Chapter Twenty-Nine


Ron strode through the halls of the Ministry of Magic feeling agitated. His clothes were dirty, his hair was singed, and his nerves were raw, but overall, he was all right. And so was his father, thanks to Harry. Ron shuddered, thinking about what could've happened. His mind kept playing back the horrific scene in the Lestrange hideaway house no matter how hard he tried to shake it off.

He hadn't even seen the Death Eater until it was too late. He'd been trying to subtly warn his dad that Harry was delirious with fever when Harry shouted a warning. Ron barely had time to look up before his dad's body had been hurtled into him from the force of Harry's shove. Ron heard the deafening roar of the Killing Curse and turned his head in time to see the jet of green light as it shot past, only inches from Harry's back.

He felt bile rise in his throat. He suspected the lethal green glow would pierce his eyelids for days to come. It was eerily unsettling.

Harry had saved them again. The deadly Killing Curse had been aimed exactly where Ron and his father had been standing. Dad had hit his head on the ground when they fell, but he was otherwise all right. Both Ron and Harry had been pretty shaken up by the close call. As a precaution, they'd brought Dad to St. Mungo's, along with Susan Bones and Cormac McLaggen. Several of the Death Eaters had been hurt as well, but there had only been one fatality. Rabastan Lestrange was killed during his fight with Auror Savage.

Unfortunately, that left only Rodolphus to question. Ron thought Rabastan would've been the easier one to break. Harry was waiting in the interrogations room, while Ron had been sent to retrieve Lestrange. Gawain Robards himself was going to do the questioning. They'd sent for the Medi-witch to give Harry a fever-reducing potion since he was adamant that he wanted to take part. Ron felt Harry should've gone to hospital, too, but he'd long since learned the futility of arguing with Harry about his health.

Harry had been delirious with fever by the time they'd all returned to the Ministry, although he'd certainly pulled it together when he'd had to. Ron shuddered again, thinking what could've happened. Harry had pushed Ron and his dad out of the way, but he'd come within inches of losing his own life in the process. Again.

"Ready for this one?" an Auror asked when Ron reached the holding cell.

He looked up to see Abby Baker, one of the Chasers on the in-house Quidditch team. He nodded in greeting without using her name, according to Ministry protocol.

"Yeah. They're waiting for him in Interrogation Room Two," he said, holding the door open.

"On your feet," Abby said, roughly pushing Rodolphus from the stool on which he was sitting.

Rodolphus sneered, jerking his shoulder away from her. His arms were immobilized at his sides, one of them in a sling. Ron knew his wand would've been confiscated when he'd been apprehended. Even without the various cuts and bandages, Lestrange was a mess.

He'd spent years in Azkaban before Voldemort released him, and these past few months on the run had done him no favors. He was thin and gaunt, his hateful, dark eyes sunk deeply in his sallow face. His hair and beard were straggly and unclean, and his remaining teeth were yellow and rotted.

"You'll get nothing from me," he spat as Ron and Abby began leading him toward the interrogation room.

"We'll see about that," Abby replied, unfazed.

They escorted him up to the interrogation room. Ron remained tense, his wand clutched in his hand, but Rodolphus made no move to flee. He walked with almost a casual indifference – as if he had nothing better to do with his time than take a stroll through the Ministry holding cells. He walked with the air of a man who had the upper hand, and Ron didn't like it.

When at last they reached the interrogation room, Gawain Robards, Owen Savage, and Harry were waiting inside, sitting around a circular table. Abby pushed Rodolphus toward the one remaining seat while she and Ron took standing positions on each side of the door.

Harry wasn't quite as pale as he'd been when Ron left the room, and at least he wasn't giggling, but his eyes were dull and glazed with pain. A thin sheen of sweat stood out on his face, and Ron's keen eye could see that his hands were trembling.

Rodolphus took his time settling his wounded arm as he looked over the group seated around the table, his eyes resting calculating on Harry.

"Are you feeling unwell, Potter?" he asked, quirking one unkempt eyebrow, amused.

"Oh, I'm feeling great after capturing you lot. You weren't nearly as hard to snag as we'd expected. I suppose it's difficult to organize with your leader dead and all," Harry replied flippantly, no trace of weakness in his voice.

Rodolphus' grin became a sneer.

"The Dark Lord was the greatest leader of wizard kind. His vision will not be forgotten, and his allies will reign again."

"You mean his servants, right? You didn't actually think he ever saw you as equals, did you?" Harry asked, sounding bored.

