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Crown Fire - Abandoned for now by LadyTartan

Format: Novel
Chapters: 16
Word Count: 41,678
Status: Abandoned

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme, Spoilers

Genres: Drama, General
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Arthur, Bill, Molly, Percy, George, Ginny, OC
Pairings: Arthur/Molly, Ron/Hermione, Other Pairing

First Published: 08/08/2010
Last Chapter: 04/27/2016
Last Updated: 04/27/2016


“Arthur… your family has been in the thick of the fighting since the First Wizarding War. If anyone deserves some time off it’s you, not to mention, I’m intrusting Harry and Hermione into your hands. Take your family to Australia. You can find Hermione’s parents, and your family can settle down away from prying eyes.”

Chapter 1: Back to the Tower
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From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, ““That wand’s more trouble than it’s worth,” said Harry. “And quite honestly,... I’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime.””

Dumbledore nodded, with a knowing smile, “Well done Harry.”

“Come on. Lets go have a kip on a real bed for a change” Harry said, motioning to the door, and following Ron and Hermione down the rotating staircase. Without needing to explain where they were headed, Harry tossed his invisibility cloak over their heads, and they made for Gryffindor Tower.

“This was a lot easier when we were still first years,” Ron grumbled, stooping low to match the heights of the other two. They stumbled and struggled their way to the portrait hole, realizing once they arrived, that they didn’t have the password.

Harry pulled the cloak off his head, and spoke to the Fat Lady, “Erm, we don’t know the password, but…”

The Fat Lady looked delighted to see him and chimed in before he could finish, “Mr. Potter, I’ve changed the password in your honor, it’s only right that you be the first to use it.”

Harry ducked his head, and with a bit of trepidation asked, “Wha… What’s the new password?”

Hermione was about to remind Harry that he had just defeated the most evil Wizard in the history of magic, and the hero worship was probably going to get worse before it got better, when the Fat Lady puffed up like a peacock and said, “Peace.”

Harry let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. “Peace” he said with a smile, trying out the word.

The Fat Lady swung her portrait forward, and the trio made their way through the portrait hole. Harry didn’t register that the common room remained largely unchanged, despite the battle that had torn through the castle. He headed straight for the stairs, all thoughts of food abandoned, wanting only to sleep. He heard the sounds of Ron and Hermione still following him up the steps to the familiar room. Once he reached the top he saw that his four-poster was untouched by his absence. He fell face first onto the mattress, hugging his pillow to him. As he fell asleep, he heard the sounds of Hermione putting up their security wards out of habit.

Harry wasn’t sure how long he had slept before he was woken by his nightmares. He sat bolt upright in bed, and grabbed his head in his hands as a wave of pain hit his temple. The full shock of the previous day hit him like a ton of bricks. His head ached, his chest burned, his whole body was sore.

He looked over to see Hermione tucked into Ron’s bed and Ron sleeping on top of the covers next to her. They didn’t seem to have heard his movement, so Harry slipped out of the room into the bathroom before calling softly, “Kreacher?”

Kreacher appeared immediately with a loud crack, “How can Kreacher help Master Harry, avenger of Master Regulus? Kreacher is at his service!”

Leaning on a washbasin, Harry asked, “Kreacher, do you think you can find me a headache potion? And maybe some dittany?”

Kreacher bowed low, and disappeared. Harry felt horrid, and looked worse; he washed his face, and used his wand to siphon some of the blood and dirt off of his clothing. Just then, Kreacher reappeared with several potions, as well as a cup of scalding hot tea.

“Harry Potter must take them all!” Kreacher said, thrusting potions at Harry, one at a time, as he announced what they were.

“Headache potion!” Harry choked it down.

“Potion for bruises.” Harry gulped it in one breath.

“Potion for pain!” Harry swallowed the last one quickly, and reached for the tea.

Harry had last had tea at Shell Cottage, but that seemed years ago to him. The hot tea was restoring, and as the potions started to work, Harry began to feel a bit better. He asked Kreacher to find him a change of clothes, and then stepped into the shower. He cleaned the rest of the blood, and sweat, and grime off his body. He felt much cleaner, but after standing in the shower, he was starting to get tired again. He began to dry off, and saw that Kreacher had left him a muggle t-shirt and sweats. Slipping into the comfortable clothes, he headed back to the dormitory, where he noticed that Kreacher was turning down his bed.

“Harry Potter must get proper rest! Back to bed he must go!” Too tired to argue, Harry sat down on the bed as Kreacher handed him another potion, “What’s this one for Kreacher?”

Kreacher summoned a glass of water to the bedside table, “Dreamless sleep potion,” he said quietly, “Kreacher hears master calling out in his sleep.”

Harry looked at the potion for a moment and then, remembering his nightmares with a shudder, uncorked it and tipped it back. “Good idea Kreacher.” He climbed back into bed, pulling the covers up to his chin; he fell asleep as he mumbled, “Look after Ron and Hermione please Kreacher!”

Harry woke again a short while later, despite the dreamless sleep potion, the nightmares had returned. He was still exhausted, but sleep wouldn't come. Not knowing what to expect when he left Gryffindor tower, Harry pulled the invisibility cloak over his head. A quick glance back at Ron and Hermione told him that they were still asleep.

He descended silently down the stairs, and into the common room. He was surprised to find it nearly empty; the only people there were Bill and George. George seemed fairly catatonic, and Bill seemed like he was only a shade or two above total despair himself.

Harry was surprised when Bill looked up very near the place he was standing, searching. "I know you're there Harry," he said quietly, "I'm meant to keep you from leaving the tower. Nearly everyone is asleep, so if you tell me where you're going I won't stop you."

Harry paused, wondering if he could just wait it out, but then Bill drew his wand. Before Harry knew what was happening, "Petrificus totalis" Bill called, with the steady ease of a seasoned curse breaker. Harry fell forward, and thumped into the back of a couch.

Bill walked around the back of the couch and felt for the cloak, pulling it off he righted Harry and removed the charm. "Harry, what are you hiding from," Bill asked, "it's over."

Harry moved to sit down, rubbing the lump on his arm from where he'd hit the sofa, "couldn't sleep," he mumbled.

"I'd imagine it will be a while before you comfortably can," Bill said, "you've been on the run a long time, and you're in nasty shape from the battle. You were in nasty shape before the battle," Bill recalled, thinking of his brothers friend's skeletal figure at shell cottage.

Harry seemed to have cleaned up, but that didn't hide the shadows under his eyes, or the bruises and cuts all over him. His hair, always uncontrollable, was matted into dreads and quite long now. "Where were you going?"

Harry hadn't thought that far out. He considered Hagrid’s, but couldn't face him. He thought about leaving all together. "The room of requirement", he mumbled. Maybe that remarkable room could tell him what he needed.

"Please come back here after, if mum finds out I let you leave I'll need a healer."

Harry smiled weakly at his surrogate big brother. "I just want to see if it survived the fiend fyre. How’s he doing?" Harry asked, motioning to George, who hadn’t moved.

Bill looked sadly at his brother, “he’s been like this most of the night. He was ok before, the adrenaline kept him going I think. We all came up here to sleep, not thinking. He went into their old dorm and he’s been like this since.”

“I’m so sorry Bill,” Harry said, and he pulled the cloak back on and slipped out the door.

Bill watched to portrait hole open and close, wondering if his friend would ever be able to live a day without looking over his shoulder.

Chapter 2: Drover's Haven
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Harry moved silently through the castle, there were very few people about. He recognized Aurors, who had remained loyal to the Order of the Phoenix, patrolling the hallways. They seemed to be checking every nook and cranny of the castle.

Harry pulled out the Marauders’ Map; he had little use for it now.

Before he could talk himself out of it he looked around at the nearby Aurors until he saw someone he really knew. Pulling aside the cloak he whispered, “Hestia!”

She spun towards him, wand drawn, until she recognized him. “Harry! Thank goodness you’re all right! No one has seen you since… well, no one has seen you!”

“I was sleeping Hestia, I have something here that might help you!” He handed her the map, and explained it. “If you could try and get it back to me when you’ve finished, it belonged to my dad.” Harry said.

Hestia was still marveling at it as Harry started to walk away, “Harry! Where did this come from?”

Harry smiled, “My dad made it with Remus and Sirius.”

“It’s remarkable, we could do with one of these for the ministry building. I wonder how they did it.” She continued to examine it closely as Harry moved on. Just as he reached the end of the corridor, she called softly, “They’re ok Harry, your aunt and uncle. They’re still in hiding.”

Harry nodded his thanks, not sure what to do with that bit of information, or how he felt about it. He added it to the list of things to deal with later and pulled the cloak on.

Harry twisted his way around the castle until he found the room of requirement, surprisingly, with a large double door standing open to what appeared to be a makeshift hospital wing. He saw Madame Pomfrey whizzing around to the various beds, with the help of what appeared to be healers from St. Mungos.

Backing against a wall to avoid being jostled, Harry tried to think where to go instead. He desperately wanted to be alone; he hadn’t been truly alone in more than a year. He watched the movement inside for a bit longer before moving on his way.

Harry’s wanderings found him inadvertently in the astronomy tower. Despite the damage to it, there was no one here. He leaned over the railing, and looked down at the grounds, watching the few people there moving about. He could see Hagrid attempting to repair his hut with the help, or what appeared to be hindrance, of Grawp.

He listened to the wind, and watched as owls flew to and from the owlrey, carrying news. Every time thoughts of the battle came into his mind, he pushed them away to be dealt with later.

He sat down and pulled out his wand, and started transfiguring the odd sticks and twigs he found into different objects. He found it was very helpful in keeping his mind off things, and began trying to remember harder and harder transfiguration.

Harry wasn’t sure how long he’d been at it when he heard a noise at the stairs. He whirled around, wand raised; tripping over the neat rows of teacups, thimbles, and glass figures he’d created. He hadn’t realized how many he’d made, and he cursed himself for having set the cloak to one side.

“Who’s there?” He shouted. “Show yourself!” He shot red sparks toward the stairs, hoping to shock whomever was there.

“Easy Harry, it’s just me,” came the voice of Mr. Weasley.

Harry let himself relax only slightly. “Whose was the watch you gave me for my birthday?”

“It belonged to my brother-in-law Fabian,” Mr. Weasley said quietly. He looked around at the mess of broken glass that Harry was standing in, wondering what he was doing. He saw Harry relax only a bit more, he still held his wand tightly, though he lowered it to his side. Mr. Weasley climbed the last few steps, and went to lean against the railing.

“How’d you find me up here?” Harry asked.

“Well, when people started waking up, Bill mentioned that you’d meant to have a look at the room of requirement; I figured I’d better get you back to the tower before Molly woke up. I knew you wouldn’t be in the room of requirement as it’s currently the expanded hospital wing, and I remembered coming up here myself a few times to get away, from things so I chanced it.”

Harry sat down and started absentmindedly repairing the broken teacups, and then changing them into glass animals. He didn’t meet Mr. Weasley’s eyes, and so, missed the concerned expression on Arthur's face as he watched Harry begin lining the figures up in straight rows.

Arthur could tell that Harry was not handling the stress of the previous days events well at all, and wanted to get him away from Hogwarts and the prying eyes of the reporters and officials who were beginning to swarm the gates. “Harry, we need to get you away from here. The news is spreading already and soon…” he waved his hand at the gates.

Harry got up from where he was and looked over the railing, seeing the throngs of people at the gate, he backed away quickly grabbing for his cloak. Looking up at Mr. Weasley he saw for the first time the lines of anguish on his face; touched that he considered Harry a part of the family he was desperately trying to hold together after the loss of Fred. “Where are we going?” he asked, his voice sounding more monotone than he expected.

“For now back to the tower, we’ve not figured out where its safe to go, but I’ve spoken with Minerva, and she’s agreed to use Gryffindor tower to house members of the Order temporarily.” Then he added, “Only Order members will have the new password.”

They heard a commotion, as the members of the press forced the gates open. “Come on Harry, lets get going.” Harry pulled the cloak over himself again and they ran back to Gryffindor tower.

“No, I’m sorry Arthur, it’s been destroyed too.” Kingsley said as they made their way down the list of possible places to go. The Burrow, Aunt Muriel’s, and Number 12 Grimmauld place were all torn apart by dark magic. There was nowhere safe to go.

Harry sat on the couch next to Ron and Hermione as they all tried to think of a solution. They needed to go somewhere, to get the family away from the scene of the battle.

Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, and George were still in bad shape, unable to deal with the loss of Fred. Bill, Percy, Ron, and Mr. Weasley were not much better, but were trying to get things going. Charlie had reluctantly left to help with the Gringotts Dragon.

Hermione was trying to comfort Ron, while all the while was desperately worried about her parents whereabouts, and Harry had continued transfiguring random objects without noticing he was doing it. The past few hours had accumulated a collection of random glass animals all over Gryffindor tower. He turned a sandwich crust into a unicorn, and Ron picked it up. “Mate, what’s with all the bloody animals?”

Harry glanced down at the half dozen animals in front of him and mumbled, “Takes my mind off things.”

Hermione spoke up, “there’s got to be something we’re not thinking of.”

Kingsley sighed, “We’ve been through every Weasley and Prewitt property in Britain; even Harry’s houses can’t be lived in. The cottage in Godricks Hollow for obvious reasons, and Number 12 was taken over by death eaters.”

Hermione looked over the list again; “we’re just not thinking about this properly, we’re looking at ministry records. Who knows if these are even accurate.” Then she jumped up, “That’s it, we’ve been looking in the wrong place! Harry, where’s Kreacher?”

But Kreacher appeared before Harry could answer, “Is Miss Hermione needing something?” He asked hopefully.

“Yes, Kreacher, I was wondering if you could explain something to Harry!” Kreacher looked doubtfully at Hermione.

“Kreacher will try,” he said, sounding unsure.

“Kreacher, Harry doesn’t completely understand his inheritance from Sirius, could you explain the property he now owns?” she asked.

Kreacher broke into a huge smile and bowed so low his nose touched the floor. “The Noble House of Black was far reaching, now the noble house of Potter, it includes the house in Grimmauld Place, a castle in Albania, a house in America, and a farm in Australia. All of these could be opened at a moments notice, if Master will let Kreacher!”

Kreacher looked absolutely ecstatic at the idea of opening houses, but his face fell slightly when he said, “the house in Grimmauld Place may not be ready for a long while. Bad wizards were there.”

Harry’s head popped up from his rows of trinkets on the coffee table, “Mr. Weasley, we could move into any of them… just pick one!”

The room had become slightly more cheerful, there were no smiles, but the feelings of despair seemed less overwhelming. Everyone began discussing the various options, pros and cons to each location.

“Albania, the Blacks would have a house there! That’s probably where Riddle went to hide.” Ron remarked. “Hermione! What’s wrong?”

Everyone glanced up to see tears running down Hermione’s cheeks, “My parents are in Australia.” She whispered. “I need to find them to remove the memory charm.”

Kingsley stood up, “That settles it.” He boomed. “Arthur, take your family to Australia. You can find Hermione’s parents, and your family can settle down away from prying eyes. When we need you at the ministry I’ll arrange for it.”

Mr. Weasley started to protest, “Kingsley, you need us nearby to help rebuild! The castle is a mess, the country even worse, people are hurt, and we can’t just leave…”

Kingsley cut him off, “Arthur… your family has been in the thick of the fighting since the First Wizarding War. If anyone deserves some time off it’s you, not to mention, I’m intrusting Harry and Hermione into your hands. No one is coming near this place to rebuild until we have homes for everyone to go to!”

Kingsley gathered up all the parchment he’d piled on the table, and headed toward the portrait hole. “I need to go talk to the press, and see about getting the Ministry running somewhere other than Hogwarts. Please send me a patronus if you need anything.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, and then Harry turned to Kreacher, “Is the house in Australia big enough for everyone?”

Kreacher nodded his head so eagerly his whole body shook, “Yes Master Harry, there is a big house with six bedrooms, also a little house which has two, and a river cottage with three. Shall Kreacher get them ready, he’ll be just a few moments?”

Harry nodded, “Please do Kreacher, but first tell us where it is, so we can arrange for travel.”

“Kreacher can take you there if it is best, Master Harry.” He looked at the group of Weasley’s and surrogate Weasley’s, “Or perhaps Master would like to Floo. The property is called Drovers Haven.” With a pop Kreacher was gone.

With something specific to do, everyone got moving. Hermione gathered up the contents of her beaded bag, and repacked them. Bill went to arrange the international Floo with McGonagall. Ron and Mr. Weasley went upstairs to check on Ginny, Mrs. Weasley and George. Which left Percy and Harry in the common room alone.

“Harry, I’ll completely understand if you don’t want me coming to your house.” Percy said quietly.

Harry looked over at Percy, who was thinned by the past year, his face looking drawn. “Percy, you were just mixed up; you got it right in the end. You must come with us, your family needs you!”

Percy looked up at Harry, “I suppose it’s time I put my family before the ministry. Maybe I can help George with Wheezes when the time comes.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea.” Came the voice of Mrs. Weasley down the stairs. She was splotchy from crying, but seemed to be doing much better.

Harry was just about to ask her about Ginny, when a searing pain shot through his chest. He collapsed onto the sofa, gasping and clutching his head. The pain ripped through his chest, and ended with his scar burning again. It seemed as though the pain potions Kreacher had given him had worn off. Harry’s eyes rolled back into his head, and he passed out.

Chapter 3: Off to Oz
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Ginny had spent most of the day with George, trying to get him to talk or eat or do something other than stare at the empty bed in his old dorm. Finally she couldn’t take it any more. When Ron and her dad came upstairs to check on George, she had to take a break. She washed the tears off her face and went to find Harry. She needed to find out what really happened. As she came down the stairs she saw Harry collapse backwards into the sofa gasping.

Ginny jumped the last few stairs and was by his side in an instant. “What happened?” she asked?

“I don’t know!” cried Percy, looking frantic, “We were talking about the house and he just collapsed!”

Harry’s breathing was shallow, Mrs. Weasley rushed over a put a hand on his forehead, “He’s burning up!”

Ginny muttered something and ran her wand over Harry’s body, the tip of it began to glow orange. “He there’s some kind of residual curse on his body, I doubt he’s seen a healer yet.”

Mrs. Weasley took a moment to look at her daughter in surprise, and then went into action, “Percy!” she snapped, “Go and fetch a healer, and quickly!”

“Madame Pomfrey Percy!” Ginny called after him. She turned back to Harry and began running her wand over his body again, when she reached his chest, the tip of her wand glowed red. She turned to her mum and said, “Go fetch Hermione, we’re probably going to need her help!”

Molly Weasley, too shocked by her daughters apparent knowledge of healing to do anything other than comply, dashed from the room.

Ginny quickly used her wand to slit open Harry’s shirt, when she pushed the material aside, she was shocked to find a huge red wound, the same shape as the scar on Harry’s forehead. She gasped; surely he couldn’t have been hit with the killing curse again. And yet she didn’t know any other curse that made that kind of mark. Muttering again she used one of the spells Madame Pomfrey had taught her last year to draw out the foreign magic from Harry’s body. She quickly conjured a bottled and dropped the magic into it; it looked just like a bottled memory, except it was bright green.

Ginny conjured a towel and used aguamenti to soak it with cool water, placing it behind Harry’s neck to try and bring his temperature down, she scanned his body again. Her wand glowed white, Harry’s body was rid of the magic, but he was still burning up. She began to clean and heal the open wound.

Just then the portrait hole burst open and Madame Pomfrey rushed in, with Percy and Bill hard on her heels. “Ginny, what did you find?”

“Foreign magic, I don’t know how long it’s been in his system. He has an open wound, not from a known curse. I’ve removed the magic and healed the wound, but his temperature is dangerously high and won’t drop.” Ginny indicated to the now healed pink scar on Harry’s chest.

“My god! It couldn’t be…” Madame Pomfrey had noticed the lightning bolt on Harry’s chest that matched his forehead. “Where is the foreign body?”

Ginny handed the bottled magic to Madame Pomfrey. “I think he’s done it again.” She whispered. “I’ve never pulled green from someone living.”

Madame Pomfrey and Ginny stared at the bottled magic, then looked back at Harry. “I think you just saved the boy’s life Ginevra. I expect his temperature will come down on it’s own. Keep a close eye on him, but I can’t do anything more than you’ve already done. We’ll just have to wait it out.”

“Ahem?” they turned around to see the entire Weasley family, even George were encircling them. “Would someone mind telling us what the bloody hell is going on here?” Ron shouted.

“Well Mr. Weasley,” Madame Pomfrey said, “it appears as though your friend was hit by the killing curse. He survived it, again, but it appears there was some residual dark magic in his system. This has been removed by your sister.” She held up the green vial. “Send for me if he worsens” She said to Ginny, and hurried back out of the room.

The whole family stared at the youngest member of their clan in awe. Finally Bill spoke up, “Midget, where did you learn all that?”

“Poppy taught several of us in secret last year, after the Carrow’s began stopping us going to the hospital wing. Once the ministry is back up, I just have to sit the examination to get my license.” She said simply, as she checked Harry’s temperature again. “There, it’s dropped now. He should wake up soon.”

As if on cue, Harry’s eyes flew open and he thrashed about looking for his wand. “Easy Harry,” Ginny crooned, “relax, it’s just us.”

Harry relaxed immediately upon hearing Ginny’s voice. “Ginny, what happened? How long was I out?” No one noticed Harry continuing to search for his wand, as he listened to Ginny’s explanation.

Handing Harry his wand, Ginny said sharply “Why didn’t you go see a healer?”

Harry looked a bit sheepish; Ginny could be as stern as Mrs. Weasley when she wanted to be. “Well, first I was so tired, I just came right up here. Then after that… it didn’t really come up.”

“Harry James Potter!” Mrs. Weasley, “Were you hit by avada kadevra again?”

Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione, was it really safe to tell the whole story now? If it was over, why shouldn’t the Weasley’s know everything that had happened? Especially since their son was dead because he couldn’t figure out the clues in time. Harry saw Hermione nod, and he said quietly, “We might want to bring Kingsley in to hear this too.”

A few minutes later, everyone had settled into a chair in the common room, Percy had fetched Kingsley, and even George was at least making eye contact again. Harry wondered what they would think of him when he was done with his story. “Well, who here knows what a Horocrux is?” He asked.

Nearly two hours later, Harry had finished the story, complete with interjections from Ron and Hermione, and answering the occasional question. He looked around the room at his surrogate family, amazed at the relief that came from finally being able to talk about the past year.

After a few moments silence, Mr. Weasley spoke up, “So, I’m afraid I don’t understand the last bit Harry. You said you were at Kings Cross with Dumbledore, does that mean you actually… died?”

Harry looked at the floor. “Yes.” He whispered.

“And, you chose to come back?” ask George. Everyone’s heads popped up to look at George; those were the first words he had spoken since the battle.

“Well…” Harry knew what George wanted to hear, and wished he could give him the answer he wanted, “…it was really only because of Riddle that I had the choice. If I didn’t have a bit of his soul inside mine, I never would have had the option.”

“Harry?” George asked, “Was… was it nice there?”

Harry was touched. In his moment of deepest sorrow, George wanted to know if Fred was ok, wherever he was. “Yes, it was very nice. Light, and warm; there was no pain, or sorrow. If it wasn’t for Gi… for things I needed to take care of, I would have quite liked to stay.”

Only Ginny and Molly noticed Harry’s feux pas. Ginny’s heart skipped a beat when she heard it. He still wanted her! He came back because of her! Molly looked at her surrogate son in a new light; perhaps he would be more than an honorary member of the family before long!

“Thank you Harry.” Arthur said, “I think we all needed to hear that.”

Kingsley spoke up, “Harry, Ron, Hermione; the Wizarding World owes you more than we could ever possibly repay. You will all be appropriately recognized in time; however, I think it would be prudent for you to leave out certain aspects of the story when you tell it in the future. Specifically, the Hallows and the Horcruxes. We don’t need another Tom Riddle or any Dark Lord imitations to arise from your story.”

“I was hoping you’d say that Minister.” Harry said with a smile.

“Now, now, none of that Minister nonsense. I’m the interim-minister, and I’m only taking the position until we can hold elections to find a suitable replacement!” Kingsley laughed.

“Which is exactly why I trust you.” Harry said. “You didn’t ask for the job.”

The Weasley’s, Harry, and Hermione were all gathered in the entrance hall of Hogwarts, waiting for the signal from Mr. Weasley to run outside and grab the portkey. The wanted to spend as little time as possible outside, as the members of the press were still hanging about hoping for an interview. “Alright, just a few more minutes now. I want Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the center of the group, and for goodness sake, keep your heads down. Hopefully they’ll not notice you until it’s too late. Do whatever is necessary to keep stowaways off the portkey. I want wands in hand, everyone! On three!”

