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The Unknown Years by Reese13

Format: Novel
Chapters: 27
Word Count: 159,334

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Draco/Pansy, Ron/Hermione, Neville/Luna

First Published: 01/11/2009
Last Chapter: 10/21/2009
Last Updated: 10/21/2009

It's a working title... basically this is my take on what happened between the end of the 7th book and the epilogue. There romance, drama and even some danger. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 1: Beyond the End
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     Harry slowly stood and stretched his tired muscles. He wasn’t quite sure how long he had been sitting in Dumbledore’s office, but judging from the soft glow of sunrise it had only been and hour or so. It had felt like an eternity to him. He turned and walked slowly towards the door; he paused and looked back once more at the large painting hanging over the Headmaster’s desk. Dumbledore smiled back at him, his face still glowing with pride, and he gave a slight but noble nod of the head as if to dismiss Harry, as he had done so many times before. Harry smiled in spite of himself.  As his feet traced the familiar steps that lead to the corridor below Harry was overwhelmed with exhaustion, and emotion. He never imagined that he even had the capability to emote this much. He was reminded of something his best friend Ron Weasley had said two years ago.

“One person can’t feel all that, they’d explode!”

     At the time Ron had been speaking about Harry’s ex-girlfriend Cho Chang. Yet at this moment Harry new exactly what he meant. Harry had spent the better part of the last year denying himself the indulgence of feeling, because it got in the way of his task, he had put everything aside in pursuit of one goal. Now Harry felt like his emotions were threatening to rip him in hundreds of different directions. It was as if the flood gates had been opened and everything he had repressed for so long came pouring out of him in a chaotic jumble. There was grief of course, grief was familiar, every time that Harry thought his heart could not take anymore, his endurance had been pushed even further, first his parents, then Cedric, next Sirius, then…Dumbledore. Harry had watched the people he loved be torn away from this world, from him, time and time again. His mind went to his loved ones who he had lost only a few short hours ago, Tonks…Lupin…Fred… his heart ached from the sadness, he would give anything to have them back, for young Teddy Lupin to not have to face the same childhood the he had. And yet this time things were also very different. Harry’s grief had always been accompanied by the inevitable question, “when will it all end?” and the overwhelming despair. This time, even though he already missed his friends more than he could express. It had ended. He had ended it, and the feeling that was strongest within him, was peace.

The gargoyle sprang back releasing Harry into the hallway. He found himself looking into the faces of the two people who had always been beside him no matter what circumstances had come there way. Harry thought to himself that the moment he’d met Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger on the Hogwarts Express was one of the luckiest moments of his life.

“How are you Harry?” said Hermione gently.

“You know what?” said Harry, “I think I’m going to be ok… I think we all are…”

     Hermione gave him a tired smile, and squeezed his hand. Then she slipped her arm around Ron’s waist and pressed her face against his shoulder. Ron, who had been very focused on his shoes since Harry had reappeared, responded by kissing the top of her head. He took a deep breathe and looked up at Harry, his face was streaked with tears, and he looked completely drained both physically and emotionally. He took and deep shuttering breath and spoke,

“Harry… I knew you could do it mate… I’m sorry that I was such a twat this year… it’s been so hard… and now with Fred…  I’m not myself at the moment you know?”

     Ron looked down at his shoes again and he began to tremble. Harry looked at his best friend, and suddenly without warning he grabbed Ron into a crushing bear hug. Ron responded immediately, and Hermione stepped away quietly. Somewhere in his own head Harry was shocked at his actions, he and Ron had never been the type to express themselves in a physical manner, but he knew somehow that this was exactly what Ron needed, and at this moment, he didn’t really care what anyone thought, Ron needed him, and he was there.

     They stepped back and looked at each other. Harry was unsure what to say next, he sighed. Somehow he felt like his sigh was releasing all the weight that had been accumulating in his heart over the past few years.  Ron looked a bit surer on his feet, he took a deep breathe.

“Thanks mate.” He said.

Harry gave him a reassuring pat one the shoulder and then they turned to Hermione as well.

“You guys should get some sleep.” he said, “Lord knows you’ve earned it.”

This time it was Ron who managed a weak smile.

“Yeah I think I could sleep for about a week.” As if to prove his statement he yawned widely.

“Come on” said Hermione, “we can go back to Gryffindor Tower; I bet it’s deserted since most of the students were evacuated.”

“Do you mind if we just go for a bit of a walk first?” said Ron, putting his arms around her waist.

Hermione smiled. “Not at all…” she said.

     Harry bid them a goodbye as they turned and walked down the corridor hand in hand.  He’d have to get used to that. Ron and Hermione were finally together, with nothing to keep them from having a perfectly normal relationship. Well, he smirked, not that Ron and Hermione were ever perfectly normal.  This thought brought up another emotion that had been under the surface threatening to claw its way out of him, he had tried to repress it because he thought it was wrong of him to feel it now, but it was still there. Harry was happy. No, he thought to himself, that didn’t quite cover it, he was joyful. Harry let it bubble over, and he laughed, real true laughter, the kind that he could feel healing the wounds that had been eating him from the core for so long.  He could see it, the future he could finally have, he could grow old, have a family, live a normal life. His thoughts lingered on marriage… his children… his grandchildren.  And suddenly he was walking determinedly down the corridor. His heart was full and warm and for the first time in a very long time, he knew exactly what he wanted.  This was his new beginning and there was only one person that he wanted to share it with.

     When Harry reached the Entrance Hall he was surprised to find it twice as crowded as when he had left it a few hours earlier. He thought many people would be rushing home to be with there families. As he looked around he realized that the room was now comprised of mostly people he did not want to see at all. Many Ministry officials mulled around the debris and took statements from the professors and students who were left, and to Harry’s dismay the press were also prowling about. As soon as they saw him they converged like a pack of crazed animals. They bombarded him with questions. 

“Mr. Potter how did you know about the wand of Destiny….”

“How did you learn that He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named made Horcruxes….”

“Are you really the one who killed You-Know-Who….”

“Was this Dumbledore’s plan all along….”

“Harry now that you’ve fulfilled your destiny, what do you plan to do next?”

     When the last question was ask Harry felt a jolt of rage. He had been doing his best to ignore the questions and search the crowd for Ginny, but when he heard that familiar grating voice, he turned slowly to give Rita Skiter a look of deepest loathing. Rita Skiter had been a thorn in Harry’s side since the Tri-Wizard tournament almost three years ago, she always had a knack for making the most fantastic stories out of the glares and cold silence he was accustom to giving her. This time he walked straight to her, she was so taken aback she jumped a bit, but then recovered and gave him her best toothy grin. Her acid green quill was ready by her side.  

“You really want to know?” said Harry venomously.  “Fine. Hope your photographer’s ready, because I’m not just going to tell you, I’m going to show you.”

     He had just seen Ginny standing against the wall with her arm around her mother. Harry pushed through the reporters and made a bee-line for her. He was vaguely aware something that sounded like hundreds of chittering birds was following behind him, and realized it was the photographers snapping a rapid succession of photographs. Ginny looked up, the rising of murmur of the crowd caught her attention. Their eyes met and Harry felt as if his whole body went to ice and was on fire at the same time. He had forgotten until that moment how beautiful her brown eyes were. He quickened his step and she began to walk to meet him. They were closing the gap quickly. The look on her face was one he had never seen before, such a mix of pain…happiness…relief…and then she was there, in his arms. He buried his face in her hair and breathed in the flowery scent knew so well.

“Ginny….” He whispered.

She pulled back met his gaze firmly. He had never truly appreciated how much he missed her.

“So…” she said sternly, “You’re done saving the world now?”

     Harry grinned and nodded.  And then he was kissing her. He had been dreaming of holding her for so long, trying to preserve the memory of her smell, her taste. Without even thinking about what he was doing Harry scooped Ginny up in his arms, without breaking the kiss, and headed back towards the staircase. There were astonished gasps, and a smattering of applause from those watching the scene, but he didn’t care, he barely even heard it. He was with Ginny, and nothing else seemed even remotely important. He felt his feet carrying him along the halls, and he was dimly curiously where he might be going, but then Ginny wound her fingers though his hair, pulling him deeper into the kiss and every other thought he was thinking disappeared from his head.

     By the time the kiss finally ended and he looked around he realized they had ended up in front of the painting of the Fat Lady. She was standing in her frame giving them a sly, smug look.

“Password?” she said with a smirk.

“Wolfric” said Ginny.

The portrait swung open and Harry climbed through without putting Ginny down. He remembered what Hermione had said about Gryffindor Tower being deserted and saw that she was right. He made his way across the common room, and carried Ginny up the stairs to his dormitory. As before he wasn’t quite sure what prompted him to do this, except that he wanted to, and after doing what was expected of him for so long, doing what he wanted felt very good. All the four poster beds were empty and there were no personal items to be seen. He gently sat Ginny down and walked towards his own bed, it had been almost a year since he had slept in this bed, and it was as if he was greeting an old friend. As he pulled back the curtains he looked over at Ginny who was still standing on the other side of the room looking at him curiously.

“Come on over here…” he said, as he reached out his hand to her.

     She needed no more prompting, she quickly crossed the room. Once again she gave him a deep searching look. He gently traced a line across her cheek and down her jawbone to her chin with his thumb. He tilted her face up and kissed her again, slowly. After a moment, instead of breaking off the kiss she put her arms around him and pulled him against her tightly. Harry didn’t even hesitate, he put a hand behind her neck and kissed her even more vigorously. After a few more blissful moments she pulled away, but she did not step back, she put her arms around his next and rested her forehead on his. They were both breathing rather heavily, as she met his gaze once more. This was an expression Harry knew well, her eyes were hard and blazing. Harry had seen her give this look twice before, the first time was the day they started dating, right before their first kiss. The second time was right before he told her he was going to leave her to go fight Voldemort. This look was her way of telling him that she was ready. Yet this time, he wasn’t sure what she was telling him she was ready for. Then suddenly it all made sense and what felt like a bolt of lightning hit his stomach. It was so obvious, the big scene downstairs… essentially carrying her back to his bedroom. In his resolute desire to be with Ginny again, the possibility of this happening had never entered his mind. Butterflies erupted into his stomach and he felt his heart pounding in his chest.  In the back of his mind he marveled at how absurd it was that he had just faced his own death, vanquished the greatest Dark wizard of all time, and now he was almost sick with nerves over the prospect of making love to his girlfriend. For he was now certain that was what she had in mind.

     Ginny kissed him again, almost experimentally this time. He kissed her back and as he did his fear began to melt away. He knew this was what he wanted, he was still nervous but it was more like the kind of nervousness that he felt before a Quidditch match, he was nervous but excited.  He moved his lips from Ginny’s and began to kiss down her jaw line, and her neck. She sighed slowly and deeply, and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his mouth back to hers. She kissed him forcefully and as she did he felt her warm hands slide down to his waist as she lifted his shirt over his head. This was going to be easy… simple… natural… as Ginny ran her hand across his bare chest Harry closed his eyes and let himself be completely swept away.



     Harry slowly felt consciousness seeping into his body. He was warm and comfortable, and for a moment he almost let himself believe he was waking up on a normal day, ready to poke his head out of the curtain and groan with Ron about some homework they hadn’t quite got done. But then he felt someone shift beside him and it all came back. He slowly opened his eyes and was surprised to find that it was dawn again. He and Ginny had finally fallen asleep around noon, so they had slept for almost eighteen hours from the look of things. He sat up and stretched and then let his eyes fall on the sleeping girl next to him. She was so beautiful. She lay on her stomach with her red hair fanned across her back. He brushed her away from her face and kissed her forehead. Her breathing changed slightly as she slowly stretched and open her eyes.

“Hi.” She said, as she smiled up at him.

“Hi.” He answered, “How’d you sleep?”

She rolled over on her side to face him.

“Pretty well actually.” She smiled slyly. “I was awfully exhausted.”

     Harry smiled and he leaned down to kiss her. He kept his hand on her cheek and gently stroked it as he tried to read her expression. Ginny was often very hard to read. She was so different from other girls. In many ways she was much more like a boy, which made sense because she was raised by them. With everything that they had been through in the past few years Harry had always appreciated her ability to be strong and do what needed to be done without large amounts of tears and dramatics. However, now Ginny was hurting, no matter how well she hid it, and Harry wanted her to know he was there to help.

“Ginny…” he said slowly, “if you want to talk… you know we can… I know how close you and Fred were.”

     He was not surprised when her eyes filled with tears. She looked down at her hands for a moment, and then she spoke softly.

“Fred told me once, the day Dad came out and told him and George that they had a baby sister, they were hopping mad. They wouldn’t speak to Mum for a week! They were only three at the time, but apparently they found baby Ron boring, and they wanted a more interesting little brother. They were afraid all I would do was play with dolls and make them go to tea parties. It didn’t take them long to figure out though, that I was much more interested in learning how to ride a broom, and help them play tricks on Ron. They learned quickly that they got in less trouble if they used me, because Mum would never get mad at her precious baby girl.”

She looked up and Harry with a sad smile on her face, and continued.

“Fred was my favorite brother. George too of course, but Fred and I understood each other without even talking, we were like…” she gave a small hiccupping laugh… “well like twins.”

     Harry put his arms around her and pulled her to him, he kissed the top of her head, and let her continue, he could tell that talking about these things was helping her heal, and he was glad that he could be there to help.

“Fred was always glad I found you. Did you know that?”

She looked up at him as she said this. Then put her head against his chest and went on.

“Last Christmas when you were out fighting You-Know-Who and the school was overrun by Death Eaters. That was a really hard time for me… Fred told me something that Christmas that changed everything. He said I was the heroine of this story, that no girl but me could play my part, and that you were out there waiting for me to be the happy ending, and he was right wasn’t he?”

 “yeah… he was right.” Said Harry tenderly.

She kissed him.

She was now tracing the features of his face with her index finger as she spoke.

“You know… if he had to go, he wanted it to be like that. Fighting for what was right. Fighting so that we could have our happy ending.” She inhaled deeply. “So I’m going to be happy, and enjoy my life with you, because that’s what Fred would have wanted.”

Harry smiled and hugged her again. He looked into her face, and wondered to himself how he could ever have been so lucky to find her. He knew what he wanted to say… it had been true for so long, and now he wanted her to know, for it to be real.

“Ginny… I love you.” He said softly.

“I love you too…” she replied.

She returned her head to his chest and sighed.

“We don’t have to get up yet do we?” she said, “I’m rather comfortable.”

 “Well… we’ll have to get out of bed sometime…” said Harry with a smile.

She gave him and evil grin.

“Oh yeah?” she said, “and who’s gonna make me? You?”

“Ok now you asking for it…” said Harry, and he began to tickle her mercilessly.

     Ginny laughed and squealed as she tried to fight him off. After a few seconds she executed an impressive move in which she knocked his arm out from under him and pinned him on his back.

“HA!” she said. “I win!” and then she leaned down to kiss him.

“Excuse me… not to be a bother but some of us are trying to sleep!” said a voice from the other side of the curtains.

     Both Harry and Ginny jumped violently, and Ginny instinctively pulled the covers up to her chin. Harry swiftly realized that another reason he may have woken up thinking he was back at school, was the loud snores he was accustom to hearing from the next bunk over. He and Ginny had been talking so intently they had neither of them had registered the sound.

“Ron???” said Ginny incredulously. “What are you doing here?”

     They heard the sound of curtains being pulled back and Ginny peeked her head around their curtains to meet her brother’s glare. Harry caught a glimpse of his best friends face, and was relieved, to find that while he looked slightly irritated, it was nothing compared to the boiling rage he was expecting to endure from Ron, at the sight of Harry in bed with his little sister.

“In case you haven’t noticed,” said Ron derisively. “This is my dormitory. I can sleep here if I bloody well like. I thought it was just Harry in here, until I heard you this morning.”

Ginny rolled her eyes.

“Fine Ronald, go back to sleep. I was just going to ask Harry if he wanted to go get breakfast anyway.”

Ron shrugged and yawned.

She began to close the curtain, but then turned back.

“I just have to ask… last year every time I so much as held Harry’s hand you acted as though we were committing a mortal sin… and now you find us like this… and you have nothing to say. Why are you so fine with this all of a sudden? Hmmm?”

     Harry who had been thinking the same thing, leaned forward to see what his best friend was going to say.  To his surprise Ron turned a terrific shade of deep pink and began to mutter something that sounded like… priorities… what really matters.

“The reason he’s not yelling at you is because he’d be a filthy hypocrite if he did.” Said the unmistakable voice of Hermione from the next bed over.

     Ginny turned to Harry with a grin so wide you’d think Christmas had come early and mouthed a silent. OH ho ho! Harry shook with silent laughter and fell back on his pillow. It was such a beautiful feeling to know that his life was now so perfectly easy, his worries were only as great as, what they wanted to do today. The rest of his life was an open book.

“So you guys want to go down and have breakfast?” Harry said teasingly.

“I doubt there serving it in the Great Hall,” Said Ron, the embarrassment still think in his voice. “but the house elves can probably bring us something up.”

“We should probably head to the Burrow after we eat,” said Hermione, “we told Mrs. Weasley we were all going to stay the night here and get some sleep, but she’ll be worried if we don’t turn up today.”

“Right… well why don’t we go get changed and meet the boys in a few minutes Hermione?” said Ginny. “You can borrow some of my clothes for the moment.”      

     They met about ten minutes later in the Common Room, the elves had already brought them up a heaping plate of eggs, bacon and toast and they all ate in relative silence. It was not uncomfortable; it was simply the silence of friends who have been through so much that they don’t feel the need to fill it with inane small talk. When they had finished they began to discuss how they would return to the Burrow. They came to the consensus that going to McGonagall and asking to use the Floo Network from her office was the best idea. 

     They made there way through the corridor to the headmistress's office, and once more the gargoyle sprang back without the password, allowing them to enter. When they knocked on her door they heard her wearily bid them to enter.

“Oh Potter!” she said, as she looked up from her desk where she was busily filling out paperwork. “I didn’t even realize you were still in the castle! I was expecting you to be Kingsley, he’s been made the new Minister of Magic and there are so many things to be done. Anyway, what can I do for you Potter?”

“We were hoping to use your fireplace to go back to the Burrow.” He said.

“Oh yes of course! That should be no trouble at all.” She busied herself with the fireplace and a moment later green flames erupted in it.

“You may want to notify Molly you’re on your way first, it is still rather early.” Said Professor McGonagall.

“Right.” Said Ron.

     He walked over to the green flames and clearly said, “the Burrow” before sticking his head in the fireplace. It was hard to hear what he was saying with is head in the fire, but a minute later he pulled it out, looking slightly dizzy turned to them.

“She’s ready for us, she’s holding up pretty well, but she’s in a right state over you Harry.” Ron rolled his eyes a bit when he said the last statement. Mrs. Weasley tended to fuss over him quite a bit.

“I’d better go first.” He said, “to keep her from worrying.”

     He stepped into the fire and clearly said “the Burrow” just as Ron had. He felt his feet fly out from under him as he swirled around in fast circles until his feet hit hard ground and he toppled out into the familiar kitchen of the Burrow.

“Harry!! Oh Harry!” someone screeched.

     He instantly found himself being crushed in the arms of Mrs. Weasley.

“Oh Harry I’m so proud of you! You saved us… all of us. I always knew you could. Oh my boy!”

    She hugged him again. Harry pulled away to look at her, he was so grateful for her comfort and encouragement, but there was something he needed to say.

“Mrs. Weasley…” he said, “Fred… I’m so sorry..I shouldn’t have…”

“No!” interrupted Mrs. Weasley quickly her voice was kind but stern, “Don’t’ you dare do that Harry Potter. My son was a grown man who knew the risks. He died a hero, and it was not your fault. You’ve saved my family… time and time again. I will not let you blame yourself for Fred’s death.”

Harry exhaled deeply and relief spread through his body. Behind him he heard the sound of someone else climbing out of the fireplace.

“Ginny!” squealed Mrs. Weasley, and Harry stepped out of the way to let her embrace her daughter.

   Mrs. Weasley turned so that she faced both of them.

“That was quite a display you two put on yesterday morning.” She said sternly, but her eyes were smiling. “While I’ll admit I’m quite thrilled to see that you two have finally made up, let’s keep those kinds of displays of affection off the front page of the newspapers shall we?”

    Harry noticed at that moment the morning newspaper was sitting on the kitchen table, and the front cover was mostly taken up by a picture of Ginny and he locked in a passionate kiss. Under a headline that read,

Harry Potter, the world’s savior. His Next Conquest? True Love.

While the figures in the photo were moving just like all wizard photographs the images did not seem to notice anyone but each other. Harry felt his face burning, and looked at Ginny who grinned sheepishly and then back at Mrs. Weasley who was now smirking.

“Yeah I think we can handle that.” He said to her.

    She gave him a slightly reproachful smile, but then turned her attention to Ron and subsequently Hermione who had come through the fire place during their conversation.



     The next few days passed by in a haze. The Burrow was a very busy place, as people came in and out giving condolences, and they were making preparation for Fred’s funeral. It was Wednesday evening,  Harry and Ginny were sitting on the living room floor playing with Teddy Lupin. His parent’s funeral had been that day and it had been a taxing experience on all of them.  Harry watch the sweet little baby, who was barely big enough to pick his own head up, giggle as Ginny played peek-a-boo with him. Every time she would open her hands and say, “Boo!” he would jump, and his hair would randomly burst into a different color.  As he watch the babies hair flashed from royal blue to bright orange, he thought of how his tiny godson would never know his kind, patient intelligent father, or his quirky high-spirited mother from whom he had inherited his unique ability. Harry had a fleeting realization that Teddy’s life would be very similar to the life of his good friend Neville Longbottom, raised by his grandmother, and told by her the many stories about how great his parents were.

     But he’ll have me too…thought Harry. He reached out and took the babies small hand. The baby grabbed his finger and began to gum it absentmindedly. Harry smiled and patted him on the head. Teddy was going to be all right.

     In the next room Mrs. Weasley was having a towering row with George about Fred’s funeral plans. George had come in the day before to help with the preparations and he had given Mrs. Weasley some news she did not like at all. Ever since, they had been arguing back and forth.

“George! There is no way I am letting that happen! I’ve been rather patient but fireworks?? That’s down right disrespectful.” Mrs. Weasley was shouting in her most exasperated voice.

“Mum!” George shouted back. “I’ve told you again and again, this is not going to be a funeral. Not in the traditional sense. Fred and I discussed what was to happen if either of us kicked it in this battle, and we didn’t want people to be sitting around mourning and crying, because we’re gone. We wanted them remembering who we were and laughing and celebrating! It’s my job to make sure Fred is remembered the way he wanted and I’m going to do it!”

“He’s gone George!” said Mrs. Weasley severely, “You can’t keep pretending, it won’t do you any good.”

    Upon hearing this Ginny quietly got up and walked into the next room.

“Mum stop.” She said, she wasn’t shouting her voice was calm and sure but Mrs. Weasley was silent. “George is not pretending Fred isn’t gone, he’s just getting on with life, and not letting Fred’s death stop everything. That’s what Fred wanted.”

The arguing didn’t resume.

       Harry and Ron were finishing putting on their dress robes and heading down the stairs. They met Ginny and Hermione in the living room and they all headed for the garden.

     “Oh my goodness,” said Hermione, as they rounded the corner of the yard. There was a huge tent quite like the one Bill and Fleur had been married in the summer before.  There were four long tables full of food and in the front was a large picture of Fred laughing and pulling faces at his friends and family. Standing in the entrance to the tent were George and his good friend Lee Jordan, and as people walked in they were handing them each a flamboyant hat and a party favor. As they all went into the tent and took their seats Ron leaned over to Harry.

“Bloody hell. This is quite a sight isn’t it?” he whispered.

     He wasn’t wrong, the tent was packed full of colorful streamers, noise makers and showers of colorful sparks. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sat down across from them with sad but amused looks on their faces.

“Well...” said Mr. Weasley looking around. “This is Fred alright.”

     After a few more minutes when all the guests had filed in George went to the front and motioned for silence. 

“Ladies and gentlemen.” He began. “This is not a funeral, because that is not what Fred wanted. This is a feast to his memory. Eat, and share stories about my brother, remember him for what he was, if you would like to share memories with the group feel free. But most importantly, please enjoy yourself.”

     With that he sat down and the feast began. It was a truly enjoyable experience. Many people told hilarious stories of the antics of Fred and George and everyone laughed, and cried. It was a justly appropriate tribute to the kind of person that Fred was. At midnight George and Lee led everyone outside to watch a spectacular fireworks show that reminded Harry of the fireworks that Fed and George unleashed on Delores Umbridge in Harry’s fifth year. The show culminated with a huge explosion that spelled out.

R.I.P. Fred. We love you.

     The crowd erupted with cheers and applause, and Harry put his arm around Ginny who was clapping and cheering with tears running down her cheeks. After the fireworks had ended they all walked slowly back up to the house together. When they reached the door of the house Ron stopped and looked around at them.

“Hey,” he said. “There’s a lake up over the hill beyond Luna’s house. We should go up there tomorrow and go swimming and have a picnic.”

“That sounds like a great idea!” said Harry enthusiastically, and Ginny and Hermione matched his eagerness.

     They walked the girls up to their room and parted ways, but that night as Harry lay on the camp bed that had been set up for him in Ron’s room. He couldn’t help but feel that Fred’s funeral had been the final piece that was needed. Now the pain and the loss were behind them, and it was time to move into a happier phase of life. He rolled over and slowly drifted into sleep listening to the sound of Ron’s snoring.

Chapter 2: A New Life
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Chapter 2: A new Life.

“No no! I’ve changed my mind I don’t want to!” squealed Hermione.

     She was standing on a ledge about 15 feet above the water of the lake. She was holding a rope, and had already attempted to swing out into the water three times and then lost her nerve. Harry, Ginny, and Ron had already jumped and were in the water waiting for her.

“We should have never let her go last; I knew she’d cop out.” Ron said to Harry out the side of his mouth.  Ginny giggled.

Ron turned his attention back to the cliff.

“Hermione!” he called, “Nothing’s going to happen to you. I’m right here!”

“Ok…OK…” Hermione was trying to talk herself into it. “Ok here I go!”

She took a running leap and swung out over the water, she finally let go and plummeted into the water screaming at the top of her lungs. She surfaced gasping but grinning from ear to ear.

“I did it!! That was really fun!!”  She gasped.

     Ron laughed and gave her a hug. They all swam back to the shore and lay down on the bank in the sun.  It had been a wonderful day. They been laughing and playing in the lake, they even played a bit of Quidditch. Hermione’s skill was improving. It was still unreal to Harry how such peace and happiness could last, but he knew it would. There was no impending doom around the corner, no feeling that this couldn’t last. It could last and it would last, and it was more than he could have ever hoped for.

“So Harry…” said Hermione tentively. “Could we talk about what happened that night?”

    She was looking at him with concern, he knew she was hoping not to upset him, but he was not upset in the least.

“Are you kidding? Of course we can! You guys must have a million questions! What do you want to know?” he said eagerly.

     He wanted his friends to know that they could ask him anything, he had of course discussed much of this with Ginny over the past few weeks while catching her up on the events of the past year, but it had never occurred to him that he hadn’t discussed the events that transpired in the forest that night with Ron and Hermione.

      He felt the relief of his two best friends as he spoke; he knew that they had been waiting to speak with him about this until he was ready.

“Well… how did you come back? You know… from the dead.” said Hermione, as if she couldn’t come up with any better way to describe it.

     Harry thought for a minute.

“Well...” he said, “I don’t know all the details… but Voldemort killed me, and I for awhile all I could see was light.”

     Harry felt Ginny’s hand tighten on his arm and he patted it comfortingly.

“Then Dumbledore was there, and he told me that I wasn’t dead yet. I was in… well I guess it’s called Limbo… the place between death and life... at least that’s what I’ve always heard it called.” Harry was almost talking to himself now.

“…and it looked like Platform nine and three Quarters,” he added almost as an after thought.

     Ron tried unsuccessfully to contain a snort of laughter, and received a jab in the ribs from Hermione, but Harry grinned at him and gave a shrug.

“But Harry,” said Hermione looking confused, “Why were you in Limbo?”

“It was because of the choice I’d made, the choice to let him kill me. You see Hermione… I was a Horcrux. Voldemort didn’t know.” said Harry. He waited as comprehension dawned on her face.

Hermione gasped, and whispered “your scar”.

“Yeah Hermione” said Harry, “so anyway when I let Voldemort kill me it separated the piece of his soul and mine, and wherever I went to, Dumbledore told me I could come back… if I wanted.”

Harry heard Ron whisper, “Bloody hell” with a sense of awe.

“I thought about going on… it was appealing… just to end the pain.” He gently touched Ginny’s face. “But I had to come back; I wasn’t done living my life yet.”

She smiled and her eyes were tearing up slightly.

“And… well that’s that.” Harry finished lamely.

Ron let out a long low whistle. And they sat in silence for a minute.

“I have a question.” Said Ron.

“Shoot.” said Harry, truly enjoying the fact that he could once again talk about these things. The pain was still there, and it might never fully go away, but he knew with time, they would heal, as long as they all still had each other.

“Well in the Great Hall, you told….him…something about...Snape not being his man, it was hard to hear everything that was going on inside that shield, but what did you mean by that?” asked Ron.

     Harry gasped and slapped himself in the forehead. How could he possibly have been this stupid?

“OH! OH MY GOODNESS SNAPE!”  he yelled.

     All of them jumped.

“What in the world Harry??” said Ginny

“I have to tell you about Snape!” Harry gasped, “I can’t believe I waited this long!”

“What about Snape??” said Hermione.

“You were right about Snape all along Hermione. He wasn’t evil, he was good.” Said Harry hastily, he was appalled at himself for forgetting about such a crucial fact.

     Ron looked at her incredulously.

“Harry… did you hit your head when you jumped off the cliff? Because you’re barking mate…” he said.

“No,” said Harry. “He used his last breathes to give me his memories. To tell me the truth.”

They were all listening intently.

“It was all about my mother.” Harry began, “Snape knew my mother from the time they were kids, she was a Muggle born you know, and he was the first one to tell her she was a witch. He was in love with her. They went to Hogwarts together, but they parted ways because he hated that she was dating my Dad, and she didn’t like that he was hanging out with Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He told Voldemort about the prophecy, but when he found out what it meant… that Voldemort had killed my mother… that’s when he left the Death Eaters forever and became loyal to Dumbledore.”

“But Harry…” said Ginny, “he killed Dumbledore.”

“Yes he did… but he did it because Dumbledore asked him to. Remember how Dumbledore’s hand was all black and dead looking for the whole year before he died? He was poisoned by a powerful curse over the summer. Snape managed to contain most of the damage in his hand, but the poison was slowly spreading, he had one year to live.”

“So he asked Snape to kill him at the end… so that Voldemort would have no reason to doubt Snape’s loyalty.” Hermione’s voice was barely audible.

“That’s exactly right.” Said Harry.

     Harry looked around at his friends. Hermione was sitting there with her hands over her mouth. Ginny was looking out over the lake deep in thought but she was shaking her head slightly as if she was trying to make her thoughts settle. Ron was looking at him with an expression reminiscent of being hit over the head with a Bludger.

“So…” Harry continued, “Snape has spent all these years, doing his best to follow Dumbledore’s orders. He hated me as much as I hated him, because he hated my Dad. Dumbledore knew that bitterness would never go away. But he loved my Mum, and for her he risked everything to do the things she would have wanted.”

“Like become headmaster last year to make sure that the Death Eaters couldn’t do anything too horrible.” Said Ginny.

“Yeah, things like that.” Said Harry.

They sat there in silence for a few minutes. Then Ron began to chuckle, he tried to suppress it but the more he did the worse it got.

“What’s so funny?” said Harry confused.

“You could have been Harry Snape!” he said, “Snape was almost your Dad!”

Harry smirked, and the more he thought about it… the funnier it became soon they were all laughing and coming up with ridiculous scenarios about Harry’s life with Snape as a father. The most ridiculous of which was Harry ending up as the Hogwarts Potions master, with Pansy Parkinson as his wife and Draco Malfoy as the best man in his wedding.