"The Dark Lord knew of the unworthiness of Muggle blood. He understood the importance of keeping our noble blood lines clean," Rodolphus said furiously.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Of course, he was a Half-Blood himself–"

Rodolphus reeled back, aghast, "You dare defile the name–"

"Of course I dare. Didn't you catch on to that part already?" Harry asked, interrupting and earning a snort from Owen Savage.

Rodolphus' eyes narrowed, snarling at both Harry and Owen. "You will rue the day–"

"Enough!" Gawain Robards exploded. "Whether anyone else follows this lunatic is irrelevant. You're going away for a very long time."

"That remains to be seen," Rodolphus said, instantaneously regaining his composure.

It was almost as if two separate people sat in the chair, and it made Ron's head spin. The bloke was completely mad.

"Everyone who was in that house tonight has been captured and will be prosecuted," Robards said firmly.

"Our entire group wasn't at the meeting tonight, and there will always be others willing to give us aid," Rodolphus replied, smiling knowingly. "Our cause is just."

The bloke was batshit crazy, and Ron didn't think he'd ever voluntarily give up any information. He was right about one thing, though. There were others out there already giving these Death Eaters aid. When would it ever stop?

"We're also searching the house. If you want to give us information on where some of these other followers may be hiding, perhaps it would work in your favor," Robards said, ignoring Lestrange's threat about there being other Death Eaters still on the loose.

"I'll give you nothing," Lestrange spat. He turned to Harry, his beady eyes hardening. "My wife and my brother are dead, and I hold you responsible."

Harry didn't flinch. "Join the club."

"We found a variety of potion supplies in a lab in the dungeon at the house we just seized. Do you know anything about that?" Robards asked.

What was it about potions labs being in the dungeon?

"Why are you interested in my potion supplies? Something have you stumped?" Lestrange asked, becoming gleeful once again as he leered at Harry.

The door opened, and an Unspeakable entered silently, handing Robards a message. He read it quickly before turning to Abby.

"Please return to the holding cells and prepare the next prisoner for interrogation," he said.

Abby frowned, glancing at Ron for a moment. She didn't question the order, however, instead leaving the room along with the Unspeakable.

"A number of Muggle illnesses have been reported in the area around Glastonbury," Robards said as if they'd never been interrupted. "We've been informed of your sick penchant for using Muggles to test your potion work."

"I think perhaps the problem is much closer than Glastonbury," Lestrange said, staring hard at Harry, who'd grown exceedingly pale.

"We already know it's the Intrudunter Elixir," Harry said flatly, obviously realizing he wasn't fooling Lestrange.

Lestrange's cheeks reddened, and he clenched his teeth. "I will never give you what you want. I can see now that you're falling apart, and I'm going to enjoy watching you die," he said, spit flying from his rotted teeth.

"That's not going to happen," Robards said firmly. "Could you open the door, please?"

Confused, Ron pushed the door open to admit Hermione and Ginny, who had been waiting on the other side. Both looked untidy, but triumphant. Ron felt a thrill shooting up his spine. Hermione wore that look she always had back in school when she'd worked out the answer to a problem before anyone else.

"It's Doxy venom," Hermione said without preamble, staring directly at Robards. Stray wisps of her hair were pulled out of her ponytail and stuck randomly around her face. Ron wanted to pick her up and spin her in circles, but he restrained himself with considerable difficulty. "I've given the results to Ailsa Bowman, and she's delivering them to St. Mungo's."

She'd done it. She'd really done it. He'd known she would. She was brilliant.

Rodolphus twitched, his face hardening, but his lips remained tightly closed.

"The Healer is already working on an antidote," Ginny said, her eyes glued on Harry, who looked rather stunned.

Robards nodded, pursing his lips. "I think we'll check to confirm," he said, pulling a phial of clear liquid out of his pocket. "I'm certain you understand how Veritaserum works?"

Owen Savages's eyes widened in surprise, staring around at the room's other occupants, but he remained silent.

Lestrange glared, his nostrils flaring. "You can't do that! I'm immune! I've taken steps to build up a resistance."

"You and I both know that's highly unlikely, Mr. Lestrange," Robards said calmly, "and I'm willing to risk it."

"The Ministry is opposed to using Veritaserum," Lestrange shouted, spit flying from his mouth again.

"The Ministry is re-evaluating its stance on Veritaserum."

Harry looked alarmed. "Nothing he says under the influence will be admissible in court."

