Moody’s death clung like a funeral veil, no part of the Burrow nor the inhabitants therein untouched by the loss of life. Mrs. Weasley made every attempt she could to make it seem like all was well, everything above-board and operating as intended, but her efforts were dashed each time an Order member appeared to update Bill and Mr. Weasley on the latest news of the resistance’s efforts. It felt so…off, every time Harry glanced over and saw Kingsley or Remus at the door, trading hushed words with Arthur before disappearing once more. If Moody had still been here, they’d be having meetings in the open, not ducking Molly Weasley’s disapproving eye.
It was difficult, sometimes, to restrain the urge to march out there and demand he be allowed to help in some way; only the certainty that he’d simply be dismissed with sad smiles and It’s too dangerous, Harry stayed him. It wasn’t fair—they were all allowed out there, in the wide open, to seek their revenge as they pleased, while Harry had to stay cooped up in the Burrow, folding laundry or doing the washing-up or weeding the garden as Mrs. Weasley tried to find new and inventive ways to keep him occupied. Ron and Hermione were also quick to remind him that he still had the Trace on him for a few more days yet, so unless he wanted to find himself with his wand snapped shortly after ridding the wizarding world of the greatest evil it had yet been faced with, he needed to sit tight for a few more days.
Easy enough for them to say, as they’d both come of age months ago. Still, he’d waited this long, and what would—he counted, four more days—a bit longer hurt?
“Five days,” Ron corrected, shaking a finger in Harry’s face. They’d managed some time alone just the two of them with Mr. Weasley and Bill off to work and Mrs. Weasley upstairs to wake the girls. “There’s no way we can get out of here before the wedding, not if we ever want any chance of being allowed back again! Mum would kill us if we missed it, and Bill and Fleur would help.”
Four days was already too long, though, and Harry made a noise of irritation. “I still don’t see how they can have a wedding in the middle of all—this!”
“Because they don’t know there is an ‘all this’—and if you know what’s good for you, you won’t disabuse them of that notion, right?” Ron leaned closer, conspiratorial. “Just a heads-up: Mum’s been trying to get me and Hermione to blab about what our plans are. I think she’s getting suspicious. So—just brace yourself. Dad and Remus shut up once they heard we had orders from Dumbledore himself, but Mum won’t be so easily put off. And you know what she’d say to us—or do to us—if she knew what our plan was.”
Ron said ‘plan’, as if they really had one beyond ‘find the Horcruxes and destroy them somehow’, but Harry sighed and nodded.
It was good Ron had warned him of a possible ambush, for only a few hours later, Mrs. Weasley managed to corner Harry and guilt him into helping her out with the peeling of some potatoes, a task she somehow didn’t feel deserved to be done magically but rather painstakingly by hand. Just as well, since Harry didn’t know the spell to peel them even if he’d been allowed.
“So,” she huffed, scraping away viciously with the peeler, “Ron and Hermione have made some overtures.” She pressed her lips together. “They’ve intimated that you three won’t be returning to Hogwarts for your final year of schooling. Turned me down to go shopping in Diagon Alley next week!”
“Oh.” Harry took one of the potatoes from the pile, setting to his peeling at a more sedate pace. “Well, er. That’s…yeah. Yeah, we’ve…made that decision.”
Mrs. Weasley released something between a snicker and a scoff that said That’s what you think, Mister. “And what, pray tell, is so important it can’t be put off for one more year? You’ll find a lot of doors open for you with seven years at Hogwarts under your belt—and not just in Britain. Abroad, too, if you were of a mind to travel.” She looked at Harry out of the corner of her eye. “Is that it, then? You’re wanting to travel?”
“…Kind of? It’s just, I’ve got some stuff to take care of. Time-sensitive things,” Harry mumbled. “Ron and Hermione, too—they’re meant to help me.”
“They want to come—it’s…it’s their decision.” Not really one he agreed with, but one he found he was guiltily grateful for beyond measure. It was complicated; he was frightened to do this alone, but just as frightened to involve anyone else.