Mr. Weasley counted to three, and the Weasley’s moved like an Auror squadron, low and quick across the grounds. Wands raised, they shielded the Golden Trio from view. As soon as the reached the portkey, an old hula hoop, they fanned out around it and grabbed hold. Just as they felt the familiar tugging sensation, there was a shout that sounded suspiciously like the voice of Rita Skeeter, “There’s Potter! He’s leaving!” But it was too late; Harry and his family were gone.

The portkey spun to a stop in front of what appeared to be a large barn. Everyone straightened up and dusted themselves off and had a look around. Harry was quite surprised, the house in Grimmauld place was large, but it appeared he owned hectares and hectares of land on this ranch. It also looked quite well maintained, though empty. Seeing across the dirt drive, what appeared to be the large house Kreacher had mentioned. Harry headed towards the house and the Weasley’s followed.

Harry stepped onto a wraparound porch on the large white house, which sported a metal roof. They noticed the roof had gutters that appeared to collect runoff from any rain in a large tank behind the house. As soon as their feet hit the porch the front door sprang open revealing Kreacher, and four more house elves. Everyone’s eyes bugged out, four more house elves! Most wealthy families owned just one, and now it appeared Harry had five!

“May Kreacher introduce Master’s Australian elves, Boof and Ditty, and their children Crag and Squish*.” Kreacher said with a bow, that was quickly followed by the other elves.

“Hello,” said Harry, feeling a bit uncomfortable, “have you lot always been on this ranch?”

“Crag and Squish has Master, they was born here. But Master Black won Ditty and me in a bet nearly 50 years ago. It was a game of Two Up it was.” Boof explained.

Not knowing what Two Up was, and feeling Hermione blistering behind him at the thought of House Elves being gambled, Harry said, “well, can you show us around the house?”

Kreacher and Boof showed them all around the big house, which Boof called the home farmhouse. It did in fact have six bedrooms, as well as a large wizarding kitchen, which was open to the spacious living area. Nearly the whole of the downstairs was in fact one large room, with the exception of a loo and an office.

Next they went and looked at the small house, which Boof explained was meant as a farm manager’s house. It had two large bedrooms upstairs, and a kitchen and living area downstairs, nearly a duplicate of the big house. It was quickly decided that this would be ideal for Bill and Fleur to live in until they were ready to return to Shell Cottage.

After they finished with the manager’s house, they continued to follow Boof from building to building as he explained what they were. They passed a barn, stables, a machine shed, which appeared to house tractors, a chicken shed, dog runs, outdoor loos, shearer’s quarters, shearing shed, cattle yards, and a large pond in one of the fields.

“So, where exactly are we?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“Master’s house is in Puckapunyal, a small town. The nearest city is Melbourne. Puckapunyal is a muggle town, so if you need wizarding things the nearest market is in the city.” Kreacher explained.

They were about to return to the big house, when Harry remembered something, “Kreacher, you said something about a river cottage?”
“Yes master, but it is not a wizarding house. This property was bought from a muggle, and Blacks never had the third house converted.” Kreacher said simply.

“Is it still in good order?” Harry asked.

Boof spoke up, “the house was sealed upon purchase. Everything inside should be as it was the day it was bought.”

“Let’s go see it!” Harry said excitedly. Everyone was curious why Harry was suddenly so excited. He’d seemed fairly withdrawn through most of the tour, asking occasional questions but not really responding to the answers.

Kreacher looked at Boof, who motioned for them to follow and lead them down rock-lined path to the last house. It was a pretty little river cottage, which looked as though it were designed as a vacation home.

Like the others, it was white with a metal roof and wraparound porch. But unlike the others, the back of that porch stood out over the river like a dock. Inside was indeed muggle, with electrical appliances and lights. Its three bedrooms had views of the river, while the downstairs followed the same layout as the other two houses, with an open kitchen.

“It’ll need a bit of updating, but it’s perfect!” Harry cried.

Everyone stared at Harry. “Perfect for what?” Ginny asked.

“Well for Hermione’s parents of course!” Harry exclaimed. “When we find them I’d imagine they’ll need some time to adjust as well, and I wanted them to stay here too; but a wizarding house might be a bit more than they can handle on top of everything.”

Hermione burst into tears and ran to hug Harry. “I was afraid I would have to go back home alone with them after I fixed their memories!”

“We would never have let you go back alone!” Ron said, coming to hug Hermione too.

Arthur looked around the room and noticed everyone had tears on their cheeks, but they seemed to be tears of relief. His family was finally relaxing a little bit in the knowledge that they had the time and sanctuary to recover away from the prying eyes of the media and the ministry. He knew they had a long road still, but that day that had all healed a tiny bit.

Later that day, everyone had had a nap and the whole Weasley clan was gathered around the large scrubbed kitchen table enjoying restoring cups of Kreacher’s tea. In addition, Ditty had prepared lovely sandwiches, scones and biscuits.

Rooms had been sorted out, with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Harry, Ron, Percy, George getting their own rooms, and Hermione and Ginny sharing until Hermione could move into the river cottage with her parents. It was decided that Charlie would take the extra room in the mangers cottage with Bill and Fleur when he was able to stay.

“We’ll need to sort out someone to come look over the river cottage and make sure it’s in good order.” Harry said to Mr. Weasley. “I know it was sealed up, but I want to make sure everything is in perfect order.”

Before Mr. Weasley could respond, there was a long, loud yell of “Cooooeeeeeeeee!” from outside. Everyone scrambled for their wands, dropped to the floor and found good positions to see out. They saw a couple walking up the road, in muggle clothes. Following Mr. Weasley’s lead, Harry, Ron, and Bill hid their wands in their pockets and went outside.

Chapter 4: Harry Black
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“Hello the house!” Called the women, as they came outside.

“Hello there,” said Mr. Weasley, “who might you be?”

“We’re your neighbors down the other side of the north paddock; I’m Carl Baralga and this is my wife Ellie. We saw the smoke from the chimney and thought we’d come see if someone was moving into Drover’s Haven!” said the man. “You lot buy the place? You seem a bit more cheerful than the regular inhabitants. Though, they were never here very often.”

“I inherited the property.” Harry explained, his hand still on his wand in his pocket. “It belonged to my godfather.”

“Oh, you must be Hogwarts people then!” Said Ellie.

What happened next was a blur, Bill and Ron had their wands out, and each trained on a visitor. Mr. Weasley and Harry had their wands out as well, covering Bill and Ron.

“Alright, hands were we can see them!” Bill said, menacingly. “Do you have wands?”

The couple looked shocked, pulled their wands out of their pockets and set them on the ground. Then a look of understanding crossed Ellie’s face. “You just got out, didn’t you? We heard about the battle.” She said quietly.

Mr. Weasley spoke up, “yes, we have. If you’ll excuse our rudeness, we need to learn a little bit more about you. My family has been fighting for a long time, and we defend first, and ask questions later.”

“It’s fine, we should have thought, but we weren’t sure if you were muggles or wizards.” Ellie said quietly. “We don’t mean any harm, we were just excited to have some Wizards in the area. We’ve been the only ones for a long time.”

Carl nodded “What will make you more comfortable with us?”

Harry used what little Legilimens skills he had to try and gauge Carl and Ellie’s intent. From what he could tell, they truly meant no harm. But he still wasn’t very good at it, and wanted to ask them some questions anyway. “Come inside, let us ask you some questions. I think we’d all feel better if we knew a little more about you.”

The whole group marched inside, and headed for the big kitchen table and the remains of the unfinished tea. “Ditty, would you mind bringing cups for our guests?” Mrs. Weasley asked.

Everyone sat down and looked at Harry, who was at the head of the table. Carl and Ellie were surprised that the whole group seemed to be taking its queues from this boy. He’d said the property was his, but they were truly taking his lead.

Harry waited until Ellie and Carl had taken a sip of tea, and then asked them point blank, “Whose side are you on?”.

Ellie smiled, and set down her cup. “Well, it wasn’t really like that here. The Australian ministry supported you, but most of the Australian Wizarding Community was too detached from the situation to really have much of an opinion. We have relations in England, so we were a bit more involved than most Australians. We helped with the Muggleborn relocation project.”

Harry and Hermione, who hadn’t been able to listen to Potterwatch regularly, didn’t understand what Ellie was talking about, however, the Weasleys visibly relaxed.

“Oh, were you a part of the Australian Placement Program?” Bill queried.

“Not exactly, we were a part of the disapperation team.” Carl explained. “We were responsible for side-apperating the target to the secure location.”

There were nods of understanding from most at the table, and even a low whistle from Bill, but Harry and Hermione looked perplexed. “What’s the Muggleborn Relocation Project?” Hermione asked?

Carl and Ellie looked at her strangely, but Mr. Weasley smoothly covered for her: ”That was going on while you lot were in hiding. It was a group of Wizards from other countries who helped get the Muggleborns out of the country to safe houses.”

“It was organized via Potterwatch.” George said, with a pointed look at Harry.

Fleur, understanding that Harry might not be ready to let the Australians know who he was, turned the conversation back to Ellie, “You said you ‘ave relatives een England?”

“Yes, actually, my extended family is from London.” Ellie explained. “Quite a large family, actually you might know them, my grandmothers maiden name was Prewitt.”

There was a collective gasp from the table, and Molly asked, “Was her name Drizella?”

“Yes, did you know her?” Ellie smiled?

“Only by reputation, she had already moved to Australia before I was born, but she was my Cousin.” Molly said with a grin. “So I suppose that makes us cousins, though a bit further apart.”

“Wow, who would have thought? Here we showed up thinking you were muggles and now it turns out you’re family!” Ellie exclaimed. “Well you must tell us all about yourselves, who are you all, how did you end up here?

Knowing now that the Baralga’s were family, albeit distant relations, everyone was much more relaxed, although not quite ready to divulge their full story. Harry jumped in, “Well, like I said, I inherited the property from my Godfather. After we got through the battle, we just wanted somewhere to go that was safe and quiet. This seemed like it would be just the trick. I expect my Godfather, Sirius Black, didn’t even know about this place.”

Carl chimed in, “So you’re part of the Black family then?”

Harry nodded, “Harry Black.” He said, taking Sirius’ surname when he introduced himself. It seemed a good option here. The locals, it seemed, would know who had owned the farm; taking the Black family name meant fewer questions asked.

“That makes sense.” Carl said. “Your hair. Around here we’re a bit more descriptive when it comes to our family names; at least, those of us with Aboriginal blood. Baralga means native companion, roughly translated. “

“Well that’s fitting!” Ginny laughed. She had gotten up and retrieved a potion out of her bag and set it down in front of Harry. In fact, she had been so diligent with his Potions that Harry wasn’t even sure what he was taking, and when. He just knew it seemed to be working, and for the most part, he wasn’t in pain.

“Yeah, that makes sense.” Ron said. “Well since Harry here lost his family pretty young, we sorta adopted him. The rest of us are Weasley’s.” He said, going round the room and giving everyone’s first names, including Hermione because it was simpler. He was betting that since there were so many Weasley’s Carl and Ellie wouldn’t figure out exactly which Weasley’s they were. And he was right.

“Goodness, it’ll take me a bit to get all the names straight!” Ellie said. “But we’ve taken up a fair bit of your time, and I expect you all could do with a nap if you’ve just arrived!”

“That we could!” Said Arthur. “Thanks for indulging our inquisition. You never can be too careful.”

“Not at all!” Carl said, “And please, if you need anything, stop by. We’re the property on your northern boundary. Just keep walking the fence line and you’ll run right up to the home paddock. After that we’ll show you where the apparition point is if you like. “

They finished up their tea, said their goodbyes, headed out the front door and started across the yard.

Bill turned to Harry and started to ask, “where’s your cloa…” But Harry already had his cloak out of his pocket and halfway over his head. “Way ahead of you Bill, I’ll be right back.” And he slid out the back door without a sound.

“Sometimes I wonder if that kid learned more from Snape about Occlumency and Legilimens than we think he did.” Bill muttered. “Or is he really just one step ahead of everyone else all the time?”

“Both.” Said Ron and Hermione in unison.

“Sometimes, when we were on the run, his thought patterns were downright terrifying.” Hermione admitted. “We would be picking a place to camp, and be looking for a clearing, and Harry would be looking for ways people could sneak up on that clearing. He’d see things Ron and I never would have even considered.”

“Yes, I think the only time I’ve ever seen him without his guard up was for a few moments during the World Cup.” Mr. Weasley admitted. “I thought, when he first started spending time with us, that he would relax eventually. But it’s quite the opposite, the closer he’s gotten to us the more I’ve seen him look over his shoulder.”

“Well, we’re his family.” Ginny whispered, “and he’s lost just about anyone he’s ever loved. Dumbledore was right, it’s a wonder he can love at all.”

Meanwhile, Harry had snuck up to the Baralga’s and fallen into footstep a few paces behind them so he could hear their conversation.

“…poor people. It sounds as though they actually fought in the battle.” Ellie was saying. “No wonder they’re a bit jumpy. I’d be downright terrified to talk to anyone!”

“Yes, I think we were quite lucky they let us talk at all. I’m not sure as I would have.” Carl admitted.

“But imagine Carl! Another wizarding family, right here in Puckapunyal! And distant relations too! I do hope they’re here to stay.”

Carl laughed at Ellie’s comment, “yes, I imagine you can’t wait to have them all over and feed everyone. I think they’ll need a bit of time yet to adjust though.”

“I know, but.” Ellie said with a smile. “It’ll be nice to have people over for a change. Spending time with Muggles is hard work, especially when you can’t have them back to your home.”

They continued walking in silence for a few moments before diverting the conversation to other things. After a bit more, Harry was satisfied and turned back to Drover’s Haven.

“Is he gone?” Ellie said when she saw Carl turn back toward where Harry had been a few moments ago. She hadn’t been able to tell if he was even there, but her aboriginal husband seemed to have a different kind of magic than most.

“Yeah, he’s gone. Poor kid. I hope we put him at ease.” Carl said, and continued walking.

“That was really him wasn’t it?” She asked.

“Yeah, it was. I know he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s here, but I think I should let the Ngalaiya know. That way they can set up some protection, quell any rumors in the Ministry about who might be moving into Haven.”

“You’re probably right, but lets keep an eye on them for a bit ourselves first. For all you know, the Order of the Phoenix has already told them all about it.” Ellie suggested, and turned to apparate the rest of the way home.

After returning to kitchen and letting everyone know that Carl and Ellie seemed to be trustworthy, Harry made his way up to his room. It was the first time he really had a chance to take a good look around it, they had only stopped in briefly while touring the house, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had insisted he take the Master bedroom as it was his house. Harry had only agreed when he saw that most of the rooms were the same size anyway.

His room was not overly large, and was brightly lit, with whitewashed walls. There was a large bed, draped in mosquito netting, which looked as though it was made from Eucalyptus. This was covered in a simple blue quilt. Near the window was a large bookcase, overflowing with books; and just under the window, a large brown overstuffed chair. Harry opened a door, confirming that it connected to a loo, and another which was a built-in wardrobe.

He was quite surprised by the property in general, and wondered which member of the Black family had actually purchased it, as it was not decorated in the normal dark Black family taste at all. He made a mental note to ask Andromeda about it the next time he saw her. He had invited her and Teddy to come with them, of course, but Mrs. Tonks preferred to stay in her small home, promising to visit often. In fact, she was the only one who would have direct Floo access to Drovers Haven.

Satisfied with his room, but not feeling particularly like sleeping, Harry moved to the large chair by the window. He glanced at the bookcase, noticing happily that most of the books seemed to be novels or books about transfiguration and charms. He selected a book about Home Transfiguration and set about adding some personal touches to the room.

Before Harry knew it, several hours had passed. He had found a spell for transfiguring picture frames, and had set about changing a stack of handkerchiefs he found in the wardrobe. Soon he had taken his shrunken photo album that Hagrid had made for him out of his mokeskin pouch, copied all his favorite photos, and put them up on the walls and on tabletops.

He had just finished changing his quilt to a darker blue striped look, when there was a knock at the door. “Come in”, he called distractedly as he changed the chair to match.

“Wow, Harry, this looks amazing!” Said the voice of Ginny behind him.

Harry stiffened at the sound of her voice, and quickly spun around. “Oh, hi Ginny. I was just putting up pictures, and I found this transfiguration book.” He stammered, his cheeks turning red. He was nervous, realizing that this was the first time he and Ginny had been alone in a room since before Bill and Fleur’s wedding.

“I just came to check up on you. It’s probably about time for some more potion too.” She motioned to the chair, “You haven’t had a proper checkup either. Shirt off and lets have a look.”

Harry blushed again, before following her instructions. Ginny switched into Healer mode, and did a thorough checkup of Harry; inspecting all his scars and bruises, checking his eyes and ears, scanning his lungs and heart for any damage from the killing curse. “What hurts?” She asked, as she inspected his newly closed scar on his chest.

Harry had been so distracted by all the transfiguration that he hadn’t noticed the pain in his head and chest return. He didn’t want to seem weak in front of Ginny though, so he just shrugged. That was a mistake, and the motion worsened the pain in his chest and he gasped.

“Harry, unless you want to go see a healer at the hospital you have to tell me what is going on!” She said, putting both hands on her hips and reminding him of her mother. “I can’t help you if I don’t know where to start. Now you’re a right mess, you’ve got cracked bones in several places that I didn’t even notice when I was helping you at Hogwarts. You’re malnourished, dehydrated, and suffering from who knows what kind of spell damage! Now. Tell. Me. What. Hurts.”

“My, my head.” Harry muttered sheepishly. “And my chest and my right leg. But my chest the most.”

“Here.” She said, passing him a potion. “For the pain.”

Harry drank the potion obediently as she inspected his leg.

“No wonder it hurts” she said, “it’s fractured.” She straightened his leg out and muttered “ferula” creating a splint. After that she passed her wand once more over his new scar, and then inspected his forehead.

“Well,” she said when she was done, “You’ll be needing some skelegrow for those fractures. How you managed to walk around with a broken leg is beyond me. Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I dunno. Other things seemed more important.” He said, avoiding Ginny’s gaze.

“Well you are to tell me from now on.” She said. “As for your chest, that will fade with time, it’s healing well. I’m not sure why your scar is hurting, by all rights is shouldn’t be, but it’s always been a bit off right?

“Well, yes, but that’s because it was Riddle’s Horocrux, wasn’t it?” He questioned.

“I guess. No one has ever studied what would happen to a human who was used as a Horocrux.” She admitted. “Now, you need to get into bed. I’m going to go get you some skelegrow, and sleeping potion. I don’t want you awake until those bones heal.”

She ducked out of the room, and Harry quickly changed into some pajamas he found in the wardrobe. He gingerly climbed into bed; careful not to upset the splint Ginny had put on his leg. He pulled a picture out of his mokeskin pouch of him and Ginny that he’d been too afraid to frame. Colin had given it to him last year, it was the two of them sitting by the lake. He had his arm around her, and she was laughing into the camera. Every once in a while he could see one of the Giant Squids tentacles poking out of the water behind him. Now he didn’t know what to think, because she was treating him like a patient. She had obviously changed a great deal in the past year; did she even love him anymore? He sighed, and stared at the mosquito netting above his head.

Ginny came back into the room holding her healers bag and a glass of milk, and Harry stuck the picture quickly under his pillow.

She smiled at him and sat on the edge of the bed, taking several vials of potion out of her bag. “Here you go,” She said, “This one will help your bruises heal faster, and here’s the skelegrow.”

Harry coughed after swallowing the skelegrow, and she handed him the glass of milk, which he gulped down. He began to feel the familiar pin like sensation in his bones, and started to feel a bit tired. He stifled a yawn, and said,“ I didn’t realize how tired I was!”

“That’s because I put a sleeping potion in your milk.” Ginny laughed. “You need to sleep.”

Harry looked at Ginny in horror. He was planning on doing everything to keep himself awake once she left the room, but now she had slipped him a sleeping potion. There was no escaping his nightmares now!

“I’m sorry, but I know it was the only way to get you to take it.” She passed him another vial. “Here, dreamless sleep potion.”

Harry pushed the vial back towards her. “No use.” He mumbled.

“Neville and I changed the potion last year.” She said, pushing it back. “It’s stronger, I think you’ll find it will take care of whatever you’re dreaming.”

It was then that Harry noticed a long thin scar on Ginny’s neck, probably six or more inches long, starting behind her ear and running down to her shoulder, and disappearing into her collar. He reached his hand toward her shoulder, without thinking, to touch it; she flinched at the contact and reflexively grabbed his wrist and twisted it in defense.

Harry cried out in pain, and Ginny gasped and backed away. They both froze for a long, silent moment, and then Ginny stepped back toward Harry. “I’m sorry.” She whispered. “It was just a reflex.”

Harry nodded, wondering just what those who stayed at Hogwarts last year had been through. “Don’t apologize, I should have thought.” He looked at her for another moment, and then asked, “What happened?”

Ginny distracted herself by examining his arm, and Harry noticed rows of similar scars on the inside of her wrists. She looked at him carefully, as if sizing him up, and then went back to examining him. “A muggle surgery knife.” She said, casually, as though he’d asked her where she got her shirt. “A scrapple?”

“Scalpel.” Harry whispered, and caught her hand, turning it over he counted the marks on her arm. There were nine in all. “But what happened?” He repeated.

Ginny shrugged her shoulders, “The Carrow’s. Ironically, they took a lot of interest in muggle torture, for people who hate muggles so much.” She tried to smile, but it came out a shudder.

“And so, the healing?” Harry asked.

“And so the healing. Madame Pomfrey wasn’t able to help us with everything, they forbid her from treating things after a while, so she taught us how to do it ourselves. After I left Hogwarts at Easter, I kept studying.” She laid Harry’s arm back down. “Come on, you need to get some sleep.”

Ginny started to walk away but Harry whispered, “Stay? Just till I fall asleep?”

She turned around, and settled into the chair, “Just until you fall asleep.”

Harry was soon snoring, and Ginny crept up to the bed, and slipped her hand under the pillow to see what he’d hidden there as she came in. Not knowing what to expect, she gasped when she pulled out the photograph. She set it on the table next to the bed, kissed him on the forehead, and whispered, “I love you Harry”, before slipping out the door.

Chapter 5: To Write Love
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The next morning Harry awoke feeling a great deal better. He was still a bit sore, but it was the kind of sore you feel after a long days work, rather than the outright pain of the night before. He noticed that there were two potions and a cup of tea on the table next to the bed, and he smiled to himself at the thought of Ginny making sure he had everything there.

As he reached for the tea, his heart stopped when he noticed the photo of them propped up against the lamp. Had she put it up to let him know she had found it, did she simply think it had fallen off the table to begin with, what did she think of him for keeping it?

He sat up in bed, adjusting the pillow, and remembering the splint on his leg. He took a sip of the tea, still stressing about what Ginny might think of the photo. Then he noticed a folded piece of paper, which had been weighted down by the teacup; he picked it up and unfolded it.

Good Morning Harry!

I’ve left some more pain and bruise potion for you, please take them both. When you’re ready to get up, call for one of the house elves to come get me and I’ll check your leg to see if the splint can come off today. You might want to wait a bit though, as mum is in full on “tidying up the nursery” mode and wants to organize your whole property! Hope you slept well!

:heart: Ginny

Harry was even more confused after reading Ginny’s note. Sure she’d signed it with a heart, but he’d seen her do that at the end of lots of letters to friends and family. It was more her signature than a sign of affection, wasn’t it? She’d joked with him in the end of the note, so he hoped she wasn’t too upset about him prying last night.

He sat a stewed for nearly an hour, and then decided there was nothing for it. He was just going to have to move on and see what happened.

“Kreacher?” He asked?

Kreacher appeared with a pop, “Yes Master?”

“Kreacher, please just call me Harry. Can you please get Ginny for me?” Harry asked.

“Not proper for house elves to use Masters given name.” Kreacher said, looking horrified. “Kreacher will fetch Mistress.” And with a pop, disappeared.

A few minutes later, he heard Ginny coming up the stairs. She knocked softly before coming in the room. Harry’s breath hitched in his chest, she was wearing a soft pink t-shirt and denim overalls, which had dirt stained on the knees. She had obviously kicked off some boots upon returning to the house, and was in her stocking feet. Her hair was pulled up into a messy knot behind her head. Harry could see that she had lost a great deal of weight over the past year, as her clothes hung off her skeletal form, but he still thought she was beautiful.

“Good morning!” She chirped. “Let me just wash the dirt off my hands and I’ll have a look at your leg.” She ducked into the loo, and he heard running water.

“Hermione and I have been working in the garden.” She called back through the open door. “It’s really spectacular, just needed a bit of weeding and organizing!”

“I didn’t know we had a garden.” Harry replied, grateful for a neutral topic of conversation. “I guess that makes sense though, it is a farm!”

Ginny reappeared, and moved over to the bed. “Lets have a look at that leg.” She said, and Harry pushed back the covers and rolled up his pajama leg. Ginny muttered an incantation, and passed her wand over his leg. The tip glowed blue, and Ginny smiled. “Diffindo.” She sliced off the bandages, and removed the splint.

“You’re very nearly as good as new!” she said, “you can go about normally, but please give it a few more days before you go falling off a broom or something.”