"No matter. We have enough on him, already," Robards said firmly. "This is personal." He turned back to Lestrange who sat scowling. "You've already been exposed by the excellent work of these witches, but we never had any intention of leaving here empty-happened."

Using his wand, he cast a spell forcing a struggling Lestrange's mouth to open. He released three drops of the Veritaserum from the phial. Ron watched as Lestrange's face went slack, his eyes losing focus.

Hermione stood motionless, watching clinically, while Ginny moved to stand by Harry's side.

"Did you leave the poison at 12 Grimmauld Place?" Robards asked.



"Potter has a nasty habit of escaping. Bella wanted to be certain we had a contingency plan in place. And she was right," Lestrange said, pride evident.

"And when Mr. Potter didn't return to Grimmauld Place?" Robards prodded.

"We set up a trap for him," Lestrange said smugly.

"How did you know it had worked?"

"We didn't until the past several days when it became apparent he didn't look well. I'm going to enjoy hearing of his death. The poison is incredibly painful in the end stage as his lungs collapse," Lestrange said, nearly caressing his words.

It took all of Ron's strength not to jump over and throttle him. Harry looked disturbed, but Ginny was downright livid. Ron watched as Hermione put a hand on her shoulder, firmly stopping her from leaping across the table.

"You added an ingredient to the Intrudunter Elixir?" Robards asked.


"What was the ingredient?"

"Doxy venom. The curtains were infested with Doxies. I got stung, and it gave me an idea. This is how greatness happens," Lestrange said smugly.

"You son of a bitch!" Ginny spat, leaping from her chair and reaching for her wand.

"Ginny! No!" Hermione gasped, trying to hold the younger girl back.

"Miss Weasley," Robards said impatiently.

Owen Savage merely pulled out his own wand and said, "Expelliarmus."

Ginny's wand flew across the room and landed at Ron's feet. He bent over and carefully picked it up, watching his sister's incredulous expression as he did so.

"Miss Weasley, while I am grateful for your discovery of the Doxy venom, that does not give you the right to behave like a liquored-up Banshee in my interrogation room. You will control yourself," Robards said sternly.

Ginny lowered her eyes, abashed. Hermione, who hadn't done anything, looked as mortified as Ginny. Ron's eyes roamed over to Owen, who didn't appear remotely upset with Ginny. He looked rather amused, actually. He was the only one in the room who didn't have any foreknowledge about Harry's poisoning, but he seemed to have caught on very quickly. Using the Veritaserum hadn't bothered him, either.

Ron glanced over at Harry to see his reaction to Ginny's outburst, but was alarmed by his friend's pallor. Harry hadn't said a word when Ginny moved, and now he was leaning against her, looking rather green – and he was trembling.

"Ask him about the other Death Eaters," Owen said, dragging Ron's attention back to the prisoner.

"Nothing he says can be used," Robards cautioned.

"I don't need any more that can be used against him. We've got enough. I'm more concerned with those still on the loose," Owen replied.

Robards pondered it a moment before asking. "Who is leading the Death Eaters that weren't captured today?"

"Dolohov," Lestrange said tonelessly. "He and I had a falling out. He seems to think he can do better."

"How many followed him?" Robards asked.

"About ten at the time, but I hear he's recruiting," Lestrange answered.

Robards glanced at Owen, who nodded. Ron felt a little deflated. So, they'd caught all the Death Eaters who had been on-site today, but it still didn't account for all of them.

"I think we need to get over to St. Mungo's," Hermione said, staring at Harry, who looked decidedly ill.

She was right. It was time to get this antidote into him and stop this poison for good. Ron hoped there wouldn't be any more complications.


Ginny wasn't certain what had awoken her, but she shifted and realized how uncomfortable she was. Blearily opening her eyes, she stared in confusion at the unfamiliar room. It took her foggy brain a moment to process what she was seeing. She'd fallen asleep in a stiff armchair next to Harry's bed at St. Mungo's. The Healer had insisted that Harry would sleep soundly through the night, and all the Weasleys needed to go home and get some rest.

Ginny had grudgingly complied, but she'd snuck out and Apparated back to the hospital just before dawn.

Being of age definitely had its distinct advantages.

She'd left a note for her mum, but she was certain she'd still be in a heap of trouble when the rest of The Burrow's inhabitants awoke to find her gone.

He was worth it.

