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Calm before the Storm by wattage

Format: Short story
Chapters: 5
Word Count: 10,946
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature

Genres: Drama, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 06/18/2007
Last Chapter: 07/05/2007
Last Updated: 10/11/2007

Summary:
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A week before Bill's wedding, Harry leaves the Dursley's for the last time and goes to the Burrow to enjoy a few days of calm before his most difficult quest yet begins.


Chapter 1: Farewell
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Warm sunshine covered the houses of Privet Drive as Harry Potter sat in the back garden. The suburb was quiet as everyone took advantage of the glorious weather by taking children to the park or visiting the swimming pool. Harry was quite happy to sit in the relative quiet and the peaceful sunshine as he needed to concentrate.

Harry sat in a gleaming white garden chair (nothing could be dirty in Aunt Petunia’s house) and in front of him, spread out on the matching white table, lay a variety of books, papers, parchments and a wand. Harry was bent over the table scribbling notes on the paper and occasionally glancing at the parchments and searching the books.

Placing the pen down for a moment, Harry sighed, yawned, stretched and then removed the cap from his head and pulled his t-shirt. He wiped his slightly sweaty face with the t-shirt, dropped it on the ground and then replaced the cap over his messy dark hair. A slight rustling noise behind him made his hand shoot to his wand. With a tight grip on it, he sat still and listened carefully. Then he heard it, a soft giggle followed by a hasty hissing whisper.

Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head. The neighbour’s granddaughters were trying to peer through the hedge again. The two twelve year old twins had arrived for a visit a week ago and from the moment they had seen Harry they tried to see much more of him.
From the moment Harry had gotten back to Privet Drive he had started working not only on the Horcrux problem but on himself. Knowing he needed to be physically fit enough to fight Voldemort he had started exercising. From the tall, skinny boy he had been a year ago, he was now tall, slim but muscular. It was no wonder the twins wanted to catch a glimpse of Harry sitting shirtless in the garden.

Harry stood up and walked inside, returning with a glass of cold water. Before he sat down he turned and looked at the hedge.
“Enjoying your holiday girls?” he asked with a smile. The hedge shook, giggled and then Harry saw the two running into the house. He shook his head again and sat down to work again.

After another hour of writing, paging and reading, Harry sat back, sipped his water and stretched again.
“Hey Potter! Don’t you know when to give it a break?”
Harry looked over his shoulder at the sound of his cousin’s voice.
“Sadly no, Dudders, I can’t take a break from saving the world. What have you been up to? Causing tidal waves at the pool? Was there any water left after you got in?”
“Hilarious, Potter,” Dudley said, sitting in a chair at the table. “So are you working too hard or you ready for a bit of exercise?”
“I’m done, exercise sounds good.”

If anyone knew about Dudley and Harry’s past they would have been shocked to hear that they were doing anything together. When Harry got back to Privet Drive he did something he didn’t think he would ever do. He convinced his aunt, uncle and cousin to sit down and listen to him. He told them the whole story, from the Order, his parents’ involvement, Dumbledore’s death and what the future was bringing, but left out any information that would bring them harm.

Petunia had turned pale, Dudley seemed to change his impression of Harry but Vernon had turned bright pink and started shouting. Harry had shouted back until he got fed up, told his uncle that he was stupid and if he didn’t take Harry’s warning they would all be in danger. Harry and Vernon had not said a word to each other since but Dudley had changed his tune and offered Harry help.

Every second day they trained together and actually got to know each other. As Harry and Dudley finished their workout that warm afternoon, Harry, for the first time ever felt a touch of sorrow to be leaving Privet Drive.
“Thanks Dudley,” Harry said as he wiped his face with his shirt again.
“No problem cuz,” Dudley said. “So rest day tomorrow, and we’ll do another session on Saturday.”
“Um…actually I’m leaving tonight,” Harry said, looking down at the ground.
“Tonight? What? Why?” Dudley asked, quite shocked at this revelation.
“Well, as soon as my birthday starts at midnight, the protection on this house stops. I don’t want to put you in danger, so the sooner I leave the better. I’ve got things to do and I need to start doing them.”
Dudley looked at his cousin, with an expression of surprise, awe and sadness. “I never thought I’d say this but I think I’ll miss you Harry.”
Harry laughed. “Oddly enough I’ll miss you too Duds.” Harry extended his hand and Dudley shook it.
“Good luck Harry,” Dudley said softly.
* * *

Later that evening after a tense and silent dinner at the Dursley’s dinning table, Harry retired to his bedroom to pack his trunk. When there was a knock at his door, he was surprised to see Aunt Petunia sheepishly entering the room holding a small box. Harry stood up, still holding the robes he was folding.
“Dudley says you are leaving,” she said quietly. Harry merely nodded. “Um…I got the impression that you are going to do something dangerous like your mother and father…I feel like I should tell you to be careful.” Petunia looked up, her eyes shimmered. She shifted uncomfortably, dropping her gaze again.
“I should have given this to you long ago,” she said holding out the small wooden box. With a final look at Harry she turned away. “Be safe, Harry,” she said quietly and quickly left the room.

Harry stood holding the box, stunned at his Aunt’s emotional display. “Trust the end of the world to force some feeling into this family,” Harry said to himself. He dropped the robes into his trunk, sat on his bed and examined the small box. It was a golden brown, varnished and smooth with two hinges on the back. On the front the letters ‘LE’ were carved in flowing script. Slowly Harry lifted the lid. He let out a sad sigh as his eyes fell on a photograph. James and Lily Potter were sitting in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Piles of food lay on the table in front of them and jack-o-lanterns floated in the background. James and Lily grinned at the camera, waved occasionally, but mainly just kept gazing at each other. At these moments, Sirius and Lupin’s faces would pop into the picture making funny expressions. Harry chuckled softly as his mother grabbed Sirius’ tie and then pushed him away.

Tearing his eyes away from the entertaining picture, he picked up the rest of the contents and shuffled through them. Old parchments from James, all Lily’s Hogwart’s letters, a few pictures of her with friends and the Marauders and one picture that stood out, because the people weren’t moving. Harry looked closer at the image. A young Lily was grinning widely at the camera. Her arm was draped over another girl who looked just as happy while two adults stood behind them. Harry turned the picture over. “Mom, Dad, Petunia and me. Summer 1969.” Harry turned back to the photograph and looked closely at the girl next to his mom. She was barely recognisable as a young version of the woman he knew as Aunt Petunia. She was smiling, obviously happy about life, having a great day with her family and her sister was a very good friend. “Unbelievable,” Harry said softly.

