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A/N: Wow, it's been a while, huh? Sorry for the delay in updates. I hope this was worth the wait. 
Just to refresh your memories: Mr. Weasley sent a patronus for the Burrow asking for assistance fighting off death eaters attacking Andromeda and the Malfoy's just outside her house. Harry leaves and asks Ginny to stay behind to alert the others and to take care of Teddy and Mrs. Weasley. This chapter tells the story of the attack and its consequences on our cast of characters. 
Thanks for reading and, as always, please leave a review!

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

As soon as Harry’s feet hit solid ground, he was ready for action. Just a few meters in front of him, he could see Draco, Narcissa and Andromeda, Arthur and Kingsley each engaged in separate duels. His presence was quickly noted by all, especially Draco, who was trying desperately to get Harry’s attention. He was trying to convey that his mother needed help. After a quick survey of the grounds, Harry realized Narcissa was indeed the person in most need of help. Harry surmised that she was the main target of today’s attack, since three death eaters were attacking her at once. In reality, he was doing pretty well, but Harry didn’t think she could keep that level of intensity going for much longer.

He quickly pointed his wand in front of himself and shouted, “Protego!” A bright golden light flowed out from the tip of his wand, creating a solid barrier from all the curses flying about. He decided to run around the periphery of the duelers so no one could attack him from behind and soon made his way to Narcissa’s side. He gestured for her to get behind him and she complied without hesitation. Harry’s shield was holding up well against the curses and this was allowing Narcissa a brief respite to catch her breath and regain some strength. But, if they wanted to win this battle they would have to do more than just defensive magic. Harry needed an offensive plan. Without looking away from his opponents, he asked Narcissa if she was ready to fight again. Without a word, she came to stand next to him, her wand at the ready, a look of resolve on her face.

“OK, now start throwing curses as fast as you can while I protect us with my shield. Move your wand tip just outside the shield’s barrier then pull it back after each shot. Just keep going until I tell you to stop. Got it?” Harry’s focus never wavered from his protego spell.

“Yes,” she replied firmly, before flying into action. Harry was impressed by her speed and agility; especially for a woman her age. But, then he realized she must have kept herself in top dueling condition, being a death eater. I wonder if she knows these wizards. None of them looked familiar to Harry, but then he hadn’t had time to look them over properly.

After ten minutes of battling in this manner, Harry heard three distinct pops in the air and saw Ron, Hermione and George running toward them. George immediately went to his father’s aid, while Ron went to help Andromeda and Hermione came to help him. This is when the tables started turning, as the death eaters were out-numbered and rather out-experienced. With Hermione next to them, Harry told Narcissa to stop her attacks and get ready for the shield to disband. Now that they were three-against-three they could each fight their own death eater. Besides, it took a lot of energy to keep a shield up for so long. He was starting to feel the effects. “One, two, three!” he shouted and the shield disappeared.

Kingsley was able to finish off his opponent first, and after stunning and binding him, he moved on to help Draco. Arthur and George were next and so it went, until there was a neat row of death eaters lying on the ground. “Well, that was a bit of fun I didn’t expect to have today,” George stated, staring down at the hooded figures.

Arthur didn’t have his son’s confident tone to his voice as he looked around anxiously. “Is everyone all right? Any injuries?” he asked.

There were a few minor cuts and bruises, but nothing that needed immediate attention, so Kingsley began calling for auror back-up to transport the prisoners to the Ministry. They would need to be interrogated as soon as possible. Andromeda and Narcissa shakily made their way back to the house, assisted by Draco. The rest helped out wherever they were needed. Once things were sufficiently under control, Harry decided to go inside and check on Andromeda. Kingsley and Arthur had just finished getting details about the attack from Andromeda and the Malfoys. They met Harry on the way out of the cottage.

“Good thing you four showed up when you did,” said Kingsley. “Now, we have all of the suspects under custody and no one was seriously injured. Good teamwork on everyone’s part.” He patted Harry on the back and bid him goodbye.

“I’m just glad no one was hurt. Those wizards must have been staking out the place for weeks, waiting for the right opportunity. We’ll see what we can get out of them before the night’s over. Tell Molly I won’t be home for dinner,” He stared at Harry for a minute, then gave him a quick hug before catching up with his colleagues. Harry wondered why Mr. Weasley had to help with the interrogations. He wasn’t part of the auror department. He supposed with the ministry’s ranks so diminished by the war, Kingsley needed all the help he could get from the few wizards he still trusted.

