Chapter One: A Morning of Mourning
Harry sat at the Weasley's kitchen table, quietly and reluctantly eating breakfast. The Weasley's house always used to be full of laughter and merriment. But since the death of Fred a week earlier, all the joy seemed to have been sucked out of the Weasley family. Mrs. Weasley couldn't stop crying. Mr. Weasley tried to keep busy, tinkering with his Muggle toys out in the shed. And George…well, George just sat and stared into space. Percy was taking it hard, too, since he'd only been reunited with his family hours before Fred's death.
It wasn't just that they were grieving, though. No one except Hermione seemed to be able to look at him. Even Ron wouldn't. It made for a very lonely stay at the Weasleys, something he had never experienced there before. Poor Hermione was left trying to comfort both Ron and Harry. He felt guilty for taking her away from Ron though, so he tried not to take up too much of her time.
And besides, it was understandable. Harry was grieving, too. It wasn't just Fred who had been lost. Tonks and Lupin were gone, too. Poor Teddy, his godson, would grow up without ever knowing his parents, just as Harry had. Little Colin Creavey had died, too.
And Snape. Harry still couldn't believe it. Snape had been protecting him his whole life because he had loved Harry's mother since childhood and ended up getting her killed. Harry still didn't like the man, but he could no longer hate him. With Snape's death, Harry had developed a newfound respect for the former professor.
Ginny's sniffles broke Harry out of his musings. She hadn't spoken to him once in the last three days, wouldn't let him even touch her. Harry couldn't take it anymore. He threw down his fork and stood up. "Why don't I go ahead and leave for Hogwarts? I'll make sure we have plenty of seats near…near…" he trailed off quietly. He couldn't bring himself to say the words.
Hermione jumped up. "I'll come with you, Harry." He smiled at her appreciatively. No one else even looked up at them. Harry nodded to himself. "Right then. See you soon." He glanced over at Ginny and gave her a small smile, which she ignored. Then he and Hermione went outside and apparated to Hogsmeade.
When they reappeared, they saw that they weren't the only ones arriving early for the mass funeral service. It wouldn't start for another hour, but the little wizarding village was already even more crowded than when the students would visit on the weekends. It shouldn't have surprised Harry, although it did. It wasn't just his loved ones who had died. Over fifty students and their family members had died in that final battle. Over fifty students and their family members had died defending the school against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Harry expected the whole school would come, plus their families and many Ministry officials.
Harry and Hermione quietly made their way up from the village to the Quidditch pitch where the dead had been laid out. The spectator stands were in ruins. The giants had overrun them during the battle. All three hoops at one end, plus two at the other, had been knocked down.
"Makes it real, doesn't it? To see the destruction?" Hermione said. "Back at the Burrow, you can almost forget the fighting sometimes, and the killing, and the dying. But when you come back here, you see it. And you realize nothing will ever be the same again."
Harry looked over to see her quietly crying. He put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. "It'll be okay, Hermione. It'll be okay. Come on, let's go find Fred."
They found him about half way between the former goal posts on the side closest to the school. On the way, they also saw Tonks and Lupin laid next to each other. Harry decided he would say goodbye to them after the service. Right now, he would be there for the Weasleys.
They found nine seats together right beside Fred's coffin and sat down next to each other to wait. They didn't say anything. There didn't seem to be anything to say. After a few minutes, Bill and Fleur showed up. They sat down next to Harry without a word. Fleur leaned against Bill's shoulder while Bill just stared at the ground. Harry had never seen him so quiet and subdued.
Soon the rest of the Weasley's showed up. Hermione scooted over so Ginny could sit next to him, but she went and sat beside Bill instead. Hermione gave him an apologetic look that said he tried as Ron sat in the empty seat instead. Harry gave her a grim smile back in return. He understood. She was blaming him for Fred's death. He knew Ginny would forgive him eventually. He just had to give her time and space.
He turned back to the podium that had been set up at one end of the Quidditch pitch and watched as Kingsley Shacklebolt stepped forward. The interim-Minister began to speak to the crowd. He spoke of the bravery of those who died, of their willing sacrifice to defeat Voldemort. He spoke of the loss of the friends and families who remained and how they would grieve for their departed loved ones. He also spoke about how they would continue to live, knowing their world was now a better one, thanks to the actions of those they were honoring. "Let us never forget them, but let us continue to live for them," Shacklebolt concluded. With that, he turned and left the podium.
