Ron was starving and still groggy from sleep as he stumbled down the stairs at number twelve Grimmauld Place. He glanced at the clock above the sink and realized it was already half nine.
Harry would have been at work for an hour already by now, Ron thought as he scratched his head and made his way into the long kitchen.
He knew for certain that since Monday —when he had glared daggers at Harry in the kitchen — his best friend had been avoiding him. Every day since then, it seemed as if Harry was locked in his room by the time Ron arrived home from the shop or the berk had already gone to work by the time he stumbled out of bed in the mornings.
It was just as well anyhow. Ron still wasn’t in any mood to talk to Harry. Hermione had even slipped into one of her old familiar moods and told him that he acted like a four-year-old about the whole thing. And because of Harry, he and Hermione were still in a bit of a row about it, their first row he could remember in a while.
Ron ran a hand through his ginger hair as he waited for the coffee to perk. He leaned his hands against the wooden work surface and stared at the floor, wondering how it had suddenly gone from extremely dusty a few days ago to near sparkling clean almost overnight. Had Harry been on a cleaning frenzy? Perhaps Kreacher had been here, he thought, although it had been a few months since the house-elf had made a visit.
As he added milk to his coffee, Ron thought about George. Ever since he’d had coffee with Angelica Johnson last week, he’d been in a strange mood. They’d hardly had time to see one another in the past few weeks, anyhow. The New Year’s rush in the shop hadn’t stopped since the day after the Auror’s gathering. In many ways, it was worse than the Christmas rush had been. The hectic pace of helping customers and making sure the shelves were fully stocked and supplied had put him, George and Felicity on edge. Ron sorely missed their lunch breaks from before the holiday season. Those were the rare times that he could get George to talk and laugh and open up, and where he acted more like himself before Fred was gone…
Before closing last night, George had thrown Ron two Galleons and told him to go get himself a drink. George knew how hard he was working and had insisted that, today, he take the morning off from work and not come in until one. Ron had pocketed the gold and gone straight home. He remembered that he should take it to work today, since he had decided to ask Harry out for a pint at the end of the day. Perhaps if the two of them drank ale until they were slightly pissed, then they could patch things up between them. He didn’t want to take forever and a day to make up with Harry, but then again, Harry needed to understand that there was no way on Godric’s green earth that even the saviour of the wizarding world was going to mess his sister around again.
He began to make eggs and sausages, and soon they sizzled in the frying pan. They were just about done, and Ron hungrily tipped them onto a plate. Just as he did, the Floo flashed bright green and he heard a voice calling out.
Ron licked his fingers as he ran to answer, wondering who could be bothering him so early in the morning.
“Yes,” Ron answered, wiping his hands on his shorts. “Hullo. Ron here.” He expected it to be Mum or George. Very few people actually had Floo access to Harry Potter’s house and there were plenty of protections on the home.
“Yes, hello. Mr. Potter, please.”
“Oh, sorry.” Ron cleared his throat. “I think he’s at work. He should be home around six or so. Can I take a message for you?”
“This is the Auror-in-training coordinator, Elberta Dundrige. We’ve on record that Auror-in-training, Harry Potter, should be home ill at this time?”
“Are you certain?” Ron asked, still doubtful.
“Quite. He called in on Monday and our office hasn’t heard from him since.”
Ron paused, still disbelieving. “That’s impossible.”
“I’m calling on orders from Kingsley Shacklebolt himself, Mr. Weasley. Now, do you have information regarding Harry Potter’s whereabouts or not, Mr. Weasley?”
“No… err… but I’m sure he’s upstairs sleeping. I can go and fetch him if you’ll hold.”
“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Weasley. If he is indeed upstairs sleeping, please inform Mr. Potter that he if he does not report into Head Auror Robards’ office at once with an authorized Healer’s note from St. Mungo’s, administrative action will be taken against him. Also, please note that this is a second warning.”
Ron directed his voice at the witch in the fireplace, unaware that his heart was pumping a bit faster than before. “I’ll send the message on.”
“Yes, please do, and also note that he’ll be receiving an owl shortly with the same message, if you’ll see that he gets it, please. You have a good day, Mr. Weasley,” the administrative witch said in a sickly sweet way, reminding Ron distinctly of Umbridge.
Ron made his way upstairs to wake up Harry, eager to get back to his breakfast, and wondering if the administrative witch had her wizards right.
Where would Harry be if he weren’t training in the Auror’s dungeon or home? And was it true that Harry hadn’t been to work in five days? Ron knew that he had become ill the day after the Auror’s party, but he assumed that he had gone back to work on Monday morning.
Ron knocked. Then, he knocked again. Finally, standing at the landing in front of Harry’s door, pointed an Unlocking Spell at it. Bugger. It wouldn’t open. He tried again and it still wouldn’t open. Finally, after two more tries, he banged his elbow into it, hard. Nothing. The blasted door wouldn’t budge! Bugger all!
“Harry!” He banged again. “Would you open the blasted door before I—”
“Needing anything?” a voice croaked.
Ron jumped. ”Kreacher! You gave me a fright.” Ron’s heart skipped a beat at the sudden intrusion from the house-elf, who stared up at him with big eyes in his pale face. He no longer wore a dirty rag. At Hogwarts, all the elves were kept dressed in a clean, tidy tea towel, but he still looked the same as he ever did. Ron thought nothing of it. He knew that Kreacher came by to tidy up the house and look in on Harry every few months, although Harry rarely, if ever, summoned him.
“Is Master Harry needing Kreacher’s assistance?”
“No. Yes,” Ron grumbled, changing his mind. “He’s bloody locked himself in this room with an Im—” Ron knocked his shoulder against the door, “—pene—” Ron knocked himself into the door again, “—trable Charm.”
