Word Count: 2,914
Rating: PG for descriptions of torture
Summary: After the Second Wizarding War, the Golden Trio must deal with their scars. Some are visible; some are not. All take time to heal.
That Sunday was the first hot day of the season. Molly sat down at the breakfast table joining Arthur, Percy, George, Ginny, and Hermione. “It’s nice that summer is here. Fred,” she said, her voice catching, “always loved hot days. “ The table went silent. Molly cleared her throat and deliberately changed the subject. “I had to summon my summer blouses – they were buried under my sweaters. I haven’t worn them in ages.”
Hermione gestured at her flowing blouse and nodded. “It’s like the heaviness that’s hanging over us is beginning to lift, a reminder that life continues.”
She looked apologetically at George, who hesitated and then gave a short nod.
Molly looked keenly around the table. “Why don’t we all get our bathing suits ready and plan to have a picnic lunch by the pond?”
“Great idea! We need to get out. Where’s Charlie?” asked Ginny, looking around. “He usually doesn’t sleep in. By the way, Ron and Harry are up—they’ll be done shortly.”
“Charlie went over to see Bill and Fleur,” answered Molly. “Bill wanted to show him something he’s found near the beach – he thinks it may be a dragon egg fragment, and if so, he wanted to leave it where it was to see if Bill could figure out how it got there. He doesn’t think there are any nests nearby.”
George, dark shadows under his eyes, turned to his father. “Have dragons been spotted outside their usual areas?”
“No, nothing from either the muggles or our world.”
Hermione reached over to grab the butter. As she did so, the sleeve on her left arm rose up.
George, sitting across from her, grabbed her hand. “Merlin, does that say …”
Hermione pulled her hand back, but not before the others saw the word carved on her forearm.
Ron came clattering down the stairs in his shorts and got ready to sit down next to Hermione. He brought up her chin and kissed her and then pulled out his chair. As he was about to sit down, the silence at the table sank in. He glanced around, his hand still at the back of his chair. “Did I interrupt something? You’ve seen me kiss her before.”
Hermione looked up. “They saw my arm.”
George studied her. “And what’s the mark on your neck? It appears as if you were cut by a knife.”
Ron gazed down at her and then at the rest of the table. “Oh.” He sat down.
Molly looked sharply at George and then at Hermione. “You should have told me sooner. We’ll head to St. Mungo’s tomorrow to get that taken care of.”
Hermione shook her head. “It was done by dark magic. The healers at St. Mungo’s can’t do anything. I’m lucky it healed over as much as it did.”
Molly gasped. “Dark magic? I never thought. . .” She turned abruptly towards Ron and Hermione. “Explain. Now.”
The others looked expectantly at Ron and Hermione. They hadn’t talked much about what they had gone through. Ron glanced at Hermione, who gave a slight nod. He took her hand and looked back at the rest of the family. “Do you remember last spring when you had to go to Aunt Muriel’s? We’d been captured by snatchers. Hermione had time to disguise Harry, but couldn’t get rid of his scar, and they eventually figured out who we were. They wanted to know what we’d been up to before they called You-Know-Who.” He turned toward Hermione. “It tore me apart listening to you scream. You were amazing though – I don’t know if I would have had the presence of mind to continue lying while that filth tortured me. I felt so helpless.”
“You did get me out of there,” Hermione told him. “And I’ll never forget you begging to be tortured in my place.”
Eyes shot to Ron, no one knowing what to say. Ron did what? Ronnikens? He turned a vivid shade of red.
In order to break the tension, George attempted a joke. “It looks like you tried to make up for it by practically cutting your arm off. Still having troubles with Splinching?”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other. “Umm, actually that was my fault,” said Hermione in a small voice. The eyes that had been staring at Ron swiveled back to her, bemused.
Ron squeezed her hand. “Well, since the alternative was Yaxley taking us on a one-way trip to see You-Know-Who, it was a small price to pay. By the way, I don’t think I was in a position to thank you for saving our lives that time. In fact, I remember being rather shirty with you. Thank you.”
Percy spoke up. “I heard rumors in Ministry last fall that Yaxley had been punished for letting Harry and Hermione slip through his fingers. I thought they were talking figuratively.”
Now that the conversation had turned from her scars, Hermione had recovered her poise. She shook her head ruefully as she turned to Percy. “If he’d been holding on any tighter to my arm, I would have had a permanent bruise there.”
“How did you escape?” asked Arthur curiously.
“He got overconfident.” She looked pleadingly at Ron, who took up the hint.
“Speaking of overconfidence, what happened to the Tornadoes yesterday? They were in the catbird seat!”
People around the table glanced at each other. Ron’s transparent attempt to change the subject fooled no one, but they accepted the fact that the conversation on the subject was closed. By the time Harry came down the stairs a few minutes later, the game was in the midst of being dissected.