His thoughts returned to Andromeda as he walked through the door to her home. This was a lot to handle so soon after the funerals of her daughter and son-in-law. He wanted to make sure she was alright. He also wanted to make sure the protective spells on the house were still intact.

He found everyone in the sitting room, standing around the fire, eating bars of chocolate. Pale, anxious faces looked up at Harry as soon as he walked in. “How is everyone?” he asked.

“How do you think we are, Potter?” asked Draco as he wrapped on arm around his mother. “I thought this place was supposed to be a safe house. That was the whole reason we agreed to stay trapped here for the past two weeks!” he sneered.

“Draco, please,” pleaded Narcissa, as she looked into her son’s eyes. “I know it’s been hard for you, but don’t get angry, now.”

“I’m sorry, Mother, but those bastards almost killed you today. I have every right to be angry!”

“Well, you would have been protected if you stayed in the house.” Harry stated dryly. Draco was not pleased.

“That’s all we’ve done for the past two weeks; stay in this bloody house. Do you have any idea what it’s like staying cooped up with the same two people day in and day out? I had to get out. I was going insane! Not that you would care. You and your friends are probably enjoying our misery.”

“First of all, I know exactly what it’s like to be cooped up with the same people for a lot longer than two weeks. Secondly, no one said you had to stay, Malfoy. Your aunt offered you shelter out of the goodness of her heart. Why she did so is still a mystery to me, but you are free to go if you don’t like the offer. I don’t care one way or the other. I just don’t want you putting Andromeda in any more danger. That was way too close of a call. From now on, you stay inside until a new home is secured for you. Those are the terms, take it or leave it.” Harry’s tone was not harsh, but it left no room for interpretation.

Apparently, Draco wasn’t quite ready to accept Harry’s terms. “And, who made you the Minister of Magic, Potter? Last I checked, you don’t have any authority over me!”

“You’re right, I don’t. But, seeing as you and your mother are being kept out of Azkaban because of my testimony to Kingsley, I’d watch your tone of voice around me.” Harry’s eyes narrowed and his jaw was set. He wasn’t going to let Draco bully him around when he knew what a true coward and double-crosser he really was.

Draco’s face was screwed up tightly and his fists were clenched at his sides. “I need some air!” he shouted through clenched teeth as he rushed past Harry toward the door. They heard it slam shut behind him.

“Draco, wait!” shouted Narcissa, running after him. Harry stopped her before she got to the door.

“Let him go,” he told her, firmly. “He’ll be alright. He’s not stupid enough to step out of the boundaries twice in one day. Besides, no one will be trying anything again tonight. Let him blow off some steam. He is right about being cooped up; it can drive one insane.”

Narcissa looked down at Harry’s hand gripping her arm. He let it go, but still stood blocking her path to the doorway. She slowly walked over to a chair and sat down with a heavy sigh. “Yes, of course you’re right. It’s just that if-if anything happened to him, I-I…” she started to cry before she could finish her sentence. Andromeda watched her from across the room with a sympathetic look, but did not go over to comfort her.

“Mr. Potter,” she sniffed. I know you and my sister are going out of your way to help us. He knows it, too. It’s just that he is hesitant to accept your help because it is your side that has imprisoned his father. He can’t bring himself to be grateful because of that fact.”

“Aren’t you both forgetting why yourb husband was sent to Azkaban, in the first place? You make it sound as if he is an innocent man who we locked up for no good reason. That is hardly the case and you both know it.” He was trying hard to keep his tone calm and even.

“I am well aware of his actions as a death eater, Mr. Potter. But, don’t our actions during the final battle count for anything? I would think the new Minister would understand that our loyalties lie only with our family and that my husband’s and son’s actions as assistants to the Dark Lord were spurred on by fear of death? We were basically his slaves and now that he is vanquished, we are no longer a threat to anyone.”

“I agree with you, but most of the wizarding world does not know all the facts as I do. Once the trials are held you will have your chance to tell your side of the story. And, I will do my part to fill in the gaps. Until then, the ministry will not take any chances with the public’s safety. All death eaters that participated in dark magic and unforgivable curses will remain in prison. And, there is no guarantee that your husband will have his freedom even after his trial. I’m sorry but Draco is going to have to come to terms with all this if he is going to have a future in this new world.”

