..” Ginny thought, her mind racing. This isn’t fair… Oh please God why him…” “Harry!! Come on, please….”

Harry had begun to twitch violently by the time Hermione got back, flanked by two healers. Ginny jumped off the bed, her eyes still locked on Harry’s face, as healers poured into the ward, and began pulling out wands and potion bottles. The curtains flew back against the walls of the corridor, and the healers began circling around Harry wildly. She watched as one of them pulled away the bandages from Harry’s chest, and began siphoning off the foul-smelling green salve of earlier. The skin underneath the bandages was shining and red, save one long slash mark etched across Harry’s chest, from his left shoulder down to the bottom of his ribs. The cut was deep, and fresh blood had begun to pour from it, flowing freely onto the white cotton bedding. The matronly healer with whom Ginny had spoken earlier muttered a charm, and the flow eased.

Ginny was still watching in horror, when she felt a hand close round her shoulder. "Come on, out you lot,” said a young male healer. Ginny turned and saw him sheperding ROn and Hermione along with her. “We need to work on him. Come on, out you get.” Ginny let herself get steered out of the ward, and back into the small waiting room, where her mother was anxiously shredding a tissue. Mrs. Weasley immediately rose when Ron, Hermione and Ginny entered the small room, upsetting a pile of tattered tissues from her lap onto the ground. Her cheeks were damp with old tears as she rushed over to the small group. “How is he? What’s happened?” Mrs. Weasley questioned them, her eyes filled with terror.

Ginny opened her mouth to try to speak, but found she couldn’t. She felt as though she had a Snitch stuck in her throat, fluttering against her voice box and preventing her from speaking or breathing. She looked helplessly at Ron and Hermione, hoping one of them would understand that she couldn’t explain. Hermione’s eyes were welling with tears, and Ron had a grimace on his face. When the two girls locked eyes, Hermione slowly began breathing in, as if trying not to cry for Ginny’s sake. Ginny was silently thankful for this, as she could feel the throbbing behind her eyes of the familiar tears. Ginny was the first to break the stare, as she felt her eyes stinging. She clenched her eyes shut against the bright lights of the waiting room.

***



Ron peered at both girls for a moment thoughtfully, as if trying to figure a way to help both of them. Ron sighed deeply in despair, and then turned to his mother. Hermione was on the verge of tears, though he could tell she was holding onto her self-control for Ginny. And his younger sister, he noted, was pressing a hand tightly down over her eyes in a feeble attempt to prevent tears from escaping. He heaved a great sigh, preparing himself for the inevitable downpour of all three women. “Let’s sit. I know this pair should.” He said to his mother, while motioning to Ginny and Hermione.

Once they’d all sat in the hard chairs in the waiting room, and Mrs. Weasley had successfully shredded a second tissue, Ron told his mother what had just happened. “But they should be able to help him,” finished Ron, as he watched his mother’s eyes well up once again with tears. “It’ll be ok Mum, really.” Ron reached across the aisle in between the chairs and took his mother’s hand, unsettling the remains of yet another tissue. She once again bowed her head, but mercifully did not cry. Thank Merlin Hermione and Ginny haven’t started up yet. thought Ron. I don’t think I could’ve handled all of them sobbing at once.

Mrs. Weasley broke Ron’s thoughts when she spoke. “That sounds serious.” She choked out, before the tears finally overcame her. Ginny, who was sitting next to her mother, watched as Mrs. Weasley sobbed, her face oddly blank. Nice job Ronald, he thought to himself, as Hermione, who was next to him, covered her face, trying to hide her tears. You had to go and put a jinx on the lot of them. Ron snaked his other arm round Hermione’s waist, trying to comfort her. He slowly started rubbing in small circles on the small of her back. She tensed, but after a moment sunk back against Ron’s strong chest, and she let the tears fall. Ron just held her, continually rubbing her back and shoulders with one hand while patting his mother’s hand with the other. The group stayed this way for a long time; Ron remained holding onto Hermione and his mother, while Ginny resumed staring into oblivion. Ron stared at her, hoping she would somehow snap out of the trance, but to no avail.

Eventually, his mother’s tears had faded to sniffles, and Hermione’s sobs had diminished as well. Mrs. Weasley was now fussing about, trying to clean her face of tearstains, while Hermione leaned back into Ron’s broad chest, just breathing in and out deeply. Ginny remained gazing at the wall, tuned out of what was going on round her. But when the doors to the ward flew open almost an hour later, the group collectively flew out of their chairs at the first healer who appeared.

Ron recognized the healer as the one who had shooed them earlier, and he immediately rushed over to him. “How is he?” Ron asked, as Hermione and his mother joined them. “Is he…” Ron’s voice faded away as he awaited the healer’s answer.

A/N: I know, I know! I love my cliff hangers! Hope you enjoyed, and sooooo sorry it took so long to get up and running again. I had quite a writer's block! But don't worry, this and "When the Stars Come Out" are my priorities now! I'll be updating at least once weekly, if not more often, so keep checking back!

Chapter 6: Into the Fog
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“Dung! Stop! It doesn’t have to be this way!” Arthur shouted at the top of his lungs, trying to make out each person as their form moved across his vision through the fog. They’d tried to reason with Mundungus, but before they could get out more than two words, he’d begun throwing spells. Arthur and his sons had immediately dived for cover, although Arthur had seen at least one blast make contact. Arthur’d rushed to where the fallen man lay, but before he could reach his son, Charlie bounded back up. Arthur let out a sigh of relief; but out of the corner of his eye, he watched as a jet of red came flying at his side. The last thing he saw before he was knocked out was a flash of gingery red hair hanging loosely around red slit-like eyes…

***


The healer looked from Mrs. Weasley to Ron and Hermione, who were holding each other in the stiff chairs of the waiting room. He gazed across the room at where Ginny was seated, her gaze fixed upon the wall in front of her. He made to go over to them, but before he could pick up a foot to step in their direction, the small group was around him. Mrs. Weasley was shredding yet another tissue, and Hermione was clutching onto Ron’s arm with a vice grip that she kept loosening and tightening in dread. Ginny was the only one who was completely unmoving, her brown eyes vacant, fixed desperately upon the healer. When Ron questioned him about Harry, the healer took a deep breath, and began to speak:

“Harry is stable now; he lost a lot of blood, as you all saw, and we’re starting him on a regimen of salves and ointments to heal the skin more quickly. He should be awake soon, but I ask that only one person go in at a time to see him. And when each of you goes, you’ll need to make sure he doesn’t try to sit up or move around too much. He’s weaker than he thinks, and he’s obviously stubborn enough to try to get up again. You can go in at anytime.”

The healer turned to go, heading back towards the closed ward. At this point, Mrs. Weasley had begun to cry tears of relief, although her tears were considerably quieter than they’d been earlier. Hermione had let go of Ron’s arm, and he’d wrapped his newly freed limb around her as she cried into his chest. Ginny followed the healer, unable to quite comprehend what he had said. He’d reached a small table by the entrance when she caught up to him.

“Sir?” Ginny questioned timidly, half hoping he wouldn’t hear her.

“Yes? What can I do for you?” he turned towards Ginny, his eyes expectant.

“Umm…w-well…I was just wondering… When could we go to see him again?” Ginny averted her eyes; the healer knew that wasn’t what she’d meant to ask, but he said nothing. This young woman’s pain was private, and he had no right to intrude on it.

He smiled reassuringly at Ginny, and patted her arm gently. “You can go in one at a time." He repeated himself quietly catching her gaze. "I suggest you decide who’s going first. Harry seems rather eager to see you all again.”

Ginny smiled weakly, and wandered forlornly back to her mother, brother and friend. Hermione was still leaning against Ron’s chest, though she’d stemmed the flow of tears with Ron's shirt. Molly’s eyes were shining with fresh tears as she stared at her daughter. Ginny opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted quickly by her mother. “Give him our love dear.”

Molly smiled at her daughter, and Ginny managed a small grin. She turned towards Ron and Hermione, questioningly; Ron just nodded, and Hermione smiled tearfully at her. Ginny beamed, and turned towards the ominous white doors once again. She reached out and pushed through them, hoping this time would go a bit better.

***

Arthur felt as if he’d been hit by the Knight Bus. He groaned softly as he opened his eyes; the world had become oddly skewed, and nothing was recognizable. Arthur put his hand to his face and shook his head vigorously, trying to clear the fog that was clouding his mind. Arthur felt for his glasses, realizing they were no longer on his face. He groped around himself, not daring to lift his head to high, for fear of detection that he was once more awake. Arthur could still hear the sounds of spells crashing into bookshelves, meaning the fight was still at its peak.

A few moments later, he found his horn rimmed spectacles smashed into shards a foot or two away. He pulled out his wand, muttered Occulus Repairo,and placed the reformed frames upon his face. Arthur figured enough was enough, that his sons needed him, and he was about to charge out to bring down Mundungus when suddenly the room was filled with silence. The only sound left was the ominous drifting of the papers from their perches atop the shelves. Arthur came slowly to a crouching position, his eyes darting smartly around the room for a sign of attack, of injury, of one of his sons…of anything. He was greeted by the vision of sharp edges of wreckage from fallen shelves, and of softly floating papers, drifting aimlessly around the room, with nowhere to land or return to. Arthur turned, and saw blurred figures rising from the ground. The fog had thinned some, and Arthur could make out Fred crouching by his fallen twin. George stirred, but his eyes didn’t open, and Fred began to shake him vigorously. Arthur stepped over and placed a hand on Fred’s shoulder. “It’s alright, son. We’ll get him to Mungo’s, and he’ll be fine.”

Fred gazed at his father, a silent confirmation of understanding. Fred turned to his twin and mumbled a few words, his wand pointing at George. George’s body drifted up to a semi-standing position, and Fred looped an arm around his brother’s torso. George gave a moan, and he opened his eyes slightly, trying to say something. Fred froze, twisting to watch his brother. George gave another great moan, and his eyes slid shut again. Arthur looked on, his heart clenched tightly. If George is this bad off, what happened to my other boys? Arthur shook this thought off swiftly, as he turned to his sons. “Did you see where the others got to?” he questioned, the note of panic all but hidden.

Fred shrugged a shoulder in the direction of the thickening fog. “I think Bill and Charlie took after Dung that way, but I’m not sure. He fired a curse back when George and I were on the chase too, and it hit George dead on.”

Arthur shuddered, and watched as George’s face went rigid, as if he were trying to concentrate when he heard Fred say his name. “Let’s get him up and out of here, Fred. We can look for your brothers on the way.” Arthur said, as he watched his son in distress.

Arthur slung George’s opposite arm from Fred around his shoulders, and made to pick him up. Fred gingerly unhanded George, moving out of the way so Arthur could swing his brother up into his arms. Arthur set off at a brisk walk into the fog, taking long agitated strides. Fred had to jog to keep up with him, all the while searching for his brothers or Mundungus. Arthur finally slowed his pace once the fog had reached it’s densest, and they could scarcely see their hands before their faces. After picking their way through the destroyed bookshelves and suspended paper stacks, Fred ran his foot into something. “Oh bloody—BILL?” Fred cried, as he crouched by his brother.

Arthur set George down against a stack of books and wreckage, and hurried to his oldest son’s side. “Bill? Can you hear me? Come on, Bill…Talk to me…” Arthur urged his son.

Bill’s eyes flicked open, and he sat up quickly. He had a small trail of blood dripping down from a swollen gash along his forehead, which his hand flew to when he tried to rise from his place laying on the ground. Clutching his head and cursing quietly, Bill looked first at his father, then to Fred, and back again. “Where’s Charlie? He was just next to me when I went down…” Bill muttered confusedly before trailing off, clutching his head.

Arthur placed a hand on his son’s scarred shoulder, his own mind racing. Where could Charlie be?

***


When Ginny entered the closed ward once more, everything was familiar, but eerily different. She could make out the handful of other patients in their beds, all of them dozing peacefully in the early morning light. Ginny blinked, and stared up at the windows as she walked down the aisle towards the last few beds. The clouds were still dense, but their color had lightened to that of fluid silver, like the rich shade of unicorn blood. Large soft flakes were falling quietly now, soothing Ginny as she walked towards the curtains surrounding Harry’s bed.

Upon reaching the makeshift room, Ginny rushed inside, unable to contain herself or her respectful silence any longer. She found Harry propped up with pillows at his back, and a sad look in his eyes. His face immediately brightened, however, when she walked in the room.

Ginny’s eyes filled with tears, the gates to her heart shattered as feelings rushed forth. She took a deep breath, hoping to stay the flow for Harry’s sake. Harry motioned to her, scooting over gingerly and gently patting the bed next to him for her. Ginny made it to the bed and into Harry’s arms before she began to sob quietly.

“I thought…We thought…Oh Harry…I’m—I’m so…” Ginny stuttered between bouts of tears.

As Harry gathered her into his good arm, he kissed her hair gently, hushing her as he held her shaking body to him. He pulled her closely, letting her tears flow onto the fresh bandage revealed by his open pajama shirt. He could feel her heart pounding a steady tattoo in her chest, and she his, together as if they were following a single line, stepping together into the sands of time.

Ginny suddenly jumped, realizing she’d been sobbing into Harry’s injured shoulder and chest. She leapt back, gazing at him with a frightful, questioning look emblazoned on her face. “Are you…Is it… But they can’t have done it up so well. Not in such little time,” Ginny finally managed to say, as she sniffed quietly.

“I don’t know, love. The Healer said he’d found writings in an old spell book. He thinks it’s a variation of Sectumsempra. And now that they’ve named it you know…It feels a lot better, even though I’m still not to leave the bed.” Harry finished triumphantly, managing a weak grin.

