In which hope is regained.
Here you go! Hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling. I'm just borrowing her characters for my own amusement.
In times of great stress Ronald Weasley found himself lacking in ways to cope without losing his temper. He couldn't act like his mother and distract himself by going around the house as if everything was perfectly normal, because deep within him he couldn't help but know that everything wasn't as it should be. He couldn't get caught up in work like his older brothers could, a lack of a job was the main reason there, but even if he had something to do Ron knew that he would be far too distracted to do anything useful.
Confining himself to his bedroom in a glum mood as Ginny had done was out of the question as well, it only left him feeling guilty that he wouldn't be around to help if he could and Hermione's crying wasn't an option that he could explore without major ridicule from his brothers.
So, it left him feeling quite useless.
The only thing left for him to do without making him feel foolish or guilty was to act as the ever-present comforter for Hermione's emotional outbursts. She would break down into tears every now and then and Ron would be the one that she turned to for support, pats on the back and suchlike. At first it had been incredibly awkward to suddenly have a lap full of sobbing witch, but he found himself growing more comfortable with the situation as he realized that this might just be the way that he could help out. He could be there for Hermione, freeing up any adult that she might have turned to so that they could keep going with the investigation. He was helping to find Harry by hugging Hermione, yeah, that's why he didn't turn her away but actually held her closer... it was for Harry.
"I hate this Ron." Hermione's muffled voice reached his ears and he looked down with a blush. He was sitting on the couch and Hermione was lying down on the rest of it, her head in his lap. They had been like that for a while now; maybe an hour, and every now and then Hermione's shoulders would shake. "I hate not knowing where he is... if he's ok..."
"I know 'Mione, I know." He said, gently rubbing her shoulders. "Harry's strong though, he'll find a way back to us if he can."
"What if he can't?" Hermione moved her head out of his lap and sat beside him, curling her body to nestle up close to his. Acting upon instinct Ron wrapped his arm around her shoulders and let her rest her head against his shoulder.
"Don't think like that 'Mione." He muttered, his stomach churning uncomfortably at the thought that he would never see his best friend again. "Harry- well, he wouldn't want us to give up hope. He wouldn't give up on one of us."
Hermione gave a small watery giggle "You're right. He'd be yelling at Professor Dumbledore to let him help search and he wouldn't give up until he was allowed. He's such a stubborn ass when it comes to things like that."
Ron pulled her just a little bit closer, smiling sadly "Yeah, his 'saving people' thing that you told him about."
"We'd both probably be dead if Harry didn't have that hero complex." Hermione's small voice made him look down at the curly haired head beside him in shock. "I shouldn't have made it sound like such a bad thing, it really isn't. It just gets him into so much trouble!" she sniffed again "It's almost as if he goes looking for trouble every year, just to make people anxious!"
Ron was about to comment, to say that Harry never went looking for trouble when he was interrupted by a call from the kitchen.
"Hermione, dear!" his mother called out
"You've got mail!"
"My parents," Hermione said as she disentangled herself from his grasp "I had to send them a letter to tell them that I would be staying with the Order for the rest of the summer." Ron dutifully let her go and followed her up off of the couch and into the kitchen.
Ron blinked a few times when he entered. "Mum?" he asked in confusion. It seemed that every available surface in the kitchen was covered in food! There was a cake by the sink, a tossed salad by the oven and two large bowls of mashed potatoes over on the counter surrounded by a variety of other things. Tarts, toast, a pie, bacon, fried eggs... normally the sight of so much food would have been a dream come true for Ron, but now... he just didn't feel hungry.
"I've just been keeping busy, Ron." His mother said, moving aside so that Hermione could go to the window where Pig was trying his best to hover with a large letter clutched in his claws. Her face was smudged with flour in various places and she was wiping her hands with an old dishtowel repeatedly. "Just occupying my time until they find Harry and bring him back." Her tone was cheerful, but her smile didn't reach her eyes, looking somewhat familiar...
"Yeah, Mum." He said distractedly, frowning a little and thinking hard on who he had seen smile like that... That sort of, not quite there look was very familiar...
Just as Hermione was about to open the letter from her parents Remus's voice carried in from the living room "Molly? Hermione? Ron?" his voice was tense and immediately all three of them dashed to the fireplace where the exhausted looking man's head was waiting. Out of the corner of his eye Ron saw Hermione stuff the letter into a pocket of her jeans in her eagerness to hear any news of the investigation.
