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Wow, it's been a while, huh? Sorry about that. I hope I still have some followers left! This is a nice long chapter, so I hope I am somewhat forgiven. 
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CHAPTER TWELVE

For several days after Mrs. Weasley’s return, everyone settled into a comfortable routine of taking care of Teddy and helping with the household chores. Molly tried to refuse the help at first, but since it let her spend more time with Teddy, she quickly relented. It turned out that having a baby around was the perfect distraction for her. He was fun ‘work’ and kept her from being idle while she regained her strength. The mental energies healer had already come for two visits and was impressed with the amount of improvement she had made, so far. There were still issues to resolve, but she was definitely on her way.

 

On the day after Molly’s discharge from hospital, Harry finally found a good opportunity to talk with George. He’d been meaning to do so since Fred’s funeral, but something else always seemed to take priority. Now that things had quieted down a bit, he felt it shouldn’t be put off any longer. He found George in the den, hunched over the desk, writing a letter. “Hey, George. Alright there?” George looked up as Harry walked in, taking a seat on the small over-stuffed sofa catty-corner to the desk.

 

“Yeah, yeah, fine. Just finishing up a letter to a, um…friend.” He blushed slightly, as he put down his quill and quickly rolled up the parchment. He then turned his full attention to Harry. “So, what can I do for ‘the boy who stole my baby sister’s heart’, then?” he asked.

 

Harry grinned. Then his face took on a more serious expression. “Right, so…I’ve been meaning to talk to you since the funeral. I wanted to let you know how, um, sorry I am about…for…um, Fred’s death.” He was nervously fidgeting with his wand. “Not a day goes by that I don’t replay what happened in my mind, and wonder what I could have done to end things with Voldemort sooner, so Fred would still be with us…with you…” Harry managed to get out before his throat tightened on him and he had to stop.

 

George leaned over and put his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Listen mate,” he said gently. “You don’t have to do this. I know what you’re feeling; you’re not the only one with guilt over Fred’s death. I wonder all the time if there was something I could’ve done to save him. I’m his twin, for Merlin’s sake. I should have felt something was going to happen. Why didn’t I react sooner? Why were we all joking at a time like that?” George lowered his arm and sat back in his chair, taking a calming breath. Then he looked Harry straight in the eyes and said slowly and clearly, “You are no more to blame than anyone else, Harry.”

 

Harry started to protest, but George put his hand to stop him. “Harry, what you’re doing will eat you up inside. It will drain you mentally, emotionally and physically. Even if I didn’t care about you, I definitely care about my sister. If you don’t let go of the guilt, it’s going to consume you and you won’t be able to move on. How do you think that will effect Ginny? She’s putting all her hopes for the future in the fact that you two will heal each other and move past all this pain. If you can’t let go of these feelings, Harry, she’ll be stuck there with you. Is that the kind of future you want for her?”

 

Harry looked back at George with a look of dispair. “I hear you, George, but I don’t know how to change what I feel. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it’s like I’ve been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, forever. I’ve been chained to Riddle by that bloody damned prophecy since before I was born. I’ve known that I had to be the one to defeat him since I was fifteen. Do you have any idea what it’s been like all these years, knowing the fate of the world depended on me? It was ridiculous for people to think an average bloke like me could handle such a thing. I mean, what did I know about killing someone?

 

And then, to have so many people die just so I could survive to fulfill the prophecy. These people believed it was so important Riddle be destroyed for good, they willingly put themselves in danger to protect me, just so I could get the chance to one day defeat him. But, the guilt I feel for all their deaths is almost more than I can stand, sometimes. And the longer it took to find what we needed to make Tom mortal again, the more people died; so many innocent lives taken, because I couldn’t kill him fast enough.” He lowered his head into his hands and sat there for a while, consumed in grief.

 

George went over and sat next to Harry on the sofa. He put his arm around him and sat in silence with him, just letting him know he was there. They sat that way for a while, until Harry finally looked up and apologized to George. He felt ashamed by his outburst. Here he was unloading his problems on George, when he had enough problems of his own. George was the one who needed consoling, yet there he was consoling Harry, instead.

 

“Listen Harry, you don’t need to apologize to me or anyone else. You’ve been through enough crap in your life to have your very own bed reserved in the mental ward at St. Mungo’s. People can only imagine the horrifying things you’ve lived through. You should have died or at least gone gaga ages ago. Yet, here you are; still alive and surprisingly sane. In fact, I’m surprised you don’t have more break downs. No one would fault you for it. You know what I think? I think you should go a bit easier on yourself. Give yourself a chance to recover. No matter what kind of hero the wizarding world has hyped you up to be, I know you’re still just a guy grasping at a chance to live a normal life. Give it some time, mate…you’ll see. It will get better.”

