"Another day of painful tears, Endless hours, hollow fears. I shall not rest, I will not bide, Until you're safe, by my side."
M. Weasley ~ "Not Again"
Molly Weasley stared sightlessly out of the window, her eyes glazed as she wrung her hands absently. She paid no attention to her haggard, tear stained reflection, and didn't spare the beautiful summer's day a second glance. The forget-me-not blue sky beyond the glass seemed monotone to her eyes. What should have been a bright new world was nothing more than stifling. It was another day that settled around her like a shroud.
She was so lost in her own thoughts and despair that only the thick, choking smell of the bacon burning brought her back to the Burrow with a start. She looked around, disorientated, before giving a sigh of frustration and annoyance and waving her wand tip at the pan, rescuing the rashers from cremation.
With a shuddering sigh she wiped another tear from her cheek and thrust her hands into the pockets of her apron, shaking her head to herself. She mustn't let the others see her like this. She couldn't be the one to show her grief, not when they had enough between them to fill the whole world. Someone had to remain an anchor to reality, or the whole family would just sink deeper and deeper into darkness.
All because Harry was gone.
The kitchen door squeaked on its hinges and she looked up to see her husband trudge in, followed by Bill and Charlie. All the Weasleys were blessed with the fair skin that accompanied red hair, but now their fair complexion did nothing to hide the shadows under their eyes. Even Charlie, tanned from a life outside, looked as though he'd been punched in each eye.
'Nothing?' Molly asked, a mixture of desperate hope and terrible dread in her voice.
'Not a sign,' Arthur sighed. 'Wherever he went, or wherever his body was taken, we can't find it.'
'That doesn't mean he's dead, Arthur.'
Her husband sighed and raked a hand through his thinning hair. 'There was a lot of blood on the ground, Molly. Ron, Hermione, and even Ginny think that he would have died within minutes.'
'But there is still hope!'
'How long will that hope last? Is it enough to keep you going for the rest of your life? Dearest,' he took her hands before pulling her into his arms, 'It's been three weeks now. We knew – we feared we weren't all going to get through this. I wish, I wish so much that it hadn't been him, but we should concentrate on those that are right in front of us. Ron and Ginny need you now, and I'm sure Hermione will be over every day, once her parents feel she has recovered suitably to travel.'
Molly sobbed softly, burying her head in her husband's shoulder as Bill and Charlie stood awkwardly, their heads bowed. 'I – I thought maybe it would be a happy ending.' Even to her own ears her voice sounded childish. To think that a war could end happily was as foolish as chasing a rainbow, but she had dared to hope that those caught up in the very middle of it all would make it out alive.
She had lost Percy, and that had been hard because there were so many things left unsaid. She had never told him that she was proud of him, even in the face of his arrogance, and she had never told him that despite what he had done, she loved him as only a mother could. With Harry, who wasn't even her own, there was so much there had never been time for. She had never told him that she thought he was the strongest young man she had ever known. She had never told him that there was always a place for him in her family, if he wanted it. She had never impressed upon him to call her Molly, rather than Mrs Weasley.
She had never realised how much things meant to him. Everything she had ever knitted for him was folded neatly in his trunk, even the first jumper she had ever made him for Christmas, despite the fact that it couldn't possibly fit. Now, he was gone.
'Of all the people who could have died he should not have been one of them!'
The sentence ended on a note of despair, and she clutched her hand to her mouth, letting the tears drip from her chin and onto her husband's robes. Arthur rocked her softly, his own eyes bright as he whispered soft, unintelligible comfort to her. Upstairs there was the sound of movement, and Molly glanced up at the low ceiling. 'They shouldn't be out of bed.'
'They can't stay there forever, Mum,' Bill said softly, listening as two pairs of footsteps thundered down the stairs.
Ron burst through the kitchen door with Ginny at his heels. His face was pale and his eyes were wide with fear. He slowed to a halt as he noticed the tears on his mother's face, and the grim defeat that etched his father's expression. Automatically he moved a bit closer to Ginny, as though offering her comfort by his physical presence. Her eyes were bloodshot and her hair dishevelled, as though she had tossed and turned in her sleep.
'He's dead?' Her voice was a tiny whisper, and Charlie grasped her shaking hands in his own.
'Ron, Ginny,' Arthur began, 'we haven't found anything yet.' He rubbed his hand up and down Molly's back absently. 'I think that, perhaps, it's time to stop looking and accept the truth. Harry was killed in the battle. Where his body went I don't know, but the two of you said yourselves that the extent of his injuries was - '
'Horrific,' Ron muttered, his eyes unfocused as he stared into an image of the past. His hand rubbed absently across his stomach, where Voldemort had slashed Harry with the sword of Gryffindor, bringing the youth to his knees. It was the last thing Ron had seen. Harry on the ground in front of the Dark Lord, kneeling in the golden mist of magic that had risen like a tide, hiding the pair from view.