Ginny smiled softly, and rested her head once more upon Harry’s chest. She listened as his heart thumped softly against his ribs. Harry ran a strong hand across Ginny’s cheek, stopping only when he’d reached the arch of her chin. He tipped her head upwards, and they shared a soft kiss. Ginny broke away after what seemed an age, remembering she’d been asked to come get the others as well. Harry groaned light-heartedly as Ginny lifted her face from his.

“I’m sorry, but you’re very popular Mr. Potter. I’m not the only one who wants to see you alive and well. Might I remind you of those people you consider your friends who are waiting their turn to see you?” Ginny placed a hand on her hip mockingly, as if she were a mother chastising her child for playing with Daddy’s off-limits wand.

Harry laughed, and preceded to good-naturedly grouch about “that git who managed to keep them apart even when he wasn’t there” (Ron) and “the know-it-all who would fly from crying fit to scolding to looking up facts on the ancient incantation faster than you could say the stupid curse” (Hermione).

Ginny laughed, glad to see the salves for the pain were working, and she turned to go get the others.

A/N: Sorry this took sooooo long! I've been blocking on all of my pieces lately, and I could simply kill sometimes. Thanks so much to my faithful readers, and especially to my new readers who've popped out of the woodwork and left me a review! I'll be back in touch soon...:)

Chapter 7: Duels and Visitors
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Arthur heard a cry off to his right. Someone was either in pain, or they’re doing their best impression of a banshee Arthur thought bitterly to himself, as he rose from the floor. Bill sat up, signaling he’d heard it too. Arthur motioned to Bill to stay with George, and for Fred to come with him. “Wands at the ready” mouthed Arthur, as he moved into the thick fog, Fred close behind. Arthur traced the sounds to a staircase that he nearly fell down from the obstructing fog. As he and Fred gingerly stepped down them, they heard another noise, differing from the shrieks of the past moments. A cold bone chilling laugh split the air like a gunshot, echoing as the sound raced up the stairwell towards the men.

Arthur exchanged a look with Fred, and he watched Fred go stiff. They stayed stationary for only a moment, before both men flew into action. Arthur lunged down the stairs, Fred quick on his heels, and it wasn’t long before they’d reached the bottom of the darkness-enshrouded staircase. There was yet another all-to familiar dark hallway, with a door down at one end. This time, however, the door was thrown back off its hinges, revealing a very odd scene indeed. The room was a huge stone dungeon, alight with eerie green lanterns, with a huge vase set off in one corner. Long tubes flowed out of the vase, encircling the room, and a stream of something that can only be described as liquid light was flowing through the pipes, up and beyond the men’s sight. This all was left unnoticed though, for there in the middle of the room, was Charlie, moaning and writhing on the floor.

Arthur, the taller of the two men, reached his son first, and knelt to examine Charlie. Fred too came to the ground, picking up Charlie’s abandoned wand from a few feet away and reaching for his brother’s arm. Arthur noted there was no visible evidence of injury, and sighed in relief. As they helped Charlie into a sitting position, he suddenly looked up at the two, his eyes panicked and his mouth open in terror. He began to speak, his words disjointed and stuttered. “No…D-dad…Help…He’s…h-here…”

Charlie was interrupted however, by a cold, shrill voice from behind the group. “Hello, Arthur.”

***


Harry grinned as he heard rushed footsteps on the hard tile of the ward floor. He laughed loudly when his tall, gangly best friend came whipping around the corner of the curtain stands surrounding his bed.

Ron came to an unsteady halt by Harry’s bed, and mirrored his grin. “Don’t you ever do that to us again, you git.” Ron exclaimed, as he bent to hug Harry gently. After the brief and rather awkward embrace, Ron settled himself next to the bed in the chair Ginny had vacated minutes before. Ron then got a serious look on his face, and he locked gazes with Harry. “Harry, I just wanted to ask you… D’ya think Dung might’ve managed to—I dunno, maybe he got mixed up with some Death Eaters, and they convinced him to join up? I mean, we thought we’d found all the horcruxes, but we never could confirm that the locket had been destroyed, could we? We aren’t even sure if we destroyed any of the rest of them right, are we? What’s to say he’s not out there somewhere…” Ron let his voice trail off, and he bit his lip.

Harry exhaled softly, not wanting to confirm his best friend’s fears, but having no other explanation. After a few minutes of the silence, Harry looked at Ron and smiled weakly. “Can you imagine Dung joining up with Death Eaters? I mean, honestly, he may only do things to benefit himself, but could you see him trying to weasel his way into their circle? He’d be kicked out for picking their pockets before they could even get the dark mark onto his arm.” Harry laughed hollowly, and Ron followed suit.

“I ‘spose you’re right. What was I thinking? Dung may not have valued us anymore than the weight of our money bags, but he liked Dumbledore, and he’s not that daft.” Ron grinned in relief. “Well, Mum and Hermione were dying to see you when I came back, so I better go get them to make sure they don’t curse a hole in the doors to get to you. And whatever you said to Ginny—thanks mate. I remember when only I could get her to light up like that. I guess what I’m saying is…well…” Ron stammered to a halt, and settled on extending his hand. “This doesn’t mean I love the idea of you and her, but I’ll get used to it I suppose. But if you ever touch her, just know—“

“Don’t worry, Ron, I wouldn’t want to risk my neck just to—well you know…” Harry cut in, taking Ron’s hand and shaking it. “Besides, I have way more to worry about, what with the rest of your family threatening me with bodily harm if I hurt her ever again. I honestly thought I was going to get it before we got back together at the wedding.”

Ron grinned back, breaking their handshake. “You wouldn’t have been too hurt. We’re all too scared of what Ginny would do if we hurt you.” Ron turned around with a laugh, and left the small curtained area to get another visitor for Harry.

A few minutes later, Harry heard a collection of footsteps and panicked whispered voices. Harry watched through a crack in the curtains, and he saw Mrs. Weasley talking heatedly with someone, her body stiff and her eyes glistening with tears. Harry strained to make out what the pair was saying. He nearly fell out of the bed when he heard Percy’s voice. Harry puzzled over why Percy had come back from France, where he and Penelope, his “business associate” were for the holidays. Harry shook off the curiosity, and focused to hear what they were saying.

“But the Ministry? I thought it was impenetrable now that the new security measure had been taken.” Mrs. Weasley whispered, casting a sidelong glance round the room.

“We thought so too, mum. But the security sensors were tripped early this morning, and the visitor’s entrance was breached. Dad and the others must’ve just gotten inside. Their names were the last recorded in the archives of the entry monitor.” Percy responded, the normal pompous undertones in his voice all but disappeared, and replaced by fear.

“But, can’t you get inside? Can’t you be sure they’re alright? Can't you do something?” Mrs. Weasley’s voice had risen in decibel, and the terror written across her face was reflected in her tone.

“It’s sealed off from the inside, mum. It’s got to have happened after they got inside. We’re doing all that we can...” Percy’s voice drifted off, and Harry could see Mrs. Weasley collapse into his arms, tears streaming down her face.

Harry couldn’t stand it anymore. He rose from bed, and gingerly placed his feet on the floor. The world spun for a moment, but he remained up and stationary. He could scarcely feel the tautness in his chest, and he knew the bleeding had halted. He reached out a hand and pushed back the curtains surrounding his bed, and stepped up to Percy and Mrs. Weasley. “What’s happening?” Harry asked, dreading the answer. “Are they alright?”

***


Arthur whipped around, rising to his feet to shield Fred and Charlie from Mundungus. Mundungus was almost unrecognizable now. His ginger hair was matted, and his cheek had a long gash across it, clashing with his newly paled complexion. His eyes were slits, and they reflected the color of the blood dripping from his cheek. He smiled maliciously, his teeth daggers.

Arthur bravely opened his own mouth and spoke to the man before him. “Dung? I know this isn’t you. Come on, Mundungus. Talk to me, don’t let him control you. I know you would never hurt anyone like this.”

Mundungus’s face curled into a smirk, as he responded to Arthur. “I wouldn’t, would I? You all think this pathetic little man still exists inside, and you’re trying to communicate with him. Now isn’t that sweet. But your efforts are futile—he’s dead—or at least he will be.”

As the creature laughed, Arthur took advantage of this distraction to speak to Fred. “Help Charlie up, and get out of here. I’ll keep this one distracted as long as I can. Once you get upstairs, get the others out. Bill should be fine now, his cut wasn’t deep, and he was just a little jarred.” Arthur looked at the two, and saw Charlie shaking his head, and moving to stand. “Get yourselves out. Do you hear me? Out.”

Charlie and Fred looked at each other, and they slowly moved towards the exit, while Mudungus laughed mercilessly.

Once they were safely out of the room and on the stairs, Arthur turned his attentions back to the now sullen Mundungus. “I’m surprised you let them leave,” Arthur said as he drew his wand. “I half-expected you to blast the door shut on them, imprisoning us.”

“You are surprised that I let two full-grown wizards go, leaving only an aging old man who can’t even keep his own home safe to fight me? You clearly underestimate my intelligence. Insulting.” Mundungus spat the last syllable at Arthur, as he drew a long wand from within his robes.

“And you clearly underestimate my strength.” Arthur raised his wand in a defensive fashion, stepping away from the door where he’d been shielding the boys’ escape.

“We shall soon see who is the bigger fool.” Mudungus raised his wand as well, preparing to duel.

A/N: I know, I'm sorry it's so short! I will have another update in soon, now worries. And yes, of course I've left a cliff hanger...it's one of my favorite games! Hope you enjoyed, I'll be updating asap!

Chapter 8: Is that a promise?
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Upon returning to the waiting room, Ron had sent his mother along to Harry’s room. He walked over to Hermione, who was turned away from him talking to Ginny, and slipped his arms around her, pulling her into a warm embrace from behind. The trio barely noticed a certain red head walk through the waiting room and into the ward behind Mrs. Weasley.

Hermione eased into Ron’s arms slowly, and turned to look at him. He smiled softly at her, and then peered past her to check on his sister.

Ginny was seated, a small smile emblazoned on her face. She was holding tight to something inside of her sweatshirt pocket, and was completely enthralled in her thoughts. Ron felt a soft pressure on his forearm that was wrapped around Hermione’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s let her be a little while shall we?”

Ron felt Hermione break away from him, catching his hand and leading him quietly out of the room. Now that he’d reassured himself that Harry was indeed around to fight another day, he didn’t mind as much leaving.

Ron let himself be gently pulled along, content to watch Hermione’s bushy hair billow along behind her. When they finally reached a less populated hallway, he reached out and grabbed Hermione’s shoulder, bringing her long determined paces to a halt. He pulled her to face him, and found tears streaking down her face. “’Mione? What’s wrong?” he said, his voice deepening with fear.

“Oh—oh nothing, I just…” Hermione’s voice was unnaturally high-pitched, and she turned away from him, her hands flying up to her face to erase the incriminating tears.

Ron pulled the sobbing woman into his arms, and she crushed her tear-streaked face into his chest. “Mione, you don’t need to put on a brave face. I’ve seen you at much worse times, and just because you are older than me doesn’t mean you know anything more about this. It’s hard, thinking you’ve lost someone, and it’s not something you can learn how to cope with from books and teachers. Never hide your tears from me. I mean, even if I’ve caused them…especially if I’ve caused them.”

Hermione sobbed freely now, and Ron held her tightly, trying to soak away all the pain and fear she’d been keeping locked up inside. He buried his face into her hair, smelling the clean rich scent of vanilla mixed with jasmine. He stroked her back gently with his fingertips, tracing up and down her spine in slow gentle arcs. He whispered “I love you” what seemed a thousand times, and he was willing to do it a thousand times more. He felt her face turn and rest against his broad chest, and he heard her sniffle quietly. He was surprised when he heard her softly speak.

“I’m so sorry Ron. I know it seems stupid, but all I could do was imagine it was you in there. I mean, I love Harry as a brother, and it did scare me to think we could lose him but… It wouldn’t be nearly as bad as losing you.”

Hermione pulled her face away from Ron’s tear-stained chest, and tilted her head back to gaze up into Ron’s eyes. Her brown eyes twinkled, and Ron’s became lost in the rich chocolate pools. After what seemed hours, he bent down to kiss her forehead, and hugged her closer to him. “I will never ever leave you, Mione. Not even Voldemort could stop me from getting to wherever you are.”

Hermione once more broke away from Ron and locked eyes with him, this time her eyes fierce and determined. “Is that a promise?”

Ron laughed, and answered her questioning gaze with an equally determined expression. “Yes.”

***



Mrs. Weasley and Percy just stared at Harry as he stood in front of them in the hospital pyjamas. Percy was the first of the pair to recover, speaking slowly and kindly, a new tone for Percy. “Ah, hello Harry. As you must have overheard--”

“Are they alright?” Harry interrupted, moving more closely to the pair. He stared intensely at Percy, trying to read the expression on his face.

Percy sighed, and looked at Harry. “I don’t know Harry. We just can’t get into the Ministry right now. We’ve got every official out of bed and working on it. And we’re even working in conjunction with Gringott’s curse breakers to try to get in to find them. If Bill weren’t already inside, we might be able to get in faster. HE was the best of the best.”

“Is there anything I can do?” Harry asked, his mind working overtime to comprehend what was happening. He was still drowsy from the potions they’d given him.

“Oh no. Right now the only thing you’ll be doing is getting straight back into bed. You’re still not fully healed.” Mrs. Weasley had finally recovered from her shock, and now she was working furiously to lead Harry back into his room and to bed.

Harry pushed away, trying to free himself from Mrs. Weasley’s vice grip. “No. This is my fault. I have to help.”

Harry struggled more, and Percy looked on helplessly, unable to decide if he should help his mother or suffer her vengeance for intervening. The whole struggle was halted though, when a firm voice came from the opposite end of the hallway.