"Any news, Remus?" Ron watched his mother clutch compulsively at the apron she was wearing.
Remus sighed, blowing ashes around him "Minerva and Moody are done with the questioning but they won't say anything until everyone's there so can you come through? I have a really bad feeling about this, Molly." He said seriously "Things just don't add up the way they used to."
"We'll be right there." Ron nodded enthusiastically at his mother's decision. "Let me just get Ginny. Are the rest of my boys there?"
Remus nodded "Dumbledore pulled them out of work. Everyone else is there as well, so please hurry." And with that the face disappeared from the fire.
It took only the mention of Harry's name to get Ginny out of her bedroom and running down the stairs. Her eyes looked as red as her hair but Ron let it go, he could tease her when Harry was back safe with them. For now, there were other things to be thinking of. Besides, he had a feeling that she would hex him senseless if he tried to tease her while she was so emotionally unstable.
"You three go first." His mother instructed briskly, whipping off her apron and throwing it back into the kitchen. "Ron and Hermione, go together. It'll make things go quicker. You're going to The Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts."
Hermione threw the first handful of Floo powder from the flower pot into the fire, making the flames turn green and they both stepped into the fireplace, awkwardly shifting their bodies until Hermione had her arms wrapped around his neck and he had one arm wrapped tightly around her lower back, holding her to him. Wearing a fierce blush he threw down the powder, clearly stating their destination and the spinning began.
The world fell away from beneath them as they kept on spinning. All Ron could do was close his eyes and hold on tight, praying for a safe landing and good news.
He would use a rusty pair of shears from the greenhouse at Hogwarts that hadn't been used since 1968 and manually chop off three fingers on the fat muggle Dursleys right hand. He would make sure to have the stupid moron awake for every moment.
The youngest Weasley boy and the Granger girl practically ran into the room with Molly and the only redheaded girl not to far behind. It was a damned shame that they seemed so eager. Alastor wasn't going to have any fun wiping those expressions off of them.
Next he would use a lengthening charm on both Vernon and Dudley's necks, maybe actually giving them some if the process didn't break their spine. He didn't give a damn about them though; you couldn't pay him enough to care in the slightest.
Beside him, Minerva was chalk white and staring at the parchment full of the transcript of the Dursleys interrogation. Alastor couldn't exactly blame her for her appearance; the news was chilling and quite unexpected. He would have looked and acted exactly the same way if he had not had so many years as an Auror, even so the news still disturbed him. At least he was able to plan his revenge, however.
Then he would take Petunia Dursley and transfigure her into the horse that she so resembled. Dudley would be next, turning into a fat sloth and then Vernon would have the great honour of changing into a cockroach and be used for Auror accuracy tests when using exploding hexes. It would be hilarious.
Alastor had known that Potter was strong, living to see the age of 15 while the Dark Lord had you on his hit list since you were born illustrated that. However, Alastor found himself re-evaluating just how hardy the boy was. To live in a hellhole like that every day until he went to Hogwarts and still be able to function somewhat normally... it was beyond recognition.
Things like this did not happen in the Wizarding world, it simply was not done; children were too precious to harm like that. Not only did the parents risk a severe backlash of accidental magic if their child was in severe pain or distress, but everyone in the Wizarding world was taught very early on that children were the future of the entire magical population, and damaging them in any way damaged the world forever. There was the isolated case every few years, but not like in the muggle world, and few people knew that such things could even happen.
Alastor frowned and looked appraisingly at the Order seating themselves around him. Was that half of the reason why no one asked into it? They didn't know that it was a possibility?
"Well, Alastor, Minerva, the Order is all here, as you asked." Said Albus with only a small fraction of his usual cheeriness. Alastor looked around the room; yes they were all there, even Hagrid, great hulking half-giant that he was, looking teary eyed. All looked anxious and eager to hear some news on the missing boy and Alastor fought back a flinch at the thought that none of the news they would be given would be good.
There was a moment's pause, and when Minerva did not make any attempt at beginning Alastor realized that it would be up to him to break the news. The only question that remained was how to do it without seeming like an insensitive berk or a snivelling snot-rag. It was a fine line that he had to walk and Alastor had no idea as to how to do it.