As the crowd of mourners began to go their separate ways, the Weasleys continued to just sit there and stare. Harry felt even more like an outsider than he had already been feeling, like he was trespassing on their privacy.
"I'll, er, I'll just go see if I can find Tonks's mom. See if she needs help with Teddy, or something." Once again, no one looked up at him, so he turned and left quietly.
Harry found Andromeda Tonks sitting with her grandson in her lap in front of her daughter's coffin. She was a tall woman, with dark blonde hair, though it had a few streaks of grey in it. He could see the resemblance to both her sisters, Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy. Her appearance seemed much kinder and more approachable than that of her sisters. More mother-like. As he drew closer, he saw that her shoulders were shaking as she sobbed quietly.
"Mrs. Tonks? I don't know if you know who I am. My name is—"
"Harry Potter. Of course I know who you are. Remus and Tonks talked very highly of you," she said, looking up at him. She dried her eyes on the sleeve of her robe. "It's nice to finally meet you. How are you doing? Getting along okay?" She patted the seat next to herself as an invitation to sit.
He took a deep breath and sighed. "Well, things have been better, I suppose. And worse, in some ways. I'm staying with the Weasleys right now. Don't really have anywhere else to go except Sirius's house in London, but I don't want to be there alone. I'm not sure I'll be there much longer, though. I don't seem to be their favorite person right now…" he trailed off.
"Whatever makes you think that, dear?" she asked him.
"No one really talks to me, or even looks at me for that matter. It's like I'm invisible or something. I know they are probably just grieving, but I feel like they blame me. I never wanted anyone to die. Certainly not Fred or Tonks or Lupin. He was like a brother to me. And Ginny…" Harry paused and glanced up at her. He saw fresh tears in her eyes and felt bad. "I'm sorry. I don't need to burden you with my problem when you've lost loved ones, too."
She dried her eyes again and enveloped him in a hug. "Nonsense, Harry. You loved them, too. I know the Weasleys are the family you've never had. And Remus thought of you as a nephew. I'm sure you're right about them just grieving; they'll come around soon. But if things don't get better soon, you feel free to send me an owl and you can come stay with me for a bit. After all, Teddy will need his godfather around more than ever now that his mum and dad are gone. I'm sure you know how that feels."
Harry smiled at her and nodded. "Thank you, Mrs. Tonks. I appreciate that."
"Anytime, dear. But no more of that Mrs. Tonks nonsense. You call me Dromeda, alright?" Harry nodded.
"I should get back to them. And Miss–, er, Andy, if you need anything, you just let me know. Even if it's just a few hours without the baby, I'll help however I can."
"Thank you, Harry. I'll let you know. Run along now."
Harry set off back towards the Weasleys. About halfway there, he was stopped by Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Mr. Potter, I'd like a word, if you have a minute."
Harry looked towards the Weasleys. hey were still sitting there with no sign that they'd be leaving anytime soon. "Sure, Minister. What can I do for you?"
"Well, as you know, I'm only the interim Minister right now. New elections won't be able to be organized for a few weeks at the earliest. But the Ministry can't afford to wait until then. e need to round up the rest of the Death Eaters that have slipped away. We also need to get a handle on all of the crimes that have been allowed to go unacknowledged and unpunished while Voldemort had control of the Ministry. I was wondering if you, Ron, and Hermione would help me out I know you haven't finished school yet, but I have no doubt of your abilities. I think your NEWTs can wait a bit until things settle down. That is, if you're willing to help."
Harry bristled at the thought that there were still Death Eaters running around out there. "I'll help you, sir. When do you want me to start?"
"How about Monday? That's three days from now. Is that too soon?" he asked.
"Monday will be fine, sir. I'll ask Ron and Hermione and owl you their answers. You might also ask Neville Longbottom if he wants to help."
"Thank you, Harry. I will. See you then." And with that the former Auror walked off.