“And, with time, I think he will do so. He’s just lost without his father to guide him and it’s only normal for him to lash out at those he feels are responsible. You can’t know what it’s been like for him these past few weeks.”

Up until that point, Harry was able to control his temper, but hearing Narcissa talk about poor Draco not having his father around for only a few short weeks put him over the top. Had she been living under a rock for the past 17 years? Or was she so wrapped up in her own selfish world all of her life, that she never thought about others at all.

“Forgive me, but did you just accuse me of not knowing what it feels like to not have a father around? In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve been living without a Father or a Mother for the past seventeen years and it’s all because of the person you dedicated your lives to so freely,” He said fiercely. “I know exactly how it feels to not have anyone around to love me or guide me. At least Draco has a chance to get his father back and at the very least he will be able to visit him form time to time. Do you know where I had to go to visit my parents back in December?” He was furious, now. “At the graveyard in Godric’s Hollow! So, forgive me if I’m not showing as much sympathy for your son as you think I should. It’s just a little difficult for me to forgive him or your family for what happened to me and my family!” He paused and tried to calm himself down. He took a shuddering breath and turned to Andromeda. His smile was tight as he addressed her. “I’m sorry for my outburst. I just came to make sure you were alright. I’m glad you are safe. Now, if you’ll excuse me I want to go check on the wards around the property before I leave.”


But, before he turned to go, Andromeda ran over to him and wrapped her arms around him. “You’re parents would be so proud of who you are today, Harry,” she whispered into his ear. Then she let him go and quickly went off to the kitchen, leaving a stunned Harry in her wake.

When he came to his senses, he simply turned and walked out the door, a bit calmer than he was just a few minutes ago. It took Harry about half an hour to check that the security spells were still intact and working properly. That’s when he noticed the setting sun and realized how late it was. He had been inside the wards of the security spells the entire time, which meant there was no way for anyone to contact him. He suddenly paled, thinking how frightened Ginny must be, not having heard anything from him for so long after the others had returned. And he was supposed to have told Mrs. Weasley that Mr. Weasley wouldn’t be home for a while, as well. He quickly walked out of the security of the wards and apparated as fast as he could, back to the Burrow.

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

When Harry left the battle scene to go check on Andromeda and the others, Ron, Hermione and Fred apparated back to the Burrow, to let Ginny and Mrs. Weasely know what happened. This appeased them for a while, and soon Arthur floo-called in to say he would be at the Ministry for a long while more. But, as more time went by without word of Harry, something started to change in Ginny’s demeanor. She no longer could control her emotions, and let her fear take over. She was pacing in the back yard, mumbling to herself and pulling at her hands. No matter how many times anyone tried to tell her Harry would be fine, she refused to be consoled. Her mind was locked in its own world of fear and the only thing that could help her was to see Harry with her own two eyes.

Hermione and Ron stood on the porch, watching over her. They couldn’t do anything to calm her down, but wanted to stay close, in case. It was another 20 minutes before they heard the faint pop of apparition just outside the front gates. Like a bolt of lightning, Ginny raced to the front yard, her hair flying wildly behind her. Before Harry knew what was happening she leapt into his arms and embraced him tightly with her head buried in his chest. She wouldn’t look up or speak to him; she couldn’t. All she could do was cry hysterically. This was not a normal reaction for her so Harry was taken off guard. All he could do was hug her back as he looked to his two best friends for some explanation. They had followed after Ginny and were now standing a few feet behind her. They both shrugged their shoulders and gave him apologetic looks. They didn’t know what triggered her fears or outburst any more than he did.

“Hey, now…what’s this all about?” Harry whispered consolingly into her hair while rubbing her back. “What’s happened since I’ve been gone?”

She just kept on bawling and finally Harry decided to lead her over to the bench near the fence and sit down with her. This was no easy task as she refused to let go of holding him the entire time. Once they were seated, with Ginny on his lap still clinging to his neck, he tried calming her down, again. After a while, she did seem to react to Harry’s voice and touch and her sobs began to diminish a bit.

Harry had never seen her like this before and was quite affected by her sadness. She seemed so vulnerable at that moment; all he wanted was to hold her and protect her. He knew they would need to talk about what triggered her fears and brought on this reaction, but he didn’t think this was the time to get into all that. She needed to calm down first and rest. Maybe, later in the evening he would coax things out of her.