     That night Harry and Ron were lying in their beds about to go to sleep when Ron rolled over and looked at Harry. Harry could see that he was bursting to say something, and he was curious what was about to happen.

“Ok look mate. I’ve been going back and forth in my head for the past week. Because… you’re my best friend and I’ve been dying to talk to you… but you know…Ginny’s my sister, and I don’t want you to think that I am just fine… with you doing… that, with my sister, but you’re my best mate, and if I don’t talk to you soon I’m gonna go crazy! So no offense, but for the purposes of this conversation, I’m going to pretend your still dating Cho, and everything will be fine.” Ron stopped and waited for Harry to respond.

    Harry was relieved; he’d really wanted to talk with Ron about this too. He sat up in bed to face Ron who did the same.

“So…” said Ron, “what was it like?”

“Fantastic,” Harry answered truthfully, “One of the most amazing nights of my entire life.”

“Yeah I know what you mean.” Said Ron, “I didn’t even expect it you know…”

“Me either!!” said Harry smiling, but he was reminded of something, “hey… umm… did you guys….you know…do that in the dormitory? Because we didn’t even hear you come in…”      

Ron smiled.  “Nah…” he said. “We just came back there to go to was the prefects’ bathroom actually.”

Harry raised his eyebrows; he couldn’t pretend that he wasn’t impressed.

“So how did that happen?” he asked.

“Well…” said Ron, “we were walking back towards Gryffindor, and I mentioned that I was filthy and I could use a bath. And Hermione looked at me with this look… I’d never seen anything close to it before. Then she kisses me and says, ‘so let’s have a bath...’ Bloody hell Harry… I swear my heart stopped. I mean we’d been fighting Death Eaters all day but I think that was the most scared I’d been in weeks!!

  Harry laughed appreciatively, remembering that he had felt exactly the same way.

“So we went to the prefect’s bathroom…. I got in the tub and washed off a bit... cuz I really was grimier than a house elf… then Hermione walked out of the dressing room….” Ron’s voice trailed away, and Harry could tell he was seeing a scene that was far away from the little room they were sitting in.

“It was out of this world…” Ron murmured as an after thought..

“Nice one.” said Harry, with a smirk. His voice seemed to pull Ron out of his stupor, and Ron turned to look at him again.

“So what was it like for you?” he asked cautiously. Harry tried to put the story together in his head, in such a way that he could satisfy his need to discuss this with the side of Ron that was his best friend, without angering the side of Ron that was Ginny’s brother.

“Well…” he began cautiously, “After I left you and Hermione, I had an overwhelming desire to just be with Gin---I mean my girlfriend.”  He quickly made sure Ron didn’t show any signs of anger and then went on. “So I went to the Entrance Hall and scooped her up.”

“Right, that part was in the papers…” said Ron with an evil grin.

“Anyway…” said Harry with a withering glare.  “We went back to the dormitory. I was so tired I thought we were just going to crash, but then she started kissing me, and I realized what she had in mind. I know what you mean about being scared mate! Good Lord! But then… it all just seemed to click, and I wasn’t scared anymore.”

“Yeah…” said Ron, “Funny how that works isn’t it?” he lay back on his bed and closed his eyes with a satisfied smile on his face. “You know?” he said without opening his eyes, “Kind of ironic that we both lost our virginity the night we finally found all those horcruxes and you killed You-know-who, if I had know that was part of the reward I might not have been so grouchy about it!”

They laughed together and then bid each other goodnight. Harry lay back on his pillow. It was nice that he could finally talk with Ron about this stuff. He really was a great friend. Harry smiled to himself and rolled over to let sleep take him.

     The next morning Harry was awakened with a start when Ginny came bouncing into the room and plopped down on the foot of his bed. She leaned over and gave him a long sweet kiss.

“Happy Birthday Harry.” She said.

     Harry was momentarily astounded; he had once again completely forgotten his own birthday. He was eighteen years old. It seemed like a lifetime ago that he had turned seventeen. And he thought to himself, at the time he wasn’t planning on making it to eighteen. How funny things had turned out.

“So do you want your present now? Or later?” said Ginny.

Harry gave her a crafty smile. “Is this the same kind of present as last year?” he teased.

“No... You can have those kinds anytime you want.” Ginny retorted. “This one is more… subtle.”

     She handed him a small square box. He opened it, and inside was an intricate little charm on a silver chain. He held it up to the light, were it sparkled. It looked like some kind of Rune he didn’t know what it stood for.

“I found this when I was nine years old. I have always thought of it as my good luck charm, when I went to Hogwarts; I asked the Ancient Runes teacher if he recognized the symbol. He said it was the symbol for passion. Ever since then, I’ve always worn it, in a silly way I see it as almost an extension of myself. And I want you to have it… to keep me with you.” Her voice trailed off.

Harry could tell that she didn’t want to seem too gushy and girly about the idea, but it also meant a lot to her. Harry on the other hand was touched. He slipped the charm necklace over his head, and looked down at it, then up at Ginny.

“I’ll never take it off Ginny.” He promised. “Thank you.”

     They went down to breakfast and Harry received the rest of his presents along with birthday wishes. Ron and Hermione bought him a brand new marble chess set. Harry felt touched and slightly guilty because he knew they had spent most of their money combined on it. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley gave him a huge box of sweets and also a brand new pair of glasses, which he was in need of. His last pair had been repaired by Hermione more times than he could count and they were growing more and more weathered by the day. George had of course sent him a huge box of some of the most insane joke products his store had to offer, and to his delight Charlie had sent him a long coat of dark black dragon hide, with a high collar. He thought it just might be the coolest piece of clothing he’d ever owned.

    Later that night, they had a grand party. Ginny of course decorated the garden to its fullest, and Mrs. Weasley overdid herself with the food and the cake, which was in the shape of a Quidditch field complete with miniature players zooming around above it. They stayed up late into the night, playing games and experimenting with some of the crazier things George had added to the joke box. At one point Harry sat down on a bench a little away from the action, and watched as Ginny, Ron, and Hermione experimented with bubble gum that changed the chewer’s hair to lurid styles and colors. George walked over and sat next to him, just as Ron’s hair morphed into a brilliant blue bee-hive.

“So Harry…” said George, “How’s your birthday?”

“Pretty wonderful.” said Harry.

     At that moment, Ginny whose hair had just turn into a huge lime green afro, winked at him, and blew him s kiss. Harry began to laugh. George looked from Ginny to Harry and back.

“So what’s the deal with you two?” he said.

“Honestly?” said Harry, “I love her George, and she loves me, and… well… I think she’s the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

“Good.” Said George, “That’s the answer I wanted. She was really messed up last year… when you were gone… and I had to be sure that you weren’t gonna hurt again….”

“I’m not.” Said Harry earnestly, “I never want to hurt her again.”

“Good.” Said George once more, and he patted Harry on the back, “now let’s get back to your party, we’re missin all the fun!” 

     Only after having to shrink Ron’s ears for the third time, did Mrs. Weasley finally shoo them off to bed, but not before George managed to make Percy’s entire head turn purple. They trumped their way up the stairs to their room laughing and talking about the night’s antics. As Harry said a lengthy pleasant goodnight to Ginny, he thought to himself that this was definitely a perfect birthday.





A few afternoons later Ron and Harry were playing an intense game of Wizard chess in the living room when Hermione came bouncing in looking slightly nervous.

“What’s up Hermione?” said Harry, as Ron’s queen drug his bishop off the board.

“We have visitors.” said Hermione.

Harry and Ron looked up inquiringly and saw that behind her was none other than Professor McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt, the new Minister of Magic. The boys put there game aside and rose to greet them.

“Pleased to see you Harry.” said Kingsley. “Let’s sit down.

As they all took there seats it dawned on Harry that this was the first time he was about to sit down and speak with a Minister of Magic that he genuinely liked.

“Well, let’s get down to it then,” said McGonagall, “we have come here to discuss your futures. I would like you to know that Hogwarts will be opening on schedule this September, and you three are more than welcome to come back and finish your last year of N.E.W.T.S. with Miss Weasley’s class we have created a slightly more intensive curriculum to make up for the lack of proper instruction that was given last year.” Her nostrils flared in anger as she spoke, but she recovered and went on. “The Minister also wanted to inform you of another option open to you as well.”

     Kingsley leaned forward to speak to them.

“As you know the Ministry is very grateful to the three of you for all you have done for the Wizarding World, and you have proven yourself to be very skilled and mature especially for your age. Therefore the ministry is willing to offer you any job that you are qualified to take, and put you in training programs for any job you may aspire to. Obviously we would be willing to put you in the Auror training program right away if you choose, and if you would like any other job, all you need do is come to the ministry and ask to speak with me about it.”

     He smiled kindly and stood up.

“Well I believe that’s about all. I hope you have a wonderful day. I am at your disposal anytime you wish.” He tipped his hat and then he and Professor McGonagall turned and left.

     Ron’s face was aglow with excitement.

“Bloody hell! Any job we want! In the whole Ministry, I bet you could even be put on the fast track to being the next Minister of Magic if you wanted!” Ron said to Harry.

“OH yeah…” said Harry, rolling his eyes… “That’s just what I’d want…”

     He sat back and thought about it…school…or was an interesting choice. He knew of course what he would want to do at the Ministry. He wanted to be an Auror, he always had, and the allure of starting his Auror training now, and getting to fight evil with other Auror’s was hard to resist. Yet part of him felt it wouldn’t be fair… he didn’t know all that they knew yet, and he should have to pass the test’s and prove himself just like everyone else, and if he went back to school for his last year… he’d be in the same class as Ginny, that was another alluring option.

“So what do you think that you’re going to do?” He vaguely asked Ron and Hermione as he came out of his stupor.

“Dunno…” said Ron. “ I mean… any job we want. That’s huge… I’d have to think about it.”

“I’m going back to school.” said Hermione immediately “I want to finish my education properly, besides… I have no clue what job I’d want yet.”

“Yeah I figured.” Said Ron as he smiled at her, “I still have to figure it out.”

     The next few days Harry felt like he was on a see-saw in his own brain, school? work? school? work? He had also noticed that Ron was being very secretive, and he was vaguely curious what was going on with him. He seemed to be reading magazines and pamphlets when he thought no one was looking, but Harry had no clue what they were about because every time he caught him Ron would stuff whatever he was reading out of sight and pretend it wasn’t there.  By the end of the week he was thoroughly annoyed at Ron’s behavior. On Sunday night after a truly enchanting walk with Ginny in the field behind the house, Harry walked into Ron’s room to see him hastily stuffing a pamphlet under his pillow.

“All right!” he snapped. “What the hell is going on Ron?”

     Ron looked sheepishly down at his hands.

“Look there’s a job that I’ve been thinking about… and the more I think about it the more I really want it. But I don’t’ want to talk about it… not until I know if it’s possible. I have an interview with Kingsley in the morning. After that we’ll talk ok?” Ron looked at him nervously.

Harry sighed he was still annoyed with Ron’s vagueness, but he understood now.

“Ok...” he said. “Good luck tomorrow, I hope it goes well.”

     When Harry woke up the next morning Ron was already gone. He ambled downstairs to get some breakfast and found Hermione and Ginny there eating already with Mrs. Weasley bustling around in the background.

“Harry” said Hermione as he sat down. “Did Ron happen to tell you what he’s meeting the Minister about?”

“Nope” said Harry. “He said he’d tell us about it when he got back.”

“Well I find that very rude!” said Mrs. Weasley, “I mean we’re all sitting back here completely in the dark!!”

     She slammed a pot in the sink and started scrubbing it vigorously.

“Mum if Ron doesn’t want to tell us… he doesn’t have to…he’s an adult now.” said Ginny without looking up from her cereal bowl.

      The morning passed without incident, Hermione went out to the garden to read a book, and Harry and Ginny spent a few hours alone in her room simply talking about whatever came into their heads. Slightly after one o-clock there was a loud whooping sound from the kitchen. Harry, who had been sprawled on Ginny’s bed with his head in her lap, sat up quickly. They had been in the middle of a heated discussion about which Quidditch team would win the World Cup in the coming season. They made there way down to the kitchen, and saw Ron jumping in a circle and howling with glee.

“Ron!” said Ginny, “What on earth has gotten into you!”

“I’ll tell you!!” he said, “but where’s Hermione?? I’m not saying till she get’s here”

Just then a confused Hermione slipped through the kitchen door, inquiring about the source of the noise. In one swoop Ron picked her up and spun her around in a circle while shouting:

“I got it!!! I got the job!!”

“You what…” said Hermione overwhelmed, then comprehension dawned on her face, “Oh Ron!! You have a job??? I’m so proud of you!! What is it?”

“Oh yes Ron! Do tell us!” said Mrs. Weasley.

“Just one more moment Mum.” He said.

     Then in a one smooth movement that was very evocative of something Harry had seen in the movies, Ron dipped Hermione back and kissed her firmly on the mouth. After a few moments passed, Harry cleared his throat loudly. Ron surfaced and grinned.

“Sorry Harry.” He said.

    He stood Hermione back upright, she was a bit pink in the face, and then he looked around at them all.

“Ladies and gentleman!” he said proudly, “you are looking at the Quidditch commentator for the Wizarding Wirelesses new program, News Daily, with Lee Jordan.”

“What??” screeched Ginny. Who rushed across the room to hug him.

 “I don’t believe it...” said Harry with a smile. “You made a career out of how much you love to talk about Quidditch.”

     Ron beamed at him.

“You bet I did.” He said, “I was thinking about it all week… it’s been an idea in the back of my head for awhile. So I wrote Kingsley and he sent me some pamphlets on different options of jobs having to do with Quidditch. Commentator was the one I liked best… I told him, and he told me that Lee was starting his own radio program, since you know he did the Potterwatch last year, and so I went down and talked with Lee today at the Ministry, and we set everything up. I’ll go in everyday and help Lee organize things for the program, and then I just have to talk bout Quiddtich. I get to go to tons of games, and meet and interview players and coaches!”

Ron was bursting with excitement, and Hermione was gushing over him but none of their excitement compared to that of Mrs. Weasley.

“We must tell your father!!” she said. “We’ll have a party tonight, for you Ronald. Oh my goodness, my little Ronnie is going to be on the radio! I can’t believe it.”

She kissed his cheek and ran off to busy herself.  

“So…are you still going to come visit us at Hogwarts once you’re a working man?” said Harry.

“Yeah of course mate!” said Ron. “I’ll only have work until about four in the afternoon most days. Except when there’s games, and I was thinking about getting a place in Hogsmeade, then I can Apparate to work and still come see you lot in the evenings.”

“Wait a minute.” Said Hermione, “does that mean you’re going back to Hogwarts too Harry?”

Harry shrugged.

“Yeah I guess I am. I just feel like if I’m going to become an Auror, I should have to do everything that everyone had to do to get there.” He said. “You know?”

“Yeah I think you’re right.” said Ginny

     The party that night was enjoyable; Ron’s brother’s came to celebrate with him and asked him questions over and over again about his new job. Harry knew it was doing wonders for Ron’s morale to be the center of attention for once, and Harry was glad to let him have it. Half way through the meal Mrs. Weasley announced that booklists would likely be arriving in the morning, so they were planning a trip to Diagon Alley. Harry thought it was ironic, he had never expected to be returning to Diagon Alley for school books. He wondered if this feeling of surrealism would ever go away.

     A little later in the evening all the boys had congregated in a corner of the yard, Charlie and Bill were competing to see who could have the most interesting story from their trips abroad. Charlie had just finished a tale about a Hungarian Horntail that almost speared him four times. Bill rolled his eyes.

“That’s nothing.” He said, “you want a real story, let me tell you about this girl I met in Egypt when I was curse breaking a few years back.”

     Bill stopped and looked over at Harry and Ron.

“On second thought,” Bill said smugly, “I’m not sure this story is suitable for innocent young ears.”

     Harry looked at Ron who met him with the same exasperated look and then turned to Bill.

“Well,” Ron said. “As far as I know… there are no innocent young ears present, so go for it.”

     Every eye in the group was now on Harry and Ron, Bill’s story was completely forgotten.

“Something you two want to share with the group?” said George with a smirk.

“Well…yeah we did… you know IT.” said Ron rather pathetically.

“When exactly did IT happen little brother?” said Charlie with a nudge to Ron’s ribs.

“Right after everything happened with You-Know-Who … things were really intense, and it just sort of happened.” He shrugged.

“and you Harry?” it was Bill speaking this time.

     Harry shifted uncomfortably. He wasn’t ashamed of what he and Ginny had done, but he was also keenly aware that he was sitting in a group that was comprised completely of her older brothers.

“Same thing.” He said finally. It seemed like the safest option.

“I figured as much.” piped up Percy.

“Oh really Perc?” said George, “how’s that?”

“Well with the scene they had at Hogwarts I think that’s what most people figured.” said Percy, and the subject was dropped.

     At about midnight Mrs. Weasley announced it was time for bed. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny made there way up the stairs to their rooms. They said there goodbyes on the landing, and Harry and Ron turned to leave. But Ginny grabbed his arm and pulled him back for a moment. Ron looked over his shoulder, smirked and kept walking.

“Hey... Hermione and I were talking about it tonight… you think maybe you’d like to Apparate down here for the night? And she’ll Apparate up there?” She was smiling deviously at him.

“Well aren’t you the two little sneaks?” Harry said with a laugh. “Sure I’d love to. Just let me go tell Ron, and change into my pajamas.”

“Hermione will show up there in about five minutes ok?” she kissed him on the cheek. “See ya soon.”

Harry bolted up to Ron’s room and started hastily changing into his pajamas.

“What’s the hurry?” said Ron, who was watching him like he was cracking up.

“The girl’s decided to pull a switch tonight.” He said, “Hermione’s coming up to stay with you, and I’m going to stay in Ginny’s room.”

Ron grinned, leaned back against his pillow and closed his eyes in happiness.

“Brilliant…” he said.

     Harry had just finished putting his pajama shirt on when he heard a pop behind him. Hermione was standing by the door in her pajama’s looking slightly awkward. Even Harry, who thought of Hermione as a sister, could appreciate how cute she looked at that moment. Harry had always wondered why girls thought that wearing make-up and fancy clothes attracted boys, he thought they looked quite cuter when they were… well normal. That was exactly how Hermione looked at the moment, she was wearing a pair of little pajama shorts with flowers on them, and a tank top shirt and her hair was up in a ponytail.  It was quite a different look for her; he had never seen her dress so casually before. He could tell that Ron was thinking along the same lines he hadn’t taken his eyes off her since she had appeared, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

“Hey Harry,” he said, without looking away from Hermione, “weren’t you on your way out?”

Harry smiled and took the hint. He picked up his wand and spun into the pressing darkness. Apparating wasn’t so bad for short distances; it was more like an uncomfortably strong hug from someone a lot bigger than you. The next thing he knew he was standing in Ginny’s room. She motioned for him to come sit on the bed, but put her finger to her lips.

“Mum’s on the prowl.” She whispered.

     Harry pointed his wand at the door and whispered “Muffliato”.

“There we go.” He said, and he made himself comfortable on the bed with Ginny, thankful that they didn’t have to worry about anyone overhearing their activities.

     As Harry and Ginny made there way through Diagon Alley the next morning, Harry noticed that it was much more the place he remembered it being then his last visit.  There were students bustling around and from shop to shop. Hermione and Ron had gone to off to buy her supplies, because she was on a different N.E.W.T. track than he and Ginny. They had bought all their books and also their supplies and they had one last stop, Ginny wanted to buy some new dress robes and Harry was all too happy to help her pick which ones looked best. As they walked down the street hand in hand, they noticed many familiar faces. They said hello to Neville and Luna, who they saw walking out of Flourish and Blotts. They saw Lavender Brown at Floresque’s Ice Cream parlor, and even Dean Thomas smiled at them as they passed. It seemed that life was finally becoming normal again.

Chapter 3: One Last Time
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Chapter 3: One Last Time

     A  week and a half later they were making there way towards King’s Cross, as they stood on platform nine and three quarters saying there goodbyes to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and also to Ron.  Harry thought to how the last time he had been on this platform it had been with Dumbledore and it had been in another place. Harry pulled his head back to reality; Mrs. Weasley was hurrying them onto the train. They waved goodbye, and Ron blew Hermione a kiss. The three of them found their way to a compartment. The train was not as crowded as usual, and soon Luna and Neville joined them. Harry had always suspected something was going on between them, and they confirmed that they had started going out over the summer. The ride to Hogwarts was pleasant, the sun was shining and they all talked animatedly about things they had done over the summer. Neville had decided to come back, because he felt that he really didn’t get much of a seventh year at Hogwarts with the Death eaters running things, and he had wanted to finish school strong. They talked about their plans for the year, and Harry’s mood was improved even more when he found that Draco Malfoy, had decided not to come back to school. About halfway through the trip Harry realized that Hermione was somewhat quiet. When Ginny and Neville were in the middle of a particularly rowdy game of Exploding Snap, and Luna was engrossed in the Quibbler, Harry moved over to sit by her.

“How are you doing?” he asked her.

“Oh I’m fine.” She said, “excited to get back to school you know…”

     Harry heard the slight tremble in her voice and the worry in her eyes, and he gave her a one armed hug.

“You’ll see him in a few days Hermione. He’s looking for a room to rent in Hogsmeade. We’ll see him almost everyday.” Harry said.

“I know.” said Hermione in a small voice. “I just miss him… you know?”

“Yeah…” said Harry, “but it will be ok.”

     Harry felt for her, she and Ron had barely been away from each other for more then a few hours since everything had ended, and even though things had been calm for some time, he knew it would be a long while before any of them could leave there loved ones and not be worried for their safety.

    A few minutes later they heard the announcement that they were nearing Hogwarts, and should put on their school robes. They got dressed and prepared to get off the train. As they stepped out onto the platform they heard the booming voice over the crowd.

“Firs years over here! Firs years this way!” called Hagrid.

     He was motioning for the first year students from across the platform, and Harry thought to himself what a great night it would be for the ride across the lake. The sky was clear and the air was warm. 

     They all piled into a carriage, and headed for the castle. When they arrived Mr. Filch was waiting on the steps as usual, and they filed past him quickly and into the Great Hall. When they entered, Harry felt a jolt of surprise. He had known that Professor McGonagall was now Headmistress, but to see her sitting in Dumbledore’s seat was somewhat shocking. It was a reminder that no matter how much things seemed back to normal, they were different. They sat down watch as the first years were sorted, Harry marveled at the thought that he had ever been that small. Gryffindor House only received three new members this year, but since attendance was low, this was no surprise. McGonagall stood up, to give her beginning of the year speech.

“Welcome to all.” She began. “As you know, the end of last year this school was the battleground for one of the most famous battles of our time. We all stood together and through the combined efforts of all, good has prevailed. Yet we all know that in war, no matter how hard we fight, lives are lost. I would like us to observe a moment of silence for the brave souls who gave everything, down to their very lives.” She bowed her head and the room was silent.  After a few minutes she continued.

“There are also those individuals in out midst that deserve our recognition. Firstly, Hogwarts School was a dark place in its last year as it had been overrun by evil. Yet good prevailed, and I would like to call upon the three students who were the leaders in resisting this darkness. They have shown in the past year more bravery than many adults have in their whole lifetime. Please come forward, Mr. Neville Longbottom, Miss Ginerva Weasley and Miss Luna Lovegood.”

     There was thunderous applause and cheering as the three went forward to stand by the headmistress. Harry’s heart swelled with pride as he watched Ginny take her place next to Neville. He never knew it was possible to love someone this much.

“you three,” continued McGonagall, “will be receiving special awards for service to this school, and I have saved this moment to announce that you Mr. Longbottom will be appointed Head Boy for the year at Hogwarts.”

     Neville looked like he might be about to pass out as she pinned the Head Boy pin, to his robes. The three of them took their seats, and McGonagall continued her speech.

“There are three other people who I would like to make mention of tonight. Unfortunately only two of them are among us this evening, but I truly believe without the incredible strength and bravery of these three people, we would not be here today. They have saved us all from a fate worse than death, and they are the true hero’s of our world.”

Harry felt his face turning red as Ginny squeezed his hand under the table encouragingly.

“Please come forward, Miss Hermione Granger, and Mr. Harry Potter.” Said McGonagall.

     The noise was deafening as they stood, and as they walked to the front they heard the scraping of benches being pulled out as everyone stood to cheer. Harry stood next to Hermione at the front of the room feeling embarrassed and having no clue how to handle such adoration.

“you two…along with Mr. Weasley” said McGonagall her voice full of emotion. “have saved us all. We will be giving you awards for special services to the school, and we would like to give you another honor.”

She waved her wand and a huge curtain that had been over the space above the fireplace vanished. Harry had not even notice the curtain but now looked up in shock at the massive shield that hung on the wall above the mantle. It had three pictures in the center, the middle picture was of him, and the two slightly smaller pictures on each side were of Ron and Hermione. Beneath each of their pictures was their name in scrawling script, and beneath that the words “our Saviors” were written. To Harry’s delight across the top was written.

The last enemy to be conquered shall be death.

     It was the same message that was written on his parent’s tombstone. He looked over to see that Hermione was crying slightly, and he himself felt his throat constrict. “Thank you” he mouthed to McGonagall. Who smiled kindly at him.

“We would also like Miss Granger to fill the position of Head Girl for this year.”

Hermione beamed at her as she pinned on her badge, and then McGonagall motioned for them to return to their seats.

“Now.” She said, “I know that you are all hungry, so I would like to get down to business. I have a few announcements, and then we can begin our feast. Mr. Filch would like to remind you that there is still a ban on all products from Weasley’s Wizzarding Wheezes.  If anyone wishes to put there name down for their House Quidditch team they need to speak to their respective Captains, which are the same Captains as last year, and finally I would like to introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Professor Bill Weasley.”

Harry, Ginny, and Hermione all jerked their heads around searching the staff table. There sitting at the very end was Ginny’s oldest brother Bill. Harry leaned in to both of them.

“Did either of you know about that?” he said.

They both shook their heads.

“Lets go talk to him after the feast.” Suggested Ginny, and they agreed.

Harry remembered something else McGonagall had said.

“Hey, who got made Quidditch Captain last year Ginny?” he said.

She smiled brightly at him.

“As a matter of fact I did.” She said.

“Good one babe!” he said enthusiastically. “You gonna let me back on the team?”

     She gave him a teasing smile.

“Maybe…” she said, “I guess that depends on how hard you try to persuade me.”

Just then their plates filled magically with food, and they tucked in hungrily.


     After dinner they made their way up to main table to try to catch a word with Bill. He saw them coming and smiled at them.

“Bill!” said Ginny, “How come you didn’t tell us??”

“Because it was only finalized two days ago,” replied Bill “see I’ve decided to give up curse breaking, while I love it very much I really need a job that keeps me closer to home because you see, Fleur’s going to have a baby.”

     They all looked at him in silence for a minute, and then erupted in cheers and congratulations. He thanked them kindly and accepted hugs.

“Sorry we didn’t tell you all this earlier, I just wanted to make sure the job was for sure before we told the family everything. Well... I best be getting home, Fleur probably waited up for me even though I told her not to, but I’ll see you lot tomorrow.” with that Bill turned to leave.

They said their goodbyes and then headed for t he Gryffindor Common Room, even with fewer students at the school it still seemed like every single eye was on them constantly, and both Harry and Hermione were asked for their autographs at least four times in the hall.

“Good Lord Harry…” said Neville as he climbed through the portrait hole a while after them. He had walked Luna back to the Ravenclaw dormitory.  “I don’t know why I ever wanted to be like you… it’s annoying not even being able to walk down the hall without ten people all wanting to say hello and ask you questions.”

Harry laughed.

“Yeah it’s not as fun as it looks is it?” he said.

     He looked at his watch and then yawned.

“We should probably get some sleep.” Said Hermione.

Harry and Neville headed for the boys dormitory but Hermione stopped them.

“Neville…” she said, “you have your own private room now remember? You’re Head boy.”

“Oh yeah… “Said Neville, and he and Hermione left through the portrait hole.

Harry walked Ginny to the entrance of the girl’s dormitories, and gave her thoroughly nonverbal goodnight. He was very reluctant to leave her, ever since the first night she and Hermione had pulled their Apparating escapade at the Burrow, it had been a nightly occurrence, and Harry knew that he would feel lonely without her warm presence next to him as he slept.

      He climbed the stairs to his own dormitory slowly.  The room was full but Harry only recognized two other faces. There was Dean Thomas of course, and to Harry’s surprise, Seamus Finnigan. Dean had been forced to be on the run last year due to the Death Eater’s hunting down and imprisoning Muggle borns, but Harry had wondered whether Seamus’s Mum would let him return, with how worried she’d been in their sixth year.

“Hey Harry!!” said Dean, “really glad to see your back!”

“You too Dean!” said Harry.

     The two other boys in the room were from Ginny’s year they introduced themselves shyly as Bradford Ortquist and Harper Green.

The one called Bradford seemed to be the more out going of the two and after a few minutes of conversation he asked Harry,

“Is it true you’re dating Ginny Weasley?”

“Yeah…” said Harry with satisfaction. “That’s right.”

“Wow… she’s the prettiest girl in our year...” said Bradford with admiration.

“Thanks…” said Harry with a smirk, “I agree with you.” Bradford laughed.

     After a few more minutes of conversation they all turned in for the night. Harry put his head on his pillow and let his mind dwell on the memories of the last time he was in this bed, as he prepared to start his final year at Hogwarts.

     The next morning seemed to come far too early for Harry as he rolled out of bed and put on his school robes. He met Ginny in the common room and hugged her fiercely. As he had suspected he’d woken up in the middle of the night and when she had not been beside him, he’d almost panicked, before he remembered where he was. They walked down to breakfast hand in hand.

“Haven’t you ever seen a couple before!” snapped Ginny at a third year girl who brazenly pointed at them as they were coming down the stair case. The girl jumped as if Ginny has hexed her and scurried in to the Great Hall.

“So what class do we have first?” said Harry to Ginny as he stuffed his mouth full of eggs.

“Potions,” said Ginny.

Harry groaned, the potions master was Horace Slughorn, and even though Harry thought he was an improvement from Snape, it was not by much.

“He’s going to rope us into one of those ghastly parties!” complained Harry

“Oh their not that bad Harry…” said Hermione who had just joined them, “and his first lesson of the year is always fun. Remember when he made us Amortentia?”

“Yeah…” said Harry, but then he was reminded of something, “hey Hermione… what was the third thing you smelled in the Amortentia? You said you smelled parchment, cut grass, and then you didn’t say the last thing…”

     Hermione turned bright pink.

“It was a mixture of treacle tarts and pine needles if you must know.” She said quickly.

     Harry smiled, knowingly. Treacle tart was Ron’s favorite desert and the soap he used was pine scented.

“I smelled flowers.” Said Harry, “whatever flowers your perfume smells like Ginny.”

She smiled.

“That would be freesia and calalilly.” She said and then she turned her attention to Hermione.

“So what class do you have first?” she said.

“Arithmancy,” said Hermione, “and I’m so nervous, it’s been over a year and it’s a very challenging subject!”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Said Harry giving her a pat on the arm.

     They left for their respective classrooms and Harry and Ginny made their way down to the Potions dungeon. It was quite a bit emptier then it had been on previous occasions, but they took their seats towards the front with Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnegan, and Ernie Macmillan from Hufflepuff.

“Ah Harry!” said Slughorn. “So good to see you back my boy! And you as well Miss Weasley. I must say you two do make a striking couple. No doubt you have noticed how very closely you resemble a certain other couple that I was privileged to teach many years ago.”

     Harry smiled indulgently. It had occurred to him on a few occasions before how very similar to his parents he and Ginny must look. He privately took it as yet another sign that he and Ginny were meant for each other, and thought with a pang of regret that if his father were alive they would have no doubtedly shared a laugh over the apparent preference of Potter men, for red heads.