“Thanks Ginny!” Harry said gratefully. “I’m so glad you can look after me and I don’t have to go to St. Mungos.”

“Sure, what are friends for?” She said with a grin. “We all know how much you like attention.”

With that she bounced towards the door. “Come have a look at the garden when you’re ready!” She called back over her shoulder.

Harry stared at the place where she was a moment ago, still confused, and then headed toward the loo to take a shower.

Outside the door to Harry’s room, Ginny leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor. She was so confused about Harry; she didn’t know what to say or how to act. They both had a lot to work through before everything would be back to normal, but she had hoped they could pick up where they left off.

Thinking back to before Harry left made her think of Hogwarts, which made her think of Fred, which in turn made her feel guilty for worrying about her relationship with Harry and not grieving the loss of her brother. She drew up her knees, and rested her head in her arms on top of them and allowed herself a few moments of despair. There was no one about, so she let the tears fall freely.

In her moment of weakness she didn’t hear George come up the stairs. He spotted his little sister sitting on the floor and slid down next to her.

“I know I’m not Fred, but I’m a good understudy.” He said quietly, slipping his arm around her.

“Oh George!” Ginny sobbed, burying her head into her brother’s shoulder. “How are you so calm? You were a mess at Hogwarts, how did you get past it?”

“I’m not past it.” He said. “It feels like there’s a bloody great hole in the middle of me. Sometimes I think I’ll go crazy. I keep listening for a ghost to finish my sentences; maybe I am crazy.”

“I keep thinking this is some horrible nightmare, and I’ll eventually wake up, home in the Burrow with everything as it should be.” Ginny sniffed.

“I’m quite glad we’re not at the Burrow.” George admitted. “There’s no memories of Fred here, it helps it hurt a bit less. I wonder if the hurt ever stops.”

“No, it doesn’t” Came a voice from behind them; Harry had come out of his bedroom. “It’s like having an arm amputated, I expect. You’re never the same again, but eventually you learn to live without it.” He sat down across from Ginny and George.

George looked up at Harry. “You know, I never did thank you.”

“For what?” Harry asked.

“For letting Ron sit with you in your first year on the bloody Hogwarts Express.” George said with a laugh. “Only smart thing he’s ever done, getting into your compartment.”

They all giggled, it was good to hear George joking around again.

“Well, you must be telling the truth, because you’ve lost a load of people and I don’t see you falling to bits all the time.” George said to Harry.

“Maybe I fall to bits when no one is around?” Harry said quietly.

Ginny looked up at Harry. “No, you don’t fall to bits. You obsess. Hermione goes to the library; Ron gets mad. Dad buys muggle things, and Percy writes reports, and Mum cooks. Charlie just stays away more, and Bill tries to hide it from everyone, and Fleur’s accent gets thicker. And George, you joke. I seem to be the only one who goes to bits.”

Harry smiled at her perceptiveness. “Ginny, haven’t you been healing everyone like a mad woman and acting as happy as the lollipop lady at St. Mungos?”

Ginny paused, and then nodded.

“You don’t have to singlehandedly cheer everyone up Gin!” Harry said, “It’s okay to let people see that you’re down! You’re the healer, you can’t honestly tell me that it’s healthy to bottle up your emotions like that!”

Ginny sighed. “No, I suppose not.”

“Alright, now what’s this you were saying about the garden?” Harry asked.

Down in the garden Hermione was working on charming a scarecrow to walk amongst the rows of plants. Upon arrival in Australia she had learned that the native Sulfur Crested Cockatoos were, while quite pretty, immensely obnoxious creatures with appallingly loud screeches, and a penchant for destroying crops. She was hoping that the scarecrow would work better, if moving.

After perfecting the charmed scarecrow, Hermione had set to identifying the plants. The garden had gown without attention for an unknown number of years, and the plants had grown large and somewhat unmanageable. Hermione guessed that they must have been magical varieties, as they grew without regular watering.

Still, after a long morning of work with Ginny, the plants were pruned back, and the rows organized. If Hermione could identify them, then she could see what needed to be magicked onto trellises.

“Tomatoes!” She muttered to herself, recognizing the leaves from her parent’s small garden at home. She transfigured several pieces of eucalyptus bark into pyramid shaped trellises, and then used wingardium leviosa to lift the plants onto them. Then she marked the row with a bit of impurviused parchment on a stake.

She continued for quite a while, until she had labeled all of the plants. She wished Neville were with them, as she knew he could charm the plants to be ever-bearing.

It was only after she finished, that she realized that Ginny had been gone quite a while. Hermione hoped it meant she and Harry were talking, as she knew Ginny was stressing over the state of their relationship.

Hermione was a bit confused about her own relationship with Ron. They had kissed during the battle, and she had fallen asleep in his arms after the battle was over, but beyond that there hadn’t been much more. Sure Ron had taken her hand on more than one occasion since then, and had frequently hugged her when she was upset; but those were things that Harry had done from time to time as well when he was trying to cheer her up.

Hermione hoped it was the close proximity they had all been living in before coming to Australia that had prevented further progress. They had all been on top of each other in Gryffindor tower, leaving only to bury Fred amongst the other fallen heroes in the graveyard that was now the land around Dumbledore’s tomb.

Still, Molly Weasley was keeping them all busy straightening up Drover’s Haven, and that meant Ron was in the barn with Bill and Percy organizing whatever was in there.

Time, we’ve got nothing but time. She thought. It’ll all work out; things can only get better, can’t they?

She was so lost in thought, that when Ginny tapped her on the shoulder she spun around wand raised, in shock.

“Oh, sorry Gin, I didn’t hear you come up.” Hermione blushed, stowing her wand in her pocket.

“No, my mistake. We should all know better than to sneak about.” Ginny said sadly, “I think we’ll all be a bit jumpy for a while yet.”

“This looks fantastic!” Harry said, looking over the garden. “I didn’t really even notice this was a garden yesterday.”

“Hermione did a lot more while I was upstairs doing my impression of a hosepipe.” Ginny said, “How’d you do the trellises?”

“Transfigured some bits of bark.” Hermione said absently, eyeing the scarecrow.

“There’s plenty of that about.” Said a voice from behind them.

Hearing Ron’s voice, Hermione couldn’t help that a chill ran up her spine. “Yes, it’s the type of tree. I looked it up in a book I found in the sitting room. It’s called Eucalyptus, colloquially known as Gum Trees.” She prattled.

“Well, we’ve finished sorting out the barn.” Ron said, smiling at Hermione’s ability to know more about wherever they were, regardless of the fact that they’d been there less than 48 hours. “Let’s go for a walk. We’ve been cooped up for days, lets get some air!”

The other three agreed, and they wandered, mostly in silence in the direction of the river. Harry was taking notice of more around him, now that Ginny had mostly patched him up. Without the distraction of pain, he was starting to fret about things, mostly Hogwarts and Teddy, but for the moment he pushed those thoughts down.

They had moved out of the home paddock, and into thicker trees. The forest was beautiful, and peaceful; the refreshing smell of the Eucalyptus trees was invigorating, and seemed to relax them all. No one spoke, there were no feelings that could be simplified into anything as limiting as words, and so they didn’t try. Talking would come later, for now they just enjoyed being together.

After a while they found themselves near the river and Harry, who was beginning to feel the ache in his leg again, slowed down and sat on a fallen tree.

“This looks like a good place to swim in the summer.” He said, looking at the river, which was quite wide and slow.

“What about crocodiles?” Ron wondered aloud.

“I don’t think this is really crocodile country, but I expect we could find a charm to repel them.” Hermione said.

“I’ve got an idea!” Harry cried. Pulling a book and his wand out of his back pocket, he flipped quickly through the pages until he found what he was looking for, and began muttering a spell.

Ginny, Ron, and Hermione watched him confused until they realized that he was transfiguring more of the loose bark into a picnic table.

“There!” Harry said when he had finished the table, and levitated it to a flat spot near the water. “Now it’s really a picnic spot!”

Hermione leaned over Harry’s shoulder and looked at the book he’d been carrying, a transfiguration book. “Harry, can I see that?” She asked.

Harry shrugged and passed it to her, and then began another spell.

“This is a fantastic book Harry!” Hermione exclaimed, trying out a spell that produced an outdoor fireplace.

“I found it in my room. I think one of the Black’s was a big fan of transfiguration, because I’ve got a bookcase with hundreds of books about it.” He said, finishing what turned out to be a shade cabana.

The quartet took turns flipping through the book and trying out spells.

“This loads more useful than learning to turn a mouse into a teacup.” Ron said, as he turned a branch of a tree into a swing over the water.

“Yes, but you had to learn the theory Ronald!” Hermione said, sounding irritated, “Professor McGonagall didn’t teach us to turn mice into teacups because it was particularly useful, but because it taught us the basic structure of the spell.”

“Still, I wonder why we didn’t learn more things like this later on.” Ginny chimed in, “I mean once we had learnt the theory.”

“I dunno.” Harry shrugged, “maybe there’s just too many spells; I mean these were all quite easy to do, but I don’t think I could have figured them out without McGonagall’s practice on mice.”

Harry looked around at the little swimming-hole escape they’d created, when he felt something unusual ripple through him. He shook his head to clear it, and was trying to focus on what it was when Mr. Weasley’s weasel patronus popped into the clearing.

“Carl is on his way to talk to you lot, just a heads up.” Mr. Weasley’s patronus told them.

“He’s coming down the walk.” Harry said, pointing at the empty path.

Sure enough, a few moments later Carl came into view and called out, “Hey you lot, can I have a word?”

The other three looked at Harry, who shrugged and sat down at the new table. Everyone else found places around the clearing, or at the table.

“What’s going on Carl?” Harry asked. “Is this something that we should have the rest of the family here to discuss?”

“You can if you want to, but this mostly concerns you… Mr. Potter.” Carl said, deliberately using Harry’s name.

There was a hushed moment, and then all four had their wands out, pointed at Carl.

“Relax, I’m here on assignment from the Ngalaiya.” He said, setting his wand on the table in a show of good faith, “the Australian branch of the Order of the Phoenix.”

“How long have you known?” Harry asked, directly.

“Since shortly after I left your house yesterday.” Carl said. “Honestly, it didn’t take Ellie long to figure out, she knows all the English pureblood linage. Remember, she was a Prewett.”

Harry seemed unconvinced, but moved the conversation along, “And what does the Order want with me now?”

“Nothing specifically. My only orders from Kingsley are to inform you that we are operating in this area to keep you safe, and recommend that you apply new wards to the property.” Carl said, with a smirk. “Kingsley was quite adamant that you be told exactly what is going on. He seemed to think that you would react poorly to undisclosed observation.”

Ron let out a low whistle and Hermione chimed in quietly, “Well at least Kingsley seems to be learning from Dumbledore’s mistakes.”

Carl looked at Hermione questioningly, but pressed on. “Yes, well… there will only be two agents who know your exact location. The rest of the Ngalaiya only know that you’re in this state, and they are working to protect that information from the Australian ministry and magical society.”

“Who would the agents be?” Ginny asked, not looking forward to once again being under house arrest.
“Well, that’s entirely up to you, but Ellie and I were thinking that we would make the best choice. We’re your neighbors, so being seen on your property won’t come as a surprise to anyone. And as of now we’re really the only ones who know you are here. It would also allow you to go about your lives normally, with help just a patronus away.”

They all exchanged glances, wondering if Carl was trustworthy.

“Tell you what,” Carl said, sensing their tension, “why don’t you discuss it, and let me know.”

He got up and headed back up the path, “work on those wards, cos’ that’s priority one. I can help you with that if you need it, but I’d recommend having someone else set them for your own safety. If I don’t know how to take the wards down, then no amount of coercing will make it happen.”

“I bet he was an Auror.” Ron said, after Carl had gone. “They’re the only one’s I’ve ever heard use the word coerce instead of torture.”

“Think we can trust him?” Hermione asked?

“I think so.” Harry said, lost in thought. “If he was trying to work his way in as a spy, wouldn’t he just offer to set the wards himself? Besides, he was letting me use Legilimens on him the whole time.”

They all considered the new information for a moment, before Ginny chimed in with “I think we should ask Bill about the wards. I’d bet on him knowing some good ones from Egypt.”

“Good idea.” Harry said, getting up and starting to walk back to the house. The others followed him, but only Ginny noticed that he was walking with a slight limp. She made a mental note to check his leg when they got back to the house.

Back in the big house, Harry went up to his room using the excuse of a nap to get away. He thought it was all over, and here was the Order, setting up a protection detail again. While he appreciated Kingsley being straightforward with him, he couldn’t help but wonder why so much was already planned in his absence.

Crossing to the desk, Harry started to write a letter to Teddy, but his mind kept racing. Everything came flooding back; Dumbledore, Snape, Tonks, Remus, Fred… if only he could have ended it sooner. He found himself wishing for physical pain to take his mind off the mental anguish when his eyes came to rest on the letter opener.

It was a sharp metal opener, more like a knife; before Harry knew what he was doing he had drawn a line on his arm and watched the blood spill out. For a moment that was all that he thought of, and then he cut another line.

It would be so easy, He thought, looking at his wrists. I could just end it here. I was meant to die anyway.

But as quickly as the thoughts had come, Ginny popped into his mind. She would be the one who would find him. He couldn’t put her through that; he’d already left her once.

Then his eyes came to rest back on the cuts drawn on his arm. While the pain distracted him from his thoughts, he knew he needed to stop the bleeding.

Harry ducked into the washroom and grabbed a towel, putting pressure on his arm, and slid to the floor feeling stupid for letting things overwhelm him. He knew he needed help, but kept sitting on the floor trying to decide who could really understand.

After a bit he heard a noise at the door, and looked up to see Ginny standing there with a potion in her hand. “So you do fall to bits when no one is looking.” She whispered, coming to sit on the tiles next to him.

Harry flushed Weasley red, embarrassed that she had seen him like this.

“Let’s have a look.” Ginny said, motioning to Harry’s arm.

He hesitated, but knew that the bleeding wouldn’t stop on it’s own, so he moved his arm into her reach.

“What’d you do, fall on something, or catch it in…” Ginny stopped short, seeing the two perfect parallel lines on Harry’s arm. “Harry, what on earth?”

Harry flushed even redder than before, and realizing that the letter opener was still clenched in his hand set it down on the floor in front of them.

“Harry James Potter!” Ginny said, looking furious. “Do you mean to tell me that after dying and choosing, come back, destroying Riddle, ending the war, and letting me fix you up, you just tried to KILL YOURSELF?”

“No.” Harry whispered. “I just didn’t want to think anymore. The pain distracts me”

Ginny fixed him with a hard stare, while she muttered a charm to stop the bleeding.

“I need to go get my kit to fix this up.” She said coolly.

“No, Ginny don’t go!” Harry said, meeting her eyes for the first time, pleading.

“Harry, I need to bandage your arm.” She said, “I’ll be right back I promise.”

Harry sat on the cold tiles, feeling foolish and tired, until he thought of little Teddy and how he’d almost made him an orphan all over again, and he burst into tears. And then Ginny was there, soothing him and fixing his arm, giving him a potion and tucking him into bed.

She waited until she knew he was asleep to run downstairs in search of her father. She was a good healer, but this was way out of her league.

Chapter 6: Worries and Wards
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Ginny found her father sitting at the kitchen table with Bill, Ron, and surprisingly, George. They were discussing potential wards for the property, and Bill was trying to explain a particular ward that would only allow invited individuals past its boundaries when they noticed Ginny was in the room.

“If you’re looking for mum or Hermione they went over to Bill’s to help Fleur with som...” Ron started, but stopped when he noticed the look on Ginny’s face.

“Ginny, what’s wrong?” Bill said, jumping up and putting an arm around her, guiding her to a seat.

After the emotions of what she’d just seen, Ginny felt the dam break inside her and she burst into tears and only managed to choke out “Harry” and “Blood”.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down sweetie.” Mr. Weasley said, “Take a deep breath. That’s it, now slowly, what’s happened to Harry?”

Ginny exhaled slowly and whispered, “I think he just tried to commit suicide.”

The variety of reactions at the table was a surprise to Ginny. George went white as a sheet, and started shaking like a leaf. Ron jumped up, knocking over his chair in the process, and started to run up the stairs to his friends aid, but he was stopped by Bill. Ginny was the most surprised by her father and Bill’s reactions.

“Is he ok? Is he alone?” Mr. Weasley asked glancing at Bill who, after getting Ron to sit back down, strode over to the fireplace and tossed in some flu powder and with a shout, disappeared into Kingsley’s office.

“He’s, he’s fine. I found him when I went to check on his leg. I gave him a sleeping draught before I left him.” Ginny said, pressing her palms to the table to keep her hands from shaking.

“Good idea.” Mr. Weasley said, patting his daughters hand to reassure her.

“Hold on, dad, why’d Bill go to Kingsley’s?” Ron asked, in a half shout. “Ginny, what happened?”

Ginny was about to explain when the fire flamed up and in burst Bill, followed quickly by Kingsley and Madame Pomfrey.

“Is he stable?” Madame Pomfrey asked Ginny, who nodded. “Do I need to go have a look?”

“No, I didn’t leave until I’d patched him up and given him a sleeping draught.” Ginny said, her voice returning to normal.

“Well done. Very clear headed of you.” Madame Pomfrey said, coming around the table and giving Ginny a hug.

“Oh Poppy, it was awful! I haven’t seen that much blood since...” Ginny said, and then stopped. “Well, in a while.”

“I know dear, now what happened?” Madame Pomfrey asked.

“Well, I was coming in to take a look at his leg. It was broken, and not quite mended. I knocked on the door and he didn’t answer, but I heard him crying so I let myself in anyway. I found him sitting on the bathroom floor. At that point I thought he’d just cut himself, because he was trying to stop the bleeding.”

Ginny paused, and took a sip of a glass of water that someone had put in front of her. She explained about realizing the cuts were too straight to be an accident, questioning Harry, and him dropping the letter opener. She recounted his pleading eyes when she’d got up to get her kit, and the state she’d found him in when she returned.

“What did he say?” Bill asked. “When you questioned him about the cuts?”

“Um, he said that he wanted a distraction.” Ginny said. “That the pain distracted him. He denied trying to kill himself.”

“And he was trying to stop the bleeding?” Kingsley asked.

“Yes, he’d wrapped a towel around his arm.” Ginny said, mechanically.

There was a pause, no one quite knew what to say, and then Bill spoke up, “Well, it’s better than we’d hoped, if he tried to stop himself.”

“What, you mean you were expecting this?” Ron demanded.

“I thought I recognized the signs in him before you left Hogwarts.” Admitted Madame Pomfrey.

“And you didn’t think to mention it to his best friends?” Ron was shouting now, “We know him better than anyone else, if you’d told us what to look for we could have stopped this from happening!”

“Well, to be honest, I hoped I was wrong.” Madame Pomfrey said calmly, unfazed by Ron’s outburst. “I told your father about my concerns as a precaution.”

“Well thats just great. Everyone talking about Harry behind his back again. That’ll improve his mood.” Ron snapped, as he got up from the table and walked out the door.

Kingsley moved to follow him, but Bill stopped him. “He’s just going to get Hermione. He wants backup.”

“Well we need to talk about this seriously.” Kingsley said. “It’s too soon for the ministry to have any idea how many death eaters are still at large, so I don’t want anyone to know where Harry is or that this has happened. It never leaves this room. Furthermore, I advise getting those wards up soon.”

“I already put up some enchantments.” Came Hermione’s cool voice from the doorway.

“I know you did, but I think something a bit stronger might be advised.” Kingsley said. “Obviously the enchantments you chose are very effective, and your presence here is testament to that, but I think we ought to take it a bit further.”

“With Harry’s permission, of course.” Said Hermione, rather poignantly. “After all this is his land, he’s of age, and if he wants to go stand in front of the ministry building with a sign that says ‘I’m Harry Potter’ hanging around his neck that would be his decision.”

Kingsley sighed and said, “Well, yes but...”

“No.” Hermione cut him off. “What I honestly can’t believe, is that after everything that Dumbledore put Harry and all of us through these past seven years by keeping things from him, you lot can’t even wait a couple of weeks to start doing it again!” Hermione said, in the same cool voice, anger vibrating in her words.

“It ends now.” Ron said, in a harsh tone. “From now on you are all up front with us, and Harry, or we’ll all leave and go somewhere where we’re not being manipulated.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” came Harry’s voice, terrifyingly cold and detached, from the stairs.

Everyone looked up in surprise, not expecting Harry to be awake.

“I’m tired of everyone deciding what’s best for me without the slightest concern for what I might actually want. I’d hoped that was over, but clearly it’s not.” Harry said in a hard voice. “Minister, what are you doing here? Don’t you have a country to repair?” With that, Harry stomped out the door, the expression on his face was rather terrifying.

The tone in which Harry said the word minister conveyed far more than his question, implying that Kingsley was in the same league as Fudge and Scrimgour when it came to meddling in his life.

Kingsley started to follow Harry, but Ron put a rather forceful hand on his arm, pulling him back. “No. We’ll handle Harry, you’ve done enough.”

Kingsley looked at Ron, sizing him up. Gone was the gangly youth with too short robes; in his place stood a man, old beyond his years. “Ron, I think we might need to have a professional sort Harry out.”

“Oh, that’s rich.” Hermione laughed, in a bitter sort of way. “And what professional to you suggest? Is there a specialization in mind healing for dealing with people who’ve been killed to remove a horcrux from their head, come back from the dead, and confronted their parents murderer all in the same night?”

She reached for her coat, “Ron and I will sort out Harry. We’ve been clearing up your messes for seven years, what’s one more. Ginny, are you coming?”

Ginny looked uncertainly from Hermione to Madame Pomfrey. “I think just you two should go, I don’t want to overload him. He’ll listen to you. Bring him back, this lot will be ready to apologize when you get here. Besides, I do need to speak to Poppy about how best to limit the scarring on his arm.”

Ron and Hermione headed out the door in pursuit of Harry.

“Ginny, I thought you said you gave him a sleeping potion!” Arthur exclaimed, rubbing his temples.

“I DID!” Shouted Ginny, “I have no idea how he’s possibly awake? I gave him enough to make him sleep for hours! I watched him drink it! I waited until he was asleep to leave!”

“And you’re positive he was really asleep?” Madame Pomfrey asked.

“Yes.” Ginny said, feeling exasperated. “I checked his eyes and his reflexes. He was dead asleep. Could the potion be faulty?”

“It’s the one I sent with you, right?” Madam Pomfrey asked.

“Yes, I was running low but I still hadn’t brewed any.” Ginny replied.

“I wonder if his body rejected it.” Bill said. “I’ve seen it happen before.”

“Well, that would be a bigger concern than him not sleeping.” Madame Pomfrey said. “That would mean that he’s more powerful than most wizards, by a large degree.”

Hermione and Ron didn’t have to search very long before they found Harry. He hadn’t gone far, just climbed the fence outside the home paddock. He was sitting on a tree trunk, one that had started to grow oddly parallel to the ground. As they approached, they noticed that Harry was transfiguring again, changing a bit of bark into different odd things and back again. No one spoke, Hermione and Ron sat down on either side of Harry.

After a few minutes silence, Harry spoke up, “Thanks for sticking up for me.”

“Harry, we’re your family. What happens to you affects us all, we’re not going to let them play with your life any more.” Hermione said quietly.

“What’s this then?” Ron asked, motioning to the dressing on Harry’s arm.

Harry sighed, “I don’t know. Temporary insanity. I felt like an idiot as soon as I’d done it, but at that point it was out of my control. I was trying to stop the bleeding when Ginny walked in.”

They sat in silence for a few more minutes before Hermione asked, “So you didn’t plan to do it?”

“Merlin, no! Hermione, if I wanted to die I wouldn’t have come back at all. I had the choice to move on.”

“That’s why we were all bit surprised.” Ron admitted.

“I can’t believe Ginny told everyone.” Harry said, angrily. “I explained what happened.”

Hermione braced herself for one of Harry’s explosions, “Harry she’s just concerned about you! She wants to help!”

“And, mate she only told dad, she was asking him what to do. It was Bill that fetched the others.” Ron explained.

“Still, she tried to drug me to keep me knocked out until they could all decide what to do with me!” Harry was furious now. “If they were all waiting for this why didn’t they just lock me up or something!” His hand flew to his forehead, absentmindedly rubbing his scar.

“Harry, I’m impressed.” Hermione said suddenly.

“What?” Harry and Ron asked, both looking confused.

“Well, Harry you used to completely lose your temper when you got mad! You’d run away, break things, jinx things!” Hermione explained,” Look at you now, I know you’re really angry, but you’ve hardly even raised your voice!”

Ron nodded thoughtfully, but then to all of their shock, Harry burst into tears.

Through his sobs he choked out a few words, “Sorry... Horcrux... empty... stupid.”

“Shhhhh, don’t talk just let it out.” Hermione said, hugging Harry.

