Bellatrix Lestrange’s sudden escape could not have been part of the original plan because the few remaining Death Eaters looked at each other in confusion, allowing the three remaining Aurors to place an Anti-Disapparition jinx around the lot. As it turned out only the Death Eater who had snatched Kreacher escaped, apart from Bellatrix and Lucius.
“How dare she?” Hermione asked loudly. She looked from Ron to Harry and then to each of the Aurors in turn looking indignant. No one answered the question so Hermione was forced to repeat it, sounding even angrier than before. “How dare she?”
Having secured the prisoners Harry, Dawlish and Schultz now turned to their fallen comrades. While Dawlish roused Kitson, Harry saw to Brazill. She seemed a little dazed, which was unsurprising given how hard she had hit her head when she fell.
“They didn’t get her, did they?” she asked after a second, looking around frantically.
“No. Hermione’s safe.”
“Oh. Good.” Brazill sat on the stoop and leaned back against the door of number twelve.
Kitson, who had also been stunned, came to join her while Dawlish and Tougas were up and moving around. They were bending over Hyde who had sustained the worst injuries. Harry watched them as he slowly made is way over to Moody’s immobile form. He took his time, feeling that he was putting off something inevitable. Several times each of the eight conscious people had found their gaze drifting over to the battle-scarred Auror, but they would quickly look away as though he was afflicted with some gross deformity.
When Harry could put it off no further he tentatively reached out and shook Moody, hoping that what they were all thinking was wrong. With this slight touch Moody’s head, which had been lolling on his shoulder, fell back and revealed their worst fear.
“How’s he doing?” Dawlish asked.
“He’s dead,” Harry said blandly, not looking away from those blank eyes. Even after he said it, he had a small hope he was wrong, that he was seeing things. Any minute now Moody was going to jump up and start yelling at them for standing about.
No matter how long Harry stood there though Moody remained motionless. Even his magical eye, constantly surveying his surroundings, was perfectly still. He could feel people standing all around him but Harry didn’t look at anyone or acknowledge the murmurs.
How? This was the question everyone was asking. How could Mad-Eye Moody, one of the most cautious people in the entire world, be dead? It didn’t make sense. Wasn’t the mantra of constant vigilance supposed to prevent this sort of thing?
A loud bang made Harry finally look away from Moody’s blank stare.
“We got the door open,” Ron said, taking a step back when six wands were pointed at him. When Harry looked round he saw Hermione standing on the threshold, keeping the door open.
“Let’s get everyone in. We can work from in there now.” Slowly, everyone followed Dawlish’s instructions, supporting colleagues as they entered. Hyde was still unconscious and was carried in before Moody.
Harry and Brazill remained outside while Tougas and Dawlish carried Hyde into the house, supervised by Kitson. Harry was not going to leave even the slightest chance that something else would happen to Moody. Ron took over Hermione’s job as doorman, ensuring Dawlish and Tougas easy entry into the house. Hermione, meanwhile, was already inside setting up a spot where they could place Moody and Hyde.
At last Dawlish reappeared. Without more than a quick glance to make sure they were thinking the same thing, he put his hands under Moody’s arms while Harry grabbed his legs. They carefully maneuvered their way into the house and down the narrow hall into the drawing room. Hermione, who was leaning over Hyde’s unconscious form, looked up.
“You can set him down there,” she said with a sniffle, pointing to the second sofa. She followed their progress, turning back to Hyde only when Moody had been safely placed on the sofa.
Dawlish stood by Moody’s head, Harry at his feet. Everyone else gathered around and stared in silence. Harry was sure they were thinking what he was: there had to be some loophole, some extraordinary way that Moody would prove them wrong. He couldn’t actually be dead.
Reality prevented them from saying this out loud though and slowly an expression crossed each of their faces. They had accepted that their leader, the man who was an indefatigable mentor and wealth of knowledge, was gone.
“I can’t believe it. I just can’t . . . “ Schultz said, shattering the total silence. Her words echoed the sentiment of everyone.
Hermione was silently casting spells behind them, trying to stem Hyde’s bleeding. The only other movement in the room came from Dawlish, who reached down to close Moody’s still open eyes. This made it appear as though he was sleeping, though Harry doubted such a peaceful expression had ever crossed Moody’s face in life.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Hermione said after a few more minutes had passed, “but I’ve done all I can. She needs to see a healer.”