“What’s going on here? Harry, when did they let you out of bed?” Ginny walked over to them and put a hand on Harry’s shoulder, and Mrs. Weasley released him to her daughter. “Harry? Mum? Percy, when did you get here? What’s going on?

***


Arthur flung himself to the ground behind the vase, the stone body of it absorbing the latest curse Mundungus had flung at him. Arthur panted heavily, gathering his wits as he prepared to once more enter the duel. Mundungus paced in front of the vase, waiting for Arthur to reemerge. “Come on, blood traitor. Face me like a man!” Mudungus’s cold, merciless voice had cut through the room, sending shivers down Arthur’s spin. There were green shards of glass lying on the floor near to where Arthur was huddled. In the fighting all but two of the lanterns fixed to the walls had been destroyed, leaving the room dark and over run with shadows. Arthur pulled himself into a crouching position, and pointed his wand at the pile of glass. “Accio” he muttered, and a piece of glass flew across the floor and into his hand. In one swift motion, Arthur leapt from his hiding place and flung the glass at Mudungus, At the same moment, Mudungus cast a spell as Arthur flew from behind the vase.

As Arthur watched in slow motion, the shard made contact and penetrated just underneath Mundungus right knee. He watched as the stream of light exited Mundungus’s wand, and made contact with Arthur’s stomach, knocking him into the wall. Arthur felt himself slide down the wall, and his mind slip slowly away.

***


As Ginny peered from her brother’s face to her mother and back again, she felt Harry shiver under her grip. “Well, if you’re not going to tell me, then I guess I’ll need to find out myself.” Ginny said slowly, and she turned slowly towards Harry. “Harry?”

Harry looked down, fighting to stop shaking from the icy fingers crawling up his back. Ginny, however, was unrelenting, and he knew she had felt him shudder. He finally caught her gaze, this time his eyes soft and apologetic. Ginny would not take well that half her family was stuck in a magically sealed building with a man who was stark-raving mad, and no one knew if there was even a reason to try to get them anymore. Harry sighed and pulled Ginny against him into a loose embrace. “Ginny, I don’t know if I—“

Harry was interrupted by a sharp screech emitted from a box Percy was holding. Harry’s first thoughts were puzzled. The device looked like a bright green galleon covered in etchings along the front and sides. Harry was amazed when Percy opened it, and a tiny green ghost of a person popped out of it. Harry instantly recognized the man as Kingsley Shacklebolt, an Auror and member of the Order of the Phoenix. The little image of him was talking rapidly, and Percy was listening aptly as the man became more and more animated. Harry focused on what Shacklebolt was saying, hoping to stay the dizzy feeling he was getting.

“—and we’ve been unable to get in since earlier, but the boys managed to get out somehow. George, I think, is unconscious but stable. Bill’s got him, and Fred is helping Charlie, who’s still a little off kilter. They’re all doing all right, just pretty badly addled, so I’ve sent them your way, to Mungo’s. Fred said Arthur’s still inside, that they’d found Dung. The four of them should be there in a few minutes. I’ll keep you posted.”

With that, Kingsley disappeared, and Percy snapped the device closed, turning to look at his mother. Molly’s lip quivered momentarily, but after a moment, she sprung into action. “So they’re going to be here momentarily then? Some one will need to alert the Healers. Ginny if you would please get this boy back into bed, I need to go outside for a moment, and—and let them know.”

Leaving Ginny and Harry positively bewildered, Mrs. Weasley whirled around quickly and made her way out of the ward, with Percy following closely behind. The Healer on duty had, until now, been with another patient. But once the matronly woman saw the pair of them, and realized Harry was out of bed, she made her way over to them. The woman spoke in a kind but firm voice, one almost identical to the one Harry’d just heard Mrs. Weasley use. “Dear, you really need to rest. I know you feel fine, but I want no arguments. You need to get back into bed. Now.”

After a moment of considering refusal, Harry breathed deeply and sighed, admitting to himself that he was in quite a lot of pain. The woman watched as he shuffled supported by Ginny back to bed, and only left when he was securely under the covers once more. Once the Healer was gone and the curtains had been pulled back securely in front of the bed, Harry turned to face Ginny. Her head was buried in her hands, her elbows resting on the bed by his stomach. Her long red hair was covering her face and pooling on the bed, making it impossible for him to tell what her face was saying. Harry reached out to her, his finger searching for her cheek through the thick curtain of fiery strands. Ginny pulled away at his touch, not wanting him to fell the tears that were slowly rolling down her cheeks. Harry whispered to her as he moved closer to her, unsettling the hospital bedding.

“Ginny. Love, look at me. I know you’re worried, but they’ve got your brothers. And it’s only a matter of time before they get to your dad. I know it. Please, Gin—”

Harry was once more interrupted as Ginny let out a quiet sob. Harry reached out to her and caught her in his arms as she fell back, overcome by the feeling of shock. Harry slid out of the bed once more defiantly, and pulled Ginny into his lap on the chair. He stroked her back gently as she sobbed with dry wracking gasps for breath. Harry laid his head against the crown of hers, marveling at how soft and warm her hair was, despite the harsh reality of the situation. As Ginny sobbed, Harry could hear bustling movement along the ward outside of the curtained room. Hoping it was not another Healer, he concentrated deeply on massaging her back, attempting to ease the intense pain she was obviously in. Even if she wouldn’t admit it, Harry knew his girl, and he knew that she was overcome with worry and guilt. As Ginny quieted, Harry rubbed on, knowing that somehow he was helping, even if he couldn’t fix it in it’s entirety.


A/N: Please don't be angry with me! I know it's been an awfully long time, but I've been battling food poisoning and family matters! I included a lot of fluff for those who asked and for some who even begged!! I am so excited, because here I've left you with yet ANOTHER cliffie! And if you'd be so good and are granted the time, could you tell me what your favorite is so far? Just wanted to know for future reference! thanks all, and I AM SOOOOOOOSORRY!!!

Chapter 9: Safe in Our Dreams
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George groaned quietly from behind Fred and Charlie. Fred sensed the pain his twin was in, and it took all of his effort to resist stopping to check on him. It helped that Bill had been able to carry George’s unconscious body, because Fred knew that although he would have carried his brother all the way to Hogwarts and back, right now he wasn’t sure his own body could take it.

Charlie, who was now walking along beside Fred, had regained most of his memory and speech, and they’d managed to find out what had happened in the dungeon room before Fred and Arthur had arrived. All Charlie really said was that Dung kept stroking something on a long chain around his neck, and although he couldn’t tell what it was, it looked like a pendant or amulet. Fred puzzled over this as he and his brothers walked on, searching to find a safe place to apparate to St. Mungo’s.

Fred remembered the Ministry officials flood all around them when they’d finally managed to get out of the Ministry. Kingsley from the Order had been outright concerned, checking George to ensure that he was indeed all right. Then he’d sent the brothers to a nearby park that was used for apparation purposes for the Visitor’s Entrance. As they walked on, the park was becoming visible in the early morning’s light, and the swing set and large jungle gym were casting eerie shadows along the ground in their direction. Fred found himself searching the surrounding trees with a wary eye, as if expecting something to jump out at them and take them all into the darkness. As they reached the small sandbox enclosing the equipment, Fred and Charlie halted, turning to face Bill. When Bill reached them, he gently placed George on the ground, leaning him against the base of the swings. George moaned quietly, but his eyes remained closed. Fred leant down next to him, bringing his face close to that of his brothers. George’s breathing had become shallow and ragged, coming as barely more than gasps at random intervals. Fred looked at his older brothers quickly, his eyes filled with panic. “We need to get him to St. Mungo’s. Now!”

Bill nodded, and reached down to gather George into his arms once more. Fred felt a strong grip on his shoulder, and he knew it was Charlie even before he caught sight of the burn scar on his hands. When Fred turned towards his brother, Charlie gave a small reassuring smile, calming Fred down a bit. Fred turned back in time to see a turn of a cloak, as Bill apparated to the hospital along with George. Their departure was silent, and not even the gentle gusts wind among the trees surrounding the park made a noticeable sound. Charlie released Fred’s shoulder, and a moment later he too was gone. Fred sighed as he gave one final look around himself, before following his brothers to the hospital.

***


Mrs. Weasley was bustling about, ordering around some of the younger assistant healers in preparation for her children’s arrival. Beds in the same ward as Harry’s were being made up anew with fresh white linens, and bottles of potions and bandages were being set out and readied for any injuries that might require them. The other patients on the ward were peering out quietly from their beds, watching the hustle as Mrs. Weasley ordered that more bandages be brought in, all while shredding her thousandth tissue of the evening. Everything halted however, every time the ward doors would open, as everyone expected it to be the onslaught of Weasley’s. The only two people on the ward, however, who were oblivious to the commotion could be found behind a set of makeshift curtain-walls, surrounding the last bed on the left side of the ward.

Harry was watching Ginny as she slept peacefully, curled up against his chest. After he tears had quieted earlier, he’d allowed himself to be forced back into bed by a very insistent red headed girl, but only under the condition that she join him. After a whispered exchange, and his threatening of getting up and walking right out of the ward to have stroll in London, Ginny had consented, and they’d cuddled up underneath the soft white coverlet together. Harry had continued to rub Ginny’s back gently, and she’d fallen asleep relatively quickly, once she’d allowed her body to feel how very tired it really was.

Harry had been more than happy to just watch as Ginny’s chest rose and fell with every peaceful breath. He’d stopped rubbing her back, and had allowed his fingers to become entangled within her red locks. He laughed quietly at himself as he watched his fingers entangle themselves, enjoying the memories that were gently overcoming him. Harry quietly let his hand come to rest on Ginny’s shoulder, his arms encircling her gently as he too drifted off to sleep, and the memories he’d been seeing slowly became dreams.

***


Hermione and Ron had eventually found their way back to the waiting room, and both were completely oblivious to the commotion happening on Harry’s ward. Ron had taken an absent-minded interest in a “Quidditch Today” magazine from four months earlier, while Hermione had been content to lean against him and page through the Daily Prophet that had just arrived by a small, snow-covered owl. Hermione was reading aptly about the attack on the Ministry, the story that had made the front page. “Although the Auror-in-charge at the site had refused to comment, there were rumors that the battle of the century was being waged inside.” Hermione scanned the first page of the article once more, and failed to find any names or even a clue as to who was still inside. She gasped when she turned to the continued story on the second page however, when she saw the picture of the Visitor’s Entrance phone booth. Ron immediately dropped the outdated magazine he was holding to the chair next to him, and turned towards Hermione and her paper. “What happened?” he asked, as he peered over her shoulder to read the caption of the picture.

“There was an attack on the Ministry. Ron… didn’t your brothers and your dad go there chasing Dung?” Hermione’s voice trailed off at the sudden realization, and she slowly turned to face him. “Oh Ron. You don’t think—“

But Hermione didn’t get a chance to finish her thought. Ron leapt out of his chair and headed towards the ward entrance, leaving a bewildered Hermione to scramble after him, paper in hand. His long strides took him through the doors, where he nearly crashed into a haggard-looking Healer who was remaking a bed for the fourth time under his mother’s instruction. Ron hurried round the side of the bed to his mother, and began bombarding her with questions. “ Is dad all right mum? What about Charlie, and Fred and George? Bill…nothing can have happened to them right? What’s happening in there? It can’t be Dung, he’s to daft to orchestrate an attack on the Ministry and actually have it succeed? Mum?”

At this point Hermione had caught up to Ron, and was looking nervously from Mrs. Weasley to Ron, and back again. Mrs. Wealsey looked sadly at them both, and sniffed quietly. “We don’t know yet Ron. The boys are on their way, should be here soon, but your father… They said he’s still inside. Percy’s here somewhere, he should know more. But right now I need your help. If any of the healers need anything you get it for them. No arguments. But if they tell you to get out from underfoot, then that’s really what’s best. Can you do that? Both of you?”

Hermione and Ron nodded quietly, and Mrs. Weasley sighed. “Now will one of you go find Ginny? Last time I saw her she was in with Harry, but now I’m not sure…” and with that last pronouncement, Mrs. Weasley was off like a shot, taking over the supervision of bed linens once more.

Ron and Hermione exchanged glances. Ron slowly let his gaze drift to the last curtained bed on the left side of the ward. Hermione too had cast a sidelong glance to Harry’s bed, wary of what was probably going through Ron’s head at that moment. “Now Ron, I doubt anything is going on—“

But once again, Hermione was left in Ron’s wake, his long strides carrying him quickly to the curtained room. Ron stormed into the room, knocking aside one of the curtains out of frustration and suspicion. When he didn’t raise his arm to make some mad grab for his best friend, Hermione was amazed, until she had drawn level with him and viewed the scene for herself.

Ginny was cuddled in Harry’s arms, a look of absolute peace and bliss on her face. Harry’s fingers were still entangled in Ginny’s hair, which hung down to her waist, and cascading across the coverlet on the hospital bed. Harry’s face was buried into the crown of Ginny’s hair, as if he’d gone to kiss her hair in comfort and love, and had just forgotten to move away again. The two were at such peace, they’d left Ron stunned, unable to move or even speak. His mouth hung open, and Hermione had to bite back a giggle at the paleness of his face. Ron, however, heard Hermione’s attempt to smother her laughter, and he immediately regained his composure. “Well, this just has to stop. I mean, she’s my little sister, I won’t have her being called a—a scarlet woman or trollop—”

But as Ron moved towards the sleeping couple, Hermione took immediate action, and stepped to block his path. He gave her an astonished look, and once more tried to move past her. But Hermione once more succeeded in circumventing his efforts. “I swear Ronald Billius Weasley, You can be the most pig-headed boy I’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter how you feel about protecting Ginny, you know that Harry won’t hurt her ever again. And I will not allow you to do anything to bother them.”