“And what sort of ‘stuff’ has you dropping out of school at just sixteen years old, hm? A bit young to be making such big decisions, if you ask me.”
Harry felt his hackles rise, but he knew she was just trying to goad him into blabbing their plans and beat back his temper. “…I’m sorry, I can’t—”
“Can’t, or won’t? I’m going to be honest with you, dear, I don’t think it’s right, you kids keeping all this hush-hush. Arthur and I have a right to know what our son’s getting himself into, and I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to assume Mr. and Mrs. Granger would agree!”
Ron had warned him this was coming, though, and he been rehearsing his spiel since before breakfast. “Listen: this involves Dumbledore, Mrs. Weasley. Some…final things he asked me to do. He didn’t want anyone else to know, so I’m sorry, but I can’t explain. And I told you: Ron and Hermione don’t have to come, I made that absolutely clear to them. Dumbledore told me I could confide in them, but he didn’t say I needed to—to force them into anything they weren’t old enough to accept or reject.” He managed to stop himself from saying They’re adults in the eyes of the wizarding world and can damn well do what they want—and I’ll be too in another few days, but only just.
“But it’s all right he’s forced you into it?” She dropped her peeler into the sink, wiping her forehead with the back of one arm, and Harry was certain the flush to her cheeks was due to more than just the noonday heat seeping in from outside. “You’re just children, I don’t care what the law says! I know there’s dodgy dealings going on these days, and it’s all coming to a head, but if there were anything Dumbledore truly needed done, well he had the whole Order to ask to handle it.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Harry, but you must have misunderstood him—he was your Headmaster. He wouldn’t have wanted you dropping out of school and rushing off to who-knows-where—”
“I didn’t misunderstand,” Harry said flatly. “He asked it of me, and he made it very clear it was only me that could do it.” He attacked his potato with vigour, finished with the conversation, and littered the sink basin with peelings before grabbing another right after it and setting to work just as vigorously.
“I see,” said Mrs. Weasley, and she took a deep breath before picking up her peeler again. When she returned to her peeling, it was with a lazy, drained rhythm. “Well, you’ll at least be staying for the wedding, won’t you? We’d really appreciate your help with the preparations. There’s still so much to do, and I’m nearly at my wits’ end…”
Harry swallowed, guilt welling up. He hadn’t forgotten how much her family had already sacrificed for him. And how much more they might have to sacrifice before all was said and done. “No—I…of course not.”
“Sweet of you,” she said, smiling softly and reaching for a boiling pot.
Mrs. Weasley didn’t try to corner him again or talk him out of his decision, but he learned this was not because she’d accepted their choice so much as she’d decided on a new plan of attack: keep him, Ron, and Hermione so busy—and at separate tasks—they’d have no time together to make any plans. It was only in rare moments, usually late in the evenings after most of the family had gone to bed, that they managed to sneak in a few minutes to strategise—like right now, as the three of them were huddled in Ron’s room while Hermione sorted through which books she would be bringing along with them and which she’d have to leave behind.
“What about this one?”
Harry glanced up from the most recent edition of the Daily Prophet to find Hermione holding up a book with crimson binding and gold filigree ornamentation.
“Spellman’s Syllabary,” she said, translating the gibberish on the spine. “I wonder if we’ll need to translate runes?”
“When would we need to translate runes?” Ron asked.
Hermione shrugged and placed it atop the ‘to-bring’ tower that was beginning to teeter worrisomely and dwarfing the ‘to-leave-behind’ pile.
Harry turned his attention back to the newspaper, flipping through and scanning the articles with growing frustration. Days now, and there hadn’t been a word printed about Moody’s death or the attack on the Order as Harry fled Privet Drive. Either no one in the editing office knew, or the Ministry was keeping a tight lid on it. They hadn’t sent a summons or anything by post about his using magic while still being under-age either—likely because they didn’t want the public knowing Voldemort had been so brazen as to attack Harry in broad daylight (so to speak), with the Ministry helpless to protect him. Azkaban’s mass-breakout had also somehow managed to slip underneath the Prophet’s nose, and Harry clenched his fists so tightly that the faint scars on the back of his right hand stood out white against his skin: I must not tell lies.