 

Harry was amazed at the strength and calmness George was exuding. He looked over at him with furrowed brows. “So, how do you do it? What keeps you going? Every time I think I’m making progress, I end up taking two steps back, as you just saw,” he added with a smirk. “I just can’t see an end to it all, some days.”

 

“Look, I’m not saying it should be easy for you to just pick yourself up and move on with your life. I know how hard it is. There’s not a minute that goes by I don’t wish I could switch places with Fred. But, that’s not how it was meant to be. By some cruel fate, I ended up being the one who got left behind; I’m the one who has to find a way to keep living when all I want to do most days is give up. But, I’ll tell you what really made me come out of my funk. It was seeing Mum crack up like she did. It made me think how I haven’t been there for her or anyone else that I care about, since Fred died.”

 

“But, everyone understands. They know how hard it’s been for you,” Harry stated, earnestly.

 

 “Yeah, but it’s also been hard on Mum and Dad, and the rest of the family. It’s been hard on Lee and Angelina, too. But, I’ve been so absorbed in my own grief that I haven’t even thought about them. We’re all grieving about the same people, but we’re grieving alone. We could be helping each other if we went through it together.”

 

“You know that first night Mum was in hospital, I sat at her bedside and broke down. After a while I asked Fred for help. And, I swear he was with me, right there in the room. I could feel his presence. I talked to him about how scared I was; for Mum, Dad, the rest of the family. But, mostly, about how scared I was to keep on living without him. He took such a huge chunk of me with him when he died; I was scared to find out who I was without him.”

 

“Yeah, I get that,” said Harry in low voice. He could feel tears building up in his eyes, threatening to spill over as George continued to tell his story.  

 

“Yeah, well, he made me understand some important things that night. The biggest being that  everything in life happens for a reason. There is a certain chain of events that has to take place before anything can occur in our lives. If any one of those events is altered or doesn’t occur, the end result changes or may not happen at all. Take you and Voldy, for example. Everything that happened before you finally defeated him, had to happen exactly that way, in order to get you to that end result. If even one thing happened differently that day, or that year, even, you may never have succeeded. The deaths of Fred, Tonks, Remus, Sirius, Dumbledore, Snape, your parents, the muggle families who knew nothing of our world...all of that had to occur so you could one day defeat Riddle for good. All those deaths were sacrifices that had to be made to ensure your victory…our victory. And, we can’t let those sacrifices go to waste.”

 

“That’s the other thing he made me understand. Do you think all those people who died, want us to live the rest of our lives mourning them or feeling guilty about their deaths? Hell no. The best way to honor them is to live the best lives we can. They want to see us move on and be happy, not mope around forever.” 

 

“Did Fred happen to give you step-by-step instructions on how to do that?” Harry asked with a wistful smile.

 

“One day at a time, bro. One day at a time. And, we’re all going to lean on each other, a lot. The odds are that we won’t all have our bad moments at the same time. So, when one of us falters, the others will be there to help.  If you believe what they say about strength in numbers, then this family is pretty damned strong. Add to that our friends and we can’t lose.” George was finished and he looked at Harry for his reaction. “Do you get what I’m saying, Harry?”





“Yeah…yeah, I get it. I think I knew it all already, but I needed someone to tell me, again. Looks like I’m the one who faltered today. Thanks for being there for me. And, I promise I’ll do the same for you when you need it.” Harry smiled. He felt better after talking with George.

 

“I know you will, mate. I know you will…Now, let’s cut with the mushy stuff and get back to work, shall we? I have to finish up these letters then help Mum with lunch.” He gave Harry a slap on the back and stood up.

 

Harry also stood and stretched. He and Ginny hadn’t been sleeping all that well since Teddy’s arrival. It wasn’t that the baby was all that fussy, but when he did wake for feedings, Harry always woke up whether it was his turn or not. And, it always took him so long to get back to sleep. He was feeling a bit sleep-deprived. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, after all those sleepless nights in the tent. He smiled to himself, thankful that the tent and their task was nothing but a memory, now.

 

“See, you later, George?” He asked as he headed for the door and the stair case that led to Ginny’s room.

 

“Yeah, later, Harry…” He had already submersed himself in his writing.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

As Harry climbed the old creaky steps, his thoughts turned to Ginny, as they so often did. I wonder what she’s been up to? It’s been quiet around the house all morning. Usually, there was a bustle of activity, especially with Teddy around. He was about to call out for Ginny, but stopped short at her door, once he spotted her. There she was lying on her bed, on her side with little Teddy tucked in close to her. They were both sound asleep.