Her eyes travelled affectionately over the sleeping figure on the bed. He was resting peacefully, although the green hospital lighting gave his skin an odd pallor. Ginny had tucked her old unicorn beneath his arm once again, and she couldn't help but smile at the grown Harry clutching the well-worn toy.

The Healers had administered the antidote as soon as it was brewed, and it was doing its job splendidly. Healer Larkin said that since the poison had done a fair amount of damage, Harry would need to rest for a few days while his body healed. Ginny suspected keeping him still and resting would be more difficult than finding the antidote had been.

She was so proud of Hermione and herself. They'd done it – and not only had they helped Harry, but several Muggles in Glastonbury, as well. A magical reversal squad had infiltrated the Muggle hospital there and were currently healing several people whom the poison had been tested upon. Rodolphus Lestrange was really a despicable person, and responsible for several Muggle deaths before they'd discovered what he was doing.

Harry groaned slightly, drawing her attention back to him. His eyes fluttered open, and he squinted myopically as he scanned the room. Ginny pulled herself from her chair and reached for his glasses on the bedside table. She gently placed them on his face, kissing the top of his head.

"Good morning, sleepy-head," she said fondly.

He smiled as he looked up at her, sleep still heavy in his eyes, and a besotted expression on his face that thrilled Ginny down to her toes. She was the reason he wore that silly expression, and she'd bet Galleons her own face reflected it back.

"Morning," he said, his voice scratchy.

Ginny poured some water from the pitcher on his bedside table. She handed it to him as he adjusted the pillows behind his back.

"Thanks," he said gruffly before taking a drink. "What time is it?"

Ginny glanced up at the clock on the wall. "Just after nine," she said. She'd slept in that chair longer than she'd realized.

"Have you been here all night?" Harry asked, his brow furrowing. He'd been pretty out of it when they'd brought him here the previous evening.

Ginny shook her head. "I couldn't sleep, so I came back really early. Mum will probably descend on us shortly, but I left a note."

"I'm glad you came back," he said sleepily.

"How do you feel?" Ginny asked.

He began to make an 'f' sound before rearing back when Ginny drew her wand lightning-fast and held it in between his eyes.

"Say 'fine,' and I'm going to Hex you," she said matter-of-factly.

Harry grinned. "Fantastic," he said, finishing his f-sound without missing a beat and causing Ginny to giggle.

Harry became aware of the unicorn underneath his arm, and he pulled it out questioningly. Ginny smiled as he tossed it to her empty chair.

"Seriously, how are you?" she asked, perching on the edge of his bed.

Harry paused, considering. "My chest doesn't really hurt," he said, and he sounded surprised.

"That would be a good thing," Ginny said, rolling her eyes.

"Fever's gone, stomach doesn't want to spill, and the Hippogriff has moved off my chest," Harry said, smirking. "Can't quite take a full breath, but it's better."

"The antidote worked," Ginny said, relieved.

"Thanks to you," Harry said quietly.

"Well, it took me all this time to get you right where I wanted you. You didn't think I was going to let you go that easily, did you?" Ginny asked.

Harry chuckled. "I hope you never do let me go," he said quietly.

"Right back at you," she whispered, kissing him softly.

"What am I going to do without you when you go back to school?" Harry asked, sighing and flopping his head back on his pillow.

Ginny had been thinking about that a lot, too. In another fortnight, she'd board the Hogwarts Express and leave him behind for nearly a year. The separation would be unbearable. Still… although she wasn't proud of it… she had to admit, there was a certain satisfaction in being the one to leave him behind for a change.

This time, he'd have to wait for her.

And he would. She knew he would.

"It won't be that bad," she said consolingly, trying to convince herself, as well. "It's only about a month until the first Hogsmeade visit."

"Thirty-four days," Harry said automatically.

"What?" she asked, startled.

Harry shrugged, his face coloring. "When I used to go back for summers at Privet Drive, I'd always make a calendar to mark off how long it would take to go back to Hogwarts. I think the only one I ever finished was before first year. You lot always came to rescue me before the summer finished."

"It was still too long," Ginny said sourly.

"Well… I made another one. This one starts on September first and counts until the Hogsmeade weekend," Harry said, dropping his eyes and blushing furiously.

Ginny had to blink to clear her eyes. "You did?" she asked, thinking no one had ever done anything sweeter in her entire life.

Harry shrugged again before Ginny launched herself at him, grasping his face between his hands and kissing him soundly.

Harry let go of his embarrassment instantly and returned her kiss enthusiastically. When breathing finally became a necessity, she pulled back and stared at his ruffled hair and swollen lips. He was so beautiful.

