Title: Harry Potter: Metamorphosis
Chapter Title: Prologue: The Boy Who Vanished
Characters: Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Hannah Abbott, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Molly Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Other Male Character, Ron Weasley, Susan Bones
Genres: Action, Angst, Drama, Fluff, Romance
Warnings: Character death, Language, Sexual Situations, Violence
It is the summer after OotP and the Boy-Who-Lived has vanished only to reappear mysteriously eight weeks later with no memory of where he was or what has happened to him. It will be another trying year for Harry as he tries to sort out what happened to him during the summer and who is responsible.
Watch him struggle as mysterious new powers emerge as he tries to prepare for his inevitable confrontation with Lord Voldemort.
See him grow and mature from the angry boy who lost his godfather in OotP to a mature young man looking forward to a future filled with happiness, friends, and hopefully love.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter nor do I profit from anything here within. Thanks to Jo Rowling who graciously permits us to tweak and play in HER world.
As she had countless mornings, and as she would for countless more to come, Molly Weasley snapped awake precisely at 6:30 am. She rolled over and placed her feet on the floor, slipping them into her house shoes where she had left them the night before. Standing up, she grabbed her dressing gown from the hook where she hung it every night and made her way to the private bathroom that she and her husband shared.
After relieving the pressure from the night before, she quickly washed the sleep from her eyes and brushed the morning breath from her mouth. As she shuffled back to her bedroom, she briefly considered waking Arthur but decided to let him have an extra hour of sleep, instead. He had been working very late nearly every night and would come to bed exhausted, often not even acknowledging the children or his wife before slipping off into sleep. Molly readjusted the comforter over Arthur and then made her way quietly out of the door.
Molly made her way up the uneven stairway, pausing on the third floor landing to listen at Ginny's door to see if the young woman had awakened. Hearing nothing at the door, she continued down the hall to the bathroom on this floor. With a flick of her wand and a muttered incantation, the clothing that was strewn about the bathroom flew up from the floor and into the laundry basket by the door. Molly quickly cast a Locomotor Spell on the basket and it followed her up to the next floor. Molly carefully placed an ear to the door of room occupied by Fred and George. She heard nothing but the soft buzz of snores so she quietly stepped down the hall to bathroom shared by her three sons who were still living in the house. Another quick flick of the wrist and the clothing scattered about the bathroom jumped into the basket. She once again levitated the basket and began making her way back down the stairs.
The matron of the house carefully stepped over the creaky second step near the bottom and made her way to her washroom off of the kitchen. Once there, she quickly cast a spell that sorted the clothing and set the various washing bins to washing the clothes. She then returned to the kitchen and began boiling water for her morning tea.
Molly began bustling around her kitchen, setting up pots and pans and retrieving ingredients to begin preparing breakfast for her clan. She had just got all of the pots settled on the stovetop and set the pancake mix to mixing itself in a bowl, when Errol arrived with the morning Owl Post. She quickly untied the post and laid Errol in the basket under his perch. She sorted through it quickly, realizing that most of them were junk Owls and then set the eggs to beating in another bowl on the counter.
At that moment, a second Owl arrived with the morning edition of The Daily Prophet. She quickly dropped the required Knuts into the pouch and set the paper down on the table and began skimming the headlines. She paused and dropped the paper when she reached the first headline which read:
Molly quickly sniffled and a tear began rolling down her face as she remembered the events of the morning of 22 June…
It was an early morning, just like any other Saturday in the summer when the children were home for the holidays. The twins were bantering back and forth with Ron about giving him a job at Weasley Wizarding Wheezes. Ginny seemed either deep in thought, or she hadn't completely awoken yet as she stared at her bangers and toast. Arthur was glancing through the morning edition of The Daily Prophet making occasional comments to Bill while Molly was dishing out seconds to Arthur and the boys.
At that moment, the fireplace between the kitchen and sitting room erupted and Remus Lupin's head appeared in the flames, a look of shear panic on his face.
"Molly…Arthur…come quickly…to Grimmauld Place," he panted out. "Harry's vanished."
All around the table the sound of forks hitting plates rang out. Instantly, voices began clamouring to be heard.
"Mum…you can't leave us out of this…please…this is Harry," exclaimed Ron. He was nervously rubbing his hands over the scars on his arms that hadn't fully healed.
"Please, Mum...don't shut us out," Ginny begged, her eyes welling up with tears of grief and frustration. Ginny was pacing back and forth beside the table, rubbing her hands together and chewing on her bottom lip.
The twins were giving Molly a look that said that they were coming whether she agreed they could or not. She matched that look with a glare of her own that said she would brook no arguments from that quarter. After meeting her gaze for a moment, they looked away.
Arthur quickly spoke up, "OK…Fred…George…you two stay here with Ron and Ginny…Ron, after we leave, you have permission to place one Floo call to Hermione to inform her of what is going on. Don't put it in the Owl Post…someone might intercept it."
Ron looked like he was about to protest when Arthur shot him a look that quailed him. He took a deep breath and sat back down and began pushing his food around his plate.
Ginny simply huffed and stormed out of the kitchen and up the stairs. Molly figured it was for the best, as Ginny had a tendency to be disrespectful when her anger got the better of her.
Arthur looked expectantly at Fred and George, and they nodded and sat back down. They, at least, began eating again, although Molly could tell that it was without much appetite.
Molly looked from Arthur to Bill; they each nodded to her and with a series of 'pops', first Arthur, then Bill, and then finally Molly Apparated away.