'Harry was – is – special. If there is anyone who can survive something like that, it's him. We can't give up on him, Dad. If you won't look for him then I will!'
'Ron, you've only just got out of hospital,' Charlie pointed out. 'You know they said to stay in bed for a few more days.'
'They kept us in there for nothing,' Ron muttered, anger darkening his voice. 'There was nothing wrong with any of us except for a couple of scrapes.'
'You were in shock.'
'For one day! They kept me in there for three weeks!'
'You remember what the nurse said, Ron,' Molly whispered, her throat tight with tears. 'There were clear signs on your body that you'd had no pulse and hadn't been breathing for a good ten minutes at some point during the fight. She said it should have left you with terrible brain damage that would take months in St. Mungo's to heal.'
'But I'm fine!'
'But you were dead!'
Ron stood still for a few moments, taking deep breaths as though resisting the urge to shout at them all. When he spoke it was in a flat voice. 'Harry saved me. Hermione and I were in the Astronomy Tower when the castle collapsed. Hermione got out somehow, but I didn't. I don't know how he did it, but he must have saved me.' He paused, fixing his dad with an angry look. 'And now you want me to give up on him?'
'But we don't have a clue where to look. He could be anywhere in the world!' Bill stated, turning his back and grabbing one of the maps that lay abandoned on the kitchen floor. 'We've been guessing randomly, but there's no hope. We've tried thinking of all the places familiar to him that he might have gone. From Grimmauld Place to Godric's Hollow to Privet Drive… He's nowhere.'
'You're just not looking hard enough,' Ginny stated.
She lifted her chin defiantly as Charlie began to protest, and went to Bill's side, staring critically at the map. 'Harry was a Muggle for the first eleven years of his life. If he were hurt as a Muggle, where would he go?'
'Hospital? But which one? There's thousands in this country alone!' Bill thumped the map with the back of his hand, shutting his eyes and bowing his head.
Molly pulled away from Arthur and put the kettle on with a flick of her wand, before getting down mugs by hand. Behind her she heard the fire roar to life and turned to look as the orange flames roared up the chimney. Hermione's face appeared, her cheeks wet with tears. She addressed someone over her shoulder, telling them that she felt fine, before looking right at Molly.
'Mrs Weasley, can I come over and talk to you, all of you? It's important.'
'Of course, dear, and call me Molly. You don't have to wait for an invitation to come over.'
The fire turned green and sparks scattered onto the hearth like falling stars, where they died against the cold stone. Genie lifted her head and flicked her ears before moving away from the fireplace. Ron moved closer to the grate, grabbing Hermione's hand as she stumbled into the kitchen. Molly smiled as her youngest son moved closer to the girl he loved, his hands at her waist as he asked her if she was all right, his voice thick with concern.
'I'm fine, Ron. Better than fine.' She smiled, cuffing at her tears with embarrassment. 'I know something about Harry.'
'What?' Ginny demanded, looking up from the map. 'Do you know where he is? Have you found him?'
'No, but I know one thing. It's incredible, and wonderful!' She took a deep breath and sighed. 'I'd better start from the beginning, or you won't even begin to believe me.'
She swept her bushy hair out of her face, ignoring its tangles as she sat in the chair that Ron offered her. Her left hand was clenched into a tight fist around something small, and Molly felt her heart catch in her throat, worry and hope battling fitfully in her chest as Hermione spoke.
'Professor Snape came to my house about an hour ago. He looked, for the first time I can remember, like he was happy about something. He'd been searching the school, or what's left of it, looking for this.' She opened her hand and held up a tiny vial full of dazzling silver light. It swirled in its confines, clinging lovingly to the glass as Hermione's shaking hand made the potion ripple.
'It's the potion Harry mixed with Snape. Do you remember? It's called Calem Potentia.'
Ron nodded, his eyes thoughtful. 'It was supposed to be green, but something made the one Harry and I mixed get silver stars. It didn't look like that though.'
'That's because Harry hadn't matured into what he was going to be. Now he has. I'll bet anything that the very second Voldemort wounded him he reached maturity; maybe that was even the trigger. That's what the magic was about. You remember the gold fog? Professor Snape thinks that it was an enormous spell that Harry created.'
'Only Cerebrals can create spells, and they're born not made.' Charlie stated, clinging to the one fact that had stopped them truly believing what Harry was becoming.
'There are always exceptions, and we've seen Harry create spells!' Hermione motioned to Ron and Ginny. 'I don't know quite how it happened, and maybe