Kreacher directed his hands at the door and it flew open with a loud bang.
“Thanks, Kreacher.” Ron grinned before turning to enter the room.
Ron was a bit taken aback by his own reaction. He realized he was not shocked and only half surprised by what he saw as soon as he saw it, as if all the events of last week had suddenly clicked into place. In fact, Ron knew his best friend so well that he had no idea why he hadn’t suspected this sooner.
The room was neat and nearly empty save for the furniture. Inside the open wardrobe was a sparsely tidy row of clean work robes and a few shirts that Ron recognized to be Harry’s least favourites out of his small wardrobe. Ron saw something glinting, and stepping closer to the wardrobe, he noticed that Harry’s Order of Merlin was pinned to the dress robes that hung there. The bed was made up; Ron recognized the extra wool blanket that his mum had brought for Harry a few weeks back. It was folded up and placed on the corner of the bed. This tidiness was all very unusual as Ron knew that Harry was usually an enormously messy person, not that Ron could complain: so was he. Even Hermione said that the two of them combined, living under one roof, could have been a mistake, as disorderly as they kept the place. At the moment, Ron could tell that Harry had made an effort to clean up before he departed to wherever it was that he had gone. Then Ron realized with a shock that Harry had indeed departed London.
A sinking feeling of worry crept into the pit of his stomach. Ron took a quick survey of the room once again and noticed that Harry’s rucksack was missing. He usually didn’t go anywhere without it. Thankfully, he had left his school trunk. Ron walked over to it and opened it up just to make sure that his school books, old Quidditch robes and school robes were still there. Harry would have taken these things had he been going somewhere forever. Although, Ron thought darkly, maybe he would have left it behind… no, Harry wouldn’t do that. Hogwarts was important to him and one day he would want these things for his… for his kids. He wouldn’t leave them behind.
Ron had walked toward the bed before he noticed something lying on top of the duvet. It was a large envelope addressed to Harry.
To: Mr. H. Potter, Number twelve, Grimmauld Place. London
It was addressed in Mum’s hand writing. Ron opened it up, knowing what it was as he had received an identical envelope on Monday. He held the photo in his hand and wondered as he watched himself, Hermione and Harry lean lazily against the mantle. The three of them were talking and joking with one another like the old days. Ron looked down at Hermione’s curls, which were straightened out and smoothed back into a hairstyle that had enticed him to kiss her the whole night. Her smooth skin, which he adored, left him aching to run his hands over it. He thought about how lucky he was to have her, and how much he missed that brilliant witch. Hopefully, she wouldn’t stay angry at him for long.
Staring at the photo, Ron marvelled at how grown up the three of them looked in the photos, and how much they had changed in eight short months. They were still the same people, of course, but the war had touched them each, maturing them to almost a point of distance. That, and the dynamic between the three of them had certainly changed when the war ended. He and Hermione had been so involved in each other since then. And since Hermione had decided to go back to complete her schooling, he had been spending most of his time at the shop with George. Perhaps Harry felt as alone as Hermione claimed. But he had Ginny, didn’t he?
Ron regretted for the umpteenth time not going back to finish seventh year with Hermione and Harry. Right now, they could all be at Hogwarts, happy together, instead of contending with the moods and depression that Harry had fallen into. When faced with the option, Harry had been vehemently against going back to school. Ron had wavered whether he should stay or go, but decided in the end that Harry shouldn’t be alone. So he had stayed behind with Harry, not that it mattered to Ron. He really hadn’t wanted to do the school part, just the Hermione part. The one thing Ron regretted was that his own dreams of becoming an Auror would not happen as quickly for him without a seventh-year education. Test scores needed to be tops and requirements to even step your big toe into the training academy were a mile long. Harry had been handed a position which had never been simply given to anyone. And it was the first time he had accepted something the easy way, because Ron’s mum and dad, Ginny, Hermione and Kingsley has pushed him to. He damn well deserved it! In Ron’s opinion, Harry had worked harder for that job than any of the other blokes in there. So why would he want to jeopardize his career by running away?
He looked through the short stack of pictures that his mum had sent, expecting to find the ones of Harry and Ginny together. When he didn’t, he hoped that perhaps Harry had taken those pictures with him. That would mean that maybe there was still an inkling of hope that wherever he had gone, they would be a reminder of what Harry also had going for him in his life.
What was wrong with Harry, anyhow? He had a great job, his own house, loads of money, he was alive — for Merlin’s sake! — and he had Ginny, who really loved him! Ron knew that his best mate had other issues, too, but it befuddled him that Harry seemed to be allowing those issues to suffocate him and disallow him to enjoy or appreciate anything he had going for him in his life. No wonder Ginny was so damn impatient. Anyone would be.
Ron looked back at Kreacher, who was still standing in the hallway.
The elf entered the room, and looked at him expectantly.
“I need to ask you a favour. Please,” Ron added, remembering what Hermione would say if he wasn’t as respectful with the elf as possible. “I know I can’t direct you to do anything or give you orders, since I’m not Harry. Except, with your brand of magic you’re much quicker than I could ever be, so I thought you could help. Kreacher, Harry may be in trouble. Please, if you don’t mind, would you do a quick survey of all the places that Harry might be? My home, The Burrow, or Hogwarts or Gringotts bank, or anywhere else you can think. Perhaps, if you can locate him, I won’t need to alarm anyone else.”
“Is Master Harry in danger?” Kreacher asked, concern flooding his huge eyes.
“I don’t know.”
Kreacher nodded, and disappeared with a loud crack.
Ron forgot about breakfast. He sat back down on Harry’s bed and tried to think. How many days had it been since he had seen him? Two, three, perhaps — at the most? Then again, it wasn’t uncommon to go days without seeing Harry!