Molly returned her attention to the article in The Daily Prophet. 'It has finally happened,' she thought to herself. 'The press has finally gotten wind of Harry's disappearance.'
The article described that through "reliable" sources, it had come to the attention of key members of the Ministry that sometime around 22 June Harry had disappeared without a trace from his home. The Ministry felt it was pertinent that such potentially devastating news for the Wizarding World not be kept a secret. The article then went on to speculate through interviews from unidentified sources about the different scenarios that might have described Harry's disappearance.
The first theory speculated that Harry was still suffering from various mental instabilities due to his confrontations with You-Know-Who, and he had finally become irrevocably unbalanced and had run away on his own and was living as a vagrant on the streets of London.
Molly quickly thought back to the first couple of weeks after Harry had disappeared. She and other members of the Order had combed Muggle London for any sign of Harry. After two fruitless weeks, it was decided to set watches on various locations Harry might try to get to, in the event he was in trouble and needed assistance. Molly had been keeping watch on Grimmauld place with Remus Lupin, trading shifts with her sons, Bill and Charlie, who kept watch in the evenings, and a pair of young witches who had recently been inducted into the Order but whose names Molly hadn't bothered to learn, yet.
The second theory was one that was quite horrifying for Molly to even contemplate. The second theory speculated that You-Know-Who, now that he had been exposed to the public, had simply wasted no time in eliminating the Boy-Who-Lived, once and for all. The detractors of that opinion pointed out that most likely, if You-Know-Who had eliminated Harry that he would have dumped the body somewhere public where it couldn't have been missed or covered up by the Ministry.
Molly thought back to the day Harry had disappeared and the discussion and theories that were bandied back and forth at the Order meeting that had been quickly called….
Molly arrived with small 'pop' at the designated Apparition point up the street from Number 12, Grimmauld Place. Arthur, Bill, and Molly carefully looked around before hurrying up the street to the spot between 11 and 13. They paused a moment to think about the slip of paper each had been given when they were first inducted into the Order the previous summer, and suddenly Number 12, Grimmauld Place squeezed out from between Numbers 11 and 13. The three hurried up to the door, and Arthur quickly and silently slipped his wand out and tapped the doorknob in the prescribed pattern and the door clicked and opened. The three silently crept into the entrance hall and slipped the door shut. After seeing that the door was locked again, they stepped as quietly as possible past the portrait of Mrs. Black, being careful not to disturb her, and made their way down to the kitchen where the Order usually assembled for their meetings.
Inside the kitchen, Molly scanned the room, recognizing that a majority of the members of the Order from the previous summer were assembled. Looking around the table, she acknowledged the presence of 'Mad-Eye' Moody, Tonks, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Remus Lupin, Emmeline Vance, Hestia Jones, Dedalus Diggle, Elphias Doge, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, Mundungus Fletcher, and much to her surprise, Charlie.
Molly quickly crossed the kitchen and embraced Charlie. "When did you get to England?" she inquired. She raised her eyebrows as an indication that he had better have a good answer for not informing her that he was coming.
Charlie gazed at her lazily and smirked, "Relax, Mum. I was just called in this morning, Dumbledore had given me an emergency Portkey to use in the event of a serious situation such as this."
"How long are you here for?" Molly asked, her excitement growing despite the circumstances.
"Probably until this situation is resolved, however long that is, Mum. Dumbledore has already arranged a room for me at the Leaky Cauldron." Charlie cringed as his mother's eyebrows shot up at the last statement.
Molly let out a sigh and responded, "Well, at least be sure to come by for dinner while you are here. We don't get to see you enough, as it is."
Arthur embraced his son, and then Bill shook his hand and patted him on the back in greeting. Molly took the chair next to Charlie's, and Arthur and Bill sat down next to her. She looked around and realized that there were only three more empty chairs at the table.
Molly noticed that the others were speaking to one another in hushed whispers with the exception of Remus Lupin, who seemed to be staring aimlessly. She wondered if it was the situation that was affecting him or the fact that he was dealing with this kind of pressure so soon after Sirius's death.
After a couple of minutes, the door opened and Severus Snape glided into the room, his cloak billowing behind him. At a glance, he appeared as dour and insufferable as always, but a closer look revealed that he was rather haggard looking, as if he hadn't slept in some time. Snape sat stiffly in one of the empty chairs, and Molly noted a wince of pain as he shifted his weight. Everyone was looking at him expectantly, hoping that he had some inkling of what had happened to Harry, but if Snape knew anything, he wasn't sharing. He simply fixed everyone with the same stony expression he usually reserved for his students.
Molly noticed impatience brewing in some of those seated at the table, and to her relief, Albus Dumbledore entered, leading Arabella Figg. She was the Squib who lived in the Dursley's neighbourhood whose responsibility it had been to be the 'eyes' of the Order watching Harry through the years. Dumbledore motioned Arabella to the empty chair next to the one he sat in. All of the hushed conversations tapered off, and everyone seated at the table gazed at the aging Headmaster expectantly.
Dumbledore seemed to sag a little in his chair and carefully plucked his half-moon glasses from his face. He pulled a handkerchief from inside his colourful robes and wearily polished the lenses. His face seemed pensive as if he was trying to think of the best way to break the news to those assembled. Finally, he sighed and placed the handkerchief into his robe pocket. He slipped his spectacles back on and looked around the table with a mournful gaze. Molly had never seen the Headmaster appear more tired or more defeated than he looked now.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Ladies, Gentleman, we have a crisis on her hands. Sometime between 3:00 pm yesterday and 8:00 am today, Harry Potter disappeared from his relative's residence at Number 4, Privet Drive." Startled gasps were heard around the room and whispers were heard all around the table.