Hyde’s skin was an ashy grey colour and she looked like she might already be beyond their aid.
“I’ve got her,” Kitson stated. He had been hovering between the two sofas. Gently as he could he lifted her into his arms and left the room, followed by Ron. A minute later they heard the door open and close. The house was so quiet they even heard the chains clinking into place as Ron reengaged the locks.
“We’ve . . . er . . . “ Dawlish started hoarsely, turning back to Moody when they heard Ron’s footsteps in the hall. He cleared his throat and started again. “We’ve got to alert Minister Shacklebolt of this. Not only have our suspects escaped again, we’ve now lost our head of department. Moody was also a great friend to the Minister. I’ll alert him. Excuse me.”
Dawlish’s words had barely escaped his lips when he was out the door too, leaving Harry, Tougas, Brazill and Schultz standing around their deceased leader. Ron and Hermione replaced Dawlish and Kitson, staring down in disbelief.
“I think he was hit by two killing curses,” Ron said slowly and uncertainly, putting his arm around Hermione. “I think they meant to get us both. They came on so suddenly . . . and he wasn’t able to move quick enough to avoid it.”
Ron and Hermione retreated to the other sofa and sat together.
“I can’t believe this,” Brazill said, echoing Schultz. “This has to be some kind of sick joke.”
“It had to happen some time,” Tougas stated gruffly. “But I suppose we shouldn’t have left him in the lead. His reflexes have been going.”
No comment was made out loud, but Harry knew that Brazill and Schultz were as unappreciative of Tougas’s comments as he was. It might be true that Moody was getting on in years, but there were very few people who had ever escaped a killing curse. This had less to do with age than it did with the psychosis that Bellatrix Lestrange was suffering from. He opened his mouth to say this but closed it again. Now was not the time to get into an argument with Tougas, there would be time for that later.
“At least we got them here though,” Schultz said after a time, nodding at Ron and Hermione and putting her arm around Brazill’s shaking shoulders. “They’ll be safe.”
“They can’t stay here,” Harry stated, knowing that these words were not going to be met with enthusiasm after everything they had gone through to get here.
“What?” Brazill snapped, looking at Harry with red-rimmed eyes. The anger in her voice was precisely what he had expected. “You’re the one who suggested we bring them here in the first place.”
“They took the house-elf,” Tougas answered, looking at Harry, who could only nod. He hadn’t realized Tougas saw that, or that he understood the implications. “Even now they could be using him to Apparate in here.”
“They got Kreacher? When?” Ron asked.
“I called him to help get you two into the house,” Harry said, swallowing the guilty feeling that had been building up since he’d discovered the truth about Moody. “He was in the middle of doing it when Bellatrix Lestrange stunned him and had one of the Death Eaters grab him and Disapparate.”
“Just call him back,” Hermione told him, her head resting on Ron’s shoulder. “The magic that binds a house-elf to their master trumps everything. Regardless of what enchantments they have him under he will be able to come back.”
Without question Harry did as she suggested at once. Loathsome toe rag or not, he wasn’t going to leave Kreacher in the custody of Bellatrix Lestrange any longer than necessary. She might have been decent to him once, but pleasantness was not a part of her make-up. If Kreacher didn’t do as she asked, violence would likely ensue.
No crack sounded to announce Kreacher’s return.
“Kreacher,” Harry called again, louder this time, but with the same result. He looked at Hermione. “Could she be blocking the return somehow?”
“That’s not possible. She might be able to latch onto him, like Side-Along Apparition, but she can’t stop him coming back. The only way he couldn’t return is if he’s . . . dead.”
“Its been twenty minutes,” Tougas spoke up. “She can’t have done it already.”
“She could do it in two seconds,” Brazill replied, waving her hand at Moody’s body.
Harry stepped away from the sofa for the first time and instead moved to the window where he stared down into the dark empty square. He tried and failed to prevent the image of Kreacher’s old, frail form peering atop the pyramid of bodies he’d seen tonight.
A loud crack made him turn around, a sense of relief and dread rising up into his throat. Harry raised his wand, expecting Kreacher to be standing there, his shape almost indistinct between Malfoy and Lestrange.