Once Ginny was sufficiently calmed down, the four friends walked slowly back to the house, Harry supporting Ginny as it seemed she would collapse any minute from shear exhaustion. Mrs. Weasley took one look at them when they entered through the front door and, without question, took charge of the situation. She ordered Harry to take Ginny up to her bed to lie down. She asked Hermione to get some towels ready to use as cool compresses and Ron to watch over Teddy while she brewed the tea for the calming serum.

Within minutes Ginny was lying in bed collapsed against her pillows, weakly sipping her tea, with Hermione standing guard over her. Harry stood just inside the doorway, anxiously watching her, not really knowing what to do. “It’s alright, Harry, dear,” whispered Mrs. Weasley as she made her way toward the hallway. “She’ll sleep for a few hours. She’ll feel better, then.”

“But, how…how did you know what she needed?” Harry asked her, his voice and face portraying the confusion he felt.

Mrs. Weasley smiled wisely, “After she told me where you all were headed, I knew exactly how she was feeling about the situation. Her anxiety was building from the moment you left her to go help Andromeda. I wasn’t very calm myself, but I sensed she was having a far more difficult time than I was. So, when I saw you dragging her into the house, I knew she must have finally broken down.”

“Oh, it’s all my fault,” Harry sighed, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. “If I had just let her come with us, or at the very least, I could have sent her a patronus. What was I thinking?”

“Harry, you musn’t beat yourself up like that. Yes, you could have done one of those things, or both, but in the long term, it wouldn’t have prevented this from happening. I suspect this has been a long time coming. I was surprised she was able to cope with her fears for as long as she has.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I know you’ve been telling her about the events of your life while you’ve been apart. Has she been as forthcoming with her story?” asked Mrs. Weasley.

“Well, she’s told us some things from the time we left Bill and Fleur’s wedding until the end of summer. But, she hasn’t told us much past September, after her return to Hogwart’s.”

“I imagine there’s a reason for that. She probably hasn’t told anyone much about those months she was at school. I only know bits and pieces of what she and the other students had to endure, myself. I think now that things are settling down a bit in your lives, she has more time to think about those days. I’m only guessing, but I think it’s time for her to start dealing with her past, otherwise it will keep haunting her like it did today.”

“I agree. But, what if she still isn’t ready?”

“Just be there for her, Harry. When she’s ready, she’ll come to you. You’ll just have to be patient, until then. We all will…” She gave him a comforting hug, then turned to face the others in the room.

“Hermione, Ron, would you mind helping me get dinner started?” Something in her tone gave no room for refusal. Hermione understood that she wanted Harry to have time alone with Ginny. Ron was a little slower to comprehend, so Hermione took Teddy from his arms and dragged him out the door, amidst his constant protests. Harry could hear her mumble to Ron something about explaining things to him later.

He was grateful for the mass exodus. He really wanted time alone with Ginny. He knew what Mrs. Weasley said was true, he had to be patient. But, there were so many things running through his mind he wanted answered. What happened all those months she was trapped in that sorry-excuse-of-a-school? It was almost a certainty that the students were mentally and physically abused by the death eater faculty. But, what exactly did Ginny go through? It was too much for Harry to think about his Ginny being tortured by those monsters. He should have been more sensitive to the fact that she would have just as many emotional scars as he did. Not only did she have to deal with the death eaters at school, but also with the fact of not knowing where he, Ron and Hermione were.

Harry made his way over to Ginny’s side of the bed. She was lying on her side, almost asleepbb. The calming serum was definitely taking effect.

“Harry,” she whispered hoarsely, her throat sore after all her crying.

Harry bent down towards her face and placed one of his hands over hers, rubbing it softly with his thumb. “Hey,” he managed to get out, before his throat tightened up on him.

“I’m so sorry…” she began.

“No…you don’t have anything to be sorry about. This is all my fault. I should have let you know I was safe. I should have thought you’d be worried. I…” Harry’s words came tumbling out.

“No, Harry. Don’t. I don’t want to see you torture yourself. Please…” she begged, on the verge of tears again.

“Shhh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you again.” He was stroking her hair gently, now, trying to comfort her. “It’s OK. It’s all going to be alright. You just get some rest, now. And, we’ll talk about everything tomorrow.”

She nodded her head and let her eyes slide shut. Harry sat there and watched her as she finally drifted off to sleep. “I love you,” he whispered softly.

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