"Potter's relatives..." he began then stopped and tried again "Potter has been living in... Well, the Dursleys have been... They are... Oh bloody hell!" he cried out, getting frustrated "The Dursleys are all complete wastes of space and consciousness, they treat Potter with the same courtesy that they do leftover scraps of food, which was all they ever fed him by the way, they always have, and all deserve to be handed over to the Dark Lord to be killed in whatever blood curdling ways that his twisted mind can come up with!"
"What have you found?" Albus asked, using a direct approach that wasn't quite normal for him. The shocked faces in the room kept their expressions but before Alastor could reply, Minerva stood up, wildly waving the transcript in her hand.
"They hated him Albus! Hated him!" she said, "They gave their own son everything they could and more, but pretended that Harry didn't even exist! Do you remember their beautiful garden, their picture perfect house? All Harry's work! He's been forced to cook, clean and shop for them since he could speak! And do you know what would happen to him if he didn't complete all of his tasks to perfection? Do you know?! He would be denied food and water, or confined for days at a time, or..." tears spilled out from her eyes "Or they would hit him! They... Merlin, they would beat him!"
Gasps of varying pitches filled the stressed air in the room. Horrified expressions painted themselves on the faces of many around him. Even Snape, sitting in the furthest chair from Alastor and Minerva, whose face was normally as blank as parchment, looked appalled.
"What?" Molly's voice was strangled, her mouth gaping open and shut "How- How could they? Please, please in Merlin's name, tell me it's not true!" she practically begged, turning her head to look at both Albus and Alastor.
Remus looked broken, completely and utterly shattered. His body had slumped forward in his chair and his shoulders shook visibly as he tried to keep back his sobs. "Merlin, Harry..." he muttered, "Merlin, I'm so sorry. Oh God, Lily, James, Sirius... Oh God, I'm sorry..." Beside him, Hagrid gave an almighty sniff and blew his nose loudly into his huge handkerchief.
"I'll kill 'em!" Hagrid roared, "Never liked those Dursleys. Not one bit! Lousy low-life muggles! Shoulda known they'd be up ter sommat when that great lump tried to keep Harry from Hogwarts!" At that sentence, the half-giants composure seemed to break and he cried openly "Merlin above, I shoulda known... I shoulda done sommat..."
"Enough! Please!" Dumbledore called out. Alastor looked over to his old friend and had to take a second look. The great wizards eyes were sorrowful, clouded even, and the lines of age on his face were as pronounced as Alastor had ever seen them. However, for all that Albus was showing amazing signs of weariness and grief, he seemed to be radiating a powerful wave of energy that grew with each passing moment.
"Did any of you know?" Albus's voice was low and he did not raise his eyes to look at any of them. "Did Harry ever tell any of you anything of his time with the Dursleys? Did any of you see any strange injuries? Odd behaviour?"
"He was always so thin..." Arthur said, holding Molly to his shoulder as she continued to gape "Molly and I just assumed that it was metabolism, we saw how fat Vernon and Dudley were and we just assumed that Harry took after his mother's side of the family. I never thought... Starving a child..." he looked disgusted, both with himself and with the Dursleys.
"He always asked for food!" Hermione exclaimed, white as a sheet "But he said that he was hungry because his cousin was on a diet and there wasn't a lot of good food in the house for him to have. Ron- Ron and I sent him sweets and things like that. I just thought he was craving things like that..." She swallowed heavily "I didn't think anything of it, I just thought that they didn't have enough money to buy extra food just for him..."
"Not enough money?" Bill questioned, looking and sounding incredulous at the mere thought of it. "The Potters are a very old pureblood family, Hermione! They've got at least 3 vaults in Gringotts and I'm pretty sure that Harry's parents would have left him more than enough money." He ran a hand through his long red hair and absently tugged at his fang earring. "Damn it all, I know that we thought it was sort of funny that Harry wore such horrible looking clothes, but none of us is too fluent in muggle fashion. I just thought that was the style and when no one else said anything I just pushed it aside."
Freckles running across the bridge of Ron's nose stood out like drops of wax on white parchment. "He never said anything." The boy muttered "Never... There weren't any weird bruises or cuts though. I've shared a room with him since first year, you can't hide things like that in a dorm!" he sounded frantic, almost hysteric to prove that what was being said couldn't be true.