No such sight presented itself. Instead he watched as Kingsley, led by Dawlish, rushed over to the sofa and stopped abruptly when his eyes fell on the second sofa.
Moody had been the most senior member of the Auror department. Dawlish and Kingsley, the next highest in tenure, had trained under Moody before he left the department. He’d taught them a lot, including how to keep a cool head in all situations. They’d been at the job a long time and had seen things Harry didn’t even want to contemplate. It was, therefore, all the more shocking when Kingsley dropped to his knees in front of the sofa. Tougas, Schultz and Brazill took a few steps back out of respect.
Harry, still standing by the window, watched without saying a word though he could feel the weight of his own grief and guilt matched in Kingsley.
“I never should have asked him to come back,” Kingsley said eventually, regaining his feet. “He was brilliant, but not in any condition for dueling.”
“He would have been involved one way or another, Kingsley. You know he wouldn’t have sat idly by and let all of this happen.” Hermione had got up from the sofa and come over to offer him comfort. She put her hand on his arm as she spoke. Kingsley looked down at her for a second after which she removed her hand.
“What went on here?” Kingsley asked, looking from Hermione to Dawlish, to Tougas, Schultz, Brazill and finally at Harry. “How did this happen? How did you all end up here?”
“Its my fault,” Harry stated and proceeded to recount everything that had happened that evening. He kept it as matter-of-fact as possible, knowing that Ron and Hermione didn’t need to hear the gruesome details of what they’d found at that building in Leeds.
“They were waiting for you?” Kingsley’s gaze swept around the group of Aurors again. He received nods from all five. “And there were at least two-dozen? You’re sure of that?”
“As sure as we can be,” Dawlish replied.
“Its astounding you aren’t all dead.” Kingsley’s comment needed no reaction. He looked at Moody again.
“They only shot three — no, four killing curses during the whole battle,” Hermione said. Harry, still standing apart from the group, saw her reach for Ron’s hand, almost aggressively. She was shaking now. Ron put his arm around her.
Harry turned back to look out into the dark square below. It really was astounding to think that Death Eaters who used the Avada Kedavra curse wantonly had used so few in such an advantageous situation.
“I don’t think their initial intent was to kill,” Harry said, just coming to this conclusion. Everyone turned to look at him. “They wanted to capture Hermione, not kill her. If there were too many killing curses flying around one might have hit her accidentally.”
“They probably would have done us after,” Schultz stated, with none of her usual sardonic attitude.
It was a grim thought, how lucky they were to be standing here at all. Not that they should be lolling about Grimmauld Place anyway. Even if Hermione was right and Kreacher had become the evening’s seventh victim, he had been one of the Order’s secret keepers. He could have been forced into revealing the house’s location. A battalion of Death Eaters could already be massing.
“We can’t stay here,” he said for the second time that evening. “They got Kreacher, Kingsley.”
This prompted another explanation, but it was much shorter than Harry thought it would be. Before he had got much beyond his worry about the house-elf, Kingsley put up his hand.
“I understand.” He turned to address Ron, Hermione and the other Aurors. “This was the best option for Order headquarters during the last war with Voldemort. We each became secret keepers once Dumbledore died. Any one of us could have been captured and tortured into revealing the location. We put a lot of trust in Severus Snape who, as you all know, was double dealing with the Order and the Death Eaters, not to reveal the location of the house. It was risky then, one that I am not willing to take again. We’ll have to move Miss Granger.”
“Can we go home then?” Hermione asked hopefully but without any real conviction.
“No. We’ll . . . go to the Burrow.” Ron looked around, pleading for support. Harry had his doubts about the idea. The Burrow was no safer than Ron and Hermione’s house in Hogsmeade. “It’s the perfect place, really. There are loads of people going in and out all the time. It’ll be easy to set up a constant guard.”
“But it puts your whole family in danger,” Hermione said. “We can’t —“
“Our family were all in the Order,” Ron interrupted. “Danger isn’t really a new thing for them. They will do whatever it takes to make sure you are safe.”