Not that he had fancied seeing Harry this week, either! Regardless of what Hermione was insisting about mental issues Harry still had from the war, Ron still wasn’t completely over watching his best mate and sister row like two angry garden gnomes. The thought of seeing Ginny scary upset because of Harry still made Ron’s blood boil. Harry was supposed to be… well, he was supposed to be protecting Ginny and caring for her! He had promised long ago that he wouldn’t mess her around if they did end up together again and Ron had trusted him! He had given Harry a second chance, and now the berk was making her cry. Again! As much as he cared for Harry, Ron would have kicked him in the head that night if it weren’t for Hermione, who had calmed him down from the rage he had felt at seeing Ginny’s tear-stained face.
Of course, Hermione started in on him the next day, accusing him of being ‘blind to the real issues at hand,’ and ‘uncaring about anyone else but himself.’ Ron argued with her and, of course, that row had ensued.
Seriously, Hermione? he remembered yelling. Because if that’s true, then the last year may have very well been a dream because, if I remember correctly, I was the one to bloody give up my own thoughts and needs and goals and desires to help none other than Harry!
So what? Everyone was a bit messed up from last year! How could you not be? They had been through hell! But Harry came out alive, hadn’t he? Couldn’t Harry see that Ginny would fix him if he let her? Then, they could just go on with the rest of their lives, the four of them! The way it was really meant to be, if you asked him.
Ron stood, striding toward the door and across the hall to his own room. He kept the door open in case Kreacher showed up again. While he waited, he decided to write to Hermione to inform her of his hunches about Harry’s disappearance. He sat at his desk, and reached for a quill and inkpot.
He began to tell of the events of the morning which took up most of the parchment.
Now, thinking more about this past week, I know that I last saw him Monday morning. You know that it isn’t unusual for us. I had a crazy week at work and didn’t come home before midnight all week. That’s why I wasn’t suspicious about not seeing him sooner. His room looks like he hasn’t been there at all in the last twenty-four hours at least…
He could be out for breakfast, but there’s no way to be sure.
Just then, Ron heard the loud crack of Apparition.
“Kreacher?” Ron stood.
“Kreacher had Winky assist in searching Hogwarts and its grounds looking for Master Harry. He is not at Hogwarts,” Kreacher announced in his bullfrog voice. “Kreacher himself has been to The Burrow, Gringotts, and the Ministry of Magic. Master Harry is not at these places.”
“If Master Harry is missing, we’ll need to search more…”
“If Harry is missing,” Ron cut him off, “he’s eventually going to come home. Don’t worry, Kreacher. He would want you to rest. Come back tomorrow and I’ll let you know if I need any more of your help.”
“Yes, of course.” And with that, Kreacher Disapparated. Ron went back to his letter.
Don’t be angry, but I had Kreacher tell the other house-elves to search Hogwarts and I also sent him to search other places Harry might be. He didn’t turn up so I have no idea where he could be.
Don’t alarm Ginny! I don’t want her to know just yet, in case we’re wrong. I think it will upset her to know the truth and he’s probably just fine. Even though they’re in a row… she loves him… I know how I would feel if I thought you had disappeared and I didn’t know where you were.
Usually, Ron whispered good morning to Pig and gave him a few owl treats as he tied his note to Hermione around his leg, but today he was annoyed by his constant fidgeting and whispered a string of curses while he held him down and secured the parchment. As he released him out the back window, the excitable owl fluttered around his head twice, scratching his arm with his talons before heading off into the early morning sky.
Molly Weasley sat at the kitchen table with the remains of her morning tea and the Daily Prophet open in front of her. A half-completed letter to Ginny sat to her right, and she had just been ready to pick up her quill again to finish off the letter when the Floo flashed green.
To her surprise and delight, her youngest son dusted himself off as he came out of the fireplace.
Molly smiled widely before she stood up.
“Ronny, what are you doing here? And during the week! To what do we owe the pleasure? Did your brother finally give you a day off?”
Molly’s heart warmed as she viewed her youngest son. It never failed that each time she saw Ron, she couldn’t believe how handsome and grown up he looked.
Ron smiled weakly; by the look on his face, something was wrong.
“What’s the matter, love? Come in and sit down. Feeling peaky? Let me feed you and then you can tell me whatever’s on your mind.”
“In a moment, Mum. I’m here with some news that’s not so great.”
Molly watched as Ron stuffed his hands in his pockets, and looked shiftily around the kitchen. She held her breath for a moment, nearly sickened with worry by his words. Her heart raced at the thought of ‘news-that’s-not-so-great.’ Ever since the war and what had happened to their family, she felt continuously paranoid and protective of her brood as much as ever and she sincerely hoped that Ron wasn’t bearing bad news.
“What is it, Ron?” she urged.
“The Auror’s office rang today that Harry… hadn’t been to work in five days. I… I tried to remember the last time I saw him at home, but it was Monday morning, so what I’m thinking is that… I think… I think he’s gone.”
Molly blinked a few times, in surprise. “Gone? Harry?”
“Why do you suppose he’s gone?” Molly countered, disbelieving it. “Couldn’t he be out to lunch or… working on something top secret?”
“Well, he hasn’t been to work, for one. I think they would know if he were on something top secret, and besides, he’s not an Auror yet. He’s just a trainee. He doesn’t go on missions like that. His room is tidy, which it never is. And he’s taken his rucksack, which he never goes anywhere without.”