     He was brought back to reality by a gentle nudge in the ribs by Ginny. Professor Slughorn had begun his lesson. Today they were going to be attempting to create Veritaserum, one of the most complicated potions in the Wizarding World. Professor Slughorn made it perfectly clear that he was not expecting perfection, but simply their best efforts. Harry silently wished he had the Prince’s potions book to help him, but knew that it had probably been charred to bits by the FiendFyre in the Room of Requirement. After about forty five minutes however, Harry realized that without hundreds of worries plaguing his mind preparing a potion was much simpler. He also thought that might have something to do with not having Hermione on one side of him doing everything perfectly and Ron on the other, failing and getting extremely frustrated. By the end of the hour both he and Ginny had created potions that while not completely clear, had only a slight greenish sheen to them. They had done much better than Seamus whose potion had turned out the color and consistency of Bolbuter Puss. Slughorn pronounced their potions adequate, and then dismissed the class. Before Harry and Ginny could make their way out the door he called for them to come to his desk.

“I would like you two to know, that I have arranged for a Ball to be held in the month of November in Celebration of Mr. Potter and his two friends. The whole school will be invited but the members of my little club will be given a special place of honor. I am telling you now, because I know how busy you get, and I want to be sure that you wouldn’t miss it, seeing as you’re the guest of honor!” Slughorn sounded jovial, but as he looked at Harry his eyes were stern.

“We’ll be there Professor.” Said Ginny. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

Harry groaned inwardly, but Slughorn beamed at her.

     Their next class was Defense Against the Dark Arts. They made their way up to the classroom talking excitedly about what might be to come. Hermione met them at the doorway and they entered the room. Each of the teachers put a particularly personal spin on the room, and as soon as Harry stepped through the door he could tell he was going to enjoy being taught by Bill. The room was full of bright pictures and fascinating artifacts that Bill had collected from all around the world; it was as if he had contained the whole of the world in one room.  The second thing that Harry noticed was that there were no desks but two rows of five chairs had been set up facing each other. The ten people who were in the class stood along the wall looking curious. Bill walked into the room and turned to face them.

“Hello” he said, “I am Professor Weasley and welcome to 7th year Defense Against the dark Arts. This is going to be a very practical class because if you have chosen to take DADA this long, it is because you are planning on going into a profession in which you need very specific skills. Today we are going to be practicing Legimency and Occlumency. For those of you who don’t know this is the penetration, and conversely the defense of one’s mind. They are some of the most useful skills that a witch or wizard can have. Now I would like you to pair into groups by pulling a name from this hat. The reason for the random grouping is that if you are simply paired with someone who knows everything about you... you will be less likely to resist as hard as you would if a stranger was penetrating your mind. Pick your partner and then take a seat.”

Harry went up to the bag first and pulled out the name, Hermione Granger. He was about to put it back and pick again but Bill stopped him.

“It’s all right Harry… I know you have already mastered these skills, and I have no doubt Hermione will give one hundred and ten percent no matter who is working with her.” said Bill.

     After they had all picked names, they took their seats. Harry was amused to find that Ginny had been paired with her ex-boyfriend Dean Thomas. Bill instructed that those trying to penetrate would need to use the non-verbal spell Legimens and then focus very hard on trying to break into the other persons mind. The person being broken into needed only to focus on repelling them.

“Umm... you can do me first Harry.” said Hermione with a deep breathe.

“Are you ready?” said Harry.

     She nodded. Harry said the incantation in his head and suddenly Hermione’s thoughts were rushing through before his eyes. A small bushy haired girl was jumping up and down holding a letter out to her astonished parents. The same girl slightly older was crying in a bathroom stall. She was looking around a corner with a mirror into the eyes of a huge snake. She was soaring over the grounds on a hippogriff. She was cuddled in a dark corner of the library with Viktor Krum.

     Not wanting to intrude on that memory he stopped and looked at her. She was panting slightly and looked frustrated.

“Sorry Harry.” she said.

“It’s ok I was lousy at it the first time too.” He said.

“Let’s go again.” She said.

     He began again. She was rushing down the corridor at the Department of Mysteries. She was sitting in her dormitory crying her eyes out. She was standing in the snow outside their tent screaming for Ron to come back. She was sitting in the cloudy water of a bathtub, in Ron’s lap and she was kissing him passionately.

“No!” she screeched, and Harry felt himself being expelled form her mind.

He met her angry gaze with a slight blush.

“Sorry…” he mumbled. “I can’t help what I see in your head...”

“I know…” she said, her face softening immediately. “But I got you out that time!”

“Yeah you did great!” said Harry encouragingly.

At that moment they heard a shout from the other side of the room.

“Bloody Hell Ginny!! I did NOT want to have to see that!” shouted Dean indignantly.

“It’s not my fault Dean! I can’t help what you pull out of my brain anymore than you can help seeing it!” she retorted hotly, but she sent a wink in Harry’s direction.

Harry simply shook his head, and smiled.

     The rest of the lesson went on without incident. Harry used Legimency on Hermione a few more times, but she blocked him out almost instantly every time. Probably, he thought, due to the fear he would see some other private thought. She then tried to penetrate his mind. While she never even broke in once, he encouraged her that it was because of his skill at Occulmency not her ineptitude at Legimency; he had felt her attempts every time.

     As they made there way to dinner, they commiserated on the amount of homework they already had. Bill had assigned them an essay on the use of Occulmency and Legimency. Professor Sprout had given them two weeks worth of observation to do in the green houses with weekly reports, and McGonagall had assigned them two rolls of parchment on the procedure involved in learning to be an Animagus. As they made their way towards the Great Hall they saw a tall red headed figure standing just outside the door. Hermione gave a gasp of delight and sprinted down the stair case and into Ron’s arms. He hugged her so enthusiastically that he picked her up off the ground. He set her back down but bent to whisper something sweetly into her hair and she giggled.

“Found a place in Hogsmeade have you?” Harry asked embracing his friend.

“Yeah Aberforth has a really nice little flat with a kitchen and bathroom above his pub that he never uses. It smells a bit of goats, but other than that it’s great. You guys can come see it this weekend if you like.” Said Ron enthusiastically.

     Ron came and had dinner with them, and then accompanied them to the Common Room for the evening. After having said his hello’s to his old friends he made himself comfortable on the couch and pulled out a package of papers.

“What’s that?” said Harry curiously.

“Research mate. This job isn’t just all fun and games I have to read up on Gwenog Jones, I’m interviewing her next week and I have to have my questions prepared by Friday.” Ron was busily sorting through his papers as he spoke.

     Hermione, who was cuddled up next to him was looking at him in a way that Harry thought should be illegal in pubic, but thankfully after a moment she went back to pouring over her Arithmancy assignment.

“Hey Ron...” said Ginny, “Did you know Bill was going to be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts this year?”

“Mmmm… he told us yesterday…” muttered Ron distractedly but then he looked up, “how was his first lesson by the way?”

“It was wonderful…” said Ginny, and she went on to tell him all about what they had learned and the scene with Dean.

Ron laughed at this last part, and then looked to Harry.

“Who’d you have as a partner?” he said.

“Hermione…” said Harry, trying to sound casual.

     A look of horror and embarrassment crossed Ron’s face as he quickly looked down at Hermione, and her flaming red face confirmed his fears. He groaned and put his head in his hand as Ginny collapsed into giggles. 

“Its ok mate…I didn’t see much.” Harry assured him. “When I got to anything embarrassing she blocked me out.”

     Ron looked down at Hermione with pride and she smiled at him. At that moment a large tawny owl swooped into the room insighting several shrieks from some second years. It landed on the edge of Harry’s chair and he took the letter from its leg. He felt another stab of pain in his heart, as he remembered that his own owl Hedwig had died. Harry unfolded the letter.

Dear Harry,

     I had wished to have a meeting with you before the beginning of the semester, but the busyness of this time has prevented me. I would like to, if you will permit me, explain to you why you were not made Head Boy. While many are quite outraged at my decision to give another the position that seems to be rightfully yours, I believed that you have had quite enough responsibilities heaped upon your plate as of late, and I did not wish to put anymore on you. That being said I wish you to know that I have never had a moments doubt about your ability to fulfill the position, and I am very proud of all that you have done. Lastly, I would like to offer you a final gift for your services to Hogwarts, as Bill Weasley is not living in the castle, the quarters that would be his are empty, if you would like to have your own room, I would be happy to give it to you.

Yours most sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall.

     Harry read the letter over twice more soaking in its words. He had not been at all offended when he had not gotten the position as Head boy. McGonagall was right in believing that he was not keen on taking on anymore responsibility at the moment. Yet the second part of the letter is what truly intrigued him. His own room. He hadn’t slept in his own room since he left the Dursley’s and that was not much of a room, more of a place to keep him out of the way. While he liked living with the other boys, it had lost some of its appeal without Ron, and his own room meant Ginny could come stay with him. He pulled out a piece of parchment and wrote a quick note.


     Thank you very much for your vote of confidence, it means a lot. As far as the room goes, I’d love it. Just let me know the details. Thanks again.


     He folded up the note and tied it to the leg of the owl, which was still waiting on the edge of his chair. It took off with a low hoot and flew out the window.

“What was that all about?” said Ron.

“McGonagall was explaining why I wasn’t made Head Boy…” said Harry.

“Yes Neville was wondering that too…” said Hermione, “I told him it was probably because she thought you’d been in charge for long enough and you were getting sick of it.”

“Well you do know everything...” said Harry appreciatively. Hermione smiled as she returned to her book.

“She also offered to give me my own room. Which I accepted.” Harry said.

     Ginny looked up at him her eyes gleaming. Harry knew she was thinking the exact same thing he had been thinking a minute ago, and he grinned back at her. Ron caught this exchange.

“Hey now…you two better behave yourselves. Don’t go getting any ideas just cuz Harry’s has his own room.” He said reprovingly.

“Oh yes...” said Ginny waspishly, “because I’m sure you and Hermione are going to be perfect little saints down in your flat.”

Ron grumbled something that sounded like ‘not the point’ but went back to reading his papers, his ears slightly red.


     The next day as Harry coming back from Herbology class Professor McGonagall stopped him in the Entrance Hall.

“Potter do you have a moment?” she asked, “I’d like to show you your new quarters.”

“Sure,” said Harry, “I have a free period right now anyway. Is it alright if Ginny joins us?”

“Yes of course,” said McGonagall. “Please follow me.”

     She took them up two flights of stairs to the third floor and to a painting that was across the hall from the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. The painting was of a few horses grazing in a field. She gently prodded one of the horses that had just picked up an apple from the ground; it dropped the apple which immediately turned into a doorknob. They pulled open the door and walked inside. Harry was momentarily taken aback, this was not simple a bed room, it was one room, but it had a bed in one corner, a sitting area with a couch and two chairs around a fireplace, and even a small kitchenette along the back wall. There was a door on the wall nearest his bed that he assumed led to his own bathroom as well. 

“Professor…” said Harry wanting to protest, to say he didn’t deserve this, but McGonagall would not let him finish.

“Harry, this is the least we can do for you. I feel you deserve much more, but I am extremely grateful that you have accepted this small token of our thanks, so please enjoy it.” With that she turned on her heal and walked back through the door.

     Ginny turned to him with a devious smile spreading across her face.

“You heard what the Head mistress said Harry.” she said and she fell into his arms.

     A little while later after a particularly nice snog, the two of them headed down to lunch. They met Hermione in on the staircase, and she was positively babbling about all the things she’d learned in Ancient Runes that day. They sat down together for lunch and about half way through Hermione received an owl that looked like it had come from the Ministry of Magic. She opened it and read it, her smile growing wider with each line.

“Gee... I wonder who Hermione’s note could be from…” teased Ginny.

     Hermione blushed and put the note in her pocket.

“Ron just dropped me a quick message on his lunch break.” She explained with a smile.

     Harry and Ginny exchanged knowing looks and then went on with there lunch. While Hermione nonchalantly pulled out the note for the third time.

     Later that evening the three of them, accompanied again by Ron, were sitting in their normal place in the Gryffindor common room. Neville was sitting on the floor having a conversation with all of them when Harry suddenly had an idea.

“Hey you guys...” he said to the group. “As of tomorrow night, why don’t we start studying in my room in the evenings? I have my own sitting area, and then Luna would be able to join us too.” He said this last part to Neville in particular.

“That would be amazing Harry!” said Neville, and everyone else reiterated his sentiments.

“Well I’m heading off to bed.” Said Hermione, “I’ve been so sleepy in Arithmancy, and you just can’t afford to not pay attention in that class!”

“I’ll walk you to your room.” Said Ron and they left hand in hand.

“I think I’ll turn in too.” said Neville.

Ginny leaned close and whispered in Harry’s ear.

“You ready to go try out that new bed of yours?” she said mischievously.

Harry grinned in response and she pulled him quickly out the portrait hole and down the hall towards his room.

     An hour or so later they lay in Harry’s bed, simply enjoying each other’s presence. The moonlight was shining in from his window, and he loved the contrast it made between Ginny’s flaming red hair and her pale white back. She sighed as he gently traced a line down her spine with his fingertips. She absent mindedly took his hand and ran her fingers over the jagged scar on his for arm. It had been made by Wormtail the night he had taken Harry’s blood to resurrect Lord Voldemort.  She moved her hand to the circular shaped scar in the middle of his chest, which was left by the locket horcux, and then to the small jagged scar right above his heart that was made by Voldemort’s second killing curse. 

“Does it ever bother you?” Harry asked, as she gently touched his face, and ran her fingers over the scar on in his forehead.

“Does what bother me?” she asked.

“That I’m…damaged.” Said Harry, and he knew in his heart, that he didn’t just mean physically. The sense of surrealism that he’d had over that past few months had brought him to the realization that as happy as he was, he would never be like everyone else. He would always feel like he was different, like he was seeing things the world through a different lens. Sometimes he felt like everything he’d been through had somehow broken something inside him that could never be fixed, and he would never be able to function quite like other people.

     Ginny looked deeply into his eyes and put her arms around him.

“Now you listen to me Harry Potter. You may have taken some damage, and for all I know there are some wounds inside you that may never fully heal. But I love you, I love you. For exactly what you are everyday. I always have, and I always will. you could never be damaged to a point that would change that. When Hagrid carried you up those steps that night, when I thought you were dead… something changed in me. I’d been so angry with you for leaving me, but in that moment I realized something. My life is tied to yours, and it has been for years. There isn’t anymore me and you, there’s us, and so whatever you deal with, I deal with too. While I can’t help with these scars…” she gently touched his chest “I’ll do my damndest to help you deal with the rest of them.” She kissed him tenderly and then gave him a long hug.

“Ginny you are the best thing that ever happened in my life you know that?” said Harry.

“Yeah I know.” She said with a teasing smile, “now let’s get some sleep, or we’ll never be up for class in the morning.”

     Harry fell asleep with Ginny once again in his arms and he couldn’t shake the feeling that finally everything in his life seemed to be in order once again.

Chapter 4: Quidditch, Questions, and Quarrels
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Chapter 4: Quidditch, Questions, and Quarrels.

     Ginny had scheduled Quidditch tryouts for Wednesday and Thursday evening, and their first practice was Friday evening. Harry had tried out Wednesday night and unsurprisingly he had been given back his position as Seeker. While some might have grumbled he was getting preferential treatment as the Captains boyfriend, no one could argue that he flew circles around ever other candidate. They had gotten back a few old faces, Dean Thomas came back on the team to play as a chaser, along with Ginny, and surprisingly Lavender Brown. She did not have near the skill of the other two, but she was attentive and what she lacked in skill he made up for in determination. Their Beaters were both new as well the boy from Harry’s dormitory called Bradford Ortquist was one, along with a particularly beefy fourth year named James Fletcher, while neither of them were at the same level as Fred and George they were relentless, even nearly taking Ginny off her broom during practice. Their new Keeper was Seamus Finnegan, who had only tried out because Dean and Lavender begged him to, but turned out to be rather talented. After their first practice was over Harry had a very good feeling about their team’s chances for the Quidditch Cup.

     Harry and Ginny made their way out the gate and towards Hogsmeade. They had made plans to meet Ron and Hermione there after practice to spend the evening in Ron’s new flat. As they rounded the corner that led to the Hog’s head they were surprised to see Aberforth sitting on a stool outside his bar smoking a pipe.

“I wouldn’t go in there if I were you…” he said, “making a bloody racket they are, you can here ‘um all the way downstairs. I’d be angry that their scaring away customers but I don’t usually have many anyway.”

Harry and Ginny walked in the door curiously, but as soon as the door had been opened they heard what he was referring to. Ron and Hermione were having a gigantic row, and their shouting could be heard throughout the entire bar. They made their way up the back stair case to Ron’s door, but hesitated to enter.







“What are you talking about?” snapped Hermione, her voice was still full of animosity but she was no longer yelling.

Harry heard Ron sigh in frustration.

“I can’t stand it when other guys look at you like that because… BECAUSE I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU GOD DAMNIT!!” Ron shouted at her.

     There was a long pause and then a loud thump. Harry made a move for the door, thinking Hermione might have sent a stunning spell at Ron, but Ginny put a hand on his arm, shook her head and mouthed the word ‘listen.’

     Harry stopped moving and listened carefully he quickly noticed the distinct sound of snogging from the other side of the door and realized to his amusement, that Hermione had not stunned Ron, she had tackled him. Ginny took him by the hand and led him back down the stairs, on the way out the door, Harry turned to Aberforth.

“Everything’s quiet in there now. It should be safe.” He said. Aberforth nodded his head in thanks and got up to enter his bar, while Ginny and Harry made their way back towards the castle, barely able to walk for fits of laughter.

     The next day Ron invited Harry down to his flat to play Wizard chess and hang out just the two of them. Harry was glad for the time with Ron, they had seen very little of each other over the past month without their girlfriends being in tow, and as much as he loved Ginny he needed some time with his best mate.

“So what happened to you guys last night?” Ron said, as Harry’s knight trampled one of his pawns.

“Well… we sort of showed up right around the end of the fight you two were having, and decided we’d better not disturb your making up.” teased Harry.

“Thanks for that.” Said Ron, and he grinned sheepishly. “We actually had a really good talk later… she said she loves me too… and I agreed to try not to be so jealous... To trust that she wants to be with me, no matter how many blokes may try for her attention.”

“That’s probably a good idea. I mean if I didn’t do that I’d go crazy, cuz half the male population at this school wants to date your sister.” said Harry.

“Yeah no kidding...” said Ron with a snort.

     All of a sudden Ron abandoned the chess game and looked at Harry with a look that Harry had come to recognize as a sign he had something important to say. Harry put all his concentration on Ron and asked.

“What’s up?”

“After Hermione left last night, I stayed up late thinking… about everything… about my whole life, but especially the last year.” Said Ron in an extremely serious voice, “Harry, I’ve been a screw up for a lot of my life, I haven’t done things I should have because I’ve been scared, and that applies especially to Hermione. I should have been dating her since fourth year; I should have taken her to the Yule Ball. I’m always beating around the bush with her and she doesn’t deserve it. I almost lost her last year… and that changed everything, it changed me. So I’ve made a decision.”

     Ron took a deep breath, and Harry knew that whatever was about to come was going to be big, but which way it was going to go he wasn’t quite sure.

“Harry, I’m going to ask Hermione to marry me. I love her, she’s the only girl I have ever loved, and the only person I’ve ever wanted to spend my life with.” Ron had said this all in one breath as if he needed to get it out of him before he burst.

     Harry felt relief wash through him as he yelled YES! And jumped up to hug his best friend. Ron embraced him back and began to grin from ear to ear. Harry could tell that Ron had been waiting for his approval before he let himself be truly excited, and that touched him greatly. Harry was overjoyed; his best friends were going to be together forever, nothing in the world seemed more perfect. ‘Except for me and Ginny’, he thought to himself.

“So I was wondering if you could help me with something….” said Ron.

“Of course mate!! Anything!” said Harry.

“Well see, I sent an owl to Hermione’s parents this morning, asking if I could come have a quick visit, and they invited me for lunch next Saturday.” said Ron the nervousness already apparent in his voice. “I was wondering if you might be able to come with me.  I could really use the support, and you have much more experience in Muggle houses than I do, I don’t want to do something stupid by mistake.”

“Yeah of course I’ll go with you!” said Harry; he knew that he would like to have Ron’s support if he were asking for Ginny’s hand. “I’m really happy for you Ron.”

“Thanks mate.” Ron said smiling, and they resumed their game of chess.

     Ron sent Harry a note the next Friday evening asking him to be at his flat at 11:30 the next morning. They had to Apparate a few blocks away from Hermione’s parent’s house so as to not scare the Muggles in her neighborhood. He read the note and then quickly pocketed it.

“Who was that from?” asked Hermione, who was curled up on the floor reading her Ancient Runes textbook.

“Oh it was from Ron. I’m going to visit him tomorrow morning.” said Harry casually. He had been forced to deceive Hermione and be somewhat vague for the past week and she could tell something was up.

     She glared at him, and he could tell she was thoroughly annoyed. Then again, Ron was at a Quidditch game that particular evening, and Hermione’s moods were always sour on nights that Ron was not around.

“So am I going to get to see my boyfriend at all tomorrow?” she said stormily.

“Of course you will…” said Harry bracingly, “we’re just going to have lunch. I’m sure you and Ginny will come down right after wards. I know Ron’s missed you like crazy this week.”

     All of what Harry had said was completely true, they were going to have lunch, he had just left out where, and with how busy Ron had been all week Harry knew he had missed Hermione terribly. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ginny smiling into her Transfiguration essay. He had of course told Ginny the news as soon as he’d gotten a chance to talk to her alone, and she was simply bursting with excitement, but she did a much better job of concealing the secret then he did.

     At 11:15 the next morning Harry made his way down through the grounds towards the front gate. At Ginny suggestion he had put on his pair of nice khaki pants and a polo shirt she’d bought him over the summer. He had wanted to look nice for Ron’s sake. When he arrived at Ron’s flat he found him standing at the mirror in similar khaki pants and a button down blue shirt to which he was adding red tie. He turned to face Harry.

“Do you think the tie’s too much?” He asked.

“Yeah…” said Harry, “you look like a door to door salesman. Take off the tie, unbutton the top button of your shirt, and for goodness sake relax! Hermione’s folks love you!” He patted his friend encouragingly on the back. Ron let out a long slow breath.

“I know…” he said, it sounded as though he was trying to build himself up, but he took off the tie and unbuttoned his top button so he looked more casual.

“Right now let’s go then.” said Harry. “You’re gonna have to take me Side-Along there, cuz I have no idea where we’re going. You sure you’re up for it?”

     Ron still looked slightly green but he nodded confidently and held out his arm. They spun into the pressing darkness and a few moments later popped out in a small alley. Harry walked down the street rubbing his ears; they always seemed to be the part of him least willing to Apparate.

     They walked out of the alley on to an uncrowded street in a cheerful little suburb. Harry thought that it reminded him vaguely of Privet Drive, but it was much more cheery and full of life. Where on Privet drive the neighbors would often be found peering over their hedges into each other’s business, the neighbors here seemed to be very friendly with each other, he saw a few mothers sitting on their front lawns chatting in the sunshine, while their children that were too young for school played with chalk on the sidewalk. They continued walking and passed a few side streets with rows of similarly shaped houses until Ron finally turned down one of the streets and stopped at the second house on the left. It was a cheerful looking medium sized brown house with large windows in the front. As they stood there looking at it, Mrs. Granger saw them through the window and moved quickly for the door, which she opened with a smile.

     They walked up the stoop to meet her. Hermione looked strikingly like her mother, who even had the same bushy hair, which was cut short in a style that Mum’s often wore. She greeted them with warm hugs and then stepped back to look at them.

“Ron! It’s so good to see you. Mark and I were pleasantly surprised when you asked to have lunch with us. I’m glad you found your way here alright without Hermione.” she said kindly.

“Harry! What a pleasant surprise! I haven’t seen you in years! And look how much you’ve grown!” she said in a mothering way.

     Both boys smiled appreciatively at her, and she invited them into the house. It was quite cozy with plush cream carpet and cream wallpaper with stripes of gold. She led them to the living room and asked them to make themselves comfortable while she finished preparing lunch; she informed them that Mr. Granger would be home in a few minutes.

     After she bustled back into the kitchen Ron collapsed on the couch and put his face in his hands.

“Oh bloody hell…bloody hell… what am I doing…I’m not cut out for this…I’m going to be sick...” he moaned.

Harry punched him in the arm encouragingly.

“Buck up mate! Everything is going to be just fine.” He said.

     Just then they heard the door opening and Ron quickly picked his head up and regained his composure. Mr. Granger saw them and gave them a friendly smile. He was a tall weedy man with glasses, he took of his white over coat that he wore as a dentist and threw it on a near by chair. Then he walked to Ron and Harry who stood to greet him.

“Ron, Harry really good to see you! My how you’ve grown Harry!” he said as he firmly shook both their hands. “Sorry if the house is a bit of a jumble, since we’ve been in Australia for the better part of the year we’re still putting things right.”

     The previous year Hermione had wiped her parent’s memories, and sent them to Australia for their own protection, while she was with Ron and Harry on the run. She and Ron had gone and collected them one weekend during the summer. Although looking around Harry did not think the house looked jumbled at all, not compared to the constant chaos that was the Burrow.

     At this point Mrs. Granger came into the room and announced that lunch was served. They spent the next half hour making small talk over a delicious lunch of potato soup, garden salad, and cucumber sandwiches. Ron did especially well remembering not to use magic; he even tried some grape Kool-aide, which he had been wary of at first because of its purple color but ended up liking quite a bit. They asked Harry and Ron about school, and Ron’s family, and they discussed Ron’s new job at length. Only after they had finished the meal, cleared their plates, and Mrs. Granger had brought them all a plate of cookies to munch on for dessert, did Mr. Granger sit up importantly in his seat and look at the boys in a business manner.

“So I believe you boys had something you wish to discuss with us?” he said matter-of-factly.

“Well... I don’t really sir.” said Harry, “I just came along to support Ron, and to get to see you both again.” He added towards Mrs. Granger, who smiled at him.

Mr. Granger turned his attention towards Ron.

“So Ron...” he said kindly, “what is it that you wish to speak with us about?”

Ron gave Harry a quick side glance and Harry met his gaze with encouragement so he dove right in.

“Mr. and Mrs. Granger…” he began, nerves thick in his voice, “you’ve known me for a long time now. You know that I love your daughter, she is the smartest, kindest most wonderful person that I have ever known, and I would do anything for her. Therefore, I would like to ask your permission to ask Hermione to be my wife.”

     The Grangers exchanged knowing smiles with each other, and Harry could tell they had been expecting this ever since Ron had written that he wanted to have lunch with them.

“Well Ron…” said Mr. Granger slowly. Harry had never seen his poor best friend look so nervous, he was truly worried he might faint on the spot. Mr. Granger continued.

“You most certainly have our permission to ask Hermione to marry you. It has become very clear to us just how completely in love with you she is, and she has grown in many ways for the better since meeting you. We have full confidence that you will make our daughter very happy for the rest of her life. We do have one condition to ask of you though.” He finished.

     Ron let out a sigh of relief and smiled widely at them.

“Of course!” he said, “whatever it is, it’s fine.”

“We simply ask that you wait until Hermione has finished at Hogwarts before you get married.” said Mr. Granger.

“Oh that’s perfectly fine! I was planning that we would wait until then.”  said Ron happily, he was becoming more excited by the minute, now that the pressure was off him.

“So do you know when and how you’re going to propose?” asked Mrs. Granger eagerly.

“Probably in a few weeks... maybe mid October.” said Ron, “I have to go to Diagon Alley to get her ring, I know the place I want to get it from I just haven’t had the chance to get there yet. I’m also gonna need time to set up what I have planned for the proposal, but I want to let Hermione tell you about that afterward.”

Mrs. Granger beamed at him, and Mr. Granger stood up with a smile.

“Well it’s been wonderful seeing you boys but unfortunately my lunch break is over, so I must get back to work. Ron let us know how things go with Hermione, Harry it was great to see you again.” He shook both there hands again, and they all walked to the door.

    As Mr. Granger got in his car and drove away with a wave Ron and Harry turned and began walking back towards the alley, once they had gotten out of sight of the house Ron did a violent fist punch in mid air and let out a howl of happiness and victory that startled the mothers who were still sitting on their front lawns. Harry laughed and gave them an apologetic look before they continued walking back to the alley where they could Apparate.

     About ten minutes later they were sitting in the Hogshead and Aberforth was pouring them each a third shot of fire whisky. They had decided when they got back, that they needed to have a celebratory drink, and when Aberforth heard the occasion he insisted their drinks were on the house.

“Hey Ron…” said Harry, who was already feeling a slight buzz in his head.

“Yeah?” said Ron, giving him a slightly sloppy grin.

“You’re getting married!” said Harry with mocking wonder.

Ron grinned again and punched the air in victory for a second time.

     The next two weeks seemed to fly by for Harry. His classes were going extremely well, even though their homework pile was quite enormous Harry found that without having to worry about impending evil within the castle and without, he stayed on top of it pretty well. He was enjoying spending his evenings in his own room with Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna. It was a relief not to have everyone around him staring like idiots. It was also particularly wonderful to fall asleep with Ginny by his side every night.  He had never imagined that simply the presence of another person could be so therapeutic. In Defense Against the Dark Arts, they had moved on to Patronuses, but since half of the class already knew how to create a Patronus Bill had asked them to assist in helping the others which Harry found quite enjoyable.

     October the first dawned bright and somewhat chilly as the cool light trickled through Harry’s window. He sat up slowly in bed his stomach was writhing uncomfortably; today was their first Quidditch match of the season, against Hufflepuff. Harry saw steam pouring out from under the bathroom door. He sneakily climbed out of bed and quietly opened the door. He crept over and stuck his head in around the shower curtain and said, “Boo!”

      Ginny jumped out of her skin and turned around to glare at him. He laughed and leaned in to kiss her.

“So…Miss Captain of the Quidditch team… why are you taking a shower before the match, when you’ll just have to take one again after?” he asked teasingly.

“Dunno...” she shrugged, “just kinda my tradition.”

     Satisfied with that answer Harry went to make himself some breakfast. While he and Ginny often still ate breakfast in the Great Hall, it was nice on day’s like this when his nerves were on edge, to simply be able to make some toast and jam in his own room. Ginny came out a minute later in a bath robe, her wet hair clinging to her face.  She joined him for breakfast and then they both got dressed and headed down to the Quidditch pitch.

     The team sat in the dressing room and listened to the roar of the crowd while Ginny gave her pep talk, her speeches were not near as long winded as Oliver Wood’s had been. She simply told her team she was proud of their hard work and she knew that they could win. With that, they headed onto the pitch. Hufflepuff was playing a few new faces that Harry didn’t recognize, but Zacharias Smith, their somewhat annoying Seeker, gave Harry a nod as they entered the field. Ginny and the tall Hufflepuff Captain shook hands, Madam Hooch blew her whistle and they were off. Ginny got possession of the Quaffle almost instantly and made a pass to Lavender who caught it and headed off down the field, she attempted a pass to Dean but she was intercepted by the Hufflepuff captain. Although he only got a few feet before Bradford hit him with a well aimed Bludger to the back of the head. The Hufflepuff captain dropped the Quaffle into Dean’s waiting arms, and Dean pelted down the field.

“FIRST SCORE GOES TO GRYFFINDOR!” shouted Neville, who was commentating.

     After forty five more minutes Gryffindor lead sixty to twenty, due to the combined effort of Ginny and Dean excellent scoring and Seamus’s superb Keeping skills. Harry flew in high circles around the field looking for the Snitch.  Suddenly he saw it, it was fluttering right above Ginny’s head, he dove for her, but realized in horror that Smith and seen it from the other end of the field and was also streaking towards it. Harry realized quickly that they were headed for a colossal crash with Ginny caught right in the middle!

“GINNY DIVE!!” screamed Harry as he pelted toward her.

     Ginny who had been giving her full attention to the pass Dean was about to make to her, looked up, quickly assessed the situation, and dove out of the way just as Harry and Zacharias hit each other with a sickening crunch. They dropped to the ground like stones and Harry saw lights pop before his eyes. He sat up groaning, every inch of him hurt, but in his hand was the tiny golden Snitch. The crowd erupted in cheers as both Madam Hooch and the entire team converged on him. The team was all trying to hug him but Madam Hooch kept pushing them away so she could examine him, and also Smith. When she assessed that there was no damage other than some bumps and bruises she released them to go back to their dormitories.