"Did you see any scars?" Tonks questioned. Alastor felt approval swell up in him as he recognized good Auror reflexes in the clumsy witch.
Ron shook his head empathetically "None! The only scars on him are the ones he's gotten at Hogwarts! You're wrong, you have to be, I know you have to be! He has no other scars!"
Alastor felt himself frowning. "That's impossible Weasley." He said bluntly. "The Dursleys have admitted to beating him for years, no one can go through that many years of injury without scars." He gestured to his own body with a dry smile "I speak from experience. Magical medicine can't fix and fade everything."
"Then how come he doesn't have any other scars?" Ron questioned tightly.
"The Dursleys were questioned under Veritaserum, Ron." Hermione said quietly, staring at her hands. "They couldn't have lied." Ron's head dropped and fell into his hands. Hermione turned and laid a comforting arm around the boys' shoulders.
Albus stood "There is much that we all have to atone for in regards to Harry. I am certain that we all wish to take our share of the blame, but I am afraid that our need for penance must be put aside for now. The far more pressing need is to find Harry and bring him home safely, if that still remains a possibility."
Alastor looked up sharply. If it still remained a possibility? Was Albus giving up hope? Albus didn't comment any more on that, though.
"Alastor, Minerva," Albus looked at them with focus "Did you ask the Dursleys where they thought Harry might be?"
Minerva shook her head. "When we discovered all of... this," she said quietly "We thought it best to inform you immediately. We can go and fetch the, the bastards," she spat out angrily "For questioning right now if you wish."
Albus nodded. "We shall bring them here." He said, "And I will do the questioning myself. We will get the answers we need today."
Three hours later, they had the answers that they needed, but they were a far cry from the answers they wanted.
Vernon had been the cause of the alarm, setting it off in his attempt to kill Harry. They had left the boy there to bleed to death, planning to blame it all on various rumours of gang activity and delinquency that they had spread about Harry for years. They had left before Harry had disappeared, and had no idea as to where he had gone or if he was still alive.
Alastor had to admit, with the injuries Vernon had admitted giving to Harry, he had serious doubts that the Boy Who Lived, had lived again.
They were out of leads, and Alastor could see that if none appeared soon, they would be out of hope as well.
Harry sat at the computer in the study, frowning at the screen as he puzzled out how best to word the email to their stockbroker inviting him to a VIP event that the nightclub he and Maria owned in New York was hosting. Gerard Shepard was a resident of New York City, and had been managing Harry and Maria's investments for years. They only communicated through letter or phone, and if Gerard found that at all suspicious, the more than generous commission that he was paid kept his mouth shut.
Finally coming up with the last few phrases, which found a happy medium in being neither too haughty nor too casual, Harry hit the send button and leaned back in the office chair, spinning in a slow circle as he rubbed his eyes. His morning had been filled with catching up on paperwork and business developments that he had missed while at Hogwarts and trapped at the Dursleys. Maria always did a fabulous job of managing all of it while he was away, but he did his part when he returned and took over for her so that she could have some more time to dedicate to other things. She might not go to school, but she still kept herself occupied, whether it was studying her magic as the Indigo or continuing with their enterprises.
His attention was drawn down to the floor when the one of the two dogs at his feet began to snore. Nanny, the elderly sheepdog, lifted her head at the noise and looked curiously over to her companion on the floor, Frank. Frank, his oblong black Dachshund body stretched out to full length, only began to snore louder.
Harry smiled fondly at the dogs, reaching down to scratch Nanny's furry head. He loved coming home to so many animals, so many beings that loved unconditionally and asked for nothing in return. Having so many pets suited him just fine. He winced, thinking of Hedwig. He would have to get her body from Privet Drive today if he wanted to give her a proper burial.
"Potion time!" Maria glided into the room, carrying three phials in her hands. Neither of them had gotten out of their pyjamas from the previous night, even when they had been brewing in the lab that morning. Deftly she handed him the first phial and watched expectantly as he downed it. "You're going to have to keep taking these for about a week. The amount of energy your body put into fighting infections from the stab wound has maxed out your immune system."
"Whatever. I just sent the invitation to Gerard." Harry said, tipping back the second phial.
Maria nodded "Good. That man deserves a few perks for how many laws he's broken for us."
Harry gave a small smile after drinking the last phial and pulled her into his lap, making the chair spin a little bit to the left with the momentum "What do you want to do today?"