“And the last time you saw him? You’re sure it was…”
“Breakfast, Monday morning. Yeah, I’m sure.” Ron slumped into a chair, and Molly sat still for a few moments, thinking, until the green flames of the Floo distracted her from her thoughts. Thinking of Harry and this breaking news, a range of emotions from surprise to anger coursed through her as she patted Ron’s arm and went towards the Floo. Molly heard Fleur’s voice before she approached and saw her face in the green flames.
“Molly, are you there? Eet is Fleur. I ‘ave a few questions about ‘zis knitting pattern you gave me on Sunday, if you are available.”
Molly glanced at the time, hoping it was before ten.
“Hold on one moment, dear.”
Just perfect timing, she thought. Bill was the first one she would have told about Harry’s disappearance, so it was good that Fleur had rung when she had.
“Hi, Fleur. How are you feeling?” Molly directed her voice into the Floo.
“I am fine, thanks.”
“I’ll answer your questions in a few minutes, dear. Instead, I need to speak to Bill. Did he leave for work yet?”
“No, of course not, hold on one moment.”
Molly waited for the scar-lined, yet handsome, face and the deep, steady voice of her oldest son to come to the fire.
“Hi, Mum, need anything?”
“I was wondering if you can come over for a minute, dear. Ron is here, and he needs to speak with you.”
After Bill arrived, Ron retold the events of that morning to his eldest brother.
Bill shook his head and frowned, the furrow in his brow exactly the same as it had always been, even when he was a five-year-old. Molly always would admire her oldest, she thought. How brave a man and brilliant a wizard he was. It seemed, as she and Arthur grew older, it was always Bill who she and Arthur chose to confide in with any of the family’s problems. More and more he was becoming the patriarch of the Weasleys, and it felt almost unreal to Molly to watch this take place. Time had flown by so quickly, and the second war had changed their family so much.
Bill crossed his arms over his chest. “You really think he left? Just off and left for no good reason?”
“I do,” Ron continued. “I mean… actually, Hermione’s been worried that he might do something like this. I just didn’t want to say anything because I figured it was stupid and he wouldn’t. He’s Harry, Mum. He wasn’t going to up and leave us!”
Molly suddenly felt terrible for Ginny. A pang of guilt coursed through her and her head flooded with worry over how Ginny would react to the news of Harry’s disappearance. Her panic rose in waves over the fact that someone would need to tell Ginny about this.
Molly buried her face in her hands. Bill rubbed her shoulder for a moment, awkwardly trying to comfort her. She rested her hand over his and squeezed. It was all her fault! Oh, she remembered Ginny worrying about the same thing last weekend over cocoa, and like her own mum used to do when she was upset, she had soothed her and quieted her fears! Molly hadn’t known or realized that Harry was that much of a flight risk! Just like Ron, she had been sure that Harry wouldn’t leave everything behind.
If she could only send Harry a Howler. Perhaps then he would realize how much she cared about his wellbeing. If there was one thing she wished to pound into that boy’s head, it was that he wasn’t alone in the world, that he had a family who loved him and wanted him close. For the first time, Molly truly blamed herself. Perhaps it had been her fault and Arthur’s for not being more involved in Harry’s life these past few months.
They had always wanted to be involved with Harry and tried to be during his Hogwarts years, opening their home to him and telling him over and over that he was a part of their family. Did he ever believe that? Molly thought back to the many times he stayed with them over the course of the years. One year in particular stood out in her mind. It was the summer of the Quidditch World Cup. That summer, Molly had first noticed that Harry distanced himself from the group when he needed time to think. She wasn’t sure whether he was feeling sad or lost those few weeks after the match. He didn’t seem to be. Yet there were hours in the early mornings and evenings, when Molly had noticed that he used to go off on his own. He would just disappear for an hour here or there and then return as if nothing had happened.
Of course she had been curious as to where he was going, hoping it wasn’t an attempt to meet Sirius or bring attention to his godfather’s re-disappearance. So, finally, to answer his attempts to escape, she would always send Ginny out to check on him. During the few weeks he had stayed with them that summer, Ginny dutifully followed and reported his whereabouts each time he went out on his own. One time, Harry was hiding in the crawl space under the house and another time on the corner roof of the broom shed. And twice, Ginny had even reported that he had taken his brand new Firebolt and was doing fast laps around the orchard.
Ginny had been a young girl back then, barely thirteen.
Molly felt another shooting stab of guilt when she realized something she never had. No wonder Ginny had fallen in love with Harry! Perhaps all along Molly had perpetuated her daughter’s already present admiration for Harry by sending her to watch over him. How many hours had Ginny sat that summer and studied Harry on her orders?
Come now, don’t take all the blame now, Molly! she told herself. Ginny is her own person, of course! And Harry is a handsome boy, and always around, so it wasn’t unlikely that Ginny would have fallen in love with him, regardless… but maybe not so young and so deeply, she added, piling more blame on herself. To see how Harry was affecting Ginny worried Molly quite a bit. All her whinging and carrying on about never being truly happy without him, both during the war and now after! It had bordered on unhealthy, in her opinion, and that was why she had to say something. In fact, not since Tonks had Molly ever seen anyone so lovesick. Frankly, she felt she never had much patience for that type of behaviour. Even if she tried to be compassionate towards the girls, she ended up frustrated. Perhaps it was because Arthur had always been the one for her, and he had never put her through any sort of rough spots. Molly was the first to admit that she barely understood how Ginny must feel.
“Don’t look so worried, Mum,” Bill stood. “I’ll go tell Dad about this. Perhaps we can find someone who may have more information about Harry’s whereabouts. Are there any people who know him socially, or he’s friendly with at work? Perhaps they’ll have a clue as to where he’s gone?”
Ron tapped his fingers on the table, studying the wooden surface for a moment, “I wouldn’t say Harry knows many people socially these days. There’s Ash. He’s that Indian bloke Harry’s become friendly with.”
