Harry stood, brushed the dirt from his clothes and nervously ran a hand through his untidy hair. He looked around. The heavily-scented kitchen was filled with all kinds of pastries and other baked goods. He figured that Mrs. Weasley baked to keep her sanity. As he stood in the kitchen listening to the crowd of people's voices from the next room, a small, plump woman entered. Mrs. Weasley, who was still wearing her apron, rushed over to Harry and pulled him in to a tight embrace.
"Hello, Harry dear," she said kissing him on both cheeks. I am so glad that you're here."
Harry looked into Mrs. Weasley's face. He could see tear tracks outlining her cheek bones, and her eyes were red rimmed and swollen. Harry began to feel sick to his stomach. How many people did he have to lose before he finally had peace in his life? How many times did he have to watch his loved ones go through so much pain?
Harry looked around the kitchen once more. Through the doorway to the living room, he caught sight of the old family grandfather clock that sat in the corner. He saw that all of the hands were in their proper place, except Mr. Weasley's. His hand was missing. Molly followed Harry's gaze and began to cry, her body shaking slightly. "It fell off," she said, looking at Harry. "When we found out Arthur was dead, it just fell off. I found it lying on the floor the morning after we received the news."
Harry looked at the one person that had even come close to being a mother figure in his life. Seeing the pain and agony in her face was almost too much to bear. Trying to hold back his own tears, Harry asked, "Where's Ron?"
Molly didn't respond right away, tears still falling like rain down her cheeks and on to her neck.
"Upstairs with Hermione," she sniffed. "She came last night."
Harry took one more look at Mrs. Weasley before heading for the stairway. Just as Harry had reached the bottom of the stairs, a small, slender girl with flaming red hair was walking down the stairs towards him. Harry stopped walking and looked at Ginny's face. Her eyes which normally shown with a brilliant colored light now looked haunted, and he could tell just by looking at her face, that the smile she wore was pasted there. It seemed that it took all her strength to smile.
Ginny stopped on the first landing and looked down at the emerald green eyes staring at her. His eyes were full of sadness, and his smile looked more like a frown. Ginny wished fervently that she could help take the storm clouds out of those beautiful, richly-colored eyes. She wished that she could be the one to bring the light back into his smile. Ginny stared a moment longer before turning her gaze to the ground and walking down the remaining stairs. For a brief moment, they glanced at each others expressions before Harry, not quite sure of what he was doing, walked over to Ginny and wrapped his arms around her. "I'm so sorry, Ginny," Harry said, hugging her tightly. Ginny felt tears leaking from her eyes, and knew it was no use trying to hide them.
"I don't know what to think," Ginny sobbed. "He was here one minute and gone the next."
Harry rested his face on Ginny's hair and tried to hold back his tears. The burning sensation in the back of his eyes threatened to take over, and there was nothing he could do. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, Harry allowed his tears to fall, mixing with the tears that Ginny had already shed. Harry took the sleeve of his robe and wiped at the tears on Ginny's face.
"It will be okay," Harry said, as much to reassure himself as well as her. Ginny looked up and tried to smile:
"Sorry," she said in embarrassment and walked out of the room. Harry was contemplating going after her when he saw a figure walking towards him.
"Hello, Harry," Professor Lupin said, smiling broadly. He had been watching Harry and Ginny for several minutes, and he was amused. "I see you made it here safely."
"Yeah." Harry said, shrugging.
"I trust that you received my birthday gift?" Professor Lupin asked.
Professor Lupin smiled. "The reason that I came in here was to tell you that dinner is in a few minutes and to go get Ron and Hermione."
Harry shrugged and headed up the stairs. He stopped and listened outside the attic door. After listening to Ron and Hermione's quiet voices, he knocked. When there was no reply, he loudly cleared his throat and stepped over the threshold. Ron broke away from the embrace that he had been sharing with Hermione with a start.
"Harry, I didn't see you there." Ron said, sheepishly. His face turned as red as his hair, and his ears turned a bright shade of pink.
Harry grinned and searched his friends face. He could tell that Ron was hiding his feelings, or at least trying to, and Harry wished that there was something he could do. He glanced at his two friends before shaking his head and pointing towards the door.
"Your Mum sent me to tell you that it is time for dinner."
Ron, who still was gazing at the floor, looked up at Harry. "Yeah, alright. When did you get here?" he asked.
"A few minutes ago ," Harry replied. Ron got off the bed and smiled at Harry before heading downstairs. Hermione and Harry soon followed.
Dinner in the Weasley household wasn't as lively as it normally would be. Fred and George were sitting close to the head of the table, for once keeping to themselves, and Mrs. Weasley was pushing the food around on her plate with her fork. Ginny sat at the table with her hands folded in her lap, looking in disgust at the food that was set before her.
"You should really eat something dear," Molly said, looking at her daughter.
"I'm not hungry," she replied. However, she did pick up her fork and pretend to enjoy the meal. About halfway through dinner, the whole family jumped when they heard a loud crack. Everyone glanced at the center of the room where a person had appeared, dressed in black robes. Their mouths flew open in shock as Percy had materialized before them. Molly let out a cry and ran to her son, clutching him to her and kissing each of his cheeks.
"You're home," she sobbed. "If only your father was here." She stopped speaking and held Percy to her, looking him over to make sure that he was alright. At the table, Ron, Ginny, Harry, and Hermione sat in complete silence, while Fred and George glared at their brother. Charlie and Bill smiled slightly, while Professor Lupin kept on pretending to eat. Molly stood next to her son, still fussing over him like a mother hen and crying softly. "Are you hungry dear?" she asked, gesturing to the food on the table.
"No, I am fine, thank you." Percy said, looking at his mother. He couldn't remember when he had seen her look so tired and distraught in his life. He glanced around at his family and went to talk to Bill and Charlie.
The rest of the night was spent cleaning up or playing Wizard's Chess, if you were Ron and Harry. Ginny and Hermione had gone up to bed some time ago, and the two boys stayed up late into the night, perhaps too afraid to sleep, and continued to play. Of course, Ron beat Harry at almost every game. When the crescent moon had risen to the highest point in the sky and the stars were twinkling brightly, Harry and Ron put their chess pieces away and headed for Ron's room. They were both asleep the minute their heads hit their pillows.
To be continued...
A/N: Thanks to my reviewers. I hope you are enjoying the story. Love, Gin