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â€œEasy, now,â€ said Ted Tonks, placing a hand on Harryâ€™s shoulder and pushing him back against the cushions. â€œThat was a nasty crash you just had. What happened, anyway? Something go wrong with the bike? Arthur Weasley overstretch himself again, him and his Muggle contraptions?â€.cheap sexy prom dresses.
â€œNo,â€ said Harry, as his scar pulsed like an open wound. â€œDeath Eaters, loads of them â€“ we were chased â€“ â€
â€œDeath Eaters?â€ said Ted sharply. â€œWhat dâ€™you mean, Death Eaters? I thought they didnâ€™t know you were being moved tonight, I thought â€“ â€
â€œThey knew,â€ said Harry.
Ted Tonks looked up at the ceiling as though he could see through it to the sky above.
â€œWell, we know our protective charms hold, then, donâ€™t we? They shouldnâ€™t be able to get within a hundred yards of the place in any direction.â€
Now Harry understood why Voldemort had vanished; it had been at the point when the motorbike crossed the barrier of the Orderâ€™s charms. He only hoped they would continue to work: He imagined Voldemort, a hundred yards above them as they spoke, looking for a way to penetrate what Harry visualized as a great transparent bubble.
He swung his legs off the sofa; he needed to see Hagrid with his own eyes before he would believe that he was alive. He had barely stood up, however, when a door opened and Hagrid squeezed through it, his face covered in mud and blood, limping a little but miraculously alive.
Knocking over two delicate tables and an aspidistra, he covered the floor between them in two strides and pulled Harry into a hug that nearly cracked his newly repaired ribs. â€œBlimey, Harry, how did yeh get out oâ€™ that? I thought we were both goners.â€
â€œYeah, me too. I canâ€™t believe â€“ â€
Harry broke off. He had just noticed the woman who had entered the room behind Hagrid.
â€œYou!â€ he shouted, and he thrust his hand into his pocket, but it was empty.
â€œYour wandâ€™s here, son,â€ said Ted, tapping it on Harryâ€™s arm. â€œIt fell right beside you, I picked it upâ€¦And thatâ€™s my wife youâ€™re shouting at.â€
â€œOh, Iâ€™m â€“ Iâ€™m sorry.â€
As she moved forward into the room, Mrs. Tonksâ€™s resemblance to her sister Bellatrix became much less pronounced: Her hair was a light soft brown and her eyes were wider and kinder. Nevertheless, she looked a little haughty after Harryâ€™s exclamation.
â€œWhat happened to our daughter?â€ she asked. â€œHagrid said you were ambushed; where is Nymphadora?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ said Harry. â€œWe donâ€™t know what happened to anyone else.â€
She and Ted exchanged looks. A mixture of fear and guilt gripped Harry at the sight of their expressions, if any of the others had died, it was his fault, all his fault. He had consented to the plan, given them his hairâ€¦
â€œThe Portkey,â€ he said, remembering all of a sudden. â€œWeâ€™ve got to get back to the Burrow and find out â€“ then weâ€™ll be able to send you word, or â€“ or Tonks will, once sheâ€™s â€“ â€
â€œDoraâ€™ll be ok, â€˜Dromeda,â€ said Ted. â€œShe knows her stuff, sheâ€™s been in plenty of tight spots with the Aurors. The Portkeyâ€™s through here,â€ he added to Harry. â€œItâ€™s supposed to leave in three minutes, if you want to take it.â€
â€œYeah, we do,â€ said Harry. He seized his rucksack, swung it onto his shoulders. â€œI â€“ â€
He looked at Mrs. Tonks, wanting to apologize for the state of fear in which he left her and for which he felt so terribly responsible, but no words occurred to him that he did not seem hollow and insincere.
â€œIâ€™ll tell Tonks â€“ Dora â€“ to send word, when sheâ€¦ Thanks for patching us up, thanks for everything, I â€“ â€
He was glad to leave the room and follow Ted Tonks along a short hallway and into a bedroom. Hagrid came after them, bending low to avoid hitting his head on the door lintel.
â€œThere you go, son. Thatâ€™s the Portkey.â€
Mr. Tonks was pointing to a small, silver-backed hairbrush lying on the dressing table.
â€œThanks,â€ said Harry, reaching out to place a finger on it, ready to leave.
â€œWait a moment,â€ said Hagrid, looking around. â€œHarry, whereâ€™s Hedwig?â€
â€œSheâ€¦ she got hit,â€ said Harry.