“Ash. I see.” Bill had procured a parchment and wrote down the name.
“Bill, if I don’t know much about where Harry went, then I’m not sure Ash will. Also, maybe Hermione or Ginny have more clues so… maybe I’ll go to Hogwarts after classes are over for the day.”
“Good idea. I’ll let you know what happens at the Ministry, and you let me know what the girls say about this.”
The three of them sat in silence for a few moments until Ron spoke up.
“I knew he was having a rough go of it. He and Ginny had that big fight after the Auror’s party.”
“And they broke up,” Bill mentioned. “You must know, Mum. Fleur was in tears over it the other night, although she said it was for the best. In a way, I agree. Fleur’s told me… a variety of things about their relationship and his behaviour, plenty of things that I’m choosing to ignore for the time being, at least until Harry’s head is on straight.”
“They broke up?” Ron exclaimed. “Hold on, when?”
“Yeah, apparently they did. A few days back, I think,” Bill went on, “Fleur’s been trying to be helpful to Ginners ever since she asked for some advice back in October, but… I noticed when we had him over for dinner back in the beginning of December that he seemed to be… more quiet than usual, which is saying a lot, and… troubled. I almost suggested that Fleur brew him a Calming Draught, but I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries.”
Molly was curious about their break up, but decided not to ask. She hadn’t known that Ginny had listened to her good advice and gone ahead and broken things off with Harry. She also hadn’t known that Ginny was confiding in her sister-in-law. In agreement with Fleur, she also felt that Ginny had done the right thing, as she had urged her, too. She still felt that it was the right thing for her daughter at this point in time. However, she must not have been thinking about how it would affect Harry, as it so obviously had. Molly realized she had never viewed anything from Harry’s perspective or thought of how this decision might affect his fragile state of mind. She felt torn between caring for her daughter, and wanting to care for Harry and his issues.
Poor Harry. He was much worse for the wear than she and Arthur had suspected. Had he been trying to fool them? He had seemed so happy over the Christmas hols! Happy to be with Ginny, happy to be with the family, that they had forgotten that he had all but disappeared on them for weeks at a time in autumn. Suddenly, Molly felt more remorseful than ever that her own problems, losing her son and coping with the after-effects of the war, meant she wasn’t more aware of what was bothering Harry. In fact, she hadn’t thought of the fact that she and Arthur were the only two caring adults left in Harry’s life, and he wasn’t coming to them with his problems; not only that, he hadn’t come to them in a long time. She recalled how Harry used to confide in Arthur. He used to ask her advice and come to her for comfort, and he had not since before Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Both she and her husband were to blame for this distance, she knew, but she wasn’t sure what to do about it at all.
She counted the days on her fingertips in her mind. She had always been quite good at calculations. Five days. Her mind broke the five days into hours and the hours into minutes and each minute she counted was another minute her best friend was travelling away from her and out of her life.
A tear trickled down her cheek and she let it fall as another came to match it. Would she ever see him again? Would he ever come home? She feared the answer was grim. He would stay away a long time, unless something could be done to bring him back. But what?
This wasn’t a surprise. It was what she had worried about for months and it had come true. Unfortunately, Ron hadn’t listened to her, and she had been too scared to confront Harry about her hunches until last week. Hermione berated herself again and again. What more could she have done? She should have confronted him sooner. She could have showed him that she cared and that she wanted to see that he received help. She could have spoken to Ginny sooner about her concerns. What else?
Ron and Ginny were sitting in front of the common room fire, speaking in hushed whispers, and she watched the brother and sister for a moment. Ginny’s head was bowed, her long hair falling down her back, and she was hugging her knees to her chest. Ron was caught between trying to comfort her and talk to her.
Blimey! It frustrated her so, what Harry had done! However, Hermione understood why he had gone. Everyone had been so blind when it came to what he was going through. Now, eight months after the war, Harry was in a worse state than he had been during it and thus far everyone had been less than helpful to him. His best friend was too busy for him. His girlfriend was too caught up in wanting to love him to help him. The adults he had to turn to were not made aware of his issues! Even his superiors at work didn’t see it. The reason? Harry had kept it all inside. He had played off ‘I’m fine,’ to too many people, too many times. He simply hadn’t asked for help and, in a strange way Hermione didn’t understand, he hadn’t realized he needed any, maybe until just recently.
Hermione tried to look at the reasons why he would have gone. He needed time away. He thought that going on some sort of break would heal him? Especially in light of the barrage of speeches Ginny had poured on him last week. Of course, she realized Ginny’s need to spill her soul to Harry. Although, if asked what she thought beforehand, Hermione would have advised Ginny to at least wait until his head was a bit clearer before doing so.
Harry did love Ginny. Hermione knew that, but he wasn’t ready to face it or accept it or do anything about it. Ginny simply needed to give him time. Still, she admitted, if Ron had been half the prat that Harry had been this past autumn, she would have probably made Ginny’s difficult choice. It was difficult to explain to Ginny in her state, the fact that Harry was facing real issues from the war which came before her need to love and be loved by him. It was so complicated a situation and so involved that to take sides would be difficult at best. She understood both parties and the decisions they had made and was trying her best not to judge Harry or Ginny.
Hermione looked up as a flash of ginger hair caught her eye. Ginny hadn’t taken the news of Harry’s disappearance well at all and she had just torn out of the common room. Hermione didn’t stop her, or try to comfort her, as she was afraid of what the younger girl would say in her angry state. She nearly always had a sharp tongue and a witty comment to throw back and it was worse when she was upset. Right now, she was probably very upset. It was best to leave Ginny alone when she was.
