The end had come after a long and drawn out final battle that had lasted days rather than hours. Voldemort had initially taken the battle to both Hogsmeade and Hogwarts itself, splitting the defences between the Ministry and the Order of the Phoenix - who battled valiantly to save the Wizarding village - and the teachers and DA who were doing their best to save the school and its students.
Slowly, one by one, the school’s teachers and DA members were incapacitated and the number of defenders dwindled, leaving the students completely vulnerable to the evil whims of Voldemort and his minions. However, they were only interested in one group of people: those closest to Harry Potter.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny were currently making use of every short cut and secret passage the castle had to offer, drawing their attackers apart, allowing Harry and Neville to take them out. It was taking time though and they were all beginning to tire. It didn’t seem to matter how many they removed there always seemed to be more to replace them.
As the battle raged the five remaining defenders found themselves outside the closed off girls bathroom, on the second floor.
“Well, I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Ginny with a sigh.
Harry’s eyes were full of concern, and he was about to speak when Ginny cut him off, “Harry, I’ll be alright, we have a job to do.” Her tone of voice brooked no argument; there was no way he was going to be doing this alone.
One by one they all slipped into the darkened bathroom and, just as Neville was about to enter, the door slammed shut, producing a sickening crunch as it slammed into his face.
“Don’t keep the Dark Lord waiting, Potter, he’s been waiting a long time for this,” Lucius Malfoy’s polished tones echoed around the empty room.
Watching him warily, they edged towards the sinks that marked the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
“Oh, don’t mind me, Potter,” sneered Malfoy, “I’m not going to go against a direct order from the Dark Lord himself. You do know what happens to people who displease him, don’t you…?”
Before Harry could respond Ginny leant forward and mumbled something to one of the taps.
The small group looked at her in amazement; she had never mentioned still being able to speak the snake language. Malfoy’s lips curled in to a shrewd smile, as he looked on.
Gradually, as happened six years earlier, the sink moved aside leaving open the entrance.
“Let’s get this done then,” said Ginny, ignoring her friend’s looks, before stepping forward through the hole.
Breaking his eye contact with Malfoy, Harry flicked him a cheeky wave and stepped backwards; as he moved through the near darkness, he heard Ron and Hermione follow suit.
As they entered the Chamber proper, a lone figure was standing waiting for them, his arm clasped behind his back. There, in the middle of the cavernous room, was Tom Marvolo Riddle, the self-styled Lord Voldemort.
“You’ve brought friends for me to play with, how kind of you, Harry!” Voldemort’s laugh seemed to grow louder as it echoed round the room.
Without any warning, he started throwing curses at the group. Ron’s reactions were the quickest, throwing a shield to cover them as they fell to the floor, slipping in to a long practised battle plan.
The fight that followed was harder fought than any they had battled through in the last twenty-four hours.
It took all four of them to come even close to matching Voldemort’s power, but as the fight raged on, they could tell Voldemort was tiring; magically he was still easily a match for them, but even the Darkest Wizard the world had ever known couldn’t keep an eye on all four of them at once, as they darted about the tunnels and passages surrounding the Chamber.
The end came suddenly, when a simple tripping charm from Ginny had Voldemort stumbling forwards and his distraction, whilst only temporary, was long enough for Harry to fire off the curse he had been practising with Dumbledore for the last two years.
Weak and fatigued from their exertions, the four collapsed to the floor huddled together, surprisingly devoid of emotion about what they had just achieved. This was where Professor McGonagall found them asleep nearly twenty-four hours later.
Soon after they had all been released - together, at Harry’s insistence - they could be found in The Burrow’s living room, explaining to Arthur and Molly why they had to go away.
None of them were handling the pressure that followed their defeat of Voldemort with any degree of ease. Well-wishers and reporters were hassling them day in, day out, and when Rita Skeeter had called on them, it had taken Ron, Harry and the twins to keep Hermione from attacking her.
Then there was the threat that the Death Eaters still posed. The few that remained had made their displeasure at the fall of Voldemort known, as well as who they intended to make pay.
Ginny had insisted that they had done enough and had discharged their responsibility, two weeks ago. Others could tidy up this mess; they had to concentrate on getting better and rebuilding their lives. Harry had surprised them all by agreeing wholeheartedly and had come up with the idea of spending some time away together travelling.
Arthur had seen the sense in this almost straight away, and had spent many hours helping them convince Molly that this was the right thing to do. It was her opinion that the only place her children could and should recover was here, at home, at The Burrow. Where she could keep an eye on them.
Ron and Ginny might be the only two official children out of the four, but she considered Harry and Hermione as her children as well, and had been immensely proud when the previous Christmas they had both responded to the twins comments, by addressing their presents to her as ‘Our Weasley Mum’.
Eventually they had convinced her though, and for the following months the only contact was via owl post. Every few weeks, one or all of them sent and Arthur a letter, but they never once said where they where, where they had been or where they were going.
Molly shuddered to think of the places they had been, and judging by some of the condition of some of the letters that made it home, these foreign owls couldn’t deliver a letter in one piece if they tried. Take the one she had received this morning. It had been so full of holes the message was almost totally lost.
The letters had initially been fairly brief simple affairs, just saying they were okay and were starting to come to terms with things, if a little slowly. As the months progressed the letters grew longer and longer, detailing as much as possible about themselves and their recovery; for instance, ten months ago they had written to let her know how happy they were all were in their relationships. They didn’t say as much but Molly wasn’t stupid and could read between the lines, and knew exactly what they weren’t saying, so this morning’s letter or what was left of it was hardly a surprise.
She looked down and read the words again.
