Chapter 5 – Protection from the Elements

Harry gave a guilty start and looked round. Mrs Weasley stood, framed in the bright sunlight streaming through the open door. She looked flushed and tired. "Molly, my dear – " said Mr Weasley. "Do you need me for something? We've just finished here."

"I should hope so – it's nearly half past twelve." Mrs Weasley sounded irritated. "Arthur – I came to see if you'd help with that canvas gazebo thingy you insisted on getting from the D-I-Whatsit shop. Bill was getting quite frustrated trying to make it work – and he's normally so even-tempered – and Fleur said she was sure the canopy her parents are bringing will be quite big enough for all the guests to sit under – and I must say, I probably agree – " Mrs Weasley paused for a second before resuming her agitated monologue.

"But then, we may still need it for Dobby and his friends – it's so awfully hot, we can't expect them to work without somewhere to rest …" Mr Weasley attempted to say something at this point, but Mrs Weasley hadn't finished yet.

"Fleur – sensible girl – sent Bill off to the pub to calm down before lunch. Fred and George went with him. They were only getting under our feet in any case, but at least they were trying to help." Harry gazed fixedly at the floor of the shed.

Mr Weasley managed to speak. "My dear, of course – I'm so sorry. I'll come at once. I only meant to come in here for a few minutes after breakfast and I'm afraid I got a little carried away …"

"Well – all right then," said Mrs Weasley, not looking at all mollified.

"It was my fault, Mrs Weasley," said Harry. "I needed to talk to him about something that happened – er – last night." 
At this, Mrs Weasley looked even less happy. "No, no Harry – there's no need for that," said Mr Weasley. "Molly knows quite well that even if you hadn't come in..."
"I still would have had to drag him out of here!" she snapped. 
"I tend to lose track of time, you see …"
"We've all of us precious little time to play these days, Arthur." Mrs Weasley's voice was weary, but resigned.
"You're quite right my dear. I'm all yours for the rest of the day, I promise."

The three of them left the shed and began making their way across the lawn. Fleur could be seen sitting on the ground, leaning against the old stone outhouse where the Weasleys stored their brooms, her perfect hair in unusual disarray. She was flapping at her pink face with what looked like a Chudley Cannons tea towel. Harry wouldn't have missed it for the world, and could only wish that the others were here to share the sight with him.

"Harry, you dreadful boy. Before we go in, I need several words with you. I'm very glad you got back safely last night but – oh! – if I'd known you weren't here … it doesn't bear thinking about." Mrs Weasley stopped walking, forcing Harry and Mr Weasley to halt as well.

"But Mrs Weasley I had to go – Neville and Luna were relying on me. And it was OK – I had my Invisibility Cloak."

"For heaven's sake – you children will take any sort of risk as long as you've got that blessed cloak!"

Harry remembered his broken nose at the beginning of the previous year and said defensively, "We're not children. I know you worry, Mrs Weasley but … you can't keep us from danger. We're going soon and then you're just going to have to trust us..."

At this, Mrs Weasley sank down onto the grass. She appeared to be almost distraught. Harry could see that the skin around her mouth and eyes was white under the purple flush of her hot cheeks. He and Mr Weasley exchanged glances, and Harry sat down cross-legged on the lawn. Mr Weasley stooped awkwardly, placing an arm around his wife's shoulders. She clutched his hand convulsively. " Oh, my goodness. I wish you and Ron would reconsider leaving directly after the wedding. And taking Hermione too! It's not even proper – and into such danger!"

"We're not taking her, Mrs Weasley. If anything it's the other way round."

Mrs Weasley's shoulders sagged a little. "The girl's got her head screwed on, I'll give you that. Very handy with her charm work. At least I know you won't get lost – or catch cold."

"Well, we won't run out of scarves and hats anyway."

Mrs Weasley smiled weakly. "And at – at least I know Ginny will be out of harm's way, s – safe at s – school."

Harry frowned. He had considerable doubts about the safety of Hogwarts with Dumbledore gone. But what could he do? He hated to think of Ginny – restless and alone – in the long months ahead. As though he could sense Harry's unease, Mr Weasley said in a firm and cheerful tone: "Molly, knowing our daughter, I think it highly unlikely she will be content to do nothing, studying peacefully while her entire family are out fighting. I'm sure she has plans to keep herself fully occupied while at school, even if she hasn't shared them with anyone yet."

Mrs Weasley was not comforted, indeed this seemed to increase her fear. "Oh no! I never thought … Arthur – you're right. You've forbidden her to – to follow you I hope – Harry?"

"Forbidden her – do we know the same Ginny?" Harry strove to sound light and relaxed. Mrs Weasley gave another tiny smile, though worry lines still etched her forehead.

"We've discussed it – kind of." Harry frowned again as he remembered the stilted, awkward conversation he'd had with Ginny before she left to go and see Percy. She'd seemed – cold almost – with a tight, controlled edge to her voice. The habitual blaze in her eyes when she looked at him had dulled to a small flicker since the day of the funeral. "She said she wouldn't run away and what did I take her for? She got angry – she's not a kid either, Mrs Weasley."

Harry smiled, remembering the flash of the real Ginny that had emerged momentarily, only to disappear again. He'd ached to take her in his arms, but she'd looked at him with the same ferocious expression as when she'd boarded the train after the funeral, and turned away. He knew she was right – they understood each other perfectly, even now – and had turned away too.

"I expect she'll be helping to mobilise troops up at the school, along with your other fighters from – what was the name, Harry?"

"Dumbledore's Army. Yeah – she'll keep them up to the mark, Mr Weasley – the few that are left anyway." He found this thought strangely comforting.

Mrs Weasley swung round, throwing her apron up to her face. "Oh, I can't bear it!" However, she didn't give in to tears and soon rallied. Rubbing fiercely at her dry eyes, she said: "I'm so proud of you – all of you. I do trust you, Harry. And my Ron's a good boy."

"I'll watch out for him Mrs Weasley, I promise – I won't let him …"

Mrs Weasley interrupted him. "No, Harry. Ron and Hermione will look out for you. That's their job. And Ginny – we'll keep her safe – for you. That's ours." She gave Harry a hard look which reminded him, strikingly, of Ginny. Astonished, he nodded. "Come, Arthur, let's go and look at this dratted tent thing. Harry – lunch in half an hour. Wash your hands first please, they're covered in ink – completely filthy."

Harry walked slowly back up to the house and into the living room to look for a quill and piece of parchment. Ron and Hermione were still sitting at the table, absorbed by the map, bent heads almost touching. It seemed they'd managed to make do with Hermione's slide rule after all. Harry watched them for a moment, and felt calmer and happier than he had done in some time. Whatever else happened: he, Ron and Hermione had work to do and nothing was going to distract them from that.

The End