Much as he would have loved to keep the Weasleys out of it, Harry had to side with Ron. The house, though much emptier now nearly all the Weasley children had moved out, was still the hub of family gatherings. Molly and Arthur rarely had a single day when none of their children dropped by. Harry was sure that, given the circumstances, everyone would pile back into the house at a moment’s notice.
“Does anyone have any objections to this?” Kingsley asked, looking particularly at Harry who shook his head. “I don’t either. Until we can think of a better plan this is what we’ll do. I want extra security set up around that house and I want two of you — yes, two — to be stationed there at all times. Dawlish, Tougas, are you up for it?”
“Yes,” Dawlish said.
“Yes, sir.” Tougas forced the words out.
“Good. Mr. Weasley, you go and alert Arthur and Molly of the plan. Tell them to get as many of your family members there as possible. Dawlish and Tougas are coming with you to start on the protective spells. Use the Floo network, I want you out of sight.”
No one questioned Kingsley’s orders. After Ron and Hermione said a quick, but no less worrisome, goodbye he left, flanked by Dawlish and Tougas.
“No offense, Potter, but I want senior personnel on this.”
Harry shrugged. Kingsley didn’t owe him any explanations, but he appreciated it nonetheless. With a quick acknowledging head nod, Kingsley turned once more to look at Moody. With his head down, Kingsley conjured a stretcher. Harry moved forward to help lift Moody’s body on, but Kingsley levitated him instead. He carefully placed Moody’s arms over his chest, entwining his fingers.
“Here.” Hermione handed Kingsley Moody’s wand. “Ron grabbed it when he dragged Moody to the house. He gave it to me when we were fighting to get the door open.”
“Thank you.” Kingsley placed the wand in Moody’s clasped hands. “I’m going to take him back to the Ministry. For all the service and sacrifice, Alastor Moody deserves to be buried with honors.”
The five people remaining in the sitting room bowed their heads as the stretcher slowly floated into the hall. Kingsley, Schultz and Brazill followed it. Harry did not, nor did Hermione. She was weeping softly. Harry was torn between wanting to comfort her but not knowing how, and wanting to kick something. Neither would undo anything that had happened this night though so he instead turned to look out the window again. He was suddenly impatient to get out of this, the house of the dead.
“We’re to wait here,” Brazill said, returning to the room a moment later. “The Minister reminded us not to leave the house until Dawlish and Tougas return.” She gave Hermione the same apologetic look she’d used with Ginny earlier. She looked around for a place to sit, for a moment considering the sofa where Moody had lain. In the end she decided to sit beside Hermione and watched the spot where Moody had so recently been as though she could still see him there. Harry half expected to turn and see Moody there as well. At last he couldn’t take waiting.
“Let’s go down to the kitchen. The fireplace is there anyway,” he said.
The kitchen was clean compared to the rest of the house. Kreacher, when left to his own devices, had kept this one room in better condition than the rest.
Unable to sit, Harry paced the room, ignoring the trivial conversation Hermione and Brazill were engaged in. It wasn’t until he heard Brazill call his name that Harry heard anything but his own thoughts.
“What?” he asked.
“I asked if you wanted to tell us what that serious conversation you were having with your girl was about.” Both she and Hermione were watching him expectantly. It took Harry a minute to recall what she was talking about.
“No,” he said, wishing that Ginny was at Grimmauld Place now..
Brazill and Hermione looked disappointed. They exchanged looks that betrayed their suspicions. Harry could see they were both in agreement about whatever they thought Ginny was going to say. With many looks at him they reconvened their conversation, quieter than before. He didn’t care to hear whatever theories they had come with.
Ron arrived by himself ten minutes later.
“We’re all set. Hermione and I are going to Floo back and Dawlish said for you two to come right away.”
Harry wasn’t upset at leaving number twelve, Grimmauld Place behind. He welcomed the overly warm and bustling activity at the Burrow as he stepped out of the fireplace, the last to arrive.
Molly, busy cooking as usual, stopped what she was doing and rushed over to hug Harry.
“Thank you. We were so worried when Ron showed up and told us what happened. He explained what you and the other Aurors did. If anything had happened . . . especially now, so close to the wedding . . . “
Harry saw Ron and Hermione sitting close together at the back of the table, not at all involved in the loud, heated, discussion going on around them. Arthur, Fred, George and Percy were arguing about the case and the possible motives of Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy. Arthur was still in his pajamas.