The realization crashed over him: He felt ashamed of himself as the tears stung his eyes. The owl had been his companion, his one great link with the magical world whenever he had been forced to return to the Dursleys.
Hagrid reached out a great hand and patted him painfully on the shoulder.
â€œNever mind,â€ he said gruffly, â€œNever mind. She had a great old life â€“ â€
â€œHagrid!â€ said Ted Tonks warningly, as the hairbrush glowed bright blue, and Hagrid only just got his forefinger to it in time.
With a jerk behind the navel as though an invisible hook and line had dragged him forward, Harry was pulled into nothingness, spinning uncontrollably, his finger glued to the Portkey as he and Hagrid hurtled away from Mr. Tonks. Second later, Harryâ€™s feet slammed onto hard ground and he fell onto his hands and knees in the yard of the Burrow. He heard screams. Throwing aside the no longer glowing hairbrush, Harry stood up, swaying slightly, and saw Mrs. Weasley and Ginny running down the steps by the back door as Hagrid, who had also collapsed on landing, clambered laboriously to his feet.
â€œHarry? You are the real Harry? What happened? Where are the others?â€ cried Mrs. Weasley.
â€œWhat dâ€™you mean? Isnâ€™t anyone else back?â€ Harry panted.
The answer was clearly etched in Mrs. Weasleyâ€™s pale face.
â€œThe Death Eaters were waiting for us,â€ Harry told her, â€œWe were surrounded the moment we took off â€“ they knew it was tonight â€“ I donâ€™t know what happened to anyone else, four of them chased us, it was all we could do to get away, and then Voldemort caught up with us â€“ â€
He could hear the self-justifying note in his voice, the plea for her to understand why he did not know what had happened to her sons, but â€“
â€œThank goodness youâ€™re all right,â€ she said, pulling him into a hug he did not feel he deserved.
â€œHavenâ€™t goâ€™ any brandy, have yeh, Molly?â€ asked Hagrid a little shakily, â€œFer medicinal purposes?â€
She could have summoned it by magic, but as she hurried back toward the crooked house, Harry knew that she wanted to hide her face. He turned to Ginny and she answered his unspoken plea for information at once.
â€œRon and Tonks should have been back first, but they missed their Portkey, it came back without them,â€ she said, pointing at a rusty oil can lying on the ground nearby. â€œAnd that one,â€ she pointed at an ancient sneaker, â€œshould have been Dad and Fredâ€™s, they were supposed to be second. You and Hagrid were third and,â€ she checked her watch, â€œif they made it, George and Lupin aught to be back in about a minute.â€
Mrs. Weasley reappeared carrying a bottle of brandy, which she handed to Hagrid. He uncorked it and drank it straight down in one.
â€œMum!â€ shouted Ginny pointing to a spot several feet away.
A blue light had appeared in the darkness: It grew larger and brighter, and Lupin and George appeared, spinning and then falling. Harry knew immediately that there was something wrong: Lupin was supporting George, who was unconscious and whose face was covered in blood.
Harry ran forward and seized Georgeâ€™s legs. Together, he and Lupin carried George into the house and through the kitchen to the living room, where they laid him on the sofa. As the lamplight fell across Georgeâ€™s head, Ginny gasped and Harryâ€™s stomach lurched: One of Georgeâ€™s ears was missing. The side of his head and neck were drenched in wet, shockingly scarlet blood.
No sooner had Mrs. Weasley bent over her son that Lupin grabbed Harry by the upper arm and dragged him, none too gently, back into the kitchen, where Hagrid was still attempting to ease his bulk through the back door.
â€œOi!â€ said Hagrid indignantly, â€œLeâ€™ go of him! Leâ€™ go of Harry!â€
Lupin ignored him.
â€œWhat creature sat in the corner the first time that Harry Potter visited my office at Hogwarts?â€ he said, giving Harry a small shake. â€œAnswer me!â€
â€œA â€“ a grindylow in a tank, wasnâ€™t it?â€
Lupin released Harry and fell back against a kitchen cupboard.
â€œWhaâ€™ was thaâ€™ about?â€ roared Hagrid.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, Harry, but I had to check,â€ said Lupin tersely. â€œWeâ€™ve been betrayed. Voldemort knew that you were being moved tonight and the only people who could have told him were directly involved in the plan. You might have been an impostor.â€
â€œSo why arenâ€™ you checkinâ€™ me?â€ panted Hagrid, still struggling with the door.