Ron quickly retaliated in a vehement whisper. “What do you think you’re going to do to stop me? Hmm? I’m bigger than you, and don’t you think for one minute I won’t—“

Hermione scoffed, and retorted in an equally angry whisper. “You won’t what? Have a good fit about the fact that you absolutely refuse to ever do anything to ever allow any girl to be hurt? You forget Ron, I’ve known you way to well and way too long to take that threat seriously.”

Ron gave Hermione a look of complete surrender, and backed quietly out of the room. “Fine fine. You win—this time. But honestly, the next time, I swear… Oh all right, I won’t do anything, but really I do hate it that you can call me on things like that.”

Hermione giggled quietly, and she helped Ron right the curtain to once more shield the two sleeping within. Ron turned to Hermione, his eyes searching her now grinning face. “How did you know that I wouldn’t make good on that threat?”

“Honestly?” Hermione asked, her eyes searching his, hoping for some answer.

“Honestly.” Ron replied, his intensely blue eyes reflecting back onto themselves from Hermione’s deep brown ones.

“Because you’ve never done it before, and you’re a creature of habit. Besides, there’s absolutely no way you’d hurt me. Ever.” Hermione smiled lightly, and reached up to peck Ron softly on the lips.

“But what about Lavender?” Ron obviously was not about to let this go. “You set a flock of birds on me when you found us snogging in your favorite chair in sixth. That wasn’t just for fun, was it?”

“No Ronald, for your information, it hurt very much to catch you two going at it like a couple of writhing idiots. What I should have said I suppose is that you’d never hurt me like that again.” Hermione gave an exasperated sigh, and glared at Ron good-naturedly.

“Oh.” Ron responded simply, his ears taking on a certain familiar tinge of red. When Hermione grinned at him though, the blush disappeared, and he matched her smile.

“Now come on, you crazy git, let’s go help out your mum.” Hermione turned to walk to the far end of the ward, and, for a change, Ron walked next to her.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. That Healer looked on the verge of a fit when Mum got started on him again.” Ron said quietly, in case Molly was nearby.

Hermione began to laugh, but her joy was cut short when the doors of the ward flew open, and four red-heads came trooping in to the ward.

The ward suddenly burst into life, as Ron’s brothers were moved to beds, surrounded by Healers and racks of bottles, wrappings and medicinal spell books. Ron immediately jumped into the bustle, trying to locate his mother. Before he could take two steps in any direction, however, Ron and Hermione were being pushed down the hallway and out of the ward by the stoic male Healer from earlier.

“No place for teenagers. No, none ah t’all. Come on out’chya go…”

Hermione looked at Ron, a look of genius emblazoned across her face. As they were both being hustled along the ward, Hermione cast a sidelong glance behind them, at the curtains surrounding Harry and Ginny. “Go!” She mouthed vehemently at him, as she shook her head towards the curtains once more.

Ron immediately comprehended, and he side-stepped the Healer with ease in the busy ward. His hand flew around the back of the astonished man, clasping for Hermione’s outreached palm. He caught her hand, and pulled her through a crowd of carts filled with supplies to lose the Healer, who had recovered from his shock. “Oi, you pair! This is not a playground. OUT! NOW!”

But the couple had lost him at last, ducking into safety inside of Harry’s little room. Hermione peered gingerly around the curtain, watching for the Healer. After clarifying that they were indeed safe, she turned to find Ron staring at his best friend and baby sister once more. She sighed deeply, hoping to not have to chase him off again, and slipped her hand inside of his. “It’s all right, you know. To be protective of her. But sometimes…”

“I know Hermione. And even though he’s my best mate, it just seems like a betrayal. And to find them all curled up like--like that… It was just a bit of a shock.” Ron said quietly, rubbing his neck with his free hand.

Hermione smiled at him, and squeezed his hand gently. She knew that there was more worry buried there, not only for his baby sister, but also for his brothers. And not knowing about his dad was probably the hardest thing Ron could deal with right then.

“Well I suppose it’s better that he’s in here trying to take control over the one thing he can, then to be an utter wreck.” Hermione thought to herself, as she pressed her cheek into the sleeve of his jumper, following his gaze to the dozing pair in front of them.

A/N: Ah I know the New Year came and went, and still no update! Would it make you feel better if I promised that there really was good explanation, and that there will not be such a long length of time between this chapter and the next? NO probably not...Haha, but anyway, thank you to my loyal readers, and for those of you who just jumped on reading, thanks for taking the time! And also, an amazing vote of thanks to all of my great reviewers!

Chapter 10: Lost in the Silence
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Molly paced outside the white double doors, oblivious to the flittering messages high above her head, and only halting in her steps when the doors would open. Each time a Healer exited, she would immediately begin questioning about her children, or at least four of which she knew of were hidden from her behind the barrier of the two doors. She’s sent Ron and Hermione off to find Ginny what seemed ages ago, and she’s seen neither hide nor hair of any of the three of them for quite some time. “I just hope Harry is in bed and asleep. He really does need the rest.” Molly thought to herself, as a particularly large leaf of paper flapped it’s way awkwardly towards the elevator doors.

By the time Molly had moved on to her fifth Kleenex of the morning, she’d given up her pacing, and had instead occupied one of the chairs closest to the doors, in case the Healers should come looking for her and she wasn’t immediately discernable from the small passing crowd of the first visitors of the early morning. The sunlight was fighting against the thick clouds, struggling as if to prove it was indeed day time, and that the world ought to get up and get a move on with all the things that needed doing. Molly imagined what she would be doing if Mundungus hadn’t attacked Christmas morning. At this hour, she’d likely be the only one up, or maybe Arthur would be enjoying his paper, nursing a strong cup of tea before he would head off to work. Normally, on those slow, lazy winter mornings, the boys would rouse late, giving her time to make breakfast and straighten up a bit before they came down. Sometimes Ginny would be up, and she’d normally either chat up her mother or have her nose stuck in a book as she made her way through breakfast…

Molly was still lost in her thoughts when she heard a woman’s thickly accented voice carrying across the waiting room towards her. Molly looked up from her hands, and caught sight of the silvery-blonde hair of her daughter-in-law, Fleur Delacour Weasley.

Molly rose from her seat immediately, and called out to Fleur, who was having an incredibly heated conversation with a Healer who was blocking Fleur from entering the ward. At hearing Molly’s voice, Fleur abandoned her argument, and rushed over to the older woman. Tears were streaming down Fleur’s face as she hugged Molly. When she pulled away, Fleur immediately began a barrage of questions about Bill. “Ees ‘e all right? What ‘as ‘appened? When can I see heem?”

Fleur searched Molly’s eyes, her eyes desperate to find the answer to the one question she couldn’t bring herself to ask. Molly pulled Fleur into a motherly hug, patting her daughter-in-law on the back softly. “He’s alive dear. He looked all right before when we saw him, before we were sent out. But there’s been no news since that…”

Molly let her voice slowly drift off, hoping the meaning of her words would sink in as gently as possible. Fleur sniffed quietly, and Molly seized the opportunity to lead the way back to the now familiar chairs of the waiting room. The two women sat in silence, awaiting the Healer and any news that was to come.

***


Kingsley Shacklebot stood facing the ominous scene before him, which was slowly being illuminated by the rising sun. The phone box stood shattered and worn. The crew of aurors had had no luck in repairing it, or even in surpassing the securities the entry held as a fail-safe against intrusion. All Ministry workers had been put on leave, and Kingsley himself had sent out the message for “Essential Personnel Only”. The troop of aurors who had initially responded to the alarms at the Ministry Visitor’s entrance had been sent home, and a the new shift was due to arrive any moment. Kingsley groaned quietly, running a hand over his eyes, and back across his baldhead. He was in sore need of a few hours of sleep himself, but he’d refused when Percy Weasley had offered to stay and wait for the replacement crew and head Auror.

Kingsley rubbed at a knot in his shoulder with one hand, the other against his wand in his pocket, at the ready should there be need of it. “Oh Arthur,” thought Kingsley. “What kind of mess can you be stuck in down there?”

As Kingsley’s troubled mind looked slowly over the scene once more, a rough hand covered the one on his shoulder. Kingsley spun around, pulling his wand and assuming a standard defense stance, only to find his so-called attacker was Mad-Eye Moody. “Careful there boy. Let’s get that pointed away from anywhere dangerous, eh?” Mad-Eye’s low growl reverberated against the torn metal phone booth.

Kingsley visibly relaxed, placing his wand safely back within his robes. Mad-Eye limped forward, on hand gripping his long walking staff tightly. “We’ll take over from here boy.” Mad-Eye muttered as he passed the younger man.

When Kingsley failed to even twitch towards leaving, Mad-Eye turned to face him full on. “Go home and get some rest. If you jump like that again, you can be sure they’ll think you’re madder than I am.”

Mad-Eye, patiently stared at Kingsley, his one normal locked onto Kingsley’s two dark ones. Kingsley sighed and turned to walk towards the park the Weasley boys had gone to shortly before. “Maybe I am tired. But with so much happening, it seems unlikely I’ll ever sleep tonight.”
***


Fleur shook her head, her long silvery hair softly spilling across her shoulders. She and Mrs. Weasley had been waiting in the front ward for nearly a half an hour, and although the room was still mostly empty, the chairs around them had become occupied by chatting groups, mostly waiting to see loved ones or watch children play at the toy chest in the corner of the room.

Fleur peered over once more at the ward’s double doors, as yet another Healer pushed through them. Her heart jumped as she watched him scan the small waiting room, hoping she was looking for her and her mother in law to give them good news…any news. When the man caught sight of her and her mother-in-law, Fleur nearly stopped breathing, her breath caught in her throat. As he stepped in her direction, Fleur was out of her seat, Molly close behind. The women reached him only a few feet from where he’d begun, and they waited anxiously for his response.

The man took a deep breath, and rubbed his hand against his forehead, tired from a long night’s work. Not wanting to keep the women in the obvious agony they were in a moment longer, he spoke quietly. “Bill is doing just fine, as well as the others. George we had some trouble with, so he’s been moved to a private room, to keep a better eye on him. It’s near the back of the ward, by young Mr. Potter’s bed actually. Although the lot of them need quite a rest, and we’re keeping them all here over night, Fred and Bill will be discharged later this morning. Charlie we’ll want to keep for the day, and maybe even tonight. He’s had a few bruised ribs, and there’s a hex mark we want to keep a close eye on, but other than that…”

The Healer offered a small smile, as he watched Mrs. Weasley break into fresh tears. Fleur slid a comforting arm around her mother-in-law, and she caught the Healer’s eye, square on. “May we see ‘zem?” she asked, her heart beating a loud and obvious tattoo against her chest.

The Healer nodded slowly, and motioned for them to follow. “I’ll need you to promise you’ll not upset them. There was quite a ruckus when we tried to convince the one not to hex someone to get to his brother. Fred is in with George now, though. It was just a simple matter of needing to check upon him first.”

The double doors flew open before them, and Mrs. Weasley grasped Fleur’s hand as they passed through them. Immediately discernable were Bill and Charlie, Bill propped up on his bed talking with his brother. But at the noise behind him, he’d turned to see who was entering the ward now. Fleur stopped short next to Mrs. Weasley, her eyes filling with glassy tears, as she caught eyes with her husband. In only a moment, however, she’d flown to his bed and caught him in her arms. She began speaking in fast French, nearly incomprehensible through her sobs. Bill held her against him, the bed linens pushed thoughtlessly to the floor in his attempt to get to his wife. Molly’s eyes filled with tears as she watched her son and daughter-in-law reunite, as they embraced. Turning away, she caught sight of her second son in his bed, grinning at his brother. Molly rushed to him, angry with herself for not coming to his side sooner. “Oh Charlie, are you all right? They said you were hurt pretty extensively...”

Charlie groaned light-heartedly as his mother fussed over him. Molly fluffed at his pillows and smoothed the blankets, firmly pushing him back beneath them each time he moved to get up. After the fourth defeat at his escape from the bed linens, Charlie began to argue in an exasperated tone. “Mother, all I want to do is check up on Fred and George. I’m sure they’ll let us both go. I am old enough to walk, and decide when bedtime is.”

Molly sighed, her heart filling with anxiety over her twins. Neither hide nor hair had been heard from the private rooms, and with no Healers nearby, she had no one to ask. After a moment, she turned to check on Bill and Fleur. The pair had taken to reclining in the bed, Bill fully extended to the footboard with Fleur cuddled against his chest. The pair was silent, each holding the other with no intent to release their embrace any time in the foreseeable future. Molly turned back to Charlie, her head heavy on her neck. “Let me see dear. But you are not to move.”

Once she’d shot a particularly harsh warning glance, Molly turned on her heel to find a Healer about her boys.

***


Ginny stirred from her sleep, a ray of sunlight catching her square in the eye when she opened it. Rubbing gently at her eyes to avoid the light, Ginny sat up, waiting for her eyes to adjust as she peered around, trying to figure out where she was. When she turned back to the bed, the memories of the past few days hit her hard as she watched Harry doze. His arms were lying limp against the mattress where she had been moments before, and his hair was mussed adorably. Ginny grinned, and as she slipped out of bed, she forced herself to tear her eyes away from Harry. When she turned around, she nearly fainted upon seeing her brother and his girlfriend sleeping stiffly in one of the chairs in the enclosed room.

Suppressing a giggle, Ginny reached out to her friend, and shook Hermione’s shoulder gently. Hermione sighed quietly as her eyes fluttered open, and she caught Ginny’s eye. She reached her arms out to stretch, and nearly fell off her precarious perch across Ron’s lap. This time Ginny could not suppress her laughter, and she let out a laugh, for the first time since Christmas morning. Hermione scowled at first, rubbing at a crick in her neck from sleeping at such an odd angle. But Ginny’s laughter was contagious, and soon the two girls were reduced to giggles in the small room.

