"Broken little memories, painful to the eye, Agony we cannot bear and tears we will not cry. Helplessly we stare into the faces of the past, And find our ghosts are living here, staying to the last."
"Don't Let Go" ~ Unbar Able
Harry sat bolt upright in bed, clutching at his arm as he screwed his face up tight, fighting against the pain. He pressed his right fingertips to the pale skin of his left forearm, forcing the nerves to forget the phantom agony as real sensations took over.
This was the third time it had happened, and it hadn't taken him long to work out what was causing it.
Only a few weeks ago, he had been bound mind and soul to Peter Pettigrew. He had become an invisible puppet, forced to dance as Voldemort yanked his strings. The swift retribution of the Killing Curse had left his host dead and Harry with an additional scar.
And it had left the memories.
It wasn't just the things he had seen through foreign eyes that plagued him; some of Pettigrew's abilities seemed to have been transferred to him. Like being able to Apparate. Harry had never tried the spell in his life, but then one morning the other week when Fred had jumped out at him from behind a door, he'd leapt back in surprise and found himself at the bottom of the garden. The Ministry had not been impressed.
This pain was another remnant. Subtly, he had tried to examine his arm in the light of day, looking for any sign of the Dark Mark that had been ingrained so permanently in Wormtail's forearm, but there was nothing staining his clear skin. It seemed that now, three days later in the pale moonlight, he could only see the faintest of red lines forming an unintelligible outline.
He scowled out of the window, wondering what Voldemort had done now. The other times he had felt the call, nothing had come of it, but something told Harry tonight was different. There was a feeling in the air, the sensation that, despite the chill of the rainy night, an oppressive blanket of heat was surrounding him.
He got out of bed and pressed his right hand to his chest where the starburst scar lay. The skin had hardened, slowly turning silver as it healed. He had lost all sensation to the small area, but at least it didn't hurt anymore.
The ring, on its chain around his neck, was dangling free of his pyjama top, swaying in the dim light. He grasped it tight, feeling the thrill of its magic race across his skin. He had grown so used to its presence that he often forgot it was there. Now, he slipped it back inside his shirt before padding across to the window.
He peered out of the window at the gloom of the night. A storm was raging; the wind blew the world into submission as clouds covered the moon. He could make out the shape of Hedwig perched on the wall, her feathers fluffed up to ward off the weather, but he could see nothing threatening beyond the panes of glass.
A creak on the stairs outside Ron's bedroom made Harry turn to stare at the door. Was someone out there, what were they doing, and why were they creeping around? His forearm prickled as paranoia took over. In a few quick strides he yanked open the door, but the scowl on his face softened when he saw Molly Weasley frozen on the threshold.
Her kind face was pale and her eyes brimming with tears. She wore a big, baggy cardigan over her nightshirt, and her lit wand was stuck in a pocket, giving off a muted glow.
'Oh, Harry, dear,' she whispered, 'you shouldn't be out of bed. Couldn't you sleep?'
'The rain kept me awake,' Harry lied smoothly. He didn't think she believed it, but she let it pass as she shivered. 'What's wrong?'
'I've got to wake up Ron. Could you go and put the kettle on? I think we could all do with a cup of tea.' Her voice was soft, but he could hear fear trembling within it.
Harry looked back at his friend for a moment. He was still asleep, blissfully unaware of everything. His snores were gentle, happy sounds, and Harry found his chest tighten with worry.
'What's happened, please tell me?' he whispered, realising that his words sounded desperate, almost terrified.
Molly swallowed and twisted a tissue around her fingers absently. 'There's been an attack on the Ministry. I've only just been told. Please, I need to tell the kids, their dad–'
Harry nodded as he felt the chill of shock spread through him. If he thought back to the night's dreams, he could recall things that didn't quite belong. The scent of fear and close panic. Perverted pleasure at the destruction around him. Those emotions were not his own, but he felt woozy with guilt – now that he had been told, he realised that he had known about the attack all along.
The stairs creaked under his weight and his toes curled on the cold ceramic floor of the kitchen. The stove at the far end was sending off bursts of heat, and Genie was curled up close by the base, basking in its warmth.
As he picked up the kettle, he thought he heard movement upstairs and anxious questions being asked. He shook his head, feeling angry with himself. He should have known this would happen; it had only been a matter of time. With the Cerebral under his command, Voldemort was gaining power and confidence. And now that he had found enough strength to take on the Ministry, surely Hogwarts wouldn't be far behind.
He put the kettle down to warm and wandered into the living room, his gaze fixed on the wall where the magical clock was perched, its hands scattered around its face. Charlie still hadn't been notified, since his hand lay on "At Work," but it signalled that Bill, Fred and George were on their way. As Harry watched, another hand switched around to "Travelling," and a burst of relief shot through him. Mr Weasley was on his way home.
Only one hand remained stoically on "Mortal Peril." It seemed darker than the rest, as though the enchantment had faded. The picture was empty. Percy was gone.