"Then the first Quidditch match should only be a few weeks later," he said as if there hadn't been any interruption.

"You'll come up for that, yeah?" she asked, knowing he would but wanting to hear him say it anyway.

"Try and keep me away," he said.

Ginny beamed. "And between that, Professor McGonagall is hoping to have a memorial ceremony. They're building a monument on the road between Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts gates."

"How come not right at Hogwarts where it happened?" Harry asked.

"Because Professor McGonagall thought it should be somewhere that people could visit any time. Hogwarts gates are locked when students are there," Ginny replied.

Harry nodded. "That makes sense."

"So, that's three times in October we'll get to be together," Ginny said. It really didn't seem enough, but she wanted to look on the bright side.

"Then not until December," Harry said with such despair that Ginny leaned over and kissed him again.

"But there's a Hogsmeade visit, and Christmas break. We'll just have to make certain to spend all our time together."

"I'll put in for holiday straight away," Harry said fervently.

Ginny didn't know if trainees were actually given holiday time, but she'd worry about that later. She knew she'd be busy at school, and she'd have the Quidditch team to get in shape, but not being able to see him or talk to him – or kiss him for months – would be excruciating.

Harry shifted over in his bed and held up his arm. "I liked it when you sat with me when I was here the last time," he said, looking down.

Ginny climbed up and settled herself next to him. "You spend entirely too much time here, you know," she said wryly.

"I know. I'm accident-prone," he replied, nuzzling her neck.

Ginny giggled. "Let's work on that, shall we?"

"Tell me everything about how you got there last night, and what happened after we got here. Some of it is still blurry in my mind."

"Well, you did have a quite a fever, so that's not surprising. By the time Hermione and I got to the Ministry, you were all back from the raid. Antonin Dolohov wasn't there, so… the threat isn't completely over," Ginny said, shifting uncomfortably. She hated the thought that there were still dangers to him out there. Then again, she supposed there always would be.

"How's your dad?" he asked suddenly, alarmed. He sat bolt upright as if the details just clarified in his head.

"He's all right," Ginny said, patting his chest to calm him. "They didn't even keep him overnight. No concussion, just a nasty bump on the head."

"Sorry," Harry said automatically.

"Harry, that's one of the most ridiculous things you've ever said," she replied, exasperated.


"He bumped his head when you knocked him out of the way of a Killing Curse. I think he got the better end of those two options," she said, disgruntled.

"I know! I didn't mean– I just wish I could have got him out of the way without hurting him," he said desperately.

"You didn't hurt him, Harry. You saved him. This guilt thing of yours can get ridiculous," she said, exasperated.

Harry stared at her incredulously. "And you're just realizing that now?" he asked, shocking her.

Ginny laughed. "At least you know you're daft."

"He really is okay, though?"

"He is… at least until he wakes up and realizes his only daughter sneaked out of the house to climb into bed with her boyfriend," she quipped.

Harry looked so startled, she had to laugh.

"Relax, Harry. I think you're safe this time," she reassured, patting his hand.

Before he could respond, the door swung open, and Owen Savage poked his head inside, startling them. Ginny's heart had begun to race as soon as the door moved. Perhaps she was a little concerned about her parents' reactions.

"Are you feeling healthy?" Owen asked.

Harry nodded. "Much better."

"About bloody time," Owen said, striding into the small room.

He looked at the two of them sitting in Harry's bed together. Ginny wasn't about to move, and if she wasn't mistaken, she thought the coarse Auror approved.

"How's the liquored-up Banshee doing today?" he asked, grinning.

Harry's eyes narrowed, "Pardon?" he asked, tensing.

Ginny laughed outright. "Gawain Robards called me that yesterday, don't you remember? Ron told George, so I'll never hear the end of it."

Harry furrowed his brow, obviously confused.

"It's all right," Ginny said, nudging his shoulder. "I was a bit worked up at the time."

"A bit? I'd hate to see you when you were effin' really worked up," Owen said, easily. He sat in the chair where Ginny had slept, shifting to pull the stuffed unicorn out from beneath him, glancing at it curiously.

"Long story," Harry said.

Owen shrugged and placed it on the bedside table. "Anyone who can ruffle Robards' feathers like that is okay in my book," he said.

Ginny grinned, pleased.

"Everyone else all right?" Harry asked.

"I just came from checking on Bones," he replied with a frown.