     When Harry got back to Gryffindor there was a grand party just getting started. He walked across the room and gave his Captain and firm kiss. There were many cat calls and whistles, but just then Ron showed up with six cases of butter beer and even two bottles of fire whisky he’d snuck past Filch. Hermione gave him a reproachful look but then smiled and let him pass. About an hour later after everyone including Hermione had a little too much to drink Ron leaned over to Harry and asked him in a slurred whisper.

“Hey... that reminds me... do you think you could get permission from McGonagall to come to Diagon Alley with me on Wednesday afternoon?”

“Yeah sure…” said Harry, thinking this wouldn’t be a problem. “What for?”

“You’ll see… just meet me at the Hogshead at 3.” Said Ron, as he gazed at Hermione in amusement. She was sitting on the floor and laughing far too enthusiastically at the joke boxes that Seamus and Lavender were showing her.

     A few days later Harry left Ginny in the entrance Hall and made his way across the grounds and towards Hogsmeade. The morning after Ron had invited him to go to Diagon Alley, as Harry nursed a tremendous headache, he and Ginny tried to come up with ideas about what Ron might be up to, they were sure it had to do with the proposal, but they weren’t sure what it might be. As Harry turned down the street to the Hogshead he saw Ron standing outside the pub waiting for him.

“Hey Harry,” he said, “You ready?”

     Harry nodded and the both turned on the spot and appeared a moment later in the main street of Diagon Alley. Ron started off at a brisk pace down the street.

“Hold up,” said Harry.

“Are you going tell me why we’re here or not?” he asked.

“Oh, sorry mate…” said Ron, “we’re here to get Hermione’s ring.”

“Oh brilliant!” said Harry, “I’ve never been with someone to pick out an engagement ring before.”

“Well... I’m not exactly picking out a ring, there’s this shop… that makes them very special. Most wizards who can afford it go to them.” explained Ron. “Come on I’ll show you.”

     They walked down the street past most of the stores Harry recognized, and then Ron made a abrupt left turn onto a side street Harry had never noticed before. The sign read, Rowena Alley. It reminded Harry slightly of Knockturn Alley, the only other side street he’d ever visited. Unlike Knockturn Alley however, this alley was not full a dark magic but shops selling expensive jewelry, fine china, and artwork. Harry realized they’d just entered the very ritzy section of Diagon Alley. They made their way up the street to a large shop with a beautiful display of rings in the window. The sign above the door read, Griffin and Lawrence: Makers of Fine Rings.

“Dad got Mum’s engagement ring from here.” said Ron, “Bill got Fleur’s too. Come on lets go inside.”

     When they walked into the shop Harry was momentarily shocked. The shop looked nothing on the inside like it did on the outside. There were no displays of rings on counters like he had seen in Muggle jewelry stores, there was simply an average size room, with wood paneling and warm light that seemed to be emanating from the ceiling, but there was no seen source.  There were two cauldrons set up on the far side of the room, one was very large, and had some sort of potion in it that was emitting a silvery glow. The other was relatively small and seemed to be empty. Harry looked around bewildered as Ron walked up to a pretty young receptionist who was sitting behind a desk to the left of the door.

“I’m here to purchase a ring.” He said inquiringly.

“Excellent!” she said with a bright smile. “I’ll just go get Mr. Lawrence and he should be with you momentarily.”

     She scurried off into what seemed like a back room, and Ron returned to where Harry was standing.

“I don’t get it…” said Harry, “Where are all the rings?”

“They make them here mate… their personalized.” explained Ron, “see that potion?” he pointed to the large pot across the room and went on “it’s kind of like Polyjuice. Remember how when we put Crabbe’s hair in Polyjuice Potion it turned the color of Bogy’s but when we but you hair in it turned gold? Same concept.”

“So you have to do what? Put a piece of Hermione’s hair into that pot?” said Harry.

“Nah… it’s not based on quite the same thing. It’s not based on the person’s essence like Polyjuice, it’s based on how you view the person you’re buying the ring for.” said Ron, “otherwise think how ghastly Pansy Parkinson’s ring would be.” He added with a chuckle.

“So what do you use then?” asked Harry still slightly confused.

“A memory, the best memory you have of that person. You pull it out just like you do for a Pensive; you drop it in the pot and… poof!” Ron said.

“Ok I have to see this…” said Harry excited if not still slightly unsure how the process worked.

     A tall dark man came out of the back room and gave them a smile.

“Hello my name is Gideon Lawrence. Which one of you young gentlemen is interested in buying a ring today?” he asked.

Ron half raised his hand in acknowledgement and the man smiled at him.

“This way then gentlemen.” He said, and he led them over to the cauldrons. “Now sir will you be wanting this ring made in silver, gold, or platinum?”

“Ummm… what are the cost differences?” Ron said with a slightly embarrassed voice.

“300 Galleons for silver, 400 for gold, and 700 for platinum” said Mr. Lawrence.

Harry’s was in shock, 700 galleons? That was more than he paid for his Firebolt. Well more than it had cost… Sirius had actually bought it. Harry felt that familiar stab in his heart as Sirius’s face swam to the surface of his mind. He was brought back to the present as Ron spoke again.

“I’ll take silver.” Ron said.

     The man took out a small silver ring and placed in the bottom of the empty cauldron. He took a ladle and filled the little cauldron half full with the silvery potion from the larger cauldron.

“I will now need your memory young man.” He said to Ron.

     Ron, who seemed to have a memory prepared, closed his eyes and smiled as he put his wand to his temple and pulled out a thin silvery strand. He dropped it into the small cauldron and it began to spin very fast, first the potion turned a chocolaty brown, then a bright sky blue, and then there was a flash of light and the cauldron was empty again, except for the small ring in the bottom. Mr. Lawrence picked it up and placed it in Ron’s hand. Harry noticed that it was no longer a simple silver ring. The base looked like a delicate silver vine with leaves made out of pale green stones, tiny flowers made up of brilliant blue sapphires were scattered along it at intervals, the vines wound there way around the edges of a beautiful circular diamond  that was set in the ring, it was breathtaking. And Harry also marveled at how it was so…Hermione. Something about the ring seem to scream that it was hers and hers alone. Harry was over whelmed with a sudden urge.

“Hey Ron…” he said.

Ron was still engrossed with admiring the ring but he looked up when Harry said his name.

“Would it bother you too much if I bought a ring too?” he asked.

“What??” said Ron, looking completely startled.

“Don’t worry!” said Harry quickly, “I’m not trying to steal your thunder or anything. I mean I’ve been thinking about this for awhile but I haven’t even gotten a chance to talk to your Dad or think about how I’d go about asking. So it will still be a while, I just thought... since we were here…”

Ron seemed satisfied enough with his explanation.

“Yeah sure go ahead Harry, I mean I always knew that was coming…. Just wait awhile ok so it doesn’t look like we were copying each other.” said Ron.

Harry grinned and turned back to Mr. Lawrence.

“I’d like to buy a ring as well sir.” He said.

“Very well Mr. Potter. And did you want silver gold or platinum?” the man replied.

     Harry didn’t even ask the man how he knew his name, that seemed like stupid question. Everyone knew him now.

“I’d like gold please.” said Harry.

The man went about putting the ring in the pot, and then asked Harry for his memory. Harry had to stop and think for a moment, but he decided on the memory of the first time he saw her face after the battle, this was a very strong memory. He pulled it from his mind and dropped the silvery string into the pot. The pot glowed red, and then bright green and then there was a flash of golden light. Mr. Lawrence picked up Ginny’s ring and placed it in Harry’s hand. Harry took a deep breath when he saw it. It was perfect. The base was made of a strand of brilliant green emeralds, and a strand of sunny yellow topaz stones, that woven themselves together in intricate patterns coming together to entwine a thin oval shaped diamond. Some how this ring encompassed everything that Ginny was to Harry, he couldn’t explain it, but this ring was a part of her, even thought she had yet to see it.

“You may see Melody about you payment.” Said Mr. Lawrence, bringing both Harry and Ron back to reality.

     They walked to the receptionist’s desk and she put both their rings in small black velvet boxes for them. Ron pulled a wad of money out of his pocket and handed it to her, while Harry wrote a note that would allow the store to take the funds directly out of his Gringotts account. They walked out of the store both feeling extremely good about themselves and light hearted.

“Hey Ron…” said Harry as they made there way back onto Diagon Alley, proper. “Where’d you come up with the money for that ring?”

“George lent it to me, now that I have a job he told me I just needed t pay him back in monthly installments.” Ron explained.

Harry nodded his head in understanding.

“We’ve got one more stop before we head back.” Said Ron, “I have to pick up a box I ordered from George of stuff for the proposal.”

     Harry gave him an incredulous look. He couldn’t imagine why someone would use joke products to propose to their girlfriend. Ron read his look and rolled his eyes.

“It’s nothing like that Harry.” he said, “It pretty stuff, sparklers, fairy lights... stuff like that.”

“What exactly are you planning Ron?” said Harry curiously.

“Oh you’ll see soon enough... I’m going to need you and Ginny to help me set it up.” Ron said deviously, and that was all Harry could get out of him for the rest of the day.

Chapter 5: Long Awaited Moments.
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Chapter 5: Long Awaited Moments

      Over the next week and a half Harry seriously began to wonder whether Hermione was even going to be talking to any of them by the time Ron’s grand scheme came together. On Thursday evening, Ron had pulled Ginny and Harry aside right after their Quidditch practice to talk to them about his plan and the parts they needed to play.  Ron was so busy between work and making sure everything went as planned that he was seeing very little of Hermione. To Harry’s bewilderment, when he was with her, he was acting rather grumpy and distant. Harry confronted him on this after a few days of this behavior, and Ron simply grinned and said he was trying to throw her off the track, so she’d be surprised. While Harry understood what Ron was trying to do, he was a little bit worried. By the end of the weekend Hermione was furious with him, and they were barely speaking.

“Are you sure this is the best idea Ron?” said Harry on Sunday night when Hermione barely gave him a hug goodbye before storming off to her room.

“It’ll be ok…” said Ron, “just a few more days... then she’ll figure it out and we’ll laugh about it.”

     While Harry tried to be encouraged by Ron’s carefree attitude, he was growing steadily more worried about Hermione. Ron had told Ginny and Harry that they would be putting the plan into action on Friday night, because he had received the ok from McGonagall. Yet on Thursday in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Hermione was so upset that she couldn’t even produce her Patronus charm, and she ran out of the room crying. Ginny gave him a look that he took to mean that he should follow Hermione so he did. He found her sitting in an abandoned classroom across the hall crying. He didn’t really know what to say to her, so he simply patted her shoulder.

“Oh Harry! What’s wrong with him! I thought things were finally good between us! That he’d finally grown up, but now he’s acting just as stupid as he did in our sixth year. Harry...” she looked up at him tearfully “Harry he isn’t you know... seeing someone else is he? Maybe at work?”

“No Hermione!” he said indignantly, “he wouldn’t do that to you! Ever! He loves you!”

“Then why the hell is he being so stupid!!” she started to cry again. “I’ve been thinking more and more this past week that I should really just be done with him and save myself the trouble! Maybe we’re just trying too hard to make it work when it’s not meant to be!” she said through her sobs.

     This was ridiculous, thought Harry. Here Ron was trying to throw Hermione off the trail, and he had her questioning whether they were even supposed to be together. He had to do something or Ron was going to sabotage his proposal before it even happen. He chose his words very carefully before he spoke.

“Hermione…” he began, “I know you feel awful right now, but I think that you are probably not seeing the whole picture. I really think Ron’s just been especially stressed lately, I know he loves you. He says it every bloody day. Why don’t you just wait till he has some free time this weekend, and let him explain himself before you make any rash decisions.”  He thought that was safe enough.

“I suppose your right Harry…” she said, “but I just don’t know anymore…”

     Harry and Ginny spent the next twenty four hours trying to convince Hermione not to send Ron and owl telling him she never wanted to see him again while also secretly corresponding with Ron behind her back. At about seven thirty in the evening on Friday, Ginny excused herself from where she, Hermione, and Harry were doing homework on the floor of Harry’s room. She gave the excuse that she was meeting up with Neville and Luna for a drink in the Three Broomsticks. They thought this was a safe alibi, because Hermione did not want to go near Hogsmeade, and Harry knew she’d want him to stay with her. They worked in silence for a little while longer, and at eight o’clock Harry put his plan into action.

“Hey Hermione… how bout we go visit Hagrid? We haven’t seen him in awhile... and I’m sure he’d love to see you.” The truth was that Harry hadn’t visited Hagrid yet, because he had a sneaking suspicion that Hagrid was avoiding him, mostly due to the fact that all Harry ever saw was the back of him, but that was a problem to solve a different day.

“Ok…” said Hermione softly, “that sounds like fun…” but there was no real enthusiasm in her voice.

     Harry and Hermione walked down the corridor towards the Entrance Hall, when they got to the staircase they saw the Entrance Hall was completely deserted. Harry knew that to be one of the things Ginny was taking care of. The only thing in the whole room was a red rose lying on the floor right in front of the castle doors.

“What on earth…” said Hermione as she walked down the steps.

     Harry followed behind her a little ways; he was enjoying watching the reaction on her face. She picked up the rose, and read the small note that had been tied to it, which Harry knew contained only her name.  She turned and gave him a confused but curious look. He smiled and pointed his wand at the castle doors which opened onto the lawn flooding them with light. Hermione turned to look, and she gasped. A covered pathway had been created that lead from the edge of the steps, and curved down the sloping lawn in the direction of the lake. The canopy over the pathway seemed to be made of hundreds of falling stars, that floated in graceful arcs like snowflakes creating and arch that ran the length of the path. Hermione turned and gave Harry a questioning look but he just smiled.

“I think you’re supposed to go that way.” He said mockingly, and he pointed towards the path with a huge grin.  She rolled her eyes at him, but turned and began cautiously walking down the starry path. The minute she was out of sight Ginny came sprinting out from behind a suit of armor and grabbed Harry by the arm, she had his Invisibility Cloak over one arm, and two Extendable ears in the other.

“Come on let’s go!” she said breathlessly.

     Harry stopped for a moment. He was torn, on the one hand he felt like maybe he shouldn’t be watching this private moment, Ron was going to be nervous enough already, but on the other hand, he and Ginny had been extremely invested in this, not to mention that these were his best friends, he really wanted to see how it turned out.

“If anything gets too private or gross we’ll leave ok?” said Ginny, as if she were reading his thoughts.

     This convinced him, and they threw on the Invisibility cloak and ran down the hill just outside the pathway. At the bottom of the hill on the edge of the lake was a beautiful little bungalow covered in ivy, which was Hermione’s favorite plant, she thought the vines made buildings look elegant. It had taken Ron forever to find this,but Percy had finally used his ministry connections to get it set up for him that day. Ron was standing in the entrance holding another red rose and looking extremely nervous. Harry and Ginny took a seat in the grass about ten feet away under the Invisibility Cloak; they sent out the Extendable Ears through the grass and waited. Harry heard the sound of soft slow music playing, and after a moment, they heard Hermione’s slow footsteps coming down the path. Ron took a deep breath and smiled when he saw her. When she saw him however, she stopped in her tracks.

“Ron…” she said, her voice thick with confusion, “what’s going on here?”

“First of all this is for you.” He said handing her the second rose, “As well as this...” and he kissed her.

She responded but still looked very confused.

“How bout we have a drink?” said Ron, as her ushered her into the bungalow.  He poured her a glass of champagne, and then one for himself. “Here’s to you Hermione.” He said, and he clinked there glasses together.

Hermione’s look was going from confusion to pure shock...

“Ron… the way you’ve been acting… what on earth…” she fumbled.

“Ah… well see I had to do that… because I wanted all this to be a surprise.” He said with a smile as he waved his hand at their surroundings.

“ok…” said Hermione slowly, “but what is all the ABOUT?”

Just then a song Harry recognized started playing, it was one that he’d heard Hermione listen to on several occasions.

“Will you dance with me?” asked Ron, and she nodded.

      They slowly turned in a circle, while the song played and the candlelight of the bungalow cast funny shadows across the lawn.

“Hermione have you ever heard someone talk about the moment a boy becomes a man?” said Ron abruptly.

Hermione was looking at him like she’s never seen anything like him before, but she was also smiling.

“Yes….” She said questioningly.

“Would you like to hear when that moment was for me?” Ron asked. Hermione nodded slightly and he continued. “It was that night we were trapped in the Malfoy’s last year.” Hermione’s body tensed noticeably and Ron held her closer. “When Belatrix said she was going to take you, I would have done anything, I would have died just to keep her from touching you… and then I was locked in that basement, and I couldn’t help you. I have never felt a worse feeling in my whole life…”

     Ron’s voice was barely above a whisper now as he held Hermione close. Harry was shocked. He had never heard Ron talk about that night since it had happened.  Ron brushed his fingers across Hermione’s cheek as he continued.

“Then when we got out, and I saw you lying there, for a split second I thought you were dead. That was the moment Hermione. I grew up in that moment, because suddenly my life wasn’t about me anymore, and I realized it hadn’t been about me for a long time, if you weren’t alive, I wasn’t alive… not really. There was no life worth living for me, without you.”

Hermione was now crying slightly, but Harry could tell they were tears of happiness.

Ron tilted her head up to look at him and continued to talk.

“I’ve never treated you right… I’ve screwed up time and time again. But for some reason you still love me, more than I could ever deserve. I’m a better person for having known you Hermione Granger, and now I know, that wherever my life takes me, I want you beside me.”

Ron bent down on one knee and Hermione’s hand flew to her mouth and she started crying in earnest.

“Hermione Jean Granger, will you make me the luckiest man in the world, and be my wife?” asked Ron.

Hermione nodded vigorously and mouthed the word ‘yes’.  She was laughing and crying at the same time. Ron swooped her up into a hug, and then pulled out the small black box from his pocket, which elicited a fresh batch of ecstatic tears as he placed the ring on the finger, where it fit perfectly.

“So let me get this straight. You really had no idea what was going to happen when you saw Ron?” said Harry in disbelief.

     The four of them were sitting in Harry’s room around the fire. As soon as Hermione had accepted Ron’s proposal Harry and Ginny had gone tearing up the hill under the Invisibility Cloak, and Harry had asked Kreacher to bring some of Ron and Hermione’s favorite food’s to Harry’s room as a celebration. By the time Ron and Hermione had arrived there twenty minutes later. Ginny and Harry had a grand feast laid out. Now Ron and Hermione were snuggled comfortably in one of Harry’s armchairs, and he and Ginny had taken over the couch.

“No!” said Hermione, “I figured at first that it just must be him trying to make up for being so mean to me over the past week… but then he started saying all that stuff an I was completely confused!!”

She was still proudly examining her ring, she had barely taken her eyes off it since Ron had given it to her, and she was tracing the silver vine around her finger lovingly.

Harry shook his head and laughed.

“Hermione, for the smartest person I know, sometimes you can’t see the nose on the front of your face!” he teased.

“Well, with the way he’d been acting it’s not as though marriage was the first thing on my mind!” retorted Hermione, as she threw the last bit of the pumpkin pasty she’d been eating at Harry. He dodged it easily.

“Well that was the point. I wanted you to be completely knocked off your feet.” said Ron, and he squeezed her tight and kissed her cheek.

“Well you succeeded.” She said amorously.

“So do you guys have any idea’s when the wedding might be?” asked Ginny

“Well, it’ll be next summer at the earliest, because Hermione’s Dad wants us to wait until she’s finished school.” said Ron. “Oh by the way,” he said to Hermione, “you need to write your Mum and owl because I promised her you’d tell her all about the proposal.”

“When did you talk to my folks?” said Hermione, giving Ron a quizzical look.

“Oh, I went and had lunch with them a few weeks ago, so I could ask their permission to marry you. Harry came with me, cuz I was nervous about going into Muggle London by myself.” Ron explained.

Hermione looked like she might start crying again.

“Oh Ron…” she said, “You really did that?”

“Of course I did...” said Ron, “That’s the way its done isn’t it?”

Hermione threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“So does the family know yet?” asked Ginny a few moments later.

“Well… Hermione’s parents do obviously.” said Ron with a wink towards his fiancé, “and Percy and George do, because they helped me with getting some of the stuff, but I asked Mom if we could all come have dinner tomorrow night. I thought that we could tell them then.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” said Ginny, as she yawned. “Well… I think off to bed, you lot could use some time together, it’s been awhile since the three of you have hung out.”

     With that she kissed Harry and walked towards the door. Harry knew that the show of tiredness was for propriety, Ron wasn’t aware that she had taken up residence in his room. She had simply wanted to give Harry some time alone with his two best friends; he knew she’d be back as soon as they had gone.

     The three of them sat in pleasant silence for while just staring at the fire. Ginny was right, it had been a very long time since the three of them had spent time alone together. After everything they had been through, sitting here together so perfectly happy and full of hope for the future seemed almost too good to be true. It was Ron who finally broke the silence.

“So I guess I should ask you to be my best man, mate. Not that I even considered anyone else.” said Ron with a smile.

“Thanks Ron... that’s really means a lot... but…” as soon as Harry said ‘but’ he saw a wounded look cross Ron’s face.

“No! No! mate it’s not like that! I’d love to be your best man!” he amended quickly, “I just wanted to run another idea I’ve been thinking about by you guys and see what your opinion is.”

They both looked at him curiously.

“Well…” he said, “best make sure that everyone is on the same page first.”

     He pulled his own small black box out of his pocket and tossed it to Hermione, who opened it and proceeded to ooo and ahhh over the ring inside.

“Sorry Harry, it’s beautiful but I’ve already been proposed to tonight.” She teased.

Harry rolled his eyes and made a face at her before he continued.

“So I’m probably going to ask Ginny to marry me before Christmas… and I was wondering, if Ginny is ok with the idea, if you guys would consider having a double wedding with us?” Harry asked.

     He looked back and forth to each of their faces. They both sat their looking at him for a moment, then they turned and looked at each other.

“Oh Harry! That would be absolutely perfect!!” gasped Hermione and she leapt up to hug him. 

“I know I’d feel a lot better if I knew you were standing next to me just as nervous as I was.” said Ron with a grin. “and we’ll have the same anniversary, so we can remind each other not to forget it!!”

Harry laughed and gave Ron a crushing hug. He stepped back to look at his two most faithful friends in the world.

“I’m so happy for you guys.” He said earnestly.

“Th-th-thanks Harry…” said Hermione through an enormous yawn.

“Time to get you to bed missy, you’ve hade a very long week.” said Ron kissing her on the head. He steered her toward the door and turned to give Harry one last grin before they both left.

     When they left Harry vanished all the extra food and then changed into his pajamas. He slipped into bed, lay on his back, and took some time to think. Now that Ron and Hermione were engaged, in just a few short weeks, he could ask Ginny to marry him. He knew that he was going to be bursting to ask every second until the time came. He was sure that he didn’t want to have some grand scene the way Ron had. That worked well for Ron and Hermione, but Harry knew with he and Ginny, there would simply be a perfect moment, and when he saw it he would know. He’d have to be on the look out for it more now.

     Harry heard the door creak open and a minute later he felt Ginny slide into bed next to him. She put her chin on his chest and he looked down to meet her gaze. She was smiling.

“How are you doing Harry Potter?” she asked.

“I’m pretty great Ginny Weasley, how are you?” he said with a smile.

“Tired…” she said as she flopped onto her back next to him and closed her eyes.

He leaned over her, and kissed each of her eyelids, then her cheeks and then her mouth softly.

“Sleep my love.” He whispered.

     She smiled and then sighed deeply. Harry made himself comfortable on his side and lay there stroking her hair and watching her breathe. Then without opening her eyes Ginny began to chuckle and her chuckle progressed into a full blown laugh.

“What’s so funny?” asked Harry.

She rolled onto her side to face him and looked at him in amusement.

“I can’t wait to see the look on Mum’s face tomorrow… it’s going to be priceless!” she began giggling again and Harry shook his head but laughed with her.

     Ginny nestled herself comfortably into his arms and gave him a quick kiss.

“Goodnight Harry, I love you.” She said.

“I love you too.” He said, and they both let their exhaustion overtake them. 

     The next day Harry didn’t wake up until the sun was shining brightly though his window. He heard a groan from next to him and a sleepy Ginny mumbled something about the time. He looked at his watch and told her it was almost nine thirty.

“We’d better go downstairs or we’ll miss breakfast.” She said sleepily.

     They got dressed and made their way down to the Great Hall. Harry was surprised to see Ron sitting at the table with Hermione devouring a large plate of bacon and eggs.

“You’re up here at the castle rather early aren’t you?” said Harry.

“Well…” said Ron with a guilty grin, “I never actually left last night…”

“Uuggh!  Ron I’m trying to eat!” said Ginny in disgust. Ron made a faced at her and turned back to Harry.

“So what are you up to today Harry?” he asked, “Mum, wants us at the Burrow by five tonight, but I thought that we could play chess or something this afternoon.”

“Sorry Ron but Ginny and I have Quidditch practice from noon to three.” Said Harry, “Maybe Neville or Dean could play with you?”

“Yeah all right…” said Ron slightly grumpily. As much as he loved his new job, Harry knew he missed actually playing Quidditch as well.

     Harry and Ginny made their way back up to the castle a few hours later. They had a particularly good Quidditch practice in which Harry caught the Snitch three times, Bradford knocked Dean off his broom with a Bludger, and even Lavender managed to score two goals. Harry and Ginny showered and then got ready to meet Ron and Hermione for their trip to the Burrow.

     Ginny walked out of the bathroom and Harry turned to admire her. She had pulled her hair half back, and it cascaded down her back. She was wearing deep blue sweater the complimented her hair perfectly, and a plaid skirt with black stockings.

“You look beautiful.” said Harry. She smiled and gave him a kiss before gently nudging him towards the door.

     They met Ron and Hermione by the front door of the castle. Ron, like Harry, was wearing one of the sweaters that Mrs. Weasley had knitted them for Christmas every year. Hermione on the other hand was wearing a very pretty purple dress with a white cardigan sweater around her shoulders. They all greeted each other and walked out the front door into the chilly fall air. Harry noticed that Ron was once again looking very green as they walked down the hill towards the front gate, a fact that was not lost on Ginny.

“Finally started thinking about Mum’s reaction have you?” said Ginny with a knowing smile.

     Ron glared at her as though he wished the ground would open up and swallow her whole, but he kept walking. Hermione on the other hand looked from Ginny to Ron and back with a worried expression on her face.

“I thought your Mum liked me.” said Hermione in a confused and slightly hurt voice.

“Oh she loves you!” said Ginny with an encouraging pat on Hermione’s arm. “but remember how she ranted about Bill and Fleur rushing into marriage? You’re a lot younger than they are…”

“We’re the same age right now that she and Dad were when they were married! And by the time we’re married we’ll be a year older!” said Ron testily.

“Besides,” he continued, “Mum always says her and Dad got married young because they knew that they were meant for each other so there was no point in waiting. If that’s not true of me and Hermione as well then I don’t know what is. So she can’t really say anything.”

     With that he kissed Hermione’s hand and seemed to regain his confidence. Hermione looked at him adoringly and squeezed his hand as the four of them all walked out the gates.

“Now…” said Ron, “We’re Apparating into the village where Charlie will meet us with a note from Dad.”

     Harry gave him a quizzical look. But it was Ginny who leaned over and explained to him.

“After we had to go into hiding last year the Ministry decided it was best to make the location of our house Unplottable, and protect it with a Fidelus Charm.” She explained.

     Harry realized at that moment that he had not heard any of them refer to the Burrow by name in months. He now tried it, and found he could not say the words, it was a curious sensation.

“There are two fireplaces connected to our house, McGonagall’s and the one in Kingsley’s office. But since McGonagall is away at the moment, Charlie is going to help us get there.” explained Ron.

     Harry nodded in understanding and they all spun on the spot and a moment later stood on the outskirts of the little village of Ottery St. Catchpole. As they watched Charlie hurrying up the road towards them, Harry was deep in thought. The fact that the Burrow was under the Fidelus Charm was yet another reminder that while the world was finally beginning to heal, evil was still out there, it was hiding in dark corners at the moment, but it could come back at any time, and he knew sooner or later, he would have to get back in the fight. He knew this simply because it had become part of him, as much as he wanted a normal life, normal for him, would always include leading a resistance against what was evil in the world. Charlie’s approach brought him out of his revelry.

“Hey gang! Good to see you!” he said as he handed them a small piece of parchment.

     On the parchment was written a small note in an untidy scrawl very similar to Ron’s.

The home of the Weasley family is the Burrow. Located a mile and a half to the North of the village of Ottery St. Catchpole.

     They all crowded around to read the note and then began to make their way down the road with Charlie. They talked animatedly about their classes and about their Quidditch team which had one its second game against Ravenclaw. Harry noticed out of the corner of his eye that Ron was holding Hermione’s left hand and very purposefully covering the ring on her finger. He smiled to himself.

     When they arrived at the Burrow they found that it was very full. Upon hearing that they would all come to dinner, Mrs. Weasley had seized the opportunity to have a celebratory feast for Bill and Fleur, and their new arrival. As they entered the Burrow Mrs. Weasley hugged them and fussed over how she had missed them, and how nice they looked.

“It was so sweet of you to dress up for our little family celebration!” she said.

     Ginny and Harry exchanged quick smirks but then turned their attention back to their family. Fleur was positively glowing. Though Harry couldn’t quite tell if that was the “pregnancy glow” he’d heard ladies talk about, or her veela genes coming out more with all the attention she was receiving.

     They all sat down and began their feast. Mrs. Weasley had outdone herself, making everyone’s favorites. There was mashed potatoes, roast beef,  roasted chicken, treacle tarts, three different kind’s of pudding and even a decadent French chocolate cake that she had made specially, which touched Fleur so much that she burst into tears and left the table.

“Just the hormones,” said Bill, “They’re even worse because of her veela blood.”

     After dinner they all retreated to the living room, and began talking about the events of the past few months. Charlie informed them that he had given up his job in Romania for the time being to work with George in his joke shop. Harry was secretly very relieved about this, Charlie could never be the counterpart for George that Fred was, but he did share his younger brother’s mischievous and fun loving nature, and as much as he tried to hide it, Harry could tell that George was desperately lonely without Fred by his side. Now that he thought about it, he figured Charlie was probably the reason that George was dealing with things so well. He felt a swell of gratitude and respect for Ron’s second oldest brother.

     Ginny was now asking Fleur if they had thought of names. She told them that if it was a boy they had decided on William Arthur the second but if was a girl her name would be Victoire Apolline, after Fleur’s mother. Mrs. Weasley gave made a slight face at this, and Harry could tell she wasn’t extremely fond of the idea of her grandchild having a French name. Ron had been sitting on the couch with Hermione and shifting nervously for the last half hour. Without warning he abruptly stood up and looked around at his family.

“I have an announcement to make.” He said importantly, “well Hermione and I do.” He pulled a startled looking Hermione to her feet to stand next to him.

     The whole family was looking at him with curiosity. George and Charlie had knowing smirks on their faces and Harry could tell they were already coming up with all the ways they were going to pick on Ron in a few moments.

“You all know that Hermione and I have been together for some time now, and to be honest, we’ve loved each other for years.” said Ron taking her hand. “Well, I’ve asked Hermione to marry me, and she’s said yes. So we’re getting married next year.”

     There was a momentary paused as shock registered on the families faces, and then there was an eruption of noise. George, Charlie, and Bill all began laughing at the exact same time that Mrs. Weasley and Fleur shrieked with happiness. Suddenly everyone was on their feet. All Ron’s brothers came over to pat him on the back and attempt to hug Hermione. A feat which was difficult due to the fact that both Fleur and Mrs. Weasley were fawning over her ring and chattering excitedly.

“So wait Mum” said Ron over the din. “You’re really ok with this? I thought you’d be mad because we’re so young. Not that I’m complaining.”

    Everyone became quiet as they looked at Mrs. Weasley for her reaction. Mrs. Weasley shook her head and gave her son a kind motherly smile.

“Oh Ronald…” she said bracingly, “ever since the first day you brought Hermione home to this house, I’ve been hoping against hope that you two would end up together. She’s brought out such good things in you. And she’s been like a daughter to me for years… now we just get to make it official.”

     She was looking at Hermione now, and her eyes were misting slightly. Hermione looked back at her with the same misty expression and smiled.

“Thank you so much, Mrs. Weasley. That means the world to me.” She said softly.