Gasping for breath, Ginny collapsed onto the vacant chair next to Ron and Hermione’s, watching as Hermione dabbed at the moisture around her eyes from laughing so hard. “Feeling better then, are we?” Hermione asked, as she slowly stood, leaving Ron’s lap.

“Much. It’s just good to know he’s all right, you know?” Ginny grinned, as she let her gaze slide to the bed where Harry lay.

“Mmmm,” Hermione mumbled in agreement, as she walked towards the edge of the curtains surrounding them. Ginny rose, moving to follow her when something soft gripped her hand. A soft voice came from somewhere behind her.

“Don’t go yet.”

Ginny whirled around to find Harry up in bed, his face caught in a mischievous grin. Ginny returned the smile as she pulled her arm free. “You know, some of us aren’t getting breakfast catered to us by the ever-serving Healers to their own private room, now are we?” Ginny laughed as Harry’s face turned into a pout.

“Aww poor wittle Hawwy sad? Don’t worry, you could always wake up ickle Ronnie-kins for company.” Ginny teased in a baby voice, watching as Harry fought to hold onto the feigned sadness. Hermione burst into giggles from behind them, and, unable to fight the temptation, Harry’s face split once more into a grin.

“Oh fine, just leave me. But I don’t know how Ron would react if he knew you’d fallen asleep on my hospital bed…” Harry said, his eyes drifting to his best friend, who let out a loud snore at the mention of his name.

“Not well, believe me.” Hermione said as she stepped back into the room beside a still-sleeping Ron. “He nearly ripped your head off Harry. You should have seen his face it went stark white when we got in here after running from that Healer…”

“Why were you running from, a Healer?” Ginny asked, giggling. “Hermione Jane Granger, what were you and Ron DOING?”

Harry and Ginny collapsed onto the bed in laughter, and Hermione blushed. “Actually, we were chased in here by a rather nasty old coot of a Healer when they brought your brothers in to the ward.”

Ginny went white, and Harry immediately stopped laughing. He placed a hand on Ginny’s shoulder, and he could feel her shaking gently at his touch. When she spoke it was little more than a whisper. “Are they… all right?’

“They were all right for the most part. But Ginny, when I was out there a moment ago, I didn’t see Fred or George, and I’m sure they were with the others when we left earlier this morning.” Hermione answered, her eyes locked with Ginny’s.

Harry slid his hand across Ginny’s shoulders as he pushed the linens back off the bed to sit next to her. With his left arm limp at his side, Harry comforted Ginny as best he could with one good hand, running it through her hair and down her back gently. Silence filled the room, as Harry comforted Ginny, with Hermione watching quietly.

After what seemed ages, a confused voice came from Hermione’s right side. “What’s goin’ on? And where are we? ‘Mione?”

Ron had woken up, and Hermione went to him as he rolled his neck in discomfort, looking around the room. When he caught sight of the pair on the bed, he shot his best friend a dirty look. “Harry, mate you know I ought to kill you…Ginny? What’s wrong? And… ‘Mione. You look like you’ve seen Sir Nick pull his head off his neck again.”

Hermione placed a hand on Ron’s shoulder, applying gentle pressure with her thumb and fingers to relieve the knot at the nape of his neck. Ron stared up at her, his eyes questioning. “Hermione, what’s going on?” he persisted, as he rose from the chair.

“I told them, Ron. About your brothers. We were about to go and see about them. But Ron…Fred and George aren’t out there.” Hermione stammered at the last statement, her face covered with a vacant expression. “What does that mean? What can it mean, Ron?”

***


A/N: Yes, I know, the cliff hangers are truly evil! Well, it's the tenth chapter, and I have some exciting news for all of my readers-there are only three more after this! The end is in site! Oh and I have set a date by which this story will be completed. One year to the day, on my birthday two weeks from now, on May 29th, this story will have a birthday too, and I will celebrate by FINISHING IT! Hope you've all enjoyed, and please, tell me what you like, don't like and what not! I lurve feedback! Thanks all, and ave an amazing day!

Chapter 11: Finding the Way
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Fred sat quietly, staring at his twin as he lay quiet beneath the sheets, nearly fading into them from being so pale; his shock of red hair, and every identical freckle were the only noticeable contrast between the pale linens and George. Fred groaned quietly, shifting in his chair as he did. Neither of the twins had moved since Fred had taken his seat, leading to an incredibly stiff neck on his part. Fred watched as his brother’s chest slowly rose and fell, his breathing more relaxed than it had been earlier, although still raged at times.

The only thing that seemed to pull Fred from his concentration was the sound of raised voices in the next room over. Through the curtain walls, Fred could hear a muffled exchange. Although the words were indiscernible, Fred could sense that there were a few people in the conversation, and the intensity of the topic was nearly palpable from this side of the walls.

Fred sighed quietly, turning his attention back to George, watching the rise and fall of his chest at each uneven breath. “Let them worry about what they will.” Fred thought. “It doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. Nothing will… Not if he can’t get through this.”

***

Ron stared Hermione straight in the eye, his mind racing. “How can they not be out there?” Ron reasoned. “There’s no way one of them didn’t make it. Fred was walking, and besides they wouldn’t have moved George anywhere else. This is the critical care unit…”

Ron looked at Hermione, watching her eyes brim with tears. He turned to where Ginny and Harry sat on the bed, Ginny still caught in Harry’s arm protectively. Ron leaned towards Hermione, covering her hand on his shoulder with his own and pulling her closer to him. Hermione collapsed into him, her eyes releasing the tears of worry she’d been holding back once more. Ron rubbed her back gently, waiting for the tears to subside as he formed a plan in his head quietly.

Once Hermione had collected herself, Ron turned to Harry and Ginny. “You two are probably best off to stay here. Mum won’t be very chuffed at the idea of you two spending the night together, even in your current state mate, but she’ll do better if she doesn’t have to see it all unfold first hand. I’ll go try and find out where they’ve got Fred and George, and ‘Mione, see about some breakfast from the Healer-on-duty. Given the circumstances, I think they’d drop the formalities of a proper breakfast and let us have some tea.”

Hermione slowly nodded, snapping out of her previous daze. Harry gaped quietly at Ron, surprised to see his friend, who usually was so pleased to take a backseat to the scheming, taking charge and giving out instructions. Ginny nodded slowly, as if her older brother ordering her around without protest were the most natural act in the world. She simply snuggled closer to Harry, content that her orders, so-called, were nothing more than to stay precisely where she was.

Ron breathed deeply, and turned to Hermione, extending his hand to her. She took it willingly, and together they pushed aside the curtain between them and the rest of the ward.

***


A dim light shone on Arthur, as he looked up and peered around. There was nothing extraordinary about the light; it was a muted blue hue, as if someone had placed a cloth over a lamp in his office and stuck it on the floor in front of him. But as Arthur’s eyes began to focus, and he could sense the enormous pain in his abdomen beginning to mount, he became suddenly aware that the light was coming from somewhere—a someone. Arthur groped about for his glasses, finding them on the floor by his feet, thankfully intact. As he slid them on, he jumped back, hitting crumbling brick wall, causing him to double over in pain. He clutched at the curse wound, a gash along his stomach and up to his ribs, which was slowly soaking his jumper with wet, warm blood. He peered back at what had startled him, and confirmed his suspicions to be true. Mundungus Fletcher was indeed crumbled on the floor in front of him, unconscious and, from what Arthur could tell, critically injured.

The glowing light illuminating their small corner of the room was coming from beneath the man’s mangled overcoat, near the base of his neck. Arthur groaned as he slid forward off the wall, pushing the man’s jacket off of him to investigate further as to what the object was. A small locket was lying against the man’s chest, emitting a dazzling light that near-blinded Arthur when he looked directly at it for too long. Arthur reached forward, perplexed at the small necklace. He fingered the etchings on the front of it, an ornate and flourished “S”, as carefully he palmed the small pendant. The weight of the necklace itself amazed Arthur; the thing felt to weigh as much as the man it was worn by, yet to Arthur the weight seemed to dissipate in his hand the longer he held.

Puzzled, Arthur gingerly pulled at the ancient silver chain that was caught round Mundungus’ neck, aiming to tear it away from his body. Whatever this is, Arthur thought, as the chain slowly gave way at his pull, It’s probably best to get it away from Dung.

Finally, after one last tug, the decrepit clasp on the chain released, and Arthur held the necklace in his hand. As he gave it a once over, Arthur noticed that the hinges were new, tightly pressed into one another and holding fast, unlike the rest of the locket, which had a look that it may fall apart if handled without the utmost care. Everything about the necklace was delicate—from the inscribed “S” to the twisting infinity links of the chain the locket was on. As Arthur turned it over in his hand, he could nearly hear the thing asking to be put on.

Only for a moment… Just slip the chain over your neck, and you will see such things…Great things…

Arthur tore his gaze away from the hypnotic object, slipping it into a handkerchief and then depositing it into his back pocket. He turned towards Mundungus, who was starting to twitch awake. As Arthur slowly slid his hand down his stomach towards where his wand was placed, he felt that the stickiness of the wound from before had been transformed; blood was now flowing freely from his stomach, and Arthur could feel where his ribs were cracked as he ran his fingers across them. Ignoring the pain, Arthur pressed his hand slowly downward, as to not alarm Mundungus as to what he was doing. Pulling out his wand, Arthur felt his head rush, as the world began to sway in front of him. Before completely losing sight of the man slowly rising from his stupor in front of him, Arthur raised his wand and fired out many thin, strong ropes, binding Mundungus into helplessness as he once more gave in to the darkness.

***


Ron’s jaw was set and firm as he pressed down the center aisle, past racks of bandages and bottled potions, towards his brothers and mother, Hermione in tow. As he walked, Molly turned towards the sound of his footsteps, looking up from her mollycoddling of Charlie’s bedspread. Emitting a small squeak, she rushed towards the pair, her face set in angry expression. “Where have you two been?” she hissed, as she reached them, stopping them short in front of her with a treacherous look. “Have you any idea how worried I’ve been? First your brothers getting dragged in here all torn up and hurt, and then you two up and disappear? I’ve half the mind too—“

But Molly wasn’t allowed to finish, as Ron enveloped her in a hug. Hermione stood off to one side, her gaze wandering over Ron and Mrs. Weasley’s shoulders to the beds behind her. Charlie was laying in one, looking perfectly content to have his mother scolding someone else—specifically his little brother. Hermione smiled gently at him, one that he returned tiredly, followed by the mouthed question “Where were you anyway?”

Hermione motioned indistinctly towards the back of the ward, where now two sets of portable curtain walls were placed. Charlie winked half-heartedly, attempting to uphold the joke as he stifled a yawn. Hermione smiled, breaking her gaze with Ron’s brother to look at the next bed in view, where Bill was propped against a stack of pillows with an attractive blonde reclining against him. It took a moment before Hermione recognized the woman as Bill’s wife Fleur, and yet another for her to realize both were asleep. Not wanting to disturb them, Hermione turned her gaze back towards the mother and son still caught in an embrace.

After a moment longer under Hermione’s watch, Ron released his mother, and she gently tumbled back, aghast at her son’s unsolicited sign of affection. Ron spoke first, allowing his mother to recover properly before having to answer. “What’s going on, mum? Where are Fred and George?”

Molly looked up speechlessly, turning her head once to look at Charlie, and then back towards Ron. When she failed to answer, Ron placed an arm around her, helping move her to a chair along the edge of Charlie’s bed. When his mother was seated, Hermione came forward, taking Molly’s hand and patting it comfortingly. Ron turned away from his mother and posed the question again, this time to Charlie. “Well, where are they? And what the bloody hell happened at the Ministry?”

Charlie sighed quietly, shifting beneath his coverlet to pull into a seated position on the bed. After taking a breath, Charlie began to determinedly speak. “I’m not really sure, Ron. I remember following Dung down into the Ministry, past where Dad’s office is and the old courtrooms. And then… well it gets to be a bit of a blur. I remember a big foggy room, and falling down some steps. I tried to warn them that he was there before he got to them, but…”

Charlie’s voice trailed off, and he lifted a hand to his head, running it dejectedly through his thick red hair. Ron waited, his knuckles white as he clenched his fists in anticipation and dread. Charlie exhaled sharply, and continued. “Dad said he’d hold him off long enough for us to get out. And I guess we just all assumed that he’d make it out after us. But when we reached the Atrium and he still wasn’t there, we all knew something was wrong. But stopping then, or even one of us turning around to help him was impossible. George was badly injured, and Fred couldn’t do anything but help me, I was still so disoriented. There was a whole slew of them there though, when we got out. Kingsley and near half the Aurors on assignment in England must have been there.”

Ron’s face remained un changed as he listened to his brother speak, but his mind was racing, trying to take in the new information. He turned to look at his oldest brother’s bed, catching a glimpse of Fleur and Bill snuggled asleep against the pillows. Ron let his gaze linger for a moment, before turning back to Charlie, whose hand was still ruffling his hair unassuredly. Ron slowly moved forward to sit on the bed by his brother, and put a hand on Charlie’s arm. “Where are Fred and George, Charlie?” Ron asked quietly.

Charlie dropped his hand softly to his side, looking Ron straight in the eye. “They took George to that back room there, next to where you and Hermione came from. He was in pretty bad shape, mate. Fred refused to leave his side, so after checking him out, he went to sit with George.”

Ron sighed quietly, his heart falling in his chest. Now it was Charlie’s turn to offer the comforting hand on Ron’s shoulder. “It’s all right, mate. George’ll pull through this. He and Fred have way too many schemes to pull off for something like a little old curse to get in the way.”

Ron offered a small smile, but as he opened his mouth to answer, a small sob came echoing through the ward from behind them. Ron turned to find his mother crying quietly into Hermione’s shoulder, the anguish and pain she’d been concealing now flowing freely from her. It seemed that the last sentiments, having to hear what had happened, and to know that her husband was still in danger, was too much for Molly to bear.