"How is she?" Harry inquired.

Owen furrowed his brow, pausing to consider his words. "Physically she's okay. She's been healed, and they're sending her home. She won't make it as an Auror, though."

"What?" Harry asked. "Did they chuck her out?"

"No," Owen said, shaking his head. "They won't have to. She'll drop. I can see it already. It happens in every bloody class."

"Did she say that?" Harry asked.

"Not outright, but I can see it," Owen replied. "Cormac McLaggen got written up. I'm not certain he'll make it, either."

"He's a git," Harry said.

"Yeah," Owen agreed. "Listen, you need to do whatever they bloody well tell you to get healthy. We need you on the Quidditch team. We're going to finally beat those Unspeakables, and I'm not about to let anything get in our way."

Ginny could respect his priorities.

"You hear that, Harry? You don't want to jeopardize your playing time, do you?" she asked.

Harry rolled his eyes. "What about Draco Malfoy?"

Owen leaned back in the chair. "During the battle, somebody Stunned him," he said, amused.

Ginny watched as Harry's cheeks colored, but he remained mum.

"He was brought in with the rest of the prisoners, although they released him once they were all separated. He didn't say who Stunned him, but he walked around like a bloody popinjay demanding his father's release. I think that's being done today," Owen said, clearly amused. "He's a bit of a ponce."

"You think?" Ginny asked wryly.

"He is, but he came through in the end," Harry said, looking as if it cost him something to admit it. "It took a lot of courage to enter that house alone."

"I'll hold off judgement until I see he stays out of trouble for a few years," Owen said.

"I'm going to judge him now. He's a ponce," Ginny said.

Owen smiled crookedly. "You and your friend did well. Robards was quite impressed with the pair of you."

"It's a bit poetic to have a Mudblood and a blood-traitor be the ones to foil the Lestranges, eh?" Ginny asked proudly.

Harry beamed as Owen snorted.

"Too right!" he said cheerfully. "Rodolphus is going back to Azkaban, but I don't know how long he'll last. He's already mad."

"How many others were captured?" Harry asked.

"Eleven in all, but that includes Rabastan Lestrange, who snuffed it, and Malfoy who was released," Owen replied.

"What happens next?" Ginny asked.

Owen shrugged. "More trials, and we begin working on a plan to capture Dolohov and his cohorts. By the time we catch him, there'll be a new batch to worry about. Job security, you know."

He pulled himself to his feet and headed for the door. "I'll leave you two to carry on. You did good, kid. You can join me on a raid any time."

Harry smiled, and Ginny could tell he was pleased.

"Be bloody certain you do as well when we play Quidditch!" he shouted, storming out the door.

"I can't believe he and Ron are going to be on the same team," Ginny said, laughing as she snuggled closer to Harry.

He wrapped his arm round her and pulled her close, kissing the top of her head. "You and Hermione really are incredible. Thank you, Ginny."

Ginny shrugged, pleased with herself. "The Veritaserum would've worked anyway, but it felt good to be doing something."

"No. You got it first. You did this," Harry insisted.

Ginny felt warmth flood her insides. If he didn't stop, she was going to completely ignore the fact that they were in a very public place.

"Well, we think you're pretty incredible, too," she said, taking a deep breath. "Savage was right about one thing, though. You really do need to stay in bed and recover this time."

"Only if you promise to stay with me, my liquored-up Banshee. I'll stay here for days if you stay with me," Harry replied, grinning.

Ginny groaned. He really was testing all her resolve.

"I'll be happy to stay with you, but it's not like you'll have a choice. I don't think you'll get away with deterring Mum a second time."

Harry blushed to the roots of his hair.

"Why does it embarrass you to know she cares?" she asked curiously. Certainly he'd worked it out by now.

"I do know she cares… I just…"


Harry shrugged, searching for words. "I don't really know what to make of it. I don't know what I'm supposed to do," he admitted.

Ginny sighed, reminding herself it wasn't his fault. In many ways, he really was that De-Aged little boy. "You're not supposed to do anything – except let her fuss once in a while. It truly does make her happy. She loved getting to take care of you when you were De-Aged."

Harry smiled softly. "I know… I remember. Sometimes I have to remind myself those memories aren't real."

"What do you mean? Of course they're real," she said, frowning.

"No… I mean, I wasn't really little… I mean… those memories aren't really from me being a kid," Harry said, struggling.

"Of course they are," she said firmly. "Regardless how you got that way, you were a little kid when those memories were made, and I know Mum and Dad cherish them."

