Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Can I Stay?

Molly stood in King's Cross station watching Harry leave with his relatives. The warnings the others had given those . . . relatives of his had seemed to lighten his spirits a little. She was very worried about him. He'd been so angry when she'd finally got her hands on him last summer and his burdens had only increased since then. He needed his family around to help him grieve, not those people who were only related to him by blood. Before their group had walked over to threaten the Dursleys, she could hear his voice asking, "Can I stay?"

Of course, he hadn't said anything like that today, not out loud. He understood why he had to go back to Privet Drive; Dumbledore said he had explained everything to him. Molly might not quite believe that, but she knew Harry did understand about the blood protection, poor thing. He would accept it because it was best for everyone and hope he could leave soon. No, she had heard that question from him only once, four years ago.

That summer, after his and Ronnie's first year at school, he had stayed with them for most of August after the twins and Ronnie had stolen the car and pulled him out of his house without so much as a by-your-leave. At the time, she had been horrified and thought they should discuss the matter with the Dursleys immediately. After doing a little checking, Professor Dumbledore had told them that, unless having Harry at the Burrow was a problem, it was fine with his relatives if he stayed with them. By that time, she understood and was happy to have him.

He had been with them for about a week when she had gone for her nightly check before she went to bed herself. Of course, most of the time she'd had to scold the boys into being quiet and going to sleep; Ronnie was enjoying the novelty of having a guest of his own and Harry seemed to be feeling the same. That night, though, the room was dark and had been quiet for several hours. When she peeked in carefully, she saw both boys curled in Ronnie's bed like a couple of puppies.

Ronnie told her the next day in answer to her question that Harry had woken up with a horrible nightmare, a combination of the incident at the end of the school year and the night his parents were murdered. He had been shaking so badly that Ronnie had pulled the other boy into his bed, hoping to calm him down. He'd then promptly fallen back asleep and had woken up the next morning to Harry getting dressed.

At some point that night, or early in the morning, Harry must have left Ronnie's bed for his own. She knew it had been in the wee hours because when she stood there, smiling at the sweet picture they made, Harry had looked up at her sleepily and asked, "Can I stay?" He had sounded so forlorn that she had nodded, and then went over, kissed his forehead and asked if there were anything else he needed. He'd smiled and shut his eyes again. She thought he'd gone straight back to sleep.

As far as she knew, it had never happened again. And Harry was old enough that he wasn't likely to go crawling into Ronnie's bed for comfort. He didn't seem to go to anyone for comfort, the self-sufficiency he had developed with those people now bone-deep. It still hurt her heart, looking at the worn expression the face of the boy she viewed as a seventh son and knowing that this time she couldn't tell him, "Yes, of course, you can stay." Not yet.