â€œYouâ€™re half-giant,â€ said Lupin, looking up at Hagrid. â€œThe Polyjuice Potion is designed for human use only.â€
â€œNone of the Order would have told Voldemort we were moving tonight,â€ said Harry. The idea was dreadful to him, he could not believe it of any of them. â€œVoldemort only caught up with me toward the end, he didnâ€™t know which one I was in the beginning. If heâ€™d been in on the plan heâ€™d have known from the start I was the one with Hagrid.â€
â€œVoldemort caught up with you?â€ said Lupin sharply. â€œWhat happened? How did you escape?â€
Harry explained how the Death Eaters pursuing them had seemed to recognize him as the true Harry, how they had abandoned the chase, how they must have summoned Voldemort, who had appeared just before he and Hagrid had reached the sanctuary of Tonksâ€™s parents.
â€œThey recognized you? But how? What had you done?â€
â€œIâ€¦â€ Harry tried to remember; the whole journey seemed like a blur of panic and confusion. â€œI saw Stan Shunpikeâ€¦. You know, the bloke who was the conductor on the Knight Bus? And I tried to Disarm him instead of â€“ well, he doesnâ€™t know what heâ€™s doing, does he? He must be Imperiused!â€
Lupin looked aghast.
â€œHarry, the time for Disarming is past! These people are trying to capture and kill you! At least Stun if you arenâ€™t prepared to kill!â€
â€œWe were hundreds of feet up! Stanâ€™s not himself, and if I Stunned him and heâ€™d fallen, heâ€™d have died the same as if Iâ€™d used Avada Kedavra! Expelliarmus saved me from Voldemort two years ago,â€ Harry added defiantly. Lupin was reminding him of the sneering Hufflepuff Zacharias Smith, who had jeered at Harry for wanting to teach Dumbledoreâ€™s Army how to Disarm.
â€œYes, Harry,â€ said Lupin with painful restraint, â€œand a great number of Death Eaters witnessed that happening! Forgive me, but it was a very unusual move then, under the imminent threat of death. Repeating it tonight in front of Death Eaters who either witnessed or heard about the first occasion was close to suicidal!â€
â€œSo you think I should have killed Stan Shunpike?â€ said Harry angrily.
â€œOf course not,â€ said Lupin, â€œbut the Death Eaters â€“ frankly, most people! â€“ would have expected you to attack back! Expelliarmus is a useful spell, Harry, but the Death Eaters seem to think it is your signature move, and I urge you not to let it become so!â€
Lupin was making Harry feel idiotic, and yet there was still a grain of defiance inside him.
â€œI wonâ€™t blast people out of my way just because theyâ€™re there,â€ said Harry, â€œThatâ€™s Voldemortâ€™s job.â€
Lupinâ€™s retort was lost: Finally succeeding in squeezing through the door, Hagrid staggered to a chair and sat down; it collapsed beneath him. Ignoring his mingled oaths and apologies, Harry addressed Lupin again.
â€œWill George be okay?â€
All Lupinâ€™s frustration with Harry seemed to drain away at the question.
â€œI think so, although thereâ€™s no chance of replacing his ear, not when itâ€™s been cursed off â€“ â€
There was a scuffling from outside. Lupin dived for the back door; Harry leapt over Hagridâ€™s legs and sprinted into the yard.
Two figures had appeared in the yard, and as Harry ran toward them he realized they were Hermione, now returning to her normal appearance, and Kingsley, both clutching a bent coat hanger, Hermione flung herself into Harryâ€™s arms, but Kingsley showed no pleasure at the sight of any of them. Over Hermioneâ€™s shoulder Harry saw him raise his wand and point it at Lupinâ€™s chest.
â€œThe last words Albus Dumbledore spoke to the pair of us!â€
â€œâ€˜Harry is the best hope we have. Trust him,â€™â€ said Lupin calmly.
Kingsley turned his wand on Harry, but Lupin said, â€œItâ€™s him, Iâ€™ve checked!â€
â€œAll right, all right!â€ said Kingsley, stowing his wand back beneath his cloak, â€œBut somebody betrayed us! They knew, they knew it was tonight!â€
â€œSo it seems,â€ replied Lupin, â€œbut apparently they did not realize that there would be seven Harrys.â€
â€œSmall comfort!â€ snarled Kingsley. â€œWho else is back?â€
â€œOnly Harry, Hagrid, George, and me.â€
Hermione stifled a little moan behind her hand.