Ron wrapped an arm around his other side, and they held Harry between them until he’d run out of tears.

Harry’s breathing was still a bit off from sobbing, but he tried to explain again, “Now that Riddles bloody horcrux has gone, I feel like there’s a huge hole inside me! I don’t have the same emotions I did before. It’s not as though I miss it, but I don’t understand who I am without it.”

Harry paused, and took a deep breath. “I don’t know how much of me is me, and how much was Riddle.”

The all sat in silence, Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance. They always knew how to deal with their friend in the past, but this was completely new territory.

Just then, there was a crack of a stick to their left, and they all pulled their wands toward the sound.

Coming through the bush, the sound it turned out, was Carl.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to spook you, but Harry did I hear correctly that you were Riddle’s horcrux?” Carl asked, sounding concerned, “Please don’t think I was eavesdropping, but I think I could help you if that’s the case.”

They all looked at Carl in surprise, and then Hermione spoke up, “What do you mean help him, there’s no record of a human being used as a horcrux. Ever!”

“No record thats written down.” the aboriginal man said, with a smirk.

Hermione gaped at Carl, “You mean this has happened in Australia? Why wasn’t it documented? There should be books on the information!”

“Well, I’ve always been of the belief that there shouldn’t be anything printed about horcruxes. Ever.” Carl said with a shrug. “But that’s just me. My people have had to deal with the problem in the past. There is a solution, if you’re interested.”

Harry looked at Carl for a moment, as though sizing him up, and asked “What’s the solution?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly how it works, but my grandmother does.” Carl replied. “The knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. I could take you to meet her if you’d like.”

“I’ll think about it.” Harry said. “Did you need anything?”

“Oh, right. Ellie sent me too see if you lot would like to come round for tea sometime this week?” Carl said.

“That’d be nice.” Harry said with a smile. “We could use your help with tracking down Hermione’s parents, we can discuss it at dinner!”

Hermione smiled at Harry. Some things about him will never change, she thought, he still puts everyone before himself.

“Brilliant! Say, day after tomorrow?” Carl asked, “That’ll give you time to sort out those wards! And Harry, please think about my offer.”

“I will Carl,” Harry replied, still rubbing his scar, “And tell Ellie thanks for the invitation.”

The trio digested what they’d heard for a few moments before Ron spoke up, “Well, what do you want to do about the crowd back in the kitchen?”

“I don’t know. I know they mean well, but I don’t want half the ministry barging into my kitchen every time I get a toothache.” Harry said, fully aware of his over-exaggeration.

“Well, I suggest you lay down some ground rules Harry, this is your house after all. As much as we’re all family here, we’re still your guests.” Hermione suggested.

“Ok, like what?” Harry asked.

“Oh I don’t know, do you even want the floo open to Kingsley’s office? I know we were going to limit who has access, but wouldn’t it make more sense to hook it up through Andromeda’s house?” Hermione pointed out.

“Yeah, mate, that makes sense. After all, the only one who really needs direct access to you is Teddy.” Ron said. “This way you can visit him, and he can visit you, and anyone else has to go through Mrs. Tonks’.”

“Ok. I like that idea. Mrs. Tonks would keep the traffic down if I asked her too.” Harry said, with a pensive look. “And no calling in the Cavalry without permission from one of us three. I know you two will at least try to talk to me before telling the entire Wizarding Population of Great Britain that I thought it would be a good idea to slice up my arm.”

“What’s a cavalry?” Ron asked.

“It’s a Muggle expression Ron, it means to call for backup. Specifically referring to military units on horseback.” Hermione explained.

“But we don’t have any horses.” Ron pointed out.

Hermione sighed, and rolled her eyes.

“It’s just an old saying.” Harry said. “Although, I think I’d like to change the fact that we don’t have any horses.”

“You want to buy a horse mate?” Ron asked, looking confused.

“Well, I’ve been thinking, this is a great old ranch. It should be working.” Harry said, with a shrug. “I don’t have any clue how to get started, I’d have to hire some kind of foreman or something. But it would give me something to do. I can’t just sit here for the rest of my life.”

“But Harry, what about going home? What about seventh year? Becoming an Auror?” Hermione asked, looking slightly panicked. “You can’t stay in Australia forever!”

“Why not?” Harry asked. “It makes the most sense. Clearly I’m a danger to myself, and others. Especially at home.”

Hermione started to object, but Ron cut her off. “Harry mate, if you want to be a farmer, do it. You’ve earned the right to grow tomatoes if that’s what you want to do.”

“Thanks Ron.” Harry said, with a smile.

“No worries.” Ron said, with a smirk. “Besides, we all know you’ll get bored eventually and dig up some more trouble.”

Harry laughed, and then smiled and said, “No Ron, this time I don’t think I will.”

Back in the kitchen, everyone was trying to figure out what to do about Harry, who was clearly more angry than ever about what he thought was meddling.

“Well, this was a big mistake.” Kingsley said, sitting at the table and leaning his head into his hands. “Harry’s never going to trust me again.”

“There’s nothing for it now.” Said Arthur, “We’ll just have to apologize. We really were just trying to keep him from stressing himself.”

“I’m still concerned about the sleeping potion.” Madame Pomfrey said. “With the dose Ginny gave him, he should have slept until morning. If he burned if off that quickly, he should be tested for power levels!”

“Well, we’ll get to that.” Kingsley said with a sigh. “I’m going to have the connection to my office cut off from Harry’s floo. It’s dangerous to have it in the first place.”

“You’re right.” Bill said, “but we need a floo connection to something, we’re sitting ducks otherwise.”

“Mrs. Tonks’ house.” Ron said, as the group jumped at the unexpected reappearance of the trio.

Bill regained his composure and started to argue, “Ron, I’m not sure...”

“No,” Harry slammed his fist on the table and said, with almost no emotion in his voice. “It’s already been decided. I’m cutting off all floo connections except the one to Andromeda’s house because my Godson is the only one with a right to access my house. For everyone else, except possibly Ron and Hermione, its a privilege.”

Kingsley looked worried, “Harry...”

“No, it’s time for you to listen. All of you.” Harry said, his voice rising, but only slightly. “As Ron and Hermione so helpfully pointed out to me a few minutes ago, this is my house. Now I’m happy to have all of you here, especially if it keeps you safe, but I will not tolerate anyone trying to control me. There will be no summoning of anyone to my house without my permission, or in the event that I’m incapacitated or make another foolish mistake like this afternoon, Ron or Hermione’s. End of discussion.”

There was a pregnant pause at the table, as the rest of the group tried to understand this new deadly calm Harry.

“Now, Bill, what do you recommend for the wards on this place?” Harry asked.

The discussion shifted to wards, pros and cons of each, and it was finally decided that a combination of several charms would be used.

“Basically, there’s a source potion, and only those who have had a signature entered into the source potion can pass the wards.” Bill was explaining. “That would even allow muggles in with no knowledge of the wards if necessary.”

“And what if we needed to remove someones access?” Hermione asked. “A workman or something?”

“You just remove their signature.” Bill explained. “Plus, I would recommend additional enchantments around the source potion as well.”

“And what happens to trespassers?” Harry asked.

“Well, that’s basically up to you. We could set a stunner, a disarming spell, a jinx; we could basically set any spell to be present within the wards dimensions.” Bill said.

“Such as Petrificus Totalis?” Hermione wondered, “Combined with Expelliarmus it would be very effective.”

“Sure.” Bill said, taking notes on a bit of parchment. “And we’d better add an alarm as well.”

“What about Aveda Kedavra?” Harry asked bluntly.

There was an audible intake of breath as everyone looked up at Harry in shock.

“Harry, surely you don’t want to use an Unforgivable?” Molly cut it quietly.

“Not every day, but I want the option.” Harry said coldly. “If the good guys would use stronger curses there might be more of us left to protect.”

After a long pause, Bill cleared his throat, “I’ll set the ward to allow for modifications to the defense. That way you could adjust it if needed.”

“Do it.” Harry said. “What do you need from me?”

“Nothing for the moment, how far out do you want to extend the wards?” Bill asked, gesturing to a map of the property that Kreacher had produced.

“Go right up to the boundary fence. And add a Muggle repelling charm. We don’t want an unfortunate accident.” Harry said.

“Ok, I’ll start with the wards, I’ll need you and Hermione for the potion later.” Bill said, getting up to leave. “Get that looked at.”

Harry looked down at his bandaged arm, which had started to bleed again. Ginny got up to check it, but Harry put up his good hand and stopped her.

“I’d rather Madame Pomfrey looked at it. I know she’s going to tell me what potion I’m drinking.” He said, and walked into the office.

Madame Pomfrey glanced at Ginny who looked as though she’d been slapped, “I’ll try and get him to see logic.” she said following Harry.

Ginny nodded, numbly, and then after a moment, ran out of the house.

Chapter 7: Taming the Cruciatis
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Harry felt a bit bad for snapping at Ginny, but he wasn’t feeling like himself, and he didn’t like that she’d tried to slip him a sleeping potion. She was only trying to help. His subconscious argued with him.

Harry looked up as Madame Pomfrey slipped into the room, and set her kit on the desk.

“Let’s have a look then, Mr. Potter.” She said, pulling out her wand.

“It’s just the old cut split open.” Harry mumbled, setting his arm on the desk where she could see it.

If Poppy Pomfrey hadn’t been a healer for years, she would have gasped at the sight of the young mans arm. The cuts were deep, and had Miss Weasley not found him when she had, he probably would have passed out and succumbed to blood loss.

“Miss Weasley seems to have done a good job, the wounds are clean, she just didn’t have the proper potion to knit up a cut this deep. Wand work can only go so far.” She said, drawing a potion out of her kit.

“What is it?” Harry asked.

“Just a regrowth potion.” Madame Pomfrey said, “A bit like Skelegrow, but for muscle tissue. You don’t have to drink this one, though it may sting a bit.”

Harry hissed, but didn’t move as she poured the potion into his arm. After a few moments, he saw his skin smooth over until the only remaining traces of the cuts were thin white scars.

Madame Pomfrey then wrapped his arm tightly in a cloth bandage, and pinned it into place. “You need to keep it wrapped for about a week, it’s healed mostly on the surface. If you knock it about it could open back up.”

Harry mumbled his agreement, and gave her a dirty look when she passed him a sling for his arm.

“Three days, then you can be rid of it.” She said, “It’s just meant to slow you down and stop you trying to use that hand.”

Harry nodded and slipped his arm into the sling. He had to admit, it did feel better that way.

“Now.” Madame Pomfrey said, “Let’s sort out what’s going on with you.”

Harry started to object, but Poppy silenced him with a raise of her hand. “I just want to know what you were thinking when you did this.”

“I wasn’t really thinking anything.” Harry sighed. “It just kind of happened.”

“And you tried to stop the bleeding once you realized what you’d done?” She asked.

“Yeah, I felt like an idiot.” Harry admitted, eyes on the floor. “I was so embarrassed when Ginny found me.”

“Very good Mr. Potter.” Madame Pomfrey said, as Harry’s surprised face popped up to meet her gaze.

“Beg pardon?” He asked, completely confused.

“Well that shows that you just had a moment of weakness, brought on by depression.” Poppy explained. “Obviously it’s not something you should repeat, we need to find you a better outlet for your emotions, but you weren’t trying to kill yourself.”

“No! I really wasn’t!” Harry cried, relieved that someone truly believed him. “It’s just, I didn’t realize how much the pain was distracting me from my own thoughts.”

“Well, what else helps distract you?” Poppy asked.

“Transfiguration.” Harry admitted. “I found some books that have different spells in them.”

“Yes, that’s a good outlet. And a useful one too, if you want it to be.” Madame Pomfrey smiled. “You need to talk to someone too. I’m sure your friends would listen.”

“They all have so much to deal with on their own, I don’t want to stress them more.” Harry mumbled.

“Well you know you can always come talk to me if you need to.” Poppy smiled. “Ordinarily I’d recommend a mind healer, but you Mr. Potter, are a special case. I don’t think there’s a mind healer on the planet who would truly know what to do with you, and the last thing you need is someone mucking about in your head who doesn't really know what they’re doing.”

Harry laughed slightly. “Thanks.”

“Now Mr. Potter, let’s talk about my real concern.” Poppy said, picking up her wand again. “How did you wake up from that potion?

Ginny ran through the fields, straying as far as she dared from the house. She came to a stop next to a gate, but rather than opening it, she climbed it and sat on the wide beam that held it up. She was so confused. She’d waited a long time for Harry to come home, but the man who returned wasn’t the boy she remembered.

You’ve changed too though. She thought, absentmindedly running her hand down the scar on her neck. You know you’re not the same person you were before. You’ve seen too much. She thought of Neville and their midnight raids at Hogwarts. Done too much.

Ginny wasn’t sure how long she sat there, but twilight was creeping up on the paddock she was watching when Hermione climbed up on the fence and joined her.

The two girls just sat there, watching the grass wave in the wind. A few kangaroos came out of the trees to graze in the field.

“Hermione, what happened to you out there?” Ginny asked. “I mean, Harry told us about the battle and the horcruxes, but what about everything else?”

Hermione sighed. “No more than happened to anyone else. Running, hiding, fighting.” She twitched and nearly fell off the fence, righting herself with her right hand, but continuing to shake.

“Right. You just did a big flinch because of fighting.” Ginny said, “No, I went through the battle same as you. I’ve been watching you Hermione, you were tortured weren’t you? Someone used crucio on you.”

At the word crucio Hermione did fall off the fence. She stumbled and fell into a patch of grass spooking the kangaroos. She watched as they hopped away and then whispered, “How’d you know?”

“The cruciatis curse was a favorite of the Carrows’ before they found more... visible methods of torture.” Ginny explained, hopping off the fence and showing Hermione the scars on her arms. “No one wanted to complain, but eventually you could just tell who’d gotten the worst of it. A person can only take so much before they begin to shut down.” 

Hermione shivered, pushing the memories of Malfoy Manor out of her mind. “It sounds as though you had it a lot worse than we did.” She said.

“Well I suppose it depends on how you look at it.” Ginny said. “Yes, there was a lot of torture going on at Hogwarts, but that was spread across hundreds of students. And we had safety in numbers. I only got hit with the crucio twice, and it was only for short bits of time.”

Hermione was visibly shaking at this point, her limbs seemed beyond her control. “I only ever got it that one time.” She pointed out.

“Sure, but for how long? And who was doing it?” Ginny asked, “That makes a big difference. I think the Carrows’ were really a bit inept at magic. I think that’s why they switched to muggle types of torture.”

Hermione whispered something and looked at the ground.

“Pardon?” Ginny asked gently.

“It was Bellatrix.” Hermione said again.

Ginny looked horrified, taking Hermione’s head in her hands and forcing her to look her in the eye. “How long?”

“I’m not sure.” Hermione whispered.

Ginny cursed and picked up her wand. “Raise your arms.” She said.

Hermione was surprised by the request, but held her shaking arms out for Ginny, who muttered an incantation and moved her wand over them. The wand glowed green and Ginny cursed again.

“Put your legs out.” She said, pushing Hermione’s knees down, and waving her wand about again, again the wand glowed green.

“Bloody hell” Ginny said, on the verge of panic as she scrambled around behind Hermione and tested her back, the wand glowed a blue-green this time and Ginny muttered “Thank Merlin”.

Hermione was confused as Ginny started barking orders at her.

“Lie down flat.” Ginny demanded, conjuring a stretcher and hovering Hermione onto it. “Keep still.”

Ginny hovered the stretcher up so she could stand and then began testing Hermione’s whole body with the same charm. When she finished she started hovering Hermione towards the house.

Hermione started to argue and try to sit up, but Ginny petrified her from the neck down so she couldn’t move. “Can you still feel pain from the curse?”

“No.” Hermione said, not telling the whole truth.

“Fine, and when did you lose the feeling in your limbs?” Ginny asked, quickening her pace.

Hermione’s face went white, “I didn’t lose all feeling, just a bit.”

“When?” Ginny demanded.

“Before we left Hogwarts.” Hermione admitted. “But the Cruciatis works in the mind. It couldn’t be doing real damage?”

“Oh it’s doing real damage all right.” Ginny said, now practically at a run. “The brain is the most important part of the body, and it will defend itself if needed. Right now your brain is cutting off connection to your nerves in an attempt to protect itself.”

Hermione’s eyes bugged out and tears began to flow.

The reached the house and Ginny started screaming for help, George was the first to hear her and came running out the kitchen door with a bang. “What is it?! What’s wrong?” He cried, helping move the stretcher into the kitchen.

“Is Poppy still here?” Ginny asked, in a eerily calm voice.

“No, she left after she patched up Harry.” George said.

“Fetch my kit, and mum, then go and fetch Madame Pomfrey and Neville if you can find him.” Ginny said, in the same calm voice.

Hermione was crying harder now, turning her head about trying to see what was going on. “Where’s Ron?” She sobbed.

“Hermione, I need you to be calm. I will get Ron as soon as I can, but right now I have to fix you up.” Ginny said.

George banged back into the room, tossing Ginny’s healer kit on the table next to Hermione, and sprinting out the door again.

Ginny rummaged through the bag until she found a potion and turned to Hermione. “I need to put you to sleep, it’s the only way your mind will be pliable enough for us to reverse this. Okay?”

At Hermione’s nod, Ginny tipped her head up, and helped her swallow the potion with a charm. After she was sure Hermione was asleep, Ginny removed the body bind and Hermione’s arms relaxed onto the stretcher. She began muttering charms and testing various points on Hermione’s appendages.

After a few minutes Molly Weasley came hurrying into the house the way George had gone. “Merlin, what’s happened?” She cried, fumbling her wand out of her apron pocket.

“Cruciatis Poisoning.” Ginny said, and continued her incantations. “Do you know the charms?”

Molly shook her head, “No, I never learned those. Stupid of me after what happened to the Longbottom’s. How bad is she?”

“Bad.” Ginny said, muttering another charm. “She’s going to start having paralyzation soon, she’s already lost the feeling in her limbs.”

Molly surveyed the scene in front of her and realized, not for the first time in the past year that her daughter had become a very different person. Ginny was doing the difficult healers incantations with a practiced hand, which made her wonder just how much she didn’t know about her daughter’s time at Hogwarts the past year.

“How can I help?”

“Keep everyone away from me so I can work. George is getting Poppy.” Ginny replied.

As if on cue, Harry and Ron came pounding into the kitchen.

“Hermione!” Ron shrieked, running to Hermione’s side.

Molly put both hands on her son and bodily pushed him back from the table. “Ron, you need to let Ginny help her. Back up. Help me Harry!”

Harry stared at Hermione for a moment, his face pale, and then moved to help Mrs. Weasley. After they’d gotten Ron to sit down out of the way, Harry asked, “What happened?”

“Cruciatis Poisoning.” Molly said, her face grim.

“Oh God.” Ron whispered, while Harry asked “What’s that?”.

“It’s what happened to my parents.” Came Neville’s voice, as he emerged from the floo. Madame Pomfrey was hard on his heels, followed by George.

Neville and Poppy joined Ginny, taking up positions on either side of Hermione. The three of them began to work in perfect unison, occasionally saying something like “push it back” or “let it go”.

Ron, Harry, George, and Molly all watched silently. It was nearly an hour before Poppy shrieked, “Clear!” pulling her wand back from Hermione with a crackle.

The spectators, now joined by everyone else in the house, jumped at the exclamation.

“Ok, go Neville.” Ginny said. Neville rested the tip of his wand on the top of Hermione’s head and muttered a charm that made Hermione begin to flail about slightly on the table.

Ginny hovered her wand over Hermione’s twitching arms and legs. “Left leg Neville.” she asked.

Neville changed his spell and Hermione’s body relaxed, save her left leg which twitched slightly every few moments.

“Damn.” Ginny said.

“It’s below the hip.” Neville said. “She could retain use.”

“I’ve seen worse.” Poppy said. “When was she cursed?”

Ginny looked over at Harry and Ron. Ron had tears running down his cheeks. Harry, not quite understanding what was happening said, “a few days before the battle.”

“Well, she’s in bad sorts. We’ve managed to reverse the affects of the curse before they destroyed her nerves, and she’s lucky she wasn’t tortured long enough to be driven into insanity, but the damage was too far gone in her left leg. She could recover naturally, or she could lose the use of it. Only time will tell.” Madame Pomfrey explained, as she packed up her kit.

Ginny sat down hard in a kitchen chair looking pale, Neville came over to check on her asking, “You ok? You did a lot by yourself before we arrived.”

“I’m fine, I’m just tired.” She explained. “I think I’ll just pop upstairs and lie down.”

“I’ll sort Hermione out.” Neville assured, he gave Ginny a hug and she slipped upstairs.

Neville turned back to the rest of the family and said, “We should probably move her off the kitchen table before we wake her up.”

“Right, of course.” Harry said, moving to help with the stretcher.

Before anyone could do anything, Ron cut them off. “I’ll take her upstairs. I should be the one to explain to her anyway. It’s my fault.”

“Ron, it’s not your fault!” Harry cried, “It’s Bellatrix’s fault!”

“No,” Ron said quietly, “I should have been able to stop it.” With that, he lifted Hermione off the table, and carried her up the stairs in his arms.

“Merlin.” Muttered Bill.

“Too bloody right.” George agreed.

“Will someone please explain this to me?” Harry cried, “Because some of us were raised Muggle, and don’t have any bloody idea what Cruciatis Poisoning is!”

Arthur Weasley started to explain, “Well Harry, you’ve been hit with the Cruciatis right?”

Harry nodded.

“Ok, and when the curse stopped, what did you feel?” Arthur continued.

“Relief, I guess.” Harry shrugged, “Tingling when it was Voldemort.”

“Yes, well, that would be an example of a very strong cruciatis. Your mind lingers with the effects, even after the curse has stopped.” Arthur said. “In Hermione’s case, the curse went on so long, it never fully left her mind. Her body started to shut itself down, cutting off her nerve endings to try and stop the pain.”

“But I thought the cruciatis only affected your mind?” Harry said, confused.

“Yes, but eventually the line between real and imaginary begins to blur.” Neville cut in. “If you’re in constant pain, eventually your subconscious mind gives up separating fake pain from real and just tries to stop it all. The effects on Hermione are a few grades short of being driven insane.”

Harry didn’t say anything for a long while, thinking of Neville’s parents and Malfoy Manor and Hermione. Finally he said coldly, “Bellatrix is bloody luck she’s already dead.”

Everyone stared at Harry as the lights in the room dimmed and brightened with his accidental magic.

“You should probably make an appointment to see Carl’s Grandmum.” Came Ron’s voice from the stairs.

“Yeah.” Harry muttered. “Is she awake?”

“Yeah, she wants to see you.” Ron said.

Harry lept to his feet and headed for the stairs.

Ron started back up with him. “She can’t move her leg.” He whispered.

“Shit.” Harry spat. “How’s she taking it?”

“She cried a bit.” Ron said, looking at the stairs as he climbed. “Asked for some books, cos’ she doesn’t understand.”

“Blimey.” Harry muttered.

The reached Hermione and Ginny’s room, Ginny was no where to be seen, but Hermione was sitting on her bed, book propped open on her good knee.

“Oh, Hermione!” Harry said, rushing to give her a hug. “I’m so sorry!”

“Oh, don’t you start that too.” She said, “There isn’t anything either of you could have done. It’s my own fault for not saying something when the pain carried on.”

Harry gave her a sad smile. “Guess we’re just a bunch of martyrs.”

“It’s always going to be like this, isn’t it?” Ron asked, sitting on the bed and taking Hermione’s hand. “We’re never going to just get to be normal. There will always be something.”

The three friends looked at each other and suddenly, inexplicably burst out laughing.

They carried on like that for a few minutes, until with tears streaming down her cheeks, Hermione said, “They’re going to have the lot of us committed.”

“I’m not certain they’d be too far off the mark.” Harry laughed.

“Well, I guess laughing is better than crying.” Ron said, wiping his eyes.

“You two really should have just got into another compartment first year.” Harry said.

“No mate, they were all full, it was fate.” Ron reminded him.

“Besides, if you’ll remember, I wasn’t in your car that day.” Hermione laughed. “And here I am anyway, bloody crippled.”

“Neville said you might get the use of your leg back.” Harry pointed out.

“Yes, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.” Hermione said. “I’m quite certain I’ll be able to walk with crutches though, so that’s something to work with.”

“You think?” Harry asked, hating to think that Hermione might be confined to a wheelchair because she was helping him on the hunt.

“Yes, particularly with a brace on my leg to stabilize it.” Hermione said. “I can still move my quadricep a bit, not lots, but enough I think.”

“Well, we’ll help you!” Ron said, sliding closer to Hermione on the bed.

Harry smiled to himself, thinking he’d leave the two of them alone now that Ron clearly had his courage up. “I’d better go find Bill, he wanted to see me about the wards.”

Harry headed back downstairs feeling overwhelmed. The rest of the family were sitting at the big scrubbed table quietly chatting to Neville, who was the first to notice Harry and asked, “How’s she taking it?”