Ron reached out to his mother, placing one hand on her back and the other on Hermione’s that lay on the bed by her side. He gently pressed his palm against hers, and she returned his touch with a small smile, as she patted Mrs. Weasley’s back softly as the woman cried. Charlie sat forward as well, his hand covering an empty patch on Mrs. Weasley’s back comfortingly.

After Mrs. Weasley’s tears had slowed, she looked up to look her sons and Hermione in the eye. “I’m sorry,” she apologized, dabbing at her eyes with a fresh tissue. “I’m just so worried about him…”

Her voice trailed off, and the group fell into a tense silence once more.

***


Kingsley twitched an eye to his mantel clock once more, willing it’s hands to move faster past their marks. He knew he was relieved of duty for no less than 8 hours; however, he had an awful feeling that he would be needed long before that time limit was expired. With near four hours to go, Kingsley had bided his time by reading the early edition of the Daily Prophet, tidying up his icebox a bit and making breakfast fit for a king that lay uneaten in the pots in his kitchen, and even polished off his earring, as it was beginning to look a bit worse for the wear.

After being pulled from his assignment in the muggle Prime Minister, Kingsley had had too many assignments and raids to lead to worry about normal things, like what to give his mother for her birthday, or whether he ought to try hiring that “Magical Maid” service again. But now that he had time to kill, Kingsley found that in his insomnia, he was doing just that.

He of course, elected against the maid service. What was the use? He spent his only waking free time at the Order headquarters, and when he was asleep, it didn’t matter what state his flat was in, as long as there were no Death Eaters ready to charge out from beneath his dirty laundry in the hamper. His mother, however, was a different entity entirely…

As Kingsley pondered, he noticed a muffled screeching sound being emitted from his traveling cloak. Rushing over to it, he grasped into the pocket where he kept his wand and Communi-coin from the Ministry. He’d at first hated the rubbish little thing, but it was well-worth the hassle when it came to getting someone’s attention quicker than an owl.

Kingsley slid his finger familiarly across the etchings on the top of the small coin, and the top popped open noiselessly. Up and out of the box’s deep dish. The small figure was of Mad-Eye Moody, and the little ghostly man stated three words before disappearing from view. Get here. Now.

A/N: Hello All! Hope everyone is ready for a fun-filled couple of days! My goal is to have the last TWO chapter posted by May 29th, my birthday, as well as being exactly one year to the day that this story was first created and the first chapter written! Thank you to all of my loyal readers, and those who are newly joine in! I love reviews, and it really helps me know what you are thinking when you leave me some input! Thanks everyone!

Chapter 12: Back to Reality
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Harry stroked Ginny’s hair once again that morning, trying to be comforting as he did his best to hide his feelings of fear and worry. Ginny hadn’t shed a tear, although her face still closely resembled the exact shade of one of the ghosts at Hogwarts. When Ron and Hermione had left, she’d buried her head in Harry’s good shoulder, her cheek resting on his collarbone. Harry had willingly pulled her in, trying to give her every last ounce of his strength and determination to protect her from the unknown. They’d stayed silent for what seemed ages, simply holding onto one another in a last attempt to keep the safety and security in their little world from slipping away. Harry was more than content to remain this way until news of Ginny’s brother’s came back; when she shifted her weight away from him, Harry was confused. He caught Ginny’s eye, questioning her without uttering a word. “I have to know, “ she said simply, as she moved to stand.

Harry sighed, reaching out to catch her hand. “Then I’m going with you.”

His voice had sounded so decided, so determined, that Ginny didn’t dare argue with him. She’d shed too many tears, lost too many uphill battles with him when he’d used this same tone, and now was no different. When he’d gone to destroy Horcruxes throughout the school year, to hopefully take out the last ones before the final battle, she’d been denied access to the trips. He’d gone alone, once meeting members of the Order along the way to assist him in the hunt for one of the coveted objects, but never had he taken Ginny, nor Ron and Hermione along with him. He’d left twice, succeeding in destroying the Ravenclaw’s mirror and Hufflepuff’s cup. The research Hermione had done on R.A.B. had proven to reveal that although it had indeed been Sirius’s younger brother Regulus, a thorough investigation of Grimmauld Place and Kreacher’s quarters had turned up no locket. Nagini was still unreachable, as she was under an even closer watch than before, now that Voldemort was beginning to feel the loss of his Horcruxes.

Ginny turned towards Harry, her hand still caught in his, his fingertips caressing her palm. She moved back towards him, lending him a hand as he rose from his bed. The pair moved forward, making their way to the same split in the curtains that had allowed Hermione and Ron an exit a mere half-hour before. Ginny slid her arm tighter around Harry’s middle, careful not to brush against any bandages or healing wounds, her gaze fixed and determined on the seam of the wall material. When she didn’t reach for it however, Harry turned his face to look down into hers. She had a lost expression, as if her whole being had been set upon opening the doorway onto the ward, but now that she was here, she couldn’t make her body understand what it was to do. Harry reached out his hand and pulled at the pinstriped cotton, pushing it away to reveal the ward.

As they stepped out into the quiet room, the pair immediately found a group of redheads huddle towards one end, accompanied by a bushy-haired brunette, and surprisingly, a tall, slim blonde. Both recognized Fleur immediately, from where she was lying next to her husband, asleep in the hospital bed.

As the pair neared the small group of Weasley’s, Ginny could just make out Ron’s voice. “So we can’t see him then? I’m about to take a page out of Fred’s book and hex them to let us in…”

The sound of their footsteps on the tiled floor didn’t disturb the sleeping couple, nor Ron’s brooding; however it did catch Hermione’s ear. She turned to look at them, and her mouth parted in surprise at the sight of Harry up and about. Her sudden turn however, had alerted Ron, who’d been quietly speaking with his brother and mother. Ron turned, following Hermione’s gaze to where Ginny and Harry were quietly making their way along the center aisle of the ward. As Ron rose to meet them, Molly looked up from Charlie to catch sight of the pair. Molly flew out of her chair, immediately taking place at Harry’s opposite side from her daughter. Immediately, as she moved the two along to a bed, she began to chastise the pair motheringly. “And where have you two been? How could you let him out of bed Ginny? And what on earth could make you think getting him up and about would be the best choice right now?”

Ginny stopped short of the last bed beside Charlie’s, and eased her arm away from Harry. Silently, Harry shot her a silly look behind Mrs. Weasley’s back, attempting to lighten the mood. Ginny smiled as she stepped back to let her mother fix the covers across Harry, taking a seat in one of the chairs between Harry and Charlie’s beds, catching Ron’s eye as he occupied the seat between Ginny and Hermione once more. Her older brother’s expression was inaccessible, causing Ginny’s smile to slowly fade from her face once more.

After having his bedcovers smoothed around him excessively, much in the way Charlie’s had been not long before, Harry turned to look at Mrs. Weasley. “Mrs. Weasley, I really am fine. Really. But what I need to know is who… isn’t?”

Harry finished the sentence awkwardly, hoping against hope that his worst fears would not be confirmed.

***

Kingsley arrived on scene within one minute of his page. He found Moody and five or so aurors huddled around the wreckage of the old phone booth. Moody turned to face Kingsley, his magical blue eye spinning near off its rocker in his socket.

“We’ve found a way in.” The old man growled simply, as Kingsley slowly came up on a hole in the midst of what once was the floor of the telephone booth. Motioning for him to look in, Moody stepped aside so Kingsley could see down into the pit. Kingsley caught sight of where the tiled glass flooring had fallen away from itself, revealing a darkness as black as night. Far below a pinprick of light invaded the obscurity, a ray of hope where all had seemed to be lost. Kingsley turned back to Moody, his brow furrowed. “It can’t be possible…”

Kingsley’s voice trailed off in disbelief as Moody opened his mouth to respond. “If it were truly impossible, we wouldn’t have bothered you, now would we?” Moody said tersely, making his way back to the wreckage, crushing glass beneath his staff as he went. “It seems Arthur’s put an end to whatever’s going on down there, letting us have a chance to get in through the seal… but we haven’t been able to reach him by any means. Someone’ll need to get down there and find him, as well as that piece of slime who started this trouble. Now, we’ll need someone to go down first, and once you get over the abject look of shock on your face, I was thinking as Head Auror on this case, you might want the honors.”

Kingsley shook off his expression, allowing his mind to slip into its habitual state, compartmentalizing away emotions and outside issues—anything not in direct consequence with the situation at hand. Moody smiled as he watched Kingsley’s face visibly firm, as he saw him assume his work state of mind.

When he’d finished preparing, Kingsley turned towards the hole taking quick steps to the edge of it where the glass floor had fallen away. He slowly stepped to the outer edge, where the cracks in the floor reached his feet. Quietly he concentrated on his location, and with a quick turn of his foot over the hole, he was gone.

An apparition had never taken so much out of Kingsley as it had to get him from the outer streets of London into the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic. He looked around, finding similar damage to the golden entryway gates as was done to the phone booth above. He fired off a series of sparks from his wand, and rubbed his Communi-coin to signal he was all right to the land crew above. He transferred the message for backup through his coin, along with instructions on his intentional path, as according to the Weasley’s. Kingsley pressed through the shattered gates, following his instincts to go to the elevators. He pressed the down button hastily, hoping he wasn’t too late.

***


Fred watched and waited as George remained unmoving in his bed. Fred’s eyes had begun to droop, but he’d forced them to remain open, in case his brother awoke for even a moment, and he needed someone…

Fred had overheard enough of the conversation from the next room over to realize it was indeed his younger siblings and Hermione visiting Harry. Obviously the four had no idea he and George occupied this room, and Fred chose to keep it that way. From what he gathered by listening, Harry was healing, albeit slowly and under careful supervision, but nevertheless on the road to recovery. However relieved he was that Harry had made it through the worst, Fred’s mood had dipped once more into misery as he’d watched his brother. There had been no change over the past hours, which the Healer had said was a good thing. But no matter how good no news was supposed to be, Fred couldn’t help but wonder what could be any worse.

When the silence of the little room was broken, Fred nearly fell out of his chair. A young Healer-in-training made his way into the room, a clipboard and quill clutched between his fingers. Fred sighed in relief, and turned to face the young man.

“I’m sorry sir,” the man offered, as he extended the paperwork and quill. “It’s your discharge papers. They told me you’d be Fred Weasley, and that I could find you in with your brother…”

The man’s small voice trailed off, leaving him staring dumbly at Fred. Fred smiled kindly, reaching for the clipboard. Fred quickly scanned the paperwork, finding standard legal jargon and bureaucratic releases, before jotting his name down along the last line at the bottom of each of the three pages. As he turned to hand the paperwork back to the young man, Fred glanced at his brother, seemingly out of habit. His hands went limp when he caught sight of his brother’s face, losing grip on the papers and letting them and the quill clatter noisily to the floor.

“F-Fred?”

***


Kingsley could hear the other lifts clanking slowly down the shafts behind him, as he pressed on through the darkened corridor, aiming for the near-last door left ajar. By this time, a fog had spread through the whole floor, making it difficult for Kingsley to find his way. The density increased the further he pressed on, passing through a destroyed library that seemed to be the origin of the mist. As Kingsley stepped round upset stacks of books and torn sheets of paper that littered the ground, he began to feel light-headed. He immediately realized why, recognizing the same symptoms of an Enchanted Sleeping draught as Arthur had before him. Slapping a hand over his mouth, Kingsley took off at a full run, searching frantically for the concealed stair case where Arthur was last known to be.

When he’ spotted it, Kingsley altered his course, managing to avoid a nasty crash with a bookcase just after. He flew down the stairs afraid of what he might find, fearing he was too late.

***


Mrs. Weasley had finally given in to their questioning, relenting from her incessant rearranging of Harry’s bed sheets to instead occupy her chair by her sons’ beds once more. She answered quietly, in a disbelieving and deadened tone. “We don’t know. The Healer should know something next time he rounds, but like I was telling Ron, they didn’t know anything more than the fact that he is resting…for now.”

Harry nodded, gently slipping his hand into Ginny’s as they both listened intently. Harry looked away from Mrs. Weasley, and turned to look at Ron. His best mate’s face was turned downwards, his eyes concentrated hard on the floor of the ward. Harry wanted to reach out to him as he was Ginny, to comfort him as he would please—but he knew anything he did would do no good. He turned away helplessly, knowing he could do nothing more for his friend. Hermione had read Harry’s expression correctly, sensing his desire to comfort, to heal. She calmly nodded, catching Harry’s eye and reassuring him without using real words that Ron would get through it. Hermione then turned away from him, placing her hands on Ron’s shoulders gently. Ron finally broke his aimless stare, and turned his eyes on Hermione. She let her head lean in, resting her forehead against his gently. Ron squeezed his eyes shut just before Harry tore his gaze away from the pair, leaving them to a private moment they so rarely were allowed.

Harry turned his hand over catching Ginny’s in his palm and stroking it gently with his fingers. He opened his mouth to say something to her, but the silence was broken before he got the chance. A young male Healer-in-training came tearing out of the back curtained rooms, his eyes wide as he hollered loudly through the ward. “We need a Healer back here, quickly! Oh someone please just come!”

A/N: I know, I know! I'm cutting it just a bit close! But as I promised, the second to last is up! The last will be in before the deadline, don't you worry! Thank you to all of my brilliant readers and reviewers! Your advice has helped me to bring this story to it's almost completion! One more folks! Thanks for reading and reviewing!