â€œWhat happened to you?â€ Lupin asked Kingsley.
â€œFollowed by five, injured two, mightâ€™ve killed one,â€ Kingsley reeled off, â€œand we saw You-Know-Who as well, he joined the chase halfway through but vanished pretty quickly. Remus, he can â€“ â€
â€œFly,â€ supplied Harry. â€œI saw him too, he came after Hagrid and me.â€
â€œSo thatâ€™s why he left, to follow you!â€ said Kingsley, â€œI couldnâ€™t understand why heâ€™d vanished. But what made him change targets?â€
â€œHarry behaved a little too kindly to Stan Shunpike,â€ said Lupin.
â€œStan?â€ repeated Hermione. â€œBut I thought he was in Azkaban?â€
Kingsley let out a mirthless laugh.
â€œHermione, thereâ€™s obviously been a mass breakout which the Ministry has hushed up. Traversâ€™s hood fell off when I cursed him, heâ€™s supposed to be inside too. But what happened to you, Remus? Whereâ€™s George?â€
â€œHe lost an ear,â€ said Lupin.
â€œlost an â€“?â€ repeated Hermione in a high voice.
â€œSnapeâ€™s work,â€ said Lupin.
â€œSnape?â€ shouted Harry. â€œYou didnâ€™t say â€“ â€
â€œHe lost his hood during the chase. Sectumsempra was always a specialty of Snapeâ€™s. I wish I could say Iâ€™d paid him back in kind, but it was all I could do to keep George on the broom after he was injured, he was losing so much blood.â€
Silence fell between the four of them as they looked up at the sky. There was no sign of movement; the stars stared back, unblinking, indifferent, unobscured by flying friends. Where was Ron? Where were Fred and Mr. Weasley? Where were Bill, Fleur, Tonks, Mad-Eye, and Mundungus?
â€œHarry, give us a hand!â€ called Hagrid hoarsely from the door, in which he was stuck again. Glad of something to do, Harry pulled him free, the headed through the empty kitchen and back into the sitting room, where Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were still tending to George. Mrs. Weasley had staunched his bleeding now, and by the lamplight Harry saw a clean gaping hole where Georgeâ€™s ear had been.
â€œHow is he?â€
Mrs. Weasley looked around and said, â€œI canâ€™t make it grow back, not when itâ€™s been removed by Dark Magic. But it couldâ€™ve been so much worseâ€¦. Heâ€™s alive.â€
â€œYeah,â€ said Harry. â€œThank God.â€
â€œDid I hear someone else in the yard?â€ Ginny asked.
â€œHermione and Kingsley,â€ said Harry.
â€œThank goodness,â€ Ginny whispered. They looked at each other; Harry wanted to hug her, hold on to her; he did not even care much that Mrs. Weasley was there, but before he could act on the impulse, there was a great crash from the kitchen.
â€œIâ€™ll prove who I am, Kingsley, after Iâ€™ve seen my son, now back off if you know whatâ€™s good for you!â€
Harry had never heard Mr. Weasley shout like that before. He burst into the living room, his bald patch gleaming with sweat, his spectacles askew, Fred right behind him, both pale but uninjured.
â€œArthur!â€ sobbed Mrs. Weasley. â€œOh thank goodness!â€
â€œHow is he?â€
Mr. Weasley dropped to his knees beside George. For the first time since Harry had known him, Fred seemed to be lost for words. He gaped over the back of the sofa at his twinâ€™s wound as if he could not believe what he was seeing.
Perhaps roused by the sound of Fred and their fatherâ€™s arrival, George stirred.
â€œHow do you feel, Georgie?â€ whispered Mrs. Weasley.
Georgeâ€™s fingers groped for the side of his head.
â€œSaintlike,â€ he murmured.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with him?â€ croaked Fred, looking terrified. â€œIs his mind affected?â€
â€œSaintlike,â€ repeated George, opening his eyes and looking up at his brother. â€œYou seeâ€¦ Iâ€™m holy. Holey, Fred, geddit?â€
Mrs. Weasley sobbed harder than ever. Color flooded Fredâ€™s pale face.
â€œPathetic,â€ he told George. â€œPathetic! With the whole wide world of ear-related humor before you, you go for holey?â€
â€œAh well,â€ said George, grinning at his tear-soaked mother. â€œYouâ€™ll be able to tell us apart now, anyway, Mum.â€
He looked around.
