Chapter Forty-Eight

Ron Weasley was not known for controlling his temper. As he stood with his brothers during the Order meeting, shoulder to shoulder in support of Harry, only the knowledge that he had given his word to follow his best friend's lead kept him from flying into a rage at all the witches and wizards going after him-Kingsley, Dumbledore, his mum... He grit his teeth and dug his nails painfully into his palms while Harry left with Snape. Snape would be first on Ron's list of people-to-beat-some-sense-into-if-he-had-the-chance.

There was a moment of silence as the kitchen door swung shut behind the two fuming men, as those still inside waited with baited breath for the sound of continued shouting. Ron felt Fred and George shift on either side of him, clearly as uncomfortable as he was watching Harry walk out with the bullying potions professor. The fact that the twins had put him between them for this little stand against the Order meant more to Ron than he was able to express. It meant almost as much as Harry pulling him aside moments before they entered the meeting to tell him that all was forgiven... that he would always need him-Ron-"my brother"-by his side.

When no sound of fighting came from the hallway after several moments, Dumbledore cleared his throat and turned to Sirius and the small barricade of red-heads standing with him.

"Thank you all for kindly escorting Harry back, but the Order can handle things from here." Ron fought to keep his face blank, taking his cue from the twins and determined to keep his promise to himself to be as valuable to Harry as they had been. Charlie, however, was definitely not keeping a blank face. In fact, Ron had never seen such a harsh expression on his brother's face as he glared back at Dumbledore; one that Ron could only describe as murderous. He wasn't the only one who had noticed it, either. Several Order members were giving Charlie glares of their own, and Ron concentrated on remembering the names of those he knew, and memorizing the faces of those he did not.

"Charlie and I are in the Order, Albus. I'm certain you remember." Sirius slung an arm seemingly casually around Charlie, but Ron could see the tension mirrored in his own shoulders and the way he flexed his arm supportively behind Charlie's neck, a silent sign of solidarity.

"Here Charlie, there's a seat by me." Ron was surprised that it had been his father who spoke up, given that there was no certainty at the moment that Dumbledore wished for Charlie to stay. He was scooting closer to Molly, though, opening up a spot between him and Hagrid, and summoning one of the spare chairs along the wall. There was a strange look of understanding that passed between Arthur and Sirius as Charlie was nudged from one to the other, never without a hand on his back or shoulder. With a start, Ron realized that it was a look from Charlie's father to his father-in-law; a look saying 'take care of him,' and 'the same to you.'

"Children, as none of you are Order members, I trust that you can leave now without causing a scene?" Ron noticed that not even Sirius or Charlie spoke up against the headmaster this time, and shifted his weight, preparing to walk towards the door. He was sure Fred and George would stay and argue that they were adults legally, but he didn't have much of a leg to stand on himself. He hadn't been expecting to be stopped by two hands coming to rest on his shoulders.

"With all due respect, headmaster..."

"...Harry has asked us to wait for him..."

"...all of us..." George emphasized, giving Ron's shoulder the tiniest of shakes so there could be no question who he was referring to.

"...and as you just sent him away..."

"...we're sure you will be understanding about us waiting around..."

"...until he gets back." They finished in unison.

Both their hands stayed on Ron's shoulders, and he stood up straighter, shoulders back, proud to be a part of this support system building around Harry. 'Harry may be in the center of all this,' Ron thought, looking from Sirius to Charlie and their father, to the twins on either side of him. 'But we're all here for each other.'

"Albus told you to leave," snapped one of the 'un-named-glarers' Ron had noted earlier.

"With all due respect, sir..."

"...Harry has asked us t-" The twins began again in the same, flatly polite tones, but were almost immediately cut off by a second un-named-glarer, this one a woman.

"Potter is not in charge here! He does not get to decide who stays and who goes, he does not get to pick and choose which of Albus' protective measures he is going to cooperate with... the only decision he should be making here is what he wants on his toast in the morning!"