“Better than the rest of us I think.” Harry shrugged. “You know Hermione, she already had a book open and everything planned out. She reckons she’ll be able to walk with crutches.”

“You’ll have to get them from a muggle medical supply. There isn’t a good Wizarding supplier.” Neville said.

Everyone looked at Neville with curiosity, and Molly asked, “Neville, what happened at Hogwarts last year?”

“What didn’t?” Neville replied grimly, getting up from the table. “It was a war, Mrs. Weasley. It effected us all.”

He walked over to the fireplace, picked up a scoop of floo powder and said to Harry, “I’ll be at Gran’s if you need me. Tell Ginny.” And he slipped into the fire.

The next morning dawned sunny, but with a bit of frost on the window. Harry rolled over, careful not to disturb his bandaged arm to look at the clock. 6:00 am. He considered rolling over and trying to sleep some more, but reconsidered and climbed out of bed. Pulling on some of the clothes he found in the wardrobe, Harry slipped out the door and down the stairs.

When he reached the kitchen, it appeared that he was the only one up.

No surprise. Harry thought. Yesterday was hell.

He moved over to the hearth and lit the fire to begin warming the chilly room. Then he made tea and toast, and sat at the end of the big table listening to the silence.

After a bit the toast was gone and Harry poured another cup of tea before moving out onto the porch. It was cold, but Harry didn’t mind. He slipped his feet into his Wellington boots and made his way to the chairs that were on the porch.

Harry wasn’t sure how long he sat there, but he was startled out of his thoughts by a pair of loud birds with blue wings.
As he watched them flit around the clearing near the house, Harry decided that he really didn’t want to return to England. He would speak to Carl about getting the farm going again.

Harry was thinking of things that he needed to do that day, when he heard the door creak open, and Ginny appeared.

“Sorry,” she said, looking flustered, “I thought it was George out here.”

As she turned to go back into the house, Harry called out, “Ginny wait!”

She paused, and looked at him curiously. “Yes?”

“Ginny, I’m really sorry for what I said yesterday.” Harry said quietly. “I was mad at myself, and I took it out on you.”

Ginny moved closer, and leaned against the porch railing opposite Harry.

“I know you were upset Harry, but think about it from my perspective.” Ginny said. “I found you bleeding on the floor. Harry, there was blood everywhere, and we’ve all got Post Traumatic Stress. I wasn’t in proper shape to help you.”

“I understand Ginny, I really do.” Harry said, looking at the weathered wooden planks of the floor.

They sat in silence for a while, before Harry spoke up, “Ginny, I’m not the same person I was. At Hogwarts I mean.” When we were together.

Ginny looked at Harry, as though considering him, “None of us are Harry, but where does that leave us?”

“I don’t know Ginny.” Harry sighed, he got up and walked a short way down the porch, looking out over the yard. “You know, the whole time we were running around the country, sleeping in that godforsaken tent, the only think that kept me from packing it in was the thought of seeing you again.”

Ginny held her breath, not sure what she was hoping for, “And now?”

“To be perfectly honest,” Harry said, “I hoped we could just pick up where we left off.”

Harry laughed bitterly at himself, “I guess I’m just a fool.”

“I don’t think you’re a fool Harry.” Ginny said. “I do think you need help.”

“Yeah, I know.” Harry said, “Carl knows someone who can help.”

“So what about you and me?” Ginny gently prodded.

“You don’t want to be with a nutter like me.” Harry sighed. “I don’t even understand myself.”

“We’re all nutters.” Ginny said. “Let’s just see what happens. Maybe we can get to know each other again.”

Harry smiled for the first time in the conversation, “Alright.”

Chapter 8: To Market, to Market.
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Later that afternoon, the group was ready to go into the city to look for a Medical Supply store. Carl was going to come with them to show them around a bit, and Mrs. Weasley was going to stay with Hermione

After a short portkey, they landed in what appeared to be a small store room. Righting themselves, everyone followed Carl out the door, which opened into a bustling open-air market.

“Where are we?” Ron asked, spinning in circles slightly to take it all in.

“Welcome to the Queen Victoria Market!” Carl said, “Well, the Wizarding bit of it, anyhow. Our market operates alongside the muggles. You can appearate in, or use one of the portkey stalls.”

Harry was impressed, this area was quite a bit larger than Diagon Ally, and rather than shops, everything was in stalls.

As they followed Carl, they passed stalls with cauldrons, potions ingredients, tall stacks of books, racks of robes, brooms, even owls.

Near the middle of the market, there was a stall that looked a bit more permanent than the rest, with high carved shelves, and a sturdy wooden counter.

“That’s where most of us get our wands.” Carl said, pointing.

Upon closer inspection, they noticed that the tall shelves did in fact contain hundreds of wand shaped boxes.

“Anyone need anything from the magical side of the market??” Carl asked.

Everyone shook their heads. “Righto, on to the Muggle side then.” Carl said, whistling whilst leading them between the aisles.

“Here we go.” Carl pointed to the side of a large building. “Just lean against the wall, you’ll slide right through.

“Platform nine and three quarters, anyone?” Bill said, leaning against the wall and disappearing onto the other side.

They all followed him through, and noticed that they were now in a section of the markets that seemed to sell meats and cheeses. The Muggles didn’t notice the group that slipped into their midst, because of the organized chaos going on around them.

It all smelled a bit strong, not bad, but certainly not a smell you would want in your home. It had the smell of things cooking, spices, fruit. Sellers were yelling prices back and forth, holding up big fish or cuts of lamb.

“This is very efficient!” Mr Weasley exclaimed, excitedly. “You can get utterly everything done in one trip!”

“Yeah, it works for us. The muggles just think there’s a full car park next to the building. The markets been here since 1878, so a lot of the stalls have been left to family; some of these people have worked here for decades. They remember you too, give good service to keep you coming back.” Carl said.

As though on queue, a large fairly hairy man who was stacking cheese behind the glass in his stall shouted, “Hey Carl! What’s this mob you’ve got with you?”

Carl grinned and stepped up to shake the mans hand over the glass. “Some of Ellie’s rellies from England.”

“Pommies, eh? You mob like cheese?” The man asked.

Ginny stepped up and answered, after everyone tripped over themselves a bit. “Yes sir, especially my brother Ron. He’s never met a cheese he didn’t like!”

“Sir? We’re not that fancy down the market Little Lady, name’s Sam.” Sam put his hand out to shake Ginny’s, and everyone else's in turn.

“Here, have a free sample! You won’t find a better cheese in the whole market!” Sam said proudly, doling out hunks of cheese for all.

Carl accepted a bit of cheese, and then said, “I’ve got to pick up some yellow for Ellie on the way back, save some for me?”

“Sure thing, sure thing!” Sam said, picking up a small wheel of cheese and putting it aside. “This mob with us?” He waggled his eyebrows as though he knew a secret.

Carl laughed, “Yeah, they’re some of ours. Mind you keep them out of trouble if you see them around again!”

“No problem.” Sam said, flicking a wand down his sleeve and doubling the size of everyones cheese. “If you’re ever looking for a way back to the other side, just keep your eyes open for me.”

They thanked Sam, and munched on their cheese as they wove their way through the crowds and back outside. There were still more stalls, these with fruits and veg, plus lots of muggle product of all sorts.

Out near the street, the buzz of the market still carried, and street performers added to the noise.

“Righto, there’s a pharmacist and a medical center in Victoria street.” Carl said, leading the way.

They made their way slowly up the street, first trying the pharmacist, and then moving to the medical center.

After a bit of questioning, and a quick befuddling charm, they had the things they needed.

Ginny had the bright idea of getting Hermione some new books to take back with them as well, so they browsed the shops around the market, and then in the market before they found several books on Australia for her.

Stopping back by Sam’s to pick up more cheese, they slipped back into the wizarding side of the market, and port-keyed back to Drovers Haven.

When they arrived back, Molly had lunch nearly on the table, and Hermione was installed near the end, with a book in one hand. Kreacher was fussing over her, trying to get her to accept a cup of tea.

“No Kreacher, I’m fine, thank you!” Hermione said, turning as they came in the door, “Oh, you’re back! Did you find it?”

“Yup.” Ginny said. “It’s going to need to be fitted though. Lunch first?”

“Of course!” Hermione said, strangely cheerful, considering the circumstances.

They all sat down at the table and tucked into lunch, recounting the events of the morning and turning over the cheese to Molly and the books to Hermione.

Hermione gushed over each book, “Brilliant! This is just what I’d needed! I don’t know nearly as much about Australian history as I should!”

After lunch Ron scooped Hermione up and carried her back to her room, with Ginny in their wake carrying the bag with the brace to be fitted.

After a few minutes, Ron appeared back downstairs and went outside to sit on the porch with George and Harry who seemed to be discussing the market as he heard George say, “I’d bet I could make as much out of one of those stalls as in the shop back in Diagon Ally.”

“Sure you could, maybe more as the cost of the stall is probably lower than that of the whole shopfront.” Harry chipped in, nodding to Ron as he sat down.

“What about Wheezes?” Ron asked, pouring himself a cup of tea from the pot on the table between them.

“I think I’m going to let Verity keep overseeing it.” George said. “She’s been doing a brilliant job, and we were planning on expanding and keeping her on as manager anyway. We... I, just hadn’t considered Australia as the next location.”

Ron looked saddened at Georges correction of tenses, but pleased that his brother was talking about the joke shop at all.

“Well you’re welcome here as long as you want mate.” Harry said. “It’d be nice to have the company. Maybe you could even take over the little house after Bill and Fleur move back into Shell Cottage.”

“That sounds brilliant.” George said with a smile. “So what are you going to do with this place anyway?”

Harry smiled too, “Get it working again. I’m going to talk to Carl about getting a manager in here to help start things up. I have no idea what needs to happen, but I want something to do. Something that doesn’t involve Dark Wizards, or the ministry, or even magic really.”

“You’re really gonna stay here mate?” Ron asked.

“Ron, you saw how things were today! I went to the busiest Wizard market in Australia and no one noticed me!” Harry exclaimed, “I couldn’t do that at home before Voldemort, now that he’s gone it’ll just be a hundred times worse.”

The three sat in silence for a few minutes, and then the sounds of Hermione making her way down the stairs interrupted the calm, “Drat! I’m going to fall on my face Ginny! I can’t do this!”

After a moment Ginny responded, “You’re doing brilliantly Hermione! Stairs are hard, and you’re learning to walk all over again. I didn’t expect you to make it out of the room today at all!”

After that there was a crash of Hermione falling down said stairs, and a shriek as she caught Ginny up in her fall.

The boys rushed inside to find the two tangled in a heap at the foot of the stairs, Hermione’s crutches caught between them.

“Are you ok?!” Ron cried, helping Hermione untangle herself, as Harry collected the crutches from the mess and gave Ginny an arm up.

“Nothing bruised but my ego.” Hermione spat, trying to get up.

“Slow down Hermione, remember how I told you to get up?” Ginny said. Taking the crutches from Harry and holding them in position for Hermione, she kept a close eye as Hermione braced herself on her bad leg and her hands, pushing herself up with her good leg.

Hermione reached the crutches and started forward to the couch, where she collapsed with exhaustion. She was mortified that she’d fallen down the stairs, particularly because Ron had been watching.

They’d all gotten injured in the war, but sitting in a heap at the bottom of the stairs unable to get up without help made Hermione feel useless and vulnerable. You survive the whole war only to turn into the damsel in distress at the end, She thought to herself, angrily wiping tears from her eyes before they could spill down her cheeks.

Ron slipped into the seat next to her and put an arm around her shoulders.

“We’re all broken Hermione,” He said, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “We just know what’s broken with you. That’s the first step toward recovery.”

Hermione looked down at the brace on her leg, and back up a Ron, “Who’s going to keep you and Harry out of trouble now?!”

Ron broke into a grin, “Hermione! You’d still be nagging Harry and I if you were on your death bed! I think you have nagged Harry on his!”

Hermione tried to interrupt, but Ron kept going, “You are the craziest, know-it-all, bookworm I’ve ever met! That’s why I love you.”

Hermione stared at Ron, speechless, as he shifted off of the couch and helped her stand.

“Mione, you are the smartest, bravest, most beautiful witch I know. And thats how I know that you’ll overcome this and walk down the aisle at your wedding. That is,” Ron said, slipping onto one knee, “if you’ll marry me?”

Hermione clapped her hands over her mouth and stared down at Ron as the tears started all over again. She tried to speak, but the words caught in her throat, so she gave up and just nodded her head yes, her grin saying everything.

Chapter 9: Houses and Head Cases
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On the other side of the room, Harry and Ginny slipped quickly out onto the porch.

“Did you know about that? Ginny asked.

“I don’t think even Ron knew about it until it happened!” Harry said, with a half smile.

“Mum’s gonna go spare.” George said with a laugh. “She’s had no wedding planning outlet since Bill and Fleur.”

“We need to find the Grangers.” Harry said. “Once Hermione’s engagement high wears off she’s going to realize that her parents aren’t there to share it with her. I should see Carl about a muggle contractor. He would know who to use.”

Ginny nodded, and looked over at Harry appraisingly as he peeked in through the window. He’s always put everyone else ahead of himself. He doesn’t look after his own interests.

It wasn’t a new idea; everyone, particularly Mrs. Weasley had always noticed this tendency of Harry’s. But just at that moment, Ginny realized the extent he took it to. He’s completely avoiding his own problems, and using others to distract from them.

“I’m going to look in on the muggle house and see what it needs.” Harry said, hopping down the porch steps and heading across the yard.

“I’ll come with you.” Ginny called after him, jogging to catch up. “Afterwards we can drop by Carl and Ellie’s.”

Harry gave her an odd look, but didn’t comment and they made their way down he worn dirt path towards the house.

Ginny paid attention to Harry’s movements, making sure he wasn’t limping anymore, but he was walking strongly. After a few meters she stopped watching Harry’s knees and started looking around at the sweet smelling Eucalyptus, drawing her sweater tight as a breeze reminded her that it was still winter here.

After only a few moments, they had reached the cottage. They surveyed the outside, brushing away branches and bits of bark as they came across them. Harry muttering a charm here and there to repair a cracked railing or a bit of peeling paint.

“It’s really in quite good order!” Harry said happily. “We mightn't even need to bring in a repair crew.”

“Well lets check inside. We need to make sure the stove and things work.” Ginny pointed out, opening the front door.

They wandered in checking the furniture and appliances as they moved from room to room.

“They really did seal this house, there’s not even dust on anything.” Ginny said.

“The kitchen is like new!” Harry said, as he switched on the refrigerator and it began to hum. “I think a few spells to bring the colors up to date and we’re all set!”

Ginny watched as he changed the color of the appliances from seventies gold to clean white.

“I wish I had been to Hermione’s house back home.” Harry said, “I’d try to duplicate it.”

Ginny smiled, “Well the main area was pale blue.” She twitched her wand at the wall until it shone a pretty blue with white trim.

Harry’s eyes bugged out at Ginny, who shrugged and said, “I went with Dad and Ron to bring her to the burrow once.”

“Lets see...” Ginny said, scrunching her forehead in thought. “The kitchen was yellow, and there was a checkered cloth on the table.”

She worked her way around the house until all the colors had been changed. Harry had been surprised when Ginny had told him that Hermione’s room had pink walls.

“Well her mum painted it that way when she was little, and then when she got older she felt it went with all her Gryffindor decor,” Ginny explained.

They gave the house another quick once over, and headed back outside.

Harry leaned against the railing on the porch overlooking the river. It was a slow moving river, almost lazy, and quite relaxing to watch. Still, after a few minutes of silence, Ginny saw Harry’s gaze cloud with anxiety.

“Come on, lets get back.” Harry said, “I want to see about some portkeys to use when we get Hermione’s parents.”

“Wrong!” Said Ginny, blocking his way back to the big house.

“Gin, what...” Harry said, before Ginny cut him off with “Nope. Sit.”

Ginny, with her fists on her hips, looked so much like her mother that Harry plonked himself down on a bench immediately.

“Now, you said something about Carl’s grandmother being able to help you, yes?” She said, in a no-nonsense voice.

“Well, yes, he did mention that,” Harry said, looking at the ground. “But there’s just too much to do around here! Hermione’s parents need to be found, we’ve got to work out how to get the ranch working, your dad needs to decide what to do about work, Hermione needs coaching with her crutches...”

Ginny put an hand up, cutting off Harry’s sentence. “Harry James Potter, there are nearly a dozen fully capable witches and wizards living in your house. You have got to learn how to ask people for help. Until you can do that, I’m going to make your decisions for you. The only one of those problems that is even remotely yours is running the farm, and that is not a priority.”

Harry looked at the ground, and didn’t respond.

“Now, when did Carl say you could meet his grandmother?” Ginny asked.

Harry mumbled something, still looking at the ground.

“Harry.” Ginny coaxed.

“He said I could come over any time.” Harry said, only slightly louder.

“Brilliant. Let’s go.” Ginny said, starting up the path before turning and motioning to Harry.

Harry sat on the bench looking at his feet. What if she can’t help me, then I’m right back where I started. At least right now no one knows just how messed up I am.

“I don’t want to Gin, there’s no point.” Harry said quietly.

“Harry, please do it for me.” Ginny said, “If I can’t find you some help, then I’ll have to take you to Saint Mungo’s.”

Harry closed his eyes and nodded. Ginny reached over and took his hand, Harry jumped a bit at her touch but then calmed down and stood to go with her; Ginny’s heart broke at his involuntary reaction. Harry hadn’t been raised with any kind of normal affection. She was quite sure that he had never been hugged until he’d met the Weasley’s. The years of abuse Harry had lived through before starting at Hogwarts was just one more thing he was going to have to work through.



Ginny led the way up the path from the house. “Do you know where to go?” She asked.

Harry nodded, “I can apperate to Carl’s house.”

“I’ll come with you.” Ginny said, taking Harry’s arm.

With a pop, they reappeared outside Carl and Ellie’s house.

Harry was about to try and leave, when Ellie came out the front door with a wide smile on her face. “Hello there!”

“Hi Ellie!” Ginny said. “Is Carl around?”

“He’s out the back, working on the shearing shed.” Ellie replied. “Want me to call him for you?”

“Please!” Ginny said, “Harry’s come to meet his grandmother.”

Ellie’s smile faded and she looked at Harry with concerned eyes, “Oh, of course. I’ll call her as well.” She drew her wand slowly out of her pocket, held it up so Harry could see it, and then sent a patronus off.

They’re all acting as though I’m barking mad. Harry thought. Ellie was afraid of me just then. He resumed looking at his feet.

“Come inside.” Ellie said, “Lets have a cuppa.”

“Oh, thanks!” Ginny said, “That sounds wonderful.” She took Harry by the elbow and led him inside.

They gathered around the sitting room, and Ellie brought out tea and biscuits.

When they each had a cup, Ginny tried to break the awkward silence, “I love your home!”

“Oh thanks!” Ellie said with a smile, “It’s taken rather a long time to get it looking the way I like... most of the furniture is handmade.”

Harry stared into the dregs of his tea and didn’t speak, still mulling over Ellie’s behavior.

“Please don’t misunderstand my actions a few moments ago.” Ellie said, leaning down to try and meet Harry’s eyes. “I’ve been working with refugees for a while now, and I’ve learnt that it’s never a good idea to make sudden moments around any of you.”

Ginny smiled sadly, “yes I suppose that we are all a bit jumpy. I’ve been wondering if my nerves will ever calm.”

“I can’t speak from experience, but I’m sure with enough time you’ll all be feeling much better.” Ellie said.

“Thank you.” Harry said, looking up.

“Pardon?” Ellie said, looking confused.

“Thank you for not trying to sympathize.” Harry said plainly. “For not saying that everything will be ok.”

“Harry, I doubt that there are few people on earth, if any who could truly understand what you are going through right now.” Ellie said, cocking her head to the side as if trying to figure him out.

Just then they heard a door at the back of the house bang open, and Carl came in.

“Ellie! I still have half a plot to deal with, what's the big emer...” Carl stopped short when he saw Harry and Ginny sitting next to Ellie. “Oh hello! Sorry, didn’t mean to be rude, Ellie didn’t mention that you were here!”

“Sorry we popped over uninvited” Ginny said with a smile. “The timing just worked for us.”

Carl smiled and pulled up a chair, “No worries, no worries... gives me an excuse to knock off early today. Is Gran on her way?”

Ellie nodded, passing him a cup.

“We really appreciate your help, don’t we Harry?” Said Ginny.

“Yes, thanks.” Harry mumbled, dropping his gaze to the floor.

“Ginny, would you like to see the rest of the house?” Ellie asked.

“Oh, of course!” Ginny said, taking the excuse to let Harry talk to Carl in private.

When they were gone, Harry looked up at Carl, “So does everyone think I’m crazy?”

“No Harry, they just don’t know what to say.” Carl said, with a sad smile. “I really think my Gran will be able to help you though. I didn’t tell her what the problem was, but ten to one, she’ll spot it right off.”

“Really?” Harry asked, sounding interested. “Is she a Healer?”

“Not specifically, this is just something she’s gifted in.” Said Carl. “this sort of thing used to happen in the old days to my people.”

Just than the door opened and Carl’s grandmother came in, “Well what was so important that it couldn’t wait?” she asked, and then she set eyes on Harry.

“Oh my dear boy I’m so sorry, I should’ve hurried. Carl get out of here! We’ve got a lot of work to do and I want to get as much done today as I can. Go on, out! Out, out, out.” She said, practically shoving Carl out the door and shutting it behind him. She turned back to Harry, “So dear how are you feeling?”

Chapter 10: Wandless Wonder
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 Late that evening, Ginny apparated an exhausted Harry back to Drover’s Haven. Most of the family was out on the porch awaiting their return, and George and Ron hurried to aid Ginny who was struggling to support most of Harry’s weight.


“Harry darling, how are you feeling?” Molly asked, worry creasing her forehead.


Harry just mumbled that he wanted to go to bed, as Ron and George half carried him into the house.


After he was inside, Ginny collapsed on the porch swing. “Well, that was something else!” 


“What happened?” Hermione asked. “You were gone for hours, your patronus only said that you’d gone to meet with Carl’s gran!” 


“Yes, we did.” Ginny said, accepting a cup of tea from Fleur. “It was incredible, she spotted what was wrong with Harry straight off. We never even had to explain it to her. She spent about a quarter of an hour chatting with him, and then put him into some kind of trance. She did a fair bit of chanting, it must have been an aboriginal language, because I didn’t recognize a word of it.” 


Ginny sipped at her tea, and continued. “After ages, she woke Harry back up again, and asked him about some of his other injuries. When she found out I’d been looking after him since the battle, she asked me to come in and talk with her.”


At this point, Ginny began to sound excited, “She’s going to train me how to help her. She says I’m a natural healer; that healers aren’t made, they’re born! I helped for the rest of the night!”


Hermione smiled slightly, “That’s great Ginny, does that mean Harry is cured?”


“No, not yet.” Ginny explained. “There isn’t really a cure, exactly, more like... teaching Harry to find himself in the void. Trilby, Carl’s gran, was pretty appalled that he’d been exposed for so long.”  


Molly looked relieved. “I’m just happy there’s someone that knows how to help him, because I didn’t even know where to begin.” 


Bill nodded, and chimed in “Yes, he just hasn’t been himself since the battle. Obviously we are all dealing with the after effects, but with Harry it seems so much deeper.” 


“Yes, and he won’t be the same person he was before the horcrux was removed.” Ginny explained. “We don’t know how much of his personality was him, and how much was Riddle.”


George grinned. “Well, that explains the temper!”


Ron frowned, “I don’t think so George. He still has a temper, it’s just gotten a longer fuse.” 


The family sat about the porch until it got too cold to stay out, and then slowly dispersed for bed. 


Hermione woke early the next morning. Determined to make it downstairs on her own, she got into her brace and picked up her crutches. She made her way slowly to the door, careful not to wake Ginny. 


She made it down the stairs in once piece, and practiced maneuvering around the sitting room. She was determined to find her parents as soon as possible, and she didn’t want them to have to deal with her learning to walk on top of everything else. It was going to be hard enough explaining the war to them, much less her injury.


Deciding that she should try walking on uneven ground, she made her way outside, and onto the lawn. Hermione didn’t notice Harry sitting on the porch reading. He glanced up and watched Hermione pace back and forth over the grass; she was getting quicker, more confident.


Hermione decided to try walking with one crutch, rather than two. Placing it on her bad side, she leant the other against a tree. She instantly felt much better, having a free had to use her wand. She made her way slowly about the yard, doing fine until she caught her crutch in a rabbit hole and toppled over. 


Harry sprang from his seat, and rushed to help her.


“Oh Harry!” Hermione gasped, as he scooped her up. “Where did you come from?” 


“The porch.” Harry said simply, carrying Hermione over to a chair and carefully setting her down. He retrieved her crutches and lay them down at her feet.