â€œHi, Harry â€“ you are Harry, right?â€
â€œYeah, I am,â€ said Harry, moving closer to the sofa.
â€œWell, at least we got you back okay,â€ said George. â€œWhy arenâ€™t Ron and Bill huddled round my sickbed?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re not back yet, George,â€ said Mrs. Weasley. Georgeâ€™s grin faded. Harry glanced at Ginny and motioned to her to accompany him back outside. As they walked through the kitchen she said in a low voice.
â€œRon and Tonks should be back by now. They didnâ€™t have a long journey; Auntie Murielâ€™s not that far from here.â€
Harry said nothing. He had been trying to keep fear at bay ever since reaching the Burrow, but now it enveloped him, seeming to crawl over his skin, throbbing in his chest, clogging his throat. As they walked down the back steps into the dark yard, Ginny took his hand.
Kingsley was striding backward and forward, glancing up at the sky every time he turned. Harry was reminded of Uncle Vernon pacing the living room a million years ago. Hagrid, Hermione, and Lupin stood shoulder to shoulder, gazing upward in silence. None of them looked around when Harry and Ginny joined their silent vigil.
The minutes stretched into what might as well have been years. The slightest breath of wind made them all jump and turn toward the whispering bush or tree in the hope that one of the missing Order members might leap unscathed from its leaves â€“
And then a broom materialized directly above them and streaked toward the ground â€“
â€œItâ€™s them!â€ screamed Hermione.
Tonks landed in a long skid that sent earth and pebbles everywhere.
â€œRemus!â€ Tonks cried as she staggered off the broom into Lupinâ€™s arms. His face was set and white: He seemed unable to speak, Ron tripped dazedly toward Harry and Hermione.
â€œYouâ€™re okay,â€ he mumbled, before Hermione flew at him and hugged him tightly.
â€œI thought â€“ I thought â€“ â€
â€œâ€˜M all right,â€ said Ron, patting her on the back. â€œâ€˜M fine.â€
â€œRon was great,â€ said Tonks warmly, relinquishing her hold on Lupin. â€œWonderful. Stunned one of the Death Eaters, straight to the head, and when youâ€™re aiming at a moving target from a flying broom â€“ â€
â€œYou did?â€ said Hermione, gazing up at Ron with her arms still around his neck.
â€œAlways the tone of surprise,â€ he said a little grumpily, breaking free. â€œAre we the last back?â€
â€œNo,â€ said Ginny, â€œweâ€™re still waiting for Bill and Fleur and Mad-Eye and Mundungus. Iâ€™m going to tell Mum and Dad youâ€™re okay, Ron â€“ â€
She ran back inside.
â€œSo what kept you? What happened?â€ Lupin sounded almost angry at Tonks.
â€œBellatrix,â€ said Tonks. â€œShe wants me quite as much as she wants Harry, Remus, She tried very hard to kill me. I just wish Iâ€™d got her, I owe Bellatrix. But we definitely injured Rodolphusâ€¦. Then we got to Ronâ€™s Auntie Murielâ€™s and we missed our Portkey and she was fussing over us â€“ â€
A muscle was jumping in Lupinâ€™s jaw. He nodded, but seemed unable to say anything else.
â€œSo what happened to you lot?â€ Tonks asked, turning to Harry, Hermione, and Kingsley.
They recounted the stories of their own journeys, but all the time the continued absence of Bill, Fleur, Mad-Eye, and Mundungus seemed to lie upon them like a frost, its icy bite harder and harder to ignore.
â€œIâ€™m going to have to get back to Downing Street, I should have been there an hour ago,â€ said Kingsley finally, after a last sweeping gaze at the sky. â€œLet me know when theyâ€™re back.â€
Lupin nodded. With a wave to the others, Kingsley walked away into the darkness toward the gate. Harry thought he heard the faintest pop as Kingsley Disapparated just beyond the Burrowâ€™s boundaries.
Mr. And Mrs. Weasley came racing down the back steps, Ginny behind them. Both parents hugged Ron before turning to Lupin and Tonks.
â€œThank you,â€ said Mrs. Weasley, â€œfor our sons.â€
â€œDonâ€™t be silly, Molly,â€ said Tonks at once.
â€œHowâ€™s George?â€ asked Lupin.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong with him?â€ piped up Ron.
â€œHeâ€™s lost â€“ â€
But the end of Mrs. Weasleyâ€™s sentence was drowned in a general outcry. A thestral had just soared into sight and landed a few feet from them. Bill and Fleur slid from its back, windswept but unhurt.