"I do, too," Harry whispered. "It was so much better than the first time around."

"Maybe you could tell them that one day," Ginny said around the lump in her throat.

Harry ducked his head, refusing to meet her eyes.

She knew he wasn't ready for that step yet, but she also thought he was getting there. A year ago, he never would've outright admitted his feelings. He used to try and pretend he didn't have them. He was on the right road, and they'd all help him get there.

"I know it embarrasses you, but it would really please them. They do love you," she said gently.

"I love them, too. I think I have for a very long time, I just didn't know it," he said, shocking her. Maybe he'd come further than even she had realized.

"When did you work it out?" she asked.

"The Battle, when I was so afraid to lose them… but really, I think it was you," he whispered.

"Me?" Ginny's tongue felt thick in her mouth, and her heart was beating very fast.

Harry nodded, coloring brilliantly. "When I thought about you before I died… I knew I loved you. I wished I'd told you."

"Harry," she whispered, her vision blurry.

He looked directly in her eyes with those bright green orbs, unwavering. "I love you, Ginny. I think I have for a very long time. I'm sorry I was such a clueless bloke. I can't believe you still want me."

Ginny's restraint wasn't that strong. She leaned over and kissed him. Hard. He ran his fingers through her hair.

When she finally pulled back, she said, "I love you, too, so remember that when I'm back at Hogwarts and all those other witches are trying to turn your head."

"No witch can turn my head. I already have the only witch I need," he said, shaking his head.

"It did take you an impossibly long time to notice me. I finally lost my cool and had to pounce on you in the common room," she said, laughing as she remembered her overwhelming frustration, and finally giving into it after the Quidditch match when she'd leaped into his waiting arms.

"You didn't pounce on me; I pounced on you!" he said, shocked.

"Right," she said, rolling her eyes.

"I did… I kissed you," Harry insisted.

Ginny shook her head. "No, I kissed you."

"We kissed each other then," he said, laughing.

"Okay," Ginny replied. Yeah right, as if anyone would ever believe Harry would instigate a physical display in front of all those people. Please. He was so cute.

"Never mind who kissed who first. I wish you were kissing me now," he said.

That was one request Ginny would never tire of. She grinned and complied.


The first thing Harry became aware of as he gradually awoke was the fact his chest didn't hurt at all. He breathed in deeply, grateful to be able to do it without pain ripping through his lungs. The second thing he realized was that Ginny's warmth was missing from his side. He'd nodded off sometime during the afternoon while they'd lain together. Before he opened his eyes, however, he recognized her parents' voices.

He didn't want to eavesdrop exactly, but he'd learned a long time ago that it was best to know what he was walking into. He lay still, listening and wondering how long they'd been there.

"…she would have thought," Mrs. Weasley said, sounding a bit tearful.

"Molly, I think she would've been very grateful for all you've tried to do. Too many others let her down," Mr. Weasley said solemnly.

"My brothers knew her, but I never did. She may have birthed him here eighteen years ago, but she could never know, sitting there holding her newborn son, that he'd go on without her to save the world and two strangers to her would be sitting here acting as surrogates," Mrs. Weasley said tearfully.

Harry felt a physical jolt in his stomach. They were talking about his mum. He knew he should open his eyes right then and let them know he was awake. His gut was screaming at him to do it, but it was so rare that anyone talked about his mum, his heart just wanted to hear a little bit more.

Harry remained still.


"No, Arthur. He's in this hospital far too often, and I can't seem to do anything to stop it. She gave her own life trying to protect him, and I can't help but wonder sometimes what she'd think," Mrs. Weasley said, causing Harry's heart to clench. "She has my son now, and I have hers. I hope she knows I'm trying."

"I think she'd be happy someone was there. He's an adult now, but it doesn't mean he doesn't need some guidance on occasion. When he was under the De-Ageing Potion, he was such an open and inquisitive little fellow, and he came to rely on us. I hope he retained the knowledge that he always could," Mr. Weasley said, clearing his throat.

Harry did know he could trust them, and he felt guilty thinking he hadn't done enough to show them. He opened his eyes, stretching and staring at them warily.

"Harry dear, you're awake. How do you feel?" Mrs. Weasley asked, bustling about him and attempting to position the pillows behind his back.

"Much better, thanks," he said, his voice raspy.