Finally Arthur's voice broke out clearly above the whispers. "Professor, it was my understanding that Harry was safe within the protections and wards around his relative's home." The whispers rose in volume to become murmurs, and Molly noticed that Dumbledore seemed to sag even further into his chair. He looked terribly old to anyone who was observing at that moment.
He took a deep breath and responded, "The wards and protections around the residence on Privet Drive prevent Voldemort from harming Harry while he is there. There are also anti-Apparition wards to prevent wizards and witches from Apparating within three hundred metres of the residence. The location is also a protected secret of the Ministry's, but the site is not under theFidelius Charm. It would be possible for Harry to leave the residence on his own or for someone to enter and remove him." Dumbledore paused for a moment and drew a deep breath. "Remus, you were the one who discovered he was missing; please, describe what you observed this morning."
Everyone's attention shifted to the sallow looking man with tattered robes. Lupin's attention still seemed to be focused elsewhere, but suddenly, he sighed heavily, sat back in is chair, and looked around the room. "At approximately 8:00 am this morning, I arrived at the Dursley residence for the purpose of checking on Harry and to ascertain whether our warning to his relatives had been effective or if more drastic measures would be required."
Several members of the Order seemed puzzled by this. Molly quickly interjected, "Those nasty Muggles treat him dreadfully. They work him like a house-elf and dress him in these tattered hand-me-down rags of his cousins. They often refuse to feed him, and they lock him in his room for days at a time. My sons rescued him four summers ago and found that he had been locked in his bedroom for days with little food, and they had put bars on the window." Molly was getting her rant going when Arthur placed his hand over hers and gave a gentle squeeze. Seeing the look in her husband's eyes, she felt her anger drain away. She looked around the table to see looks of incredulity and disbelief from the majority of those seated. Snape, on the other hand, seemed to have a self-satisfied smirk on his face. Apparently, the thought of Harry suffering with his Muggle relations was something he found amusing.
Anticipating that the discussions were about to get out of hand, Remus cleared his throat and continued, "I arrived at 8:00 am and knocked on the door of the residence. Mrs. Dursley answered the door, and I requested to see Harry. I was informed that he hadn't left his bedroom since he had arrived at the house the afternoon before. We know that he had arrived because the Order member assigned to watch the home yesterday evening saw him arrive and take his things into the house."
Lupin gazed around the table to make certain he had the attention of all present. "All of his belongings were there except his wand. It appeared he had been in the middle of unpacking his trunk when he simply vanished. We even found a secret hiding place under the floor that he had left open."
The various members of the Order burst into discussion, bouncing theories as to what might have happened to Harry. Molly, however, wasn't paying any attention to them. Instead, her attention was focused on the end of the table. That was the very spot where Harry and Sirius had sat in during the celebration of Ron and Hermione receiving their prefect badges. She had noticed how Ginny had steered the conversation with Sirius to the fact that neither he nor Harry's father had been a prefect while attending Hogwarts. She had also noticed that, upon being reminded of this, the tension Harry had displayed that morning seemed to drain away from him. Molly couldn't help but fret at the unfairness of the situation, when a child as sweet and dear as Harry had lost every parental figure that had ever come into his life except those horrid Muggles.
Her musings were interrupted when the primly dressed Emmeline Vance spoke above the din, "Do we have any indications that You-Know-Who or his Death Eaters were involved in his disappearance?" Every eye at the table turned to stare at the Potions Master. He appeared to be in pain as he drew breath. Even his robes appeared a bit tattered, contrary to his usual appearance.
Snape glared at everyone around the table… and slowly stood and moved behind his chair to address the assembled group. "Last night, around seven o'clock, I was summoned to the Dark Lord's presence. When I arrived at the location that I had been directed to, the Dark Lord was in a towering rage; Harry Potter had been hidden from him through some magic of Dumbledore. He was torturing his followers when they couldn't provide him an answer as to what kind of magic Dumbledore was using. When he realized I had arrived, he began questioning me to find out what I knew about whatever protection the Headmaster was using to shield Potter's mind. Unfortunately for myself, I was unable to answer adequately and suffered several minutes of theCruciatus Curse."
Snape paused dramatically at this point. Molly wondered if he had expected some type of sympathy from those assembled. Whatever it was he was expecting, he apparently did not get it as his scowl resumed, and he continued with his report, "After subjecting his followers to several bouts of theCruciatus Curse, he charged us with doing whatever was necessary to find out what magic this was so that he could find a counter to it."
"So, what you are saying, Severus, is that You-Know-Who has no more idea where Harry is than we do?" Moody interjected, his magical eye rolling around randomly.
"I believe that is what I said," Snape responded coolly. "In fact, if I were to guess, I would say the arrogant fool ran off to try to get some attention," Snape added with a sneer.
At that point, Molly saw red. Before she knew what she was doing, she stood and cast a Banishing Spell at Snape, flinging him from his perch behind the chair into the kitchen cupboard, literally blasting him through the doors and bringing several sets of dishes down upon the Potion Master's head. She shouted out in a screeching voice, "You vile, pompous, arrogant, worthless, sorry excuse for a wizard; if I ever hear you insult that dear boy in my presence again, I promise you that a Banishing Spell will be the least of your worries." Molly felt grasping hands pull her back to her chair. She couldn't remember moving around the table and ending up in front of the ruined cupboard
Arthur touched her cheek and pleaded with her, "Molly, please, put your wand away; as much as he might deserve it, this is not a time to be fighting among ourselves."