“It’s Mum now my dear one.” said Mrs. Weasley.

“Ok Mum...” said Hermione with a smile.

     Everyone had been quietly watching the scene, almost holding their breath in anticipation. As the two women embraced and smiled the whole group relaxed and smiled. Yet Harry caught George sending the briefest of glances in his direction, and Harry recognized the expectant look that was in his eye. He suspected George knew they would be replaying this scene again soon. Harry had never truly appreciated until lately how perceptive George was. Fred had always been the schemer and the mastermind, but George had a unique skill for anticipating people’s moves before they made them. Harry shifted slightly uncomfortably, and turned his attention to Mr. Weasley who was speaking.

“I think this calls for a drink!” said Mr. Weasley, and he broke out a bottle of firewhisky from the cabinet in the corner. He poured small glasses for everyone except Fleur, who took a small glass of pumpkin juice. As he made to give Ginny her shot Mrs. Weasley made a disapproving sound in her throat.

“Oh Mum… come off it, I’m going to be of age next week, and besides this is a celebration!” said Ginny, as she took the cup from her father.

“To Ron and Hermione, may they live a full and happy life full of love and laughter.” said Mr. Weasley. They all raised their glasses.

     Later that night Harry lay awake in his bed thinking about the night’s events. Ginny shifted in bed next to him and sighed in her sleep. She had her face towards him and her arm was lying across his chest, she smiled in her sleep and Harry wondered if she was dreaming of him. As he watched her sleep he wondered how it was even possible to love someone so much. She was the only person who he had ever said those words to, the only person who had ever said them to him. She was his whole world, and he knew he would never be able to live a day of his life without her. He had wanted to talk with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley that night, but there had been no opportunity to get them alone. He had resigned himself to the fact that he would have to wait awhile. Yet another thought had been growing in his head that evening, one that he had been trying to push from his brain, but he knew it would not go away. Tonight he had been reminded that Voldemort’s evil was still in the world, and he knew that he would not be able to rest until he had made sure it would not spread again. He was not sure what part he was going to play, but he knew his fight was not quite over. He pulled Ginny close and kissed her head softly.

“but I won’t leave you again...” he whispered softly into her hair. She responded by cuddling closer to him in her sleep. He nestled himself in beside her and fell asleep

Chapter 6: Decisions
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Chapter 6: Decisions

     Harry and Ginny sat in potions class on Monday morning watching a particularly funny scene. Professor Slughorn had given them the assignment to make the antidote to Polyjuice Potion. He had explained that this was a useful potion because like Veritaserum, it was colorless and could be slipped into any drink without notice. Therefore, it was a useful way to make sure visitors were not enemies posing as friends. Before they began Professor Slughorn had decided that, just for fun, they would each take Polyjuice Potion laced with each other’s hair at the beginning of the lesson, and see who could put themselves right by the end. Now Harry, who looked like Seamus, was sitting next to Ginny, who had taken on the appearance of a slightly chubby Hufflepuff girl who sat in the row behind him. Harry looked over at the person who looked like Ginny, which was really Ernie Macmillan, who was sweating and struggling with a smoking potion. At the end of the hour Slughorn asked them to sample their potions while he stood ready in case any of them had messed up so badly that they poisoned themselves. Harry did fairly well, he had turned back into himself all except for his eyes which had stayed brown. Slughorn fixed them with a quick wave of his wand and moved on to Ginny. Her potion also worked well, the only side effect was she looked slightly heavier than usual, and with another wave of Slughorn’s wand she was righted. Ernie on the other hand had not only failed to turn back into himself, but had somehow sprouted a ducks beak instead of a nose. Slughorn gave him a disapproving look, but then turned him back into himself. As they left the classroom after the lecture Ginny and Harry were trying very hard to conceal their laughter.

     Later that day when they were eating lunch one of the younger students ran up to Harry and Hermione and handed them a note. He looked positively awe struck and ran away with a squeak when they tried to thank him. Hermione rolled her eyes and shook her head in bewilderment.

“When are people going to stop treating us like we’re some kind of royalty?” she asked.

“Probably never…” said Harry with a shrug and he began to open the letter. Hermione and Ginny leaned over each of his shoulders to read it.

Dear Mr. Potter and Miss Granger,

     I would like to see you in my office at 3 o’clock this afternoon. I have something of importance that I wish to discuss with you. Mr. Potter I happen to know that you have a free period at this time, because it is right after your Transfiguration class with me. Miss Granger I have spoken with your Professor and you will be excused from Ancient Runes class for today. I will see you at 3.

Sincerely, Minerva McGonagall

p.s. I enjoy a nice cup of Earl Grey in the evening.


“I wonder what in the world that’s about?” said Harry, he looked at the other two, but they were just as confused as he was.

     At three o’clock Harry and Hermione made their way down the corridor and stopped in front of stone gargoyle.

“Earl Grey” said Harry, using the hint they’d been given in the note.

     When they arrived in McGonagall’s office, they noticed that she was not the only one there. Kingsley was seated in a chair by her desk and next to him was Ron.

“Ron?” said Harry, “you too?” Ron nodded.

“I have come to speak to you three on behalf of the Ministry.” Said Kingsley, as Ron came over and stood beside them. “we have successfully rounded up the majority of the known Death Eaters, by identifying their Dark Marks, but now we must move on to those who are less easy to apprehend.”

     Harry had a feeling that he knew where this was heading, but he continued to listen to what Kingsley had to say.

“We have taken into custody over forty individuals, who were in some way responsible for traitorous actions during the war. Obviously, they are all claiming to have been Impiriused, or coerced by other means.  We were hoping that with your extensive involvement with many of these cases, you could shed some light on who is lying and who is being truthful. The Wizandgamot have agreed to make you three the key witnesses in these trials, and all testimonies given by you will be trusted at face value. Are you willing to help us in this way?” Kinsley finished and looked to each of their faces expectantly.

     Harry looked in the faces of his two friends and tried to read their expressions. On the one hand, he knew they could be of innumerable help the ministry, on the other hand this was a huge decision and he didn’t want to make it for them. He turned back to Kingsley.

“Do you mind if we take a minute to discuss this in private?” he asked.

Kingsley gave him a patient nod, and Harry quickly steered his two best friends into the hallway right outside the office.

“What’s up Harry?” said Ron immediately.

“What do you guys think we should do?” said Harry.

“We should help of course!” said Hermione, “we have some inside information that could help innocent people stay out of Azkaban!”

“I’m with her mate.” Said Ron, “The more we can do to make sure the right people get what’s coming to them the better.”

“Good,” said Harry, “that’s what I think too, but I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page before we gave our answer.”

     They walked back into the office and faced Kingsley.

“Of course we’ll help,” Said Harry for the three of them. “We want to do all we can to see that justice is served.”

“I knew you would” Said Kingsley with a smile, “the trials begin next week and will run for two hours from four to six each evening. Minerva will let you two travel to the Ministry from here in her office.” He said motioning to Harry and Hermione. “Now I must be off, I will see you all very soon.” With that he tipped his hat and walked back into the green flames.

“I’d best be getting back too.” said Ron. “I told Lee I’d be back before the end of the work day, we just hired two new people to the radio staff, and training them has been driving him crazy.”

“Before you go Mr. Weasley I wanted to talk with you three about something.” said McGonagall. “As you are all well aware I’m sure, there is to be a Ball held here this coming month.”

Harry and Hermione both said ‘yes’ but Ron said ‘no.’

Hermione gave him a guilty look.

“Sorry…” she said, “I figured you wouldn’t want to go because it’s Slughorn who organized it.”

Professor McGonagall made an annoyed sniff at Hermione’s last statement and they all turned to look at her.

“While Horace Slughorn may be trying to take credit for this event let me assure you that he is NOT the one who organized it. This Ball has been being planned by the Hogwarts Board of Trusties since shortly after the defeat of You-Know-Who, and it will not simply be a collection of Slughorn’s favorite students. People from all over the Wizarding World have been invited in celebration of you three.” She said.

     Harry felt heat rising in his face, and he noticed that Ron had gone scarlet. McGonagall took no notice of this however, she went on.

“I simply wanted to inform you, that you three, along with Miss Weasley I expect.” She gave Harry I knowing smile. “Are going to be given a place of honor at this Ball, and you Harry will most likely be asked to give a speech.”

     Harry felt his stomach drop, and at that moment he felt that he would much rather have faced Voldemort again than stand up and give a speech in front of hundreds of important witches and wizards from all over the world. He nodded to her grimly accepting his fate.

“Right then,” she said, “That was all… Mr. Weasley you may use my fireplace to return to work, and may I also offer my congratulations to you and Miss Granger on your engagement. I know you will be very happy together.”

     They thanked her graciously and then Ron gave Hermione a quick kiss before disappearing into the flames. As Hermione and Harry walked down the stairs toward Harry’s room where they knew Ginny would be waiting Hermione gave Harry a serious look.

“What are you going to tell Ginny?” she asked him.

“The truth,” said Harry, “I’m done hiding things from her. She’s stronger than I give her credit for. She’s stronger than me sometimes, and if I’m going to spend the rest of my life with her, I have to let her be a part of this.”

     Hermione look extremely pleased with him as they turned to face the portrait that lead to his room.

“So you guys are going to actually be helping convict criminals?” asked Neville with awe in his voice.

     The six of them were sitting in Harry’s room around the fire, and they had been discussing the events of the day.

“I think that’s very noble and brave of you.” said Luna. She was sitting on the floor leaning against Neville’s legs and working on a strangely shaped crossword puzzle.

“Well what else could we have done?” said Ron, “we can’t let innocent people go to jail.”

“I expect some people wouldn’t care as much about that, as you do…” said Luna airily, and Harry felt himself blush.

“So how are you two doing?” Harry asked her, it had been awhile since they had spent time with Neville and Luna.

“Oh we’re lovely.” Said Luna, “Daddy’s agreed to make me co-editor of the Quibbler next year, he’s not as young as he used to be you know, and Neville has gotten and internship with the Ministry’s Agricultural branch, he’s going to China for the summer to study some rare plants that may help in making new poison antidotes.” She looked up at her boyfriend proudly.

“Wow Neville that’s really cool!” said Harry earnestly, and they spent the next hour discussing all the exciting things that Neville might see on his adventures in Asia.

     A few hours later Harry sat on his bed looking at his watch. It was eleven fifty nine. When the clock switched over to twelve he grabbed Ginny’s shoulder and began to shake her gently.

“Hey! Hey sweetie wake up!” he whispered.

“Whaaa…” she said sleepily, “What’s going on... what time is it?”

“It’s twelve oh one, in the morning on November the second.” Said Harry, “and I wanted to be the first person to wish you a happy birthday.” He kissed her.

“I think if you’d waited until we woke up in the morning you still would have been.” She said groggily, but then she smiled and gave him a hug.

“Would you like your present?” he asked.

“What is it?” She asked with a devious smile.

“Well… you can have that too…if you’re not too tired...” he teased, “but I have another present for you first.”

     He pulled out a long thin box, covered in red velvet. As he did he thought about the little black velvet box that was still in the pocket of his robes. He had been sorely tempted to give her it tonight, but he knew the moment wasn’t right quite yet, he couldn’t bring himself to do it without Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s blessing.  Ginny opened the box and let out a little gasp of delight. Inside was a small gold chain and on it was a little charm in the shape of a Snitch.

“That’s to symbolize how we first got together because of Quidditch.” said Harry. “With every important event in our life, I’ll buy you a new charm for it, so by the time you’re old and grey, it will represent our whole life together.”

She smiled at him and hugged him fiercely.

“Oh Harry it’s so perfect.” She said. He gently took the bracelet out of the case and fastened it around her wrist. She wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a long slow kiss, as she pulled away she had a familiar mischievous look in her eye.

“So about that second present?” she said.

Harry grinned and went about giving Ginny a birthday celebration that neither of them would forget anytime soon.

     The morning dawned cold and bright, and Harry noticed two things right away. The first was the pile of presents that had mysteriously made their way to the end of the bed, he wondered who delivered them and how they knew about Ginny’s new sleeping arrangements.  The second thing he noticed was the steady flow of large snowflakes falling gently outside the window. It was the first snow of the year. Ginny sat up and yawned and then she dove happily into the pile of presents that had been left for her. Her parents had gotten her a beautiful pair of diamond earrings, which were apparently the customary gift when a witch comes of age. She got an ornate golden hair clip accented with emeralds from Ron and Hermione. In truth, Harry thought, Hermione probably picked out the present and simply signed Ron’s name to the card. She got an assortment of other gifts from her brothers. Her favorite by far, being a pair of tickets to a Hollyhead Harpies game over the Christmas holiday’s courtesy of George and Charlie. After she had opened all her presents except one she smiled and jumped out of bed, taking the package into the bathroom with her.

“What are you doing?” asked Harry curiously.

“You’ll see… give me a minute.” said Ginny. After a minute she spoke again, “Mum and Dad always send us a special new outfit for our birthday each year, so here it is.”

     With that she stepped out of the bathroom, she was wearing a flowy pale blue dress that came to just below her knees. It had a wide neckline that looked as though it might be off the shoulder but was just shy of it, the sleeves were long and billowy so Ginny looked like and angel when she moved her arms. She had her hair pulled up in a ponytail to accent the diamond earrings she was now wearing.

“You look absolutely stunning.” said Harry breathlessly, and Ginny laughed.

“You’d say that if I was wearing nothing at all!” she retorted. He gave her an incredulous look and she rolled her eyes and giggled.

“Let me rephrase that,” she said, “you’d say that if I were wearing my ratty old pajamas.”

“That’s probably true…” said Harry, “but that doesn’t mean you don’t look particularly stunning right now.”

     She gave up the argument and made her way across the room to kiss him instead.

     A little later in the morning Ginny and Harry were making their way towards Defense Against the Dark Arts when they got to the classroom they noticed that everyone was sitting outside the door in a line.

“I wonder what’s going on….” Harry said.

“Ummm… we’re working with Veritaserum… remember... Bill told us yesterday. He’s going to meet with us one on one, give us a bit and then ask us things to see how well we can resist it.” Ginny explained.

“Oh right…” said Harry, with everything on his mind he had completely forgotten about this lesson. He privately wondered how he would do. He had seen Veritaserum used on Barty Crouch Jr. in his fourth year and the man had not been able to resist at all. How did Bill expect them to do it?

Hermione joined them soon looking extremely anxious. She sat down next to Ginny and seemed to be pouring over the instructions that Bill had given them the day before.

“Hermione it’s going to be fine…” said Ginny.

“I don’t see how you can be so calm!” said Hermione with a hint of panic in her voice. “Bill told us specifically yesterday that he was going to ask us personal questions to give us incentive to resist! If I can’t do it I’ll be mortified.”

“You haven’t done anything that Bill will think badly of you for. So don’t worry.” Said Harry, but even as he said it his mind went to Ginny’s new housing situation, and also the little black box that was still in his pocket, and he swallowed hard. He would just have to get this right.

Bill began to call their names alphabetically. Since Harry and Ginny were both near the end they pulled out books and began to do homework. Harry felt that it helped keep his mind off worrying about what Bill might trick him into saying. Hermione’s name was called, and she entered the room. A few minutes later she left it looking extremely red faced.

“How did it go?” said Harry.

“It was embarrassing!” said Hermione, “but you’re right he didn’t actually ask me any questions I was ashamed to answer in front of him. Except the last one... and I resisted that one.”

“What was the last question?” asked Harry curiously.

“Hey Ginny…” said Hermione, pretending that she couldn’t hear him, “I was wondering if next week one of the days you’d like to come with us when we go to the trials.”

     Ginny gave her a quizzical look.

“What for?” she said.

“Well I’ve arranged to meet my Mum when we’re done, at the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, because I’ve decided that for this Ball I’d like to have a Muggle ball gown. I wore robes last time so I’ve never gotten to wear one, and they are so pretty, and I thought maybe you’d like to wear one too.” Hermione explained.

“Oh I’d love to!” said Ginny excitedly, “I’ve seen pictures of them, and they look so elegant. Like the one’s that Muggles wear when they go to visit the Queen right?”

“Yes like those…” said Hermione with a laugh, “but they’re more commonly worn at school dances and such.”

For the next ten minutes the girls discussed what kinds of dresses they might pick, and Harry sat beside them, not really paying attention. He was too focused on what Bill might ask him, though he had to admit the idea of Ginny in a fancy ball gown would be quite enjoyable. A few minutes later Ernie Macmillan left the classroom looking exceedingly flustered and Bill poked his head out to call Harry’s name. Harry stood up and began to walk slowly towards the door, his heart pounding uncontrollably. When he entered Bill led him up through the classroom and into his office.  Like the classroom, each time Harry had entered this office it had belonged to a different owner, and each put their personal spin on it. While Bill’s office was not as eclectic as his classroom it seemed he had saved all his favorite pieces for here. There was a beautiful Faberge egg, in a case above his desk, which was probably worth quite a bit of money. Two paintings on opposite walls depicted a pristine beach scene in what looked like Southern France, and what Harry recognized from his Muggle history classes in elementary school as The Great Wall of China. There were two pictures on Bill’s desk, one was of his whole family standing together at his and Fleur’s wedding, and they other was of Fleur in a beautiful sundress sitting on the stone wall behind the Shell Cottage, she was looking out over the sea and laughing, the wind blowing through her silvery blond hair.

“So Harry, shall we begin?” said Bill, bringing Harry’s focus back to him.

“Yeah ok…” said Harry, he was still feeling extremely nervous.

     Bill handed him a cup of Pumpkin Juice, and Harry drank it slowly. It looked and tasted just fine, but Harry knew better. Before he even put the cup down he was overcome by a strange sensation of straightforwardness. He didn’t have any secrets to hide from Bill. Bill could be trusted with anything Harry had to say.

“What is your name?” said Bill.

“Harry James Potter, but you already know that Bill you’ve known me for years.” replied Harry immediately.  He didn’t even stop to think about what he was saying until afterwards, when he started to remember why he was answering questions.

     Now that Bill had gotten the preliminary out of the way and made sure that the potion was working, he leaned forward and looked at Harry intently. Harry could tell that the next question was going to be more uncomfortable to answer.

“How long have you been dating my sister?” Bill asked.

“Since May of my sixth year,” Harry began again immediately, “I left her for a year to go fight Voledmort, but in my mind we were never broken up. She snogged me on my seventeenth birthday, and the whole time I was away I never stopped thinking about her for one minute, the second I could I got back together with her.”

     Harry was slightly embarrassed he told Bill about his seventeenth birthday, but other than that it wasn’t so bad, and this time he had been aware that he didn’t want to be saying those things, and he had tried to stop, so he thought he was making progress. Bill gave a tiny smirk but then continued.

“Are you going to ask my sister to marry you?” asked Bill.

     Everything in Harry’s mind told him to say yes. The word was on the tip of his tongue, but Harry’s bit down on his lip and held it back. He concentrated very hard on what he wanted to say.

“Not yet…” he said, it felt as though his words were sluggish, like he was talking with glue in his mouth, “I want to talk to your parents, before I ask her something like that.”

     Bill looked slightly impressed, whether it was because Harry had been able to bend the truth slightly, or because he was asking the Weasley’s permission Harry wasn’t quite sure.

“One last question.” Said Bill, “Is it true that you and my sister are living together in the quarters across the hall from this room?”

     Harry’s heart felt as though it had stopped. He once again bit his tongue almost to the point of drawing blood, to keep from speaking. A part of his brain was telling him that Bill wouldn’t care if Harry told him the truth, he’d probably just give him a pat on the back, but Harry knew that had to resist that part of his mind. He began speaking again being very careful to keep his voice steady and purposeful, even though he felt like he was going to choke on each word he said.

“I live in that room, because McGonagall gave it to me,” this part wasn’t so hard to say because it was the truth but it got exponentially more difficult as he continued, “Ginny comes to visit me, but she still lives in the girl’s dormitory where she belongs.”

Billy gave him an appraising look but then seemed to be satisfied. He told Harry he was finished and handed him a glass of green looking potion. Harry drank it and was surprised to find it tasted like eucalyptus and soothed his tense throat on the way down. As soon as Harry had finished the potion he came back to his senses and was extremely glad that he had been able to resist the Veritaserum, even a small amount.

“Obviously Harry, I do not know how well you resisted because I don’t know when you lied to me and when you told the truth.” Said Bill, but something in his eyes told Harry he had a pretty good idea. “The point of this exercise is that you get a feeling for how to resist Veritaserum, so when an examiner tests you, you will be ready.” He explained.

     Harry made his way back out into the hall to meet Ginny and Hermione. He found them sitting in the same spots and made to go sit next to them.

“How’d it go?” said Ginny.

“It was fine,” said Harry honestly, “Bill didn’t get much out of me that I didn’t want him to.”

‘Well that’s good,” said Ginny, “hey why don’t you and Hermione go wait for me in the room? Professor Sprout just came by to tell us that Herbology has been cancelled today due to the blizzard going on outside, and Hermione has her free period before lunch.”

     Harry hesitated; he didn’t want to leave Ginny here alone in the hall. He knew if the shoe was one the other foot he wouldn’t have wanted to wait here alone. Ginny leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“I’ll be fine,” she said as though reading his mind, “I’m really not that nervous. You don’t have to be so worried about me.”

“Is it that noticeable that I worry?” said Harry with a sheepish look.

“Only all the time…” said Ginny with a smile, “but it’s nice to know someone is looking out for me.” She gave him a kiss, and then shoved him towards the portrait of the grazing horses.

“Now go relax for a bit or I’ll hex you!” she said with a wink.

     Harry laughed as Hermione joined him and they made their way into his room. He realized in that moment that with all the events of the previous day he was quite tired. He went over and flopped down on his bed, while Hermione took up a spot on his couch. He rolled over and lay with his head propped on his arms at the foot of the bed, so he could look at her.

“So what was the question you didn’t want to answer in front of Bill?” he asked again.

She gave him a slightly annoyed look and shook her head.

“You never give up do you?” she asked and he shook his head with a grin.

“Fine if you must know he asked me if I’d abused my Head Girl privileges at all this year.” She said quickly as the color began to rise in her face.

     Harry chuckled, he knew from Ron’s hinting about his sleepover’s in the castle that Hermione had undeniably abused her Head Girl privileges.

“So what did you say?” he teased. She shot him another scornful look.

“I said no of course! I’m not about to lose my position as Head Girl over Veritaserum!” she snapped.

     Harry was still chuckling. He could tell she was wrestling with her feelings of guilt over breaking the rules and almost getting caught, and her feelings of pride for having accomplished something that many fully trained wizards could not.

“You’re forgetting Hermione, that Bill was also Head Boy in his time, and I’m sure that he wasn’t a perfect saint either, so I doubt he’d have you kicked out for having your fiancé up once in awhile.” said Harry.

   Hermione raised her eyebrows in a dismissive manner and continued to read the stack of papers she had pulled out of her bag. Harry picked up a wad of parchment that had been on the floor and chucked it at her. It bounced off the top of her head and landed on the floor. She gave him a contemptuous glance, but as she returned to her reading she smiled. Suddenly something registered on her face and she put her papers down to look at him.

“Oh Harry I just remembered something else that Bill asked me! He asked me why Ron and I haven’t picked a wedding date yet, and I told him about the double wedding plan. Harry I’m so sorry it was one of the first question’s he asked and he caught me off guard…” Hermione was talking very fast, and looking like she was worried he was going to yell at her. Harry on the other hand was completely nonplussed.

“It’s ok Hermione… he was going to find out soon enough anyway. Besides I trust Bill… I know he won’t ruin the surprise.” Harry shrugged as he said this, and just as Hermione was going back to reading her papers Ginny bounced into the room looking very pleased with herself.

“I lied to him three times!” she said with a huge grin. She walked over and sat cross legged on the bed next to Harry, she absentmindedly began massaging his shoulders as she continued.

“Bill said that I probably had an easier time because he’s my older brother, and I’m used to telling lies to him, but still three times is very impressive.” She said.

“Good job babe.” Said Harry and he gave her a kiss, he then turned his attention back to Hermione.

“What are you reading anyway Hermione?” he asked.

“Research,” said Hermione, “These are transcripts from preliminary trials, and also newspaper articles and eye witness statements. If we’re going to be of help in court we’re going to have to research cases of people besides the ones we know were in league with Voldemort. People like this man here.”

     She held out an article to Harry. He looked at the face of the miserable man in the picture; he looked as though his whole word had ended. The article stated that the wizard named Rupert Gartmond had been taken into custody for allegedly passing Ministry knowledge to Death Eaters. Upon his arrest Gartmond had insisted that he had only done so because the Death Eaters had taken his children, and were threatening to kill them.

“We saw him remember? In Diagon Alley, he attacked me when I was impersonating Bellatrix Lestrange and was screaming about me having his children. He almost strangled me before Ron stupefied him. That corroborates his story.” Hermione said with satisfaction in her voice.

     Harry was impressed. He did remember the man, and he knew Hermione was right. With that information they could help get the man set free. For the rest of the hour until lunch he helped Hermione go through files seeing if they had any extra insight they could add to convict or liberate the accused.


   Harry’s thoughts were unsettled. He was sitting in his room with his friends, as he did most every night, but he couldn’t help but let his mind wander to the one thing that had been nagging at him for the past few weeks.

“I think I’m going to go visit Hagrid.” He said, as he abruptly got up and reached for his cloak.

“Oh, we’ll go too!” said Hermione excitedly, “it’s been ages since we’ve seen him, and we haven’t told him about the engagement yet!”

“I think I need to go alone tonight Hermione…” said Harry, “Hagrid and I have some things we really need to discuss.”

     Hermione looked slightly disappointed but she nodded her head in understanding. Harry gave her a grateful smile and then headed out through the portrait. It was not too late, there were still some students mulling around in the halls. It felt strange to Harry to not have to be sneaking around under his Invisibility Cloak to be out after dark, but now that he was a seventh year, he no longer had a curfew. He walked through the front doors and down the lawn. It was a cold crisp night, the snow crunched under his feet and the light from Hagrid’s hut looked warm and inviting. Harry walked up to the door and knocked on it confidently. Hagrid opened it a moment later, but as soon as he saw Harry his face hardened.

“What do you want Potter?” he said gruffly. Harry was slightly shocked by his surly behavior.

“Well I was hoping to come put things right between me and my friend, but I guess that’s not going to happen.” retorted Harry.

“OH yes... just put things right... that’s rich…” grumbled Hagrid under his breathe but he allowed Harry to come in and started moodily making tea.

“Hagrid are you going to be mad at me forever?” said Harry exasperatedly, “you know I was only doing what I had to…”

     Hagrid slammed the tea kettle down on the table spilling a great deal of water and making his boar hound Fang jump. He looked at Harry with his eyes blazing, which was particularly intimidating considering Hagrid was over eight feet tall.

“What you had to?” his voice was low and furious, “I thought you were dead Harry! I watched you grow up, I took care of you! Protected you for years! You Hermione and Ron, are the closest thing to family I will ever have, cept Dumbledore of course. I lost him Harry, and it almost killed me! And then I thought I lost you too! I’ve never felt so alone in my whole life!! I carried you in my arms thinkin you were dead. I carried you just like I carried him!! And you let me!! You let me endure that!”

     Big tears were now leaking from the corners of Hagrid’s eyes as he trembled. Fang got up with a low whimper and came over to rest his head on Hagrid’s knee, which was soon soaked with dog drool. Hagrid absentmindedly patted the dog on the head, and Harry moved to put his hand on his friends shoulder.

“Hagrid you have no idea how hard it was for me to let you be hurt like that… I never meant to hurt you. But if I had done anything to let you know I was alive, we would have both been killed instantly. I had to end it Hagrid, I had to defeat him, and that was the only way to make it happen. Please try to understand that.”

     Hagrid looked up at him, he was still trembling slightly but he no longer looked angry.

“Harry yer too young to have been through all ya been through.” He said with a sad smile. “I do understand, I just wish you hadn’t of had to make that decision. When I thought you were gone… I just didn’t see no point in goin on… not without you an’ Dumbledore...” he looked down at his hands again when he said this.

“Well I’m not going anywhere...” said Harry gently, “and I’ve really missed you Hagrid.”

     Hagrid smiled at him and Harry knew that he forgiven. They spent the next few hours catching up on everything that they had missed over the past few months. Harry told him about the summer, about the fun lessons that they had during the year, especially Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Hagrid told Harry all about his knew Care of Magical Creatures lessons, apparently he was going to be taking a trip with his upper level students in a months time to the only dragon raising facility in Great Britain, and he could hardly wait. Harry teased him that he’d better not bring back any eggs. They moved on to the topic of Ron and Hermione, and Harry decided that he would ask them if they wanted to come down. He sent his Patronus up to the school, and to Hagrid’s delight Ron’s terrier Patronus came bounding into the room a moment later to inform them that they would be down in a few short minutes.

     When Ron and Hermione arrived there were hugs and laughter all around, Hagrid regaled them with many of the same stories that he had told Harry while they all drank tea, and attempted to eat some of Hagrid’s infamous rock cakes. After awhile Ron got into telling Hagrid in detail all about his new job.

“I just can’ believe it…” said Hagrid, “It seems like jus yesterday I was ferryin’ you lot across the lake in yer firs year. Yev’ grown up so fast…”

“Oh that reminds me of something else we need to tell you Hagrid.” Said Hermione with a smile… and she lifted her left hand to proudly display the ring on her finger. Hagrid looked momentarily shocked and then started laughing as he scooped them up into a bear hug almost crushing them both.

“Yeh know... I never told yeh this Ron… but the day you came inta my hut burping up slugs, cause yeh tried to curse Malfoy for callin her a Mudblood, I had a sneakin suspicion she was gonna be the girl for you.” said Hagrid with a wink.

“Well aren’t you the wise sage,” teased Ron, “you should take over for Professor Trelawney.”

     Hagrid laughed and gave Ron an affectionate punch in the arm that almost sent him flying across the room.

“So have yeh set a date? Cause I hafta clear my calendar.” He said with a wink.

“Well actually…” said Ron, sending a look in Harry’s direction.

     Hagrid looked from Ron to Harry with a confused look.

“Well… they’re waiting on me Hagrid… see we’ve decided to have a double wedding, but I have to ask Ginny to marry me before we can set a date.” He explained with a grin.

     Hagrid let out another howl of pleasure and then looked at the three of them with a nostalgic look in his eye.

“Look at yeh three…” he said, “Getting married... I just can’ believe it... I’m so proud of how you all turned out… so proud...” with that he hugged them again.

     After about another hour of conversation Hagrid looked at his clocked and jumped.

“Lord look at the time! You all need to get back to the castle! I don’t want yeh gettin’ in trouble cause of me…” he smiled at them all, “it was so good to see yeh again, don’ be strangers ok?”

     Harry left feeling like his heart was lightened ten pounds, making up with Hagrid was the last thing that was holding him down. He felt like everything was finally the way that it needed to be.  As he entered his room he saw that Ginny was already asleep. As he had been talking with Hagrid, and his two best friends, an idea had started to form in his mind. He thought he had found the perfect moment, but there was something he had to do first. He sat down and wrote a letter to Mr. Weasley, asking him if he could have lunch with him and Mrs. Weasley the following week. He would take the letter to the owlery in the morning.

Chapter 7: Trials and Balls
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Chapter 7: Trials and Balls

          Harry met Hermione outside of her Ancient Runes class at quarter to four in the afternoon on Monday. They walked towards McGonagall’s office together and Harry could tell that Hermione was just as nervous as he was. They walked past the gargoyle and up to the office.  McGonagall barely looked up when they walked in, she was busily sorting through a pile of papers on her desk. Harry and Hermione stepped into the fireplace and said, ‘the ministry of magic’. A moment later they landed in one of the many large ornate fireplaces in the Ministry of Magic’s Atrium. It was fairly empty because it was the middle of the day. They made their way to the lifts that were just inside the golden gates. They pressed the button for the fourth floor, and rode in relative silence. A cool voice came over the intercom announcing they had arrived at fourth floor, the department of Magical News and Information. They stepped off the lift into a chaotic office with people rushing around and memos flying in all directions. They made their way through the main room which was full of people working on stories for various newspapers, and towards large doors in the back that read, Wizarding Wireless Headquarters. As they entered here the noise was cut off almost instantly. They were in a long hallway with doors leading off it in both directions. Each door had the name of a different radio program on it, and they heard many different noises coming out of them. They made their way down the hall and to the fourth door on the right which read, the Daily News with Lee Jordan. They opened the door quietly and stepped inside.