â€œBill! Thank God, thank God â€“ â€
Mrs. Weasley ran forward, but the hug Bill bestowed upon her was perfunctory. Looking directly at his father, he said, â€œMad-Eyeâ€™s dead.â€
Nobody spoke, nobody moved. Harry felt as though something inside him was falling, falling through the earth, leaving him forever.
â€œWe saw it,â€ said Bill; Fleur nodded, tear tracks glittering on her cheeks in the light from the kitchen window. â€œIt happened just after we broke out of the circle: Mad-Eye and Dung were close by us, they were heading north too. Voldemort â€“ he can fly â€“ went straight for them. Dung panicked, I heard him cry out, Mad-Eye tried to stop him, but he Disapparated. Voldemortâ€™s curse hit Mad-Eye full in the face, he fell backward off his broom and â€“ there was nothing we could do, nothing, we had half a dozen of them on our own tail â€“ â€
Billâ€™s voice broke.
â€œOf course you couldnâ€™t have done anything,â€ said Lupin.
They all stood looking at each other. Harry could not quite comprehend it. Mad-Eye dead; it could not beâ€¦. Mad-Eye, so tough, so brave, the consummate survivorâ€¦
At last it seemed to dawn on everyone, though nobody said it, that there was no point of waiting in the yard anymore, and in silence they followed Mr. And Mrs. Weasley back into the Burrow, and into the living room, where Fred and George were laughing together.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€ said Fred, scanning their faces as they entered, â€œWhatâ€™s happened? Whoâ€™s â€“?â€
â€œMad-Eye,â€ said Mr. Weasley, â€œDead.â€
The twinsâ€™ grins turned to grimaces of shock. Nobody seemed to know what to do. Tonks was crying silently into a handkerchief: She had been close to Mad-Eye, Harry knew, his favorite and his protÃ©gÃ©e at the Ministry of Magic. Hagrid, who had sat down on the floor in the corner where he had most space, was dabbing at his eyes with his tablecloth-sized handkerchief.
Bill walked over to the sideboard and pulled out a bottle of fire-whisky and some glasses.
â€œHere,â€ he said, and with a wave of his wand, eh sent twelve full glasses soaring through the room to each of them, holding the thirteenth aloft. â€œMad-Eye.â€
â€œMad-Eye,â€ they all said, and drank.
â€œMad-Eye,â€ echoed Hagrid, a little late, with a hiccup. The firewhisky seared Harryâ€™s throat. It seemed to burn feeling back into him, dispelling the numbness and sense of unreality firing him with something that was like courage.
â€œSo Mundungus disappeared?â€ said Lupin, who had drained his own glass in one.
The atmosphere changed at once. Everybody looked tense, watching Lupin, both wanting him to go on, it seemed to Harry, and slightly afraid of what they might hear.
â€œI know what youâ€™re thinking,â€ said Bill, â€œand I wondered that too, on the way back here, because they seemed to be expecting us, didnâ€™t they? But Mundungus canâ€™t have betrayed us. They didnâ€™t know there would be seven Harrys, that confused them the moment we appeared, and in case youâ€™ve forgotten, it was Mundungus who suggested that little bit of skullduggery. Why wouldnâ€™t he have told them the essential point? I think Dung panicked, itâ€™s as simple as that. He didnâ€™t want to come in the first place, but Mad-Eye made him, and You-Know-Who went straight for them. It was enough to make anyone panic.â€
â€œYou-Know-Who acted exactly as Mad-Eye expected him to,â€ sniffed Tonks. â€œMad-Eye said heâ€™d expect the real Harry to be with the toughest, most skilled Aurors. He chased Mad-Eye first, and when Mundungus gave them away he switched to Kingsleyâ€¦. â€
â€œYes, and zat eez all very good,â€ snapped Fleur, â€œbut still eet does not explain â€˜ow zey know we were moving â€˜Arry tonight, does eet? Somebody must â€˜ave been careless. Somebody let slip ze date to an outsider. It is ze only explanation for zem knowing ze date but not ze â€˜ole plan.â€
She glared around at them all, tear tracks still etched on her beautiful face, silently daring any of them to contradict her. Nobody did. The only sound to break the silence was that of Hagrid hiccupping from behind his handkerchief. Harry glanced at Hagrid, who had just risked his own life to save Harryâ€™s â€“ Hagrid, whom he loved, whom he trusted, who had once been tricked into giving Voldemort crucial information in exchange for a dragonâ€™s eggâ€¦.