“How are you even gonna lug all those around?” Ron asked, nodding to the ‘to-bring’ pile. “Thinking of Transfiguring Harry into a shopping trolley or something?”
“I’ll manage,” Hermione sniffed, and added Finding the Founders: Hogwarts’ Mothers and Fathers to it with a look of challenge in her eye.
Harry set aside the newspaper and ran his eyes over the spines of the books she’d deemed too precious to leave behind. “Everything You Didn’t Know About Animagi? What do you still need that one for? Haven’t you already memorised it?”
“No.” She rolled her eyes, biting back a smile. “But it never hurts to brush up on the basics.”
“You’ve been an Animagus since Fourth Year,” Ron reminded with fond irritation. “You’re way past the basics. You could teach a class on it, probably.”
Harry didn’t think there was any ‘probably’ about it; there didn’t seem a subject Hermione hadn’t made it her life’s mission to excel at, Potions aside. She’d initially maintained that an Animagus form might help her navigate the halls between classes faster, allowing her more time to study even with her already jam-packed schedule—and certainly her little Polish could book it through the corridors when she wanted—but Harry suspected she’d mostly been jealous that Harry’s father and his friends had managed the task as students themselves. McGonagall hadn’t taken too much convincing, as Hermione told it. “It was certainly a shorter order than asking for another Time Turner!”
Hermione ignored Ron’s comment, instead grabbing the next book from the pile—one with a lovely emerald-green cover and a title in silver gilt Harry couldn’t make out from the angle. “Ooh—Men Who Love Dragons Too Much,” she said, waving the book with raised brows. “Maybe we should send Malfoy a copy.”
Ron snorted. “Can’t be much worth reading wherever he’s locked up now.”
Harry forced a chuckle of his own. “He never struck me as much for books, though.” He moved back to the bed, trying to keep his tone casual. “Hey, Ron—your dad hasn’t heard anything about him, has he?”
“Who? Malfoy?” Harry nodded. “Beats me.”
“I mean, he’s a Death Eater—I saw his Dark Mark. Seems like the Ministry would jump on that, finally have something to really show for all this security theatre?”
Ron just shrugged. “He hasn’t mentioned anything to me—though I’m willing to bet he’d steer clear of anything involving the Malfoys, regardless.” He inclined his head in thought. “But Malfoy’s dad’s just busted out of prison—maybe they made a father-son outing of it?”
Hermione sat with her copy of Men Who Love Dragons Too Much in her lap, tracing the gilt ornamentation with a finger. “What if we have to fight him…?” She looked up, lower lip drawn between her teeth. “I mean—it’s not out of the realm of possibility, right? And there might be others, too: children of Death Eaters, or just students who’ve sided with Voldemort for whatever reason.”
“Bring it on,” Ron said, flopping back on his bed and folding his arms behind his head. “I’d welcome the opportunity to wipe that stupid smirk off his pointy face.”
Hermione’s shoulders slumped, and she gave a soft sigh. “Well, of course I’d not say no to decking him and his like myself. But—these might be people we know. People we’ve had class with or—or played Quidditch against.” She drew the book to her chest, hugging it. “It’s different, fighting for your life. Trying to kill each other, without any time to figure out if that’s something you even want to do.”
“Anyone who’s taken that Mark’s had plenty of time to figure out if it was something they ‘want to do’,” Ron reminded her darkly.
“I know,” she bit out. “I’m just saying. I’m not sure it would be an easy choice…or one I could make at all, not ahead of time…”
Ron looked like he had quite a bit more to say on the subject, but Hermione placed the book on top of the ‘to-bring’ pile, and he seemed to decide to let it lie.