     They stepped into a large circular room. There were desks lining the wall with four or five people sitting at them, and a semi-circle shaped table in the middle of the room which Lee and Ron sat behind. They were just finishing a segment.

“So we’ll be waiting to see if the Cannons new Keeper can live up to the impressive expectations that fans have for him.” Ron was saying.

     Harry was truly impressed with how at ease he seemed in this job. Ron was confident and poised, and he seemed to be completely in his element.

“Indeed we will Ron.” Said Lee, “If you tune in tomorrow ladies and gentleman, Ron will be interviewing the Captain of the Irish national team about their upcoming game against Russia. Up next we will have the weather with Charity Jones.”

     With that Ron and Lee pointed their wands at their throats, and then they began speaking normally. Ron walked over to a pretty brown haired girl and began to talk to her.

“Charity do you have the reports ready? You’re on in five minutes.” He asked.

“Yup, got them done almost a half hour ago Ron. You did a great job today by the way.” She said with a big smile.

“Thanks…” said Ron distractedly, he had just noticed Harry and Hermione. He walked quickly across the room to give his fiancé a kiss. He turned to face the room.

“Everyone!” he said loudly, “I would like you to meet my best friend Harry and my beautiful fiancé Hermione.” Everyone smiled and said hello, but Harry thought he saw Charity give a bit of a pouty look.

Ron told Lee that he was headed to court, and then the three of them walked out and back towards the lifts.

“You were really great in their Ron, you’re a natural at that.” said Harry as they rode the lift down to the courtrooms.

“I agree...” said Hermione, as she gave Ron a hug, he gave them a satisfied grin as the gates of the lift opened.

     The feeling of apprehension grew in Harry as they walked toward the courtroom. He had never walked into this room in circumstances that were not tense and sometimes even life threatening. As they walked into the courtroom Kingsley smiled at them kindly from his seat in the front of the bench. He motioned for them to come and sit next to him. The only time that Harry had seen the courtroom from this perspective was in Dumbledore’s pensive, as he sat down with his two best friends, he couldn’t help but wonder what kind of experience that were about to have.

“I wanted to thank you again for this,” said Kingsley, “please don’t be apprehensive, we do not expect you to have information on every case, we will be grateful for any information that you can provide.”

     The first two people who were brought into the court were people that none of them had ever seen, the court heard their evidence and ended up dismissing both of them as innocent. The third person brought into the courtroom was Stan Shunpike, who Harry happened to know had been under the Imperius curse.

“Stanley Shunpike, you have been accused of actions against the ministry of magic, and for passing information to Death Eaters. How do you plead?” said Kingsley.

“N-n-not guilty. I swear I was under the Imperius curse. I would never help those people.” Stan said, his voice trembling.

     They went through the evidence in his case, and then just as he had with each of the other cases Kingsley turned to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry looked at the other two and then stood slowly.

“I happen to know…” said Harry slowly, “that this man was indeed under the Imperius Curse. I saw him along with many others, being used by the Death Eaters as puppets last year. He is telling the truth.”

     Harry sat down looking slightly uncomfortable, but Stan was looking at him as if he was the most wonderful person in the whole world.

“Very well,” said Kingsley, “on the testimony of our key witnesses, the accused will be cleared of all charges. Mr. Shunpike you are free to go.”

     Stan stood up shakily and walked towards the door, all the while breathing a steady stream of thank you’s in Harry’s direction. As he left the next prisoner was brought in, Harry felt a jerk of vindictive pleasure as he recognized the squat little woman who sat before them. He glanced sideways at Ron and Hermione, who both had very satisfied expressions on their faces.

“Delores Umbridge,” said Kingsley, “you have been accused of using corporal punishment on students as a teacher at Hogwarts School, helping the Death Eaters in the regime against Muggle Borns, and threatening the use of Unforgivable curses on underage witches and wizards, how do you plead?

“Not guilty!” she said, “I have never willingly done anything to harm a fellow witch or wizard.”

     This time it was Hermione who stood, her eyes were hard and blazing as she spoke and every face in the room was focused intently on her.

“Minister…” she began, “I happened to have been sitting in this very room last year, disguised as a Ministry official, while this women sentenced dozens of Muggle born witches and wizards to Azkaban for the absurd reason that they could not prove their lineage! I was also in the room the night that she attempted to use the Cruciatus Curse on Harry to get him to tell her the whereabouts of Dumbledore, in our fifth year. At that time I believe her words were, ‘what Fudge doesn’t know won’t hurt him’.”

     There were several gasps of outrage at this last statement and many people turned to glare at Umbridge who seemed to shrink into her seat with each word Hermione said. As Hermione stood their trembling with rage Ron got to his feet and stood beside her.

“And she did use corporal punishment at Hogwarts.” He said, “Harry has the scar to prove it.”

     There were more cries of outrage as all eyes turned to Harry, who gave a triumphant look towards Umbridge before holding out his hand so that the room could see the thin white scars that spelled out the words. I must not tell lies.

“Umbridge gave me these,” he said indicating to his hand, “for speaking out about Lord Voldemort’s return in my fifth year.”

     An angry murmur had begun to grow in the room and Umbridge looked around into the faces of her accusers, a look of panic was growing on her face.

“Now see here!” she said loudly, “these children are not even part of this committee, I have been a dedicated servant of the Ministry for years! How can you take their word over mine?”

Kingsley gave her a look so stern that she froze in her seat and stared at him in terror.

“These young people, have shown more bravery and self sacrifice, than a bottom feeder like yourself will ever know. Don’t you ever speak of them with that kind of disrespect again.” He turned his attention back to the Wizandgamot. “Ladies and gentleman you have heard the charges, all in favor of a five year sentence to Azkaban, and permanent dismissal from the Ministry of Magic please raise their hands.”

     Almost every hand in the room rose instantly and Harry thought that he heard some people muttering that they didn’t think the punishment was strong enough. He couldn’t help but feel slightly pleased as Delores Umbridge was lead out of the room still railing about how she was innocent.

     The next few days passed without incident. Harry and Hermione got used to their routine of going to the Ministry each afternoon and Ginny accompanied them on Wednesday to go shopping with Hermione and her mother. The Ball was set for the next Saturday, and they wanted to make sure that they had their dresses. Mr. Weasley had written back to Harry the previous Wednesday evening and told him that Mrs. Weasley usually joined him for a late lunch at the Ministry on Thursday’s and that Harry was welcome to join them, so on Thursday around two o’clock Harry arrived in the Ministry cafeteria. He saw Mr. and Mrs. Weasley sitting in a booth along the far wall with a plate of sandwiches and he walked across the room to join them.

“Hello Harry dear.” Said Mrs. Weasley, as she gave him a warm hug and handed him a sandwich. Harry’s insides were squirming so much that he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to keep it down but he took a few bites anyway to be polite.

“How are the trials going Harry?” said Mr. Weasley conversationally as he munched on a sandwich.

“Really well,” said Harry, “thanks to Hermione’s research we’ve been able to help at least five people be cleared of charges, and we helped them sentence Delores Umbridge.”

“Good for you.” Said Mr. Weasley, “I always hated that woman.”

“Arthur!” said Mrs. Weasley reproachfully.

“Oh Molly, she was a mean little hag and you know it!” said Mr. Weasley. Mrs. Weasley didn’t answer but she pursed her lips together as if she were trying to contain a smile, and then turned her attention back to Harry.

“Now Harry what is it you wished to speak to us about? Nothing’s wrong is it?” she asked.

“No, everything’s fine.” He assured them. “I just wanted to ask you both something.”

“Of course Harry, ask away.” said Mr. Weasley. 

     Harry took a deep breathe. His heart was pounding so hard he thought it might break his ribs, until this moment he had not even considered the possibility that they might say no. Now he was scared to death, but he knew he had to get it over with either way.

“I wanted to ask you for your permission, to propose to your daughter.” He said rapidly, and then he anxiously looked into both their faces trying to gage their reactions.

    Unlike Hermione’s parents, Harry could tell that the Weasley’s had not been expecting this at all. They both looked at him dumbfounded for a few seconds. It was finally Mrs. Weasley who spoke first.

“Harry you know we love you...” she said, her expression was kind, but also worried, “it’s just that you two are so very young…”

“I know that…” said Harry, “I really do… but this is what I want, and I know it’s what Ginny wants too. We know that there is no one else in the world either of us wants to be with, so I’d really like to just make it official. I promise we will wait until we are both out of school and have gotten jobs before we actually get married. Ron, Hermione, and I were thinking that we might like to have a double wedding.”

     Mr. Weasley looked at his wife and took her hand. Harry saw something pass between them silently, and then Mr. Weasley gave her a slight nod before turning back to Harry.

“Harry my boy; you know that we already think of you as our son. Our hesitation has nothing to do with you; it is only because we worry about your young age. That being said, you have seen more in your young life than many older men, and we have full confidence that you will always take care of our daughter to the best of your abilities. So as long as you are willing to wait until you are both out of school and have obtained jobs, then you have our full blessing to ask Ginny to marry you.”

     Harry felt his insides jump for joy and he let a huge sigh of relief as he jumped up to hug his future mother-in-law, and say an ecstatic thank you to them both.

“So,” he said to Mrs. Weasley with a huge grin, “Would you like to see the ring?”

“oh yes!!” she said, and she squealed with delight as he brought it out for her to see. After a few more minutes of animated conversation, Harry checked the time and realized he needed to get to the courtroom.  He said his goodbye’s and promised they’d know as soon as he’d asked her.

     Later that evening Harry, Ron and Hermione were headed back towards the Atrium to return to Hogwarts when Harry stopped them for a minute.

“Hey guys… I just wanted to let you know, that I talked with your parents today Ron, and they gave me the go ahead to ask Ginny. So it’s going to be soon.” He said excitedly.

“Oh Harry! This is so wonderful!!” said Hermione. “Do you know when?”

“I think I have an idea... but I want it to be a surprise.” He said, and then jumped into the fireplace so that they couldn’t ask him anymore questions.

“Bloody hell Harry! Watch it or you’re going to spear me in the neck!” said Ron.

     It had been a little over a week since they had finished the trials. It was now Saturday night, November 20th and the Ball was set to begin at 8 o’clock sharp. Harry was getting ready in his room with Neville and Ron. They had been stealing glances out the window all day. Guests had started arriving around 6 o’clock, many of them were people they had never seen before but there were a couple of familiar faces. A huge powder blue carriage had arrived around 7 o’clock, and Madam Maxine, the enormous headmistress of Beauxbatons Academy, had flown out of it into Hagrid’s waiting arms. Harry recognized a few ministry people, and some of his old friends. He saw Lee Jordan come in with the pretty girl Charity on his arm, and he saw the Patil twins who were in their grade until last year make their way in around 7 30.

     At the moment Harry was attempting to help Ron pin on his new bowtie, but his hands were shaking so badly that he had almost poked him three times.

“What’s gotten into you Harry?” said Ron, as Neville came over to help him instead. “You’ve been acting jumpy all night, is it because of the speech?”

     Harry’s stomach rolled over uncomfortably.

“No Ron, I had actually forgotten the speech until you mentioned it. Thanks a lot...” he said.

Ron shrugged.

“Then what is it?” he asked.

“Tonight’s the night Ron...” said Harry giving him meaningful look.

“You mean you’re gonna….Holy hell…” Ron looked at him in wonder and then gave a low whistle.

“You’re gonna what Harry?” said Neville looking confused.

“You’ll see soon enough Neville, come on let’s go pick up the girls.” said Harry.

     They all had one last quick look in the mirror before they headed down the hall towards Hermione’s room, where Hermione, Luna, and Ginny were getting ready. All three boys were wearing classic black dress robes that they had bought in Diagon Alley the week before. As they reached the staircase to Hermione’s room they looked up and saw Luna coming down first. She looked quite adorable in a dress made of red satin; it had a square neck line and a puffy skirt that came to her knees. She wore her hair down with small strands pinned up on the sides, the effect made her look simple but beautiful. She pranced over to Neville and gave him a light kiss and then turned to Harry and Ron.

“The other two are on their way.” she said smiling. “I can’t wait to see the looks on your faces.”

     Just then they heard the door to Hermione’s room open, and Hermione came down the steps. Harry had thought she looked beautiful at the Yule Ball three years ago, but it was nothing compared to how she looked now. She was wearing a deep blue strapless dress, the bodice was heart shaped and had a thin line of silver that ran around the top and also around her waist. The dress was tight to her body all the way down to her knees where it flared out, making her look like a graceful mermaid. Her hair was pinned so it cascaded down one side of her head in waves, reminding Harry of an old fashioned movie star. She was wearing silver gloves that came to above her elbows, and she smiled shyly as she descended the steps.  Harry looked over at Ron and began to chuckle at the look of awe on Ron’s face.

“Don’t forget to breathe…” he whispered.

     Ron barely registered Harry’s words as Hermione came and stood in front of him.

“You look…” he couldn’t get the words out… he simply stared at her almost hungrily, and she smiled back at him.

     Harry was watching them with amusement when his attention was suddenly drawn away. Ginny was coming down the stairs now. Harry truly felt in that his heart had stopped beating. She was so beautiful he couldn’t breathe, he could barely think. She was wearing a flowy silk dress that was emerald green, her hair was up in an elegant French twist that was held in place by the hair clip Hermione had given her for her birthday. Her hair accentuated her long graceful neck and the plunging neckline on her dress. She was wearing a delicate necklace with a tear drop emerald and she was smiling widely at him as she descended the stairs.

“It’s not polite to stare.” She said when she reached him, as she gave him a kiss.

“You’re making it pretty much impossible not to.” He whispered as he held her close.

“Shall we go down then” said Luna brightly.

“Wait just one minute.” Said Harry, he had realized as Ginny was walking down the stairs, that the moment had finally arrived, and now his hands were shaking as he turned to look at his friends.

“I’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to do something… and right here… surrounded by all of my closest friends. I know this is it.” He turned back to Ginny.

“Ginny Weasley, when I left you two years ago. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I swore to myself that if I made it through what was coming I’d spend the rest of my life with you, and that’s what I want to do.” Harry bent down on one knee, and both Ginny and Luna gasped. Harry finally pulled the little black box out of his pocket.

“Ginerva Weasley will you marry me?” he asked.

“yes!” said Ginny breathlessly, and Harry put the ring on her finger and kissed her vigorously, to the applause of his closest friends.

“Oh there’s a second thing I wanted to ask you.” Said Harry a moment later.

“Oh really?” said Ginny with a quizzical look.

“How do you feel about a double wedding with Ron and Hermione?”

“Are you serious?? Could we??” she said. “I’d love that!”

‘It’s settled then, you and Hermione can start planning to your hearts desire!” said Harry.

     The two girls hugged each other and started talking animatedly. Harry looked at them and then also looked at Neville and Luna who were standing to the side with huge smiles on their faces and suddenly Harry had and idea.

“hey Ron! Come hear!” he said and he pulled Ron aside to whisper the idea in his ear.

“that’s brilliant mate!” said Ron, “But we’ll need to ask the girls too. Hey you two come here for a minute!”  The girls walked over to them, and they shared the idea with them, and they loved it. All four of them turned to Luna and Neville who were looking at them curiously.

“Hey Neville would you like to be me and Ron’s best man?” said Harry.

“and we’d like you to be our maid of honor Luna.” added Hermione.

“Oh that would be lovely!” said Luna happily, “I’ve never been in a wedding before.”

“Wow... thanks you guys!” said Neville appreciatively.

“No problem!” said Ron, “Now we’d better get downstairs… we’re missing the Ball!”

     They all descended the stairs into the Entrance Hall and they were greeted by thunderous applause. There were hundreds of people clapping and cheering for them.  Harry gave his brand new fiancé’s hand a squeeze as they entered the Great Hall.  It was decorated to the hilt; there were candles everywhere and sparkling decorations on all the walls. Harry noticed that Hermione, Ginny, and Luna were not the only witches who had chosen ball gowns over robes. There were many elegant gowns as he looked around the room.

“Harry!” called a voice from across the room, it was Fleur, she was making her way across the floor with Bill, even with the small bump that was beginning to show on her stomach Fleur looked absolutely stunning in robes of deep purple. She kissed his cheek and gave Ginny a hug.

“Have you seen Madam Maxine yet?” she asked, “she is so excited to see you again!”

“No not yet... we just arrived but I’m sure we’ll bump into each other.” said Harry, thinking that it would probably be impossible not to bump into the eight foot tall woman.

Just then Harry heard someone else call his name from behind him, he turned around to see none other than Viktor Krum.

“Hello Harry!” said Viktor, “It’s so wonderful to see you again. It has been too long!”

“It has.” Said Harry, in truth he had just seen Viktor the summer before but he was in disguise so Viktor had not known it was him.

“Have you seen Hermione?” asked Viktor, “I have missed her very much.”

“I think she went with her fiancé to get some punch.” said Ginny pointedly.

“Oh… she is engaged now?” said Viktor sounding disappointed. “To Weasley…” he added, sounding resigned.

“That’s right.” Said Harry, “but I’m sure she’d still like to say hello to you…” he added trying to be polite.

     Viktor shrugged noncommittally.

“Well it was good to see you again Harry.” he said, and then he shuffled off.

     A few minutes later McGonagall found them and told them they needed to make their way towards the head table. They did so and met up with Ron and Hermione about half way there. When people saw that they had reached the head table, everyone took their seats and looked up at them expectantly. Harry knew the moment that he had been dreading had arrived. He took a deep breath and stood to begin his speech.

“Ladies and gentleman,” he began, “Thank you so much for coming here tonight. It means so much to us that you would take the time to travel here from far and wide, just to honor us. I think I speak for both my friends when I say that we often feel that we don’t deserve your adoration. I myself know that while everyone hails me as the savior of our world, that I am nothing special. I was able to do what I did because I had people helping me, protecting me, and sacrificing for me along the way. I could never have done it alone. So firstly I would like to honor all those who helped me along the way whether it was a place to stay or simply an encouraging word, without you. I would not be here, so here’s to all of you. Those who are here with us today, and those who look down on us from a better place.”

     Harry raised his glass, and everyone else mimicked, and they drank in silence. Then Harry continued.

“Secondly I would like to honor the two people who sit to my left. I know in my heart, that I would never have been able accomplish what I did without them beside me. Hermione Granger, is the smartest witch that I have ever known, when we were frustrated and felt defeated she always pushed us to look at things from a different angle, to realize that there was never a problem that didn’t have a solution, you just had to know where to look. She saved my life more than once, she endured terrible pain and suffering for the cause but she never backed down. She is truly one of the bravest people I have ever had the privilege to know.” Harry raised his glass, “to Hermione Granger.” He said.

The audience murmured her name as they all raised their glasses to toast her.

“and Ron Weasley.” Continued Harry, “Ron Weasley has been my rock for many years. He always shows me how to look on the bright side in any situation, he has a knack for making me laugh when I want to scream. I know without him, I would have lost my sanity a long time ago, but Ron never tired of showing me that there is good in the world, even when it isn’t visible, and it’s always worth fighting for. So here’s to Ron Weasley, my dearest friend.” They raised their glasses again.

“and that bring us to the man who changed my life forever.” Said Harry, “Men like Albus Dumbledore come around once in a lifetime. He was the father figure I never had. He was my mentor, my teacher, my conscience, and my most trusted friend. He believed in me so completely that he gave his life, to insure that I succeeded. I know that wherever he is right now, that he is celebrating with us, and his legacy will live on forever as long as we remember him. So here’s to Dumbledore. Wherever you are… I hope that you have finally found peace.”

“Finally…” said Harry, “I want to leave you with this final thought. We have lived in fear for so long, fear of a man who caused pain and terror throughout our world. Yet he was just a man. I did not kill him because I had some great power that no one else could comprehend; I killed him because he simply could not understand the great power of love.  People have asked me numerous times since that day how they can ever repay for what I did, well there is only one thing that I would like from you. Stop living in fear. Don’t be afraid to say Tom Riddle’s name. He was a man, who was born and lived and died just like any other man. So please don’t let him have power of us any longer. Let us live in happiness, and in peace.”

     With that, Harry sat down and the audience responded with vigorous applause and loud cheering. Suddenly Harry had a crazy impulse and he stood back up.

“I actually have one more thing to say.” He gave a guilty smile, and the crowd chuckled, “Albus Dumbledore told me once not to feel sorry for the dead, but to feel sorry for those who live without love. Well thanks to this amazing woman sitting next to me, I will never have to be one of those people. Ginny Weasley is strongest most beautiful, most passionate person I’ve ever had the privilege to know, and I just wanted to let everyone know, about ten minutes ago, she agreed to become my wife.”

   The crowd erupted into cheers and many people jumped to their feet. He saw Mrs. Weasley crying and clapping with Mr. Weasley giving her a one armed hug. As Harry took his seat Ginny grabbed him by the arm and pulled him close to her.

“I can’t believe you just said that in front of all these people!” she said.

“Why not?” he said, “I love you, and I want the whole world to know.”

      The rest of the evening was very enjoyable. Harry and Ginny danced until their feet felt like they were going to fall off. They also felt like their arms were about to be ripped out of their sockets from all the handshakes they had gotten, on their engagement. They had watched with enjoyment as Viktor Krum went to say hello to Hermione, and Ron looked positively smug as she gave Viktor a small hug without leaving Ron’s side. It was almost three in the morning by the time they all made their way back up towards their room. They left Ron and Hermione in the hallway outside Harry’s room, Ron raised his eyebrows when Ginny turned to enter the room with Harry.

“Oh come off it Ron, I’ve been living here for months, and now we’re engaged so why don’t you wipe that look off your face and take the future Mrs. Weasley off to bed.” She said.

Ron gave them a slightly grumpy look but put his arm around Hermione and headed off down the hall. As Harry and Ginny entered their room, Ginny yawned and flopped down on the bed.

“Well that was quite the eventful evening.” She said with a smile, and she absentmindedly held her hand up to admire her ring. “You know…” she continued, “I’ve been waiting so long for this that sometimes I wondered if it would ever really happen…”

     Harry went over and sat down next to her. He leaned over and softly kissed her shoulder.

“Well it did happen…” he said into her ear, “and now… in a few months you get to be Mrs. Ginny Potter.”

“Ginny Potter….” She said as if she were trying to on for size, “I like the sound of that…”

     She turned to face him, and gave him a grin.

“and then we get to start filling our house with lot’s of little Potter’s” she said.

     Harry laughed and kissed her, the idea that he was sitting here discussing his future children with his future wife, was so perfect that he was waiting for someone to pinch him, and bring him back to reality. As he thought to himself about what his children might look like, a thought popped into his head.

“Hey Ginny…” he said, looking down into her radiant face.

“Yes?” she said.

“Umm… you know speaking of the whole, filling our house with little Potter’s thing… you’ve been sleeping here for over two months, and as far as I know, we haven’t made any little Potter’s yet. How come? Not that I’m complaining.” He asked her.

     To his surprise Ginny blushed slightly and looked up at him with a guilty smile.

“Well… last year, since we weren’t really doing any homework that was worth while. I kind of studied and perfected this charm that keeps that from happening. I read about it in a witch magazine, and I looked up the theory and taught myself how to do it.” She explained, “See… I kinda always had it in my mind, that if you lived through that fight with Voldemort, I mean Riddle, that I was going to sleep with you. WE had been apart for so long, and I wanted to do it… so yeah...”

     She was still looking at Harry with a slightly guilty expression on her face but he simply laughed and kissed her on the nose.

“You always keep me guessing Ginny Weasley.” He said appreciatively. “By the way… when you say ‘fill our house with kids’ how many are we talking about?” said Harry, he was picturing the Weasley’s family of seven and he didn’t think was up for quite that many kids.

“Oh, not too many, two or three is enough for me. If we could get one of each gender that would be perfect,” Said Ginny, “A James and a Lily, I think that would make our family quite complete.”

     Harry stopped and looked at her. It took a moment for him to register what she had just said. But now he was overcome with emotion. He felt his throat burning and tears beginning to well up in his eyes. He cupped her face in his hands, and he gazed at her, he was too overcome to speak.

“What’s wrong?” said Ginny and her brows furrowed in concern, “You don’t want to name them after your parents? Cuz it was just an idea…”

     Harry cut her sentence short by kissing her hard.

“No…” he whispered as he pulled away, “I love it… it’s perfect.”

     There was so much more that he wanted to say, but he couldn’t find a way to put it into words. He loved the red haired girl sitting before him so completely that he could not imagine that life would even exist if she didn’t. He knew that his life was meant to be spent with her; there was nothing more perfect in the entire world. He kissed her again, and she responded but then pulled away because she was once again yawning.

“If we don’t go to sleep soon, it’s going to be morning!” She said, and Harry reluctantly agreed.

     That night Harry Potter fell asleep with a kind of happiness that his heart had not felt in a very long time, and knowing that he held his soul mate in his arms.

Chapter 8: Christmas at the Burrow
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Chapter 8: Christmas at the Burrow

     The next two weeks seemed to fly by for Harry. After the ball they had one more week of classes before they went back to the Burrow for their Christmas holidays. The news of Harry and Ginny’s engagement spread throughout the school in a matter of hours, and had made the headlines in at least three major newspapers by the next morning. Yet for once Harry didn’t mind being the center of attention, since it was over something that was making him the happiest he had been in years.

     On the third of December they all made their way back to the Burrow. Ron had unfortunately only gotten the week of Christmas off of work, so he was rather scarce during the day. To Harry’s delight, George and Charlie had asked him if he would mind working a few hours a day in the shop while he was on break, because they were becoming overwhelmed by the Christmas rush. Harry was happy to oblige, while he adored spending time with his fiancé, sitting around the house all day listening to Ginny, Hermione, and Mrs. Weasley discuss wedding colors and flowers was making him antsy. When her brothers had offered, Ginny had practically pushed him out the door to go help.

     It was now the Friday before Christmas, and Harry was headed to Diagon Alley especially early. It was the last sale before the joke shop closed for Christmas, and it was going to be bedlam. As he walked down the stairs he noticed that Ginny and Hermione looked like they were getting ready to go out too.

“Where are you two off to this morning?” he asked, giving Ginny a quick kiss hello.

“We’re actually on our way to Hogwarts.” said Hermione.

“What do you need to do at Hogwarts that you can’t do in two weeks time when we’re back?” said Harry curiously.

“I expect you’ll find out soon enough.” said Ginny vaguely, and they both turned and headed down the stairs.

     Harry shook his head at their secret keeping and then followed them into the kitchen. They both grabbed a bit of toast and then disappeared into the fireplace with a wave goodbye to Harry.

“Do you know what that’s all about?” he asked Mrs. Weasley.

     She gave a knowing smile but then went back to making his breakfast.

“I do...” she said, “but I’m afraid I can’t tell you they want it to be a surprise.”

“Oh thanks a lot Mum…So much for it being rude to keep people in the dark.” said Harry grumpily, but Mrs. Weasley merely chuckled and patted him on the head as she plopped a plate of ham and eggs in front of him.

     Harry hastily ate his breakfast and then threw on the crimson colored robes he was required to wear in the shop before giving Mrs. Weasley a quick kiss on the cheek and jumping into the fire shouting, “Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes!” A moment later he stepped out of the fire place, which was in the back room of the shop, and dusted himself off. He walked out into the main shop to find that it was so packed he could barely move.

“Harry!” called George from across the room, he was standing on his tip toes to see over the crowd, “Could you make your way to the register, and relieve Verity? I need her out on the floor in the Wonder Witch section.”

     Harry obliged him by fighting through the crowd to find a very frazzled looking Verity at the counter trying ring up a pile of products for a young witch while a long line that stretch the length of the shop was waiting behind her.

“Hey let me finish that up…” said Harry sympathetically, “George needs you to help him on the floor.”

     She gave him a very grateful look and then hurried off to help George. It took Harry another two minutes to ring up all the things the young witch had bought and put them in a bag for her. After he handed them to her, she simply stood there looking at him nervously, until people behind her started to make impatient noises.

“Is there something else I can help you with, because if there isn’t you need to let the next person in line through.” said Harry, trying hard not to let the annoyance show in his voice.

“Could I have your autograph?” she asked.

     Harry rolled his eyes and was about to tell her that he didn’t sign autographs while he was at work but suddenly Charlie appeared at his side and did it for him.

“Oi!” he said, “Now listen here, in fact, EVERYONE LISTEN!” he shouted to the line above the loud racket in the shop, “HARRY POTTER IS HERE AS A WORKER IN THIS SHOP! NOT TO SIGN YOUR AUTOGRAPHS, UNDERSTOOD?”

      There was a lot of grumbling and pouting from the customers, but they went back to their shopping, and the girl moved out of the way so the next person could bring their purchases to Harry.

“Thanks...” Harry said to Charlie.

“No problem Harry. Couldn’t have them holding up business…” said Charlie, and he patted Harry on the back, “Besides, you’re my little brother now for all intents and purposes, so I gotta look out for you.”

     Harry grinned at Charlie and went back to helping the customers. He was grateful for how quickly Ron’s brothers had given their blessing to his engagement with Ginny, but Charlie had just made a light bulb come on in Harry’s head, another perfectly wonderful thing that he had yet to think of.

     Harry drug himself through the fireplace later that day and as soon as he got back to the Burrow he sank into the couch with exhaustion. As he had suspected the day had been so busy they hadn’t even had time to stop for a lunch break, and they literally had to shoo people out the door at closing time so they could come home. A moment later Ron walked into the room and sat down in the chair opposite him.

“Long day Harry?” he said with a teasing gin. Harry groaned.

“You have no idea… how was your day?” he asked.

“It was actually really fun.” Said Ron, “we did a Christmas special today, so we basically just had a big Christmas party and told fun stories on the air.”

     Ron was leaning back in the chair and had closed his eyes. Harry sat up; he had just remembered the revelation that had come to him earlier that day.

“Hey Ron, “ he said, “I know that you’re probably going to think I’m totally thick for having just worked this out… but guess what I realized today?”

“What?” said Ron.

“You and I are going to be brothers! Well I mean, you’ve always pretty much been my brother anyway, but now it’s going to be official, we’ll be related. Brothers-in-law.” Sad Harry excitedly.

“Yup...” said Ron with a smile, “Glad you figured that one out. Hermione’s going to be your sister-in-law too you know.” He added.

     Harry was momentarily shocked as he realized Ron was right. He lay back on the couch and began to think to himself. In all his thoughts about being with Ginny forever, he had never realized that marrying her also meant that he could become legally and bindingly connected to almost every person that he had ever considered family. Nothing in the world seemed like it could be more perfect. A few moments later the girls came bouncing into the room looking extremely pleased with themselves.

“Where have you two been all day?” said Ron as Hermione came over and perched on his lap.

“We’ve been making some arrangements for the wedding.” said Ginny, as she sat down on the couch by Harry’s feet, “and we have something to tell you both.”

     Harry sat up and both he and Ron gave their fiancé’s their undivided attention.

“Well…” began Hermione, “we’ve decided on a date and a location that we think are ideal, so we wanted to see if you two agreed.”

“We think that next year on December 20th, would be the perfect date.” said Ginny.

“Winter?” said Harry, the only wedding he’d ever been to was Bill and Fleur’s and it had been in the summer.

“yes, Hermione and I both think Christmas time is the most beautiful time of the year, and it would also give us sometime to get settled in our new jobs before we get married.” said Ginny.

“Yeah… I like it…” said Ron, “but where would be having it then? We obviously couldn’t have it in the backyard like Bill and Fleur did.”

“Well we went to look into that today.” said Hermione with a smile, “We were thinking we could get married at Hogwarts, in the Great Hall. It always looks so beautiful at Christmas time, and it would be over the Christmas Holidays so most of the Students would be at home. We went and talked to McGonagall today, and she said she would be honored to have us be married there. So what do you think?”

     Harry’s mind went to the Great Hall at Christmas, its walls were lined with huge sparkling Christmas trees, and the room was lit by hundreds of candles, he had always thought that the hall looked most beautiful at that time of year. On top of that, Hogwarts was his home, the first place he had ever felt that he truly belonged, it seemed fitting that he would be married there.