The squeal of the kettle made him jump and he swept it off of the heat, pouring it into a massive teapot that had already lifted its lid in the air. The crockery clanked and clattered as various ingredients were added to named cups. Ginny had milk with no sugar, Mr Weasley had three sugars and no milk, Ron took it black, and Fred and George had more cream than tea. A small bottle shuffled across the surface and added a nip of something potent and alcoholic into Bill's cup, while Charlie's filled with beer.
Harry watched the simple, domestic event as though it were his anchor into reality. He followed each enchantment and found a strange comfort in the familiarity. He had seen it happen every morning for the past three weeks, whether the owners of the mugs were there to drink it or not.
Someone shuffled into the kitchen, and he turned to see Ron looking bleary-eyed and lost. His hair was sticking up at every angle and he had pillow creases in his cheek. For a long time he just stood there, looking around him in confusion, as if he had failed to grasp the current events. Harry handed him his mug and pushed him into a chair before saying quietly, 'Your dad's on his way.'
Taking the mugs for Molly and Ginny, he left Ron in the kitchen. The door to the garden was open, and he slipped through it to find the mother and daughter standing on the porch, staring out at the rain-tossed night. Neither of them said a word as Harry handed them their cups – they were too intent on maintaining their vigil.
Harry was just about to turn to go inside when three "pops" in short succession, followed by loud, questioning voices, announced the arrival of the twins and Bill. He heard Molly stifle a sob as Bill pulled her into a rough embrace and Ginny murmur something as the twins asked what she knew.
He felt alien here, a stranger amongst a close-knit family. He couldn't do anything to help and couldn't offer any words of comfort. He trailed wet footprints back into the kitchen where Ron still sat, staring blankly. He hadn't touched his tea, but Harry decided not to push it.
'Percy's not there.'
The words were just a whisper, but they were raw, laced with anger and grief. He followed his friend's gaze to the clock and said, 'You don't know that.'
Ron gave a bitter, humourless laugh. 'What are you saying, that Voldemort might keep him alive? Why would he bother?'
'I don't know, but he might have got away.'
Ron just shook his head, looking up as another "pop" sounded outside. Molly was crying now, and Arthur Weasley limped into the kitchen looking like a walking corpse. He stared at his family, some of whom had followed him in, as though he hadn't seen them before.
Harry offered him his chair and watched as the man sank into it. The tea had gone cold and he turned back towards the kettle, listening carefully as Mr Weasley began to speak.
'I don't know what happened,' he whispered. 'I didn't know what was happening until the alarms went off. I still don't know why–' There was a scratching sound as he scrubbed a hand across his face, trailing his fingertips through his stubble. 'How did he get in?'
'Are you all right?' Molly asked, her voice choking on the question. She didn't want to know, Harry could sense that, she didn't want to be told. 'How did you get away?'
'I didn't. I- I went to look for Percy first.'
Harry looked over his shoulder at Ron's dad, seeing an element of desperation in his bloodshot eyes. The expression on his face was haunted, and grimly, the boy realised that the grown man was shaking. His face was blanching as shock set in, and he was stuttering and stumbling over his words.
'There was just me and Evette. Perkins had gone home early and the department was empty. Then the alarms went off and we could hear curses and things. I went back to the office to get my wand and when I came out again I – I saw someone in a robe and hood, a Death Eater. She killed Evette –I- I couldn't do anything, you've got to understand –I couldn't!'
He stopped, his eyes darkening as he thought, temporarily mesmerised by the wraiths of steam coming from Ron's abandoned mug. He shuddered again before continuing. 'She heard me running and chased me down the stairs. I hid in Percy's department, but I couldn't find him anywhere. Malfoy had him. He was sneering, saying – the normal things. Percy was unconscious at first, but the woman and Malfoy got distracted and we went for them.'
A brief, phantom smile drifted across Arthur's face, 'He stabbed Malfoy in the eye with a wand. Right in the eye. Serves him right.'
The smirk vanished.
'We got downstairs to the Atrium and Fudge was there, I saw him killed it was – it was horrible. It was done almost without a thought, like it didn't matter. The woman, the Cerebral with white hair, she screamed and screamed to cause a distraction as we ran for the fireplace but–' his voice dropped to a whisper, 'they got Percy.'
For a moment, no one said anything; there was no sound but that of the fire burning in the stove and the gentle purrs of the cat, contented sounds in a pit of grief. It was George who asked the question on everyone's mind.
'Was he killed?'
'I – I don't know. The Cerebral cast a spell that pushed me into the fire. I saw something, but I don't know what it was.'
Harry felt his own shoulders slump as he drew in a breath and turned his attention back to making the tea. The crockery had done most of it for him, but he didn't pick up the mug. He was staring through the steam, wondering why the news of another death didn't surprise him.
A stab of pain made him hiss in a breath, and he clutched his forearm.
'What's wrong?' Ron asked, his voice cracking.
'Nothing I – I just burnt myself.' He met his friend's brown eyes across the room and was surprised to see tears lingering behind Ron's lashes.
Harry placed the tea in front of Arthur, favouring his right hand, before he leant back on the kitchen counter and bowed his head.
'Moody told me to come home and wait, told me to stay away. I should've helped more.'