It’s time we came hom . Now that the last lot of Deat ters have been captured.
We’re missing you all very mu and can wait to be ther .
Please don’t be angry ut, there is some ing, we should tell y u, while we wer away, Harry and well, she fell pregn .
The bab was born a coupl of we ks ago.
We will ex lain every hi g when we get hom on Satu d y.
Ginny, R n, Har y an ermione.
The owl’s claws had torn the letter to shreds, but it was obvious to Molly that her children were finally coming home; with them, it seemed, there would be a new addition. When the letter had first arrived Molly was fuming. How could they be that stupid? Just what did they think they were doing? At their Age? Even now she was less than happy about the situation, but Arthur always had a way of calming her down, and this case had been no different.
Arthur had read the letter, his face revealing no emotion or reaction to its contents, quietly placed it back down on the table, stood, moved over to the sink and made a cup of tea for himself and his wife, before sitting back down, “Now then, love…”
Molly watched as the small figures drew closer to home. It took all her self-restraint not to run outside and sweep them up in one her famous embraces. She lightly gripped her sink-top to steady herself; in a moment or two they would be close enough to make out.
As the shapes became more distinct, she could feel her grip on the sink tightening and her nerves were affecting her breathing, which was now coming in short and quick bursts. Her four youngest ‘children’ had been away from her too long; she had understood their need to get away after the fall of Voldemort, after all, if it wasn’t disgruntled Death Eaters after them, it was the press, both as bad as each other in Molly’s opinion. But eighteen months was far too long to stay away, and once she had properly welcomed them home, she planned on telling them just that. She wasn’t famous for her Howlers for nothing.
Just as she was about to forget her promise to her husband and dash from the house, a strong pair of arms wrapped themselves around her.
“Leave them to arrive back on their own, love,” said the warm voice of her husband.
“I know,” she replied, “but all I want to do is grab hold of them and hold them for ever. Then throttle them all, they’re too young…”
“So do I,” answered her husband, “but we have to let them do this on their own. It’s going to be very strange for them coming back, especially with the baby.”
“Yes, we are going to have a talk with the two of them, about that,” Molly replied sternly.
“What d’you mean, ‘we’? I won’t get a word in edgeways, dear,” replied her husband, with a smile.
“Don’t think you’re getting out of it, Arthur Weasley,” replied Molly sternly. “You will be there to back me up.”
“It’s a bit late for that now dear, you know as soon as you get your hands on your grandchild you’ll forget all about your ‘proper conduct’ talk.” Arthur smiled warmly at his wife as he spoke.
“You’re right, of course dear,” she replied, but then with a twinkle in her eyes, she continued, “but they don’t need to know that, do they?”
“And they wonder where the twins get it from!” Arthur replied, as he tightened his embrace on his wife, sniggering quietly to himself.
They both turned towards the track that led up to The Burrow, the pair’s eyes searching for their prodigal family.
However there was nobody to be seen. They couldn’t have made it to the house already could they? Unbidden they both turned to the open kitchen door. No, there was nobody there. So where were they? They hadn’t changed their minds at the last minute, had they?
Molly turned towards her husband, concern evident on her face, and tears threatening in her eyes which looked towards him for an explanation, as she had done frequently in their marriage. Without a word, her husband just placed his hand on her shoulder and pointed up the track.
As she turned towards the point her husband was indicating, she sighed in relief. Just appearing from the dip in the path was the bright red mop of hair that could only be her son, Ron, closely followed by another red head, her daughter Ginny. As they climbed out of the dip, Molly could make out their expressions and discovered that in fact they were fuming.
Molly watched as they huffed and puffed their way towards the house, clouds of dust raising from the dirt track each time they stomped their feet.
“What’s up with them?”
Her husband just shrugged his shoulders; he looked as clueless as she felt.
“Come on, you two!” yelled her daughter, turning slightly to yell at the other two, “let’s get this over with, shall we?” Her daughter’s voice was obviously angry, but also had a vein of coldness running through it.
Molly was really worried now; something had to be desperately wrong for her to be acting in this way.
As she fretted, her other two ‘children’ came back into view, smiling warmly at each other. They each had an arm wrapped around the others back, holding each other close. Nestled in one of Harry’s arms was a bundle of blankets that could only be the new baby. As they walked, Hermione leant over and adjusted the blanket wrapping the baby, before whispering something in Harry’s ear and placing a quick kiss on his lips, as Harry turned to smile at her, then, flushed and giggling they both turned towards The Burrow, quickening their pace.
Molly’s mind was whirling, what was going on? She knew from their last letter that the baby was Harry’s, but Harry was engaged to Ginny! But it was quite obvious who the parents were as Harry and Hermione approached the house. No wonder Ron and Ginny looked so upset. They had obviously been betrayed in the worst way possible.
Molly felt her wrath building… The cups on the kitchen shelves began to rattle ominously and she shrugged off the calming hand her husband placed on her shoulder
Bugger welcoming them home, bugger waiting for an excuse! She was going out there right now to get this sorted.
There better be a damned good explanation, if they thought they would actually be allowed back in the house!
Arthur followed his wife out of the house, hoping to cut short any trouble; whilst he trusted his loving wife and mother of his children implicitly, when she was really riled she had a tendency to say and do things she regretted later. And the fact that he could have sworn he head her mutter, “I don’t bloody well care who he is, I’ll kill him!” really wasn’t helping.
A/N Thanks to Yoda, Baffy and Allie for their beta work on this chapter, and they are wholly innocent for any of this chapter’s content. I also offer no apologies, other than to say the next chapter is beta-ed and will be up sometime tomorrow.