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

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

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

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

***


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

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

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

***


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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