Chapter 13: The Healing Begins
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Mrs. Weasley was out of her chair faster than the rest of them still sitting dumbstruck at the far end of the ward, hastening past the distraught young man towards her son’s room. Molly refused to allow the tears behind her eyes to come forward, choosing instead to invest every fiber of her being in getting to George’s side as quickly as she could. She could hear footsteps behind her, followed by voices calling out her name. Hermione, Ron, Ginny, even Harry and Charlie, seemed to be trying to catch her, as if they could stop her getting to her son.

When Molly finally reached the curtains, she threw them back to find Fred seated staring in disbelief at the bed, where George was sitting up comfortably. Molly rushed to the bedside and threw her arms around George’s neck, sobbing uncontrollably. Fred rose, moving to his mother’s side, placing a hand on her back as she cried. Molly reached around and pulled Fred down towards her, enveloping him in the same hug as George. “My b-b-boys… What would I have d-d-done…” Molly stammered, her words coming between choked sobs.

Ron had arrived by this time, followed closely by Hermione and Ginny, after forcing Harry and Charlie to stay in bed under threat of Stunning spells. Ron watched as Fred crumbled under his mother’s arms, allowing her to completely engulf him without a fuss. From under Molly’s other arm however, a mischievous, albeit tired, grin covered the face of George. Ron laughed, feeling better than he had in days. He was able to rejoice in his brother’s healing, managing if only for a moment to forget that his father was still missing in action, somewhere deep within the bowels of the Ministry offices…

***


At the bottom of the staircase, Kingsley found pitch black. The soft glow that normally encompassed the room was absent, the tubes and wires cracked and torn, fallen from their stations along the walls and littering the ground. The small room was silent at first, and his footsteps across the shattered glass seemed like an unwanted intrusion on a scared place. The familiar sounds of his team following closely behind him were absent, creating a void to his ears, one that expanded across the room, engulfing him and everything around him. This eerie silence, the muffle of any sound combined with the overbearing darkness weighed heavily on Kingsley’s over-worked mind, threatening to push him to the brink and well over the edge of sanity.

Quietly Kingsley lit his wand, his voice no more audible than a whisper. He held the wand high above him, scanning the room for signs of life, of magic…of anything. With one uncertainty eliminated, he felt his racing pulse slow, the tattoo his heart been beating against his ribs slowing so he could discern between heartbeats once more. He slowly turned, his wand still extended at full height as to gain the best access to the darkness. As he turned, the wand light moved across a pile of rags, seemingly harmless, piled uselessly on the floor in front of him. Perplexed, Kingsley turned away from the pile, pushing away the creeping feeling that he’d missed something. As the last of the light ebbed away from the rags, it groaned.

Immediately Kingsley brought his wand to attention in defense, as flew around to face the seemingly harmless stack of material. Kingsley moved quickly forward, pushing away the top layer of what he had assumed to be rags, but now seemed to move as one. It immediately dawned upon him—Mundungus’s overcoat. The shapeless old thing had been moved across the body, as if shielding it from some attack. Kinglsey got his answer as to what sort of attack per se there was when the coat had fallen completely away. There Dung lay, caught between unconsciousness and consciousness, bound tightly by ropes from head to toe.

Kingsley gave the man a prod with the end of his wand tip, trying to assess the damage that had been done. This earned another groan as Mundungus retracted his body into a tightly curled huddle on the floor. Kingsley turned away from the man on the floor, initially determining him as injured, but a nonpriority. He turned back to his search of the room, praying this man was not the only one left alive from the battle. When Kingsley heard a loud crash behind him, he flew back from the sound, quickly taking care to extinguish his lighted wand in preparation for a battle. But his fear had no basis; the crash had come from his team finally breaking through the enchanted fog, and catching up with him at the base of the stairs. Kingsley shielded his eyes as the room suddenly burst into light, as dozens of wands cast a spell in unison, recovering the desolate corners of the room from darkness.

Kingsley sighed as he watched his team pour down the stairs and into the room, all with wands at the ready, in case they may be needed. Two of his men, trained as field medics, knelt beside Mundungus’s fallen form. Kingsley turned away, trusting them to do their job. As he turned to retake his search, he tripped over something sprawled across the floor. As he came crashing to the floor, Kingsley reached out his hands to catch himself. Upon impact, Kingsley felt a sticky warm liquid covering his palms. As he held his hands up in front of him, he realized that liquid was indeed fresh blood. Kingsley’s heart flew to his throat as he looked past his hands to find that the cause of his fall was indeed the unmoving pale body of Arthur Weasley.

***


Fleur’s eyes fluttered open as she sprang up in bed, awakened by a loud crashing of the double doors of the ward. She peered around confused, her pulse racing as she tried to remember where she was. Her stomach began to turn unpleasantly as the world spun before her eyes. She reached a hand up slowly for her forehead, holding her eyes closed as she breathed in slowly and deeply, trying to shake off the feeling. She felt supporting hands on her back, as Bill sat up in bed as well.

“Fleur, are you all right? Love, can you hear me?” Bill’s voice sounded far off, fading in and out of Fleur’s mind like the sounds from a seat on a carousel.

She shook her head softly, causing her hair to twist across her shoulders magnificently. When the feeling had finally passed, she moved her hands onto Bills, pulling them off her back and around her once more. She smiled softly at him, trying to alleviate the concern etched across his face. “Of course, Love. Eet ees only that I sat up too quickly…”

Fleur reached her hand up to Bill’s face, her fingers gently caressing his cheek. He returned the smile, although his eyes still betrayed his worry for his wife. Bill moved to stand, leaving Fleur beneath the covers. “ No matter what it was,” he said decidedly, as he caught her hand in his own, “I want you to rest here while I go find out what’s going on, all right, l'un a chéri?”

Fleur smiled happily at his use of her pet name, and settled contently into the pillows once more. “Hurry back, mon doux,” she replied, her fingers extended towards him as he walked towards the end of the long aisle of the ward.

Once Bill disappeared behind the curtains, Fleur turned over, her eyes heavy. She noticed nothing when more healers came pouring into the ward, laden with sheets for another bed to make up that day.

***


Kingsley rushed back along the corridor, pulling along behind him Arthur’s levitating body. His medics, McKay and Peters, had been able to stay the flow of blood at the scene, declaring him critical; however the amount of blood on the floor revealed much of the extent of the man’s wounds. Alongside Kingsley was McKay, who was keeping a close eye upon the temporary bandages he’d applied in the field. The team had been instructed to follow along with Mundungus shortly after, as soon as he was secured and able to be moved safely.

The fog that had once impeded their journey was gone—blasted away by the reconnaissance team that had followed the men to the depths of the Ministry. Their path lay clear ahead of them, and Kingsley determinedly forced on, not giving himself the chance to think about the man he was transporting, or what he had been through. For if he did, for even a moment, consider what could be to come… the pain would be more than he could stand.

***


High above the opening to the Ministry below, Moody waited, watching for a sign that Kingsley was close. The first team for recon had already surfaced, returning once more with a report that Kingsley was not far behind. The signal light should have come by now, something to show that they were close. A light snow had quickly turned into a heavy blizzard, threatening to cover the wreckage, and the small opening that was the only means of escape along with it. The other aurors on the scene had begun lighting small fires with their wands, and summoning blankets and extra cloaks. Someone came up behind Mad-Eye, and even before he turned, he could see Tonks extending a steaming mug of something to him.

“I know, it’s not your hip flask, but this’ll warm you up a bit… You’re just lucky I didn’t spill it on you before it got to your hands.” Tonks’s warm brown eyes held a flicker of laughter as she said this, only to be replaced a moment later by the sadness and strain that everyone had seemed to be feeling lately.


Moody smiled his lopsided smile, and took the cup from Tonks. “I won’t drink, but I’ll bloody hell use it to warm up my hands here. Need to get a new pair of dragon-hide gloves I think…” Mad-Eye let his voice trail off as he followed Tonks’s gaze off to the buildings, away from the opening in the ground.

Immediately, Moody could tell something wasn’t right. He extended one gnarled hand, placing it on Tonks’s small shoulder. She shrugged at him, as if to throw him off of the worried look on her face. “We’ve just heard from Remus you know. He’s on his way back. Something I set Hagrid to do soon as I heard Harry was hurt. Remus is really the only link Harry’s got left to his parents… Should be at the hospital soon enough to check on the lad.”

Tonks’s face lit up, though she quickly hid it from her superior. She knew she was on duty, and this was absolutely no place to let her mind wander. But once she’d composed herself, and she’d turned back to Moody, he was still grinning a crooked grin. The next question out of his mouth even surprised Moody. “Why don’t you head to Mungo’s when they get up here with Arthur? We’ll need Kingsley here most likely, for magical clean-up and control…These really are his men, no matter what the rumors are about me coming back out of retirement…Not too stupid to be tempted into trying that twice.”

Tonks smiled, and reached out a hand to take Moody’s chilled teacup. “Of course, sir. Whatever you say.” As she turned, Tonks upended a large lump of rubble, sending a stack of blankets next to it flying across the ground that was now completely covered in a fluffy white blanket itself. Tonks grinned sheepishly at Moody as she leant down and restacked the blankets quickly, once more hurrying back to the small clump of wizards who had the teakettle.

Moody turned his attentions back to the magical opening, watching for the signal that they were near the exit. Moody caught sight of a flash of blue sparks, and stepped back, realizing it was only the second backup team’s signal. He watched as a group of four wizards appeared in front of him, popping out of the hole not unlike someone coming out of one of those muggle children’s toys… a "slide" was it? Before catching either Moody’s magical or real eye, three of them moved away from him, and towards the blankets and tea. The fourth wizard sighed, stretching a hand over his head and rolling his neck gingerly. He turned to Moody and began to report that the other team was about ten minutes behind his own, and that Arthur had been badly injured and would need immediate transport to Mungo’s if was to survive. Moody nodded quietly, and dismissed the man with instructions to get something warm into him.

As the man walked away from him, Moody studied a spot on a window across the street, planning a course of action in his head, and really not giving mind to anything about the building he was staring so adamantly at. After a few brief moments, Moody let his gaze slip back to the opening in the ground waiting for the red sparks from Kingsley’s wand. But Moody wouldn’t have to wait much longer; it was nearly ten minutes after the second recon team had surfaced when Moody spot the red sparks that Kingsley signalling their arrival. Immediately Moody motioned for the Medi-witch team on site to come forward, and as they began making their way towards the opening in the ground, did Kiingsley’s partner appear from through the hole. Following the lead of the other men nearby, the young man hurried to the teakettle and grabbed a cup, gulping down the warm liquid.

Moody turned back, leaving the man to his other associates. Moody waited with baited breath next to the medi-witches, until finally two men appeared in front of him, one supported by the other completely.

Moody limped quickly forward, placing an arm beneath Arthur’s shoulder opposite Kingsley, helping to lay him on the stretcher for the medi-witches. Tonks too came forward, this time without incident, and she began issuing instructions upon an approving glance form Moody and Kingsley.

“All right, out of the way. We need to get him to Mungo’s quick.” Tonks moved the witches and Arthur’s unconscious body forward, withdrawing a teacup from her pocket. “Grab hold…there, make sure Arthur’s touching a bit too. Let’s get out of here….Portus.”

The small tea cup glowed blue for a moment, before returning to it’s normal white and gold patterning. Suddenly, the group vanished along with the stretcher, to St. Mungo’s. Moody turned to look at Kingsley, who’d wrapped his cloak tightly around his shoulders to combat the cold. “What happened down there, son?” Moody’s voice came in a low growl, as he moved Kinglsey off away from the commotion of the other Aurors.

A/N: Hi there all! So as you can see, the May 29th deadline failed...I actually had real intentions to finish it up that night, but between getting 'kidnapped' by my friends for a birthday dinner and rereading to finish it up...I just found too much more to do!! So get ready for just a couple more chapters...Right now, as of June 18th, I'm planning on two more along with an epilogue-sort of one at the end. Please review, I love getting advice, and I always love to open my page and see more!! And also, I do get a bit sad when I see almost 12000 reads and only 102 reviews! I even appreciate a review if you don't like it! Thanks soo much!

Chapter 14: Mollywobbles and Muggle Artifacts
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When Molly had finally released Fred and George, the two had matched grins emblazoned across their faces, much like when they’d left Hogwarts with a new Portable Swamp, riding their recently re-appropriated brooms. Ron groaned inwardly at the sight, suppressing a laugh as well. His brothers had never been known for anything tame, and whatever plan they’d begun to devise seemed to only cement that theory of them. Ron suspected they were sharing ideas for a new Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes product, so he chose not to press the matter in front of their mother.

He caught Hermione’s eye, and exchanged a look with her. He noticed that she too had a light round her eyes, hinting at the laugh that hid just behind them. The smile playing at her lips nearly made Ron lose his control, but he was quickly shocked back to reality when his mother turned to him and addressed him. As he covered his laughter with a racking cough, Mrs. Weasley shot him a withering look, and began issuing instructions to Ron, Ginny and Hermione.

“Now Ron, I need you, Ginny and Hermione to go stay with Charlie, Bill and Harry. And for heaven’s sake, please make sure they stay in bed this time. There’s no telling what Harry might do to himself…if…he’s up… Bill? What’re you doing out of bed?” Mrs. Weasley said, alarmed to see her eldest son standing in front of her.

“Mum… I’ve just been talking to the Healer. And…and there’s something you need to know.” Bill reached forward for his mother’s hand, as Mrs. Weasley covered her mouth with the other one. The room had gone silent now, as everyone had now turned to watch Bill and Mrs. Weasley.

“Mum…they’ve found dad.”

***


Moody turned both his eyes to Kingsley, awaiting an answer. Kingsley sighed deeply, as he slowly began to realize his hands were still filthy with blood and grime from where they’d found Arthur in the dungeon room. Moody waited for the man to compose himself, taking his eyes away from him only to bark an order at the nearest Auror for a “hot cup’a something” for the man.