“I was hoping to be a bit faster by the time we found mum and dad.” She mumbled, kicking the crutches with her good foot. 


“Well, I don’t know about faster, but I do have an idea for your brace.” Harry said, picking up his wand. He closed his eyes, did a complicated wand movement, and the brace disappeared. 


“How did you do that?” Hermione yelled, “I’ve tried everything, it simply wont look properly disillusioned!”


“I found it in one of my books, it’s a transfiguration spell.” Harry explained. “It’s transfiguring the brace to match whatever material is underneath it.”


Hermione twisted this way and that trying to spot a gap in the spell. “It’s perfect! What is the spell? You did it non-verbally!” 


Harry’s face scrunched up a bit, “Yeah, I... I haven’t been able to do it verbally.” He looked at the ground. “Actually, I haven’t been able to do a verbal spell all morning.” 


Hermione glanced at him. “What do you mean?”


“Normal spells, things like accio, I can only do them properly non-verbally.” Harry explained. “And look...” He set his wand down and raised his hand up palm out; with a twitch of his wrist, the book that had been sitting on the railing flew into his hand.


Hermione didn't speak for a moment, and then asked quietly "Harry, can you do any other spells without a wand?"


Harry twitched his wrist again and the book floated up over their heads. He let it drop down to the table, and transfigured it into a bouquet of flowers, which he then summoned a vase for and filled it with what appeared to be the aquamenti charm, but Hermione couldn't be sure because he didn't say a word. 


"Harry, how long have you been able to control your wandless magic?" Hermione asked, her voice misleadingly calm.


"I'm not really sure." Harry said.


"Harry, that's... that's really unusual." She stammered, "You know I did a paper on wand less magic for McGonagall for extra credit fifth year." 


Harry chuckled. "What would you possibly have needed extra credit for?"


"Well it never hurts to be prepared!" Hermione sniffed. "But seriously Harry, do you know how rare that is?"


Harry shook his head. "Speaking parsel tongue is unusual and I can do that."


"Yes, but that's just uncommon." Hermione explained. "There's hundreds of people who can speak parsel tongue. There's been three on record wandless wizards in the written history of our kind." 


"No, that doesn't make sense! Kids do wandless magic all the time!" Harry countered.


"Yes! Uncontrolled, unintentional magic. But to be able to control it like you can! That's one in a billion Harry." Hermione whispered. "You shouldn't let anyone see you doing that. Two of the three people were taken into custody by the Department of Mysteries. They weren't seen again."  


“What happened to them?” Harry asked quietly. 


“Nobody knows.” Hermione said. “They were both born hundreds years ago. Logically, I assume they both died there. The Department of Mysteries wanted to study them.”


Harry considered this for several moments, before asking, “Well what happened to the third one?”


“He was around before the Department of Mysteries existed.” Hermione explained. “It was Godric Gryffindor, Harry.” 


Harry looked at the ground and then picked up his wand, twirling it between his fingers he grinned. “Well, at least it wasn’t Slytherin! People would start up with the ‘Slytherin’s heir’ rubbish all over!”


Hermione smiled at him. “I’ll do some more research.” 


“There’s nothing for it Hermione.” Harry said, with a sad smile. “I just won’t do it in public.”


Hermione nodded thoughtfully, “Perhaps Carl’s gran might know more.” 


But Harry didn’t want to discuss it any more. He was tired of always being different. “Come on, let’s get you down to one crutch. That way, when we find your parents it will be less obvious!”


They practiced for the rest of the morning until Hermione was comfortable with a single crutch on flat surfaces. 

Chapter 11: Wilkins for Hire
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The occupants of Drover’s Haven settled into a rhythm, and the weeks passed by quickly. Harry was spending increasing amounts of time with Trilby, and his old personality was slowly resurfacing. All but his temper, which seemed to be almost entirely Riddle’s personality infecting him. Instead, his housemates found themselves living with a quiet and thoughtful Harry, who seldom jumped to any conclusion and could often be found mediating arguments between his friends. Mrs. Weasley said he’d begun to act much more like his mother.

Hermione had become comfortable with her brace, and was now walking with a single crutch wherever she went. She spent a great deal of time on the internet, which Harry had connected to the muggle house, searching for her parents; as well as doing physical therapy with Neville and Ginny.

Ron tried to help Hermione with the search for her parents wherever possible, but more often than not he got banished from the room for disturbing Hermione’s computer.

“I just don’t understand it.” Hermione said, dropping her head in her hands. “I’ve looked for them in every logical place! The board of dentistry, the Australian dental association, I’ve even checked dentistry forums looking for anything about them! It's been months, I'm never going to find them”

Ron rubbed slow circles on Hermione’s back as he thought about the situation. Then something occurred to him; “Hermione, what if they’re not dentists?”

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, "of course they're dentists!"

Ron pointed at the screen, "but what if they couldn't find work as dentists when they arrived? Or wanted to try something new?"

"Well, dad did always talk about starting a farm." Hermione said. "He was going to do it after he retired."

"Well, let's check there then." Ron said. “Search for farms with the name Wilkins.”

“I suppose it couldn’t hurt.” Hermione said, doubtfully keying in the search terms. They waited as the results loaded; most were just bogus pages and advertisements, but midway down the page they saw a want ad.

“Wendell Wilkins, skilled ranch foreman,
available for immediate hire for the
coming planting season. Call or write
to inquire.”

“Ron! You’ve done it!” Hermione cried, throwing her arms around Ron. She quickly printed the advert, and grabbed up her crutch. She hurried back to the big house with Ron trailing behind her muttering something about Hermione forgetting she was meant to be an invalid.

“Harry! Harry, come quickly!” Hermione called into the house. “Everyone! Look!”

Harry came crashing down the stairs, the transfiguration book he’d been reading still in one hand, his wand in the other. “What is it Hermione, are you alright?

Hermione thrust the printout into his hand as she panted to catch her breath. Harry read the advert over and a smile broke out onto his face. “You’ve found them!”

“It was Ron’s idea!” Hermione gushed, “He’s the one who suggested they might not be working as dentists after they moved!”

Ron turned as red as a beet, and scuffed his toes. “It was just a suggestion ‘Mione.”

“It was a brilliant suggestion!” She said, hooking her elbow around his neck and pulling him down for a kiss. She started to stumble on her bad leg, when Ron caught her, lifted her up, and spun her around the kitchen.

The next thing anybody knew, they were all dancing in circles around the scrubbed kitchen table. Ron was spinning Hermione, whose feet weren’t even touching the floor. Molly and Arthur were doing some sort of waltz that had them crashing into chairs more often than not. Fleur was leading a conga line of her, Ginny, George, Percy, and Harry around the room. All while Charlie and Bill sang some sort of sea shanty: “Got a Whale of a Tale to Tell Ya Lads, a Whale of a Tale or Two!”

After a few more turns around the kitchen, Ron got dizzy and put Hermione down. They were both laughing and smiling, when Ron said, “You know, I think that’s the first time I’ve really just forgotten it all, and had a bit of real fun!”

“Too right.” Harry said, sitting next to Hermione and once again perusing the avert that she had printed out. “You know, this could actually really work out in everyones favor.”

“How do you mean, Harry?” Mione asked.

“Well, you all know that I want to turn this back into a working property, with crops and animals, the works!” Harry was starting to get excited. “Hermione, your parents could be the caretakers. Your father seems to be looking for work as a foreman anyway!”

“Well, he did always want to start a farm.” Hermione said thoughtfully.

“We had planned on bringing them back here anyway, and this is the perfect reason!” Harry said, jumping up. “I’ll ask him to come interview, that way they’ll come right to us!”

“But Harry,” Hermione said, catching his arm. “They mightn't want to stay in Australia after they’ve had their memories put right.”

“Well then we’re no worse off.” Harry said. “It’s not as though I’d be turning out an existing foreman.”

“Come on Harry, I’ll help you make the arrangements.” Bill suggested, and they went to lock themselves in Harry’s office.

Hermione began excitedly chatting with Ginny and Mrs. Weasley about everything they still needed to get to make the house ready for her parents arrival, and she didn’t see Ron slip outside onto the porch.

He leaned against the railing, looking out over the yard. He was suddenly quite worried. He’d proposed to Hermione on a whim, and while he wasn’t giving it a second thought, he did regret that he hadn’t done things properly: gotten a ring and spoken to her parents. What if her parent’s didn’t like him; he’d only met them briefly.

Mr. Weasley came out onto the porch, sensing something was troubling his youngest son. He didn’t say anything, just handed Ron a butter beer and leaned against the rail next to him.

“Do Muggles ask a girls parent’s for permission before preposing?” Ron asked, after a long silence had passed. “I mean, I know it’s a Wizarding tradition, but do Muggles do the same thing?”

“Well I think, perhaps, it depends on the Muggle.” Arthur said. “Not all Wizards follow that tradition; it’s more of a pure blood idea.”

Ron looked at the ground. “I didn’t even get her a proper ring.”

“Well, I don’t think she said yes to get a ring Ronniekins.” Came the voice of George from the doorway.

“True, but I don’t even have any Galleons to get her a ring.” Ron fell back into a chair, and put his head in his hands. “And she deserves a nice one. If I can’t even get her a ring, how am I going to take care of her!”

“Whoa, slow down there little brother.” George said, with a grin. “Hermione’s about the last witch in the world who would care about either of those things.”

“Besides, there’s a family ring for you to give her.” Arthur said. “If you want it.”

Ron’s head shot up. “What do you mean, like an heirloom? But the Weasley’s don’t have any heirlooms!”

Mr. Weasley laughed, “We don’t have any valuable heirlooms. We do, however, have a long line of big families and the wedding bands that went along with them.”

“Well that would be perfect!” Ron said, getting excited. “I’d love to give her a ring that’s been in the family. I thought only purebloods had family rings!”

“Ron, we are pureblood you git.” George said, “We just don’t let it affect whose hand we put a family ring on. It’s good you’re mixing it up though; you’re a clear example of what happens when bloodlines get too close!”

George dashed out of the way of the jinx Ron aimed at him, and ducked back into the house calling “I know you have webbed toes, I’ve seen them!” as he went.

“What was that about?” Bill asked, as he and Harry joined them on the porch. “Or do I want to know?”

“Just George being a git.” Ron laughed. “To be honest, I’m so glad to see him joking around that I really can’t be too mad at him.”

“Bill, can you have something sent from Gringotts?” Mr. Weasley asked.

"Sure, I'd just need to go down to La Trobe Bank and fill in the right form. The goblins there work with closely with the goblins at Gringotts, so it's shouldn't take much." Bill said.

"Er, about Gringotts," Harry said, starting to ask if there would be consequences for their escapade before the battle.

Bill cut him off, "We've taken care of that for you Harry."

"Taken care of it, how?" Ron asked.

"Well, I spoke to my boss to take a leave of absence when we came out here, and I explained that the break in was necessary to take care of Riddle." Bill explained, "I apologized on behalf of you three, and we came to the agreement that they would forget the matter if you replaced their dragon."

"So I need to get them a dragon?" Harry asked, still confused.

"It's already done." Mr. Weasley said, "Charlie arranged it."

"He... he did?" Harry stuttered, wondering what such an arrangement had cost his friend.

"Actually, Harry... we got the better end of the deal." Said Charlie, whom Harry noticed had been sitting at the other end of the porch. He got up and walked the length of the wooden decking, sitting on the step. "We gave them your bloody Horntail."

"My Horntail?" Harry asked, "From the tournament?"

"Yes, they're actually quite pleased to have it." Bill explained. "It's got a certain prestige, since it was used in the tournament."

"And that ruddy Horntail was nasty; had to be kept away from all the other dragons at the sanctuary." Charlie explained. "Everyone was quite glad to be rid of her."

"So, that's it?" Ron asked, "You give them a dragon, and they just walk away from the only break in they've ever had?"

"It's not the only break in." Bill said.

"Right, remember first year?" Harry pointed out.

"Oh yeah." Ron said. "But surely they'd be more mad than that?"

"Well, most people have forgotten about the break in, what with the following battle." Bill explained.

"Plus, a lot of people clearly remember Bellatrix visiting the bank that day, so the few people who were there assume that the break in was somehow her doing." Mr. Weasley explained. "Using polyjuice was quite smart in that way."

"Well, that's a load off my mind." Harry said. "I was wondering what I was going to do for cash to get this place started. I have a bit left in my vault at Gringotts, but I figured I wouldn't be able to get to it."

Bill snorted. "Right, a bit left."

"Yeah," Harry said, confused. "By now I've used most of it up for school. There's enough left for seventh year, but as I never took seventh year..."

"Harry, you've not visited the bank since you turned 17, have you?" Charlie asked. "I mean, other than the obvious break in attempt.

"Hey, it wasn't an attempt, we succeeded, thanks very much!" Harry said, in mock anger.

"Blimey, you really don't know do you?" Ron asked, looking agog.

"Know what, Ron... I'm completely lost." Harry scrunched up his forehead, "Why would my turning 17 have anything to do with Gringotts?"

"It means you are old enough to claim your full inheritance from your parents." Bill explained, "Old enough to gain access to your family vault."

"But I already have access to my family vault." Harry pointed out. "Dumbledore gave me the key in first year!"

"Harry, man, I thought you knew?" Ron said again, "The Potters are one of the oldest Pure Blood lines. You're descended from the Peverell's themselves!"

"Okay." Harry said, missing the point.

"Your inheritance will be a great deal more than your school vault." Mr. Weasley pointed out.

Harry didn't say anything. He looked out over the grass of the home paddock. He already had so much, and now Mr. Weasley was telling him that there was more. He knew he had some inheritance from Sirius, in the form of property, but most of the Black Family gold had been seized by the ministry.

"Tell you what Harry," Bill said. "We need to go to town tomorrow to set up the things for Hermione's parents, and I've got to go to the bank anyway to send the paperwork in for Ron. Why don't you come with me, and we can have Gringotts send over a complete list of your holdings. I can walk you through everything, and you can do the necessary paperwork to take possession of your parents' vaults."

"Okay." Harry said in a small voice, getting up and walking into the house to the sanctuary of his room.

The next morning arrived early, with the sun streaming into the room and right into Harry's eyes. He'd tossed and turned throughout the night, wondering what his parent's vault might contain.

After a few more minutes, he knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep any longer, and padded down the stairs in stocking feet to the kitchen, where he found Kreacher working on breakfast, with the help of Ditty. When the elves saw Harry come down the stairs, they immediately ushered him into a chair, and offered a cup of tea. Harry gratefully took the strong, Earl Grey and squeezed a slice of lemon into it. He drank this slowly, while paging through one of his transfiguration books.

When he had finished it, he rose to head into his study, "Kreacher, please save breakfast for when everyone is up, and I'll eat then."

He sat down at his desk and started making a list of the things he needed to accomplish by the end of the day. Contact the Grangers, arrange for their travel, visit bank, arrange trust for Teddy, arrange with Bill for acquiring necessities for operation of Drovers Haven...

Just then there was a knock at the door. Harry looked up at the clock, half past seven, and wondered who was up. "Come in!" He called, pushing his list aside.

Kreacher put his head around the door, "Master Harry, Missus Tonks is in the Floo!"

"Oh, I'll be right there." Harry said, putting down his quill and topping his ink bottle. He hurried back into the kitchen, where Mrs. Tonks' head could be seen floating in the green flame.

"'Lo Mrs. Tonks, how are you? Would you like to come through?" Harry said, smiling at the flames.

"Please, it's Andromeda, Harry. And yes, if you don't mind, there's something I'd quite like to discuss." Her head disappeared from the fire and then she came whirling through in a burst of flame.

She had little Teddy in her arms, and looked a bit disheveled. "I didn't wake you did I? I waited until it was as late as I could stand."

"No, not at all, I've been working in my study actually." Harry said, peering over the blanket and into the bundle that was Teddy. "He's gotten so big!"

"Yes, they do tend to do that." Mrs. Tonks said, smiling. "I should have brought his basket to lay him down in."

"Oh, actually, I have a bassinet for him." Harry said. "I found a spell in one of my transfiguration books. It's actually in my study."

"Wow, well done Harry." Mrs. Tonks said, sounding a bit stunned. "Is it upstairs?"

"No, it's just here," Harry said, showing her through the door.

Mrs. Tonks lay down the sleeping Teddy and set a monitoring charm to alert them if he woke. She then followed Harry back to the kitchen and collapsed into one of the chairs at the large scrubbed table.

"Would Missus like tea?" Ditty asked, levitating over a tray.

"Please!" Mrs. Tonks said, pouring a strong cuppa.

Harry poured himself a cup too, and sat down across from her. "What did you want to talk to me about, Mrs. Ton... er... Andromeda?"

"Well, Harry..." She stumbled a bit over her words, "I'm wondering if your offer to come stay here at your farm still stands? I thought I'd want to be home, but there's just too many memories. All alone, with the baby, it's just..."

"Of course, I told you that you were welcome anytime, and I meant that!" Harry said. "I'd love to get to see Teddy more, and there's masses of space here!"

With that, Andromeda burst into tears. The difficulty of managing a newborn alone, so near after the death of all her family was just too much of a strain. "I tried to do it on my own." She stuttered out, between sobs.

"No, don't do that!" Harry said, rushing around to put an arm around Mrs. Tonks, "You mus'nt think that you're alone, ever! There's a whole clan of people here, plus an excess of house elves just waiting to help out!"

"Thanks Harry, it... it wouldn't be permanent." She said, sniffing a bit and taking a deep breath.

"I don't care if it is," He said, conjuring a handkerchief, "Now, the others should be up soon for breakfast. I know it's probably suppertime for you, but eat with us, and we'll work out getting your things moved over!"

By the time everyone else started appearing from upstairs, Mrs. Tonks had finished her tea, and wiped all traces of tears from her eyes. Teddy had woken from his nap and started to fuss, and Harry was attempting to give him a bottle when Mrs. Weasley clapped eyes on him and hurried over to scoop up baby.

"I'll move in with Percy!" George suggested, when Harry had announced that Mrs. Tonks would be staying. "And Andromeda can take my room. There's more than enough space."

"Actually, I was going to let you all know today," Charlie interrupted, "I've had a scrap of paper from work, and they need me back at the Dragon Sanctuary. George, why don't you take over my room in the little house, for the time being."

"And miss out on the opportunity to drive Percy mental?" George said, with an evil grin, "Not a chance!"

Over breakfast, plans for the day were hashed out, and everyone given a task. Mrs. Tonks was going to leave Teddy under the watchful eye of Mrs. Weasley and Ditty, and take Kreacher and the rest of the house elves to help her move her belongings and close up her house in London.

George was going to move his belongings out of his room and into Percy's, as it had been decided that Bill and Fleur would get the little house to themselves. Charlie was packing for his return to Romania. The rest of the family prepared for a trip into the city to visit the bank.

"Shall we Apparate, Portkey, or Floo?" Bill asked the group.

"Well, I've not been to the market yet," Hermione pointed out, "So I couldn't apperate. Let's take a Portkey, that way no one gets lost."

"Hey, that was one time!" Harry protested.

"Portkey it is," said Mr. Weasley, charming a length of rope he'd saved for just such an occasion.

Everyone was is good spirits, as they all went off to their various tasks. Hermione, having not yet seen the city or the wizarding market was doubly excited, "I can't wait to see all of the market stalls. Did you see any booksellers there last time you visited?”

“Sure, remember we brought you those books about Australia.” Ron replied, as they all grabbed hold of the loop of rope. Harry saw him slip his hand around Hermione’s waist just as the portkey spun them towards the market, and watched as he caught her when they landed. Hermione just managed to keep hold of her crutch, and would have gone toe over heel if Ron hadn’t had the forethought to steady her. He waited until she regained her balance, and then set her carefully back on her feet.

“I’d forgotten how dizzy that makes me.” Hermione muttered, her face flushing. She took an extra firm grip on her crutch and started to walk away when Ron matched her pace and took her free hand, turning back and asking, “Which way is the bank meant to be Bill?”

“According to Carl, we have to cross through the market, and we’ll come out in Queen Street. If we follow that to La Trobe St, the bank is meant to be under a pub on the corner.” Bill explained, looking about for the proper direction.

The group began working their way through the crowded market, pausing frequently to browse in the stalls filled with all manner of interesting wizarding accoutrements.

Fleur was the first to notice a section of clothes and robes of all colors and styles. She gazed longingly at a display of silk dresses and said with a sigh, “Eet ‘as been so long since I ‘ave worn somezing preety.”

“There hasn’t been much cause for finery over the past year,” Hermione said, rather wistfully, “You’d look lovely in this green dress Ginny.”

The girls started to move past the dresses, when Mr. Weasley spoke up, “Why don’t you ladies stay here and window shop? We shouldn’t take long at the bank, just filling in some forms, and we need to come back this way to get home anyway.”

It took a bit of convincing, but finally Ginny, Hermione, and Fleur were left to browse the market. As the men headed for the bank, they heard the girls giggling over a hideous green frock covered in ostrich feathers.

“That is a beautiful sound.” Bill said, smiling at his wife’s laughter.

“That it is.” Mr. Weasley said. “It’s been far too long since any of us have done something pointless and fun.”

They made their way down Queen Street in search of the bank, Harry noticed Ron had dropped back a bit and was looking a bit blue. He slowed his pace to match his friend, “Why the face, mate?”

“I’m worried about Hermione.” Ron admitted, after a moment. He looked at the ground, stepping around an ice cream that someone had dropped.

“You seem to have a handle on when she needs help.” Harry pointed out. “You caught her when the portkey landed so she didn’t fall.”

“I know, I’d carry her everywhere if I thought it’d help.” Ron said, “But you know Hermione, she’s stubborn, and she likes to do things for herself. You know she’ll feel like a failure for needing help.”

“I know.” Harry sighed.

The walked in silence for a few paces, and then Ron spoke up again, “Er, Harry… we haven’t exactly gotten a chance to talk, um, since I proposed I mean. You don’t… mind, do you? About me and Hermione?”

Harry grinned, “Of course not, I couldn’t be happier for you! You’ve loved her since first year, I’m glad you finally admitted it to yourself.”

Ron ducked his head, “Was it that obvious?”

“Well, if you’d wised up sooner, you probably would have had a much better time at the Yule Ball.” Harry joked, and then in a more somber tone he continued, “I know she’ll try to stop you, but take care of her. She deserves it for a change, Merlin knows she’s been taking care of everything for too long.”

“That’s the plan.” Ron said.

The group crossed the road and located the correct pub. “Carl said we ask the bartender for a ‘pint to go’ and he’ll direct us from there.” Bill explained.

Despite the early afternoon hour, there were a few people in the pub, watching muggle sport on tv, and drinking beer.

They went to the bar, and said the correct passcode, and the barkeep jerked his thumb to a faded velvet curtain behind him. The quickly ducked through the thick fabric, passed through a store room, and down a set of steps into the lobby of the bank.

“Hello, I wrote for an appointment with the manager.” Bill said to the goblin who had hurried over to help them.

The Goblin nodded, “Of course, Mr…?”

“Weasley. Bill Weasley.” Bill said

“Yes, of course,” the Goblin said, “If you’ll follow me to his office…” and started quickly down a hallway, with the Weasleys and Harry hurrying to keep up.

Chapter 12: Ball Gowns and Glass Slippers
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Back at the market, the girls were enjoying themselves, browsing the different stalls and displays, and being therapeutically frivolous.

Ginny had begun to look at some jeans, thinking that the old overalls she’d been wearing around were in rather desperate need of replacing, being both too big and worn thin.

“No, no, no!” Fleur pushed her beyond them to a stand covered with absurdly decorated hats. “Ve are not shopping for ze necessities! Ve are shopping for ball gowns, and glass zlippers!”

Ginny laughed and tried on an enormous white hat that obscured most of the top half of her body, and was covered with feathers and frills, and even an entire dove.

“Yes! Zat is more like eet!” Fleur said, trying on an gigantic hat of her own.

“Hermione! Come try on a hat!” Ginny giggled, looking around for her friend.

Hermione however, was standing at the back of the racks of dresses and robes. She didn’t seem to hear Ginny calling to her, so the girls went to see what was so captivating.

“It’s… it’s…” Hermione stuttered; she was staring at a beautiful white gown on a mannequin. It had a square collar, and deep sleeves that reached the floor. The waist nipped in with detailed embroidery, and then flowed out in a cascade of simple white silk.

“Oh Merlin.” Ginny gasped. “Hermione, you have to try it on! It’s perfect! You’d look like an elven princess!”

“I, I couldn’t try it on… could I?” Hermione asked.

“Oui, you must!” Fleur insisted, running to fetch the shopkeeper.

Before she knew what was happening, Hermione was thrust into a changing room, with the girl who worked there helping her into the dress, which she found laced in the back with long silk ribbons.

“What’s the occasion then?” The shop assistant asked as she tightened the bow at the back of the dress.

“I’m getting… married.” Hermione stumbled, realizing that was the first time she’d really allowed herself to believe it.

“Oh, well lets do this right then!” The assistant said. “I’m Fiona.”