It stewed in Harry for longer, though—because this was something he hadn’t really considered. When they’d sworn they were with him, from the outset to the end and everywhere in between, they’d assured him they were doing so with open eyes, well aware of the dangers and risks but bound and determined to see this through at Harry’s side. But perhaps they hadn’t considered—Harry certainly hadn’t—the things they might have to do along the way. To hurt—or worse—former classmates. To destroy lives or risk having their own destroyed. To ruin futures and make murderers of themselves.
Harry didn’t relish the thought, but this was his task, his ever so much more than theirs, so he would bear that burden if he had to. He’d kill Stan Shunpike or Malfoy or whoever else took up arms against him in his rush to get to Voldemort if pushed to it. But that didn’t mean Hermione and Ron should have to do the same.
He sat up a bit straighter. “Listen,” he started, and Ron and Hermione looked at him, curious, before their expressions melted into similar mixtures of resignation and defiance. “I know you said before that you wanted to come with me—”
“Here he goes,” Ron said, rolling his eyes.
“Right on schedule,” Hermione sighed, holding up the next book in the pile. “You know, I think I’ll bring this one, too.” She turned the cover so they could see it said Hogwarts: A History. “It’ll be nice, having a little bit of home with us on the road.”
They didn’t get it. “You’re not hearing me—”
“No, Harry, you’re clearly not hearing us,” Hermione snapped, slamming Hogwarts: A History onto the floor next to her and setting the ‘to-bring’ tower to wobbling. “We’re coming with you, and that’s final. You keep saying it’s our decision, and we’ve decided.”
“I’d shut it if I were you, mate,” Ron muttered under his breath.
Harry ignored him. “You’ve just said you’re having second thoughts! That you’re not sure you could do what needed to be done, if it came down to it. And you shouldn’t have to make that decision, you shouldn’t have to be all right with that!”
“Oh, it’s my dedication you’re doubting, is it?” Hermione’s voice was frigid, and Ron slid over on the bed with a soft this one’s on you as she rounded on Harry. “I have been packing for weeks, readying go-bags for all of us, so we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice—which has involved incredibly difficult magic, not that you bothered to ask—and smuggling the rest of Mad-Eye’s Polyjuice stock out from under the other Order members’ noses.” Harry hadn’t known that at all, he realised; he’d been a bit self-obsessed these past few days. “I’ve also gone and committed a minor criminal offence—” Harry boggled, “—by performing an unsanctioned Modification of my parents’ memories so they won’t know I’m gone; they’re convinced they’re really Wendell and Monica Wilkins and that it’s been their life’s dream to move to Australia—which they’ve now done. Hopefully this way, Voldemort won’t be able to use them to get information on or contact me—or you, as unfortunately I’ve told them rather a lot about you.” She glanced at Ron, who was frowning, and added quickly, “And Ron of course.”
Ron nodded, apparently satisfied.
“It should be no trouble to lift the enchantment once we’ve completed our…well, our task—and if worse should come to worst…well, not to brag, but I think I’ve magicked them plenty well enough they’ll live long, happy lives on the Victoria coast, never realising they had a daughter in the first place.” She grinned, smile tight, and her eyes were shining as she shrugged. “So you see? I’m all in.”
Ron looked like he wanted to go over to her, fingers clenched in the bedspread, but nerves seemed to stay him.
Harry shifted uncomfortably, wrong-footed by Hermione’s speech. “I…I’m sorry, I didn’t realise—”
“That Ron and I know perfectly well what might happen if we come with you? What we might have to do? What sort of people we might have to become, fighting by your side?” She sniffed, drawing herself up. “Well, we do.” And then, in an apparent effort to dispel the awkward tension, she waved haphazardly at the door. “Ron’s even transfigured the ghoul in the attic to look like him.”
“Wait—what?” Harry’s features scrunched up; he didn’t know if this was more or less shocking than Hermione’s burgeoning criminal record. “Why would he want to do that?”