Maria shrugged, resting he head back against his shoulder "I've got nothing planned, really. I'm going to finish my research on the properties of Siberian Snapping Seeds for the index and then I thought I'd just watch TV or work on our Lycanthropy cure for the afternoon."
Chuckling, Harry planted a lazy kiss on the back of her neck. Oh, he had missed her so much during the year. It felt good to be back here with her. "Sounds like fun. Do you want another set of hands to help?" he asked.
The sound of flapping brought his attention away from the girl in his lap and up toward the ceiling, where Peach had flown in, finally appearing after her self imposed exile. "You won't be doin' nothin' until you get Hedwig!" she squawked, landing on top of the computer and glaring at him out of one beady black eye. She looked as distraught as a macaw could be, with her feathers ungroomed and in complete disarray.
A tightening in his chest made Harry wince at the mention of his late owl and the sight that would present itself to him when he went to retrieve her body.
"Let's do that first." Maria said softly, reaching a hand back to caress the back of his head. "You know that waiting wont make it any easier, right Harry?"
"Right." He muttered. "Let's go then, I don't want to spend any more time there than I absolutely have to."
Moving quickly, he and Maria dressed, meeting Peach at the door. As Maria used her magic to Glamour Peach so she would look like an ordinary crow, Harry told the dogs at the door to Sit and Stay. Nanny and Frank who had flowed them out of the office had been joined by Boss but also by Cabernet, their Irish Shepard. She had a coat almost as red as the Weasley's hair, Harry reflected.
They slipped out the door and into the late afternoon sunshine, absently holding hands as they made the trek down the driveway and through the park where they had first met. Peach flew high above head, but kept time with their walking. They knew better than to sneak around, sneaking only made the body jerk and contort in unnatural ways that nearly anyone could spot immediately. They walked along through the suburbs as if they had nothing better to do than to walk, they relaxed their gate and talked casually, partially to make Harry feel better, and partially to keep their cover.
It didn't take too long to reach Privet Drive, but Harry could feel himself growing tenser as the hose numbers counted down. Number 14, 9, 7... and finally number 4. By the time they reached the Dursleys house his breathing had become shallower and he clenched the hand that wasn't holding Maria's into a tight fist.
He hated this house. Hated it totally and completely. He had no fond memories of it, no good childhood recollections to think on late at night. Its twisted clinical perfection was his hell on earth.
Peach landed on the eaves above the door and after checking that the house was entirely empty with a quick snap of her fingers, Maria gave the all clear to go in. Ignoring the blood in the living room that had partially evaporated and soaked into the carpet, Harry led a frowning Maria up to Dudley's second bedroom, where Hedwig had been kept.
Harry, trying his best to separate the body he wrapped up in an old cast off of Dudley's and the lively owl that always nipped at his ear with affection, quickly scooped the body up and made his way out of the room. Maria didn't say anything, only followed him out, and Harry was grateful. Hermione would have been telling him that he could easily go get a new owl or start in on the practicality of a cat, and Ron would just fume and rage and his anger would become infectious.
He cradled the bundle to his chest for the entire silent walk back. It was a funeral procession, sombre and sad as they marched down the street. No one spoke. Maria only hooked her arm through his and leaned her head on his shoulder. They didn't stop when they reached the manor, but moved directly to the Snape family plot. With a snap and two flicks of her wrist, Peach's Glamour was removed and a new section of earth was dug up next to their late cat Murgatroyd's plot.
Gently Harry placed the body into the hole and threw a handful of dirt over the bundle, letting Maria know it was ok to bury the rest completely. Harry didn't have to see her flick her wrist a third time to signal the mound of dark earth that appeared over Hedwig's body and the blank stone marker that popped up from the ground.
"What do you want it to say?" Maria asked.
Harry let his thoughts wander for a few moments, trying to think of a good memorial to his good friend. "Hedwig." He finally said, "Fly free."
The words appeared on the stone in an elegant script and Harry stared at it for a few moments. She was gone, but now at least she had been given a proper burial instead of whatever method of disposal that the Dursleys would have used.
"Goodbye girl." Harry muttered, nodding at the grave before walking back to the house. There was work to be done, lies to tell, lives to protect.
Hermione let out a high-pitched cry as the hot tea spilled over from Ron's cup directly onto her lap.