"It's Harry's house! He owns this whole place!" Ron answered, too outraged to keep the calm, blank-faced act up. The hands on his shoulders squeezed in warning, but when Ron stole a glance at the twins he noticed that their eyes were flashing in anger to rival to his own.

"I keep trying to tell you that the rest of the world doesn't see Harry as 'just a teenager,' and we can't afford to either," Charlie spoke up, making an obvious effort not to let his own temper flare again. "You have all heard how he performed at the High Council Meeting; Harry is a very powerful lord, and his is behaving as one. He-" Charlie, though, was cut off as well, this time by the man who had snarled at Ron and the twins to leave.

"Oh there's no question how the boy is behaving: ordering around his school-mates, having them break rules and cause trouble on his behalf... It's no secret amongst Order members why these two were turned out of headquarters in the first place, even if everyone pretends not to know anything about it." He jerked a thumb towards Fred and George and Ron felt himself bristling. "Very clever of Lord Potter to off 'his' house to protect two desperate miscreants-how nice for him to have something so powerful to hold over his new servants' heads... kind of reminds you of how a certain Dark Lord started gathering his followers, doesn't it? Starting with the friendless, penniless lowlives of-" If Ron hadn't been so blind-sighted by someone actually thinking to compare Voldemort to Harry, he certainly would have defended his friend. The man's description of Fred and George, however, crossed a line that Ron did not even attempt to curb his fury before defending.

"My brothers," Ron snarled, jerking away from the twins' restraining hands and marching right up to the man's face, "are kind and caring and talented and brilliant and hilarious-better men than you could ever hope to be!" Ron missed not only the emotional looks the twins sent his way, but also those from Charlie, Bill, and Arthur. He would have kept going, but a new voice stopped him short.

"This all seems... rather dramatic." Snape drawled boredly form the open doorway, single eyebrow raised disdainfully at the scene in front of him, and causing several startled faces to snap towards him.

"Severus, where is Harry?" Dumbledore asked sharply, rising quickly from his chair and looking rather rattled by the dark turn the conversation had taken so quickly. Almost at once there was chaos in the kitchen as people all around the room leapt to their feet storm after the young man. Ron found himself shoved roughly to the side. A hand caught him just before he fell to the ground entirely, and he felt something cool and light pressed against his arm.

"Harry's cloak. Find him and get him back to the study. The twins and I will figure out how to get Charlie there... they need each other tonight. Go." Ron spun and nodded once at Sirius, putting all his determination and commitment into the single look, then shoved the cloak inside his own robes and darted out of the kitchen. Now he finally understood why the 'little dragon' needed protection from the light.

xXxXxXxXx

The morning they were to catch the Hogwarts Express-as had happened the past four years-Hermione Granger was awake, packed, and pacing hours before she need have gotten up for breakfast. This time, however, there was more on her mind than nerves about new classes.

She had been waiting for Ron when he went back to his room after the Order meeting. Hermione was no fool; she had noticed him disappearing for hours at a time, seen him sneaking away with Sirius; she knew he was up to something. It wasn't until Ginny had seen Harry and Snape storm out of the Order meeting and caught a glimpse of Ron and the twins through the open door, however, that Hermione had decided to confront Ron. Even though she was no novice to Ron's anger, nothing would have prepared her for his fury when she started in on him the moment he walked into his room. Sure, some of what he said was just frustrated ranting; but a lot of it struck deep:

"...Who cares what he was wearing or who it reminded you of; weren't you the one saying we can't judge someone on that stuff with Krum and the other Durmstrangs last year...?"

"...Harry hasn't changed, he's Harry! Harry, the guy who plays endless games of chess with me even though he's trash at it; the guy who goes with you to the library just because he knows you won't be able to carry all your books back on your own; the guy who we left in the dark half the summer but he forgave us anyway...!"

"...They don't even treat him like a person, 'Mione. They said he was like You-Know-Who...!"