“I love it,” he said, “It’s going to be absolutely wonderful.”

“Yeah I agree,” said Ron “couldn’t think of a better idea if I tried!”

     The girls both beamed at them, and they all agreed that they would announce it to the family the following Tuesday on Christmas Eve.

     A few days later they all sat in the living room enjoying a Christmas Eve tradition at the Weasley house. The voice of Mrs. Weasley favorite singer Celestina Warbeck came out of the radio as they all sat comfortably around the fireplace. Fleur, who on previous occasions had no problems with speaking her mind about how ghastly she thought found the music, had this year chosen to simply preoccupy herself with knitting little baby booties. This was a welcome relief, because Mrs. Weasley tended to be rather touchy about her program.  Ginny was sprawled out on the floor in front of the fireplace like a cat, watching Harry with a peaceful happy expression. Harry was sitting a little ways away from her on the floor playing with his godson. He and Ginny has gone and picked Teddy up from his grandma’s earlier that day, so he could have Christmas with them. As soon as Harry had seen how much his godson had grown he’d vowed to never go that long without seeing him again. Harry didn’t want to miss any of the important mile stones in Teddy’s young life.

     Teddy was now sitting up on his own, and was very talkative, even though he was still just babbling in baby talk. Harry was sitting on the floor with the baby and making his little toy cars go zooming around him in circles. Teddy was giggling delighted and trying to catch them as they went zooming by. His hair was fiery red, and Harry suspected this had to do with him wanting to fit in with the majority of the people around him. They had all shared a laugh an hour earlier when, while Harry was feeding him his supper, Teddy suddenly created an exact replica of Harry’s lightening bolt scar on his own forehead. Teddy had got hold of one of the cars that was racing around him and triumphantly began to chew on it.

“You got one!” said Harry encouragingly to his godson.

“Ah ga ga, ba da?” said Teddy holding the car out to Harry.

“Yeah you caught your car!” said Harry, and he tickled the baby’s tummy. Teddy giggled and then gave a terrific yawn and lay down on the floor cuddling his blanket and sucking his thumb.

     Harry stopped the cars, and scooped the baby up into his arms. Teddy cuddled against Harry’s chest instinctively and closed his eyes.

“I think it’s time for someone to go to sleep.” He said to the room, and Ginny got up to join him as they walked up the stairs to her room.

     They had decided that Teddy should sleep in Ginny’s room, because Ron was not to fond of the idea of having a crying baby waking him up in the wee hours of the morning, but Hermione had put a charm on Harry that would allow him to hear Teddy if he fussed no matter where Harry was. Harry put his sleeping godson in his crib, and then tucked the blankets in around him carefully. Ginny leaned over and kissed the sleeping baby on the head, and as she stood back up Harry slipped his arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze.

“Just feels right doesn’t it?” he whispered, she looked up at him and smiled.

“Yeah… “she said as she leaned her head on his shoulder and turned her gaze back to the baby, “it really does…”

     They made their way back downstairs to find that the program had ended and everyone had begun to talk amongst themselves. When Ron and Hermione saw them coming down the stairs they shot them a meaningful look which Harry knew meant it was time to make their announcement.

“Hey everybody!” said Ginny as she and Harry moved to sit by Hermione and Ron. “We have something we’d like to announce.”

“You’re already engaged… what else could you possibly have to announce?” teased Charlie.

“What are you pregnant Gin?” chuckled George.

     Mrs. Weasley spun around at this comment and looked at Harry and Ginny like she was about to start breathing fire. Harry was terrified.

“No! It’s nothing like that… she’s not…” he stammered.

“Thank you for that ever so polite comment George.” Said Ginny sarcastically, “but we just wanted to tell you that we’ve set a date and place for our wedding.”

     Harry saw Mrs. Weasley relaxed immediately and she gave them an apologetic smile, and then proceeded to box George about the ears in annoyance.

“We’ve decided to get married at Hogwarts,” said Hermione, “one year from now at Christmas time.”

“Oh that will be so lovely!!” said Fleur, “I always thought that Hogwarts was so magical at Christmas time. It even made me forget about the horrible cold for a bit.”

“Yes that’s quite perfect,” said Mrs. Weasley, “and it will be much less expensive, because the Great Hall will be decorated all ready.”

“Well, we won’t have to worry about expense anyway, because I’m paying for everything.” Said Harry at once. He had been thinking about this for awhile, he had all the money in his parents vault, and he also got a vast amount more when he turned seventeen the previous year from Sirius’s vault. He had not spent any of it yet because he hadn’t seen the need.

“Oh Harry, we can’t let you do that…” said Hermione and Ron almost simultaneously.

“I want to.” Said Harry earnestly, “you two have been beside me through the last year, and all the dark times. I want to make sure that we all have the best wedding any of us could ever dream of. Please let me do this?”

They both smiled and nodded. He knew that it meant a lot to them to have a nice wedding. Especially for Ron and Ginny, with their large family they so rarely got anything that was in any way extravagant, and Harry was very please to be able to give it to them. Just then Harry heard the distinct sounds of Teddy becoming restless as if they were right in his ear.

“Teddy’s fussing.” He said, and he made to get up.

“You stay here Harry, he probably just needs his diaper changed.” Said Ginny as she got up and walked up the stairs.

     Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw Ron give an involuntary shudder, and Hermione rolled her eyes at him.

“You know you are going to have to get over your disgust with diapers at some point, because I’m not changing every dirty diaper in our house!” she said.

“Yeah well I’ve got plenty of time to get used to the idea…” said Ron with another wary look towards the stairs.

“I think we should get you to change one of Teddy’s diapers before he goes back to his Gram’s” teased Harry, “Then you’ll see it’s not as bad as all that.”

     Ron gave him a look that said if he didn’t shut up right away, he would most likely have a black eye in the next two minutes. Harry said no more but he continued to snigger, along with George, Charlie, and Bill.

     The next morning Harry awoke bright and early. He was of course in Ginny’s room, as soon as they had returned to the Burrow Harry and Hermione had restarted their tradition of Apparating to their respect fiancé’s rooms. Harry sat up slowly in bed and stretched. To his delight he saw that Teddy had managed to pull himself into a shaky standing position, and was bouncing up and down, eyeing the piles of colorfully wrapped presents on the ends of both beds. Harry realized with a jolt of fear that they had not even taken into consideration Mrs. Weasley putting the presents on the end of the beds, but she apparently put them there magically, since there had been no angry scene early in the morning. Harry kissed Ginny cheek and whispered, ‘Merry Christmas’, she stretched and opened her eyes. Harry slipped out of bed to collect Teddy and bring him to sit between them. He grabbed a fistful of Ginny’s hair and began to chew on in.

“Hey that’s mine…” she said sleepily, and she tickled his tummy and pulled her hair out of his hand.

     Teddy giggled loudly and then turned his attention towards the presents at the end of the bed. He began crawling towards them with a very determined look on his face.

“Hey Ginny… I think you’d better open your presents now or Teddy is going to open them for you.” teased Harry.

     Ginny groaned and sat up, she picked up Teddy who was about to reach his goal and plopped him in her lap. He looked terribly frustrated for a moment, but then Ginny picked up one of the presents and Teddy squealed with glee as she let him help her tear off the paper.

     Ginny went through her pile of presents. She got a sneakscope from Bill and Fleur a big box of sweets from Bill and Charlie, along with three of their best Daydreams in a box, accompanied by a note that read: For when Harry’s charm wears off. Ron had given her a note telling her he’d arranged for her to get to meet Gwenog Jones, when she went to the game in a week, and Hermione had gotten her a pretty yet simple black bag, that Harry suspected might have the same kind of engorgement charm as Hermione’s small beaded one. Ginny also got the traditional Christmas presents from her parents, a sweater, and a large box of fudge.

     “Very good haul this year…” she said happily, “I can’t believe Ron got me and meeting with Gwenog Jones! I love his new job.”

“Would you like you present from me now?” said Harry with a smile.

‘Yes please.” said Ginny.

     Harry handed her a little box, inside it was a golden charm that depicted two people in beautiful Ball clothes twirling around together. He picked it up and gently fastened it to her charm bracelet with a tap of his wand.

“That one symbolizes our engagement.” he said with a smile, Ginny returned his smile and leaned over to give him a kiss.

     They gave Teddy his present, which was a miniature Quidditch mobile for over his crib.  He loved watching the little people zooming about, but at the moment he was still having too much fun with all the wrapping paper. Ginny and Harry were sitting there laughing and enjoying him when there was a sharp knock on the door.

“Ginny! Hermione! Time to come down to breakfast!” said Mrs. Weasley’s voice, she tried the door but it was locked.

“Ginerva Weasley why is this door locked!” said Mrs. Weasley sharply.

      Harry jumped out of the bed and grabbed his wand. He knew Mrs. Weasley couldn’t hear them with the Muffliato charm still on the door, but they would have to work fast as to not be found out.

“Hang on Mum… I’m changing Teddy’s diaper.” Ginny lied, and then she turned to Harry, “I’ll tell her Hermione is in the shower, which will buy us some time now go!”

     Harry Apparated quickly back up to Ron’s room. When he arrived there a fraction of a second later he was instantly slightly embarrassed. Ron and Hermione had not woken up yet, and Harry felt awkward about intruding on this private scene. Ron was sprawled out his back snoring loudly, the way he normally slept. Hermione was sleeping on her side cuddled up close to him and using his chest for her pillow, her hand resting lightly over his heart. His arm was wrapped around her almost protectively. Harry thought they looked very peaceful, but then he remembered that Mrs. Weasley would be on her way up here any minute and he quickly got over his embarrassment. 

“Oi! Wake up you two!” he said quietly.

     Hermione, who was a much lighter sleeper than Ron, jumped awake and at the sight of Harry she instinctively pulled the blankets tight around her.

“Harry what are you doing here!” she said heatedly.

“Mum’s on her way up the stairs. Ginny gave the excuse that you were in the shower but you need to be gone before she gets up here!” explained Harry quickly, he was remembering the look on Mrs. Weasley’s face last night when she had thought Ginny was pregnant, and he wasn’t anxious to have that look repeated.

     Hermione immediately sprang into action she reached for Ron’s robe which was hanging on the edge of the bed, and Harry turned his back to her while she put it on. She donned the robe scooped up her pajamas and then Apparated to Ginny’s room with a small pop. Harry hastily unlocked the door and then jumped in his camp bed just as he heard the sound of Mrs. Weasley’s footsteps on the stairs.

     She opened the door to the room and aimed her wand at the curtains which burst open filling the room with light.

“Time to get up you sleepy heads! It’s Christmas!” she said loudly.

     Her voice awakened Ron who, upon seeing her jumped violently and almost said a swear word but caught himself. He looked around the room quickly and seemed to realize that Hermione was not there and Harry was. Then he looked down at himself and pulled the blankets up so rapidly that a couple presents fell on the floor as he checked to make sure he was sufficiently covered up.

     Mrs. Weasley rolled her eyes and tossed the presents back onto Ron’s bed.

“Since when have you slept in the buff Ron? Honestly I don’t see why boys find that so grand, seems a bit vulgar to me. Anyway there’s no reason for such a fuss… I’m your mother, it’s nothing I haven’t seen anyway.” She was apparently attributing Ron’s behavior to being found naked in bed by his mother, and neither of them were about to correct her.

“Now you two open your presents and get downstairs, breakfast will be served in ten minutes.” she said, and then she promptly closed the door and went back downstairs.

“Oh bloody hell Harry…” said Ron as he quickly began to pull on his pajamas before turning his attention to his presents. “ When I saw her face I thought we were goners! How’d you get up here so quick? I didn’t even hear you come in!”

“It’s a good thing the rest of us are lighter sleepers than you Ron.” Harry said with a wink and then he began to open his own presents.

     He was delighted with the all the presents he had gotten. Ron had bought him a very nice pair of Seeker’s goggles, which were apparently impervious to rain, snow, and even helped with sunlight. Ron explained that Hermione had charmed them so they had the same prescription as Harry’s glasses. Hermione had bought both Harry and Ron a really interesting book that had biographies and facts about each of the national Quidditch teams, Bill and Fleur had given him a portable Foe Glass mirror, and Charlie and George had given him a miniature Quidditch pitch with players who responded to voice command, so you could direct your very own Quidditch matches. Ginny present was a card that had a picture inside, it was of a young Sirius standing next to his big flying motorcycle. Harry looked curiously at the card and then handed it to Ron, who looked up at him with a perplexed expression.

“You don’t think she…” he said slowly without finishing the sentence.

     Harry and Ron looked at each other, comprehension dawned on both their faces and they bolted for the door. They thundered down the second floor landing where they met Hermione and Ginny, who was holding baby Teddy in her arms.

‘Is this what I think it is?” said Harry breathlessly, holding out the picture.

“Well let’s go look…” said Ginny with a smile.

     They all made their way down the stairs and to the back door. There sitting in the backyard was Sirius’s shiny, black, flying motorcycle.

“How…” said Harry in wonder, “It crashed…”

“George and Charlie nicked some Muggle motorcycle manuals and put it back together for me in their spare time.” explained Ginny.

“We’ll give you some lessons on tomorrow Harry.” said George, “but I think we’ll leave the flying until you can actually ride more than five feet without tipping over.”

“Ginny you are unbelievable.” said Harry with admiration.

     Ginny just laughed and they all headed back in the house to begin their Christmas celebration. As they were walking through the back door Harry grabbed Ginny’s elbow and leaned to whisper in her ear.

“Hey how did you explain your door being locked to Mum?” he murmured.

“I just said that with Teddy sleeping in the room, it made us feel more secure to have the door locked. That seemed to satisfy her.” she said out of the corner of her mouth.

“You amaze me sometimes…” said Harry appreciatively, and Ginny smiled with satisfaction as she took Teddy to the table and began feeding him his breakfast.

     A few hours later around two o’clock Harry was in the middle of a heated miniature Quidditch game with Charlie. Harry’s tiny Seeker had almost caught the miniscule Snitch, but Charlie’s tiny Beater had pummeled him with a Bludger. The two of them were hunched over the little Quidditch pitch shouting animatedly at their players when Mrs. Weasley entered the room.

“Have you lot seen Ron and Hermione?” she asked, “I haven’t seen them in over an hour…”

“I think they went for a walk Mum…” said Ginny, who was descending the stairs after putting Teddy down for his nap.

“Oh goodness, I hope they dressed warmly it’s quite chilly today.” Said Mrs. Weasley, but then she bustled back into the kitchen to finish preparing the Christmas feast.

     Harry shot Ginny a questioning look. He had not seen Hermione and Ron go outside; in fact he hadn’t seen them at all since after lunch. Ginny gave him a look that told him he should simply drop it, so he shrugged and went back to his game.

     Unfortunately George had been watching their little exchange; he looked from one to the other of them and then focused on Ginny, who gave him her best innocent look. His eyes narrowed in suspicion and he got up and headed for the stairs. Ginny made an almost involuntary movement that looked like she might try to stop him, and he raised his eyebrows at her, and then turned and walked up the stairs. Ginny put her head in her hands and groaned. A minute later George came leaping quietly back down the stairs with a huge grin on his face.

“Ginny Weasley your pants are on fire!!” he teased under his breathe, and then he went back upstairs motioning for Harry and Charlie to follow.

     They had abandoned their game in curiosity the first time he went up the stairs, so they followed him instantly. Ginny sighed and got up to come with them. They quietly trailed behind George who stopped at the top of the stairs about five feet from Ron’s bedroom door. Harry could hear a familiar buzzing in his ears, which he knew to be a sign that someone was using a Muffliato charm against him. But he was surprised that he actually still heard some muffled sounds coming from Ron’s room that left no room for doubt about what was going on behind that door.

“I’m actually quite proud of him.” Said George as they all doubled over in laughter, “do you have any idea how much racket they must be making to be heard through that charm?”

“You’re never going to let him live this down are you?” said Harry, still chuckling.

“Not for a thousand years…” said Charlie with an evil grin.

“How did you know Ginny?” asked Harry.

“Well I saw them come up here after lunch, but I figured they were just hanging out, at the worst snogging. So I came up here after putting Teddy down, to ask Hermione if she still wanted to play exploding Snap with me… and I heard THAT.” She said sending a disgusted look at the door, but she was still giggling.

“Come on let’s leave them alone…” said Charlie, and he steered the three of them back towards the living room, but it was at least another hour before any of them could meet each other’s eyes without laughing again.

Chapter 9: Far Away but Not Yet Gone.
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                                         Chapter 9: Faraway, but Not Yet Gone.

     Harry was lying on his back in the cold dirt, and every muscle in his body ached. George appeared above him and offered him a hand up, which he took gratefully. He picked up the large black motorcycle that was lying on its side at the edge of the road and began to push it back up the lane, to where Ginny and Teddy were sitting on a stump watching him.

“You alright Harry?” said Ginny, as he came closer.

“Yeah I’m fine…” he said, “but I’m going to have some interesting bruises tonight.”

“Now Harry… you have to remember... if you let the clutch out too fast... you stall, and then you crash…” said George.

“Got it...” said Harry, as he remounted the motorcycle.

“Go Uncle Harry!” cheered Ginny, as she bounced Teddy up and down in her lap, and clapped his hands together, he squealed appreciatively.

     Harry pushed his foot down and the bike roared to life he slowly let the clutch off the way George told him too… and the bike moved forward. He was very proud of himself and he accelerated a bit as he road down the lane, there was something soothing about riding the bike, almost like being on a broom. He suddenly realized that he could no longer see his family so he carefully turned the bike around the way George showed him to, and headed back up the lane. He came to a perfect stop in front of the house, and he smiled with satisfaction.

“Good job Harry! A couple more practice sessions and we’ll get you flying!” said George, as he gave him a pat on the back.

     Just then Mrs. Weasley called them in for supper. Harry realized that it had started to get dark, and the temperature was dropping again. He looked at Teddy worried he’d gotten too cold, but then he saw that Ginny had wrapped him in at least six blankets on top of his coat and hat, and his worries were assuaged. They all walked back into the house to find that Mr. Weasley had just returned home from work.

“Good evening all…” he said, “did you have a nice day?”

‘We did...” said Ginny, “Harry’s been learning to ride his motorcycle.” She was now attempting to peel the many blankets off the squirming baby.

“How much time until dinner Molly?” asked Mr. Weasley

“Oh probably another ten minutes…” she said.

“Well then Harry I would like you to accompany me into the living room. There is something I need to discuss with you, Ron, and Hermione.” Mr. Weasley said.

     Harry was slightly confused but he followed Mr. Weasley into the living room. He was unsure what Mr. Weasley could have to discuss with them, but from the tone of his voice he could tell it was something serious. As they entered the living room they found Ron and Hermione curled up on the couch together talking softly. When the two saw them enter they sat up and made room for Harry on the couch, and gave Mr. Weasley a questioning look. Mr. Weasley took seat across from them and looked at them with a very solemn expression.

“Dad what’s going on?” said Hermione with a worried edge to her voice.

“The Minister stopped me on my way home from work today, and asked a favor of me. He asked me to speak with you three and see if you would be willing to come to the ministry tomorrow.” He said.

“What for?” said Harry.

“I’m not entirely sure Harry. Kingsley simply told me, that you have been specifically requested to help the ministry on a mission. He did tell me however, that the affor mentioned mission, would probably be fairly dangerous, and he would understand if you did not want to help. You all have been through enough; you have no obligation to help with the matter. Kingsley was simply hoping that you would come and hear the details before you made your decision.” Mr. Weasley stopped talking and looked at them all concern etched deeply in the lines of his face.

     Harry looked at his two friends, and saw that they both seemed to have the same resigned looks on their faces that he had, and he knew, no matter what the mission was, they were going to do it.

“I don’t suppose hearing them out would hurt...” said Ron, and Harry and Hermione nodded in agreement.

“Why you!” said Ginny bitterly about an hour later.

     Harry had just told her about their upcoming meeting at the ministry and she was, in a word, livid. He reached his hand out to comfort her but she pushed it away and turned to look at him with a furious glare.

“Ginny... you know that there are a million ways that Ron, Hermione, and I can help the ministry. We’ve seen so much more than anyone else, and you know they wouldn’t ask unless they really needed us.” He said gently.

“Well maybe they should try doing something without your help for a change!” said Ginny poutily.

     Harry put his arms around her and held her close, he knew that she was scared, he was scared too, but he also knew this was what he had to do, it was part of him. Ginny looked up at him, her eyes still angry but now also full of worry and care.

‘If what they want you to do is in anyway life threatening, you are walking out of there without a second glance!” she said passionately.

     He shook his head in exasperation and gave her another hug.

“It’s gonna be ok... everything’s gonna be ok.” He said soothingly, and he felt her relax against him.

     The next day Harry, Ron, and Hermione made their way with Mr. Weasley to through the Ministry Atrium, which was extremely crowded first thing in the morning. As they entered the Golden gates of the Ministry they saw Kingsley waiting for them by the large fountain. He greeted them with a warm smile.

“Very nice to see you all. Arthur thank you for bringing them here, now if you three would not mind following me.” With that he headed off down a corridor right off of the main Atrium. He took them into what looked like a small conference room; there was a long table with seven seats at it. When they entered three of the seats were already taken. There were two Aurors that Harry recognized by face but not by name, and the third seat was taken the last person Harry had ever expected to see.

“Draco Malfoy?” said Hermione incredulously, looking from the tall pale blond man, to Kingsley and back.

“Hey Granger,” he said, and then inclined his head towards Harry and Ron, “Weasley, Potter.”

     Harry was momentarily stunned. He had no idea what Draco Malfoy could have to do with this mission. As he looked at Draco he noticed that he looked distinctly different than the last time he had seen him, even though it had only been about seven months Draco seemed to have grown seven years, he was tall and pale and his features resembled his fathers more than ever. Yet something in his demeanor was distinctly different, he no longer looked at them with hatred and disgust, he was looking at them with a purposeful and expectant face. Harry was unsure how, but he could tell that Draco had been forced to grow up very quickly over the past few months.

“Mr. Malfoy became a double agent for us shortly after the battle at Hogwarts.” explained Kingsley. “His mother had defied Lord Voldemort and the remaining Death Eaters, were threatening to have her killed. Therefore Draco faked his mother’s murder, and we have put her in protective custody, so that he might become a spy for us. He now has some valuable information he would like to share with you.”

“Please sit down,” said Draco, and they all obliged, still feeling slightly stunned by this new turn of events.

“A situation has been brewing for sometime and I feel it is unwise to ignore it any longer.” Draco continued, “My father, along with the father’s of Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, have been working on rebuilding the Death Eater’s forces. They have been hiding in a secluded castle in the North of Germany to avoid detection. Most of their followers are young and very inexperienced, but they have a handful of very well trained witches and wizards as their guard. We have decided that the Aurors are going to launch a full scale attack on the castle in early February. That is where you three come in, as much as the Ministry is uncomfortable with the idea of you three joining the fight, after all you’ve been through, I have convinced the Minister, that having you three there will be invaluable, and may save many lives. As I said before most of the followers are young and inexperienced, and the legend of you three has been spread far and wide. I’m fairly certain that upon seeing you three many of the young ones will simply run away in fear, and we have more than enough Aurors to take care of the guard. Breaking the defenses is the key, and I believe you will be invaluable to doing that.” Draco finished his speech and then looked around at each of them.

     Harry felt the knots growing in his stomach. Ginny was right, they were asking them to do something life threatening…again. Yet if they agreed they could potentially save many lives, and he couldn’t deny that they had been in much worse scrapes without the help of anyone. He took a deep breathe, trying not think about the fight he was going to have with Ginny later, and he answered Malfoy.

“I’m in,” he said, “I know I everyone thinks I’ve done enough but I can’t help it, if there’s a chance that I could keep someone else from dying, then I’m in.” He shrugged and then looked to Ron and Hermione.

     Hermione took Ron’s hand and she gave him a meaningful look and he nodded in response and squeezed her hand. Harry was reminded of the similar exchange he had seen between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley a month earlier.

“That goes for us too.” said Hermione with a hard determined voice.

     Draco gave them a look of thanks, and Kingsley got to his feet.

“Thank you all very much. You have no idea how much this means to us.” He said, “that’s all we needed you for today. We will be contacting you in the end of January with the plans for the mission.” He opened the door for them all, but Draco looked hesitant.

“Minister…” he said, “If it’s all right with them, I’d like to stay and talk to these three for a bit, there’s a lot I need to make amends for.”

     The Minister nodded in understanding, and he left the room with the two Aurors in tow. Draco looked down at his hands for a moment.

“I bet you’d like to know how all this happened.” He said quietly.

“You’re damned right we do…” said Ron.

“Well…” Draco began, “It started after you saved my life. Something just switched in my brain, and I started asking myself what I was doing. Actually, I’d started asking myself that long before the battle at Hogwarts, around the time Dumbledore died. The year after that was horrible, so much pain, torture, and death all around me, and there was no way out for me. It made me start to question everything. Why did I put so much stock in purebloods? Look what they were doing.. look how miserable we were.. Why did I admire my father? He was a monster. Then at the battle, my mother defied Voldemort to save me, and when it was all over, my father said he’d kill her. My father said it…. And I realized that he cared more about Voldemort and his cause, then he did about his own family. He wouldn’t have saved my life, my enemy was willing to do more for me than my own father. A week later I took my mother and we left. I’ve been working here ever since, and I finally have something to live for. I live to protect my mother, to make sure that evil can never prevail again.”

     The three of them sat there in stunned silence. They had no idea what to say.

“I owe you each an apology. Weasley, I was such a prat at school, I should never have looked down on you for not having money, I had all the money in the world, and I was miserable. You’ve always been the better man Weasley. Forgive me?” he looked at Ron, who nodded numbly.

“Granger…” he looked at her and then softened his voice, “Hermione…. Words can never express how ashamed I am for the way I treated you. I was raised to believe that you were worthless, but my upbringing is no excuse for how I tormented you. If you can ever find it in your heart to forgive me, I would be most honored.” Hermione gave him a cautious smile, and then nodded her head.

“And you Potter,” said Draco, giving him a significant look, “I don’t even know where to begin. Needless to say, I owe you my life. And I know I will never be able to make up for all I’ve done to you. But I hope you’ll allow me to try.”

     Harry paused for a moment, he was still overwhelmed by this complete turn around that Draco had made, but at the same time. He was very happy that he was finally ready to make amends. Harry stretched out his hand, and shook Draco’s firmly, as he did, he noticed a small golden ring on Draco’s left ring finger. Hermione noticed it as well.

“Draco are you married?” she gasped.

He smiled and looked down at the ring on his finger and then back to Hermione.

“Always keenly perceptive aren’t you Hermione? Yes I’m married, for a little over a month.” He said.

“Who are you married to?” asked Ron.

“Pansy…” said Draco, and he laughed when Ron made a face, “yes, she was quite a piece of work when we were in school wasn’t she? But she’s actually changed a lot too. When she found out that Voldemort had tried to kill me, she started to rethink her upbringing too. When she made the mistake of telling her Mum she didn’t think all Muggle borns were scum, her Mum kicked her out on the street. She wrote to me, because she didn’t have anyone else, but she was terrified I was going to shun her just like her parents did. When she found out that I had also had a change of heart, she came to live with me and my mother. We were married three weeks later; it was a very small ceremony here at the ministry.”

“Wow… you sure have been through a lot…” said Ron.

“yes I have…” said Draco with an ironic smile, “but please tell me what’s been going on with you three, I hear your all engaged.”

     They spent the next hour talking with Draco Malfoy about the events of the past seven months, and by the time lunch rolled around he was inviting them to come have dinner with him and Pansy sometime. As they left Draco by the Golden Gates and headed back towards the fireplaces, they were still all feeling a bit stunned.

“We were just invited to dinner at Draco Malfoy’s!” said Hermione in bewilderment, and they all stepped into the fireplace shaking their heads, and Harry remembered with gloom the conversation he was about to have with Ginny.

“NO!! NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! NO WAY!” screeched Ginny a few minutes later.

     She had met them the minute they had stepped out of the fireplace and demanded to know what was going on. Now she stood facing Harry in the middle of the kitchen giving him a look so petrifying that Harry worried she would starting chucking things at his head at any moment.


“Ginny… I have to do this…” said Harry quietly, he hated hurting her so much.

“NO YOU DON’T!” she screamed, and there was now a pleading in her voice, “THE ONLY PERSON MAKING YOU DO THIS IS YOU! HARRY PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!” she began to sob, and sunk into one of the chairs by the table.

     Harry’s heart was breaking as he watched her, it was only now that he realized the depth of the scars he had given her when he left her last year, and he hated himself so much for making her cry once again.

“Ginny…” he said as he moved to sit next to her, “If I don’t do this countless people could die, they need me there. It’s me that these people fear, my face. I have to go. It’s part of who I am, part of why you love me is because you know that I could never let an innocent person die, if there was anything I could do to save them”

     He took her hands in his and he tilted her face up so that he could meet her puffy red eyes.

“It’s going to be much safer than last year.” He said, “all of the Aurors are coming with us, and most of the people we’ll be fighting are much less experienced than we are. I promise that I am going to do everything I can to be safe, I’m not leaving you again.”

     Ginny gave a disbelieving sniff and looked down at her lap. Harry cupped her face in both his hands and forced her to look him in the eyes.

“I am NOT leaving you, ever again.” He said each word slowly and carefully so she would know how sincere he was. 

      As he did Ginny’s expression softened, her bottom lip quivered and she fell into his arms sobbing again. He held her for a few minutes, just stroking her hair and trying to comfort her.

“You have to promise me something.” Said Ginny, “If you get into a fight that is really bad, you don’t try to be a hero. You turn around, and you run.

     She looked at him with a hard, burning expression, and he knew that she meant ever word of what she was saying.

“Harry Potter, you promise me that you will run.” She said firmly.

“I promise...” he said as he hugged her tightly, “I promise Ginny.”

     Harry watched as the hooded figure ascended the stairs and made his way towards the door at the end of the hall. It had been barricaded shut, but he blasted it open easily. Harry watched as Tom Riddle stepped into the room and lowered the hood of his cloak. He was young and handsome but his eyes were full of hatred. But that was not right, thought Harry; Voldemort had already been pale and warped by the splitting of his soul, when he had come to the Potter’s for Harry. He wondered what this change meant. Riddle crossed the room to the place where Lily Potter was standing over a crib trying to protect her child.

“Stand aside you silly girl I’ve not come for you.” Said Riddle, but it was the soft soothing voice of his younger years, not the high cold voice of Lord Voldemort.

“No!” screamed the woman, “Not Lily! Take me! I’ll do anything, please don’t hurt Lily!”

     Harry was confused, Lily Potter had not screamed for her own life that night, she had pleaded for his. What was going on? He looked back at the cowering woman, and a spasm of horror shot through his heart. The woman he was looking at was not Lily Potter, it was Ginny. She was several years older and she was looking at the approaching man with terror and pleading on her face. He was unable to move as Riddle sent a burst of green light into Ginny’s chest and she crumpled to the floor. The scream of agony seemed stuck in Harry’s throat as he saw the man step over her lifeless body and move towards the little baby in the crib.

     Lily Potter looked into the face of her killer and she began to cry. She thought it had been her father, who had entered the room. She thought it was me, Harry realized in anguish. She was barely big enough to stand up and she had ample amounts of fluffy red hair that framed her round face, and her big brown eyes, just like her mothers. Riddle raised his wand and there was another flash of green light, but this one was accompanied by an explosion.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” screamed Harry, finally finding his voice, and suddenly he was being shaken awake.

“Harry! Wake up! Sweetheart you have to wake up!” said Ginny anxiously.

     They were back in his room at Hogwarts, it was their first night back, and Harry had fallen asleep early because he had been feeling especially worn out that day.

     Harry was quickly coming back to his senses; he looked into the face of the person he loved more than anything else in the world and waves of relief washed through his body.

“Ginny!” he gasped and he grabbed her and hugged her as tight as he possibly could. “Oh you’re alright… you’re alright…” he whispered into her hair.

“Of course I’m alright Harry…” she said, “Sweetheart what did you dream about? You were screaming like crazy.” She looked very worried as she cupped his face in her hand.