“The others are on their way,” Molly said, seeing where Harry was looking. “Bill and Fleur were getting the twins prepared. Charlie had to wait for a portkey and can’t make it —“
“Is Ginny upstairs then?” Harry interrupted.
“Ginny? No. She’s not here. She told me that she was going to stay at your flat.”
Harry felt the same sense of alarm he saw echoed in Molly’s eyes. Ginny told him she was going home. Home meant the Burrow, didn’t it? Muttering a hasty goodbye, Harry headed for the fireplace again.
The flat was eerily quiet when he entered. Not stopping to brush the soot off he quickly made his way to the bedroom where he saw her sleeping soundly.
As his heart rate returned to normal, Harry watched her for a few minutes, dearly wanting to do nothing but climb in next to her. He held back though, knowing that immediately upon waking he’d have to tell her about Colin, about Moody and about Kreacher.
Harry opted to instead deal with his concerns by washing them away. He stood under the hot water for a lot of time, feeling only moderately better. He’d resolved only one thing during his shower: he wasn’t going to wake Ginny up to give her such horrible news. He would let her get a good night’s sleep. Nothing would change in the light of day.
Ginny was leaning on the doorframe of the bedroom when Harry stepped into the hall. He stopped and watched her, while she was doing the same across the hall. Her hair was hanging loosely over her shoulders; spilling over the two-piece set of dark green satin pajamas she wore to stay cool in the sweltering July heat.
“Hi,” she said, straightening up.
It was a simple greeting and all Harry needed to cross the few feet that separated them and pull her into his arms. She didn’t object, nor did she flood him with questions.
Eventually, after what simultaneously felt like an eternity and the blink of an eye, she let go.
“Harry, you’re trembling. What happened?” She looked at him, searching for answers. He knew her immediate worry would be for the safety of Ron or Hermione.
“Things didn’t go as planned,” he admitted. “They knew we were coming and — Ron and Hermione are fine, they’re at the Burrow . . . but, Gin, Moody’s dead.” He had to swallow several times to get these words out.
Haltingly he told her what happened after they left Ron and Hermione’s, knowing he was revealing way too much, but not caring.
“This is why they tell us not to get personally involve,” he said more to himself than to Ginny.
“It couldn’t be helped, Harry,” she said gently. “You’ve known Moody for eight years. No matter what the case was you couldn’t be expected not to react.”
Harry said nothing. He’d caught a lock of her hair and was twisting it round his finger.
“Come on.” Ginny took his hand and Harry let himself be led into the bedroom.
All the lights were out a moment later and Harry lay propped up in bed, staring down at Ginny. She was watching him too.
For as long as he cared to remember, Ginny had been the one he had turned to for comfort. It had been the case after Dumbledore died, during the last months when they were hunting Horcruxes and especially after Voldemort’s death. If she hadn’t been around he couldn’t imagine how he would have handled that. It was only during the months after everything was finished with Voldemort that he truly came to realize what Ginny had done for him. It was then that he started thinking about wanting to make their relationship more permanent.
Something clicked in Harry’s mind just then.
“You told me you were going home.”
“I did,” she said.
“But you came here.”
“I did,” she said again, interlacing her fingers with his and placing it on her stomach.
“You’ve never called this home before.” He moved so he was hovering over her.
“It wasn’t my home before, but I think things have changed . . . if you’re agreeable to it, of course.” She smiled nervously.
“Of course.” Harry couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
They’d been back and forth on the subject of Ginny moving in. Though he had wanted her to live with him permanently for some time now, the last few times they’d talked about it, one or other of them did not feel comfortable. The last time they’d talked about it, in fact, Harry rather suspected that the only reason she’d agreed was out of some sort of desperation he didn’t understand. This time was different though.
Harry leaned down and kissed her. He’d meant it to be a quick peck but Ginny tangled her hands in his hair.
“Don’t,” she said when he started to pull away.
“Don’t think,” she said again, kissing him a second time. It wasn’t a hard request to comply with.
He had no idea what time it was when he’d got home but Harry saw it was starting to get light out. He had an arm around Ginny, who was snuggled close to him. He didn’t mind, despite the heat. It felt like he had to keep her within his grasp or she’d turn out to be a figment of his imagination. He was beginning to realize that anywhere Ginny was is where he felt most at home.