"...I'm not sorry I didn't tell you. Harry asked me not to, and it's not important if he was right or wrong, don't you get that? Everyone deserves to have someone in their life who cares about that they want, not just what they can do for other people. I didn't tell you because Harry wasn't ready, and that matters more to me than all the logic in the world..."

The yelling and the extreme statements had been so typically Ron, but there was a certain wisdom and maturity to a lot of what he said-and that was not something Hermione knew quite how to feel about. Uncomfortably-reluctantly-she had to consider the possibility that the problem may not be that the others were changing, but that she was letting them grow up without her.

Hermione was interrupted from her pre-breakfast pacing and pondering by a soft knock on her door. Wondering if she would find Ron or Ginny on the other side of the door-and not sure who she wanted to talk to less at the moment-Hermione was caught completely off-guard to find Harry waiting nervously outside her door.

"Harry!"

"Hey, 'Mione." His voice was quiet, almost hesitant, and he made no move to come into the room, only glancing from her to the space behind her as though uncertain whether or not he would be getting an invitation. Hermione, who-up until the heated confrontation with Ron the night before-had been thoroughly convinced that she was being unjustly alienated and thrust aside, was no left to wonder exactly who (if anyone) was the 'bad guy' in this situation.

"I´m here to apologize-" "Harry, I'm so sorry-" they both began talking at once, then cut off, laughing nervously together in hushed voices.

"Will you come in?" Hermione whispered, trying to hide the hesitancy from her voice. "We ought not to wake the others." Harry nodded and slipped in past her, but his quick, tight smile never met his eyes. Hermione took her time shutting the door, even fiddling with the lock for a time to buy herself a few spare moments to decide how best to begin their conversation. When she finally turned back around, however, Harry took the responsibility off of her entirely.

"Hermione, there are some things I need to apologize to you for. I haven't trusted you and leaned on you like I should have this summer. I think part of me was just a little weary after how those first weeks went, but I told you and Ron I had forgiven you, and so I should have acted like it." Hermione was listening to him with a furrowed brow, not quite sure what any of this had to do with their recent argument over his pureblood antics. When she tried to speak, though, Harry rushed over her.

"Because I didn't totally trust you, I wasn't keeping you in the loop about all the things I was facing and how I was trying to deal with them. It's not that I was trying not to include you, just that when I felt lost or frustrated...or scared... I didn't go to you, so there was a lot going on you didn't know about. He looked down at his feet, watching where one of his big toes was wriggling under a loose thread in the carpeting. "I just didn't think about it at the time, but it really wasn't fair. I do trust you, Hermione. You've always helped me through whatever mess I've found myself in: getting Norbert to Charlie our first year, and then going after the stone... the Basilisk second year... Sirius and Buckbeak and even werewolf-Lupin third year... the tournament last year. Blimey, I'd have died if it weren't for your help with the tasks..." For the first time since he started speaking Harry looked up to meet her eyes. "You were the first one I ever told I was gay, and you never turned on me or gave away my secret. I never told you how much that meant to me." Hermione squirmed a little, feeling a bit guilty in her spotlight.

"I should have trusted you too, Harry. You've always been there for me, always, even before we liked each other!" She shuddered, still squeamish at the memory of the mountain troll in the lavatory first year.

"I would never treat you like Malfoy does, Hermione. I thought you knew I was a better friend than that." Harry tried to keep his voice as even as possible, but Hermione could hear the pain in it, and it shocked her.

"I really hurt you, didn't I?" She whispered, somehow only now realizing it. Harry didn't answer, but from Harry, that was confirmation enough. And really, that made so much more sense than the stubborn, we're-both-pissed-but-I-refuse-to-be-the-one-to-apologize stand-off Hermione thought they were having. 'No, that's what you do with Ron,' Hermione reminded herself. 'And it never gets this bad because Harry always steps in the middle and helps smooth things out...'

"I need to go tell Sirius and Charlie where I'm at; I told them I'd be right back. Then I can come back here until breakfast, fill you in on what's been going on?"