“Oh, it’s brilliant—Ron, tell him!”
Ron leaned forward, legs folded and elbows resting on his knees. “Well, people might start asking questions when we don’t show up at Hogwarts come the 1st of September, I figure, right? And knowing me, and Hermione, and you, they’ll probably figure wherever we are, we’re together, off saving the world—or up to no good, depending on your perspective. Hermione here’s already seen to her folks’ safety, and you’re—no offence—kind of on your own, but I’ve got my whole family to worry about protecting, and I’m no good at Modifying memories for a single person, let alone everyone in the Burrow.”
“You’re awful hard to forget,” Hermione said with a fond smile.
Ron’s ears went pink, and he waved her off with a shake of his head that said Oh go on. “The Death Eaters are bound to come straight for them, to shake them down for information on where we’ve run off to.”
“Get on with it!” Hermione urged, almost vibrating with excitement.
He stayed her with a wave of his hand. “I’m getting to it, geez. Anyway—the ghoul’s gonna come down here and live in my room after we leave. He’ll sit in my bed, and Mum and Dad will tell anyone who comes sniffing around that the ghoul is me.”
That sounded absurd, even for wizards. “But—surely no one’s going to actually believe that?”
“That’s the thing! The story’s gonna be that I’ve come down with spattergroit. The ghoul looks horrid on a good day, and now he’ll be covered in all these nasty pustules with red hair. Classic case! Plus spattergroit’s really contagious, so no one’s gonna want to touch him with a barge pole. And sure, he can’t say anything, mostly just moans and drools a lot, but that’s what the terminal cases are like once it spreads to the respiratory passages, I hear!” He waggled his brows. “Mum’ll get loads of sympathy pastries, probably. I’m kinda jealous.”
Harry looked from Ron to Hermione, and back again, letting their stories sink in. These two wonderful people had upended their lives for him, had gone to lengths unimagined to protect their families and were throwing their whole lot in with Harry’s. All in. He still didn’t feel he deserved it, still worried that before all this was over, they’d come to regret their decisions—but this was their choice, he was finally starting to accept. He wouldn’t have wanted anyone to make it for him, and so he had no right to make it for them.
He wanted to tell them, in plain language, what this meant to him—what they meant to him, but he couldn’t find the words, and before he could say something else that would come out wrong or shove another foot in his mouth, Hermione spared him and cleared her throat. “Now—lest we waste these precious moments we have together without Ron’s Mum finding some new menial task to set us, I thought maybe we should discuss where we’re going to go first, whenever we leave?” Harry and Ron nodded. “Good. So, I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but perhaps we should make tracking down the remaining Horcruxes our top priority?”
“Sure, absolutely—only trouble is that still doesn’t decide where we should go first.” He’d been thinking over it himself, truthfully, all summer, and he supposed now was as good a time as any to suggest it, so he took a breath. “…I was thinking maybe we ought to try Godric’s Hollow first.”
It had been nagging at him, the thought twinging inside his mind like an old scar. He’d put it down to a morbid curiosity to see his old home for himself initially, assuming it was still standing, but over the weeks he’d come to see that was only part of it. There was just…a feeling. A strong, inexplicable, ineffable tug that told him if he went there, he’d learn things. Not necessarily happy things, but truths. He needed some good truths right about now.
Or maybe it was just that…that was where he’d survived Voldemort trying to kill him once, laid him low and broken. With the prospect of having to do so again so near at hand, maybe he was hoping for some understanding. He didn’t have a mother’s love to save him this time, so he’d need to leave no stone unturned if he was going to be on his own this time around.
Hermione’s lips twisted into an uncertain moue. “You don’t think it’s risky?” she asked.
“Voldemort might be keeping watch over it, expecting you to want to visit.”