Molly took several deep breaths and sat back down. She placed her wand back inside her sleeve, and it was at this moment she realized she was trembling from head to toe. She kept thinking that if she and Arthur had been more persistent about bringing Harry home with them, then he would be safe, now. She could feel tears rolling down her face, and she began to rub her eyes with frustration. Someone placed a cup of tea in front of her, and with trembling hands, she grasped the cup and began sipping. The tea had an unusual taste, and it took Molly a moment to realize the taste was the burning sensation of Old Ogden's Firewhisky rolling down her gullet to her stomach. She glanced to her husband and saw him give her a small nod, which she recognized as him asking her approval. She nodded back to him and began sipping the tea and whisky mixture, trying to calm her nerves.
She glanced across the table to see that Dedalus Diggle was levitating Snape with aMobilicorpus and moving him out of the kitchen. Meanwhile, Emmeline Vance and Hestia Jones were busy casting spells, trying to put the dishes back together.
Molly shook herself out of her dull staring and noticed that she had finished her tea. She set the cup down into the saucer and slowly turned her gaze on the Headmaster. Albus appeared to be literally sinking into his chair and a heavy weight appeared to be pressing down on his shoulders.
Molly cleared her throat, and everyone looked her direction, including Dumbledore. Her voice was cold as ice as she began, "Albus, when we find that boy, he will be going to the Burrow with his family. That is not even up for debate. If I have to personally carry him from wherever you have deemed for him to stay, I will. Do you understand me?" Molly realized that she was using the same tone she had used many times to correct her children whenever they had done some infraction and were being given their final warning.
Dumbledore sucked in a deep breath and then nodded. "Bill, will you coordinate with the Order to see that the necessary spells and wards are used to maximize the security of the Burrow?"
Molly relaxed as she realized she had won. Bill would make sure that the Burrow was perfectly safe for Harry. All they had to do, now, was find him. Molly merely nodded whenever someone spoke to her the rest of the afternoon, as plans were made by Order to comb the areas of Surrey and Muggle London in search of Harry. Molly knew that she and all of the Order would do whatever was necessary to bring Harry home.
Molly hadn't even realized tears were running down her face until she tried to focus on the article before her and realized that the words were blurry. She began wiping the tears away with the cuff her dressing gown, growing frustrated that she could hardly think about Harry for more than five minutes without breaking down.
At that moment, her daughter, the youngest Weasley, Ginny, stepped through the kitchen door, still dressed in her dressing gown. The young girl glanced at her mother, ascertained what the problem was, and moved quickly to embrace her mother. This caused Molly to break down into sobs.
Ginny simply held her and whispered small assurances in her ear that they would find Harry and that he would be all right when they found him. To Molly's ears, however, it sounded as if her daughter was trying to reassure herself that Harry would be fine. Molly often wondered, these days, just what her only daughter's thoughts and feelings were towards the young man who had somehow worked his way into the hearts of the entire Weasley clan. She knew that Ginny had fancied Harry for nearly three years before she seemed to 'get over' him during her third year. She wondered if her daughter had got over Harry or had simply lost heart and given up. She had tried to explain to Ginny two summers ago that just because Harry hadn't noticed her, so far, didn't mean it would always be that way. She pointed out that Ginny's father hadn't noticed her until his sixth year at Hogwarts, mostly because he was too wrapped up in himself to pay her any mind. However, since Ginny had apparently gone out with that Michael Corner boy for over a year and really hadn't spoken of Harry in that way since that time they had discussed him two years ago, Molly often wondered. She also realized that Ginny would only discuss it with her mother if she wanted to and that Ginny would have to be the one bring it up. So, Molly was content to wait for her daughter to come to her.
Her reverie was broken by Ginny bussing her cheek with a small kiss and stating, "Harry will be OK, Mum; he just has to be."
Molly looked at her daughter and saw the tear tracks down her cheeks where she had been crying, as well. Molly wiped the tears away with her thumbs and replied, "Of course, dear. He will be just fine when we find him." She followed this with a small smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, but then again, the smile Ginny returned didn't reach her eyes, either.
Molly squeezed Ginny's shoulder, stood up, and began bustling around the kitchen, trying to finish the breakfast she was preparing for the entire Weasley clan. She had eggs frying in a pan on the stove with bacon sizzling in the pan next to it. There were scones baking away in the oven and Molly began settling the sliced fruit into different serving bowls and then levitating the bowls to the table.
She noted with pride that Ginny began bustling around the cabinets and set the table without even being asked. After she set the table, she went to the icebox that was charmed with a permanent cooling charm and pulled out the milk and various juices the different members of the family enjoyed.
The first batch of eggs and bacon were finished and were being set on the table when Arthur Weasley made his way downstairs. He was already dressed for another day of work at the Ministry, but his eyes shone with a deep tiredness that Molly had rarely seen before. Not only had the Ministry been working all of its employees to the brink of exhaustion to prepare the Wizarding World for the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but Arthur had then been devoting any free time to helping out with the search for Harry. Arthur often left the Burrow by 7:30 am in the morning and would not return until after midnight each night. In truth, Molly was beginning to worry that this all would end up being too much for both Arthur and her.