Mrs. Weasley quickly poured him a glass of water, making a "tsk tsk" sound. Harry nodded his appreciation as he sipped the water. It was wonderfully cool on his throat, and he couldn't contain the slight grunt of pleasure as it went down. He reached over for his glasses and slipped them on his nose.

"You're in this hospital entirely too much," Mrs. Weasley said, running a hand over his head.

"I know," Harry agreed ruefully. She did have a point.

"Let's see if we can do something about that, eh?" Mr. Weasley asked, his eyes quietly assessing Harry's condition.

"How are you feeling," Harry asked. There was no physical sign of injury on Mr. Weasley's head, but he couldn't help but remember that sickening feeling in his stomach when he'd realized the older man was hurt.

"Good as new. My head is quite hard, lad," Mr. Weasley said jovially.

"Arthur! It's nothing to joke about," Mrs. Weasley scolded.

"Looks like I owe you another one," Mr. Weasley said, avoiding Mrs. Weasley's wrath.

Harry shook his head vehemently. "You don't owe me anything. You were there to help me."

"Let's just leave it as we work well together, then, eh?" Mr. Weasley said kindly.

Harry grinned warmly. He liked the sound of that.

"So, for the next few days I want your word that you'll keep your feet up and rest, young man. I left a pot of chicken soup on the stove, and I'll prepare all your favorites," Mrs. Weasley said.

Harry didn't want her to put up such a fuss, but he caught Mr. Weasley's eye as the man nodded emphatically. He bit his tongue and the smile behind it. His Healer did say he needed to recuperate, what was the harm in letting her fuss? Besides, her chicken soup was fabulous.

"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley," he said, his cheeks coloring.

Mrs. Weasley beamed. "Oh, it's no bother at all, dear. Everyone deserves a bit of pampering after they've been ill."

Harry would prefer pretending it had never happened, but he'd learned enough about the Weasleys to know that wasn't going to happen.

"Where's Ginny?" he asked instead.

"We sent her home to get some rest. She was up and out far too early this morning," Mrs. Weasley said ominously.

"Don't be hard on her," Harry said quickly. "I asked her to stay."

"Don't you dare try and cover for her, Harry Potter. You were unconscious when we left yesterday, so I know you did no such thing," Mrs. Weasley said sternly.

Harry dropped his eyes, abashed.

"Ginny is responsible for her own decisions, as are you, Harry," Mr. Weasley said firmly. "That said, she is of age, Molly dear."

"But still living under our roof, so she'll live by our rules," Mrs. Weasley said, narrowing her eyes.

Harry couldn't help but realize that if Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had scolded him even a month ago, he would have been mortified. Now, it didn't really faze him as much as he thought it would. He wasn't entirely certain Mrs. Weasley would've really scolded him a month before, either.

He felt as if he truly belonged somewhere, and it was a rather pleasant experience.

"What is amusing you so, lad?" Mr. Weasley asked, his eyes twinkling.

Harry thought perhaps the older man already knew. He frequently seemed able to decipher Harry's feelings before Harry was even certain of them.

"I think I made an excellent decision to ask you for help on Platform 9 ¾ all those years ago," he said, smiling.

He'd only approached Mrs. Weasley out of sheer desperation, but looking back, it was one of the best decisions he'd ever made. Whoever it was who looked out for lost, orphaned boys had certainly been on his side at King's Cross that day.

Mrs. Weasley stood abruptly, walking over to the opposite side of the room to blow her nose.

Mr. Weasley leaned over conspiratorially and whispered, "From what I know about mothers, they always do whatever they can for their children. It wouldn't surprise me at all if your mother had a hand in leading you to Molly."

And then he winked before turning back to comfort his wife.

He knew! He knew Harry was listening the whole time! Harry had faked sleeping dozens of times in his life, but no one had ever let on they knew. Somehow, the fact Mr. Weasley knew and teased him about it made him feel peacefully warm inside.

Perhaps it wasn't just some unknown entity who looked over lost orphaned boys, perhaps… just maybe…it was his mum still protecting him. It was an incredibly comforting thought. He was finally where he was supposed to be.

A/N: Thanks again goes to Ryan on this chapter. I got hugely stuck on the scene with the Weasleys. Some things Harry just would never say, even if he was feeling them. Ryan gave me the idea of having Harry overhear them, and I'm very grateful and pleased with how it turned out. Thanks, Ryan! You all owe Ryan a huge debt of thanks if you've been enjoying the story. He's been my cheerleaders from very early on, and this fic wouldn't even exist if it weren't for him.