Charlie, Bill and Fleur arrived as the preparations for the picnic were being completed. Fleur looked around. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were upstairs getting ready. “Please, everyone,” she started. Arthur, Molly, Percy and George glanced up. “Since we are going swimming – you should know that Hermione has some terrible scars. Please don’t bring them up. She probably feels self-conscious enough, no?”
George looked abashed. “Too late. I said something this morning. I was startled. What happened was terrible.”
Molly walked over to him and squeezed his shoulder. “None of us knew – we’ve been wearing warm clothes that covered them up.” Turning to Fleur, she said, “Hermione was all right, though she didn’t want to talk about it, and we won’t bring it up again. I don’t know how anyone could do such a thing.”
“They were evil people.” Fleur shuddered. “And the scars you see were only the ones done by dark magic. The others I was able to heal.”
A half hour later, all of them were by the pond. Arthur had levitated the picnic table to a shady spot nearby. Molly and Arthur watched their children happily splashing each other. “Fred always loved days like today,” said Molly, leaning into Arthur.
The red-haired man put his arm around his wife. “He would have been trying to sneak some prank product past us to try out on the unsuspecting lot.”
Molly sniffed quietly. “I’m glad it’s over.” She looked out over the group at the small beach. Occasional laughter drowned out the chirping of the birds. She sighed. “The young ones had no chance to be kids. They need that opportunity now.”
“But you’ll notice who brought their wands,” Arthur whispered. “I’d hoped that after a month here they would have relaxed.”
At the pond, Bill dropped his towel. “Come on, everyone – it’s time to jump off that old rope!”
Hermione looked at Harry and Ron. “I’ll race you!”
“No fair, Hermione, you know I never learned how to swim,” laughed Harry as he took off his t-shirt. Hermione took off her cover-up and turned towards the water.
“Blimey, Hermione, what happened to you?” called out Percy behind her in a shocked voice.
Hermione whipped around, instinctively grabbing her wand from the ground where she had left it next to her cover-up. Ron, catching her sudden movement, reacted without thinking, positioning himself next to her side with his wand at the ready. Harry’s battle instincts kicked in. He, too, grasped his wand and scanned behind them for danger before turning around and standing at their side. Everyone else froze. As they realized what had happened, all three lowered their wands in embarrassment. Silence followed. Harry glanced at the other two and simultaneously they put their wands on the ground.
“Erm, sorry,” said Harry. “You startled us.”
Ginny walked over to Percy and cuffed him on the head. “Fleur warned you!” she hissed.
“I’m sorry,” said Percy, looking stricken. “When you mentioned the scars I thought you meant the ones on her arm and neck. I didn’t realize her back …”
Hermione looked at Ron and then Harry. She took a deep breath. “Bellatrix,” she answered.
The others drew in their breath.
“It’s OK, Percy,” said Hermione. “You didn’t know.”
Awkwardly, people returned to what they’d been doing. Molly squeezed Arthur’s hand. “I need to go to the house for a few minutes,” she whispered. “I just need to gather myself together.”
Arthur squeezed her hand back and nodded. “I’ll join you in just a minute.” Ginny, seeing her mother go, followed.
As the attention was no longer on them, Hermione turned to Ron. “Hardly noticeable, huh?” she asked wryly.
Ron hugged her and then held her at arm’s length. “Hermione, you are the most beautiful, most clever, and bravest witch I know. The scars are nothing.” Hermione pulled him back into a hug.
As she turned from Ron, Harry saw her back for the first time. He gave her shoulder a squeeze and walked slowly away.
Hermione and Ron sensed his leaving. “Damn, now he’s feeling guilty again,” Hermione whispered. “He needs us.”
Ron nodded and together they followed him to the Burrow.
Molly and Ginny had gone in through the kitchen door and were seated at the table, and thus Harry didn’t see them when he came through the front door, into the family room. He sat down. Ron and Hermione didn’t see Molly or Ginny either as they followed Harry, taking the chairs opposite him. Harry was sitting with his head in his hands.
“Hey, Harry,” said Hermione. “We know you too well. Everything is okay.”
Molly and Ginny looked at each other. They felt guilty eavesdropping, but didn’t move.
Harry looked up, stricken. “It’s my fault. It’s all my fault we were caught. If I hadn’t …”
“Harry, stop it,” Hermione interrupted.
In the kitchen, Ginny stood up to go to Harry, but Molly grabbed her arm and pulled her back down. Arthur came in looking for Molly, but before he could say anything, she put her figures to her lips and motioned for him to sit down. When he heard the voices from the other room, he nodded. He too hated to eavesdrop, but the teens hadn’t been willing to say what they had been doing the last year, and he needed to know.
“But Ron warned me, he tried to stop me. If I hadn’t …”
“And if we hadn’t been caught, we wouldn’t have known that we had to break into Bellatrix’s vault,” reasoned Hermione.
In the kitchen, Molly and Arthur looked at each other. They realized they may never know what the teens had taken from the vault or even how they had gotten into what was supposed to be the most guarded vault in Gringotts, but knew they had to have been successful. Had they really escaped on the back of a dragon?
