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The drugs had worn off enough to where Russell was actually aware of the happenings around him. He was now able to bathe and dress himself without assistance and was slowly getting used to the idea of having a “new” family. He rather liked his siblings, especially Delilah because she seemed to understand him so well, and his new parents were good people. They came to visit him often and brought him sweets (he found that Muggle sweets weren’t as interesting as Chocolate Frogs, but they were still acceptable. In fact he grew quite fond of the Milky Way bar).

Two days after the tests, Russell remained in the hospital for the follow-up treatment. His parents broke the news slowly that he would not be returning home with them. Russell had taken it surprisingly well, considering everything he had been through (the anti-anxiety drugs he’d been taking no doubt helped with his nerves), but was still apprehensive about going away to a new place and living with strangers. It was only after Delilah had told him it would be like the first time he went to Hogwarts that he stopped being so nervous. Yes, it was just like going away to school, only without all of his friends. Where were Harry and Hermione? He’d have to remember to ask someone.

After drying himself off with his towel, he slipped into the Muggle clothes his mum had brought from home. He never remembered owning a pair of jeans that color, but his mum insisted they were his. And, after taking a look at himself in the mirror, he found that while he didn’t dislike the light blue sweater, he suddenly missed his favorite red one with the giant “R” on the front. Maybe he’d ask him mum if he could have his Christmas present a little early this year.

A knock sounded on the door of Russell’s hospital room, and he raced to open it while shaking the dripping hair out of his face. Annie rushed in and grabbed her brother around the waist. The rest of the family followed and chattered happily, greeting the smiling boy.

“All ready to go then?” Mr. Green asked his son.

“Err yeah, Dad.”

As they pulled up to the gorgeous Victorian two-story, Russell gaped in amazement. He’d never seen a house so beautiful in his entire life. He imagined some very elegant, proper family to live there, one of high status and noble, pureblood lineage. This house was nothing like the Burrow, yet it still seemed as warm and inviting. Whoever lived there was certainly lucky.

“Ok munchkins, we’re home,” Mr. Green called back.

Whoa, Russell thought.Wicked.

Mrs. Green instructed her children to go play in the back yard while she and her husband started to pack Russell’s belongings. She hated to be sending him away but knew it was the only hope of getting her son back to normal.

Alexander wanted to play “cops and robbers,” but Russell had a better idea and taught him how to play “Aurors and Death Eaters.” He was a little disappointed that his younger brother didn’t know any of the proper spells but then reminded himself that Alex wasn’t yet of age to go to school, so it was understandable that his knowledge of magic would be lacking. No matter, he’d just have to educate him.

“First we’ve got to find wands,” Russell said as he crawled around the yard underneath the trees. He picked up two pine twigs from the ground, a longer one for himself and a shorter one for his brother, and scraped the needles off with his nails. He then took his “wand” and tapped it on the tree trunk, listening and watching closely.

“Knew it. Dragon heartstring,” he said and then proceeded to do the same with the shorter stick. “And unicorn tail-hair. Excellent.”

He handed Alex his new wand and proceeded to demonstrate the proper swish-and-flick motions he would need to cast spells correctly. Alex thought it was silly but remembered what his parents had said about playing along with his brother’s whims.

“Ok, here’s what happens: you’re a Death Eater trying to break into the Department of Mysteries, and I’m a famous and powerful Auror. I’m going to come save the world and start a duel with you. Ready?”

Alex laughed and scampered off to do…whatever it was he was supposed to be doing. Russ hid and watched Alex’s horrible attempt at acting evil; he decided his little brother would need some work.

Russell jumped out from behind a tree and startled his unguarded brother with an enthusiastic, “Expelliarmus!

Alex yelped and stumbled backwards. His arms flailed and his wand went flying out of his hands, landing in the grass nearly ten feet away. He stood up and brushed the grass and twigs from his sweater while noticing the satisfied look on his brother’s face. Alex’s bum hurt considerably when he landed on it, but he had to admit playing with his brother was fun in spite of the pain.

Russell prided himself for casting such a perfectly aimed disarming charm and was ready for another go. This time he’d teach Alex the shield charm so the novice would have a fair chance at defending himself. Just as Russell was beginning his instruction, Mrs. Green stepped out onto the patio and called out, “Come on in, boys! It’s almost time to go!”

Alex took off at a run, but Russell stopped him before he got too far. “Hey mate, you forgot your wand!” he said while running to pick it up. “You’ve got to be more careful with this thing. Like old Mad-Eye says: ‘constant vigilance!’ Never let it out of your sight!’

Alex suppressed a giggle but took the stick from his towering brother with utmost seriousness. “Um, yeah Ron, sorry. I’ll take good care of it from now on.”

“It’s ok, Alex. Just remember, it’s all about safety.” Russell pocketed his own wand and headed into the house, suddenly wishing he had more time to play. He found that having a younger brother was really fun and wished he could have spent more time with him.

Russell had gotten used to the Muggle system of transportation but was nonetheless impatient with the inefficiency. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t just use the Floo Network to get…wherever it was that they were going. Or better yet, he could have just flown. His Cleensweep 11 had since gone missing, but the broom he found in the hallway closet would have worked just fine if it weren’t for his mum insisting the skies were no longer safe.

The car trip really wasn’t too bad, though. Russell had his sisters and brother to entertain him as he told them about Hogwarts. He figured Delilah would be especially interested since she was almost of age to go to school. A mere thirty minutes later, the family arrived at a small junction in the road marked with a sign that said “Welcome to Deerfield Home.”

The long, winding driveway was abounded by dense trees that, though not terribly spooky, still gave Russell the eerie feeling that he was back in the Forbidden Forest. He wondered if any magical creatures lay in wait just behind the treelike and imagined that Hagrid’s cottage would go well in a place like that.