'No,' Molly whispered, burying her head in her husband's unresisting shoulder. 'I –we need you here, Arthur.'
'I'll be back in a minute.' Harry didn't know if his words were heard, but he was suddenly seized by the urge to escape. He couldn't cope with these people in tears. He couldn't face their grief, knowing that he could do nothing to stop it. Ginny's eyes had been fixed on him all the time her father had been speaking, and in them had been so much pain – it killed him to not be able to help her.
The cold was like a slap in the face as he walked through the door and beyond the porch, into the rain. Each drop was like a tiny barb on his skin, but he relished the sensation as he heaved air into his lungs. He tried to tell himself that there was still a small chance of hope. No one had seen Percy die, Voldemort might just have taken him – but Ron was right, what would be the point of that? Why would he spare Percy's life in the same situation when he had killed so many others?
Harry looked up at the pitch-black sky, blinking as the rain splashed on his glasses. He was still cradling his left arm, but the feeling had faded, washed away by the storm. The cold wrapped around him, making goose pimples race along his skin, but at least out here he felt alive.
'You look tired,' a gruff voice said from the doorway. 'Mum'll say you'll catch your death.'
Harry turned to look at Bill, leaning against one of the rough wooden posts that held the porch roof up. The oldest Weasley son hadn't said a word throughout his father's rendition of events, nor had he shed any tears, but now, standing in the darkness, he looked defeated.
'He upset everyone. He made Mum so miserable, but she's still in there crying because he might be gone.'
'Aren't you worried?'
'Of course I am. He's still my little brother no matter what.' Bill sighed. 'He was my little brother. He tore us apart though. You were there, you saw it.'
'I know, but at the time it was always half a joke, none of us believed him, you know? He was sorry in the end.'
'How did you know?' The sudden rasp made both Harry and Bill jump. Arthur hovered in the doorway, his face fierce through the fear. 'How did you know he was sorry?'
'I – it,' Harry faltered, not sure what to say. He had just known, because that's how family was. They never meant to hurt one another, but there was always a struggle for individuality. There was always a line to draw and something to fight for. Percy had drawn his line and picked his fight, and it had been over Harry. 'I just assumed he would be.'
Arthur sighed and peered into the rain as though searching for a glimmer of hope in the desolate night. 'If I were a petty man I would lay the blame on you, on someone I could fight. I might say it was your fault for ever having become known to us, but unlike some people in the community I know better. Come in out of the rain, Harry.'
He was about to do as he was told when a flash of light caught his attention, and a low, muttering voice filtered in from the darkness. He could hear the unsteady splashing of uneven footsteps, and almost smiled as Moody made his way towards the house.
The old man pulled up and blinked at the three of them for a minute, before bowing his head. 'Can I come in?'
Arthur nodded, and Bill and Harry followed the Auror into the shelter of the house.
Molly didn't say a word as they came in, dripping water on the floor. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her face blotched with tears. She took one look at Alastor's grim face and another sob caught in her throat.
'It's a mess,' he said frankly, 'we almost can't make head or tail of it. We've looked everywhere, and there's no sign of your boy.'
'Oh God,' Molly whispered, pressing a tissue to her lips.
'There's no body. There's hardly even a trace of his being there. They left the place full of dead, so I don't know what it means that he's not there.'
'He was in the Atrium,' Arthur whispered, his voice cracked.
'There's nothing there anymore. The roof's blown right off. The only body in that area was the Minister's.'
'What are we going to do?' Ginny whispered. 'Not just about Percy, I mean. No one's running the country, people will be terrified.'
'I'm sure we'll find someone,' Moody said, his eyes resting on Arthur's bent head. He reached into his pockets and pulled something free. There was a wand, broken into three pieces, and a familiar pair of glasses, the lenses broken and the frames bent. 'I wasn't sure if you wanted these, they were the only sign of him at all. I'm sorry.'
Despite the gruff tone, there was nothing false about the condolence, and Bill inclined his head in acceptance as he took the pitiful remains. 'Can I get you anything?' he asked hoarsely. 'You've come a long way.'
'No, I'd best be off, although a word with you.' He tapped Harry on the shoulder as he stamped out of the room.
Cautiously Harry followed, stepping out into the porch again as Moody lowered his voice carefully. 'I know everyone's always treating you like a child, like you can't understand what's going on, but I know you can. I'm giving you a job, and you'd better get it right. Look after them.'
Harry frowned, unable to make sense of the request. 'But I can't even do magic for another week, how can I defend them?'
'I didn't say defend, I said look after. This country needs Arthur Weasley. There's no one else to step into the Minister's shoes, because there are not many people left, and that means this country also needs his family to be as happy and as healthy as they can be. You've been through so much loss that tonight you barely batted an eyelid. Help them, watch them, and don't let them get any stupid ideas.'
'But I don't know how to help…'
'You're a bright lad, you'll think of something.'
Alastor Moody disappeared in a flash of light, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts. He heaved in a sigh and turned back indoors, ready to face a family full of grief, and to try and help them pick up the pieces.