Let him, Harry didn’t say. The thought hadn’t really occurred to him before, but faced with it now, he felt a rush of adrenaline surge through him, half-hoping that was the case. Let him try and violate that sacrosanct place; let him try and finish the job he’d done. Horcruxes or no, Harry would find a way to make him regret it.
“I’ve had a thought…” Ron said. “And maybe it’s just me, being thick and not understanding, but…do either of you even know how to destroy these things once we find them?”
Harry frowned. No, that definitely hadn’t come up in one of his conversations with Dumbledore.
But Hermione answered, rather softer and almost ashamed, “…I may know how.”
“How?” asked Harry.
She bobbed her head. “I’ve been…doing some reading.”
And now he narrowed his eyes, suspicious. “I thought there weren’t any books on Horcruxes in the library?”
“Well—no, there weren’t. Or rather, there were, and then there weren’t,” she said, nose and cheeks going pink. “Dumbledore removed them all—but he didn’t destroy them.”
Ron sat up straight. “You sneaky little so and so! You’ve stolen Dumbledore’s private collection, haven’t you? Unsanctioned Memory Modification and now grand larceny? Our Hermione’s downright devious!” He was grinning, though, clearly enjoying teasing her.
“It wasn’t stealing!” she protested, looking between them with a kind of manic desperation. Harry thought Ron ought to lay off the teasing, or else it was bound to backfire, as Hermione clearly felt digging about in someone else’s library amounted to a capital offence. “I’m only borrowing them, temporarily! I fully intend to return them to the school’s collection to dispense with as they please once we’ve finished with them, but I rather think these are extenuating circumstances. And besides, Dumbledore only removed them from the shelf; if he’d felt they were too dangerous to allow anyone to read, then surely he would have—”
“All right, all right,” said Ron. “You’re absolutely positively not a master biblioburglar, get to the point!”
“Well, it was really very easy, actually. I just—Summoned them, that’s all. You know—Accio. And—they zoomed out of Dumbledore’s study window right into my bag.”
“When did you do this?” Harry asked, wondering when she was ever going to stop surprising him.
“Just…just after the funeral,” she said, her voice so very small. “I know—it’s barbaric, we were supposed to be saying goodbye, and I—but well, it just occurred to me that the more we knew about what we were looking for, the better, and I wasn’t actually expecting it to work, because Summoning Charms have some convoluted rules and can be finicky depending on the properties of what you’re summoning but—” She cut herself off when Ron looked like he was readying another Get on with it! “So I have them now. Every book he confiscated having anything to do with soul magic in general and Horcruxes in particular.” She wrung her hands. “I like to think he would’ve let us borrow them, if we’d been in any position to ask him—I mean, it’s not as if we’re going to use these to make Horcruxes for ourselves, right?”
“Do we sound like we’re complaining?” Ron asked, then glanced around. “So where are they anyway? Already in the Leaning Tower of To-Bring?”
“Some,” she said, rummaging through the unsorted pile before extracting a large volume bound in faded black leather: Secrets of the Darkest Art. She held it gingerly, swallowing, as if it was a dead thing—or very dangerous. There was no discounting it was a bit of both, actually. “This one, though…this is the one with the explicit instructions on how to make them. I wish I could say Horcruxes were even the most horrible thing described in this book, but I’d be lying. There’s some absolutely atrocious magic in here.”
“I wonder when Dumbledore removed it from the Library,” Harry said, running a finger down the spine—morbid curiosity had him wanting to flip through it, if he were being honest. “If it wasn’t until he’d been made Headmaster, then I bet this is where Voldemort got his instructions.”
“‘How to become an invincible Dark Lord in three easy steps!’” Ron snorted.
“It’s a bit more than three,” Hermione said with a shudder. “But the book does warn that it makes your soul terribly unstable, ripping it apart to place in foreign physical vessels. One has to wonder if he’s even really human anymore at this point.”
Harry thought the answer to that was pretty obvious. “So does it say how to destroy the Horcruxes?”
