Disclaimer: Everything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing, and am making no profit.
Setting: This story starts a couple of weeks after the end of GoF, but after that goes a little AU.
A/N: This story is in the process of being edited. I've had trouble finishing it for various reasons - one being the need to cringe when I read over old chapters - so now I'm fixing it up, chapter by chapter, until I get to the point where I can write the thing to completion. The story still flows as I'm changing none of the events which take place, so you don't need to reread old chapters to understand what's going on, but they will be uploaded for you to read if you like. I hope you enjoy them.
Chapter 1: Fetching Harry
George was looking thoughtful; an unusual expression for him.
"What?" asked Fred, hoping for a distraction; he'd been gazing out at the rain for a while now and was unspeakably bored. It was Summer and it was raining. Perfect. It suited his mood. Weeks of hiding in The Burrow, while others prepared for war, had induced mingled feelings of fury and impotence in Fred and he was now beginning to feel as though he might explode. As 'the children' they were being 'protected'; their mother doing her best to pretend war wasn't brewing at all when she spoke to them - as if they didn't know she spent her nights discussing strategy in undisclosed locations.
"Did you ever wonder when the Marauder's Map was written?" asked George unexpectedly.
"No," said Fred, caught off guard. "Who it was written by maybe - but not when. Why do you ask?"
George shrugged. "I was just thinking about how things change. I picture them a lot like us, you know, but the world changes so fast. Who knows what their world was like?" He glanced up and saw that Fred had raised an eyebrow at him. This was getting a little more philosophical than usual. "Think they lived during You Know Who's original stint?" he asked.
Ah, so that's what this was about. Fred frowned. "Dunno," he said. It wasn't something he'd ever considered. "If they did though, they could still be around." He grinned. "Wouldn't it be funny if they were people we knew, like someone who works at The Ministry?"
"The Ministry?" George scoffed. "Zonko's for sure."
"Or that exploratory … whachamacallit?"
"Yeah, or Magical Code Breakers, or Aurors!"
The conversation was cut short by the sound of clumsy feet sprinting up the stairs. A second later the door was flung open and Ron burst in with an air of excitement. "Dumbledore owled! We're leaving to get Harry - the muggle way because of those gits he lives with. Dad said to see if you wanted to come."
Fred nodded in approval.
"'Bout time," said George.
"Yeah. So, c'mon then!" Ron turned to sprint back down to the kitchen, Fred and George following quickly as he dashed for the ministry car waiting outside. All three filed into the backseat.
Arthur Weasley, already behind the wheel, turned to face his sons. "No tricks. No picking on the muggle boy - "
"But Dad, we only - "
"No trouble," Arthur interrupted before George got any further. "We're going to collect Harry with no fuss and bring him back with no fuss. He's been through enough without you two causing problems with his family."
"Ron's caused more trouble than we have!" Fred protested.
"No fuss," Arthur repeated emphatically. They all nodded, not necessarily agreeing with their father but not willing to argue.
"Good," said Arthur, nodding as he started the car. "We're on the same page. Now, let's just get there as quickly as we can."
Arthur pulled up at the house and gave the second floor a pensive look before telling his sons to wait in the car.
"Dad!" Ron argued, "I should go at least."
"Alright, just you then," Arthur agreed irritably. Ron grinned as he jumped from the car.
"Then we're coming too!" said George predictably.
"You stay!" said Arthur, quickly moving to catch Ron before Fred and George could talk him around. He was more than a little conscious of the twin's last meeting with the Dursleys. How the odd family might react upon seeing the young wizards who'd hexed their son - making his tongue grow to monstrous proportions - was anyone's guess. Arthur didn't care to find out.
Ron reached the front door, hesitating with his fist poised to knock. Arthur caught up and followed his son's gaze to a button with the words "Please Ring" engraved above it.
"A doorbell!" he exclaimed, leaning in for a closer look. "I've seen these! Never had a chance to use one before though. Well, go ahead Ron."
"Doesn't look like a bell, does it?" Ron replied sceptically. "Just press it then?"
Arthur nodded encouragement and Ron jabbed his thumb into the button. They jumped as the whole house seemed to buzz. Ron grinned and tried holding the button down longer. This time the buzz was continuous.
The door flew open revealing a red faced Vernon Dursley - giving Arthur a frightening impression of a bull about to charge - and Ron took an instinctive step back, releasing the doorbell. Arthur smiled pleasantly.
"Hello, Mr Dursley," he said, trying to sound cheerful. "Nice to see you again, of course. Is Harry about?"
"Inside," Dursley spat out curtly, giving Arthur and Ron a disdainful once over. Arthur had dressed the part of a muggle for this occasion and was quite proud of the attention he'd paid to detail, but even so, something in his appearance seemed to be met with disapproval. "You, stay outside!" Dursley commanded roughly before moving off to fetch Harry.
Biting back the angry retort that sprung to mind at the man's rudeness, Arthur simply nodded as Ron started to turn red beside him. "We shouldn't have to wait long," he said, in an effort to placate his son. Ron snorted.
As it turned out, Arthur was right. Harry had been waiting at the foot of the stairs, packed and ready to go, and so appeared very quickly in the doorway. "Hello Mr. Weasly," he said, as he hurried out to greet them, weighed down with what looked like a mountain of trunk, broom and bird. It looked to Arthur as though the weight of Harry's things might make him topple in his haste to leave his uncle's house, so he quickly grabbed the sizable trunk.
"Hello Harry. Good to see you, as always. The car's out here, sent from the ministry. Wonderful things, cars … " Harry gave him a painful smile that said clearly please let's just leave and anything else Arthur might have wanted to say about cars was quickly forgotton. "Well," he said instead. "Say goodbye, and we'll be off!"
Harry nodded once, grateful. "See you," he said, in the vague direction of his uncle, before practically bolting for the car, Ron on his heels. Arthur bid Dursley a quick farewell and followed.
To his annoyance, Fred and George were no longer in their seats. Thankfully, it appeared as though they'd only left the car to stretch their legs and hadn't wandered far, but the sight of them standing about in the muggle street was worrying all the same. Vernon Dursley was now eyeing them nervously from the doorway of his house.
"All right there Harry?!" one of them yelled out, making Dursley scan the neighbourhood as though expecting snipers to emerge at the sound of his nephew's name being shouted.
Arthur saw Ron grin to Harry at the man's discomfort, clearly expecting his friend to respond in kind. Harry barely noticed. Instead, he quietly took a seat in the back of the car. Ron shot a suspicious look at Mr. Dursley before getting in after him. Vernon grunted and retreated into the house, slamming the door behind.
The drive home was awkward, Ron coaxing Harry into conversation, Harry reluctant to string more than two words together and the twins, sensing something amiss, overcompensating with comical chatter. Arthur kept a concerned eye on the rearview mirror.
Harry had never been particularly loud or robust - unlike all seven of Arthur's own children - but while he often kept his thoughts to himself, Harry had always been a very active kid; alert and aware. Now he seemed to have retreated into himself. Not surprising, Arthur reflected sadly, considering what the boy had suffered.
Eventually, they arrived at The Burrow and trailed into the kitchen where Molly had prepared lunch. She, Percy and Ginny were already eating when the new arrivals joined them.
Arthur continued to watch subtly as Harry went through his food. His appetite certainly wasn't lacking, and somehow that made Arthur relax a little. There were still four weeks of Summer ahead; time for Harry to have a proper holiday away from his relatives.
As Ron and the twins goaded Harry into laughing at some joke or other, Arthur felt that The Boy Who Lived might be on the path to healing after all.
Of course, Harry was nothing if not resilient.