Arthur picked up the copy of The Daily Prophet and began scanning the headlines before settling in to read the article that made allegations about Harry's disappearance. As Arthur read, the tired expression on his face slowly began to change. First, he face formed a frown, and then it became a scowl. He began making small noises of discontent in the back of his throat, and Molly, after so many years with him, knew he was struggling to maintain control of his temper.
Finally, it appeared he couldn't hold it in any longer as he exclaimed, "Codswallop! How in the world anyone would think that Harry would disappear to join up with You-Know-Who is totally beyond me. Do they not realize that Harry has lost his entire family to that monster?" By this time Arthur's face was completely red, and he was nearly shaking. Molly understood his feeling. It seemed that despite the fact that it had been proven that Harry was telling the truth all last year about the return of You-Know-Who, The Daily Prophet never passed a chance to ridicule him. Lately, after it became apparent that someone had tipped The Daily Prophet off about Harry's disappearance, the paper had become even bolder to the point of suggesting that Harry was somehow in league with You-Know-Who.
Arthur was distracted from continuing on his tirade by the arrival of Fred, George, and Ron to the kitchen. The boys quickly took their seats at the table and began filling their plates. Molly noted that Fred and George appeared to be dressed and ready to go to work, while Ron was still dressed in the shorts and T-shirt that he wore to sleep in during the summer months.
Conversation was nonexistent at the table this morning. This was becoming a more common occurrence in the Weasley household but had never happened before Harry vanished. It was as if everyone reckoned that if they didn't talk about it, then it wasn't real that Harry was gone. Gone were the boisterous antics of the twins as they teased their younger siblings and tried to slip some of their products into the food.
Also gone was Ron's exuberance about food, in general, as he didn't eat nearly as much as he had before. He also tended to have a much shorter temper these days, and Molly wondered if it was due to Harry's disappearance or if it was another side effect from his being attacked by that brain in the Department of Mysteries nearly two months before. Another indication that he had changed was that he had already completed his summer homework without any prodding from Molly from or Hermione, which was a wonder all in and of itself.
Molly occasionally noticed Ron deep in thought, as if he was trying to recall something important. According to the little bit of information she and Arthur gleaned from the Department of Mysteries, it was very probable that Ron would have at least a temporary shift in his personality due to the experience of having information from the brain forced into his own when he had been attacked by it. Ron had already surprised everyone on a couple of occasions by spurting out some random fact or bit of knowledge he now possessed. The Headmaster had planned to work with Ron during the coming school year to see if he could help Ron pull together the bits of knowledge now inside him and make use of the experience contained within them.
Molly felt certain that part of Ron's withdrawal had to do with Harry's disappearance. While Ron had, at times, suffered from jealousy of Harry's fortune and fame, Ron now seemed to be more aware of just how 'wealthy' he really was. While Harry had all the fame and fortune that he had never wanted, Ron had a loving family that was always there to love and support him. Poor Harry had lost the closest connection he had to his parents in the battle at the Department of Mysteries nearly nine weeks before. The Weasleys had always made every effort to make Harry feel a part of their family, but Molly knew that, deep down, Harry felt like an interloper in her family, at times.
These thoughts brought Molly's mind back to her youngest child and only daughter, Ginny. Once again, Molly wondered what the young woman's feelings were, concerning the young man. This led her to recall her thoughts not too long ago, when she was awaiting the children's arrival on the Hogwarts Express, the same day that Harry had disappeared.
Molly stood, shifting nervously, at King's Cross Station with the entourage that was awaiting the children's arrival. She looked around her and considered the witches and wizards assembled. Each had come with the express purpose of seeing to it that Harry was reminded that he was loved and cared about and to warn off those awful Muggle relations of his.
First she considered her husband, Arthur. Upon looking at the slender man with thinning red hair, many often underestimated him as being 'common'. And, of course, anyone who had spent any amount of time with him and his easygoing manner and his eccentricities, most notably his fascination with Muggles, would never consider him formidable. However, underneath that 'soft' exterior was an Arthur that few had ever seen. Fortunately, none their children except Percy had ever seen Arthur lose his temper. Most people thought that the children all inherited their famous Weasley temper from their mother. Molly knew better; while Arthur was as kind-hearted and easy going as a wizard could be, if pushed beyond a certain point, his temper was enough to rain fire down from the heavens. Anyone who witnessed Arthur during one of his tempers would hardly recognize the mild-mannered Ministry employee with his eyes blazing and raw magical energy crackling off of him. She often felt fortunate that she had never been on the receiving end of that temper. But then, he rarely allowed himself to become angry with his children or his wife; he reserved his anger for external threats to his family, and now, she knew that his temper would be employed on behalf of the young man who had become a seventh son to them.
Next, Molly considered Alastor Moody with his grotesque appearance, a result of many decades fighting the battle against practitioners of the Dark Arts. He was intimidating to behold, with his nose missing and his magical eye rolling around in its socket like a living thing in and of itself. The grizzled, old Auror had a gruff nature, but those who actually knew him also knew his gruffness was a façade he used to great effect as an Auror. He could not intimidate any of the Weasley children, as they had all seen his playful, soft side, which he only showed to dear friends and children. She was quite confident that his imposing nature would be key in protecting Harry from the Muggles.