 

Harry felt his chest tighten. Then a beautiful smile spread across his face. He couldn’t help it; he was simply overwhelmed by the scene before him. It was like catching a glimpse of his future; the one he dreamt about so many nights in that awful tent. She looked so lovely lying there with her mussed up red hair covering half her face and her tiny body curled up into a ball, protectively encircling Teddy. This is what it’ll be like when we’re finally married and have our own kids. It filled him up with happiness just thinking about it. One day, it’s gonna happen. Then I’ll know it was all worth it. George was right; moving on and being happy is the best way to honor all those who died. And, Ginny makes me happy. With her by my side, I can move on.  He never thought he would survive to have a moment like this; where he was thinking about his future and it was filled with happiness instead of fear and dread. It was definitely the much better alternative.

 

He took his shoes off and quietly slipped in under the covers, next to Ginny. She stirred slightly, then feeling the warmth from Harry’s body, snuggled up close to him and fell back to sleep. Harry lay his arm across both Ginny and Teddy and soon found himself blissfully dreaming of a future filled with the love of family and friends.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following day, Harry set off to meet with Kingsley to discuss the press conference he was being urged to hold. He left the Burrow a little before ten and made it to the security desk by 9:53. He kept his hood on and his head down to hide his face. Because of the time of day, it wasn’t as crowded as it would have been an hour earlier, so Harry had a relatively easy time getting to Kingsley’s office without being recognized. He was also lucky that he had met the security guard at the front desk once before, so he wasn’t too startled when he found out it was Harry Potter’s wand he was examining.

 

He was escorted by Kingsley’s reception wizard to a seat in front of a very large mahogany desk. He was told the Minister would be back shortly and asked if he wanted something to drink while he waited. He declined and as the wizard left, Harry stood to admire all the paintings, photos and knick knacks that lined 3 walls of the fairly spacious room. The fourth wall was occupied by a floor to ceiling magical window depicting a lovely park setting with a pond and a winding path ambling its way into the horizon.

 

What caught Harry’s eye the most was the original African muggle artwork displayed throughout the room. There were masks hanging on the walls, photos of people dressed in tribal outfits with spears in hand, and colorfully painted pottery lining the shelves. Harry was admiring all of this when the Minister walked in and greeted him in a cheerful voice. He strode over and grasped Harry’s hand with both of his, shaking it amorously. Then he asked Harry to take a seat as he did the same.

 

“So, Harry how have you been? I know things haven’t been that easy for you, trying to adjust to a relatively normal life and all. But I hope they are slowly getting better for you. And, how are Ginny and the rest of the Weasley clan? I hear from Arthur that Molly is doing well and that godson of yours is helping a lot with keeping her pleasantly busy.” He sat behind his desk leaning forward on his arms, his hands clasped in front of him. He wore a pleasant smile on his face and looked genuinely interested in what Harry was about to say.

 

“Well, everything is going as well as can be expected, I guess. I have my good moments and my bad ones, just like everyone else. But, someone is always there to keep me in line when I get too far gone. And, you’re right about Teddy. He’s been great for Mrs. Weasley’s. Ginny, Ron and Hermione are all coping, just like me.” Harry then changed the subject. “How are things going with finding a new home for the Malfoys?”

 

“Pretty well, actually. They will be going out tomorrow to look at a piece of property on the outskirts of London. It’s nothing grand and it’s in a muggle neighborhood, but that’s what Narcissa requested; something out of the way and small enough for her and Draco to manage with a few house-elves. Hopefully, this will do and we can start with the protection spells soon.” Harry was pleased to hear this. The sooner they got out of the Tonks’s house, the better he would feel.

 

“Well, Harry, let’s move on to business, shall we? You know I’m not one for beating around the bush and wasting everyone’s time. I brought up the idea of  a press conference right after I was announced Interim Minister. I knew you weren’t ready at the time, as you had some healing to do. But, it’s been a few weeks, now and I’m afraid we can’t put it off any longer. The press is reacting to the public’s need to know some details about how you brought Voldemort to his demise. And, they can be tenacious, as you well know. I’ll admit there are some things I feel the public has a right to know. A lot of them lived through the terror brought on by Voldemort and his death eaters first hand, and others have lost loved ones at their hands. For them, a few details about your journey and its end would give them some closure.”