“Hermione.” Hermione said, shaking Fiona’s hand.

“Lovely to meet you Hermione love, now I’m going to fetch you some shoes and a veil, so you can get the whole effect.” Fiona said, swishing out of the change room.

Hermione held her breath while Fiona disappeared, and then quickly returned with two boxes.

“Here love, this dress needs special shoes I think.”

She lifted the top off the box, but Hermione stopped her.

“I, I can’t wear any fancy shoes.” She explained, trying not to tear up. “I, um, I can’t walk properly.”

“I think you’ll do just fine in these, and with that brace back on under the dress, no one need be the wiser.” Fiona said, removing the tissue, and revealing a pair of knee high elven boots of soft white leather. They had a floral pattern, not unlike the pattern on Hermione's own wand, and laced up the front.

“Oh!” Hermione gasped. “They’re perfect!”

Fiona helped Hermione try on the boots, and then brought out the last box, and revealed an intricate silver circlet from the box. It rested in Hermione’s curls and dipped down over her forehead to a single, tiny ruby dangling at the tip. “I changed my mind about the veil.”

“Let’s show your friends!” Fiona said, helping Hermione step out of the change room.

Stopping in front of a tall mirror, Hermione saw herself for the first time. She really did look like an elf.

“Oh ‘Mione!” Ginny exclaimed. “You look perfect!”

“I agree,” Fleur said, wistfully. “I am quite jealous zat I did not find a wedding dress zis beautiful!”

Hermione gazed at her reflection. The dress really was perfect. She hadn't really given much thought to planning the wedding, she had been so focused on finding her parents. But now that she knew where they were, and would see them in a few days, she let herself get excited. Like all little girls, she had ideas about what she wanted her wedding to look like.

Just then she heard Harry’s voice over the din of the market. “I’ve found them, they’re over here!”

“Bollocks!” Ginny said, “I’ll go stall them. Ron can’t see you!!!” She took off running towards the boys and pulled Ron away before he saw Hermione.

“What’s all that about?” Harry asked, looking at Fleur who had thrown a cloak over Hermione in an attempt to hide the dress.

“I found a wedding dress.” Hermione explained, “I tried it on, and Ginny doesn’t want Ron to see it and bring bad luck.”

Unfortunately, the added weight of the cloak and the awkwardness of Fleur draping it around her caused Hermione to lose her balance and fall backwards onto the floor.

“Gah!” She said, pounding the ground with her fist. “I’ve left my crutch in the change room. It wouldn’t matter if Ron had seen this anyway. I don’t have any money to buy it.”

“I’ve got you.” Harry said, picking Hermione up and ducking back into the change room.

“Just put me down Harry.” Hermione struggled, flushing red. “I can do it myself!”

“I know you can, but you don’t have to.” Harry said, setting Hermione on her feet, he saw what she was wearing. “Merlin Hermione, you look amazing!”

Hermione blushed, and ducked her head. “I hope I can find another like it when I’ve saved up enough for a dress.”

“Well, you change before Ron comes over an spoils the whole thing with his tact.” Harry left the changing area, just as Fiona was returning to help Hermione out of the dress.

“Heavens, you’re not the groom are you?” Fiona asked.

“No, just a friend.” Harry said. “Do me a favour? Box up everything she picked out.” With that he passed her a stack of galleons. “Will that cover it?”

“Well, yes… more than twice over.” Fiona stumbled. “I’ll just get you some change.”

“No need.” Harry said, “Can you hold these items until I can pick them up at a later time?"

"Of course I can, but..." Fiona started to protest the amount of gold Harry had handed her.

“Perfect. Please don’t tell her I’ve paid for the dress.” Harry said, cutting her off and going to find Ron.

With the chores at the bank finished, everyone did a bit more browsing before preparing to return to Drover's Haven.

Harry was still reeling with the information he'd been given at the bank, and he still didn't fully understand what a lot of in meant. Eventually Bill had said that could spend a thousand galleons a day for the rest of his life and not even empty a corner of his vault. He had a large amount of parchment tucked into his Mokeskin pouch detailing everything, as the goblin manager had gone on about investments and doubling interest.

Harry had immediately tried to give some to the Weasley's, but Arthur, Bill, and even Ron had flatly refused his offer. He decided he would figure out a way around it eventually, but in the meantime, his purchase for Hermione had given him an idea. As they made their way around the market, browsing and laughing, he quietly bought an item every one of his friends paused to look at, slipping the shopkeeper the necessary galleons and arranging to pick the items up later.

Just as they were planning to leave, Harry claimed he needed to find the loo, and slipped away to scamper around and collect his purchases. He shrunk each one and tucked them into his Mokeskin pouch before hurrying back to the group.

When they spun to a stop on the lawn in front of the big house, the whole group was in good spirits. As they made their way into the house for lunch, Hermione dropped to the back of the group, moving slowly and leaning heavily on her crutch.

Ginny and Ron noticed her and fell into step on either side. "What's up 'Mione?" Ginny asked.

"I'm just so tired, I haven't really walked that much. I should have brought my other crutch." Hermione adjusted her weight again to tackle the step on the porch, and then sat down on the nearest chair.

"Better now?" Ron asked.

"Yeah, my leg is killing me though." Hermione said, sounding slightly out of breath.

"Wait, what?" Ginny said, pulling out her wand. "Where is it hurting?"

"Um, I dunno, the whole leg." Hermione said, and then started grinning, "Oh my god! The whole leg!!! That's good, right? I couldn't feel anything before?!"

"I think it is." Ginny said, muttering an incantation and running her wand over Hermione's leg. The wand glowed blue, and then white, and Ginny darted inside.

"Wait, where..." Ron started to call after Ginny, but she was already back with her kit.

"Here, drink this." Ginny said, handing Hermione a small vial. "It's a pretty strong pain potion, unless this is phantom pain, it should stop almost immediately."

Hermione tipped her head back and downed the potion in one swallow. They all waited in silence, Hermione almost didn't dare to breath, and waited several long moments before she gave a cheer of joy as the pain disappeared.

"It worked!" she shrieked, throwing her arms around first Ginny, and then Ron.

Ron and Ginny let out shouts of excitement, Ginny leapt up and started dancing some sort of jig. Ron stood to join her, looked down at Hermione, pulled her up so she was standing on his feet and started dancing around the porch with his arms around her waist holding her up. The three were hooting, hollering, and laughing so loudly that the rest of the family was drawn out outside.

"What in Merlin's name is going on out here?" Mrs. Weasley asked, as she watched the trio spin around in circles.

"Hermione's leg hurts!" Ron cried, ecstatically, lifting his fiancee and spinning her around.

"Do you mean..." Harry asked, joining in their dancing, " that you can feel it?"

"Yep!" Hermione yelled, clinging to Ron's neck to keep from falling down.

With that, the rest of the family joined in the dance, even the house elves had created some sort of conga line. George had conjured a phonograph that was playing some sort of ridiculous polka music. Bill and Charlie appeared to be trying to attempt a tango of some sort, Fleur was doing pirouettes in the middle of the group, and Hermione's feet were no longer even touching the ground as Ron spun her around and around.

Eventually they all started to tire, even the gramophone seeming to get a bit worn down, and collapsed onto the chairs and steps on the porch. Sometime during the celebration, Andromeda had returned and joined in the dancing.

Kreacher ushered them all into the house for tasty lunch of chicken pie.

"Well, let's go see Carl and Ellie about using their phone. Let's get the Grangers home!" Harry said.

He and Bill got up to walk the short distance to their neighbors house; Hermione started to go with them, but Ginny stopped her.

"Not you missy, you're staying right there. You need to give that leg a rest, not walk another kilometer." Ginny scolded.

Hermione huffed, and crossed her arms, but she was really still too tired to put up much of a fight.

"We'll be right back with news 'Mione." Harry promised.

The arrived at Carl's, explained their request, and Harry quickly made the telephone call, pausing to verify things occasionally with Bill. In the end it was decided that the Grangers (or rather the Wilkins, as they still were being called) would drive their car to Drover's Haven, as they were only about a days drive away.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he hung up the phone, "I was afraid they would have changed their minds or gotten a job and it would all get more complicated."

Chapter 13: Wilkins or Granger
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The next day was spent readying the river cottage for Hermione's parents, which in Mrs. Weasley's opinion meant cleaning it from top to bottom. No one really seemed to mind the work, and they all set about making sure not a single speck of dust would be found when the Grangers arrived.

This gave Harry plenty of time to sneak away and place the gifts he had purchased for his friends around the lunch table, so when everyone came trudging back to the big house at midday, they arrived to a party of sorts.

"What on earth is all this?" Mr. Weasley asked, seeing the mountain of wrapped gifts on the table.

"Well," Harry started, shying a bit, "I was just thinking, now that we've found Hermione's parents, the war really feels over. I know that we won't ever be able to forget it, and that we still have a long way to go until everything is normal again, but I wanted to do something fun and shut that door behind us for good."

Just then, Kreacher uncovered a great cake he'd been hiding, and everyone cheered.

They opened Harry's presents, all exclaiming that he shouldn't have gotten them anything, but knowing he would never return the items.

"Oh, Hermione... I have your present here." Harry said, retrieving the large box from his study. "But I'm going to have to ask Ron to step out of the room while you open it."

Hermione looked a bit confused, but Harry whispered something in Ron's ear and he leapt up and went out onto the porch.

"What's going on Harry?" Hermione asked, still confused as she took the package he handed her.

Harry smiled. “Just open it!”

Hermione lifted the lid off the large white box, and began to dig through a mountain of tissue paper. She gasped when she finally saw what was shrouded beneath the tissue. “Harry! You can’t, it’s too much!”

“It’s not too much, it’s exactly enough.” Harry grinned. “Besides, there’s no way I was going to risk you not finding the same dress later on.”

Hermione, misty eyed, drew the dress from it’s box and showed it to the others, who ooo’d and ahhh’d appropriately. “Thank you Harry, I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you!”

“Just be happy Hermione,” Harry said, quietly. “That’ll be thanks enough.”

“So can I come back in, or am I banished outside for the rest of the night?” Ron bellowed from the porch.

Ginny scooped up the box and darted up to hide the dress in her room before Ron was allowed back in the kitchen.

With lunch finished, and the gifts put away, the attention of the group shifted to the eminent arrival of Hermione's parents. The Grangers had said they would leave early that morning for Drovers Haven, but their exact arrival time would still be a bit of a surprise.

As the afternoon slipped into early evening Hermione, not wanting to stray too far away, wandered over to the little house and inexplicably found herself chatting to Fleur. While the two had never been close, they slipped into an easy conversation in the sitting room, which Fleur had transfigured into a much fancier space than the rest of the farm.

"Fleur, this looks incredible!" Hermione gushed, "Is this all transfigured?"

"Oui, it is." Fleur smiled, "my mother taught me most of zese tricks, she eez very skilled at household charms."

"I would love it if you would teach me some of them one day." Hermione said, privately thinking that the frills were not her taste, but the charms could probably be modified.

"But of course," Fleur grinned, "after all, ve are to be seesters by marriage, are ve not?"

"I hadn't thought of that!" Hermione said, with a smile. "I've never had any siblings, and now I'll have lots!"

"Vell, you 'ave not had much time to adjust to zee idea, 'ave you?" Fleur pointed out.

"Yes, and until I found my parents, I didn't let myself get excited." Hermione admitted. "I felt like I couldn't move on with my life until they were able to move on with theirs. Of course, now I'm quite worried that they will be furious at me for altering their memories."

"I think zey will understand, you were only trying to protect them after all. It can be hard to explain our world to Muggles I think," Fleur went on, "it is hard to impress on them ze dangers of a world they cannot see."

"Yes, but I still think they'll be cross." Hermione blushed, "and I hate to think what they'll say when they see my leg."

"Hermione, just as I told Bill when he vas hurt by Greyback, your injury shows your bravery." Fleur exclaimed, "It is a testament to all you did to protect others; for people you don't know and vill never meet."

"I'll try to remember that." Hermione said, and blushed again. She had rarely heard the French girl speak so passionately. She felt a bit guilty at the jealousy she had felt towards Fleur when they first met during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, but she was able to see after all this time what the Goblet of Fire had known all along: Fleur was a strong, brave, and capable Witch.

"Hermione, may I tell you a secret?" Fleur whispered, "somezing only Bill knows?"

"Oh, of course. I would never tell anyone!" Hermione agreed.

"I am going to 'ave a baby!" Fleur grinned. "I don't want to tell the 'ole family yet until I am further along."

"You mean until you're ready to have Molly put you on permanent bed rest you mean," Hermione laughed, "Oh Fleur, that's wonderful news! I'm so happy for you!"

“Thank you!" Fleur said with another grin. "It is well that Charlie had to return to ze dragon shelter, because if Harry will let us, I'd like to change the spare room into a nursery!”

“Oh I’m sure he would be thrilled!” Hermione grinned. “And this will give Teddy a playmate!”
“That’s true!” Fleur smiled. “You know, when ‘arry was chosen during the Tri-Wizard Tournament I was so upset because I thought it was unfair that he was included. I never would have thought I’d be living in his home.”

“Well we were all a bit at odds with each other that year.” Hermione laughed. “I think the stress of the tournament just compounded all the other nonsense going on at the time. I was so jealous of you, you know… Ron was so infatuated with you that he never even noticed I was a girl.”

“Yes, well that was before I had learned how to fully control my Veela blood.” Fleur admitted. “It gave me a lot of raw power for ze tournament, but I didn’t have much finesse.”

“You know, I never really thought about that.” Hermione said, her curious nature suddenly taking over the conversation. “About how it might be difficult to live with that kind of power. You had changed so much since the we met, I just figured it was the war that had changed you… but it’s really you controlling your Veela power..”

“Oui, it was… it is!” Fleur agreed. “Ze war, it changed me as well, but now that I can contain my Veela blood, it is much easier to get along with people. I feel as though I understood ‘arry in that way. It’s difficult to live with something inside you that wants to control ze way you act.”

“That’s intriguing.” Hermione said, thoughtfully. “Please don’t think me rude, but how do you control it? It’s really fascinating!”

Fleur laughed, “It’s ok ‘ermione, I am not offended. Although I don’t think it is something I can explain… It’s almost as though I keep that part of myself in a box.”

“Really?” Hermione was still curious. “Do you ever draw on that power?”

“Certainly.” Fleur grinned, she closed her eyes and let her Veela side take over. It transformed her before Hermione’s eyes from the girl who had been sitting on the sofa with her hair messily gathered in a bun, wearing her husband’s shirt, into the creature they all met at the Tournament.

“That’s remarkable!” Hermione said, trying to identify the difference. “You haven’t changed at all, and yet you’ve completely changed!”

Fleur laughed, the sound ringing out like bells, and waggled her eyebrows at Hermione, “Bill rather likes when I open up my Veela box.”

The two girls were still laughing when Ron came into the house calling, “Hermione, your parents are… Merci!” He stumbled back a step when he noticed Fleur. Looking at the floor and trying not to stare, he continued, “Your parents just pulled into the main drive.”

Hermione and Fleur laughed again, and Fleur drew back her magic. “Eet is ok Ronald, you cannot ‘elp it!”

Ron blushed and walked over to Hermione to help her up. “Come on, Harry’ll want you to lift the charm.”

They said goodbye to Fleur and started back to the main house. “Did you know she could do that?” Ron asked.

“What, turn on the Veela charm?” Hermione teased.

“Is that what she was doing?” Ron asked.

“Yes, she learned how to control her Veela power, and she was showing me what happens when she lets go of it.” Hermione explained.

“Oh.” Was all Ron said. He was about to ask another question, when Hermione caught her crutch in a rabbit hole and tumbled to the ground. “Mione! Are you ok?”

“Drat.” Hermione spat, scrambling to try and get up. “I shouldn’t try and leave the other crutch behind. I keep falling down.”

“Here, let me help.” Ron said, offering Hermione an arm.

“I can do it myself Ronald!” Hermione cried, pushing him away, unfortunately, this only put her more off balance and she fell back into the dust. She growled in frustration and spun around looking for her crutch, which had fallen just out of reach. “Bloody hell, I’m bloody useless.”

“No, you’re just doing everything the hard way.” Ron pointed out; he crouched down and lifted Hermione up, carrying her to the porch. Hermione didn’t struggle, as Ron was expecting, she just stared at the ground with a look of defeat on her face.

“Mione, it’s ok to ask for help.” Ron pointed out, pushing the door open with his shoulder and bringing Hermione into the kitchen.

“I’ve tried telling her that one too.” Harry called from inside his study. “She didn’t listen to me either!”

“Will both of you just sod off.” Hermione snapped. “I know you don’t think it’s a big deal to have to be carried everywhere, but I assure you, it’s humiliating and degrading and… and… ugh!”

“Well, lets just pretend we’re practicing for the wedding then.” Ron grinned, “Isn’t it tradition to carry the bride over the threshold?”

“My parents will be here any second, and my crutch is still out on the lawn.” Hermione groaned.

“No it’s not, it just here.” said George, who had just come into the kitchen. “Although, I must say Hermione, this form of transportation really suits you, plus it gives Ronniekins something to do.”

At that moment, the Grangers car pulled up next to the house, and Hermione’s parents stepped out and looked around. Mr. Weasley was out front and invited them in to the sitting area where Ron quickly deposited Hermione on the sofa, and set her crutch beside her.

As the Grangers settled in, Mrs. Weasley offered them tea as the house elves had been sent to Bill and Fleurs until the Grangers memories could be restored.

“You sure you’re comfortable with this Hermione?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“Yes, I’ll… I’ll start with mum.” Hermione all but whispered.

She turned to her mother and pulled her wand out of her sleeve, and with a complicated twist of her wrist she called out “Restituet!”

For a moment nothing happened, the Grangers simply stared at Hermione like she was nuts. Then, Mrs. Granger closed her eyes with a gasp, and gripped the sides of her head in pain. “What’s happening?!”

“You just have a bit of a headache,” Mrs. Weasley explained, “It will pass in a moment.”

“That’s normal.” Bill whispered to Hermione. “You did it perfectly, it’ll take a moment to settle in. Go ahead and do the spell on your dad.”

“Restituet.” Hermione repeated, twisting her wand towards her father.

The Grangers both groaned for another moment, until finally Mrs. Granger looked up and asked “Hermione?”

“Mum!” Hermione cried, and grabbing her crutch, crossed the room as quickly as she could into Mrs. Granger’s arms.

“Mione, what in the world?” Mrs. Granger stammered, still trying to sort out her reality.

At that moment, Mr Granger snapped out of it, “What the bloody hell is going on here?”

“Well, um, dad…” Hermione started, and then failed to begin explaining.

To everyones complete surprise, Ron spoke up and started filling in the blanks. He carefully described how Hermione had modified their memories for their protection, he gave them a very simplified version of the past years events, and the battle, everything leading up to their move to Australia. “So once Hermione remembered that you had thought of starting a farm, we found you quite quickly, and here you are.”

“So there’s no foreman job, and I’ve apparently quick my lucrative dental surgery, and lost a year of my life because my daughter thought she knew what was best” Mr. Granger snapped. He stared furiously back and forth between Hermione and Mrs. Granger, before getting up and stomping out the front door.

“Just let him cool off a bit, Mione.” Mrs. Granger stammered, “This is… a lot to take in.”

“I know.” Hermione said, looking at the floor. “I knew he wouldn’t understand if I tried to explain it last summer.”

“I’m not sure I understand now, sweetie. You… fought a war while we were in Australia?” Mrs. Granger asked, trying to clarify the pieces she had.

The Weasleys had all drifted out of the house to try and give Hermione some privacy. Ron and Harry had moved to the kitchen table, but refused to be out of earshot.

“Yes, well… we were only fighting during the battle. Most of the time we were searching for… the bad guy.” Hermione finished lamely.

“And, you got hurt, in this battle?” Mrs. Granger asked, pointing to Hermione’s crutch.

“Um, n-no. It was before. We got captured, um, and there’s a torture curse, that… caused me to lose the use of my leg.” Hermione explained. “Well, part of my leg. Um, Harry? Could you undo your disillusionment?”

“Oh, sure.” Harry said, crossing over to Hermione, and flicking his wand at her leg, revealing her brace.

“I can’t move most of it.” Hermione explained. “I can’t feel it, the brace gives me the stability to stand. Most of the time.”

“Oh.” Was all Mrs. Granger could come up with. “So, it doesn’t hurt?”

“No, not unless I overdo it.” Hermione explained. “I have a book about it, if you want to read more.”

“Yes, that would probably be very helpful.” Mrs. Granger agreed, suddenly leaning over and hugging Hermione. “I feel so strange, as though no time has passed… but I remember the last year, I felt like something was missing.”

“I just wanted you to be safe, if something happened to me.” Hermione explained again.

“I know, honey… It will take some getting used to though.” Mrs. Granger said, with a sad smile. “Let’s go find your father.

Chapter 14: Insomnia
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Hermione picked up her crutch and pocketed her wand; her parents reactions had been pretty much what she’d expected. She lead the way out the front door, trying to walk as smoothly as she could so that her mother wouldn’t worry too much. She had expected to find her dad leaning on their car, or somewhere near it, but he was nowhere to be seen. She wandered a bit further into the yard, until she heard voices coming from the paddock behind the barn.

“I think he’s this way.” She said to her mother, walking towards the barn. She heard a door shut, and saw that Ron had moved out onto the porch. He didn’t follow them, just kept them in sight.
“He sure is protective of you Mione.” Mrs. Granger pointed out. “He hasn’t let you out of his sight since we got here.”

“He’s worried about me.” Hermione explained. “He knows how hard today was going to be… for all of us.”

“No, that boy is in love with you.” Mrs. Granger said with a smirk. “I think that crush of yours worked out after all.”

Hermione blushed scarlet, “Actually, mum, he’s asked me to marry him.”

“And, what did you tell him? I don’t see a ring.” Mrs. Granger waved towards Hermione’s left hand.

“I said yes.” Hermione said, blushing darker. “I don’t think wizards use engagement rings, just wedding bands. But either way, we haven’t really had time to do much about it. We don’t leave the property very often an… ooof!”

Hermione’s rambling explanation was cut off by a crushing hug from her mother. “Oh Mione! I told you he’d figure it out!”

Hermione grinned, the first real smile she’d felt since removing the charm. “I’m pretty excited mum, I really love him too.”

“Well, I must say, I prefer him to that scary Russian boy you dated.”

“Mum, Viktor is Bulgarian, not Russian.” Hermione corrected, and then continued thoughtfully, “Actually, I don’t know if Viktor is still alive.”

Mrs. Granger didn't know what to say to in response, she hadn’t fully adjusted to the idea of her daughter having fought in a war. Finally she motioned in the direction of the barn and said, “Come on, I hear your father.”

They followed the dirt path around behind the barn, where they found Mr. Granger speaking very seriously to Mr. Weasley.

“I’ll just let you all chat then.” Mr. Weasley said, upon seeing Hermione round the corner.

Hermione opened her mouth to try and explain again, when Mr. Granger cut her off, “Arthur tells me that this Voldemort person killed hundreds of people, thousands even.”

Hermione looked at the ground, “We… don’t really know yet how many. He had a lot of followers doing his dirty work.”

Mr. Granger continued, “He said that the people who were killed were like you, magic people with non-magic parents.”

Hermione nodded. “He believed that Wizards are better than Muggles, and that Muggles aren’t human.”

“Arthur also said, that you’re a war hero, that you made it possible to destroy Voldemort.” Mr. Granger said, “And that if we had been at home, he would have tortured and killed us to get to you.”

Hermione nodded, a tear escaping and running down her face. “It was just so wrong, daddy.”

“Well, can’t say I’m pleased with having my memory altered, but I’m very proud of you for sticking to your convictions. Not many people would have fought so hard for what is right.” Mr. Granger said, drawing Hermione into a hug.

“Well, now what?” Mrs. Granger asked. “We were coming here to look for a job…”

“Actually, there’s a place for you to stay here, if you want to.” Hermione said. “Harry insists, he has it all ready.”

“This is Harry’s land?” Mr. Granger asked.

“Yes, his godfather left it to him.” Hermione explained, as they walked back to the big house. “Everything back home was destroyed in the war, and Harry—well, all of us actually—wanted to get away from the press, so we came here.”

“There’s heaps of space.” Harry, who had moved out onto the porch with Ron chimed in. “And I’d love if you would stay. There’s a whole muggle style house by the river, just sitting empty.”

“We wouldn’t want to impose,” Mrs. Granger said.

“Please, you wouldn’t be imposing at all. I can’t speak for Ron, but I know I’d feel more comfortable with Hermione close by, at least for the time being.” Harry said, and continued bluntly, “This property is obscure, and heavily protected, and one of the safest options we have until all the death eaters are tracked down and captured.”
“It’s quite a beautiful piece of land.” Mr. Granger said, “It’s a pity you aren’t really looking for a foreman.”

“Actually, I might be.” Harry said, and started to explain his plans to Mr. Granger.