Her gaze fell next to Remus Lupin, dressed in his tattered clothes. She was as concerned about Remus as she was about Harry. While Harry had lost a godfather and a link to his parents, Remus had lost the last of his friends. He appeared to be handling it well enough, but unfortunately, Molly thought, he had had plenty of practice in grieving for dead and lost friends. His face had a haggard, haunted look to it, but then it usually carried that look, except on the rare occasions he smiled. She hoped that Remus would be able to reach out to Harry during this time of grieving, for both of their sakes. Harry needed to realize that he wasn't alone in his missing of Sirius, and Remus needed to realize that he hadn't lost everything.
Finally, Molly considered her twin sons, Fred and George. One really couldn't consider one without the other. Each was the other's best friend, and she secretly wondered if due to that bond, neither would ever settle down with a nice witch and marry and have children. For that matter, she wondered that about all of her sons, with the exception of Percy.
Bill, it seemed, was perfectly content with the bachelor's lifestyle. He spent time in the company of a lady when he felt like it but, otherwise, was content with his work and spending time with his parents and siblings. However, Molly had high hopes that perhaps Fleur Delacour, who had lasted longer than any of his girlfriends to date, might finally tame him.
Charlie, it seemed, would be more likely to marry a dragon as a witch. His obsessions, Quidditch and dragons, had driven him since he had been in school. She was sure Charlie had had girlfriends while at Hogwarts, but if he had had any since then, none of them had been special enough to warrant writing home about or to have been invited home to the Burrow to meet the family.
Next, Molly considered Percy, even though it was painful to think about him. As far as she knew, he was still with Penelope Clearwater. As far as how serious the relationship was, she had no idea, since Percy hadn't spoken to anyone in the family for nearly a year. The last she had heard, he and Penelope were getting on splendidly; Molly had really liked the girl.
Ron appeared to be as clueless as his father had been for most of his time at Hogwarts. It was obvious to her that he fancied his best friend, Hermione but, for whatever reason, was either unwilling to admit it to himself or afraid to act on his feelings. Molly only hoped that he would come around as his father had. Otherwise, she was sure both he and a certain witch would be disappointed for many years to come. She supposed that she should have Arthur have a talk with him about it this summer.
Finally, she considered her Ginny. She felt that she had a special bond with her daughter, being the only two females in the house. Of course, that also meant that sometimes they rubbed one another the wrong way as well, being the only two females in the house. While Ginny never thought herself to be pretty, Molly knew that her daughter had begun coming into her own. Ginny would always be the smallest Weasley, she with her petite, waiflike in appearance and apparently wasn't going to grow any taller. She was a combination of the two builds her children possessed. She was short of stature like Charlie and the twins, although even they were at least a head taller than Ginny was. Unlike Charlie and the twins, she possessed the thin frame that her father had passed onto Bill, Percy, and Ron. Molly knew that Ginny worried about the fact that she didn't seem to be developing womanly curves that many of her classmates had, but Molly merely pointed out that some men prefer the slender look to a woman, and from what Hermione had described of this Cho Chang girl, it seemed that Harry was one of them. She knew that Ginny worried about her bright red hair being unattractive, but even Molly had noticed the way Harry watched Ginny's hair at times. Molly had spent many an evening trying to explain that her fair complexion wasn't a hindrance and trying to convince her daughter that her eyes were rich and expressive, but unfortunately Ginny felt that the compliments of her beauty, coming as they did from her mother, didn't count for much.
The other thing that Ginny had going for her was her tender and loving heart. Despite his efforts, that cursed Tom Riddle hadn't destroyed that part of her. Ginny had a glow about her that would attract others to her whenever she allowed them to get close to her. In fact, Molly mused, Ginny's tender heart and love of life was probably exactly the kind of thing that Harry would need this summer. Harry, most likely, would be in a right state over losing Sirius as he had, and going back to those awful Muggles would probably only exacerbate the pain he felt. Molly only hoped that Dumbledore would see reason and allow Harry to come to them quickly this summer, so that he could begin to heal.
The more Molly had thought about it, a plan began to take root in her mind. She knew that Ginny had finally broken off with that Corner boy. He had become much too possessive and controlling towards the end, and Molly truly hadn't ever cared much for the boy to begin with. As far as she knew, Ginny hadn't had her eye on anyone else, so Molly determined that she would try to set up situations to put her daughter and Harry together as much as possible. Perhaps if Harry spent more time with Ginny, he would finally notice what had been in front of his nose all this time.
Molly broke from her reverie when Arthur stood up and placed a peck on her cheek. He grabbed his briefcase, bid the family a hearty farewell, and Disapparated with a 'pop'. Molly glanced around the table and noted that both Ron and Ginny had finished and were in quiet discussion with the twins.
Molly cleared her throat to get everyone's attention. When all four of her children were looking at her, she began, "Ginny, Ron, go upstairs and get ready for your day of helping your brothers at the shop."
Ron gave her a look that indicated he wanted to argue with her. Nearly everyday since Harry's disappearance, Ron had argued that he should be allowed to accompany her or his father in searching for Harry. Unfortunately, given the nature of many of the places they had been searching, it was decided that Ron and Ginny should be kept busy working with the twins in their shop, where they would be safe. They were told that they would be the Order's 'eyes' in Diagon Alley, since they would be running errands for the twins during the day, but the reality was that they were put there to keep them under scrutiny and to free up Molly to assist Remus with the search.