Ron came over to her and sighed, his face worn and weary. It was similar to how he had looked during the war, and for the first time since, Hermione had the same sort of feeling inside her as she did during those months: despair, grief and fear that nothing would ever be the same. Ron stood in front of her, bowing his head and closing the space between them. They were old friends. To be this close to him was comforting.
“What do you think, Hermione, about this mess?” Ron moved a piece of hair from her shoulder to her back.
Hermione rested her head gently on Ron’s chest. “I think Harry’s really crying out for help, Ron. Now do you see why I was so upset with you? Can you see it now, too? He’s pushed everyone away, one by one: you, your parents, Ginny. He tried to push me away until I finally had enough of it. Can’t you see now what I was trying to talk to you about last week?”
“I… suppose I can.” Ron wrapped his arms around her waist. “I’m sorry. At least one good thing came out of Harry’s disappearance: we’re not in a row anymore.”
“Who says we’re not in a row?” Hermione argued. Even though she did not feel much like smiling, the corner of her lips turned upward.
“Err… are you still angry at me for last week?”
Hermione nodded, her head still against his chest. Ron took a deep breath, still holding her.
“You’re an insensitive prat, Ron. You were no help to him. Now look at what he’s done.”
“True, but it’s not all my fault! If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s my sister’s…”
“It’s everyone’s fault, Ron. Every single one of us has been ignorant of his issues. Now, we’re going to need to bring him home at whatever costs or lose him completely.”
“No,” Ron said firmly. “I won’t.”
Ron heaved a sigh. “I wish Harry had asked someone for help or had talked to us sooner, instead of up and running away like this. Now what do we do? Go looking for him? Another hunt. This time, the Harry hunt? And where would we begin? Could we really find him with nothing to go on?”
“Ron,” Hermione turned her chin up at him, “we found four Horcruxes. We can find one Harry. It’s just… does he want to be found? That’s the question. I wouldn’t want to go after him only to have him turn his back on all of us again. I think… well, I think Harry’s going to have to make the decision that he wants to come home. And that’s something he’s going to need to do alone. Let’s just hope he can make it on his own.”
“I think it’s something he can do on his own, but I also think he needs a kick in the arse to do it. You know how he is with emotional things.”
“I agree. We’ll need to think of a plan soon.” She sighed. “I fear the longer he stays away, the less likely it is he will come back.” Hermione breathed in, feeling the rise and fall of Ron’s chest before she sat back again. “How’s Ginny?”
“She’s … not well. She’s a mess. I’m sorry you can’t stand it when I get angry at Harry for doing all this to her, but I sincerely wish he… would make up his bloody mind. Love her, or don’t love her. And if you don’t, leave her the hell alone!”
“Ginny makes Harry happy… and you and I both know he loves her.”
“Then what’s the problem? Why can’t he see it?”
Hermione made a pained face. “It’s so complicated, Ron.”
“Well, if I had known it was going to be this way, I never would have given him the approval the second time around. She’s better off with Dean Thomas. At least he treated her with half an ounce of decency!”
Hermione huffed and stalked away towards the dormitories until Ron ran after her, shouting. Ron still didn’t get it, did he?
“What did I say?” He caught up with her.
“Ron,” Hermione turned swiftly, “I think we need to talk. In private. There… there are some things you should know about Harry and Ginny.”
When Ron arrived back at Grimmauld Place, he checked Harry’s bedroom, hopeful for a sign of life, but Harry was still missing.
Hermione wasn’t as angry at him as she was before the visit, and now that she had explained their situation to him a bit better, he was more understanding. He was surprisingly more annoyed with Ginny than he was with Harry after their conversation, which was a shocker!
Apparently, with Harry’s issues abounding, Ron hadn’t been aware of just how deep they ran. Ron had been pushing the love issue on Harry, too, and he had spent a lot of time worrying about how he was treating Ginny, but in fact, Ginny was also getting far ahead of herself. Sure, she loved him, but she was pushing the issue on a person that wasn’t emotionally stable. It was bound to end up in a wreck!
Besides, Ron also thought that if Ginny knew what was wrong with Harry, she shouldn’t have broken up with him. You didn’t just break it off if you end up in a row! You fight a bit and make up! It’s what he and Hermione always did! Even tonight, they had managed to finally come to a resolution about the argument they had last week, and, low and behold, they had made up. Although he knew it was mostly Harry’s fault for Ginny’s emotional state, Ginny should have… not given up. Not yet. She should have just been patient and been… there for him. That’s what Harry would have appreciated most of all when the time came for him to be ready to love her or accept that he did, either one.
Ron went to bed that night with a heaviness in his chest that he couldn’t ignore. Where could Harry have possibly gone and what could he be doing? Ron blamed himself. If only he had been more attentive in the past few months. Harry had needed him and maybe he had failed to be there for his friend. And all, what Harry had done was backslide into the same depression he had experienced after Sirius’s death and then Dumbledore’s.
Ron decided to start thinking of how to bring Harry back. Although wracking his brain for hours a day, with no luck, a full week later, there was still no sign of Harry and they were no closer to finding him.
Ron had been to the Ministry to speak to Ash and Kingsley and neither had any clue. He had asked Ginny and Hermione if they had ever spoken to Harry about holiday destinations, and he had scoured his brain for conversations they may have had about travelling the world. Ginny’s latest letter was full of information, but Ron had no idea where to even begin. He had begun to make a list which he had tacked to his wall.
Jamaica — Hermione said that he had read in a magazine in a grocery when they had been shopping for food on the Horcrux hunt, that it had Blue Mountains and black sand beaches. He figured it had to be beautiful and worth going.
Barcelona, Spain — Ginny said that he was invited to go and he didn’t because he was busy with work, and worried how she might feel about it. Maybe he went seeking Verona Vie, that pop star. Who knows?