â€œNo,â€ Harry said aloud, and they all looked at him, surprised: The firewhisky seemed to have amplified his voice. â€œI meanâ€¦ if somebody made a mistake,â€ Harry went on, â€œand let something slip, I know they didnâ€™t mean to do it. Itâ€™s not their fault,â€ he repeated, again a little louder than he would usually have spoken. â€œWeâ€™ve got to trust each other. I trust all of you, I donâ€™t think anyone in this room would ever sell me to Voldemort.â€
More silence followed his words. They were all looking at him; Harry felt a little hot again, and drank some more firewhisky for something to do. As he drank, he thought of Mad-Eye. Mad-Eye had always been scathing about Dumbledoreâ€™s willingness to trust people.
â€œWell said, Harry,â€ said Fred unexpectedly.
â€œYear, â€˜ear, â€˜ear,â€ said George, with half a glance at Fred, the corner of whose mouth twitched.
Lupin was wearing an odd expression as he looked at Harry. It was close to pitying.
â€œYou think Iâ€™m a fool?â€ demanded Harry.
â€œNo, I think youâ€™re like James,â€ said Lupin, â€œwho would have regarded it as the height of dishonor to mistrust his friends.â€
Harry knew what Lupin was getting at: that his father had been betrayed by his friend Peter Pettigrew. He felt irrationally angry. He wanted to argue, but Lupin had turned away from him, set down his glass upon a side table, and addressed Bill, â€œThereâ€™s work to do. I can ask Kingsley whether â€“ â€
â€œNo,â€ said Bill at once, â€œIâ€™ll do it, Iâ€™ll come.â€
â€œWhere are you going?â€ said Tonks and Fleur together.
â€œMad-Eyeâ€™s body,â€ said Lupin. â€œWe need to recover it.â€
â€œCanâ€™t it â€“?â€ began Mrs. Weasley with an appealing look at Bill.
â€œWait?â€ said Bill, â€œNot unless youâ€™d rather the Death Eaters took it?â€
Nobody spoke. Lupin and Bill said good bye and left.
The rest of them now dropped into chairs, all except for Harry, who remained standing. The suddenness and completeness of death was with them like a presence.
â€œIâ€™ve got to go too,â€ said Harry.
Ten pairs of startled eyes looked at him.
â€œDonâ€™t be silly, Harry,â€ said Mrs. Weasley, â€œWhat are you talking about?â€
â€œI canâ€™t stay here.â€
He rubbed his forehead; it was prickling again, he had not hurt like this for more than a year.
â€œYouâ€™re all in danger while Iâ€™m here. I donâ€™t want â€“ â€
â€œBut donâ€™t be so silly!â€ said Mrs. Weasley. â€œThe whole point of tonight was to get you here safely, and thank goodness it worked. And Fleurâ€™s agreed to get married here rather than in France, weâ€™ve arranged everything so that we can all stay together and look after you â€“ â€
She did not understand; she was making him feel worse, not better.
â€œIf Voldemort finds out Iâ€™m here â€“ â€
â€œBut why should he?â€ asked Mrs. Weasley.
â€œThere are a dozen places you might be now, Harry,â€ said Mr. Weasley. â€œHeâ€™s got no way of knowing which safe house youâ€™re in.â€
â€œItâ€™s not me Iâ€™m worried for!â€ said Harry.
â€œWe know that,â€ said Mr. Weasley quietly, â€œbut it would make our efforts tonight seem rather pointless if you left.â€
â€œYer not goinâ€™ anywhere,â€ growled Hagrid. â€œBlimey, Harry, after all we wenâ€™ through ter get you here?â€
â€œYeah, what about my bleeding ear?â€ said George, hoisting himself up on his cushions.
â€œI know that â€“ â€
â€œMad-Eye wouldnâ€™t want â€“ â€
â€œI KNOW!â€ Harry bellowed.
He felt beleaguered and blackmailed: Did they think he did not know what they had done for him, didnâ€™t they understand that it was for precisely that reason that he wanted to go now, before they had to suffer any more on his behalf? There was a long and awkward silence in which his scar continued to prickle and throb, and which was broken at last by Mrs. Weasley.