"Charlie and Sirius are up this early?" Hermione asked in surprise.

"We've been up all night. Well, Charlie took a nap, but mostly we've been up. After Dumbledore said I wasn't allowed to see either of them during the school year, none of us really wanted to waste our last night asleep."

"What?! But why?" Harry just shrugged and shook his head at Hermione's startled explanation, and she noticed his eyes cloud stormily. "Oh. Well... you can fill me in on the train, then, Harry. You should be with Charlie and your Godfather right now."

"Father." Harry shrugged again at another startled look from Hermione. "I have a lot to fill you in on on the train. Thanks, though; for waiting." He gave her a small smile and started to leave. Just before the door could swing shut behind him, she jumped forward and caught it, stopping him as he began to creep back down the hall.

"Pssst, Harry." She waited until he turned around to continue. "I'm sure that Dumbledore has a good reason for keeping you apart-you know he always does." She had meant her words to be a comfort, but the strange expression Harry gave her made her stomach twist oddly. Without another word, he turned the corner and slipped away.

xXxXxXxXx

Fred and George, predictably, had bombarded Harry with demands to take back the more lavish school supplies or set up some sort of a repayment plan the moment they ran into him outside the kitchen. Harry had been slightly green and very flustered by the time Remus thought to step in and remind the twins that 'Lord Potter' had declared them his brothers to the Daily Prophet; rather than gifts, he told them to think of the supplies as a political move-an example of Lord Potter's kindness and generosity. Really, Harry wasn't sure this logic made him feel any better, but at least the twins backed off.

Ginny, much to Mrs. Weasley's displeasure, had squealed and leapt at Charlie when he appeared at breakfast, then greeted Fred and George with equal enthusiasm and had yet to stop hanging off of them, even as they all gathered by the front door to meet the Order guard that would escort them to King's Cross Station. Moody shuffled past him, bumping shoulders with Harry. While they both muttered apologies, Harry felt a tiny, folded square of parchment pressed into his hand. He held it in place stealthily against his side, continuing his hushed conversation with Sirius as though nothing had happened. He could feel eyes watching him and had no desire to get the most secret member of their rebel Order found out.

"...and I don't know who they'll have teaching defense Harry, but you always have the whole library at your fingertips. Charlie and I both wish we had had time to teach you things this summer, but... well, you know all the stuff that came up. And if you can't find what you need at Hogwarts, don't settle. Moony can bring you anything from here, or buy what you need... I'll even start writing up the tricks he and I and James used to use and send them along. Keep writing me, Pup, telling me what you need. You know ol' Dumbles won't let me do anything for the Order now... I'm expecting you to keep me busy."

"Well sure, someone has to keep you out of trouble," Harry teased, wanting to keep things light. He let his love and gratitude shine in his eyes, though, and Sirius' hair tousle came out much more gentle and affectionate than he had planned.

"I can still come with you the platform, you know; I'll just change into snuffles, and-"

"Siri..." Harry's voice was one of exasperation, but there was honest worry in his expression, and his father noticed.

"I know, I know; it's not safe now that Peter's probably blabbed my secret to all the Death Eaters (though I still say that's a stupid argument, since he may have blabbed before James and Lily were killed, even, who knows), and if you were in danger, I'd have to either stay as Padfoot and watch you get attacked, or transform and basically sentence you to Azkaban along with getting sent back myself." His toe had been a bit whiny and sarcastic at times, but he was dead serious when he finished. "As tempting as the thought might be, I'm not going to risk hurting you like that. Or getting taken away from you again."

"Thank you," Harry said quietly, still not used to having an adult care about him like that. He hesitated only a moment, then stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Sirius' waist, face pressed against his shoulder. "I love you." He didn't let himself think about the words too hard, just threw them out and closed his eyes tightly, scared to see how they would be received, having never said the phrase out loud to another person before. The older man froze for a moment, then Harry was suddenly lifted off his feet in a bone-crushing hug.