The rest of the day was spent trying to catch the Grangers up on everything they had missed. Kreacher, and the other elves were allowed back in the house to make dinner, to the amusement of Mr. Granger who kept turning round in his chair to watch them.

Harry explained his plans for the property to Mr. Granger, who took an immediate interest in helping run it.

Mrs. Granger quickly fell in love with the little Muggle house by the river, and was very pleased to hear that Hermione was going to move from the big house to be with them. She had helped break the news to Mr. Granger about the upcoming wedding, and had happily begun chatting to Mrs. Weasley about details, with Hermione occasionally interjecting and trying to reign them in.

As night closed in around them, Harry began to feel like some of the pressure was gone from his heart. Hermione and her parents headed off to bed, one by one the Weasley’s and Andromeda headed upstairs, Bill led Fleur back to their little cottage, and Harry was left sitting by the fire, marveling in how well the day had gone.

Early the next morning, Ron was up before everyone else, and headed out to one of the fields to look for wildflowers. He hadn’t really considered the fact that it was still winter and he wasn’t going to have much luck. Finally giving up, he knocked on Harry’s door to see if his friend was up.

“Come in.” Came Harry’s voice, and Ron opened the door to find his friend sitting in a chair by the window reading a transfiguration book.

“Blimey Harry,” Ron said, shaking his head, “Did you sleep at all? I know you came up late last night, and here you’re up early this morning?”

“But it’s lucky for you Ron, because you look like you’re on a mission!” Harry said, dodging the question.

“Yes, actually… I want to give Hermione some flowers, but I can’t find any to pick. I wondered if you remembered that charm we learnt in fourth year to conjure some?” Ron asked, walking in and sitting on the window sill.

“Er, no… but maybe there’s something in one of these,” he said, hopping up and scanning the books crammed into the bookcase behind him.

Harry picked up a few books, handed one to Ron and started paging through another himself. The two read in silence for a few minutes, until Ron found an appropriate spell. “Here we go Harry, floralibus! Changes any plant into a bouquet of roses. That’s perfect.”

“Great, Mione will like that,” Harry grinned. “Course, she’ll probably think you’re an imposter and stun you if you turn up with roses for her.”

“Shut it Harry.” Ron said, blushing. “I actually wanted to ask you, I heard Mione’s mum mention a ring when they were talking about us getting engaged. I know I’m meant to give her a ring at the wedding, but I think they were talking about something else. Do you know what they were on about?”

“Well, muggles use a ring when they propose to a girl.” Harry said. “And then another in the wedding ceremony. At least, that’s what I’ve seen on TV.”

“Oh, well I had my dad get me some rings from the family vault, I was going to pick one and put the rest back, but if she’s expecting two…” Ron rambled.

“Ron, I don’t think Hermione is expecting anything. I think she would be equally happy following wizarding tradition as muggle tradition.” Harry pointed out.

“Yes, but Hermione is muggleborn. Her family is going to expect muggle traditions, won’t they?” Ron asked. “I mean, if that’s what she’s always thought would happen, I don’t want to mess this up!”

“Well, do any of the rings match each other?” Harry asked, “you know, like a set?”

“Um, I dunno…” Ron pulled a black leather pouch from his pocket, and tipped it’s contents out onto the window sill. “I don’t think any of them are a set. And some of them are quite old.”

“Well what about that one?” Harry said, pointing to one of the older bands. It was made of Goblin silver and twisted into a pattern of tiny vines, in the center like a glittering flower, was a small red stone that seemed to look as though it were on fire.

“That’s a Phoenix stone, I recon.” Ron said, holding it up to the light. “They’re quite rare… but what would it go with?”

“That one, I expect.” Harry said, pointing to a striking band made of an unknown dark red metal. It was quite simple, a plain band, but it shone with a kind of fire.

“You’re right!” Ron said, holding them up together, “This looks like Hermione!”

“See, that wasn’t so hard!” Harry said, with a laugh.

“Oiy, quit taking the Mickey, your turn will come.” Ron said, playfully boxing Harry on the arm.

“Maybe.” Harry said, thoughtfully. “Maybe not. I really don’t see any girl wanting to chain herself to this wreck.”

“Harry, I thought you were doing better.” Ron said, concern just at the edge of his tone. “You’ve been seeing Trilby much less often.”

“Yes, I don’t think there’s much more that Trilby can do for me.” Harry agreed, “She’s taught me everything she can, I mostly visit her to chat now… she’s kind of become like a gran to me.”

“Well I know Ginny fancies you.” Ron pointed out. “And I’d rather see you with her than any other bloke.”

“Ginny fancies the kid she met at school; we both know I’m not that person now.” Harry sighed. “And I wouldn’t dream pushing her into a relationship she no longer wants. D’you want breakfast?”

“Nope, I’m not letting you change the subject yet.” Ron said, concern now plain in his voice. “How much did you sleep last night? Honestly!”

“I don’t know Ron, a few hours.” Harry said, looking at the floor.

“Are you having nightmares?” Ron asked.

“Well that’s a bit of a stupid question, isn’t it.” Harry snapped, getting quite angry. “We’re all having nightmares. I think the only person under this roof not having nightmares is Teddy.”

“Are you taking the dreamless sleep potion?” Ron asked, refusing to back down.

“No, it seemed like a waste of potion to take it when I burn it off in half an hour.” Harry argued. “This is my cross to bear Ron. Go take the flowers to Hermione.”

“Harry, you’re my best mate. I’m closer to you than I am to my own bloody family! Talk to me! Or I’m going to drag you to Trilby’s and make you talk to her.” Ron raged. “What is going to help you bloody sleep?”

"Well if I knew that I'd be asleep now, wouldn't I?" Harry shouted. "But instead I'm arguing about it with a meddling git!"

Ron was about to shout back at his friend, and then he realized just how stressed Harry would be to yell like he was. Ever since Riddle's horcrux had gone, Harry didn't have much of a temper at all; if he was upset he talked it out, but he hadn't yelled at anyone.

"You haven't slept properly in weeks have you?" Ron asked quietly.

Harry just glared at him.

"Did you ask Trilby about this?" Ron pressed.

"No Ron, it's not a big deal." Harry grumbled, and cracked his book open and hid behind it's pages.

"Harry, it is a big deal if it carries on for weeks!" Ron pointed out. "You're going to get sick."

"What, are you a healer now?" Harry snapped.

"No, but I've got enough common sense to work out when you should get some help." Ron persisted, refusing to let Harry bait him. "Come on, you can pick between Ginny, Trilby, or Madame Pomfrey--but you are asking someone who know's what they're talking about how to fix this."

"Ron, seriously, just let it go!" Harry argued. "It's probably the middle of the night for Madame Pomfrey anyway."

"Nope, it's like 7 in the evening. She's probably the most likely to be up." Ron pointed out. "You want to go talk to her?"

"No Ron, I want to go eat breakfast." Harry said, trying to push past his friend.

"No chance." Ron said, with a smirk. "Ginny or Poppy, pick one, or I'll stun you and drag you there."

"You couldn't stun me if you wanted to!" Harry yelled.

"Probably not on a normal day, Mr. Wandless-Magic." Ron agreed. "But today, when you're agitated, and haven't slept in weeks? I'd probably be able to catch you."

"Yeah, well don't press your luck!" Harry snapped.

"Look mate, you told me and Hermione to step in if you were doing something stupid." Ron pointed out. "This is stupid."

Harry just glared at Ron and tried to push past him again. Ron blocked him for a moment, before wrapping his arms around his friend and drawing him into a hug. Harry struggled for a moment, and then started shaking. It took Ron a bit to realize that he had started to cry.

"Let's go see Madame Pomfrey, yeah? Ron asked, still hugging his friend. Harry nodded into Ron's shoulder.

After a moment, Harry stepped back, and fixed his glasses. "I'm sorry Ron, you're right."

"It's fine mate, that's what I'm here for. If we don't watch each other's backs, nobody will." Ron said kindly.

"You probably could have stunned me." Harry agreed.

"Nah, I would've made Hermione do it." Ron laughed. "She's way faster."

The two friends made their way downstairs, towards the fireplace.

"I can't believe we didn't wake anyone up." Harry marveled. "I know I got loud up there."

"Yeah, well I cast a Muffliato charm when you started getting angsty." Ron said.

"Looks like I'm not the only one doing non-verbal tricks." Harry pointed out.

"Yeah, well it's easier to avoid snatchers if they can't hear you jinx them." Ron laughed. "Come on, lets go."

"Right." Harry said, tossing some powder into the Floo.

Chapter 15: Gryffindor's Scrolls
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         "What have you done now Potter?" Madame Pomfrey joked. "Tried to jump onto a moving broom out a tower window? Broken both legs? An arm?"

Harry chuckled. "No, Madame Pomfrey, I've been having trouble sleeping."

"He's been having trouble sleeping for weeks and it's driving him yampy." Ron corrected.

"Um, yeah." Harry said, not disagreeing with Ron.

"Hmmm, and let me guess, he didn't say anything until you caught him, right Ron?" Madame Pomfrey asked.

"Of course not." Ron said, winking at Harry. "You know he has to be forced to ask for help."

"Well thanks for bringing him in," Madame Pomfrey said. "You know, the way to the kitchen I assume?"

"Sure, and if it's possible," Ron joked, "we'd like to keep him."

"Oiy, sitting right here!" Harry protested.

"Send a patronus when you're done." Ron called over his shoulder.

"Well, Mr. Potter, let's get to the bottom of this." Madame Pomfrey said. "When was the last time you got a good nights sleep?"

Harry looked at the ground. "Um... I don't really remember."

Poppy muttered a charm and scanned Harry from head to toe with her wand, looking at the color the wand changed as she passed it over him. “Have you slept at all? Dozed even?” 

Harry whispered something, looking at the floor.

“What’s that?” Madame Pomfrey asked, as she checked Harry’s pupils.

“I haven’t slept normally in a few weeks.” Harry said, quietly.

“Ok, when you are able to sleep, does it feel like something you can control, or do you pass out from exhaustion?” Poppy pressed.

“I pass out.” Harry admitted. “I can usually hold it off until I can make some excuse for a nap if I have to, but that’s about it.”

“Ok, and how often does that happen?” 

“Less and less; I started having a night here and there where I never got to sleep. Now I crash for a couple of hours about once a week.” Harry explained.

“I see.” Madame Pomfrey said, thoughtfully, “and I assume you’ve tried sleeping potion? I’m guessing that they have not worked since the last time I saw you?”

“No,” Harry said, flushing red at the reminder of his feux pas with the letter opener, “no, you’re right, they don’t work.” 

“Have you been taking any other potions?” 

“No, I haven’t had any trouble with pain in a while, and since I’ve been working with Trilby, I don’t need the calming draught Ginny had me taking.” Harry explained.

“Trilby? Is this the woman who was helping you with your… er… head injury?” Madame Pomfrey said, not wanting to say the word Horcrux. “Miss Weasley mentioned that she has expanded her training into some Australian traditional methods.”

“Yes, that’s her.” Harry nodded. “She’s been a massive help, and I feel loads better, other than the sleeping.” 

“Well, I’m very glad to hear that Mr. Potter,” Madame Pomfrey said, with a sad smile. “I was finding myself quite ill-equipped to help you. I’m not entirely sure that I can help you now.”

Harry looked at the floor, his vision swimming a bit, “It’s fine, I can obviously carry on the way I have been.”

“Don’t misunderstand me Mr. Potter,” Poppy elaborated, “I do think I know what the problem is… I’m just not entirely certain how to correct it without… adverse consequences.” 

“Adverse Consequences?” Harry asked, “What, like allergic reactions?”

“I wish it were that simple.” Poppy said sadly. “Here’s the rub Mr. Potter, I think that your inability to sleep is being caused by an overabundance of power. You see, when a Witch or Wizard has a delicate balance within the body of human life force and magic life force; in equal amounts these two powers exist harmoniously. When one is stronger than the other there can be challenges. Most commonly, we see this manifest in Squibs, people with little to no magic life force. Much more rarely, we see wizards with unusually high amounts of magical life force. The magic keeps alive a body that should be dead, ill, or in your case asleep.”

Harry just stared at the floor, so Madame Pomfrey continued, “I think, Mr. Potter, that your magic is taking over your body when you would ordinarily become tired and require sleep for the bodies normal process of regeneration. This is keeping you awake because you are not physically tired. Magically however you are becoming exhausted, and that is why you eventually collapse and sleep. Now, there are tests that can be performed to ascertain the power level of an individual wizard, however these spells are highly regulated by the ministry.”

“Well, the ministry would want to know about anyone with unusually high amounts of power, right?” Harry asked, quietly. 

“Precisely.” Madame Pomfrey nodded. “Which is why I would very much like to avoid performing such a spell on you. I don’t think the ministry needs to be poking around in your affairs, and things never go well for the person being tested.”

“Yes, Hermione mentioned something about Unspeakables doing testing at the ministry.” Harry said sadly.

“Yes, Miss Granger is, as usual, quite well read.” Poppy said, with a smirk. “Unfortunately Mr. Potter, this leaves you and I in a bit of a predicament.”

“You can’t really help me without knowing how much power I have,” Harry said, matter-of-factly, “but if you test me to find out, there is a possibility that the ministry would take me into custody and turn me over to the Department of Mysteries.” 

“Yes, but just because I can’t test you, doesn’t mean I can’t get an idea of what we are working with.” Poppy said. “I think, it would be easier if I came to your home and worked with you over a longer period of time, if you are amenable to such an arrangement.”

“Well, I trust you, and I’d rather not end up on the grid.” Harry sighed.

“What grid?” Poppy asked, confused.

“Sorry, muggle expression.” Harry explained, “It means I rather you know than the ministry.” 

“Quite.” Poppy replied. “In the meantime, I think we might have luck with a muggle device. You understand that magic interferes with electricity, yes?”

“Yes, that’s why most wizards don’t have TV’s and such.” Harry said.

“Precisely, however, what most people do not know, is that electricity can also be used to counteract magic. It has grown out of fashion somewhat now, but a generation ago, it was a very fashionable treatment for unknown spell damage.” Madame Pomfrey explained. “The treatment is known as Electroconvulsive therapy.”

“Wait,” Harry put a hand up. “Are you talking about Electroshock?” Harry had heard his Uncle ranting about crazy people needing electroshock.

“Yes, but it’s actually quite a helpful treatment for magical ailments.” Poppy explained. “It fell out of fashion when the muggles misinterpreted spell damage for diseases of the mind. Such things are more often treated with potions and medicines these days. However in your case I think it could disrupt your power enough to allow you to sleep normally, or at least, more regularly.” 

Harry burst out laughing. “Oh, if only my aunt and uncle could see me now! I’m completely insane and getting Electroshock!”

“Harry, Electroshock has nothing to do with insanity.” Madame Pomfrey explained again.

“No, I understand,” Harry said, wiping tears from his eyes and still laughing, “if you had ever met my uncle, you’d understand why this is funny. He always said that our kind were all insane, and needed Electroshock.”

“I see, very amusing.” Poppy said, looking skeptical. “But just so that I can do a bit more research, how much has your power changed since the battle?”

“Well, Trilby explained to me that the Horcrux was overpowering my magic, forcing it down. So when I came to Hogwarts and started using it regularly, my magic tried to compensate by building up beyond the Horcrux. When the Horcrux had gone, that power was fully released, but it had already had my whole life of building up.” Harry explained. “At first I had a few issues with accidental magic, when I got upset about things.”

“Yes, I remember you dimming all the lights in your house the last time I was there.” Madame Pomfrey agreed. “But you haven’t experienced accidental magic recently?  

“No, Trilby has been helping me channel it.” Harry said. “But it’s changed the way I use my magic more than anything. I can’t do spells verbally at all anymore.”

“You mean you can only preform non-verbal magic?” Madame Pomfrey asked, sitting up quickly.

“Mmm hmm.” Harry mumbled. “I’ve tried simple things, and complicated, but it’s no use.”

“Well, Mr. Potter, that would indicate a very high level of power indeed.” Poppy said, “It suggests that you are more in tune with your magical abilities on a molecular level; that you use them almost subconsciously, like breathing.”

“But isn’t that just accidental magic?” Harry asked, confused.

“No, think of it like this: when you breathe normally, you don’t think about it. Your body manages it for you. When you sneeze, however, you are consciously participating in the action. It doesn’t mean that you can stop it, but it also isn’t part of your body’s normal patterns… something must trigger it.” Madame Pomfrey explained.

“But how is that different from everyone else?” Harry asked, still confused.

“It’s not necessarily that different, it’s just more… streamlined, so to speak.” Poppy said. “It’s like having a step already completed in a complicated arithmancy problem.”

“Oh.” Harry said, looking at the floor again.

“Mr. Potter, I’m going to guess that there’s something else you’re not telling me. Something, perhaps, that Miss Granger told you shouldn’t be flaunted in public?” Poppy said, bending her head to try and meet Harry’s gaze.

Harry looked up at her, and contemplated her question. So far, besides Hermione, he had only told Ron about his ability to do wandless magic. 

“I’m going to take that as a yes.” Poppy said, and crossed to the side of the hospital wing that was lined with multiple bookshelves, crammed full of books and scrolls. She reached up to a high shelf, and removed several fat, ancient looking scrolls. Striding over to her desk, she rolled the first parchment out and muttered a charm over it. “Come over here Mr. Potter, and look at this.”

Harry walked over to where Madame Pomfrey was poring over the scroll. “What’s this?”

“These are some of Godric Gryffindor’s person journals.” Madame Pomfrey said. “He left them here at Hogwarts, and they have been protected, and hidden by generations of healers. He elaborates rather extensively in some of these, about wandless magic. This information isn’t published, and the ministry doesn’t know it exists.”

“Wait, he actually kept a journal?” Harry asked, scrutinizing the scroll.

“Yes Mr. Potter, and it would be useful reading for someone who had the ability to perform wandless magic to read some of these very carefully." Madame Pomfrey said. "I'm going to make you some copies in case you know anyone who can do wandless magic. I don't need to know specifically if anyone has that ability."

Harry understood that Madame Pomfrey didn't want to be able to actually confirm that he could do wandless magic. He watched as she muttered the Gemino spell over each of the scrolls, and then handed them to him.

"There you go, study these carefully." Poppy said. "Now why don't you collect Ron, and head home. I'll come over in the morning, because it'll be about time for bed for you and we'll give the ECT a try."

"Thanks Madame Pomfrey." Harry said, happy to have gleaned much more information than he was expecting. He quickly shrank the scrolls and tucked them into his mokeskin pouch. "I'll meet you at Mrs. Tonks' house to let you in, say 10:00 am your time?"

"That's fine Mr. Potter." Poppy said, "I'll see you in the morning."

Harry shot off a patronus to Ron, and waited for him to make his way back up from the kitchens. "Do you think you could teach Ginny to use the ECT machine?"

"Certainly! And it wouldn't be a bad idea for her to read those scrolls either!" Madame Pomfrey said. "Those copies will degrade quicker than normal parchment, so see me if you need additional copies."

"I will, thanks again!" Harry said, with a smile.

Ron returned from the kitchens, and the two of them made their way back to Drover's Haven. 

"Did Pomfrey sort you out?" Ron asked.

"Not yet, but she has a few ideas. She's coming over tonight to try a muggle treatment, and she gave me some scrolls to read." Harry explained.



Chapter 16: A Surprising Lunch
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        A week later, Harry and Madame Pomfrey had figured out just how much electricity dampened his magic enough to sleep comfortably. He still wasn't sleeping more than about 5 hours a night, but it was a vast improvement and Harry was feeling much more like himself.

Madame Pomfrey had taught Ginny how to use the ETC machine, and she and Hermione were shutting the door to her room and pouring over the scrolls most afternoons. 

At first Harry had tried to join them, but Hermione was a much faster reader than he was, and Ginny understood far more healers jargon, so the girls spent more time trying to explain what they were talking about than making any progress. After two days, Harry gave up and resigned himself to being summoned periodically to practice a charm or have Ginny prod at him with her wand. 

They had already learnt a few meditation spells that helped Harry tremendously. He found that carefully centering and calming himself extended to his magic, and when he mentioned this to Trilby and Ellie, they suggested he try doing yoga. Harry was a bit skeptical, but Ellie insisted that he could take a class in town, and that he’d like it. She even offered to show him around town the next day.

Harry was still unsure about the class, but when he mentioned the idea of going into town at dinner, everyone seemed to jump at the chance to explore their new home.

“That’s a wonderful idea Harry.” Hermione said. “You know we’ve been here over three months, it’s about time we had a look around town. We’ve been getting everything from the city, but there’s probably lots here that could be useful, or even entertaining!” 

Everyone started chattering about things they wanted to see in town, Hermione was hoping for a bookstore, Ginny was hoping for a clothing store, the Grangers seemed excited at the prospect of a day out in the muggle world.

Mr. Granger, who had agreed to be the property foreman for Harry, began going over a list of things they needed to get to start up the property.

Everyone went to sleep rather early, excited for the prospect of a change in routine. 



The next day Harry was up early as usual, but unlike normal, he found he was already sharing the breakfast table with most of the Weasleys. At half-past nine, Ellie and Carl pulled into the home paddock, having brought their large ute. Between the ute, the Granger’s car, and the help of a few charms, they managed to squash everyone in for the ride to town, after Ellie explained that it would be too hard to explain any other form of transportation. 

After a rather long drive through the Australian countryside, they passed a sign announcing that they were entering Seymour, Victoria. They turned onto a picturesque main street and parked in front of a small, antique looking hotel. Carl nodded hello to the proprietor, who was leaning in the doorway.

The whole group began to wander down the street, with Ellie and Carl pointing things out. When they came across a small bookshop, Hermione insisted that they lat her browse the rows of crammed shelves, and after a while the rest of the party became restless. They all split up in search of different things, agreeing to meet back at the cars at lunchtime. 

Harry followed Ellie around a corner until they came upon a dance studio. “They have all sorts of classes here,” she explained, “the owner is kind of quirky, but she teaches a lot of different exercise and dance classes.”

Sure enough, after an introduction, and a few minutes of chatting, Harry left with a pamphlet of the classes offered by Patty, the owner. There was a yoga class the next day, and she had advised Harry to come give it a try before deciding if he wanted to sign up for a whole course. “Just wear something you can move easily in,” she said, waving them out the door.

After looking the studio over, Harry followed Ellie over to the supply store that sold all manner of farm equipment, where he found Mr. Granger and Carl in a heated debate about some kind of tractor. 

He listed for a while, before deciding he had no clue what they were discussing, and began searching the aisles himself. He stumbled across a section of books and magazines, and selected several in the hopes of figuring out more of the farm on his own. He returned to where the others had been, and spoke to Mr. Granger about getting things that the farm needed. They spoke to a salesman, who helped them order the things they needed, as well as set up a store account using the bank card that Harry had arranged through the Goblins, as the muggles seemed to prefer that method of payment for most things. 

By then is was nearly lunchtime, so they made their way back towards the hotel, meeting up with Mr and Mrs. Weasley on the way. They had had a lovely morning it seemed, with Mr Weasley having stumbled upon a lawn bowling club, watching in fascination until Mrs. Weasley dragged him away. 

Once everyone had reunited near the cars, they discussed the possibility of lunch. “There’s a restaurant in the hotel here,” Ellie pointed out, “but it’s a bit stuffy.”

After much discussion, they decided to visit a cafe that was at the other end of the street. The whole group wandered, chatting happily, to the little cafe and went inside asking for a table large enough for their group. 

“Sure thing, love, won’t be a mo’,” the hostess said. “I’ll just have Drake push some tables together out back and turn on the heaters, it’s such lovely weather... it feels like Spring is coming early this year!”

“New busboy Kate?” Ellie, who seemed to know everyone, asked in a joking tone.

“You know how hard it is to keep anyone excited about cleaning tables and running food long.” She replied, stepping over to the kitchen door and calling instructions to the busboy. “This one works hard though, even if he is a bit odd.”

“Well that’s all you need, right?” Ellie pointed out.

“You’re not wrong there!” Kate smiled, “so who is this mob you have with you anyhow?” 

“Cousins of mine, from England.” Ellie said. “They’re the ones who’ve taken over Drovers Haven.” 

“Well that’s exciting news isn’t it!” Kate exclaimed, “You lot think you can hack it, the rural life?”

“That’s what we’re hoping to find out!” Harry laughed.

“Come on back, and lets get you lot fed.” Kate said, taking them through the small restaurant, to a cobblestone patio behind the restaurant, where several tables had been moved together to accommodate them. 

They settled in, ordering meat pies, hot chips, and cold lemonades, after Kate insisting that hers were the best in town.

They had the patio to themselves, and were chatting pleasantly about their day, when a crash rang out on the patio as the busboy dropped a tray that had previously held their lemonades. 

They all turned towards the commotion and froze, no one moving until George muttered, “no bloody way.” 

Because standing in the doorway, wearing an apron that was now covered with lemonade, was Draco Malfoy.