"Ronald, I will brook no argument from you this morning. The work Ginny and you perform in the Alley each day is useful and necessary. And before you argue that Ginny could do it alone, let me remind you that with events as they are, I don't want any of my children wandering around Diagon Alley without someone with them." She noted with satisfaction that the look of challenge faded from his eyes. He took a deep breath and began making his way toward the stairs.
Ginny graced her mother with a sickly sweet smile that conveyed her disgust with the situation of being placed out of the way and then followed her brother up the stairs to get ready.
Molly turned to her other two sons and very quietly but forcefully informed them, "Be watchful of the both of them today, and no more using Ron as a test subject. There will be several members of the Order on hand in the Alley in the event of trouble. I am counting on you two to keep your brother and sister safe."
Fred responded with a look of hurt on his face, "Dear Mum, you..."
"…wound us." George chimed in.
"You would think that you…" Fred continued.
"…would have more faith in us," George finished.
With a wink and a quick peck on her cheek from each, they Disapparated away with two loud 'cracks'.
Molly cleaned up the table and put the dirty dishes into the sink with carefully controlled Banishing Spells. Once she had cleared the table, she set the dishes to washing themselves with a spell and then charmed a polishing rag to clean the table.
Molly then went to check on her laundry and, seeing that it was finished, cast a drying spell on both loads. She set the clothes to folding and hanging themselves on hangers.
She moved her way back to the kitchen, picking up her teacup and refilling it from the pot she had brewed earlier. Thanks to a warming charm placed on the pot, the tea was just as hot as it had been off the stove. She sipped the tea as she considered the tasks ahead of her for the day. She needed to finish the laundry and get it sorted and returned to everyone's rooms. Molly figured Ginny would probably put all her clothes away when she returned home later that day. She had always been more responsible than her brothers about simple things such as this. On the other hand, Molly imagined that Ron would simply stack his clothes in the floor and dress out of the stack until it was gone, as he always did. In fact, she remembered it had taken her threatening to hex all of his clothing pink to get him to put his dirty laundry into the hamper in the bathroom. The twins were only somewhat better than Ron, in that they would stack their piles on their respective dressers and dress out of the stacks until they shrank them some and then would put the remaining clothes away.
Of course, she thought wryly, she would have to do all of this after she and Remus had put in a shift watching Grimmauld Place to see if Harry would show up there. The watch was necessary because the Malfoys had been able to secure possession of Grimmauld Place. Due Harry's disappearance, the reading of Sirius's Will had been delayed by the executor, Dumbledore, in the hope that Harry would be found and be able to attend. In the meantime, the Order decided to abandon the house to the Malfoys after removing anything of value and placing a curse upon Kreacher, which prevented him from ever revealing the secrets of the Order. The other reason the Order hadn't fought the Malfoys was that, unfortunately, the conditions of the Black Family Trust guaranteed that the house would go to Narcissa, Bellatrix, or Andromeda and, given the influence the Malfoys had within the Ministry, there was little doubt which of the three sisters would end up with possession of the house.
Molly continued busily cleaning the kitchen until Ginny and Ron reappeared, dressed for another day of work at Weasley Wizarding Wheezes. Ron was dressed in a faded pair of jeans and a Chudley Cannons T-shirt that had seen better days. Ginny was dressed in an old yellow summer dress, which greatly accentuated her slight figure. Both teens had learned within a few days of starting work with the twins that it was better to be seen in public in some of your oldest clothes than to take the chance of having a good outfit ruined.
Molly walked up to each and straightened their clothes a bit, much to both of their annoyance, and quickly kissed them on the cheeks and handed each of them a handful of Floo powder. Ron and then Ginny then Flooed away, calling out their destination, "93, Diagon Alley".
Finally alone, Molly finished up the last of the cleaning in the kitchen and then headed upstairs to make herself less conspicuous during the watch. She made her way to the bedroom she shared with Arthur and went to her drawers and closet, laying out the outfit she had planned on wearing that particular day. She entered the shower, washed her hair and took care of other hygiene issues, and found herself dressing quickly so that she could greet Remus when he arrived.
When she went downstairs she found that Remus had already arrived. She saw that he was slumped over the table, and from what she could discern, he was sleeping soundly, judging by the regular rise and fall of his shoulders.
Molly decided to let him kip for a bit while she finished up with the laundry. She finished folding her laundry, and then, with four quick flicks of her wand, she banished the clothes to their proper rooms.
When she returned to the kitchen, she could see that Remus was now awake and was gingerly sipping on a cupful of the tea she had prepared earlier. The weariness had not left his eyes since the day Harry had disappeared. The poor man had been searching tirelessly for Harry, often foregoing sleep altogether.
"Any news, "she inquired, as she did every morning when Remus arrived.
Nothing new," was his reply.
It was the same response he had given her every day for the last six weeks when asked this question. Essentially, the Order and the Dark Lord were flummoxed when it came to Harry's current whereabouts. Severus Snape was their source of information from the Dark Lord's efforts to find Harry. The Order had combed Surrey and Muggle London looking for signs of the missing boy. Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt, the two Aurors that were currently part of the Order, had been making discreet inquiries with the Muggle authorities, while Mundungus Fletcher had used his various contacts within the black market and wizarding underground to make inquiries there. Unfortunately, none of these sources had provided anything of use to the Order. They had finally resorted to posting members of the Order to watch various places they thought Harry might try to go to if he was in danger or in trouble.