"I love you too, son," Sirius told him gruffly, and Harry swore he saw a tear hastily brushed away when Sirius finally released him. Noticing that most of the room was politely looking away during their private moment, Harry quickly slipped the note from moody into his pocket. Then, the man in question was telling everybody to shut up as he launched into an explanation of their 'mission plan.'

"Alright, I've just heard from Shacklebolt that Malfoy Sr. was seen hanging around the Ministry car-park this morning, so there has been a change in plans. The death-eaters are expecting cars and they are expecting a big group, so we won't give them either. The muggles have a bus system-like the Night Bus, but much slower and much less of a safety hazard-that has a stop near a General Apparation Point on the other side of the city and will go directly to the station. It stops every eleven minutes, and we'll be using it in three small chunks. Ron and Ginny will go with their parents, Fred and George will go with Tonks and Remus, and Harry and Hermione will be with Charlie, me, and Kingsley." If Shacklebolt was with them, Harry could understand why Alastor had used a secret note to tell him whatever message he needed to give.

"I'll swap with Hermione," Fred said suddenly, and the entire room looked to the twins in surprise. "If someone goes after Harry, it's better he's with four wizards who can legally use their wands, not three and a second defenseless minor. This way everyone would be focused on his safety."

"Besides," added George, "Dad can probably figure out the muggle bus stuff in his group, and Harry in his, but we won't know what we're doing without Hermione."

"Smart," Moody nodded, and he was giving the twins an approving look.

"Dumbledore didn't want..." Kingsley started to whisper in Moody's ear, and Harry felt his anger rising as he overheard. Of course Dumbledore didn't want him with the twins, whom he clearly trusted completely, but the auror who hadn't had his back all summer was deemed an appropriate guard.

"Dumbledore wanted Harry safely on the train, and this is our best shot. If Dumbledore had wanted anything more than that he should have thought through his back-up plan better." With that, he began herding his group together and the others followed suit. Fred and George hugged quickly, and they were uncharacteristically solemn as they went in separate directions. Harry saw Charlie sling an arm around Fred, and was relieved to see that Remus was speaking quietly to George and had a hand resting on his shoulder.

"You really didn't have to do that," Harry said to Fred, careful to keep his voice low as he did not feel like this conversation was any of Kingsley's-and by extension, Dumbledore's-business. Fred gave him a look that Harry couldn't quite read.

"Always going to have your back, Harry." He stepped up so he was still off to the side but almost half in front of Harry, as though shielding him. Harry might have objected, but he saw out of the corners of his eyes that George was doing the same for Hermione, and Ron for Ginny. Harry caught the two witches' eyes and gave them a peek of the wand tucked in his sleeve, but only a second away from being in his hand. He watched as each of them moved their own wands and adjusted their stance to more of an 'at the ready' position.

"And I'll have yours," Harry told Fred, and even with Tonks and Kingsley and molly looking on, Harry felt safe in the knowledge that his family was in control.

xXxXxXxXx

The trip to King's Cross turned out to be a blessedly boring affair. The trunks were shrunk down and put in pockets; Hedwig and Pig (after a few moments of debate followed by doubt that Harry could send his owl somewhere simply by request) had been sent off to Hogwarts, Hedwig nipping at Pig to get him to follow her while their cages were shrunk and pocketed as well. Even Crookshanks had been coaxed into a large handbag to be snuck onto the bus without a scene. Charlie had sat pressed close to Harry, but otherwise they kept their hands to themselves. Alastor had sat with his magical eye ducked under the brim of a frumpy hat and the only words spoken during the journey had been Harry's transaction with the bus driver, and Moody's random mutterings about 'inefficiently slow muggle contraptions.' Eleven minutes after they had been rushed onto platform 9 3/4, George and Hermione stepped through, followed by Tonks and Remus.

The only hiccup to the entire endeavor, in fact, had been when the rest of the Weasleys failed to walk through the archway after another eleven minutes. They all waited with baited breath as another eleven minute mark approached, having decided ahead of time that they would all wait one cycle before sounding the alarm. This time, they were rewarded with a very flustered Arthur hurrying through towards them, followed by Ron and Ginny (who were snickering behind their hands) and finally Molly, muttering angrily under her breath and rolling her eyes. Apparently, Arthur had asked so many over-enthusiastic questions of the bus driver before actually boarding, that the man had finally concluded he was being pranked and shut the door in their faces before driving away. The Weasleys had had to wait for a second bus.

Harry used the distractions of the story being told to finally take out his note from Alastor.

Ye'd best not be reading this in headquarters, boy.

Harry snorted and shook his head at the short message on the first fold of the note.

Or on the bus, that'd be bloody foolish.

The message on the second fold made him roll his eyes, and he hoped there was a point to all of this and that it wasn't simply a test.

Stop rolling your eyes, Potter. Constant Vigilance! We need to continue your training. All that power needs an outlet, or you're going to end up exploding and a school full of kids is not the place to let that happen. I'll be at Hogwarts after the second day of classes; be under your cloak in front of the painting of hinkypunks having tea by 11:00pm. you may have to wait a while, not sure when my meeting with Albus will end. Only reveal yourself if you hear me say 'little dragon.'

-AM

Harry looked up to find Ron watching him curiously. He shoved the note back into his pocket and mouthed "later" at him. When he caught Hermione's eye, he nodded to let her know that 'later' included her as well, and was glad to get a genuine smile in return.

"Here you go, Harry." He looked over to find Remus setting Hedwig's cage on top of his trunk, both returned to their normal size once again.

"Thanks," he said warmly, then reached out and pulled the werewolf into a hug. The more practice Harry had with physical affection, the more he found he liked it. "Thank you for everything," he added, and was rewarded with a hug in return.

"Take care, Harry. I'll see you over the weekend." Remus clapped him on the shoulder and stepped back, nodding pointedly behind them. Harry turned to watch the traditional Weasley goodbye, patting the emergency provisions in the pockets of Dudley's far-too-big cargo pants to make sure they were still there, while all the while praying he wouldn't need them. Sirius was the only one who knew what he had been up to earlier that morning, and he sincerely hoped it had all been unnecessary.

Molly turned so that she was facing Ron and Ginny, but deliberately blocking out the twins, despite the fact that all four of them were waiting in a line. Harry watched with an aching heart as Fred and George tried bravely to keep the hurt off their faces and act unaffected s they watched their mother fuss over their younger siblings' clothes, pester them with advice and warnings between hugs and kisses to their faces, and finally pull out the sandwiches she had made for the trip, in four neat little stacks. Harry almost sighed with relief, thinking things had worked out better than he expected... until the third pile of sandwiches was handed not to Fred and George, but to Hermione with a hug, and the fourth was coming towards him. Harry stepped back as though burned, swallowing thickly as he stared down at the food being held out to him and wondering if he was going to be sick.

"Here you go, Harry dear, these are for you," Molly encouraged, clear by her voice that she was confused by his reaction. Harry could only shake his head and mutter a very soft "No thank you."

"What was that?" Molly asked, a bit more sharply than necessary. Harry responded with an even more pointed step back, and a little more loudly,

"I don't want them." He was studying a little hole on the edge of one of his shoes, scared to look up and find that he was offending Arthur or Ron or Ginny. Ron, though, suddenly spoke up.

"Mum, where are Fred and George's sandwiches for the train?" A very uncomfortable silence followed, and Harry finally glanced up to find Ron looking down at the sandwiches in his hands as though they had grievously betrayed him. "They haven't got any, have they?" Again, his only answer was silence, and Ron pondered this for only a moment before nodding resolutely and placing his sandwiches back in his mother's hands. "Then I guess I don't need any either," he said, though his eyes trailed longingly after the food as he walked over to stand by the twins, who were watching him with little surprised smiles. Theirs were the only ones, however. Hermione was looking down at her sandwiches a little embarrassedly; Ginny looking at her mother with an expression of deep sadness and a hint of uncertainty, as though not sure exactly what she was seeing anymore; Arthur's expression was a mix of these, with an undertone of frustration; Charlie was a smoldering storm of anger, and the rest of the guard were all awkwardly trying to pretend they weren't paying attention to any of it.

"Ronald Weasley! You will eat what you are given; we don't waste food in this family!"

"What family?" Ron mumbled, and turned his face away from her, leaning into the twins as they stepped up to him and leaving molly to gape at him in shock. She recovered after a few moments, and immediately tried another tactic.

"Well, this is what there is, take it or leave it; you know your father and I can't afford to give you snack money; if you're too good for my food than go hungry. Harry may be able to afford to be choosey, but I never thought I'd see you living off of his money." Harry and Ron both flushed at her words, and Harry, seeing the fury flash in Ron's eyes, decided it was time to step in.

"Actually, Mrs. Weasley, i was up early this morning and made some sandwiches of my own." He began pulling them out of his pockets, nine beautiful heaping sandwiches piled in his arms in the end. "I reckon i have enough for four people or so."

"Wicked!" Ron said immediately, the relief of not actually having to 'go hungry' on the train-however nobly he was prepared to do so-obviously taking precedence over his anger from a moment before. Harry chuckled at his best mate's predictability, and handed over three of the sandwiches, leaving two each for he and the twins.

"You just happened to have an arse-load of sandwiches in your pockets, eh?" Fred asked softly as he came up to him.

"You, who hardly eats more than a bird?" George added, and both took their sandwiches reverently and with shining eyes, as though carrying something precious. molly did not look at all pleased with this turn of events, but before she could say anything more, the warning whistle blessedly cut her off, and Mad-Eye began waving them all towards the train.

Arthur stepped forward and pulled Ginny into a hug, Kissing her forehead and wishing her a good year. He gave Hermione a half-hug as well, and the two girls headed off. He then turned to Ron and, despite his half-hearted objections of being 'too old for this,' gave him the same treatment as Ginny. He looked at Fred and George and the world seemed to hold still for just a second before Arthur held his arms open.

"Boys?" He had barely finished the word when twin sets of arms were clinging to him gratefully, and Harry smiled when he felt his bondmate turning him around and pulling him into a hug of their own.

"I don't know what we ever did to deserve you," Charlie whispered against Harry's hair. Then, "If it weren't for all these people, I'd kiss you breathless right now." Harry wriggled back just enough to look up and meet his eyes.

"Why let all the people stop you?" He asked cheekily, and was delighted when Charlie smirked and leaned down to press their lips together.

It was by no means a passionate embrace to leave them 'breathless,' but it was loving and sweet and gave Harry a warm happy feeling in his core. They both ignored Molly angrily clearing her throat, but did pull apart (reluctantly) after only a couple seconds longer.

"I'll see you as soon as I can, love," Charlie promised, an unmistakable edge of sorrow in his voice, despite his best attempts to mask it. Harry could only nod, not sure he could speak around the lump in his throat. HE stepped further away, determined not to tear up in the middle of the platform. Arthur came up to him, the twins now gathering their trunks together, Ron and Tonks already dragging he and Harry's things towards the train. Before Harry knew what was happening, Arthur's arms were wrapped around him and a kiss was being pressed against his forehead.

"Take care of yourself, son. Have a great year, and remember; let me know if you ever need anything."

"Thanks Arthur," Harry said, voice full of emotions he couldn't define. Then he turned and ran with the twins to the train, barely making it on before it pulled away.


Author's note: Look look look, I was able to update again! I'm a little proud of that, actually. :) I hope you all liked this chapter, I really enjoyed writing it. Once again, I already have the next one written as well, but no time to type it up and post it right now. The train ride will be exciting, though, with two characters brought in that I have been waiting oh-so-impatiently to bring in, so I am excited. I will get it to you as soon as I possibly can!

Thanks to everyone still reading my story!

-Emmette