"Sorry!" he called out, trying to regain his balance from jumping up after sitting on one of the twins newest products 'Seat Sparks', which had rolled out of one of their pockets and onto the couch where he had sat on it, earning a shock upon impact.
Hermione let out a hissing breath from in between clenched teeth as she furtively tried to swipe away the scalding liquid from her upper legs. It had been an accident, so she couldn't yell at Ron, or at the twins, without being a prat. Just great.
"It's alright Ron." She sighed tiredly, giving her stained jeans one last swipe as she could feel them cool. Her emotions were already on high and things like this weren't helping. She sat back down on the couch, after checking for any other escaped pranks, and rested her head on her arm once again.
They were still at Hogwarts, still waiting anxiously as more and more information was pumped out of the Dursleys. She was fairly surprised that they hadn't overdosed on Veritaserum yet, but she supposed that with a Potions Master like Snape available, they had some sort of potion in stock that could purge the excess out of their bodies.
She hoped it was painful.
Being muggleborn Hermione had known about child abuse, she had seen the articles in the paper, heard the news stories and been given the lectures from teachers. She had been informed, so why hadn't she seen it? Well, she had seen it, but she had made excuse after excuse to turn the signs into something else. Harry was poor, he wasn't starving or neglected, he was shy, not fearful. But she had been wrong.
Hermione frowned for what felt like the hundredth time that day. How was it that the professors and other adults hadn't noticed anything? Surely at least the Aurors would have experience with that sort of thing? Then again, in all the time that Hermione had been in the wizarding world and reading the paper, nothing of that nature had ever come up. No stories whatsoever. None of the teachers had mentioned it either...
She would have to ask her parents to keep a look out in the Daily Prophet for her. She had a feeling that with the search for Harry going on and other Order matter; she couldn't have any time to look for anything.
Speaking of her parents, Hermione remembered the letter she had received from them this morning. It seemed like years ago, a lifetime ago. This morning she had thought that Harry had just fallen victim to another Death Eater attack, and although that was nothing to scoff at, it had never really sunk into her that they could ever kill Harry. Now that she knew how badly injured he was, and that his Uncle had given him those injuries, Harry seemed far less superhuman to her.
Wrinkling at the damp state of her pocket, Hermione pulled out the envelope she had stuffed in and smoothed it out on the dry part of her legs before tearing it open with a finger. It was far thicker than Hermione had ever remembered it being before.
Hello darling, how is everything at the Weasleys? I hope you're having fun! Your mother and I (who are amazingly lonely without our prodigal daughter who seems to run out on us every summer it seems. Only joking!) are planning a holiday to Australia in a few weeks. Without you! (Call it a lesson for leaving us, again, I am only funning.) I believe we are going to be leaving on the 22, just to let you know. Have a good year at school, study hard, but as I always say, have fun.
Your Aunt Delores is going to be looking after the house, so have no fear! If any burglars come 'round, then the BEWARE OF DOG sign that I plan on putting up should ward them away from looking directly into your Aunt's face. Ouch. Your mother has no appreciation for my humour.
Could you send me some of that wonderful Butterbeer you gave me for Christmas last year? It was wonderful! Completely delicious! And your mother says to send her a location where she can find some pumpkin juice. I have no idea as to why she would want it, it's far too spicy! Ouch. Your mother is such a spitfire.
I got a letter from one of your school friends for you in the mail this morning. It had the correct postage on it, so the postman didn't ask any strange questions. He sent it express, but I don't know why he didn't just owl it to you. He's got such a beautiful bird that you'd think he'd want to let her out! Oh well, say hello to all of your friends from your mother and I, and say thank you to the Weasleys for having you over for the summer. Remember your manners! We love you very much,
Mum and Dad.
"Oh my god." Hermione said, pulling out the second parchment from the envelope and looking at the untidy scrawl her name was written in. A lump the size of a grapefruit rose to rest in her throat and her eyes began to burn.
She had to open it. Even if all that was in it was Harry's regular 'I'm fine. See you at school.' She had to see it. They would be Harry's last words written to her if... if he was...
With shaking hands she opened it up and began to read. It didn't take too long to finish, but it left Hermione frowning deeply and feeling terribly confused.
Feeling almost like a zombie she rose up from her seat and moved over to where Mr and Mrs Weasley were sitting with Remus, all looking weary. "Excuse me," she said quietly "But can I ask you something about the investigation?"