â€œWhereâ€™s Hedwig, Harry?â€ she said coaxingly. â€œWe can put her up with Pidwidgeon and give her something to eat.â€
His insides clenched like a fist. He could not tell her the truth. He drank the last of his firewhisky to avoid answering.
â€œWait till it gets out yeh did it again, Harry,â€ said Hagrid. â€œEscaped him, fought him off when he was right on top of yeh!â€
â€œIt wasnâ€™t me,â€ said Harry flatly. â€œIt was my wand. My wand acted of its own accord.â€
After a few moments, Hermione said gently, â€œBut thatâ€™s impossible, Harry. You mean that you did magic without meaning to; you reacted instinctively.â€
â€œNo,â€ said Harry. â€œThe bike was falling, I couldnâ€™t have told you where Voldemort was, but my wand spun in my hand and found him and shot a spell at him, and it wasnâ€™t even a spell I recognized. Iâ€™ve never made gold flames appear before.â€
â€œOften,â€ said Mr. Weasley, â€œwhen youâ€™re in a pressured situation you can produce magic you never dreamed of. Small children often find, before theyâ€™re trained â€“ â€
â€œIt wasnâ€™t like that,â€ said Harry through gritted teeth. His scar was burning. He felt angry and frustrated; he hated the idea that they were all imagining him to have power to match Voldemortâ€™s.
No one said anything. He knew that they did not believe him. Now that he came to think of it, he had never heard of a wand performing magic on its own before.
His scar seared with pain, it was all he could do not to moan aloud. Muttering about fresh air, he set down his glass and left the room.
As he crossed the yard, the great skeletal thestral looked up â€“ rustled its enormous batlike wings, then resumed its grazing. Harry stopped at the gate into the garden, staring out at its overgrown plants, rubbing his pounding forehead and thinking of Dumbledore.
Dumbledore would have believed him, he knew it. Dumbledore would have known how and why Harryâ€™s wand had acted independently, because Dumbledore always had the answers; he had known about wands, had explained to Harry the strange connection that existed between his wand and Voldemortâ€™sâ€¦. But Dumbledore, like Mad-Eye, like Sirius, like his parents, like his poor owl, all were gone where Harry could never talk to them again. He felt a burning in his throat that had nothing to do with firewhiskyâ€¦.
And then, out of nowhere, the pain in his scar peaked. As he clutched his forehead and closed his eyes, a voice screamed inside his head.
â€œYou told me the problem would be solved by using anotherâ€™s wand!â€
And into his mind burst the vision of an emaciated old man lying in rags upon a stone floor, screaming, a horrible drawn-out scream, a scream of unendurable agonyâ€¦.
â€œNo! No! I beg you, I beg youâ€¦.â€
â€œYou lied to Lord Voldemort, Ollivander!â€
â€œI did notâ€¦. I swear I did notâ€¦.â€
â€œYou sought to help Potter, to help him escape me!â€
â€œI swear I did notâ€¦. I believed a different wand would workâ€¦.â€
â€œExplain, then, what happened. Luciusâ€™s wand is destroyed!â€
â€œI cannot understandâ€¦. The connectionâ€¦ exists only . between your two wandsâ€¦.â€
â€œPleaseâ€¦ I beg youâ€¦.â€
And Harry saw the white hand raise its wand and felt Voldemortâ€™s surge of vicious anger, saw the frail old main on the floor writhe in agony â€“
It was over as quickly as it had come: Harry stood shaking in the darkness, clutching the gate into the garden, his heart racing, his scar still tingling. It was several moments before he realized that Ron and Hermione were at his side.
â€œHarry, come back in the house,â€ Hermione whispered, â€œYou arenâ€™t still thinking of leaving?â€
â€œYeah, youâ€™ve got to stay, mate,â€ said Ron, thumping Harry on the back.
â€œAre you all right?â€ Hermione asked, close enough now to look into Harryâ€™s face. â€œYou look awful!â€
â€œWell,â€ said Harry shakily, â€œI probably look better than Ollivanderâ€¦.â€
When he had finished telling them what he had seen, Ron looked appalled, but Hermione downright terrified.
â€œBut it was supposed to have stopped! Your scar â€“ it wasnâ€™t supposed to do this anymore! You mustnâ€™t let that connection open up again â€“ Dumbledore wanted you to close your mind!â€
When he did not reply, she gripped his arm.
â€œHarry, heâ€™s taking over the Ministry and the newspapers and half the Wizarding world! Donâ€™t let him inside your head too!â€
The Deathly Hallows
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .