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Under the Stairs

Chapter Text

"It's not much," Ron said. "But it's home."

"I think it's brilliant," Harry responded.

He's never stopped thinking that. The instant he came in sight of that lopsided house, riding in the flying car his best friends came and got him in, seeing the knitting needles weaving themselves and nothing hanging straight and lastly but most astounding everyone seeming to like him - well, consider the Burrow Harry's favourite place in the world.

Except for Hogwarts.

When Mrs Weasley waves him upstairs and shows him all the rooms "There's Ginny, and Percy, and Fred and George - honestly could you two put that fire outside, please? Charlie's and Bill's, we've sort of tried to make -"

"This is me office, Harry," Mr Weasley informed him cheerfully, popping out of a room that had a bed and a desk pulled right up to it, along with some suspicious enormous claw marks gouged into the paint "Molly told me to fix it up after Charlie left, he brought home a Kneazle once, but I haven't the heart," he whispers. "Besides, makes for an interesting wall, doesn't it?"

Harry smiles back. "Erm yes sir, it does."

"You'll have to come in and tell me more about your muggles," Arthur adds. "I've certainly got something to write down on, I'd love to learn everything you know. What is the function of a rubber duck, really?"

"Oh, I didn't explain that, did I? Well -"

"Let the boy see where he'll be sleeping, Arthur!" Calls Molly. "Come up, Harry dear, I've just magicked you a bed, you'll be in with Ron."

Harry smiles in thanks and says "I'll be back, Mr Weasley, sorry -"

With a wave of his hand and an easy smile, "No worries, Harry. Go on and see what Molly's got for you. I'll be here." An enormous explosion rattles the room beneath his and he shouts "BOYS! No bombs in the house, please!"

"Sorry Dad!" Fred and George call up the stairs in unison.

"We were trying to drown out the noise from Ginny's room," George adds.

"Yeah I think my ears are bleeding," hollers Fred, and Harry freezes on the stairs to hear some loud, what sort of sounds like punk music, honestly - emanating from Ginny's bedroom.

He manages to get up to the top landing, which is tiny, and Mrs Weasley beckons, beaming. "Loo is just there, and here's Ron. And you, now, whenever you come to stay."

Harry's eyes widen as he looks around Ron's room. It's a bright space, walls a pale yellow, and he has orange posters on the walls. "Chudley Cannons are my quidditch team," his mate explains.

"And they're rubbish!" One of the twins roars upstairs.

"Oi, shut it!" Ron bellows back.

"Ronald Weasley!" His mother raises her eyebrows with a pointed look and as he is about to point down and say something about Fred and George, he deflates.

"...Sorry Mum."

"Good. You had better be. Well now Harry, here's your bed." It looks like Ron's, snug sort with old-fashioned metal head and foot posts, and "Nice comfy mattress, I used a softening spell. Oh and the sheets and blankets can change colour, just let me know what you'd prefer - oh!" Her words stop as Harry puts down his case and flings himself into her for a hug.

"Thanks Mrs Weasley," he gets out. "I, I love it. This is fine, all, well, amazing, actually." He smiles and flushes and lets go right after, not quite looking at her before adding "I'll get my trunk out of the way, sorry -"

"It's fine, dear," she soothes him, blinking a bit and pressing her lips together, motherly instinct putting some things together based on what had just been done. She registers how thin Harry is, almost skin and bones. She'd first noticed when he let Hedwig land on his arm before, and when he and her sons came in that morning. And even more after he gives her a hug. Her eyes twinkle and her cheeks bunch as she smiles at Harry. "Well I'll let you two get settled and I'll go down and make us an enormous brunch, how does that sound? How do you like your kippers, Harry?"

"Oh, erm, any way you cook them, Mrs Weasley, thanks." The boy sounds almost breathless, sitting down on the bed, hand curled round the foot of it as if to anchor himself. "Thanks very much."

"You're very welcome, dear. I'll call up to you when food is ready. Do show Harry the amenities, Ron," she tells her youngest son, and blows a kiss to them as she leaves.

"Okay Mum," Ron replies, and after she leaves he pulls his mouth to the side a little. "Sorry about this, I know it's small."

"It's great," Harry tells him, bouncing a bit as he settles onto the bed. Wow, Mrs Weasley really did make it soft. "I used to sleep in a cupboard, so this is incredible."

He speaks it soft and steady as if it's a statement of fact and not totally mad. There is silence before Harry hears Ron breathing and looks up at his best friend to see wide eyes and an intense stare, Ron leaning forward as if he can't comprehend what Harry just said. His voice snaps loudly, making Harry jump.

"Hang on, you WHAT?"

Ron is breathing hard, not believing what he's just heard. Harry is confused. "Yeah, erm, the Dursleys had me sleep under the stairs until this year. I've got a bedroom now, but it wasn't that bad to kip in the cupboard, just was small. Actually kind of warm, though. I mean, there were some spiders that got into my socks -"

Harry stops speaking, he remains a bit confused. Ron has balled both of his fists and his skin bypasses red and goes maroon alarmingly fast. He doesn't even appear affrighted by the mention of spiders.


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Harry's eyes widen. "Ssh, Ron, it's okay, mate." His voice cracks. "I've got a room now, like I said, and sure they didn't feed me much this summer, but -"

"Hold - no, come on, Mum said you look thin, and she's going to get you food...oh god, they're, they really were starving you, weren't they Harry?" Ron's face, so dark with fury has gone pale almost as quickly as it'd gotten red, and he moves across to sit on Harry's bed and grab his arms, pulling him into a tight hug as if automatically. He's clutching Harry's back and too-big shirt, and Harry doesn't know why but he has started shaking. He wants to tell Ron that it's all right, but Ron really thinks it isn't, and honestly Harry doesn't know how to feel because even if it is wrong, what his aunt and uncle have done, and not just upsetting and really hard to deal with, what can be done about it? The Dursleys are his family, after all. He has to stay with them, if only for the summer.

Hasn't he?

Pounding footsteps on the stairs not long after precede Fred and George poking their faces around Ron's door.

"Oi Ronnie,"

"Ickle Ronnykins, heardja shouting. Think Mum is going to let us downstairs for food if you keep doing that?" And then, as Harry lifts his face out of Ron's shoulder and Ron doesn't even bother telling the twins to shut up, nor does he turn to face them, well the pair looks at each other and then both step closer. "Oh, this looks serious."

"What's up, Ron, Harry?"

Ron raises his face and swallows, and to Harry's horror there are tear tracks on his best mate's round cheeks. Harry's heart thumps. He feels awful for causing this. He never would've said anything if he'd known it would cause Ron pain. His friend chokes "The Dursleys... they've been keeping Harry stuck under the stairs. For YEARS."

There's silence after that. Harry feels a chasm open in his chest and he wants to simultaneously sink into the floor and profusely apologise for the way all three brothers' faces drop. Fred and George both move in unison to sit on either side of Harry and Ron, budging up and squeezing in next to and behind them. George pushes his fingers through Harry's untidy hair as Fred presses his shoulder.

"Along with what they did this summer," Fred murmurs. "The starving, the window bars -"

"Harry, that's awful," says George, and if the twelve-year-old had looked up just then, he would see the Beaters of the Gryffindor quidditch team deserving their name by virtue of a dual facial expression synonymous with the position. Dursleys better watch themselves.

Ron just keeps hanging on to Harry and muttering "Bloody hell, that isn't right."

"No, it isn't."

They all remain settled on the bed together as Harry tries to think of something to say, a way to explain that he's used to it, really, because what can he do about it? It isn't like...well, honestly he doesn't know what it is not like, except nothing close to what it is being here with this family. His heart aches, suddenly, as he wishes he could somehow be part of this family, that he doesn't have to go back to the Dursleys next summer, no matter how staunchly he'd shouted that phrase at them from the car window. He feels that way until the sound of Mrs Weasley's voice floats up the stairs, calling them down for the meal.

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When the four boys clatter downstairs - the twins in particular getting a sharp look from their mother - there's a chorus of "Hello Harry" and a "Want some toast?" Along with "Percy, draw Harry up a place," just after - Harry's returning murmur of "it's fine, I sometimes had food come up to me in my room anyway so I wouldn't be a bother at the table" if noticed, does not stop the bustling of Mrs Weasley bringing a plate to him that holds what seems like an entire bacon rasher, eggs, and a mountain of kippers.

"Tuck in, dear," she says, patting his cheek and gesturing to a spot at the table for him to sit in. "Want something to drink?"

"Erm... I'll have pumpkin juice, please," he speaks tentatively and then adds "Or anything, if you haven't got juice that's fine, I don't want to be any trouble -"

"Yeah Harry you're so much trouble,"

"Asking nicely for what you want, what an outrage," Fred starts speaking first and George's comment overlaps his as they shift and shimmy round Percy and Ginny to reach their places, patting him on the arm before grinning and saying in unison "Don't worry about it."

"I think we've even got a bit left, aha!" Mrs Weasley beams, turning round with a jug of juice that she waves her wand over and it flies to a cup, which it fills. "There you are, Harry dear. Now eat up; we have to get to Diagon Alley for books and that, you've got your letters come here this morning."

"Dumbledore sent yours along as well, Harry," says Mr Weasley. "Doesn't miss a trick, that man. Oh glory, here comes -"

"Errol," Ron speaks in a strangled gasp of a voice as a grey, lumpy, looking like a living feather duster of an owl, crashes directly into the window next to Percy, who shoots a look and opens it to allow the dazed bird inside. Harry is so struck by this he forgot how hungry he was, but as Errol seems to be alright - steps forward, shakes his head and holds out a spindly leg as though this happens all the time ("does this a lot, ancient bloody bird," Harry hears Percy say), he is able to tuck into his food, and Ron takes extra notice of how quickly everything is gone. Even after he asks for ketchup with his eggs and kippers and has to explain to everyone why that is.

Ginny sits and stares at him with wide eyes, but does manage "..that sounds good. Loads better than Ron smothering his sausages." She ducks as her brother chucks a piece of toast at her.

"Brilliant, actually, there's probably some reason ickle Ronnykins smothers his sausages" Fred teases and Harry violently snorts into his pumpkin juice with shock. George reaches over and pounds him on the back.

"Alright, Freddie, don't kill the children," George remonstrates. "Least, not if you don't take out Perce too." He receives a dirty look from his older brother at that comment, and a sharper one from his mum that does in fact shut him up. No matter what happens, he's got a healthy respect for her punishments, including the looks that he's quite sure could kill or at the very least do as much damage as a Full-body Bind.

"Right then, what'd bird brain bring?"

"Oi c'mon don't talk about Errol -" Ginny protests on the owl's behalf valiantly.

"Don't you mean yourself there, Fred?" Asks Percy snidely.

"Oh, hah, that's amazing, I'm rolling!" Fred clutches his chest in dramatic fashion.

"You know what, if you can't take a joke -"

"Oh I know I can," Fred goes serious as he stares across at his older brother. "..thing is, I've got a question of whether or not you were joking just then."

An instant of silence precedes Percy smacking his lips. "Really, well maybe you should slow down a minute, don't want you to hurt yourself."

"Boys!" There's a sharp tone and a glower, and Molly whacks Arthur on the shoulder when her husband looks back and forth without saying anything about their back-and-forth.

"Er, right. Boys that's wrong, don't say things of that sort to each other, let's find out what Errol has."

He's brought a letter, actually, from Hermione, who had been writing to Ron and he to her it seems over course of the summer. "Oooooh Ronnie,"

"Shut up, Fred!"


"But he -"

"I don't care, don't speak words like that at my breakfast table."

"... Sorry. I told her we were going to bust you out - I mean, carefully get, erm, liberate you from your aunt and uncle's place," Ron gulps and fidgets as his mother crosses her arms as he tells Harry. "Well anyway, maybe we can meet up with her in Diagon Alley today, Harry."

"Now that is lovely, get the three friends together again. Everyone needs to go get their robes or clothes on. Ginny did you find your jumper, dear? And we'll work out books and new clothes if you need. I'll knit you anything you'd like Harry, dear, just say the word."

"Thanks Mrs Weasley."

She beams at him as though every thank you he says adds a year to her life. Even as Fred and George dramatically wave Harry off and mouth at him not to ever ask her to knit him clothes.

There's a hustle and bustle to clear up the dishes then; Harry gets a couple of sausages and bread pressed into his hand by Ron. George says something to his dad in what passes for an undertone as Fred ribs both Percy and Ginny over who's going to be asked by their mother to get out the Floo Powder, and Ron folds his letter from Hermione away "To actually read it later and give her a reply, y'know Hermione, she wants to know everything that's happening" and eventually they're all crowded over in the cramped living room beside the fireplace, ready to go.

Though someone's got to explain to Harry about Floo Powder.

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Ron really wishes he had gotten the chance to write Hermione before they get to Diagon Alley.

Mostly because he'd been too chicken to tell his parents about what he'd learnt about Harry's time with the bloody Dursleys, but he wants - he needs someone else to know; someone smarter than him who can keep a secret and who also might know what to do because of knowing way more about muggles than he does. Also because Fred and George have surely done one of those twin things they do sometimes and already figured out a thousand creative ways to mess with the Dursleys with tricks or explosions.

Not that he blames them, it's just, the thing is. Harry is HIS best mate, and he'll be hornswoggled if he's going to let anybody else be first to get their own on Harry's behalf. Since he can tell, which really hurts, really - that Harry isn't going to take up for himself.

Ron guesses he can't, though. It's not like with Malfoy, where Harry can just tell him to shut up and not be bothered. And it's not like with Snape who acts like an absolute git to Harry but it doesn't bother him, Harry just smarts back. Which is wicked, even though Hermione has been known to gasp about it: "He's our teacher, Ronald!"

Ron had responded "Yeah, which means no one's going to believe it if Harry tells on him, so it's better Harry gets his own back himself and loses a couple House points for it. You don't want Snape to get on Harry like he does Neville, do you?"

"I don't want him to get on Neville either," she'd been in such distress then, nearly crying over it end of last year (it had been during finals, which Ron wanted to attribute the emotion to, he was more comfortable doing that) but now he thinks it's definitely more than that. Harry - and Neville - both deal with shit. It's just that he's got to figure out a way to improve Harry's lot.

Which helps that Harry isn't in Diagon Alley when they go via Floo Powder.

Obviously, it really doesn't; Ron's mum gets freaked and starts bustling all about, practically throwing people out of her way to look for Harry; and his dad tries to herd all of them into one miniscule area whilst helping her, asking people "Have you seen a boy bout as tall as my youngest one here, but skinny with black hair and taped glasses and knobbly knees?"


"Sorry Molly, just trying to be realistic."

Fred and George join right in with that by asking if anyone's seen a specky little git answering to the name of Harry, and Ginny stands with Percy, her eyes wide and worried as the eldest sibling there sniffs "Well if Harry had only spoken clearly -"


"You shut that shite up, Percy, he's never used Floo Powder before!"

"I'd like to see you try it if all your life you'd lived with tetchy wanking useless muggles!"


There is absolute silence as George and Fred and Ron all shout down Percy, with the final phrase coming at an incredible volume from a beet-red face. Mrs Weasley is mortified, and Ron appears a mite pale as coming up just behind them after that comment, gaze flickering to the twins, is Hermione.

For the first time anyone remembers in his life, George Weasley looks absolutely mortified. "Oh god, Hermione I'm sorry, I was talking about Harry's family, the Dursleys. I never meant -"

Fred, just there, automatically puts his arm around Hermione and hisses "Way to cock that right up, George."

"Erm, hullo Hermione," Ron presses his lips together, mouth twisting as he steps up to her, trying to save the situation, or at least move on. "Harry came with us here, but he got lost using Floo Powder, so everyone's a bit upset..."

"And Perce is bloody standing there like he's never done a stupid thing in his life, when it's not even Harry's fault he said the wrong thing!" Fumes George, though he adds, again "I'm sorry for talking about muggles like that though, Hermione. Really sorry."

Hermione smacks her lips and lifts her chin magnanimously. "You're forgiven," she says. "Hello, Ron. And you were talking about Harry's aunt and uncle, weren't you?" George nods furiously. "Then I agree with you, they're ghastly. But the most pressing thing is finding Harry. I thought the only problem having him to stay would be using your flying car," she adds whilst falling into step with the whole family, receiving greetings from Mr and Mrs and Ginny. "- clearly I was wrong."

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By the time Hagrid appears with his hand on Harry's shoulder, looming over the crowd and saying "Found 'im, Molly, don't you fret", Hermione has been given suggestions of various pranks that go from vague annoyances to horrible death traps.

And she has patiently explained the necessity for at least disguising these occurrences as muggle issues to the twins "We can't have the Dursleys' car explode with or without them inside, not without any cause behind it. What reason to have their car explode?"

"No reason except for them all being a collection of absolutely grody wankstains."

Hermione wrinkles her nose and Ron clears his throat and elbows his older brothers.

"But that would likely kill them, and you don't want to be responsible for that, do you?" Hermione posits a trifle faintly.

Her heart thumps as the twins look at each other.


"After what they've done to Harry -"

"Ron!" Hermione gasps at her friend. "Say something!"

Ron hitches up his shoulders. "Hermione, I can't ever stop Fred 'n George. But," he adds a trifle more strongly "I think whatever we do to the Dursleys, they should know what happened, like. Haven't you got one of your mad inventions that can do summing to Harry's cousin, like how Hagrid tried to turn him into a pig last year?" Harry had told Ron that with a sort of gleeful awe, and how the Dursleys had no response to what happened other than being afraid. Ron mentions this now. "If you do something magical to the cousin, his parents will wig right out."

Fred and George now wear matching devilish grins as Harry at last extricates himself from Mrs Weasley's arms, looking a bit embarrassed but also pleased to have a fuss made over him (she'd asked "now Harry dear, are you SURE you're all right?" At least three times).

Hermione beams as he smiles stepping up to her. "Hullo Hermione,"

"Harry!" She flies at him for a hug, not in the least because of what she has just heard about his family. She grips him tightly with her lips trembling, luckily her bushy hair obscures her face from him until she can control it. "So wonderful to see you."

"You too," his smile slips a little. "Though I'm really sorry about not answering any of your letters, I heard you sent loads."

"No worries," she sniffs and waves that off. Her sweet friend, so worried when it was not even his fault he hadn't seen the letters. "I'm just so glad you're here, Ron told me he was going to come rescue you."

"- in a way that was bloody wicked if I say so myself," says George, with agreement from Fred and a glower from Mrs Weasley as she hears whilst trying to herd them all into Flourish and Blotts.

"... Mum's still sore about it, but I think deep down she approves," a loud whisper emanates in return as the five of them follow the rest.

There's a disbelieving snort. "In your dreams, Fred."

Chapter Text

When Mr Weasley dove on Malfoy's father, besides the fact that most of his children were cheering and his wife was horrified, the idea of setting him loose on Harry's aunt and uncle sticks and stays in Ron's mind, despite the fact he hadn't expected his mild-mannered father to get a punch in Lucius Malfoy's eye, Merlin's pants! Harry's time was unfortunately taken up by that madman Lockhart which took his mind off the fact that he'd ratted out the Dursleys (though they're the rats, of course) and the entirety of getting back to the Burrow and then up to when they get on the train, Fred and George are writing down and sounding off about spell ideas to get back at the Dursleys.

Which Hermione tells them sound revolting.

"Are you really going to find a spell to make everything Harry's cousin eats taste like it's been in the bin?" She asks. "Because most muggles would chuck something, and if it keeps happening, they'll just send him to the doctor."

"What's that?"

"It's like a healer, but they have to pay a lot for every visit."

With an evil grin: "How much is 'a lot', Hermione?"

"Hundred pounds, at least. Erm, never mind," she doesn't know the conversion to galleons, sickles, and knuts anyway, and the more important point is "When is the next time you'll even SEE the Dursleys?"

A shrug.

"Never, like as not," Ron says gloomily.

"Don't be a downer, Ronnie, we'll keep a watch on Harry!"

"...what about me?" Harry's come up to them, Fred hefting his trunk up for a minute before they prepare to go through the brick and onto the platform, as Harry's specky little self seems to be having a spot of trouble. "- Thanks Fred. Now what's going on?" He asks them, half-expecting glares or silence, though he knows that isn't how they've ever reacted to him, yet the possibility remains, doesn't it?

All that happens, however, is the query being put:

"Say Harry, if your cousin found a sack of lollies and first one tasted like crup shite, would he keep eating them til he found one that tasted better, or would he toss out the entire sack?"

Ginny looks up from the battered little book she's been standing off and scribbling in at that.

"...I actually think he'd keep right on eating," Harry replies, and the twins roar with laughter as that is what they'd figured. Hermione sighs disgustedly and Harry thinks he spots a tiny wrinkle between Ginny's brows.

"Come on, boys, enough of that, please, you've got to get through onto the platform so you don't miss the train! Stick with your brothers, Ginny dear. Oh, your father and I are so proud of you, aren't we, Arthur?"

"The proudest," Arthur beams. "Here Ginny, we'll go with you in. Why don't we, Molly? It's her first year. You and Ron are next after us, alright Harry?"

"Okay, Mr Weasley," Harry says as George shoots him a wink after which he links arms with Fred and shoves Percy unceremoniously before them (and after Hermione) through the bricks between platforms nine and ten.

Chapter Text

No one is particularly interested in Harry's muggle woes for the first few weeks of school; after the hubbub about the flying car and the blocked up platform dies down, first time Harry sees Hagrid at school is when Ron is puking slugs, and the biggest order of the day is how hard they ought to punch Malfoy or otherwise harm him for calling Hermione a mudblood.

Fred and George add the little git to their row of wrath, being filled with the likes of the Dursleys and his father, and Percy Weasley upon hearing his brothers snarling over the slight that night at supper (and wondering why the wiggling slime of jello is making Ron look ill) turns and says to Hermione in his rather stuffy way "I just want you to know, Hermione, that words like that are utterly intolerable, and you have about as much knowledge as me, besides"

"...which isn't too hard," snickers George.

"So actually she's loads smarter than you, Percy."

Percy glowers down the table at them, yet Hermione, cheeks going a bit pink, shakes Percy's hand and thanks him. She thinks of something whilst continuing to eat, and asks "...Is that at all what it's like for you when your aunt and uncle talk about your magic, Harry?"

The Weasleys look at each other and then focus on Harry as well. "Blimey, I never thought about the other way round," Ron whispers, fist clenching around his fork. "Wonder if it's anything like what happened for Seamus when his dad found out his mum had magic?"

Harry looks down at his supper plate and shakes his head. "I don't think it's like what happened to Seamus," he swallows. "Don't think it's like what anyone has, really. I dunno, Hermione, I used to get things chucked at me and had myself locked under the stairs or whatever. They don't call me anything though. Not even my name, really. It's just 'Hey you, boy! Hey you!' so. Nothing near the crap Malfoy talked to you, though." Harry looks up at her and squeezes her hand briefly. "About that, I - I'm really sorry."

"It's - not your fault, Harry." Hermione's eyes are full of compassion and horror at the little Harry just voiced about his family. "And what you deal with, it's just as bad, I think. Your aunt and uncle, they really are so awful." She chokes a little on the words as Fred and George nod vigorously. Even Percy looks pale, and for once he doesn't have a clue what to say. Ron just mumbles about pounding the piss out of them one day.

Harry offers an uncomfortable shrug, not really knowing what to say either. "At least I'm here with all of you," he offers at last, pushing food around his plate before dessert appears on the glimmering plates and he instantly stuffs some with a pleased little sigh. "This treacle is really good! Here, Hermione, have some." He offers the rest of it.

"Even a little something sweet brightens a dark day," some of the Weasleys murmur. It's something their mum has said at times, mostly when she felt one of her children needed a hug, or a kiss on the cheek and a favourite flavour of biscuit. But Harry is not to know that, he is simply, somehow, content with his lot. It's incredible, downright impressive, and Ron makes the decision to get more people into his best mate's corner. Harry doesn't deserve to be or feel alone against the Dursleys, 'specially with an attitude like the one he's got.

He's going to do something about it.

Chapter Text

Escapades of the year withstanding, it is a good way to keep oneself busy, such as in the abandoned second-floor bathroom, with the strangest of happenstance. The most concerning issue is the breaking of Harry's arm by the rogue bludger, and his agony in the hospital wing that night after the match. He doesn't see it in the cheery, relieved, and thankful faces surrounding him when he is initially brought in to Madam Pomfrey and hears her grumbling over "a clearly incompetent teacher who thinks he's a healer, I say". Subsequent to which, Ron thinks about how Harry has most likely been through worse at home, though how could he honestly call that place his home - he had said he wasn't going home, not really, end of last year - but Harry shouldn't have to deal with this. So Ron gets ahold of Hermione and the twins as they finally leave the hospital wing to head to supper.

"Harry's got to stay in there overnight, d'you think we -"

"... should get out the word on what's been happening to him, like this being an extension of the shite he deals with all summer? Good thinking," Fred slaps Ron on the shoulder. His younger brother blinks.

"Wait, I -"

"You believe the thought in that? Being mates with Hermione here must be rubbing off on you," he rubs Hermione's bushy hair and she flushes a little in surprise and pleasure.

"We really ought to go to supper, though, if the professors catch us out here -"

True to that exact concern, a sharp flute like voice calls over to the backs of the twins.

"Mr Weasley, Mr Weasley. I might have known the two of you would dawdle. And what's this?" McGonagall lifts her brows and presses her lips together as Ron and Hermione look at each other before Fred and George sweep the pair of them behind their own robes in unison, lifting fingers in a shushing gesture.

"What's what, Professor?" Such elaborate innocence on both faces. "We've just been on a walk after visiting Harry in the hospital wing."

"Heading to the Great Hall right now,"

A cocked eyebrow. "...And as for Mr Weasley and Miss Granger?" She pointedly asks.

"Erm -"

"Well they were with us, Professor, see, but we told them they had better get on back ahead, really," George shoos Ron and Hermione behind him as he and Fred walk in-step, Fred's hand on Hermione's shoulder, hidden by his bag and robes as he attempts to shove her, and George, Ron - into an alcove so they can escape for the hall and not have any House Points taken.

But it's not in Hermione to lie when a professor, not to mention the Head of her House, asks a direct question. So she steps out from behind Fred, even as she nods to him for what he'd been doing, the intake of breath and Ron hissing "Hermione, no!" Does not dissuade her.

"Ron and I went to see Harry as well, Professor," she says. "We snuck in with the rest of the quidditch team. I'm sorry we stayed way too long, didn't we Ron?" She looks back at and beckons to him. He shakes his head, skin almost looking green from the extent of his nerves. Not only has he been caught out, but with Fred and George covering for them he's sure that he and Hermione are going to get into a ton more trouble.

But George shoves him out next to her with a tiny smile, and Ron could thump him. "Erm...yeah. We're sorry, Professor McGonagall," he tries, pulling his lips to the side and looking down at her feet and then slowly up, trying to stay contrite.

McGonagall sighs then, and the Weasley twins could swear they see her roll her eyes fondly. "Well. You were visiting your friend. Harry is lucky to have you," she says, and opens her mouth perhaps to tell them not to stay out wandering the halls late again, or set them off to supper, or maybe to take some points -

"Not lucky enough," Ron blurts out. "Harry isn't, I mean. We need to get him some supper, a lot of supper." Fred and George stare at each other and understand what Ron means, their hands dropping to and resting on his shoulders.

Hermione hisses, shocked that he would not only interrupt, but contradict a teacher: "Ronald!"

But McGonagall narrows her eyes and asks "And why is that, Mr Weasley?"

"Because -" Ron's face blanches as he looks to his brothers for help. "Because, the way he got to come to ours this summer, the only way was me an' Fred an' George had to break him out of his aunt and uncle's house!"

"It's true, Professor," Fred's face and voice are utterly serious now. "Those - people were starving him."

"They put bars on his bloody - sorry - blooming window," adds George.

"And they've been awful to him, yelling all the time," Hermione's eyes sparkle with tears therein. "He - Harry told us."

"I dunno if they've - hit him, or anything, but the bludger thing, it's bad as what he gets at theirs and that shouldn't happen to him!" Ron is amazed at himself for almost shouting, but he is even more astounded by the look on the ever-stern professor's face. Not only have her features frozen and dropped, she looks as if she too might cry. Her hand is shaking as she beckons the four of them to come with her.

"Let us go to my office, please - I will get your food, and Harry's." Not a one is excited about the prospect of going with, but something in her face and voice make the four of them nod to and glance at each other before they immediately follow.

And, if the Weasleys in particular didn't know better, they would swear that she looks...a tad guilty.

Chapter Text

Minerva McGonagall ushers the group of students into her office, striding down the hallways swiftly, her lips pursed and eyes searing as her head whirls with everything these children are saying about Harry Potter. She should have known; she DID know, but had convinced herself that Albus Dumbledore knew best; though he, unlike she, had not lived amongst muggles and so does not see that these in particular are not the good sort. It's something to be said for being an Animagus and for one's form to be a cat, to boot. An inocuous enough creature. The professor makes a silent decision as she opens her office door and points inside. "In. Please."

Her voice is sharp but she tries to soften it, closing the door behind them all as the four students file in. Fred and George have been here many times before, mostly for talking-tos about incidents in classes and whether or not they had actually done any of their homework for the week - "Like those new curtains, Professor," Fred says to her. "Snazzy."

"Thank you, Mr Weasley. Please, have a seat, all of you." With a wave of her wand, she conjures two extra chairs, Hermione and Ron being the first (he a trifle reluctant) to sit. They are more comfortable than her own chair, a bit; she has a heavy oaken straight-backed one.

"Still working on proper posture, Professor?" Inquires George.

"It never hurts to keep up the practise, Mr Weasley."

She looks at each of them in turn as the twins shuffle a bit to stand behind Hermione and Ron, not settling down. McGonagall sighs through her nose. It is to be expected. Her sharp gaze catches on them all over the tops of her glasses, and suddenly it's as if Ron can't keep silent anymore. "We've gotta do something for Harry, Professor!"

She nods curtly. "I know, and I want to thank you for bringing this to my attention. Harry has not spoken thus to adults, I would imagine?"

"Er, no, I don't think so. I... don't really think he meant to tell us," Ron looks up at his brothers. "I mean, he just kind of said something under his breath to me and then tried to act like it was okay, not a big deal, and." He huffs out a breath, almost a cry. Blinks hard and rubs his eyes on his sleeve. "I just - don't understand, he's me best mate, and he never said anything about what bad stuff happens to him!"

"It's like he didn't even realise how awful it was," Hermione adds in a tiny voice. "...he thinks it's worse to be called names than have things thrown at him by those - by people who are supposed to be his family...,"

McGonagall sucks in a breath and her eyes blaze. "It is a horrible side-effect to suffering abuse," her strong voice wobbles on the word "for such sufferers not to admit, or recognise, the extent of such horrible occurrences." Her eyes blink rapidly and she takes off her glasses, waving her wand to clean them from spots of what her students think might possibly be tears. They have never thought this stern witch could cry before.

"Oh, Professor,"

"What can we do? Should we go to Dumbledore?"

A burst of white-hot fury shoots through McGonagall. "Professor Dumbledore doesn't see a reason to place Harry anywhere else." There is stunned silence from all of the faces looking over the desk at her, and the professor takes a breath, settles her shoulders. Recalling who and where she is. "However, as Mr Potter's Head of House, it is my duty to assist him myself, and rest assured that I shall do so, now this issue has come to my attention." There is a moment of silence before "I give you my word," she says to all of them, before standing and clapping her hands together once, in a fashion brisk and loud enough to make the group jump. "Now, Fred and George," the twins jerk, blanch a little, as she's never called them by their first names.

"Um, y-yes, Professor?" Ron's look of shock at the slight stutter earns him a tiny shove.

The Head of Gryffindor again purses her lips. "I would like the pair of you to...use the particular means at your disposal to gather a feast for yourselves and Harry." She takes out a quill and bit of parchment, dips it, and writes a little note. "Please take that to the kitchens, and give it to the chefs. They will know what to do." As George reaches for the bit of paper, she holds it up with a deluxe sharp look. "This is one occasion, on this night, that I will ask of you. And if you try to keep or change the letter -" she taps the paper with her wand and whispers something "--let me just say that it will not acquiesce to your whims easily. Is that understood?"

The cocking of her eyebrows alone tell the twins not to mess with her on this.

"Understood, Professor," George says. Fred nods and agrees.

"Very well then." She hands the parchment to the pair and turns to Ron and Hermione, features softening at the stalwart loyalty and compassion she sees on their faces. They are good kids. "Now, let us give a bit of company to your friend over supper, shall we? Come on." She beckons for the pair of Second Years to follow, and makes her way out of her office and back towards the hospital wing. Fred and George have already disappeared on her errand.

Ron leans over to Hermione, eyes wide. "Blimey, Hermione, I never expected that!"

"What didn't you expect?" Hermione whispers.

"Just - her saying that about Dumbledore, that she's going to help Harry herself...any of it!"

Hermione rolls her eyes in exasperated fondness. "Oh, Ron."

Over her shoulder, Professor McGonagall says to him "Contrary to popular belief, Mr Weasley, though I am a teacher I do, in fact, have a heart."

Chapter Text

Harry rolls over and clenches his teeth at the deep enduring ache in his right arm. He'd finally gotten his quidditch gloves off with multiple pauses and hissing and pressing his face into the blankets as pinpricks of pain shot through his fingertips. His fingers and arm don't move of their own accord, of course; they're still flopping about after the imbibing of Skele-Gro from Madam Pomfrey's jar that looks, in fact, as if it could be made of bone (which makes Harry a trifle more hesitant to ask her for an extra pillow to place underneath his arm than he otherwise might).

His stomach grumbles even as the clashing of the pain and the sour taste of Skele-Gro that lingers in his mouth makes him feel a bit sick, and then Harry looks up to hear clattering footsteps and a no-nonsense voice exhorting someone to "Slow down, Mr Weasley, there's no cause to push in like a parade of pandering pariahs!" And then Professor McGonagall with her sharp features and even sharper eyes opens the door to the hospital wing with a nod and address to Madam Pomfrey, hoping their presence will not disturb her work; "Some of the Weasley boys and Miss Granger are here to share their supper with Potter."

Harry's eyes get huge and he grins as Ron and Hermione peek out from behind McGonagall, next to Fred and George who've appeared with loads of bundles and a basket and parcels of food, apparently.

"Hullo Harry,"

"Hiya Harry! You won't believe what McGonagall has gone and done -" Ron runs to his bed with the loudest possible whisper, to which Hermione rolls her eyes.

"Of course he will, Ron, it's Professor McGonagall, she takes care of her House. How's your arm feeling, Harry?" Bushy hair bouncing as she pulls up a chair to sit next to him, Hermione notices the awkward way his arm rests on the bed, and how his face looks a bit white.

"Oh, it's - I'm fine," he tries to assure her, but she doesn't believe that at all.

"Harry. Your BONES have just been gone. Here, let's sit you up and have a spot of supper." She fluffs his pillow for him, and Ron, rolling his eyes at the dramatic taking-charge, nevertheless comes to Harry's other side and gently takes his hand and shoulder to help Harry shift to sit back.

"All right, Harry, we've brought you the lot," winks Fred, snapping out what looks like a picnic blanket as George sets down parcels at the end of the bed.

"Where'd you get all this?" Ron is open-mouthed as the twins begin unpacking.

"From the kitchen, Ronny, don't you pay attention?" Both speak in unison, and then

"Here you are Harry, we've got pumpkin juice -"

"Some kippers -"

"Salad, a bit of steak,"

"Ah! Rolls! With butter, can't forget that, mate -"

"Roast chicken and watercress, apparently"

"Some corn thing the cooks thought you'd like,"

"Oh and last but not least, treacle tart, which someone told us is your favourite." A grin and another wink precedes the fastest filling of a glittering golden plate that Harry has ever seen. "Eat up there, mate."

Harry stares from the plate to each of them, finding the sight blurring a bit as he blinks. "I - thank you," his voice cracks. "I... can't believe you've gotten all this for me."

"Oh, of course we did, Harry."

"It was Professor McGonagall who had the idea, actually. Well, she made the plan."

Harry sniffs, eyes widening. "... Really?"

"Yes Potter, really," the professor has come to stand by his bed after finishing her chat with Madam Pomfrey, and her eyes are warm as she looks at him, waving a wand to take up a swathe of linen to wrap around his arm, the matron going for a pillow to put beneath the boy's elbow. He is trying to mask his pain, but she sees it. "I am here for you, as your Head of House and your teacher, and as such I will do everything for you that I possibly can."

Something in her face as she says that makes Harry get an inkling that she may not just be talking about making sure he has supper this evening, but for the life of him he doesn't know what else she could mean, except to ensure there will not be any more rogue bludgers on the quidditch pitch.

Whatever she means, Harry is incredibly touched. "Thank you very much, Professor," he says to her.

Minerva McGonagall smiles into those bright green eyes that are those of another wonderful student she had, and though Harry's kindness is of her, the shy appreciation and modesty he possesses is all his own. Just as his messy dark hair and long nose reminds her of a brash loyal boy with a certain disregard for the rules...but Harry's staunchness is his.

He may be his parents' child, but his character is his own. And as forks and knives are passed out, Hermione shakes a napkin and spreads it across his lap for Harry, the twins ragging Ron for shoveling chicken and watercress in his mouth after he'd asked if they were going to fill his plate too and the response was a resounding "No!", Minerva looks over them all with a smile. This boy and his friends, they share a bond to cherish.

And she will cherish it too, the light in his face, the happiness that comes every time he enters school. She will watch over this boy howsoever long she can, and at Number Four, Privet Drive before the following summer, there will be a stately tabby cat stepping round the corner.