Great Barrier Reef, Australia — I don’t think, at this point in his life, that he’s apt to swim with the sharks, although who knows.
Hawaii — he always wanted to see volcanoes.
His plan was simply to just go to each of these places and search for him. He had no idea where to begin, but he was sure Hermione had her own list a mile long of where Harry could be, and he relied on her to have some sort of plan when the time came. If they were going to search for Harry, he would need to save some money first to cover travelling expenses, lodging and food. He was willing to wait to leave for the search until Hermione could come with him, when she left Hogwarts in June. Ron didn’t want to wait that long to leave, but he didn’t think he could search for Harry without her.
The house felt strange and empty to Ron midway through the second week without Harry. He considered moving back to The Burrow for awhile and within a two-day time period decided it was the right thing to do.
He couldn’t live in Harry’s house without Harry.
Ron sat in his bedroom back at The Burrow, still dumbfounded as ever by Harry’s disappearance.
Two and a half weeks after Ron’s initial visit, Mrs. Weasley sat at her kitchen table in the dark of early morning. She rarely, if ever, drank coffee, but she was too tired for tea. She needed an extra boost. It was nearly dawn and already she had outdone herself worrying for Harry for the umpteenth night in a row.
A few sips later, she was feeling more awake and made herself toast and sweet raspberry jam which tasted of summer.
Something kept pestering her, like an itch she could not scratch and that’s what kept her up at night. The night she’d had the conversation with Ginny about how to proceed with Harry, she had promised Ginny that she would find Harry and drag him back to The Burrow if he decided to go away. Never having expected to need to live up to that promise, she realized now that if she didn’t do something, and soon, Harry could be gone forever.
As soon as Arthur was gone to the Ministry for the day, Molly Weasley took the Floo to the Leaky Cauldron. As she walked through the dark pub towards the entrance to Diagon Alley, she noticed how much cleaner the establishment looked these days and how they had fixed the bricks in the entrance; it really did look lovely. The world was slowly but surely going back to normal. It was as if the last year or so had been a dream, and often she wondered, ‘Did I really lose my son? Did that really happen to my Bill? Did this really happen?’ she knew others before her had gone on and moved on with their lives and she would, too, but it didn’t make it any easier to cope with.
She stopped in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies and gazed into their window display. There was a notice board in the window regarding the league tryouts that Ginny was set to go out for in February. Staring at the mannequin wearing Montrose Magpies Robes, she imagined Ginny’s face replacing the mannequin’s. That was what she wanted and Molly knew Ginny was relentless when she wanted something. She was the type of girl who could do anything she set her mind to, as if she had a power inside her that drove her to her goals. Besides, Molly was as wise as her years. She had learned a long time ago that it was useless to stand in the way of your child’s dreams. The best she could do was be supportive. She and Arthur were already saving up for a racing broom for Ginny — if she did make it into the league, it would be her present for leaving Hogwarts. Arthur was set on paying top Galleon for the best broom and had even requested, in his wonky way, that Harry be the one to choose which broom they should buy her. Molly had liked that idea — involving Harry like that when it came to choosing something for Ginny felt so strangely natural and right.
Molly decided that the point of today’s trip to Diagon Alley was to make her weekly visit to George and Ron at the shop. However, she soon realized, from the moment she stepped inside, that the shop was quite busy today and George was helping customers left and right, far too busy to talk. She was glad for George because the shop really was his passion. Ron, who was back to staying at The Burrow while Harry was away, was restocking shelves. Molly tried to talk to him, but he was shuffling around, still as morose as he had been for the two weeks since Harry’s disappearance. Feeling it was right to leave the boys alone, she left soon after she had come.
She checked the clock before she did, and realized she still had an hour and a half until she was to meet Arthur for lunch.
Molly had also wanted to visit Flourish and Blotts, so she strolled down the street and went into the shop. It seemed the right place to look, or to begin.
As she roamed the travel section, she wondered, Where would I be if I were an eighteen-year-old boy?
Molly was stumped. The only travel books on display were those discussing wizarding destinations. Touring Transylvania, The Wizarding Guide to South Africa and the Ivory Coast, Atlantis: a Visitor’s Travelogue. Harry wouldn’t be in any of these places. Molly simply knew it.
Feeling disheartened, she walked out of the shop and down the road back towards the Leaky Cauldron and out into Muggle London.
Molly breathed in the cold, late January air. It had been a long time since she’d had the freedom of walking around London without the threat of Death Eaters looming. Since the second war was over, she was still not used to having the time or the freedom to stroll slowly along and window shop along the way and she tried to enjoy it as best she could.
Molly made her way to the Tube station and took the Underground to Regents Park. Arthur was planning to meet her at one of their favourite cafes for lunch and she was still a bit early.
She wandered around and finally came to sit at a bench by the playpark. Molly watched the children taking turns on a merry-go-round and swings, remembering her little ones at that age and how they loved to come to Muggle playparks as children. She had spent many happy afternoons here picnicking with the twins, Ron, and Ginny before they began their formal schooling. She could still see her two identical boys who loved to trick her, even at that age, by changing their clothes. Ron’s mop of ginger hair and big blue eyes stuck out in her mind and Ginny’s pigtails and dirt-smeared frocks would never be forgotten. Arthur used to meet them in the park for an hour during his lunch break, and those were some of the happiest times she could remember. Back then, she had been warned by the old lady on the bench who would see her tramping about with the four little ones that the days would turn into years and go by so quickly. Now she was the old lady on the bench, she thought, as she watched one mother with a pram and a toddler. They had all grown up too soon, Molly thought sadly. Still, the thought that she was about to become a grandmother cheered her up somewhat. She was ready for a grandchild, and the thought of herself and Arthur bringing Bill’s son or daughter to romp around the playpark filled her with anticipation of happier times ahead.
As she made her way to the café where she was to meet Arthur, a sign caught her eye.
Travel Agency, the sign read and underneath a smaller sign flashed, Open, come in.
A travel agency! Well, why hadn’t she thought of that? Someone here ought to know where an eighteen-year-old, emotionally-troubled boy would go. If she were to ask the question in her head to anyone, a travel agency would know!
Molly walked in. The woman there was just a bit older than her oldest boys, but not by much.
“Hi, dear. I’m so sorry to bother you, is it all right if I ask a few questions?”
“Absolutely. Are you here to inquire about travel destinations Mrs…?”
“Weasley. Yes, in fact, I am, but not for me. This may sound strange, but if you were an eighteen-year-old boy, where might you travel? Is there a specific destination in any city perhaps that you would frequent?”
“Absolutely.” The women walked over to stand behind her desk. “Are you sending a son or daughter of yours on holiday?”
“No, no, I’m looking for someone and wondering where he may have gone. This may sound awfully strange, but… if you had an eighteen-year-old boy walk in here right now and ask to go somewhere, where would you send him?”
“Oh, well, it depends on the boy.” The woman sat behind her desk. “I mean, I imagine if he’s looking for love or likes to go out dancing and drinking, I would have a few destinations to send him to. Is the boy you’re thinking of like that, or is he more of the quiet type?”
“I’m not sure, really. Why, I think he’s both. He’s much quieter, but to break out of his shell or because he’s upset, he would most likely want to drink himself silly. And,” Molly swallowed, her heart aching for her daughter, “what… young bloke doesn’t like being around beautiful women?”
“That’s funny you say that. I had one boy last month who looked around that age. I thought he might be older, but… he was sort of both. This is where I made his travel plans for,” the woman said, handing Molly a brochure. “It may interest you and the boy you have in mind.”
Molly gazed at the brochure, which showed sun-drenched beaches, outdoor cafes and nightlife. Barcelona, Spain. She thought, on the off chance, she should ask…
“Was this young man tall, with unkempt, long, dark hair and glasses, and green, green eyes?”
“I’m sorry. I can’t remember.”
“Was his face quite handsome? He really is a handsome boy… but he’s so polite and agreeable, and…”
“I can’t remember. We see so many clients go in and out. You must understand, it would be difficult to remember features.”
Molly took one more glance at the pamphlet. “Thank you, dear. May I keep this?”
“Of course. Have a great day, ma’am,” the travel agent said with a smile.
Hermione sat in the library, her books laid out in front of her, her forehead knotted with concentration as she furiously wrote to Ron. She had just had a breakthrough in her thinking regarding Harry and how to contact him. How did she not think of this before?
I’ve just had a brilliant idea. Today! I can’t believe it…
I was thinking that we could all write letters to Harry. Not just you, me and Ginny, but anyone and everyone who knows Harry and wants to talk to him about coming home…
We could deliver them to him by owl! There’s a charm… I remembered it when I was addressing a letter to Mum today. I’m doing more research as we speak, but basically, it is a charm to find a specific address for a person wherever they may be and also, to forward mail to the next address they move to. Remember our Hogwarts letters? They were charmed to find us, even if we moved. Mine came while we were on a weekend holiday for my birthday in the Isle of Wight. Even back then, I knew it had found me simply because it was mine! So I’m thinking that we can charm these to find Harry. I’m going to need to work on it for a few more days, and also ask Professor McGonagall if she knows exactly how it works. We’ll put all the envelopes in one large one, and then I’ll simply need to perform the charm one time. If it works correctly, the letters will follow him. They’ll actually forward themselves on to his next address if he leaves his current one! I’m going to work on the charm now.
She received a letter back from Ron two days later at breakfast. So much had happened since. She was already set and she had the specific charm in her rucksack. She needed to practice, but she knew she would have it down before long. Professor McGonagall had claimed that it wasn’t all that difficult.
Brilliant! I like the idea of the letters. If you tell me to go ahead, I’ll begin asking my mum and my brothers to work on their letters. I think if we can give everyone a week to get us their letter, that will be enough. I know George would like to write one, and I wonder if Bill would, and Fleur. I’ll ask. I’ll ask that bloke Ash in Harry’s training class, too.
You are the most brilliant, beautiful and wonderful witch, Hermione. Can you really make this work?
Hermione knew that she could. She only hoped that it would work to help bring Harry home. Otherwise, they would need to go to Plan B, which was to go out and physically search for him, something they hoped to avoid.
Go ahead and ask for people’s letters. A week’s timeframe is fine. Ginny is writing to Neville, and she’s already asked Luna and Hagrid. I really think this is going to work, and I’m glad I had the idea.
I’m sorry I’ve been so busy… I hope I can see you sometime soon. Harry’s stint away has distracted me somewhat and I’ve been overly sensitive, I know.
I hope this will get through to him in the way it needs to. I have a good feeling about it. Thanks for those compliments, Ron. I miss you.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this interlude of sorts on the action. I felt a need to step aside and explore these three viewpoints, Ron, Hermione and Molly Weasley. All three are forced to really think of how they treated Harry these past few months, about the situation between him and Ginny, and why they chose to blame themselves. Please let me know what you think of this break in the action. I know it’s been awhile since my last update, so thanks for your patience. My real life still continues to take up much of my time, but I’ll always try and work on this when I can in order to drive the story forward. Thank you to Arnel for her careful beta skills and diligence in getting these chapters back to me quickly. Thanks to all of you for your support and readership!