Remus blinked and frowned "Of course you can." He said.
"Well, did Hedwig have a broken wing?" she asked. The letter was clutched in her hand, and she was pretty sure that it was completely wrinkled, but she really didn't care.
Mrs Weasley shook her head "No, dear." She said, "I was the one to look at Harry's room and Hedwig. It was her neck that was broken, not her wing. She would have most definitely survived a broken wing."
Hermione swallowed, her throat felt tight. She wouldn't jump to conclusions, she wouldn't, she wouldn't.... She raised her eyes to look into theirs and raised the hand with Harry's letter in it. "Harry sent a letter to my house through express, and my parents sent it to me, and he says- said, that Hedwig had a broken wing."
"What?" Remus leapt up and snatched the letter from her hand, his loud exclamation gaining the attention of everyone in the room. His amber eyes looked it over carefully and Hermione didn't do so much as breathe too loudly for fear of breaking his concentration and making him miss something important. The older man's expression softened a bit, his eyes fading from anxiety to sadness. "He mentioned his Aunt and Uncle so many times with bad contexts... Hermione," he suddenly snapped his attention to her "How fast would you say express muggle mail travels from Little Whinging to your house?"
Hermione bit her lip "I live in just outside of London, so... a day at most? 24 hours? Why?"
Remus let out the biggest whoop of joy that Hermione had ever heard and swooped her up into a crushing hug, spinning her around as he laughed hysterically. What was going on?
"Remus?" Mrs Weasley questioned warily. Remus put Hermione down and she had to lean on Ron who had gotten up with the others to see what the matter was.
"72 hours!" he cried out waving the letter in the air "Three days! Harry's been missing for three days! This was mailed yesterday!"
"What are you on about Lupin?" Moody questioned, entering the room with an exhausted looking Dumbledore, Tonks and Snape in tow.
"Sir, Hermione was sent a letter from Harry through muggle express mail this morning, her parents sent it to her here because she wasn't there to receive it. Express mail takes 24 hours!" Remus exclaimed, handing the letter over to the headmaster.
"So?" Professor Snape questioned irritably. Hermione ignore his terse tone, though, because Remus's point was starting to shine through.
"So, Harry's alive!" she said, a smile forming on her face. "He's alive!"
Relief became almost tangible in the room for a few moments, as people hugged and whopped and in Ginny's case, even jumped for joy. Hermione launched herself at Ron and squeezed him tightly, with him responding in kind.
"I am cautious to agree," said Dumbledore, once everything had calmed down a bit, "But the facts to seem lead in that direction. However there is one fact that we cannot ignore." He said with a sad smile, handing the letter back to her.
"What would that be?" Fred asked.
"Harry's alive!" George finished, clapping a broadly grinning Charlie on the back.
"Potter may be alive," Professor Snape said starkly. "But his words have made one thing incredibly clear. He is lying to us. He does not know that we have discovered the conditions in which he has been living. He does not even know that we knew he has gone missing. He is pretending that nothing even happened and that we should all go about our business as usual."
"Which leads me to believe that my theory of Harry not wanting to be found by us is correct." Said Dumbledore. "However, his safety is paramount. Our search will continue, and since our tracking spells have been ineffective, I will be sending him a message to see if I cannot try and convince him to let us find him."
Hermione frowned, not to criticize him, but that plan wasn't the greatest. "Sir," she said, "I don't think that's a good idea. Harry's gone through a lot to keep his home life from us, suddenly writing him a letter saying that we know everything won't make him want to come back. I've been a friend of his for a long time sir, and doing that will just make him venerable and weak."
"He'll probably run further, sir." Ron put in.
"I will think about what you have said." Dumbledore nodded distractedly. "Yes, that would be most like Harry... For now, I think it is time we all returned to our homes. Harry seems to be in no present danger, and I will inform you if that situation changes." He began to turn and walk out of the door when Hermione heard Tonks call out:
"What about the Dursleys?"
Dumbledore's eyes frosted over "Have no fear, Miss Tonks. They shall be dealt with. How, I am not quite sure yet, but they will be. For the moment they shall remain in Hogwarts with the House Elves to monitor them."
OOOOHHHHH!!!!! Anyway, What do you want in the next chapter? Seriously, any ideas will be seriously considered!! Tell me what you want!
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