“But I should have figured it out sooner. You could have escaped the torture …”
Hermione glanced at Ron. “If you’re blaming yourself for my scars, you’re wrong. Besides, as I recall, one of the scars on your chest is my fault – if I hadn’t let you go ahead without me or if it hadn’t taken me so long to find you, you could have removed that monster from your chest without me cutting into you. And don’t forget it was my curse that rebounded and destroyed your wand, leaving us half defenseless.”
Ron took a deep breath and lowered his head. “And you know it was my fault I wasn’t there with you.”
In the kitchen, the three looked startled. Where had Ron been?
Hermione glanced at Ron before turning back to Harry. “If Ron hadn’t escaped the snatchers and collected a spare wand in the process, we would have been fighting with one arm tied behind our backs.” She gave Ron a small smile. “I don’t think I ever thanked you for saving Harry’s life. I was a bit angry with you at the time.”
Ron, raising his eyebrows, looked towards Harry and mouthed, “A bit?”
Hermione looked down. “Until the next time we had a close call. It was my idea to try to find out the reason behind the symbol.”
Arthur, Molly, and Ginny faced each other. What symbol?
Ron forced Hermione to look at him. “Neither of us had any better ideas. Besides, other than the house collapsing around us, that was an easy escape. Boy, the one time we trust someone who claims to support you, he calls in the Death Eaters. Thanks, Hermione, for thinking quickly enough to keep my family safe …”
Arthur desperately wanted to know more. That was an easy escape? Who had betrayed them?
“Until Malfoy Manor,” Harry interrupted. “Hermione, you can’t compare Godric’s Hollow and Malfoy Manor. And I wanted to go to Godric’s Hollow just as much as you—we didn’t know Voldemort had set a trap there.” He looked at Ron. “Hermione’s right, though, Ron. Saving my life later made up for you missing that party.” He shook his head again. “But to then ask you, Hermione, to become Bellatrix after what she had done to you…”
This time it was Molly who started to rise from her chair. Arthur stopped her and she sat back down.
Hermione took Harry’s hand. “It was the only way. We had to get it.”
“We could have thought of another way.”
“Harry, listen to me. We needed to get into Gringotts as soon as possible. Maybe eventually we could have come up with another plan, but Voldemort was getting stronger every day. If we had waited, more people would have died.”
Harry frowned. “But I can’t forget I put my two best friends in danger. You both risked everything to help me. I wish there had been some other way.”
Hermione shook her head. “And if I wasn’t with you, I would have been the one sitting in front of Umbridge trying to convince her I hadn’t stolen my magical abilities, and then on my way to Azkaban. At least I had my wand when we faced her.”
The wheels in Arthur’s mind were turning. He recalled the break-in at the Ministry, last fall, but no one had ever come up with a good reason. Somehow he didn’t think it was just to embarrass the Ministry with a mass escape of prisoners. Had they thought You-Know-Who was going to be with Umbridge that day?
Ron took Harry’s shoulder. “Look, mate. You-Know-Who wasn’t after you because he didn’t like you. He was after you because you were able to stop him from killing people, and because you could help those fighting him. Do you honestly think you could have stopped him by yourself?”
Harry sat back and gave a thin smile for the first time. “Umm, I might have survived for a few days without you – assuming I’d gotten away in the first place.”
“Could you have broken into the Ministry or Gringotts?” Hermione challenged.
Harry’s ghost of a smile widened. “Sure,” he said. At Ron and Hermione’s startled looks, he added, “I just wouldn’t have gotten out again.”
“Look, Harry, I know you feel bad about my scars. A lot of people have scars and not all are visible. But you never asked us to do anything you weren’t willing to do yourself. We succeeded. We all made some mistakes, but we survived and the world is rid of Voldemort. And yes, some people died, like Fred, but far fewer than if you’d gotten yourself killed because of some stupid notion that you could fight him without our help. We weren’t the only ones fighting Voldemort and his forces. What we did—and what you couldn’t have done by yourself—enabled those who opposed him and his allies to win. You have nothing – nothing – to feel guilty about. Okay?”
Harry rose up, the haunted expression gone. “I don’t deserve friends like you.”
As Hermione took both into a hug, Ron laughed. “Look, if we stayed friends going through all that we did, do you really think we would desert you now that things are better? I always knew you were a bit daft. C’mon, let’s go back outside. I’m hungry.”
Hermione lightly punched him. “Is food all that you ever think about?”
“No, quidditch comes in there, too…”
Harry grabbed their arms and headed to the front door. He gave a small laugh. “Now I know things are back to normal.”
In the kitchen Molly, Arthur, and Ginny stared at each other. “Do you think we’ll ever know what they really went through?” asked Ginny.
Molly hugged her. “No, but I don’t think we need to. Come on; let’s bring the rest of the food out. The war was fought so that we could enjoy days like this.”