They pulled to a stop in the circular driveway, and the gravel crunched underneath their shoes as they stepped out of the car. Mr. Green went to the back to unload his son’s trunk while the kids explored the front porch of Deerfield Home.

“Honey, what’s this doing here?” he asked, referring to the broom.

“He seemed to think he needed it, and I didn’t fight him. I just hope he doesn’t try to fly it out of a second-story window or anything,” Mrs. Green replied with a nervous laugh.

Mr. Green shrugged. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. They’ll keep a close eye on him here.”

Russell examined the ivy-covered, red brick walls of the elegant nineteenth century manor. The fresh, spring scent from the red and purple flowers that lined the beds in front of the building radiated through the air. He bent down to pick one of the small purple flowers and tucked it behind Annie’s ear, who beamed up at him.

Russell thought he saw a blur of dark brown hair pass through one of the open windows on the third floor, but when he looked back again it was gone. The family made their way to the door and prepared themselves for what they would find inside. Ian turned the intricately welded metal handle and was instantly greeted by a young, dark-haired woman who sat at a low desk. She looked busy writing something but put down whatever it was that she was doing to welcome the guests.

“Good afternoon. You must be the Greens. My name is Christina and I’m the manager here at Deerfield Home.” Her round, dark brown eyes flashed congenially at the family.

“Ian Green,” he said, extending his hand. “Pleasure to meet you. This is my wife, Bianca, and my children Annie, Alex, Delilah, and—”

Russell jumped in and introduces himself as “Ron,” smiling at the good-looking female before him.

“Well we’re so glad you’re here to stay with us, Ron. Everyone has been anticipating your arrival,” she said cheerfully.

“Who’s we?”

Christina smiled. “The other Deerfield residents, Ron. They’ve been looking forward to having a new friend around. Well, most of them anyways. You’ll get a chance to meet some of them later, but right now why don’t I show you to your room?”

She led them through a door on the opposite wall and up wide, particularly steep staircase at the end of the hall. Most of the family grew short of breath, but Russell thought it was a lot like training for Quidditch. Once on the third floor, Christina turned a couple of corners and led them down a number of identical-looking hallways until stopping in front of a door near a second staircase.

If the number on the door had been properly attached it would have said “311”, but the three hung by just one screw and dangled down, making it look like “E11.”

“Sorry about that number, Ron. We’ll get that fixed straightaway.”

He nodded and smiled at her, and though he heard her mutter something under her breath that sounded like, “These kids…”

He noticed that Christina used a key to unlock the door, but then gave him nothing for his own use to lock the door. When he asked her about it, she explained that the residents were not allowed their own keys to their rooms because of the risk that they would lock themselves in and be a danger to themselves or other residents. Russell thought it odd and became fearful of the prospect that other people would have the ability to lock and unlock his room without him knowing.

The room was smaller than his back at home, but was actually quite accommodating. He figured it to be about the same size as his hospital room, but without the benefit of his own bathroom.

“Where are the bathrooms?” he asked, concerned.

“They’re just down the hall. I’ll be up in a bit to show you around, but I’ll leave you to get settled and spend a few moments with your family.” Christina then turned to Mr. and Mrs. Green and said, “We’ll be keeping in touch, and please feel free to call me whenever you like if you ever have any questions. And don’t worry, Ron will do fabulously here.”

Her high heels clicked on the hardwood floor and she closed the door behind her, leaving Russell and his family to examine the room and begin the process of saying goodbye. Mrs. Green first eyed the window and looked nervously at her husband, but he shook his head and pointed at the locks, which eased her considerably. Delilah, who had been uncharacteristically quiet for most of the day, sat on the bed and tested its comfort.

“Not bad,” she said. “It’s a pretty nice room, actually. Nice colors, soft bed… I think you’ll like it here, Ron.” Delilah sounded as if she was trying to convince herself as much as her older brother.

Russell sat down beside her and agreed about the state of the bed. Annie climbed into his lap and tried to get him to brush her doll’s hair, and Alex took his wand and started to poke her with it.

“Hey, be careful with that, Alex. Accidental magic can be very unpredictable.”

Mrs. Green laughed softly but then turned into light gasps as she began to cry.

Russell crossed the room to hug her and asked, “What’s wrong, Mum? Why are you crying?”

“Oh…Ron, honey, I’m just going to miss you, that’s all. I can’t bear being away from my children.”

“Don’t cry, Mum. Remember, if you want to talk to me, you can always just send an owl. Besides, you get to come visit right?” Russell looked at his dad to confirm.

“Yes, that’s right,” Mr. Green assured. “We’ll come visit all the time.”

“See, Mum? It’ll be ok. As soon as all the Death Eaters are rounded up and sent to Azkaban then it’ll be safe for me to come home. I’m sure it won’t be too long, even. The Order is really getting very powerful. I don’t expect it to take more than a few weeks. Then Harry and Hermione can come visit me, too.”

Mr. and Mrs. Green exchanged looks but figured now was not the best time to get into it.

“Ok, kids. It’s best we get going.”

Each of the three children lined up to get their hugs from their big brother. Delilah didn’t speak to make sure she wouldn’t cry, and Alex made Russell promise to teach him more magic when he got home. Annie squeezed her brother’s waist as hard as she could and then ran back to put her doll on Russell’s bed.

“You can have her, Ron. So you don’t get scared.”

“Thanks, Annie. I promise I’ll take good care of her for you.”

His parents then made to say their goodbyes, each hugging him and telling him how much they loved him. They promised they’d come back and visit the next day and hugged him again.

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