* * *

As Harry marvelled at his mother’s box of memories, Hermione was looking through her own collection of memories. Parchment notes, photographs, Gryffindor badges and banners…she sighed as she placed them carefully into a shoe box on her desk.
“Are you all packed?” Mrs Granger asked from the doorway.
“I think so,” Hermione said as she closed the box.
“It’s nearly midnight,” her father said as he stepped into the room carrying a coat. He handed it to Hermione and engulfed her in a tight hug.
Hermione looked up at her dad, “You do understand why I need to go don’t you?”
Mr Granger nodded. “Sweetie, you’ve told us everything you could, and we know how much it means to you. We just want you to be careful, and safe,” Mrs Granger said and joined her husband for a group hug.
“I’ll be careful mom, I promise, plus I’ll be with Harry and Ron, and a whole lot of experienced and powerful people, but I’m a part of this fight and I won’t step down.”
Mr Granger smiled at his daughter. “I couldn’t be more proud of you.” He kissed her on her forehead. “Just keep us informed. We want to know how you are.” Hermione nodded and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“Well, I better get going.” She picked up her shrunken trunk, pulled on her jacket and stored the trunk in a pocket. She hugged her parents again, picked up her wand and with a final look at her parents said, “I love you both, see you soon,” and disappeared.

Harry stood in the entrance hall in semi darkness. He glanced at the clock, which at that moment struck midnight. Harry’s nerves tingled. He was kind of expecting something major to happen at midnight which signalled the end of the protection on the house, but nothing happened. A knock at the front door made him jump.
“Harry, its Hermione. Are you there?” a muffled voice asked.
“I’m here,” Harry replied, starting to open the door.
“Wait!” Hermione said quickly. “You have to check it’s really me!”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Okay. What were you looking for when I first met you?”
“Neville’s toad.”
“Right. Can I open the door now?”
“No I have to check it’s really you.” Harry rolled his eyes again. “What tattoo did Ginny say you have?”
Harry smiled, answered “A Hungarian Horntail,” and pulled the door open.

“Hi,” Hermione said hugging him straight away. “Happy Birthday”
“Thanks.”
“Are you ready?”
“Yes. I just have to shrink my trunk, since I am now legally allowed to do it now.” With a quick wave of his wand, the trunk became small enough to fit in Harry’s pocket. “Let’s go,” he said as he pocketed the trunk.
They stepped out into the cool night and walked down the path. Harry paused, took a last look at the house he was leaving. Then with a simple nod at Hermione, they disappeared.

Chapter 2: Head versus Heart
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The tantalising smell of bacon roused Harry from a deep sleep. He slowly opened his eyes and reached for his glasses. The twins’ bedroom at The Burrow came into focus. Harry smiled to himself as he stretched and sat up. For the first time since Dumbledore’s death he had had a peaceful and decent night’s sleep. Harry got out of bed, stretched again and pulled open the curtain. The sun streamed through the window, warming Harry instantly. He opened the window and let the light breeze enter the room.

Harry stepped over to his trunk which was back to its normal size and began digging for a clean t-shirt.
“How many mom?” Ginny’s voice floated through the window. Harry’s heart skipped a beat. With his change of clothes in hand Harry went back to the window. Ginny must have gotten an answer to her question because she turned and walked to the vegetable patch behind Mr Weasley’s shed.
Harry watched her picking tomatoes, her hair glistening in the sun as it fell over her shoulder as she leaned forward. Harry’s stomach clenched and he turned away.
“It’s for the best,” Harry told himself in an unconvinced tone. Knowing he couldn’t convince himself anyway, he pulled on his t-shirt and jeans, made a quick stop at the bathroom and headed down to the kitchen.

The delicious scents of breakfast pulled him into the bustling Burrow kitchen. Harry stood in the doorway and took in the scene before him. Mrs Weasley was busy with frying eggs at the stove; Ginny was slicing the freshly picked tomatoes, while Hermione and Ron sat next to each other at the table. Harry and Hermione had only seen Mr Weasley when they arrived as everyone else was asleep already.

Ron raised his wand and said, “Accio toast.” A piece of toast zoomed across the room nearly taking Mrs Weasley’s nose off.
“Ronald!” she shrieked. “Just because you can do magic whenever you want doesn’t mean you can become lazy and not get off your chair!” She spun around with an angry look in her eye, which melted the instant she saw Harry. “Oh, happy birthday, Harry, happy birthday,” she said as she crossed the kitchen and gave Harry a hug that only Mrs Weasley could give.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said as she appraised his appearance. “And I’m glad to see that you have some meat on you for a change, but it looks like your clothes are a bit small for you.” Mrs Weasley nodded at the shoulder seams of Harry’s t-shirt that were pulling against his muscular arms.

“Uh, yeah,” Harry said, slightly embarrassed. “I worked out a bit during my stay at Privet drive. I haven’t gotten around to altering my clothes yet.” He glanced at Ginny, who was staring at him, her mouth slightly open.
“Looks like more than a bit of working out mate,” Ron said as he stood up. “Happy Birthday,” he said giving Harry a quick hug. Ginny approached him, slightly nervously and handed him a small gift before giving him a hug and wishing him a happy birthday quietly in his ear. Harry felt a shiver run up his spine as her breath grazed his skin.
“Thanks,” he said softly hugging her back in a way that he never wanted to let go. Hermione glanced at them and cleared her throat loudly to get them to come back down to earth.

Ginny slid out of Harry’s arms gave him a small smile and sat at the table after fetching the plate of tomato slices.
“Here you go mate,” Ron said, handing Harry a roughly wrapped present with a smaller neatly wrapped one on top.
“Thanks,” Harry managed to say before Mrs Weasley placed another on top. Mrs Weasley gave Harry a familiar looking present. The shape immediately made him smile; his seventh Weasley jumper. “But put those down and have your breakfast first,” she said, placing a plate with toast and fried eggs next to Ginny.
“Thanks,” Harry mumbled again as he sat down and tucked into his toast.
“I hope you don’t mind, Harry, but a few Order members are going to coming for dinner later for your birthday,” Mrs Weasley said as she began cleaning the stove.
“No I don’t mind at all, that’s great thanks. This might be my last one so I should enjoy it.” Harry regretted it as soon as he realised what he had said. Mrs Weasley dropped the frying pan she was holding, Ron choked on his pumpkin juice and both Hermione and Ginny glared at him with flabbergasted looks.
“Sorry, sorry,” Harry apologised. “I don’t know why I said that, I’m sorry Mrs Weasley, sorry guys.”
They finished breakfast in a tense silence.

“Well, I need to go to Diagon Alley for a few things, and then I’ll be stopping by Headquarters for a bit,” Mrs Weasley informed them as they finished breakfast. “Please will you all do me a favour and de-gnome the garden this morning. I don’t think Fleur’s family will be very impressed if there are gnomes running around during the wedding next week.” Mrs Weasley threw Floo Powder in the fire and disappeared in a swirl of flames.

Harry looked at his friends, who were still very silent. “I’m sorry about my comment early guys, really I am.”
Ginny spoke first. “Its okay, Harry. You just voiced what we are all worrying about. No one is sure who will be around to see any more happy occasions.” Hermione and Ron nodded in agreement.
“But, let’s not dwell on such depressing matters when we can go play toss the gnomes,” Ginny said with a smile.

The four friends spent the morning summoning gnomes from the overgrown depths of the garden and then trying to see who could throw a gnome the greatest distance.
“This is much easier with a bit of magic,” Harry said to Ron as a gnome zoomed from under a bush into his hand.
Ron spun and released a particularly chubby gnome into the air. “Definitely,” he said as he watched the gnome bounce into the field beyond the garden.
“Nice throw bro,” Ginny said as she aimed her wand at the watering can. “Accio Gnome,” she said and a gnome popped out the can.
“I guess the Ministry is not too concerned about Underage Magic at the moment,” Hermione said.
“No, more important matters,” Ginny said with slight sarcasm, “anyway, with you three doing spells at the same time how are they going to know?” Ginny threw the gnome an impressive distance.
“Your Chaser arm is looking strong,” Harry said.
“You’re not the only one who has been working out,” Ginny said with a mischievous grin. “I have to compete with the Veela family on a wedding day so I need to look good.”
“You always looked good,” Harry said, and blushed.

“Ron,” Hermione said suddenly, “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Why?” Ron answered, confused.
“Well I just noticed that its lunch time and you haven’t said anything,” Hermione said with a smile.
“Now that you mention it-”
“I thought so. We’ll go sort out lunch. You two, find the table and chairs and we’ll sit out here.” Hermione grabbed Ron’s hand and pulled him inside.
Ginny shook her head at the pair who had just disappeared. “I actually don’t know how Hermione puts up with him.”
Harry threw the gnome he was holding and then stored his wand in his pocket. “So table and chairs?”
“Dad’s shed I think.”

Harry followed Ginny into the shed. A small patio table and six chairs were stacked against a wall. Harry bent to pick up the table but stopped as Ginny spoke.
“Can I ask you something?”
Harry turned to face her, “Sure.”
“I know you are trying to keep me safe and all that, but Harry, what would happen if…V-Voldemort captured Ron or Hermione? Or if it was Lupin or Tonks or Neville or one of the twins? Harry would you leave them?”
“No of course not, but it’s not the same thing.”
“It is Harry. You would risk your own life for everyone you love and that’s just who you are.”
“But he’s used you before Ginny, I don’t want to see you in danger again!”
“Harry, if it had been Colin, Luna, even Lavender who Riddle had gotten hold of what would you have done?”
Harry opened his mouth to argue, but couldn’t. “The same thing.”
“Harry, being your friend and being partial to the Order, being part of my family, it is all part of being in this fight and nothing you, my brothers or my parents say is going to keep me away.”
Ginny’s eyes were fixed on Harry, who dropped his head to look at the floor.
“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Harry said softly.
“But you don’t want that for anyone, Harry,” Ginny said walking up to him. “Harry,” she said softly putting her hands on his shoulders, “I’m not bailing out on this fight and I’m not going to bail on you either, no matter what you do or say.”
Harry lifted his head and met her eyes. “I just don’t want to loose you.”
Ginny smiled softly, “You had me before we even met Harry.”
Without another word, Harry slid his arms around Ginny and hugged her tightly. After a few minutes, Ginny said softly, “I think we should get the table and chairs outside before Ron bursts through the shed door.”
“Good point,” Harry said as he let his arms drop. “Magic?” he asked with a smile.
“You are loving being 17 aren’t you?” Ginny grinned at him.
“You have no idea.”

Harry levitated the chairs and tables out of the shed and on to the grass and Ron and Hermione came out with lunch. Half way through the meal, Mrs Weasley walked into the garden dusting soot off her shirt.
“Hi mom, want some lunch?” Ginny said as she saw her mom walk into the sunlight.
“Ah, yes thank you dear,” Mrs Weasley replied, as she perched on a chair.
“How’s Diagon Ally?” Ron asked as his mother tucked into her sandwich.
“Quiet, well, aside from your brothers’ shop. Tom was saying he hasn’t had a guest staying in the Leaky Cauldron for four weeks.”
“And anything interesting from Headquarters?” Ron continued. Mrs Weasley gave him a sceptic glance.
“The only thing I really found out about was that Harry will be continuing on a quest the Dumbledore started. Remus and Minerva will be here to chat to you about it later,” Mrs Weasley informed Harry. “And Minerva said I must let you know that Hogwarts is open and the Library is available for your research needs.”
“That’s great, thanks Mrs Weasley,” Harry responded, with a hint of excitement in his voice. “There are a few things I need more information on.”
“So when will you be going to Hogwarts?” she asked.
“Maybe tomorrow, if you don’t need my help for the wedding,” Harry said earnestly.
“I think I can spare you for a few days…I suppose you would like some company though?”
“Well, if you don’t need them, I’d appreciate Ron, Hermione and Ginny’s help.”
Ginny dropped the apple she was holding, Ron choked on his juice (again) but Hermione just grinned.
“Absolutely Harry. I’ll need you all a couple days before the wedding, but from what I’m guessing about your mission, it’s very important.”
“Yes, it is,” Harry said solemnly.
“Well, this afternoon I’ll need some help with dinner preparations, but you four are free to research from tomorrow.”

After lunch they started to help Mrs Weasley with dinner preparations. Once the potatoes, pumpkin and peas were pealed and cooking, they setup the table and place settings.
“Harry, you haven’t opened your presents,” Hermione said as she picked up the wrapped packages from the table.
“Oh yeah. I forgot between breakfast and gnome hunting…”
“Here you go,” Hermione handed him his presents.
Harry opened his Weasley jumper first. It was plain black with a hint of gold in the wool. Then he opened the small neat box from Hermione which was a watch, with a compass and calendar on the face. “Thanks Hermione. I haven’t had a working watch since our swim in the Black Lake.”
He tore open the Ron’s rough wrapping paper to find a brown paper bag crammed with some of Fred and George’s products including instant darkness powder. Finally Harry opened the small box which Ginny had given him.
“It’s a mini-writing kit,” Ginny said as Harry opened it. “You just enlarge whatever you need.” Harry pulled out a tiny bottle of ink and smiled. “It’s got parchment, quills, pencils…so you can write to me wherever you are,” Ginny smiled.
“Thanks Gin,” Harry said, giving her a hug. “And you guys too, thanks.” Harry felt slightly awkward. “Um…I’m just going to take these upstairs.”

Harry sat on the edge of his bed and looked at the gifts in his hands. He sighed, wishing his birthday was happening at a time with a slightly better future in sight. With another sigh he lay back on the bed and closed his eyes.

A knock on the door woke him up. Before he could sit up, Ginny opened the door.
“Harry, are you okay?” she asked as she closed the door behind her.
“Uh, yeah. I must have dozed off,” Harry said sitting off. “What’s the time?”
“It’s five o’clock.” Ginny sat down next to him. “I think it’s good that you are sleeping. You must have a lot on your mind.” Harry shrugged and sighed.
“Listen Gin, there are a few things I think you should know before we start doing all this research,” Harry said softly. So Harry explained in basic detail about the prophecy, Voldemort’s history and that the research they were doing was to find out more about Voldemort’s past and relics belonging to the four Founders of Hogwarts.
“Wow!” Ginny said as Harry finished.
“There’s more to everything,” Harry said, “but the less detail you know, the less anyone can try and get out of you.”
Ginny nodded. “I’m just glad I can help you Harry. Now,” she said standing up, “the reason I actually came up half an hour ago was to tell you that McGonagall and Lupin will be here at six o’clock, so shower get changed for dinner and they’ll see you downstairs.”
Ginny put her hand on his shoulder, “Thanks Harry, this means a lot to me.” Ginny kissed him softly on the check. Her lips lingered for a brief second; Harry took a deep breath. “See you downstairs,” she whispered. The door shut behind her and Harry groaned and fell back on the bed.

Half an hour later, Harry walked into the kitchen, his hair still damp after his shower, wearing a black shirt and jeans.
“Ah, the birthday boy,” Mr Weasley said. He crossed the kitchen and shook Harry’s hand warmly. “Happy Birthday Harry,” he said.
“Happy Birthday,” Lupin said stepping forward and embracing Harry.
“Thanks.”
“Professor McGonagall is in the lounge. I think we should get this meeting over with so you can enjoy your birthday dinner.” Harry followed Lupin into the lounge,

After getting a brief catch up overview on some of the Order’s activities, McGonagall asked, “So what is it exactly that Dumbledore needs you to do?”
“Well, I can’t say too much. Dumbledore said that the fewer people who know the better but basically it will lead to finishing off Voldemort. I’m going to be searching for a few things connected to Voldemort and the Hogwarts founders. I don’t know where exactly I’m going, but I have a few leads. Ron, Hermione and Ginny are going to help me with research at Hogwarts and in a few days time I’ll have a better idea,” Harry explained.
After an hour of planning for Harry’s expedition, they ended the meeting and planned to meet the evening before Bills wedding.

The rest of Harry’s birthday flew by. The dinner Mrs Weasley planned was delicious and the Order members who came for dinner and the family enjoyed every crumb of it. Harry was happy to see that Luna and Neville joined them for the evening. Harry got more birthday presents than he had ever had and was deeply thankful for the fun evening.

As people started leaving, Harry helped clean up. He met Ginny at the sink with a pile of plates.
“Have a good evening?” she asked.
“Yeah, it was great, except…” Harry’s voice faded.
“Except what?”
“Except I was so busy with everyone else, I didn’t get to chat to you,” Harry said with a smile.
Ginny smiled. “Well don’t worry; we’ve got a whole week.”
“Thanks you two,” Mrs Weasley said, putting a few more dishes in the sink. She tapped the cloth with her wand, added some soap and the dishes started washing themselves. “I think its bedtime.”
“Thanks for dinner Mrs Weasley,” Harry said giving her a hug.
“It was my pleasure. Good night,” she said as Harry and Ginny made their way to their rooms.

Ginny’s room was next door to Harry’s. They paused outside her room.
“Well I hope you had a good birthday Harry…One to remember,” Ginny said.
Harry smiled and nodded, “Very good, thanks,” he said meeting her eyes. Without thinking for a change, Harry leaned forward and kissed her. Ginny’s arms wrapped around his neck and Harry pulled her closer with his arms around her waist.

After a few moments they broke apart, and tried to get their breaths back. Harry took a small step back and opened his mouth. Ginny quickly placed her finger over Harry’s lips.
“Not a word Harry,” she said, kissed him again softly and then pushed her door open. “Good night Harry, sweet dreams,” and she disappeared into her room.
Harry sighed. “Definitely a birthday to remember,” Harry said to himself and headed for his bed.

Chapter 3: Research
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“So where do we start?” Ron asked as followed Harry, Hermione and Ginny into the Hogwarts Library the next day.
“Well, we are looking for any history about the Founders and Voldemort,” Harry said. “Lead the way Hermione.” They followed Hermione to the history section and began pulling books off the shelves. After a few hours of searching and scanning books they took a break and visited the kitchens. Harry was surprised to see that the kitchen didn’t have house-elves running around. One house-elf trotted up to them and offered his service.
As the elf dashed to the back of the kitchen Ginny said, “I wonder what the elves do during the holidays.”
“Hopefully they get a holiday,” Hermione said.
“Well, since there are only, like, three here, they must be doing something…” Harry said.
The elf returned with a tray full of sandwiches and a jug of pumpkin juice. “Thanks,” Ron said and the
house elf bowed deeply.

Once full of sandwiches they returned to the library and continued to pour through books. By 5 o’clock they were all tired of reading and decided to give it a rest for the day. They returned to The Burrow and were immediately fed by Mrs Weasley. After dinner they sat at the table discussing a few things that they had found in the books. As nothing stood out they decided that they would be returning to Hogwarts in the morning.
Ron and Hermione sat in the lounge while Harry decided to take a walk outside. Harry sat down, leaning his back against Mr Weasley’s shed. Trying to keep his mind from racing, he stared at the darkening countryside.
“Hey.” Harry jumped at the voice.
“Oh hey Gin.”
“You are making a habit out of disappearing for a long time,” she said. “Can I join you?” Harry nodded and she settled next to him.
“How long have I been missing today?”
“Two hours,” Ginny said. Harry looked shocked. “Didn’t you notice the stars are shining now?”
“I was trying to keep my mind blank.”
“And?”
“Well, since I missed sunset I guess I succeeded.” Harry smiled slightly.

“Gin,” Harry said after a while, “about last night-”
“I thought you would bring it up.”
“Well, I have to. I mean, it…kissing you is amazing, but I don’t-”
“Want to hurt me?” Ginny finished for him. Harry nodded. “Tell you what Harry. With everyone in the Order, everything I’ve learnt from you and Hogwarts, I’m pretty sure I can avoid getting physically hurt and you are in the same position. However, when it comes to my heart, I’m the one who handles everything and you don’t need to protect me from yourself.”
“Ginny, but what happens in the future, I mean the war…No one knows what’s going to happen.”
“All the more reason to enjoy the time we have,” Ginny said getting to her knees. She pressed Harry’s legs flat to the ground and sat on his legs facing him.

“Gin-”
“Harry, I just want to ask you to do something for me,” Ginny said in a soft voice.
“Okay…?” Harry said with a nervous tone.
Ginny grinned. “Will you be my date for Bill’s wedding?” Harry’s mouth fell open.
“Yeah, sure.”
“I wouldn’t ask, but I know there are a few dodgy guys coming and I would rather spend my time with you than trying to avoid them.”
“So I’m just an escort?” Harry asked with a smirk.
“Well that all depends on you,” Ginny said leaning closer. “Do you want to be more than an escort?” she asked, her lips an inch from his.
“Of course Ginny but-”
“Don’t think past the wedding Harry,” she pleaded. “Live for now, you need to. I need you to.”
“Carpe Diem,” he said softly. Ginny pulled away slightly and raised her eyebrow. “Seize the day,” Harry translated and seized the moment and pulled Ginny into a passionate kiss.

***

“Where did you disappear to last night?” Ron asked as Harry entered the kitchen the next morning.
“I was just relaxing outside,” Harry said as he took his seat and picked up a couple pieces of toast.
“By yourself?” asked Ron, and a piece of scrambled egg fell out of his mouth. Hermione smacked him on the arm. “What?”
“Keep your mouth closed Ron. As much as I like scrambled eggs, I don’t want to see it regurgitated from you,” Hermione said irritably. The egg discussion distracted from Harry’s whereabouts last evening, so he happily tucked into his own toast and eggs.
“Morning,” Ginny said as she came in from the garden and sat down at the table.
“Where were you?” Ron asked.
“Checking for tomatoes,” Ginny said simply. “Why?”
“Well, you just look all bright and chirpy,” Ron said and took another forkful of egg.
“Am I not allowed to?” Ginny retorted.
“No, I was just commenting…” Ron returned to eating his egg. Hermione glanced from Harry to Ginny and smiled.

An hour later they stepped out of the fire place in Professor McGonagall’s office.
“Good morning,” McGonagall said briskly. “More research today?”
“Hopefully we find something useful today,” Ron said grumpily.
“Professor,” Hermione said, approaching her desk, “if you don’t mind me asking, where are all the house-elves?” Ron groaned and rolled his eyes behind her. “We went to the kitchen yesterday and there were very few there. So I was just wondering if they go on holiday or something when the school is closed.”
McGonagall allowed one of her rare, thin-lipped smiles grace her lips before she replied. “Some of the elves we send on holiday. We literally have to command them to leave Hogwarts and go visit their family members. If they actually have a holiday while visiting is a different matter. A few, well actually about twenty of the house-elves don’t have family so they stay here at the school doing a few jobs around the school, but they probably have about a tenth of the work they would usually have. I must be honest I don’t know what they do when there really is nothing to do.”
“But they do get kind of a break?”
“Yes, Miss Granger, as much of a break as they need,” McGonagall smiled slightly.
“How many house-elves are there here?” Ginny asked.
Professor McGonagall considered this for a moment. “I would guess about a hundred and fifty.”
Harry’s eyebrows jumped up. “It’s a good thing Dumbledore has always treated them well then,” he said, “that’s quite a handy number of elves to have right now.”
“That it is Harry, but as I’m sure Miss Granger would point out, it should be their choice to join the fight.”
“Well, hopefully they all take Dobby’s initiative and defend humans that they like.”
“We can only hope.” Professor McGonagall returned to her paper work and the four friends headed for the library.

Harry sat back, stretched and rubbed his eyes three hours later. They had poured over many books already and were still lacking anything helpful.
“Lunch?” he asked the other three.
“Absolutely!” Ron said slamming yet another book closed.
“Hang on,” Ginny said, holding up her hand but keeping her eyes on the open page. “I think I might have something.” Harry and Ron hurried around the table and grouped around Ginny’s book.
“Here, it says that Rowena Ravenclaw, known for her cleverness and creativity, always carried a writing kit with her. Her intelligence, search for knowledge and love for sketching would show when she would stop suddenly, open her writing kit, pull out parchment, a quill and a beautiful claw shaped ink pot and draw, write or plan.”

“A claw shaped ink pot…” Hermione read again. “Turn over, maybe there’s a picture.” Indeed, there was. The brown ink sketch of the pot showed the closed claw of an eagle, the talons forming the base of the pot. There were exquisitely carved lines on the claw, and a small cork stopper plugged the top.
“Here’s more,” Ginny said and continued to read. “The claw ink pot, said to be Ravenclaw’s favourite possession. During the Goblin Rebellion in 1612, when much chaos ensued in Hogsmeade as this was where the headquarters were, a disruption in Hogwarts caused by the Rebellion led to the Ravenclaw antique disappearing. Its whereabouts are still unknown.”
“Great!” Ron said throwing up his arms.
“Well, at least we have a possibility,” Harry said. “Good find Ginny,” he said as he placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Thanks.”
“Right on that note, its lunch time,” Ron said grabbing Hermione’s hand and pulling her out the library.
“Shall we?” Harry offered his hand to Ginny. She smiled, took his hand and they didn’t let go until they started eating their sandwiches.

By the end of the day, they had discovered another two items that could possibly be used for a Horcrux. They were both items that had belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. One was a silver goblet that had handles carved like eagle wings, and the other was the wooden box, that Ravenclaw used to store her wand. As they were leaving the Library, Hermione had an idea.
“Madame Pince,” Hermione said as she approached the serious looking librarian, “does the Library have records and archives of the Daily Prophet?”
“Yes, Miss Granger. There is an extensive archive of newspapers and we have a brilliant contraption that allows you to search through them and all articles are referenced, cross-referenced and arranged by date,” said Madame Pince with a glimmer in her eyes.
“Wow,” Hermione said honestly while Ron rolled his eyes. “Can we use it tomorrow? We have a few things we need to find.”
“Absolutely, I’ll have everything set up for you.”
“Thank you,” Hermione said and led the other three out of the Library.
“Explain,” said Ron simply.
“Well, the Prophet has been going for centuries. If there were ever any stories about any of the Founder’s belongings I’m sure it would be in there,” Hermione explained.
“You’re too clever, you know that?” Ron said with a smile and gave Hermione a quick squeeze.

“Any progress?” McGonagall asked as they entered her office.
“A bit,” Harry said. “We’ll be back tomorrow, but I think after that we’ll have a few ideas. Maybe we can talk to you and Remus tomorrow evening?”
“I will speak to him,” McGonagall said. “Have a good evening,” she said as they climbed into the fireplace and disappeared.

Chapter 4: Archives
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The following day Ron and Ginny stayed at the Burrow to help Mrs Weasley while Harry and Hermione returned to Hogwarts to search the newspaper archive. Madame Pince was ready for them when they entered the Library and quickly led them to a large, darkened room in the back of the Library.



“Right,” she said briskly, sitting at a desk in front of long aisles shelves packed full of newspapers. “Each aisle represents a half a century. This parchment,” she said tapping her wand on a blank piece of parchment “is used to reference. Use your wand as a quill. Write the word or date that you are looking for, the ink will then fade and all the newspapers that fit your word or date will leave their shelves, and land on the table.” 



Madame Pince demonstrated. With her wand she wrote her name on the parchment. The ink faded and a few seconds later five newspapers landed on the table in front of Hermione. Madame Pince opened the top one, paged through and showed Harry and Hermione her name in an article. Harry and Hermione nodded in understanding. “And when you are done with the paper you drop it in this box and it returns to its place.” She dropped the paper which then rose and flew down the aisle it had come from.



“Any questions?” she asked. Harry and Hermione shook their heads. “Well, just call if you need help.” She turned and disappeared out of the door.



“Well,” Hermione said sitting at the desk, “where should we start?”



“Rowena Ravenclaw?” Harry suggested and Hermione began to write.


 


Five hours later after searching thousands of newspapers and trying ever possible search, Harry and Hermione thanked Madame Pince and left the Library with seven rolls of parchment filled with lots of information. They returned to the Burrow and spent the afternoon with Ron and Ginny pouring over the information and maps that they got from the Library.



By the time Remus and McGonagall arrived that evening Harry was feeling more confident about his mission. Mrs Weasley hurried everyone outside to help in the garden and left the kitchen empty for the meeting.



“So Harry, I hear you’ve got some plans for our upcoming travels,” Remus said as he sat at the table.



“Yip. Ginny, Hermione and Ron have helped me with a lot of research and I think we’ve found some useful bits and pieces,” Harry said as he laid out pieces of parchment and maps. “Now you know I can’t say exactly why Dumbledore but like I explained we are looking for items connected to the Founders that Voldemort may have gotten his hands on. There is one definite item which is mug that belonged to Helga Hufflepuff. The possible items that belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw that we discovered in our research are a claw inkpot, a silver goblet with eagle wing handles and the engraved wooden box from Ravenclaw’s wand. One of these, I hope, is the item we need to find.



“Dumbledore calculated that there are six items. Two of the items have been found and dealt with. A third seems to have been found and destroyed by who I think was Sirius’ brother,” Harry said.



“Regalus?” Remus asked with shock.



“I’m guessing but the note found with the item was signed by R.A.B. and Sirius said Regalus was killed by Voldemort when he tried to get out of the Death Eaters,” Harry explained.



“So anyway,” Harry said after a pause, “from the information Hermione and I found in the Daily Prophets we have a lead to a wizard in Oxford who wrote the life story of Rowena Ravenclaw and her descendants and apparently collected many of her belongings.”



Harry showed them a map which indicated the house of the wizard. “There is also a Daily Prophet reported who, during Voldemort’s more powerful years, did quite a few background stories. None of them were ever longer than a couple paragraphs in the newspapers, but Hermione thinks he might have been censored by the Ministry. He lives in Edinburgh.”



“Sounds like you have done your homework Harry,” McGonagall said with a small smile.



“Luckily I have three friends who didn’t mind spending hours searching books,” Harry said.



“So what’s your plan Harry?” Remus asked. Harry looked at him with a surprised expression. Remus laughed. “Come on Harry, I know you already have a plan. You always have a plan.”



“Well, I…I want to go to Godric’s Hollow,” Harry said softly. “I think I need to go there.” Remus nodded and McGonagall bit her lip. “After that I’ll start in Edinburgh, see if there are any other leads and then go to Oxford.”



“Ron and Hermione said they will go with me and Ginny said she will continue to do research when she is back at Hogwarts and keep us informed. Hogwarts is opening isn’t it?” Harry asked McGonagall.



“Yes, Hogwarts will be open. I doubt many students will be there, but for the sake of teaching the children who want to learn, we will be there, and teaching defence and duelling extensively,” she explained.



“And I’ll be joining you Harry,” Remus said. “Tonks and I will be with you on your mission. Don’t say you don’t need us,” he said holding up his hand to stop Harry from interrupting, “you have no choice. The Order has set it aside as our assignment.”



Harry smiled, “I wasn’t going to argue, I was going to say thanks.”



“Good,” McGonagall said. “So I presume you will be leaving after the wedding.”



Harry nodded. “If that suits everyone, that’s what I was planning on.”



“Tonks and I will be ready,” Remus said. “But right now, I think we should go outside and join the supper table, because the aromas of Molly’s cooking are making my stomach growl.”



With only 5 days to go before the wedding, The Burrow began to buzz with activity. Fleur’s family arrived and took over one of the Inn’s in the nearby town. The owner was very happy to be booked out, never mind the magnificently beautiful women who were staying there. Harry helped out whenever he was needed, but tried to stay out of the chaos of the visitors who were all in awe of Harry Potter.



The day before the wedding, Harry was sandwiched between Fleur’s mother and Bill as they all sat around the kitchen table doing various tasks. Mrs Delacour was flourishing her wand at five vases that stood on the table. Flowers were summoned from the sink and followed the swish of her wand and set themselves in position in the vases. Bill was busy sorting through the replies from guests, trying to make sure they hadn’t left anyone else out. Mrs Delacour had not been impressed when she noticed that her second cousin twice removed on her father’s side was not on the list. There had been much chaos trying to figure out what had gone wrong, but it was sorted out and everyone was happy again. Harry was trying to tie ribbons around tiny boxes which held a small gift for each guest. He was nearly half way through his job, but Mrs Delacour’s wand waving kept knocking his own wand movement so it took him a few tries before the ribbon tied itself perfectly.



Hermione entered the kitchen and handed Mrs Weasley a basket of freshly picked herbs. “Thank you dear,” Mrs Weasley said immediately pulling some Rosemary out of the basket and throwing it into one of the large pots on the stove. “I’m not sure what else needs to be done. Why don’t you see if anyone at the table needs help?”



Hermione looked at everyone around the table and Harry tried to catch her eye. Luckily Ron, Fleur, Gabriel, the twins and Ginny were all concentrating on their tasks and only Harry was looking up. He gave Hermione a painful look.



“Having a bit of trouble?” she asked as she stood behind him.



“A small bit. The ribbon charm is working fine but my wand keeps getting…um…misdirected,” Harry said dropping his volume and nodding his head in the flower arranger’s direction.



“I see,” Hermione said with a small smile. “You have a break Harry, I’ll take over. I’m smaller than you so maybe I won’t get in the way as much.”



“And your charms will probably stick first time,” Harry said as he stood up. “Thanks Hermione.”



Harry sighed with relief as he left the kitchen and walked up to Ron’s room. Now that the whole family was here for the weekend, Harry and Hermione were sharing rooms with Ron and Ginny while the twins had their room back and Charlie and Bill shared another. The house was so busy that Harry was very relieved to shut Ron’s bedroom door behind him which quietened the bustle of activity that echoed through the house.



Harry collapsed on to his bed and sighed deeply. He was looking forward to tomorrow, but was also filled with nervousness. Once the wedding had happened, his life, his destiny would take over; he couldn’t put it off any longer. He rolled over and pulled out a small note book filled with his scribblings about what Dumbledore had showed and told him about Voldemort, about the Horcruxes, about the Founders and Death Eaters. He did this at least five times a day. Paging through, reading and rereading notes, making sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, trying to piece things together. Today was no different. For the fourth time on that day, Harry began paging.



“Harry,” a voice said softly. Sleep began to lift from Harry. “Harry,” the voice said again gently and he felt soft touch on his shoulder. Harry murmured and slowly his eyes opened. He blinked a few times and finally focused on the beautiful features of Ginny’s face.



“Hi,” he said, still groggy from his nap. “How long have I been out for?”



“About three hours,” Ginny said, brushing a stray piece of hair away from his eyes and letting her fingers graze his skin ever so slightly. “You are making a habit of disappearing or passing out for a few hours. Are you okay?” she asked.



“Yeah, I’m fine, just needed a break and dozed off. I think all that ribbon tying just completely tired me out,” he said with a grin.



Ginny smiled. “So if I kissed you right now, you would be too tired to resist?”



“I wouldn’t try resist in the first place,” Harry replied as Ginny lowered herself and pressed her lips to his. She kissed him again, letting her bottom lip drag slowly along his. Harry’s tongue traced her top lip before she parted her lips and their tongues met. Harry grabbed Ginny around the waist, pulled her on to the bed and rolled over. Ginny shrieked slightly but after a grin at Harry, pulled him close and kissed him thoroughly.



“Ginny?” Hermione’s voice came from the landing outside the room. Harry and Ginny froze mid kiss and slowly broke apart. “Gin, is Harry there? We are going to have dinner now.”



Ginny took a breath. “Yes he’s here Hermione. He was asleep. We’ll be down now.”



“Okay,” Hermione said and the sound of her footsteps faded. Ginny gave Harry another kiss before she began to sit up. Harry lifted off her and stood up.



“You know what I think that was the best wake up call I’ve ever had,” Harry said, smiling at Ginny. She stood up and gave him a hug and then looked into his eyes. Harry saw love, questions, nervousness and fear in her eyes. He didn’t say anything, just gave her a tight hug and said, “I know Gin, I know.



Chapter 5: Preparations
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The sun rose to reveal beautiful, clear skies for the wedding day. From his bed, Harry saw the sky begin to lighten and having battled to sleep all night he decided to get up. He pulled on his jeans and a jersey and quietly walked downstairs. The house creaked but was otherwise silent. Harry stepped outside on to the dew soaked lawn. The moisture and the blades of grass soothed his feet as he walked out into the garden.


 


“Morning Harry,” said a voice behind him. Harry turned to see Bill sitting on a bench.



“Morning,” Harry replied and sat next to Bill.



“Couldn’t sleep?” Bill asked. Harry shook his head. “Yeah, me either.”



“You nervous?” Harry asked.



“Yes and no. I’m looking forward to this, but I’m also apprehensive. I guess it’s one of those moments that change your life and you’ve just got to enjoy the change,” Bill said. “I actually have no idea how I’m feeling.”


 


They sat in silence for a few minutes then Bill asked, “And you Harry? I know you’ve got a difficult time ahead.”



“Yeah you could say that,” Harry sighed.



“And Ginny’s not helping.”



“No it’s not that, wait, what?” Harry stuttered.



Bill laughed. “Harry, I’m the oldest brother, I know things, plus I can see it with you two.”



Harry smiled gloomily and shrugged his shoulders. “Relax Harry. One thing I’ve learnt, especially with Fleur, is that this love stuff isn’t complicated unless you make it. You have got one stubborn, hard-headed girl in Ginny, so just let things happen, don’t plan just let fate take its course.



“At this exact stage of our lives with everything that’s to come, live for the now Harry, you deserve some fun. Just not too much, it is my baby sister we are talking about.”



Harry smiled, “Thanks Bill. I must admit I am looking forward to your wedding, it’s just the stuff past the wedding.”

Bill nodded, “Well,” he said patting Harry on the back, “some how we will get through today and the future and then we’ll be back here for Ron and Hermione’s wedding.”



Harry chuckled, “As long as it doesn’t take him as long to propose as it did for him to ask her on a date.”



“I take no responsibility for my young brother,” Bill said as he stood up. “How about some coffee?”



“Yeah, I’ll be there in a second,” Harry said and Bill walked inside.



Harry glanced around the garden in front of him, turned his head to look at The Burrow and looked at the country scene and morning sky that filled the horizon. He sighed and felt a strange mixture of feelings in his heart. Deep sadness, apprehension, fear, and anger, but on top of that, as the scene before him and thoughts of all his friend lifted his spirit, he felt happy in spite of what lay before him, he knew he would never be alone.



* * *


 


“Well, I better get down there and do my usher job,” Ron said as he gave himself one last glance in the mirror. “Does everything look straight?” he asked Harry. Harry cast his eyes over Ron’s midnight blue dress robes.



“Yes, all looks right to me, but you might want to check with your mom,” Harry said as he pulled on his shirt.



“Yeah, good point. I’ll see you down there. Oh Hermione asked if you would wait for her so you two could sit next to each other,” Ron said before disappearing out the door.



Harry finished getting dressed and then glared at his hair in the mirror, who didn’t comment as it finally realised there was no point. Harry pulled his comb through his hair but after a few times, gave up, ran his hands through his hair and headed to the kitchen.



“Oh Harry, dear, you look so handsome,” Mrs Weasley said as he walked into the kitchen. She was bustling around the stove checking on all the food. “There are two seats for you and Hermione in the second row behind us. Well I better smarten myself up and get rid of this apron,” she said and bustled out of the room.



A few minutes later Hermione walked into the kitchen. The sound of heels on the floor made Harry turn and he felt his mouth open. Hermione looked stunning in a strapless blue dress that hugged her body and flared elegantly to her knees. Her hair was straightened and clipped on one side, and she gave Harry a small smile.



“Wow,” Harry said.



“Thanks, I think.” Hermione smiled.



“You are going to knock Ron’s socks off in that outfit,” Harry said as he opened the kitchen door and let Hermione walk out first.



“Your socks won’t be far behind,” she said and gave Harry a knowing smile.



Harry was right about Ron. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Hermione while he was trying to usher but finally he sat down in front of them and had to look forward. With all the guests in their seats, the Weasleys all in theirs and Bill standing at the top of the aisle, the wedding began.



An elegant lady sitting behind a harp began to play a delicate piece of music and the guests turned to watch the bridal company come down the aisle. Gabriel was first wearing a delicate pale blue dress that floated elegantly as she stepped carefully down the aisle. Ginny was next. As Ginny began to walk down the aisle and Hermione turned to look at Harry. His eyes were wide, his eyebrows raised and his jaw would have been touching the floor if it could reach. Hermione leaned back, “I told you,” she whispered.



Ginny seemed to glide down the aisle. Her pale blue dress fit her to perfection. The front of the dress was low cut and led into a halter neck. Ginny passed their row and then Harry saw the back of the dress, or the lack there of. From the halter neck to her hips there was nothing but skin and then material flowed to the floor.



Harry barely noticed Fleur walking up the aisle in a glistening white dress that made her look even more stunning than usual. The ceremony was a blur to Harry who couldn’t take his eyes off of Ginny until she was following the newly wed couple down the aisle and out of his sight.



“Earth to Harry,” Hermione said with a laugh.



“Huh?” Harry said.



“The family want us in some of the photographs. Come on,” Hermione said grabbing Harry’s hand and dragging him towards the far end of the garden where the family was heading.



“Alright let’s start with the Delacour family,” a wizard with fly-away grey hair said as everyone assembled. He began to direct people into position and proceeded to click away. Then it was the Weasley family’s turn, followed by lots of the parents and the bride and groom, then the bridesmaids and groomsmen.



“Any others?” the photographer asked Bill.



“Would you mind taking a few of my brother and sister and their dates?” Bill asked.



“No problem,” he said and immediately began ushering Ron and Hermione into a portrait pose followed by Harry and Ginny joining them and then finally Harry and Ginny by themselves. The photographer needed to change his film so Harry and Ginny stood next to each other nervously.



“Um,” Harry cleared his throat and turned to Ginny. “You – uh – you…look beautiful Gin, not that you don’t always look beautiful, you just look, um, you look – amazing,” Harry eventually managed to say.



Ginny smiled at him. “Thanks,” she said softly.



A soft breeze drifted on to Ginny’s back, blowing a loose strand of hair across her eyes. Without thinking, Harry lifted his hand and gently brushed the hair behind her ear. The click of the camera made them realise there were still other people around.



“That was just a beautiful moment I had to take a picture,” the photographer said as Harry and Ginny both blushed. “Right now let’s have nice smiles. Put your arm around her son. Good, good and put your hand on his waist. Perfect. Right and here we go,” he said and clicked the camera.



Half an hour later everyone was sitting at their designated tables on the lawn listening to Mr Delacour’s speech. “To my beautiful daughter,” he finished and raised his glass.



“Cheers,” echoed the guests.



Bill stood up and took out a few pieces of cardboard to help with his speech. He briefly thanked everyone for all their help, toasted his family, Fleur’s family and Fleur. Then he continued, “I have to just say at this time that I am so glad that you are all here to celebrate this day with us. We are in the middle of a very dark time and to have all our friends and family here on this glorious day amongst these dark times is brilliant.



“The upcoming months are going to be a challenge for everyone and to all of you who, I know, are going to be right in the centre of this fight, who are going to give everything to ensure the You-Know-Who goes down, I salute you, my friends and fellow fighters. Good luck, be safe and be back here next year to celebrate our first anniversary. Cheers,” Bill said as he raised his glass.



The guests echoed his toast, and Harry felt his throat tighten as he couldn’t help but hope with all his heart that he would be back here next year.



The afternoon became evening and time seemed to be racing away from Harry. He watched everyone dancing, chatting, laughing and just generally enjoying themselves.



“Don’t you think you should have some fun too?” Ginny said, handing Harry a Butterbeer.



“Thanks…I’m just…um…I don’t know actually, I guess I just hope this is a scene we get to see again.”



Ginny didn’t know what to say, she knew the possibility that everyone would be back here in a year was very unlikely.



“You need to stop thinking so hard,” Ginny said putting her Butterbeer on the table and taking Harry’s away too. “Let’s go,” she said holding out her hand.



“Where?” Harry asked sceptically.



“You are my date, and I want a dance with my date.”



Harry smiled, took her hand and led her to the dance floor. The song was slow. Harry held Ginny tightly and the swayed to the music. Harry felt his throat tighten. He dropped his head, resting his cheek against Ginny’s temple and closed his eyes. The world disappeared and it was just him with Ginny in his arms.



Then he felt Ginny’s body jerk. He opened his eyes and looked at her. Her cheeks were damp. Harry gently raised her chin and looked into her eyes.



“I love you Ginny,” he whispered.



Through her tears, Ginny smiled. “I love you too Harry.” He kissed her softly and held her tightly.



* * *



The next morning dawned grey, cold and damp. As Harry packed what he needed into a backpack, the weather did little to help his mood.



“Breakfast is ready guys,” Hermione said from the doorway.



“Thanks,” Ron said. “Ready?” he asked Harry.



“Ya, I think so,” Harry said glumly. “The sooner we get this started the better I suppose.”



Ron nodded and patted his friend on the back. “Let’s go,” he said picking up his own bag.



The kitchen was tensely silent as they entered. Only the clatter of knives, forks and the crackling fire stirred the quiet. Lupin, Tonks and Hermione were already eating their eggs and toast and Harry and Ron joined them silently. Harry stared at his food and didn’t lift his head to look at his travelling companions.



“Harry” Tonks said gently. Harry looked up from his half eaten breakfast and noticed that the table was now empty. “Are you okay?” Harry nodded.



“We’re going to leave in a few minutes,” she said softly.



“Okay,” Harry said as he stood up.



“We’ll be in the lounge,” Tonks said. As she left Harry saw Ginny standing in the doorway.



Neither of them said a word. Harry crossed the kitchen in a few steps and embraced her tightly.



“I’ll see you soon, Gin,” Harry said softly.



“Be careful Harry,” she said and kissed him. With one last tight hug, Harry joined the group in the lounge who left the house and walked beyond the protection wards on The Burrow.



Harry turned to look back at The Burrow and saw Ginny and Mrs Weasley standing in the doorway.



“We’ll be back here Harry,” Remus said.



“How can you be sure?” Harry asked, his eyes still on Ginny.



“I can’t Harry, but if you don’t have hope and faith that you will return, your heart won’t fight for it,” Remus said wisely.



“My heart will never stop fighting,” Harry said and with a brief wave to Ginny, he disapparated.


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