As the last tendrils of consciousness started to slip away Harry thought he heard Ginny mumble, “Happy Birthday.”
They were awoken several hours later by a shrill screech. Harry’s eyes immediately snapped open as he groped for his wand.
“Hedwig?” Ginny asked, lifting her head from Harry’s shoulder. “Since when does she deliver right into the bedr — oh no.”
“What?” Harry asked, feeling both irritated and annoyed at this alarming wake-up.
Ginny didn’t answer. She reached over and grabbed a bright red envelope from Hedwig’s beak.
“Plug your ears,” she advised before opening the Howler. Molly Weasley’s voice echoed off the walls, making Harry cringe. He hoped their silencing charms were holding.
“I DON’T KNOW WHICH OF YOU PUT THEM UP TO IT, BUT YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES. HOW DO YOU THINK WE REACTED TO FIND THEIR BEDS EMPTY THIS MORNING AFTER EVERYTHING WE WENT THROUGH LAST NIGHT? THAT’S NOT TO MENTION THE TIME AND EFFORT WASTED. TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE WEDDING! HOW COULD YOU LET THEM RUN OFF TWO WEEKS BEFORE? . . . COMPLETELY IRRESPONSIBLE – LETTING THEM ELOPE. IF RON AND HERMIONE WEREN’T ALREADY MARRIED I’D HAVE THEM REMOVE YOU FROM THE WEDDING PARTY.”
Harry wished he’d taken Ginny’s advice and plugged his ears. They were ringing so loud he didn’t hear Ginny’s words.
“I said ‘Merlin, I’m glad I’m not Ron today,’” she repeated louder than before, reaching over to Hedwig and grabbing a second letter. “Its from Ron and Hermione.”
Harry grabbed his glasses and he and Ginny read the letter together. Hermione wrote it, but her usually neat scrawl was more jittery than usual.
Dear Harry and Ginny,
If someone asks you where Ron and I are, don’t be alarmed, we’re off somewhere safe. We decided last night that we don’t want to wait to be married anymore. After what happened with Moody we realized that two weeks could be too late, you never know what could happen.
Harry, don’t worry, we’ve taken Dawlish and Tougas with us, and we’re very safe.
We’ll see you this afternoon.
Love from Hermione and Ron.
“That makes three reasons to celebrate today then,” Ginny said. “Your birthday, their wedding, and us . . . I dunno, did you want to tell everyone about us?”
“You moving in? Of course.”
Harry checked with work later in the morning. Speaking with Briony he learned that no new leads had come in. All was quiet, she said. Kingsley, acting as de facto head of the department for a few days, told her that unless they stumbled on something huge, all the members of the task force were to take a few days off.
The reminder of Moody’s death put a damper on what otherwise would have been a great day. Harry tried not to think of it just as he was sure Ginny was trying to avoid thinking of Colin. She hadn’t made any mention of him since Harry told her they’d found all five missing Muggle-borns. Instead they spent a quiet day talking about how they were going to break the news that Ginny was officially living with Harry now. They didn’t want to face a ribbing like Ron and Hermione had at Christmas.
“When I tell Dudley he’s got to move into Grimmauld Place at least he’ll be happy that Kreacher’s not there,” Harry said eventually.
Kreacher’s death was hard to deal with. Harry wasn’t unaffected by the house-elf’s murder, but he mainly felt disgust that Bellatrix had disposed of him in such a heartless manner. He was sure Kreacher was gone. He’d tried a couple of times to call the elf with no change.
“About that,” Ginny said slowly. “Maybe . . . “
“After everything he’s been doing lately I don’t think it’s a good idea he stays here anymore Gin. You’re not going to change my mind on that.”
“Nor would I want to. No, I was just thinking that maybe he was doing some of this stuff to get your attention. He’s got those two girls he keeps going on about, right? And he spends nearly every minute with them. Perhaps I’ve been overly sensitive about most of it.”
Harry stared at her, dumbfounded.
“I still wouldn’t trust him farther than I could throw him,” she continued, “but maybe if we spend more time with him it’ll help.”