“Yes—after a fashion, at least.” Ron raised a brow, and she opened the book to a page she’d marked with a leaf. “There’s no itemised list or anything—and it seems one of the few really foolproof ways is what Harry did to Riddle’s diary.”
“What, stabbing it with a Basilisk fang?” Harry asked.
“Perfect!” Ron clapped. “I think Mum’s got a couple in the back of the pantry; I’ll just ask if we can borrow them in the morning, shall I?”
“I did say one of the ways,” Hermione said with stretched patience. “In short, you’ve got to damage the Horcrux beyond magical repair, to the extent that the soul fragment no longer has a viable vessel to inhabit. Basilisk venom only has one antidote—”
“Phoenix tears,” said Harry, nodding.
“Exactly. Unfortunately, we aren’t liable to find substances with that kind of destructive power stocking the shelves at Slug & Jiggers. And even if we could manage to get our hands on Basilisk venom or the like, carrying it around would be far too dangerous. We might have to play it by ear, or just gather as many as we can and search for a way to destroy them later, all at once.”
Harry recalled the ring Dumbledore had tracked down and destroyed, with its cracked signet. He wished he’d had the forethought to ask how Dumbledore had managed it, but it was yet another in a long line of regrets.
The Delacours arrived a few days early for Bill and Fleur’s wedding, as Mr. Weasley anticipated international travel might become difficult with the institution of new Ministry regulations, and the already crowded Burrow rapidly became too cramped for comfort. Further complicating matters was the bevy of security charms and protections being placed upon the Burrow and its immediate vicinity by both the Order and the Ministry, as if the place hadn’t practically been a fortress before.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had insisted Fleur’s parents take their bedroom, despite the Delacours’ fervent protests, and were now sleeping on the sofa bed in the sitting room. Gabrielle had come along with her parents and was rooming with Fleur in Percy’s old room, and while Bill had his bedroom to himself for the moment, he’d soon be sharing with Charlie, who was due in from Romania by Harry’s birthday.
With all the new arrivals, it was growing increasingly difficult to find a bit of quiet privacy between the three of them and make plans for their upcoming travels.
Mrs. Weasley also seemed to be nearly at her wits’ end, between the heightened security and wedding plans and worrying that Harry, Ron, and Hermione might scarper off the moment her back was turned. Harry felt guilty for at least two of those things, knowing it was his fault she had to deal with such stresses at all, but she waved him off impatiently when he tried to apologise for complications that arose from wedding vendors not being able to visit the site before the festive day.
“Now now, none of that!” she said, flicking her wand at a basket of damp clothes and directing them to pin themselves to a washing line. “Bill will have the safest, most secure wedding one could ask for, won’t he? And of course your safety’s much more important to us all than any piddling inconveniences.” Harry rather imagined Bill would have preferred his mother’s sanity over wedding venue security. “Actually, I’ve been wanting to ask you how you wanted to celebrate your birthday.”
“My birthday?” He knew it was coming up—but he hadn’t imagined there’d be any to-do. Certainly not a ‘celebration’, at least.
“Well it’s an important day! You’ll finally be of-age, and that’s something worth commemorating in a wizarding household.”
“Oh, you really shouldn’t—” Harry began quickly, despairing of Mrs. Weasley putting herself out even more on his account. Maybe this was a new tactic of hers to get him to call off the mission: he had to admit, it was kind of working. “Really—let’s just make a normal dinner of it, nothing fancy. I mean, it’s the day before the wedding, so I couldn’t ask…”
She seemed to wilt a little, and Harry wondered if he’d made the right call. “Well, if you’re sure, dear. I’ll invite Remus and Tonks, shall I? And how about Hagrid? We may as well at least have some company.”
“Sure, yeah, sounds perfect. Just a nice quiet evening—but please make sure you don’t go out of your way for me, all right? Especially not…not now.”
She gave him a long, searching look. “You’re family, Harry. If that’s what you want, then you’ll have it.”
Somehow, Harry felt even guiltier for turning down her offer.