 

“It’s not them I mind. But, for every one of them there are 2 others who are only interested in me because I’m ‘famous’. They don’t care about what happened with Voldemort or about the people who died to help give them the freedom they now enjoy. They just want to know what I’m wearing or see my famous scar. And the tabloid reporters are all too happy to supply them with that info, even if that’s not what this press conference is for.”





“Yes, Harry. You’re right. Unfortunately, that is human nature. People can’t help themselves. I’m not claiming to understand it, but it is a truth we have to deal with. I find myself in a similar situation, though not as intense as yours. Since taking on this position, I have friends and family I never knew about and the paparazzi are always following me around everywhere I go. But, I wanted this job, and that goes with the territory. You never asked for your celebrity status. So, I do feel for you. But, one press conference is all I’m asking. That should keep them off my back for a while.”

 

“Kingsley, I know I have to do this. But, it’s not going to be easy for me. I’m not good at public speaking and have no idea how to put into words what I’ve been through. And, there will be lots of questions at the end and many of them will be personal. Is there any way to avoid that part of it?

 

“Harry, you don’t have to answer anything you don’t feel comfortable answering.

We can make a statement at the beginning of the conference about which questions are off-limits. And, you can always say ‘no comment’ and move on. Also, I think it would be a good idea to have Ron and Hermione up on the stage with you. There may be some questions you can defer to them and I’m sure the press will ask about them, as well. Anyway, go home and discuss this with your friends and I’ll get back to you tomorrow with a date and time. We can discuss more details after that.”


“Yeah, alright, I’ll do that. And, for the record, I want you to know the only reason I’m doing this is because you’re the first Minister I actually trust. But, as much as I like you, I’m telling you now: if things get out of hand at the press conference, I’ll abandon it, friends or not,” Harry stated matter-of-factly.

 

“Duly noted,” replied Kingsley with a nod of his head. And with that, he stood up, walked around the desk and shook Harry’s hand with one of his while placing the other on his shoulder. “You tell everyone ‘hello’ from me and I hope to have time to stop by and visit Molly soon. I’m afraid I haven’t been much of a friend through all this.

 

“But, you have. You were there for Andromeda when she needed you. Mrs. Weasley really appreciated that. But, I’ll tell her, just the same.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Harry was home in time for lunch. He spent a pleasant day hanging out with Ginny and Teddy, taking a stroll around the grounds with the magical baby buggy and getting dinner ready for the family. He had to admit, he loved doing the ‘domestic thing’. He hated having to cook and clean for the Dursleys while growing up, but this was entirely different. He found himself happy to help out with the dishes and laundry and ironing at the Weasley’s. Of course, being able to use magic didn’t hurt, but he really took pleasure in these simple things, because he knew he was doing them for people he cared about. It made him look forward to the future even more. In fact, he’d been thinking about that more and more, lately. He knew they were still very young, but he kept getting the urge to make his and Ginny’s relationship more permanent. He just wasn’t sure how she would react and he was positive Molly would think it too soon. Maybe, it would be best to wait…

 

He was brought out of his thoughts by a silvery object filling up the kitchen. When his eyes focused he saw that it was Mr. Weasley’s patronus. “There has been an attack just outside the Tonk’s property! Meet me there as soon as you can!” Then it dissolved into thin air. Harry and Ginny were left speechless, staring at each other in terror.

 

“I’ve got to go! Find Ron, Hermione and George and tell them to meet me there!” yelled Harry, as he turned to run out the back door.

 

“Wait, what about me?” Ginny cried, catching Harry by the arm and spinning him back around to face her.

 

“You need to stay here and take care of Teddy. I’m sorry. You know your mum won’t be able to handle the stress of this, alone. She’ll need you here.”

 

“What about what I need? It’s going to drive me crazy not knowing what’s going on…”she yelled back at him.

 

Harry took her gently in his arms and whispered, “Gin, I’m sorry, but you need to stay here. And, it’s not because I don’t think you can handle yourself; I know you can. You’re just the best person to take care of your Mum, right now. Look, I promise I’ll send you word as soon as I can.” He kissed her chastely on the lips. “I love you.” Then he was out the door and beyond the gait before she could even think of how to respond. She quickly came back to her senses and remembered to send a patronus to Ron and Hermione, then ran upstairs to tell George.

 

After everyone had left, she sulked over to the sitting room where Teddy was napping in his bassinette. Good thing Mum is sleeping, too. I hope they get back soon. I don’t want to have to tell her that her husband, sons and ‘adopted’ children are off fighting death eaters again.

 

Then she plopped herself down on the sofa nearest the bassinette to do what she had done all last year…wait and worry, worry and wait. 

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