Kingsley caught Moody’s eye, and began to speak, in his slow, deep voice, usually so calm, but now catching in his throat. “He was on the ground just a bit away from Mundungus. He had his wand out, and we think the last thing he managed was to bind Dung before he could get away.” Kingsley slid his hands into his pockets, and found the bundle that had come out of Arthur’s pocket when they’d moved him. “One of my men, Ambrose, found this falling out of his traveling cloak.”

Kingsley slid out the tightly wrapped cloth from within his robes to show Moody. Moody grimaced slightly, puzzled as he examined the handkerchief with his magical eye. Kingsley offered the bundle freely, and Moody took it, unwrapping it slowly, to reveal the glint of silver and the emeralds inset around the “S” upon the cover of the locket. He turned the necklace over and over again in his hands, before realizing what it was.

In one motion that nearly upset the Auror behind him who’d brought Kingsley a cup of tea, Moody jabbed his wand at the locket, encasing it in a blinding light, before it fell to the ground. A thick glass case had been erected around the necklace, impenetrable and unbreakable as it hung in the air.

Moody’s voice came husky and deep, answering the surprised faces all around him. “Get this blasted thing to Mungo’s. The only person who knows how to truly destroy it is there.”

***


Molly was still standing as still as a statue when the doors to the ward flew open again. But instead of a crowd of healers and visitors, a single man entered looking as ragged and gray as could be. Remus Lupin caught Harry’s eye quietly, giving him a nod and a relieved grin as he took long strides towards the row of hospital beds where a sleeping Fleur, Charlie and Harry were. “All right there, Harry? Hagrid told me you were hurt, and I’ve only just gotten out of the underground for a bit…”

Harry nodded, returning the smile. But the expression was short-lived when Harry turned his face to the extra Healers entering the ward. “Remus? Can you maybe… go check up on George? He was in a bad way, and they’ve all just gone back there.”

Remus smiled gently, and gave a mock salute. “Of course, Harry. I’ll see what’s happening and report back.”

Harry smiled at Remus’s retreating back following him as he headed down the ward.

The tired smile that had been on his face quickly faded as Remus took in the scene before him. Molly’s face was stark white, her eyes filled with terror of some great proportions. Remus quickly stepped forward, placing a hand on Molly’s shoulder. “Molly,” he said soothingly. “What’s happened?”

Mrs. Weasley stared at Remus for a moment, before sinking to the edge of George’s bed silently, shaking her head in disbelief. Remus turned quietly to Bill, and, as the rest of the group followed suit, he asked the question once more.

“Bill? What’s going on? Hagrid mentioned something about Arthur missing, but they didn’t know anything else. Is he still out there somewhere?” Remus looked at the young man before him, and Bill lifted his eyes to lock with Remus’s.

“They’ve found him. In the Ministry building, down in the Department of Mysteries where he found Charlie and…Dung. He’s pretty badly roughed up; at least, that’s what the Healer said. They didn’t know much more than what I’ve told you, but the way they were getting equipment, you’d think he was in grave danger…”

Bill quietly trailed off, his voice catching in his throat. He leant down so his face was even with his mother’s, and he gently wrapped an arm around her. Ron remained stony faced, only moving to slide deep into Hermione’s embrace as she slid her arms around him. Ginny sat very straight on her chair, closing off her emotions tightly, trying to prioritize her mother’s needs over her own. She slid her hand between her oldest brother and their mother, taking her own hand and placing it on her mother’s, and rested them both on her knee. Molly shuddered as the tears came, and she leaned into Bill’s shoulder to cry. Remus moved towards Ron and Hermione, and placed a hand on each one’s shoulder in turn.

“Don’t worry. They’ve got him, and he’s got a lot to live for. Arthur’s not going to give up a fight, especially one this important for anything.” Remus said quietly, before turning back towards the ward. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few very anxious young men awaiting my return for answers. Hermione? Ron and Ginny? Why don’t you come back out? I think this is better dealt with by being out of the way.”

The three rose, Ginny reluctantly releasing her mother’s loose grip. As they exited, they could hear Bill comforting their mother, while Fred and George exchanged worried looks.

***


Harry waited quietly, his worry growing with each passing moment, as the parade of Healers continued, a montage of brightly colored robes and fresh white bandages and linens. Charlie was still in the bed next to him when Harry glanced over, but he was sitting up, fully alert. His back was stiff against his pillows, and a dark look covered his face, which unnerved Harry a bit, as he was so used to the genial smile Charlie usually had across his face.

Harry sighed, letting his eyes drift back to the curtains at the end of the ward. He was startled to find Ginny, Ron, Remus and Hermione walking towards him, side-stepping Healers as they made their way slowly their way. Ginny’s eyes had a tired look about them, as if she’d aged years in the moments since Harry had last seen her. Hermione was nestled in Ron’s arm, her eyes drooping slightly as Ron guided her to a bed to sit. Ron and Remus exchanged looks as Ginny moved forward, taking the seat next to Harry’s bed. When no one made any attempt to speak, Harry turned to look at Charlie, who now was upright, examining the face of each person in turn. Harry waited, not wanting to stop Charlie, but not quite understanding his actions. After a few long moments, Charlie’s voice broke the silence, no longer friendly and warm; it held a note of fear, and had become low and hoarse. “ What’s this news? Is it Dad?”

Remus paused, before nodding quietly. He placed a hand firmly on Ron’s shoulder, who still stood by a silent Hermione. “They’ve got him, but Charlie—“

At that precise moment however, a fiery brown-haired young woman came bolting through the doors of the ward, nearly colliding with a young Healer, followed by a pair of medi-witches and a stretcher, which held a pale, hemorrhaging redhead—Arthur Weasley.

***


Tonks barely noticed the group gathered at the side of the ward as she guided her charge along towards the bed set up behind yet more curtains. “Budge over there, he’s here. Got the bleeding mostly controlled on site, but we’re losing him fast. Robbins, Townser, move off there. We need to get you two back over to the site once more; still more to deal with.”

As Tonks hurried the pair back to the doors, she aimed a weary wink at Harry and the group surrounding him. As the two young women left the ward, Tonks doubled back, trekking tiredly back towards them. “Wotcher, Harry. Been a bit roughed up I see? And you too Charlie?”

Tonks sighed, and Remus immediately moved to reveal another chair by the bed. She smiled quietly at him, and sank thankfully into it. Tonks wasted no time, however, in telling them exactly what had happened up until they’d found Arthur and brought him here. “And Dung’s still back there, being transported to Order headquarters for interrogation. They may need you for a bit, Remus, but not until later.”

“And ‘ow ees Arthur?” Fleur’s voice startled them, as they’d assumed she’d remained asleep upon Tonks’ arrival , but this did not ruffle her. “Bill had said some’sing about heem being ‘urt. Ees ‘e all right?”

Charlie turned to his sister-in-law, rising stiffly out of bed to sit next to her. He patted her shoulder, and began to speak quietly. “They don’t know how he is just yet, but we should know soon. They needed to patch him up a bit, I think is all.”

***


Molly heard the ruckus ensuing outside, and when she heard Tonks’s voice, she flew from her seat on George’s bed, releasing her iron hold on Bill’s shirt. Molly ripped the curtains back, only to find her way blocked by a brave young Healer, who seemed to be standing in wait for her. Molly halted momentarily, and she watched as the Healer’s face broke into a small smile. “Mrs. Weasley?”

Molly nodded, her throat closed to tightly for words. She could hear her silent prayers pause in her head, and her heart nearly stop beating.

The Healer extended a hand, pointing towards the curtained area nearby. “Arthur’s going to be all right, just a bit tired for a few days. He needn’t be up and moving about, mind you, but he’ll live. And he’s asking for you.”

Molly had scarcely heard the last words leave the Healer’s mouth, as she left him stunned in her wake. She burst through the curtains surrounding Arthur’s bed to find him lying in bed, his face pale against his flaming red hair.

Arthur turned his head to the noise as she entered, and even before he’d lifted his heavy lids, a smile had spread across his face. “Mollywobbles?”

Molly choked back a sob as she gently made her way to the bed and took his hand. “You came back. I…I thought…”

Arthur ran a finger across Molly’s lips, silencing her gently. As his fingertips grazed her soft cheeks, he felt a damp tear trickling down from the corner of her eyes. Arthur’s smile broadened slightly as he brushed away the sadness. “Now really, do you think I’d let you get hold of all of my muggle artifacts before I’d had a chance to finish with them, did you? There’s still too much in there for me to get into trouble for.”

Molly smiled, squeezing tightly Arthur’s hand still resting in her own on the bed. “Sounds like I’m going to have to be taking a look in that old shed before you get your way home, won’t I?”




A/N: I'm back for more!!! And hopefully so are you! I am so sorry in the delay on the chapter, but I had a recent loss of a very good friend. It literally rocked my world, and I hope you will all forgive me as I work through this. Thank you all for your understanding, and of course happy reading! This is of course, the infamous last chapter, followed by one epilogue, which will be up shortly. And then, i will face the prospect of flipping this from being a work in progress to a completed piece!!! Thank you to all of my readers, both new and old, loyal and newcomers! I hope you've enjoyed my first official fic as much as I have, and I look forward to hearing all of your critiques and ideas!!! Have a spectacular day!!!

Chapter 15: Epilogue
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“Mum, you are going to smash my ribs one of these days, you know that, don’t you?”

Ron stepped back from his mother, massaging a place on his side profusely. Molly’s eyes were filling with tears as she ticked her tongue, seizing next Hermione in a motherly hug. Hermione embraced the woman back full-force, before moving away so Mrs. Weasley could get a clear shot at both Ginny and Harry.

The four were slated to leave for King’s Cross station in a few minutes, for the return trip  to Hogwarts, as spring term began the following day. Hermione was rewrapping her scarf round her neck, only to be thwarted in her attempt by Ron as he flipped it back over her shoulder. She muttered quietly at him and bopped him playfully on the nose with the scarf ends left hanging. Ron noted the shine in her warm brown eyes, something he hadn’t known to miss until a few days earlier. It was good to see her happy again; hell, it was good to be happy again. He grinned, the smile warming his soul as he pulled her against him, slinging her book bag and his knapsack onto his free arm.

When Molly had finally released Harry and Ginny, Ron caught Harry’s eye and sighed loudly. “Mothers—you know?” For the second time in as many minutes, Ron earned another smack to the head, this time from a good-naturedly glaring Mrs. Weasely.

Laughing, the four exited the Burrow, traipsing towards the seemingly ancient car parked in front of the garden gate. Harry slipped his hand regretfully out of Ginny’s, comforting himself with the private knowledge that soon they would have an entire compartment to themselves on the train while Ron and Hermione checked in with the Head Boy and Girl. Harry quickly dulled the now rampant grin when he caught Ron’s eye, which had caught the look between his best friend and younger sister. Harry wisely turned his attention to the driver of the car, finding tired but warm eyes staring back at his own.

“How’re things Remus? Tonks and Kingsley get the situation under control at the ministry all right?”

Lupin smiled from the driver’s seat, hesitating to make sure all the doors were closed before turning the engine over. “She did all right. Learning fast that one, although I can’t say I see her much. Got home this morning in time to fall into bed with a cup of tea. Sends her best though. She really did want to witness me driving a muggle car for the first time.”

Harry laughed, hoping his anxiety at the driving lesson didn’t show through, and settled back into his seat. He felt a small hand brush the small hairs at the back of his neck, and then trace down the collar of his jacket to his shoulder, massaging gently to relieve some of the stress, stroking gently over the healing wounds on his shoulder. He knew from that intimate touch it was not Ron in the seat behind him. Although his injuries were healing quickly, he still had appointments he was going to have to keep with Madame Pomfrey, as a condition of going back to school at the start of term instead of staying in Mungo’s a few days longer.

When Harry stole a glance into the back seat of the small car, he noticed first that Ron didn’t even seem to be listening to the conversation, nor noticing the not so subtle shoulder massage Harry was receiving. Harry laughed quietly at his best friend, who seemed to be perplexed by something. Ron’s face was screwed up tight into a grimace Harry had only seen him wear during Potions exams, while a very expectant Hermione waited impatiently in the seat next to him. Ron finally leaned towards her, and whispered something, which elicited a strangely girlish giggle from Hermione’s mouth. Harry rolled his eyes, and turned back to the front of the car, deciding he would enjoy his back rub before the gesture was noticed by an overprotective brother. Let this be a good term, Harry prayed, as he slid his hand up to cover Ginny’s on his shoulder. Let us have time to just be us for a bit.

Harry spent the rest of the ride letting it all sink in, what had happened over the holidays, and the idea that this was yet another time he had avoided great loss. Harry knew that he’d had his share of luck, but it was hard to think about anything wrong with a car so full of laughter and love. Yes, this had a to be a good term. The freedom lurking on the horizon that was the end of his Hogwart’s career both frightened and thrilled Harry. He had mulled it over in his mind for scarcely more than a few minutes when the car began to slow, finally sliding to a stop outside Kings Cross station.

That’s for another day. Harry thought to himself, as he undid his seatbelt and opened the car door. I’ll worry about all that after my NEWTs…Hope Hermione will help me study.

After a private laugh, he strode around the car to the trunk, and began unloading the trunks.
***




A/N: Thank you everyone who has been so faithful a reviewer!!!! Also, thank you to all of my fabulous new readers, both those who left and came back again, and those who found my humble little story by accident!

When i started this fan fiction, I knew I was going to have fun. This was my first step into the HP Fan Fiction world, and it most certainly won't be the last. i have enjoyed every minute of it, inluding being a TA and a prefect over on the forums. Thanks for all the constructive criticism and cheerleading reviews! I can't even begin to describe how mush having you all has helped. I hope you enjoyed reading, and that it was time well wasted. : ) Ciao!

~navy

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