This is what brought the two of them together each morning as they prepared to Apparate to their 'watch' zone near Grimmauld Place. Their instructions, should Harry show up at their location, were to quickly remove him to a safe location, preferably Hogwarts, so that he could be examined by Madam Pomfrey.
After Remus finished his tea, he stood and nodded in Molly's direction to ask if she was ready to go and relieve the late night watch. She banished their cups to the sink with a flick of her wand and, after nodding her readiness, they Apparated to the site.
They arrived to find two young witches with tired eyes looking at them with gratitude. There was a quick exchange of pleasantries, and the two witches stated that there had been no change in the situation during the night.
The two settled down into their usual position on a park bench at the end of the street and began their watch. The bench had a Muggle-repelling Charm on it to keep Muggles from taking interest in the wizards at the end of the street, as well as a Concealing Charm on both of them to keep them from being noticed by the Malfoys or any Death Eaters that would be coming or going from the house.
The Order suspected that in addition to the Malfoys, the Lestranges were also staying at the house, although there had been no evidence to prove whether their suspicions were true. Either way, the last thing the Order wanted was a lost and possibly injured Harry showing up on the doorstep of his archrival and his Death Eater parents.
After watching the house for nearly an hour with no change in the comings and goings around the neighbourhood, they were startled by a buzzing from both of their wands that only they could hear. They both looked at one another in apprehension. Their wands, as members of the Order, could be readily used to communicate with one another in times of emergency.
Molly nodded to Remus that he should take the call. While he spoke softly into the wand and listened to the responses, Molly's thoughts whirled through her head, as she speculated about what could possibly be wrong at this time of morning. Most of those thoughts included Harry in various states of duress and injury.
After what seemed like forever for Molly, but in reality was barely more than two minutes, Remus bid the messenger a fond farewell and turned to Molly.
A million questions were at the tip of her tongue when Remus blurted out, "They've found him!"
Molly felt a weight lift from her chest. She fired questions at him in rapid succession as her heart raced with anticipation. "Where is he? What happened to him? When can we see him?" Soon, Harry would be near her, and she would be able to take care of him herself. As far as she was concerned, at this point looking after him herself was the only way to guarantee Harry was safe and well cared for.
"He's at Hogwarts in the infirmary, according to Dumbledore," Remus responded. Gazing into his eyes, Molly could see a sparkle that she hadn't seen since before Sirius had died. It was a sparkle of hope, a sparkle of determination, and a sparkle of relief that he wouldn't be mourning the only son of his friends.
Remus continued, "Molly, Dumbledore wants us to Apparate to Hogwarts to be with him when he wakes up. According to Dumbledore, he was found wandering around the streets of Little Whinging. He apparently collapsed into unconsciousness when Tonks approached him. As of yet, they have no idea where he has been or what has happened to him."
Molly took a moment to absorb this information and then nodded at Remus that she understood, and she immediately Disapparated with a 'pop'. She appeared a moment later at the gates of Hogwarts with another soft 'pop'. A split second later, there was another soft 'pop' and Remus was beside her. Side by side, the two began walking up the path that led to the front gates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
They quickly passed through the gates and were met in the entrance hall by Minerva McGonagall, the Transfiguration professor and Gryffindor head of house. Minerva simply nodded to them and led them up the stairs towards the hospital wing. After stepping through the halls for a couple of minutes, the group arrived at the doors to the infirmary.
Minerva opened the door and motioned for them to enter. They stepped through the doorway, and the door was shut behind them. A quick glance revealed Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape, Auror Tonks, and Madam Pomfrey gathered around a bed at the other end of the infirmary. The two walked briskly to the other end. As they approached, they could hear Snape and Dumbledore murmuring back and forth to one another. Madam Pomfrey was holding her wand over Harry casting various diagnostic incantations, trying to determine what, if anything, was wrong with the boy. Auror Tonks just stood back from the rest, watching the matron work, a look of concern on her face.
Molly approached the bed and got her first glimpse of Harry since the day at King's Cross nearly eight weeks earlier. The first thing she noticed was that Harry had an unmistakeable look of health to him that he usually hadn't had whenever he arrived from a stay with his relatives. Wherever Harry had been, he apparently hadn't been missing meals and was keeping active. The second thing she noticed was the look of peace that graced his face. Too seldom, since the return of Voldemort, had Harry been so relaxed as he appeared to be now, sleeping in the hospital bed.
Molly glanced at Pomfrey and whispered, "Poppy, is he okay; he's not hurt or sick or anything, is he?"
The nurse looked over to Molly and responded, "Molly, this is the best health I've ever seen Mr. Potter in; believe me when I tell you that I've seen plenty of him over the past five years."
"Well, that is good to know," Molly responded, a bit of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. 'At least his health is good,' Molly thought, 'but what about his emotional state?' she wondered.
Molly turned to face the two professors who were still whispering back and forth, and their conversation had seemed to become more heated. She cleared her throat to get their attention. "Professors, would one of you be so kind as to explain just where Harry has been the last eight weeks and what exactly he has been doing?"
Molly asked the question, fully expecting an answer from Dumbledore. The Headmaster always knew what was going on. He always had an answer, and surely, he would have an answer regarding the situation they found Harry in. She wasn't prepared for the response she received, however.
"Molly, to be quite honest, I have no idea where Harry has been, nor am I privy to what he has been doing. Given the look about him, I would have to guess that he has been somewhere that agreed with him…"
Professor Dumbledore never finished his thought for at that moment, Harry Potter sat straight up in his bed and gasped, "Where am I?"