“Whatever you say.” Harry looked back at Dudley’s bedroom. The door was standing ajar. “Looks like he wasn’t here last night.”
* * *
They arrived at the Burrow promptly at four o’clock, unsure of what to expect. The news of Moody’s death had been on the front page of The Daily Prophet that morning. Everyone who was going to be at the Burrow had known and respected Moody. Surely they would be as affected by his demise as Harry was.
Their arrival coincided with a shouting match. Apparently Molly was even angrier with Ron and Hermione than Harry and Ginny.
“ . . . Completely irresponsible Ronald Bilius Weasley,” she shouted from inside the house. “What do you think we went through when we found you two gone, without a note?”
Ron must have responded but they could not hear what he said.
“Obviously you didn’t think. How do you —“
“A reenactment. Lovely,” Ginny stated. She looked at the house appraisingly. “Let’s just wait until she’s calmed down a little, shall we?”
There was noise coming from the back garden. When Harry and Ginny made their way around the house they were met with a mass of redheads surrounding Lupin and Tonks, who was holding a small bundle of blankets in her arms. They were smiling brightly, and both looked up at the same time.
“Harry,” Lupin called, coming over quickly. He threw one arm around Harry’s shoulders and one arm around Ginny’s, rushing them over. “Harry, meet your godson, Teddy.”
Harry looked inside the blankets and laid eyes on the tiniest human being he’d ever seen, with a thin tuft of bright blue hair. The baby’s eyes were squeezed shut and he was opening and closing his mouth.
“D’you want to hold him?” Lupin asked, already taking the baby from a reluctant Tonks.
“Me . . . oh . . . I dunno.” The baby was cute and all but Harry wasn’t sure he was ready to hold him yet. What if he dropped him?
“Go on,” Ginny said encouragingly. She kept her hand on his elbow as Lupin showed Harry how to hold his arms. “You’ve got to support the head.”
With the small bundle in his arms Harry didn’t even want to breathe, let alone move. Tonks, he saw, looked as nervous as he was. Every time the baby fussed she bobbed up and stopped chewing her nails.
“He’s adorable,” Ginny told Tonks, who beamed. She moved the blanket aside a little and felt his hair. When she looked up at Harry she was smiling and there was a faint glow about her that he’d never seen before.
“Hey, birthday boy!”
Harry wasn’t sure if it was Fred or George who called. He and Ginny both turned and were instantly rewarded with a blinding flash.
The culprit was Fred. He lowered the camera as he approached.
“Here.” Tonks took the opportunity to take the baby from Harry.
“Hmmmm . . . wonder how many galleons the Prophet would give me for this picture,” Fred said, waving the camera around.
“Business has been a little slower since Hogwarts let out for the summer,” George supplied, appearing out of nowhere and draping an arm around Harry’s shoulder. He smiled brightly when Ginny punched him in the arm. “Better mind what you do with our sister, Potter.”
“Fred, George, leave him alone,” Molly said, coming from the house with a feast’s worth of dishes following her. She looked flushed. Closely behind her, carrying a large cake were Ron and Hermione. “Happy birthday, Harry.”
“Thanks, Mrs. — Molly.”
Fred and George did leave Harry alone. They focused their mild teasing on Ron and Hermione.
“Explain to me again, dear brother, why you would run off and saddle yourself with a wife before you had to? No offense, Granger, or is it Weasley now?” George asked.
Hermione blushed, but was beaming.
“Shove off,” Ron said.
Despite Fred and George’s best efforts to change it, the mood was indeed subdued. Wherever he went Harry heard serious conversations about Moody: recollections and anecdotes about Moody’s more memorable eccentricities. He felt a little twinge of guilt every time he came across one of these speeches. Ginny, who was sticking very close to Harry, would steer him away if she thought he was getting too quiet.
It was only as they sat down to eat Molly’s delicious meal that Ginny spoke up.
“Did I tell you that I’m going to move into Harry’s?”
The remarkable thing about her announcement was how utterly unremarkable the response was. Everyone looked at her as if she was stating the obvious.
“Aren’t you already doing that?” George asked.
“Of course not,” she replied.
Fred leaned back in his chair and shook the camera, a broad smile on his face.
“I give it a year before he’s holding a little redhead.”