Harry continued on back to the Weasleys, who had finally started moving around. No one looked particularly enthusiastic about going back to the Burrow, though. For that matter, Harry wasn't either. Not if it meant no one but Hermione would look at or talk to him. Harry didn't know what to do to make amends. He couldn't bring Fred back. Merlin knows he would if he could.
Harry sighed. Maybe he should take Andy up on her offer to stay there. He didn't want to leave the only family he'd ever known, but if they didn't want him there, maybe it was for the best. With a grim determination, he decided to tell Ron and Hermione about Shacklebolt's request after lunch and then decide if he should leave or not. He probably should have gone ahead and asked Andy where she lived. Well, he could always go to Diagon Alley first and send her an owl from there, since he didn't have Hedwig anymore. That thought depressed Harry even more.
Disapparating and reappearing moments later in the Weasleys' kitchen, Harry saw Mrs. Weasley and Ginny getting lunch together. Bread and cheese and meat were flying through the air, while Ginny was laying out the plates and cups.
Looking at Ginny, Harry felt sad and lonely again. A year ago, they had been spending every spare moment enjoying each other's company at Hogwarts. Now she wouldn't even acknowledge him. He had hoped that they would get back together once he had defeated Voldemort. He thought she knew he loved her, and that the separation was just to protect her.
After lunch, Harry decided it was now or never to find out if he'd be staying. He leaned over to Hermione and said, "I need to talk to you and Ron about something. Upstairs?" She nodded to him and said they'd be up there in a minute.
Harry stood up and went to Ron's room. Hermione and Ron showed up a minute later. "What's up, Harry?"
"Kingsley Shacklebolt stopped me at the…" he glanced at Ron, "earlier today. He was wondering if we would join the Aurors and help round up some of the Death Eaters that are still on the run."
Hermione looked up at him in confusion. "Join the Aurors? But we haven't taken our NEWTs yet. We don't qualify."
"Yeah, he said he'd worry about those later. Said he knew we knew what we were doing. he important thing was to catch those murderers before they caused anymore problems or got away for good."
Hermione glanced over at Ron, who still hadn't looked up. "I'm not sure, Harry. I had wanted to go get my parents back from Australia and fix their memories. When would he want us to start?"
"Monday, if we can. I told him I'd send him an owl with your answers."
"I see," Hermione said slowly. "I'll need to think about it Harry. I'll let you know by Sunday."
Harry nodded. "That's fine, Hermione. I know you're tired of all the fighting, and that's not really where you wanted to be in the Ministry. Don't feel like you have to do anything you don't want to." He turned to Ron. "What do you say, mate? Are you in?"
Ron just stared at his feet, no indication that he had even heard Harry. Harry waited a moment, then took a deep breath and said, "Well, you think on it and let me know. In the meantime, Tonks's mom asked me if I wanted to go stay with her and Teddy for a little while. I think it's probably a good idea. Give me a chance to get to know my godson, and give you guys some time to be by yourselves without me to here to remind you about…everything."
Ron still didn't even look up. The only reaction he got was Hermione looking up at him with her eyes big and wide. "What? Harry, you can't leave! Ron, tell him!"
He stood up and went over to the cot he'd been using in Ron's room to start gathering the few belongings that he had left: his dad's cloak, his photo album of his parents, a few changes of clothes, and his wand. He stuffed them in his rucksack and then turned back around to Ron and Hermione.
Hermione was shaking Ron, trying to get him to say something, anything to get Harry to stay.
"It's okay, really, Hermione. I'll just go down and say goodbye to everyone else," he said. Harry picked up his bag and walked back downstairs.
He found the rest of the Weasleys gathered in the living room, some crying, some talking quietly. He stood in the doorway and slowly everyone turned to look at him as they noticed he was carrying his rucksack.
He cleared his throat nervously. "I just wanted to say goodbye. I'm going to go stay with Andromeda Tonks for a little bit, maybe look for a place of my own. I don't want to intrude on you guys anymore." Everyone just stared at him. "Er, thank you. For everything you've done for me over the years and letting me be a part of your family for a little while." Still no one said anything. "Right, um, I'll see you around then." And with that he turned around, walked out into the garden, and apparated to the Leaky Cauldron.