“I was dreaming about the night that Riddle killed my parents… or… I thought that’s what I was dreaming about.” He scratched his head in frustration, his thoughts were starting to jumble together and he needed to tell Ginny this before he lost it.

“Something wasn’t right, Riddle wasn’t twisted and evil yet, he still looked like a normal man, and then the scene changed.” He looked at Ginny with fear in his eyes as he remembered it.

“It wasn’t my Mum in the room… it was you were begging for the life of our daughter. For Lily’s life, but he killed you, and then he tried to kill her, but it back fired, just like it did with me… and that’s when you woke me up.” Harry hadn’t realized until that moment that he was shaking.

     Ginny wrapped her arms around him, and rested her head on his shoulder.

“I think that it was just a dream Harry…” she said, “It was probably brought on because you’re going to be going and facing something evil again very soon. I know you worry about putting me in harms way.”

“But what if it wasn’t just a dream… Ginny my dreams have come true…” he said his voice quivering.

“Ok listen,” said Ginny sternly, “First of all, you must not be fully awake yet because the last time I checked, Tom Riddle was dead. So the chances of me being murdered by him in the future are not extremely likely.”

“But it could be someone else...” Harry began to say, but Ginny cut him off.

Secondly…” she said, “I don’t think that you can have dreams that come true anymore, I mean the only reason you had them before was because you had a piece of Riddle’s soul inside you. Now you’re all Harry, so I think you just had a normal everyday nightmare.”

     She leaned up and kissed him on the forehead reassuringly. As soon as she had finished Harry knew that she was right. He was no longer attached to Riddle, his dreams were simply dreams. He exhaled a sigh of relief and then lay back down in the bed. He ran his finger along Ginny’s cheek and smiled.

“So do you want to know what our daughter looked like?” he asked her.

“Sure… but you know she may look nothing like that…” said Ginny.

    Harry could tell she was still trying to make sure that he remembered that the dream was not a premonition of what was to come, and he appreciated it.

“Well I hope she does, because she was beautiful.” Said Harry with a smile, “she had red hair and big brown eyes just like her Mum.” He kissed Ginny’s nose, but she made a slight pouty face.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

“Well... it’s just I always hoped if we had a daughter named Lily, she’d get my hair and your eyes. Then she’d almost be a carbon copy of her grandma.” Ginny explained.

     Harry smiled and then pulled her into his arms.

“Well maybe she will.” He said softly, and then they both slipped into mercifully dreamless sleep.

Chapter 10: To Live and Let Luck
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Chapter 10: To Live and Let Luck

     The next day Harry could not get the dream out of his head. He knew that the dream wasn’t real, but it had made him think. The only reason that Ginny would have to defend their child is if he were dead. He could never let that happen. The promise he made Ginny was burning in his mind, he was going to anything he could to be safe. As he sat in Potions class an idea came to him. He hung back when the class ended to talk to Slughorn, Ginny gave him a quizzical look but he kindly motioned for her to keep going and she obliged. Harry walked back towards Slughorn who was standing at the front of the room.

“Ah hello Harry, nice to see you my boy,” said Slughorn jovially, “I was so pleased that you chose to announce your engagement at my little party.”

“Yeah… it seemed appropriate.” said Harry with a smile, he might have said something quite different on another occasion but he needed Slughorn to be in a good move.

“Professor, I was wondering if you could help me with something.” said Harry carefully.

  “That depends my boy, but I can’t imagine you could ask me for anything too unsuitable.” said Slughorn with a smirk.

     Harry thought about it, he needed to do this right. Slughorn was rather easy to persuade, but Harry would have to word things carefully.

“You see Professor; the ministry has asked me, Ron, and Hermione to help them with a mission. It could potentially be very dangerous, and I promised Ginny that I would do anything to come home to her safely. I never want to leave her alone again.” said Harry.

     Slughorn’s face softened. Harry had purposefully mentioned Ginny because he knew her resemblance to Harry’s mother made Slughorn rather fond of her.

“Of course Harry… she was so very lost without you last year. I’d hate to see her in that pain again, and of course I don’t want any harm to come to you either my boy… But what can I do?” said Slughorn quietly.

“Could you make me some Felix Felicis?” asked Harry slowly.

 “Felix? How might that help?” Slughorn said.

“I know I’d feel better if we had a bit of extra luck to protect us.” said Harry.

“Yes…” said Slughorn, “That just might be the ticket… you are always so keen Harry…just like your mother. When would you need it?”

“I would need it at the beginning of February, and I would need enough for three… no four people, for about 4 hours.” Harry was feeling more hopeful.

“That’s not very long… it takes a full month for the potion to mature.” said Slughorn.

“Well… I’m sure an adept potion maker like you can make a few adjustments.” said Harry, he knew he was pressing his luck, but he was desperate.

     Slughorn smiled and shook his head.

“Right you are boy, come back in three weeks and I will have your potion, and Harry please be careful.” Slughorn said kindly.

     Harry smiled at him in thanks and then headed out of the room, feeling much better about his upcoming mission.

 Harry met up with Hermione and Ginny outside Defense Against the Dark Arts, and they filled Hermione in on what had happened the previous night. She was shocked and disturbed as they had suspected but her opinion tended to be along the same lines as Ginny’s

“I really think that it was just a dream Harry. You aren’t connected to R-r-riddle anymore because he’s dead. I’m sure it must have been horrible, but I don’t think it’s anything to be too worried about.”

     She patted his arm encouragingly as the three of them entered the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom. To Harry’s disappointment the room was set up in the conventional style with desks and chairs, which meant they would not be having a practical lesson today. Harry had really been hoping for something that would take his mind off everything. Hermione on the other hand looked positively ecstatic; Harry knew she was much more comfortable studying a book than trying to master a spell. When they all took their seats Bill began a lecture on nonverbal spells. He explained that while they all knew how to use nonverbal spells, there was another aspect to them that needed to be studied, each spell had a specific motion that was used in performing it, by memorizing these motions, they would be able to predict their opponent’s movements without having to rely on incantations. Harry groaned inwardly, he knew that this was going to require great amounts of tedious memorizing and he had no desire whatsoever to even attempt it with everything else that was going on. At the end of class Bill stopped Harry and Hermione on their way out.

“I wanted to inform you two, that I would like you to come and practice your dueling in here each evening along with Ron for a few hours. I am aware of what you three have agreed to do, and while I think it is completely foolish, I want to make sure that if you are going to do it that you are adequately prepared.” said Bill coolly.

     Harry and Hermione nodded in agreement. While they didn’t like the idea of having to practice every evening, they also wanted to be prepared, and they didn’t want to make Bill any angrier by disagreeing. Harry had a feeling that there were plenty more people who were going to be angry with them by the time this whole thing was over.

     The next few weeks were some of the hardest that Harry had endured over the past eight months. He felt the all too familiar weight in his stomach as the days counted down, moving them closer and closer to their mission. As promised Ron, Hermione and Harry had begun nightly dueling sessions in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Harry was glad for them after a few days because it was painfully obvious that all three of them were very out of practice. Harry worried the most about Hermione, she was never particularly good at dueling to begin with, and she tended to get flustered very easily in high stress situations. On more than one occasion he and Ron had tried to convince her that it might be safer for her to stay behind, but she was adamant that if they were going she was going, and they knew that they would not change her mind, so they settled for trying to train her as thoroughly as possible.

     In the last week of January Draco showed up at the school, to discuss plans with them. His presence brought a fair bit of murmuring from the people who remembered him but he didn’t seem to mind that much. He informed them that the plan was set to take place the following Friday, at two o’clock in the morning. They had picked the late hour hoping to have the element of surprise. Draco would arrive at Hogwarts at one thirty and then the four of them would Apparate back to the Ministry to meet the rest of the team. Then they would all be Apparating to Germany. The plan sounded simple enough, break into the castle, scare away or stun all the younger followers. Either take into custody or kill all the Death Eaters, Draco estimated that with the older of the new recruits, there were probably about ten of them. That was a number that the Aurors should be able to dispose of quickly, but somehow Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that it wouldn’t be that simple.

     On the evening of Thursday February 3, they all sat in Harry’s little living room area rather somberly. Neville and Luna had joined them, as they usually did. They had of course told them what they were going to be doing weeks ago, but now they all sat in relative silence knowing that this was not any other night. At around ten o’clock Hermione finally got up and announced she wanted to go to bed so that she would be able to wake up at one, Ron followed her after giving his little sister a quick hug goodbye. Ginny announced that she was going to go take a shower, and she said goodnight to Luna and Neville. As the two of them were getting ready to leave Harry grabbed Neville’s arm and pulled him back for a moment.

“Neville… I need to ask something of you.” He said solemnly.

“Of course Harry, what’s up?” said Neville.

     Harry took a deep breathe. He desperately did not want to have to think about what he was about to say to Neville, he had been denying it, and pushing it out of his head for weeks, but he knew he had to face it eventually. At least face the possibility.

“Neville, if for some reason, none of us make it out of this thing… I need you to promise me that you will take care of Ginny. That you and Luna will help her heal, help her move on.” He said, and his voice almost cracked with emotion.

“Oh Harry… please don’t even think like that!” said Neville sadly, “Everything’s going to turn out fine.”

“I know it is.” Said Harry, his voice was surer this time, “but I can’t leave her without knowing that no matter what happens, she’ll be taken care of.”

     Neville put a reassuring hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“She will be Harry.” he said, “I promise she will be.”

     With that Harry gave his friend a hug and then watched as he walked out through the portrait hole to meet Luna. A moment later Ginny came out of the bathroom in her robe, her wet hair was clinging to her face and she walked unwaveringly to Harry and began to kiss him. He was caught off guard for a moment, she was kissing him with a surprising amount of passion, it was almost desperate the way she clung to him, and then suddenly he realized what she was doing and he pulled away.

“No…” he said softly.

“No?” she repeated questioningly, “you don’t want to?”

“Of course I want to...” said Harry with a slight role of his eyes, “but I’m not going to let you sleep with me, like you’re saying goodbye or something. I’m coming back, I’ll be sleeping in that bed next to you tomorrow night, and the night after that, and the one after that… for the rest of our lives.”

     He pulled her close and kissed her again, and then he pulled away and rested his forehead on hers. He reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the four small bottles of gold potion he’d picked up from Slughorn earlier that day.

“You see this? It’s Felix Felicis, liquid luck.” he whispered, “I’m keeping my promise, I’m going to be as careful as I can, I’m coming home to you. Believe it, trust it, and trust me.”

     He picked her up and carried her over to the bed, she snuggled herself closely against him and he knew that no matter what he would find a way to come back here to her.

     A few hours later Harry silently slid out of bed and got dressed. He put on a dark sweater over his shirt, because he knew it would help give him stealth while they were in the castle. He met Ron and Hermione in the entrance Hall where they were already waiting for him with Draco.

“You ready?” said Draco importantly.

     Harry nodded and they all set off down the lawn towards the front gates. They didn’t speak to each other as they walked, but Harry noticed that Ron was squeezing Hermione’s hand rather tightly. They stopped just outside the gate and each took their wand out to Apparate to the Ministry.

“Hang on.” said Harry, and he pulled out the four little bottles of gold liquid, he handed one to each of them.

“Felix…” said Hermione breathlessly.

“We’re not taking chances,” said Harry, “it’ll be enough to get us through the night.”

     They all took a bottle and drank its contents, and then they stood together and spun into the darkness. They arrived in the Atrium to find it completely deserted. Harry was reminded of the last time he had been in the Ministry this late, it had been the night of Sirius’s death, the night Dumbledore had fought Voldemort, and then Voldemort had tried to posses Harry. Harry’s mind was brought back to the present by a flickering light in the distance, as his eye’s adjusted he recognized Kingsley accompanied by what looked like twenty other witches and wizards, the group was making it’s way towards them by the light of Kingsley’s wand. When they arrived Kingsley greeted them all in a business like manner.

“It’s good to see you all. These are my Aurors some of them you may know, that’s Dawlish, Cabbert, and Jameson.” He motioned to a few of the wizards to his immediate right and then continued, “Right well we all know why we’re here, before we head out I would like to let Mr. Malfoy go over our plan and some of the basic rules.”

“Right,” said Malfoy, “the first thing we have to remember is that a lot of the people we will encounter will be young and the will be scared. The Death Eater’s have been bringing them in at very young ages, some even as young as fourteen, and trying to brainwash them. Most of the people you encounter will be barely of age, but don’t be fooled. Fear can make your opponent unpredictable, and therefore in some ways even more dangerous. For this reason the most important part of the plan is that we keep these three” he motioned at Harry, Ron, and Hermione, “visible at all times. I have heard the stories being whispered in that castle first hand. Many of the younger recruits think that these three have some kind of great powers that no one understands, that goes especially for Harry. While I’m fairly certain they will be more likely to run than fight at the sight of Harry Potter and his companions, we want to take every precautionary measure. There will be three people assigned to the protection of each of them, Kingsley, Jameson, and Burbrich will be protecting Harry. Myself, Cabbert, and Lauten will be protecting Hermione, and Dawlish, Franklin, and Roberts will be protecting Ron. The rest of you will be the offensive. I encourage you to take any who surrender into custody, these are mostly children who do not understand the gravity of their choices. That being said, once we reach the Inner Sanctum, as they like to call it, things will get much more difficult. By that point the Death Eaters will be aware of our presence. There are only five of the original Death eaters left, my father, Crabbe and Goyle, Alecto Carrow, and Knott, but they have each been training their own protégé’s that they have welcomed into the fold, so the final count is ten highly skilled Death Eaters. When we encounter them I implore you to use extra caution, we will be fighting on their turf, so they will have the advantage. Do not underestimate them.” With that Malfoy was finished, the Aurors took their positions by their respective person, and they all got ready to Apparate.

     Having never been to the castle before Harry, Ron, and Hermione needed to go by Side-Along Apparation. Kingsley held out his arm to Harry and Malfoy did the same to Hermione, but not before motioning to Ron for his approval. Ron gave it, and he looked rather pleased with Malfoy as he took hold of Dawlish’s arm and they all spun into pressing darkness. A moment later they were standing on a hill in the middle of a blizzard. The bitter cold wind was biting at their faces and it was hard to make out anything through the swirling snow.

“The castle is just down there,” said Malfoy pointing towards a large dark shape that was at the bottom of the hill.

“Right so we’ll head in together. Aurors remember who you’re guarding and be sure to keep them out front where they can be seen. Ok let’s move out.” said Kingsley.

     As the moved slowly and quietly down the hill Harry felt his heart pounding in his chest. He could not remember the last time he had been this scared. As they approached the main entrance to the castle they saw that there were two young wizards, who couldn’t have been more than sixteen guarding the gate. As they approached it quietly one of the wizards jumped up and peered out into the darkness.

“Who’s there?” he said sharply, “State your business here!”

     Kingsley gave Harry and encouraging look that he took to mean he was supposed to step forward. He stepped away from the group but as he did all the Aurors filled in behind him with their wands at the ready incase the boy attacked.

“My name is Harry Potter.” Said Harry as he stepped closer so the boy could see his face, “and I’ve come to arrest you all.”

     Just as Malfoy had suspected the boys face froze in terror but the next moment he shouted stupefy! But before the jet of red light could even reach Harry ten more bolts of red light shot out from behind him not only deflecting the spell but Stunning the poor guard boy so thoroughly he was lifted off the ground several inches before he crumpled. The second boy was staring at Harry as if he had somehow caused this to happen all by himself. He turned and ran back into the building without a second glance.

“Oh now we’ve got to be quick.” Said Draco, “He’s undoubtedly going to tell the others.”

     They rushed to open the castle doors which the guard had left unlocked. The main entrance hall was thankfully deserted and Draco led them quickly down the hall and to the right, they were running down a corridor and about to make another right when a jet of red light came around the corner. Draco grabbed Hermione’s arm and yanked her out of the way just in time.

‘Thanks!” she said appreciatively.

“No problem,” he said and then he turned to Harry, “you can always tell the young one’s cause they try to stun first, once we get to the Death Eaters… they kill first ask questions later.

     Harry nodded his head grimly. He had enough experience with Death Eaters to know that they showed no mercy, and he knew that when they met up with them, that one well placed spell was all it took for one of them to be gone. His mind involuntarily went to Fred, who had died of a Killing Curse with a smile still on his face. Harry was quickly brought back to the battle as another stunning spell went soaring past his head. He dove behind a statue and started sending his own spell at their opponents. Within minutes time they had stunned or incapacitated all five of the young ones who were fighting them at the end of the hall. They went down and began to sit them up to talk to them.

“We do not want to hurt you.” Said Draco to them calmly, “all you have to do is surrender and we will take you outside this castle when this battle is over and we will set you free.”

“And what will happen if we choose not to surrender?” said a surly looking boy who seemed to be the leader of the little group.

“You will be arrested and sentenced to a life sentence in Azkaban prison.” Said Kingsley sternly.

     They big boy seemed to wilt at those words and he looked around at his compatriots who were all looking back at him their eyes round with fear.

“We’ll surrender.” He said, “Just promise not to do anything to them...” he motioned towards the other four who sat next to him.

“You have my word that nothing will befall them.” Said Kingsley, and with that they bound the children and told them they would come back for them on the way out.

     They were about to leave when suddenly Draco turned and went back to the bigger boy.

“The password for the Inner Sanctum, what is it?” he asked.

“It’s Salazar this week...” said the boy glumly, and they all took off running down the hall again.

     As they continued on they ran into a few more scraps but nothing they couldn’t handle, as Draco had predicted most of the younger followers ran away in fear when they saw Ron, Hermione, and Harry, and even the ones who tried to stand and fight were no match for the Aurors. Harry was almost beginning to believe that this was too easy but he wouldn’t let himself rest, not quite yet. They hadn’t gotten to the Death Eaters yet, and Harry knew that they would not run away.

     They ran down a much larger corridor now, Harry could see the ornate carving’s of golden snakes that ran the length of the walls, and at the end of the hall was a set of large stone doors with intricate engravings on them.

“This is it!” said Malfoy, “Everyone get ready!” he faced the doors and shouted ‘Salazar’ at them and they opened slowly. Everyone stood facing the doors with their wands at the ready, but when the doors opened there was no one there.

     They were looking into a large circular room, with dark stone walls and chairs that almost looked like thrones set up at intervals around the room. Harry noticed that five of the chairs were large, golden, gaudy things with jewels embedded, while five of them were smaller silver chairs that seemed simpler, and the chairs alternated in a circle around the room. One for each Death Eater and one for their apprentice, thought Harry. Yet the room was completely empty.

“We’ve been set up…” said Malfoy, “They’ve trapped us.”

     From behind them at the other end of the hall they heard a soft musical laugh. They all turned their wands to face the unknown enemy and found themselves looking at a girl of remarkable beauty. She looked to be about the same age as Hermione, Ron, and Harry. Her hair was corn silk blond and fell in a shiny sheet down her back. Her features were soft and supple, but they seemed strangely distorted by the evil smile that was playing on her lips as she slowly moved towards them.

“Hello Rosaline.” Said Draco, he was forcing his voice to be calm but Harry could tell that they were backed into a very tight spot.

‘Nice to see you again Draco,” said Rosaline in her soft musical voice, “you left me for quite a long time... I was rather put out...”

“I left because this place is vile… and you have absolutely no more use for me so let’s get to the point.” said Draco curtly as he raised his wand.

“Very well then.” Said Rosaline, there was no hint of softness in her voice now.

     As she spoke her counterparts came out of the hallway behind her and stood by her side. There were four of them, all boys who looked about them same age as her, and they all eyed the group with a hungry expression. The Aurors pushed Ron, Hermione, Harry, and Draco to the back of the group instinctively as they began to retreat. Suddenly, just at the four of them had been pushed over the threshold and back into the Inner Sanctum the ground gave an almighty lurch and that sent everyone flying. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Draco landed in the middle of the circular room, and Harry looked up just in time to see that all the Aurors had been thrown out of it. Harry felt fear ripple through his body as he realized what was happening. He made eye contact with Dawlish who was the closest to the room, and in that second Dawlish registered the situation and took a great leap landing inside the stone doors just before the crashed shut.

“We’re trapped.” Said Harry to the others, “They were trying to distract the Aurors, to split us up so they could get us alone.”

‘Well it didn’t work now did it!” said Dawlish gruffly and he gave Harry an encouraging look.

     Harry gave him an appreciative look back but he also knew that one Auror would probably not stand up very long against whatever was about to attack them. Then they were there. They appeared in their thrones as if they were some kind of ghastly ghosts. Harry didn’t even hesitate when he saw them.

“RUN!!!!” he yelled at the top of his lungs, and each of them dove behind one of the silver thrones.

“Oh come now Potter… let’s not make this messier than it has to be.” said the cold voice of Lucius Malfoy.

     He began to move towards the throne Harry was hiding behind, but as soon as he did Hermione screamed stupefy! From behind him and he whirled around and sent a Killing Curse in her direction. Ron let out a howl of rage and sent another stunning spell at him which he barely dodged.

“Enough!” he yelled and all the Death Eaters, formed a circle in the middle of the room so they could keep their eyes on all the silver thrones at once.

“Just like old times eh Potter?” said Lucius, “except this time you have no prophecy to bargain with. So you and your friends will die.”

     As he spoke Dawlish sent one of the golden thrones flying at them and it knocked them over like bowling pins. From that point a really fight began, each of them seemed to be locked in a duel with a Death Eater. Harry was fighting against Alecto Carrow who was sending Killing Curses at him right and left but she didn’t seem to have very precise aim. After about five minutes worth of dodging her curses he sent a well aimed Body Bind Curse in her direction, and saw her go stiff and fall to the floor. He jumped up to try and help whoever else needed it. He saw that Ron was battling Goyle while Hermione was battling Crabbe, both of them seemed to be doing fine, but he noticed Draco was getting dangerously close to being pinned into a corner by his father. Harry started sending hexes in Lucius direction but he deflected them easily. He turned back to his son and leered.

‘Look at you, you filthy coward!” he sneered fighting with them, ‘I’ve never seen such a disgrace.”

“I’ll take that as a highest compliment coming from you!” shouted Draco almost gleefully as he sent a well aimed hex at his father that made him go on the retreat.

     Just then Crabbe got in a nice shot that almost hit Hermione, and Ron jumped out of his hiding place to send a spell at him. The minute Ron exposed himself Goyle sent Killing curse right for him, but Harry quickly sent a stunning spell that collided with it the mid air.

“Ha ha! Take that you git!” yelled Ron, but then suddenly several things happened at once. One of the beams of the deflected spell hit the wall above Ron and sent a shower of rocks and dust all over the room, at the same moment Lucius Malfoy had aimed a Killing Curse at Ron in annoyance.

      Harry watched in horror as the green bolt of light flew towards his friend and he crumpled. He stood there completely numb, his legs wouldn’t move his brain refused to work. Ron… it couldn’t be, he refused to believe it. He saw things happening but it was almost as if he were underwater, everything was in slow motion. Crabbe was distracted by Hermione’s desperate scream, and Dawlish took advantage of the moment to stun him. Everything was going black, pain was taking over and he couldn’t resist. Somewhere in the distance Harry heard someone screaming in agony, he thought as he was coming back to his senses that it must be Hermione, but then he realized it was a man’s voice. He looked around and saw Lucius Malfoy writhing on the floor screaming, Hermione was standing over him with her wand pointed at his chest. Realization dawned in Harry and he ran across the room as fast as he could.

“No Hermione!!” he yelled, he got to her and pulled her wand away from Lucius who stopped screaming immediately. Harry quickly put him in a full body bind and then turned to Hermione who was shaking from head to toe. He looked into her face and he tried to embrace her.

“Hermione…” he began but she pushed him away and ran across the room.

     Hermione ran to the place where Ron was lying and fell to her knees beside him. She scooped him up as best she could in her arms.

“Ronald Weasley you wake up right now!!” she pleaded her voice rising with panic, “Do you hear me!! Wake up!! You can’t leave me!! You can’t!! Wake up! I’m not going to let you die! I need you! Ron!! Please!”

     Harry walked slowly over to where Ron lay in Hermione’s arms, he didn’t move. Harry couldn’t breath, he couldn’t move, he could do nothing. He had never felt such pain in his life, not with Dumbledore, or Sirius, it didn’t even compare. This was Ron; Harry felt his whole world falling to pieces around him. Ron couldn’t be dead.

“Harry!” gasped Hermione hysterically, “He can’t be dead! Please Harry he can’t be dead.”

     Harry finally broke. He fell to his knees and he cried, he could not control it, he howled in pain; he pounded his fists into the ground until they bled, and his anguished cries mingled with Hermione’s.

     Hermione wake shaking Ron’s limp body and sobbing when Dawlish and Draco got to them. Dawlish dropped on his knees next to them and began to look Ron over.

“Hermione…” he said, but she paid him no notice, he took her by the shoulder and gave her a firm shake, “Hermione!” he said again.

     She came out of her stupor and looked at him in sorrow.

“Hermione he’s not dead.” Said Dawlish gently.

“What??” she gasped, and Harry felt as if his heart had just been re-inflated like a balloon. He began to shake uncontrollably; there were simply too many emotions for his body to handle.

“Look at this,” said Dawlish, and he turned Ron’s head gently to the side.

     There was a long nasty gash on the back of Ron’s head that had already oozed ample amounts of blood onto the stone floor.

‘It looks as though one of those chunks of rock knocked him unconscious just in the knick of time. That killing spell must have missed him by seconds… It’s a miracle.” explained Dawlish.

“It’s Felix…” Harry said quietly thanking the heavens that he had thought to get them the potion.  

“Here Hermione,” said Dawlish gently, and he took her hand and pressed it to Ron’s chest, “feel his heart beat? He’s alive.”

     Hermione began crying hysterically again when she felt it, but this time it was from relief and joy. A few moments later Ron began to stir and he moaned.

“Oh Bloody hell! What happened to me? Ohhh… my head.” He tried to sit up but fell back.

“You shouldn’t try to sit up right now Ron… you’ve lost a lot of blood.” said Dawlish.

     Hermione threw her arms around him and began smothering him with kisses. In any other situation Harry would have found this utterly disgusting, but in this situation he felt that it was probably appropriate.

“Hermione…” said Ron, “ouch... be careful of my head...Hermione... it’s ok… I’m going to be fine.”

“Harry, Draco, would you mind helping round up these prisoners and getting those doors open?” asked Dawlish.

“Not at all.” said Harry, and they all left Ron and Hermione to have a private moment.

     They went and collected all three of the remaining Death Eaters, Goyle had been killed by the rebound of his curse, and Knott had been killed by a piece of falling rock. As Harry drug Lucius Malfoy to his feet the man turned to give his son a disgusted sneer.

“You are a waste. You know that? You are a disgrace to your family and to your kind.” He snapped at his son.

“No…” said Draco looking him square in the face, “I am a disgrace to YOUR kind, and I’m very proud to say, I do not belong to that world any longer.”

     Lucuis Malfoy spat in his sons face. Draco simply siphoned off the spittle with his wand, and then smiled at Harry. Harry knew that his father’s outright disgust with him was the last thing that Draco needed to be truly free.

“Goodbye father.” He said serenely, and then he turned to open the doors so that they could lead the prisoners out of the castle.

     A few hours later Harry was standing in the hall at St. Mungo’s. There had amazingly been no deaths in the raid, save the two Death Eaters, but there had been many casualties. Ron had actually gotten off quite easy. One of the Aurors had lost three of her fingers. The Healers at St. Mungo’s had patched Ron up in a matter of minutes, but they wanted to keep him for twenty four hours, because he had lost so much blood.

     Harry peeked his head in the door to Ron’s room. Ron was fast asleep in the hospital bed and Hermione was asleep in the chair beside him. Her head was resting on the edge of the bed, and her hand was in his. Harry smiled appreciatively at his best friends and then quietly closed the door.

“How is he Harry?” said Kingsley who had walked up behind him.

“He’s fine…” said Harry, “They patched him up in no time, they just want to keep him here for observation. Though if Dawlish hadn’t managed to get in there, he’d probably be dead, we probably all would be.”

“Yes I’ve put in for him to receive and Order of Merlin first class for that.” said Kingsley, “we’re all very thankful that he had such quick reactions.”

     Harry took a deep breath; there was something he needed to tell Kingsley. Something that he had been thinking about ever since Dawlish had said that Ron was alive. He just didn’t want Kingsley to be upset with him.

‘Minister there’s something I need to tell you.” said Harry.

“Yes what is it Harry?” said Kingsley with mild curiosity.

“I want you to keep Ron and Hermione out of these things from now one. If you still need my help then  I can accept that, and I will do my best to do whatever you need, but the fact is that they have given enough already. I’m the one who wants to become an Auror not them, I’m the one who should be helping you with this stuff. I thought that I had lost my best friend today; I thought that he was dead, and I couldn’t bear for that to happen. So they’re done, as of today.”

     Kingsley looked at him appraisingly, but Harry started right back. He was not going to back down.

“Very well Harry, I understand where you are coming from. It is my sincerest hope that I will never have to ask anything like this from any of you ever again. But if that need should arise, you have my word that I will only involve you, and not your friends.” Kingsley gave him a respectful nod.

“Thank you.” said Harry.

“HARRY!” gasped a breathless voice and suddenly he was attacked by a small red headed person, who he hugged fiercely.

“Are you ok?” said Ginny, her voice thick with emotion.

“I’m perfectly fine… not a scratch.” He said soothingly.

“Ron?” she asked fretfully.

“He’s fine too… he’s sleeping right now.” Harry assured her.

     Just then Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came hurrying down the hall.

“Harry! oh Harry thank goodness you’re alright! Where’s Ron, is going to be alright?” Mrs. Weasley sounded positively frantic.

“Everything’s ok Mum…” said Harry, “Ron’s sleeping. The doctors say he’s fine, and he can go home tomorrow morning.”

“Oh thank goodness…” said Mrs. Weasley as she put her hand to her heart and sank into the nearest chair.

     Ginny leaned against Harry’s chest and he put his arms around her and rested his chin on the top of her head.

‘I told you I’d be home today.” He said softly, and she cuddled tighter against him.


Chapter 11: Clarity
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Chapter 11: Clarity

     Ron was released from St. Mungo’s on Saturday morning, and they took him back to the Burrow. McGonagall had sent word that Harry, Ginny, and Hermione were excused from school until Wednesday so they could spend a little time with their family. Harry was very grateful for this, because he had some things he needed to discuss with them, and he felt it would be easier if he had ample time to explain.

     Upon arriving at the Burrow Mrs. Weasley began shooing a still rather weak Ron towards his bedroom, but he put a hand up and looked at her with a determined expression.

“Hermione’s going to be staying in my room.” he said. 

“Excuse me??” said Mrs. Weasley, “Ronald Bilius Weasley… you know the rules of this house…”

“Mum…” Ron interrupted, his voice was tired but still resolved, “In less than a months time I am going to be nineteen years old. By the time you were nineteen you were already pregnant with Bill. Hermione is my fiancé, we’re going to be married, and she just went through hell, thinking I was dead. I want to keep her close to me… and I’m going to. If you refuse to let me do so in this house, then I’ll go back to Hogsmead.”

     For a moment Harry thought that Mrs. Weasley might be about to tell him to leave, but she gave one more angry glare, and then acquiesced and let Hermione help Ron up the stairs to his room.

“I guess you’ll be staying in Fred and George’s old room then Harry.” she resignedly.

      Harry hesitated, now that Hermione was allowed to stay in Ron’s room, he wondered if dared to ask for the same allowances, but before he could even come to a decision, Mr. Weasley stepped forward towards his wife, and put a hand on her shoulder.

“Molly dear…” he began cautiously, “I think… that if we are letting Hermione stay in Ron’s room, it’s only fair that we let Harry stay with Ginny.”

     Mrs. Weasley looked at her husband like he had gone completely insane, but Harry was leaping for joy on the inside.

“I know…” said Mr. Weasley reading his wife’s expression, “I’m not extremely fond of the idea either, but Ron is right. They are all adults now, and they are going to be married soon, and we knew we’d have to accept this fact of life one day. So as long as they are being responsible.” He shot a look in Harry’s direction and Harry nodded vigorously to assure him. “Then I think we have no choice but to allow them to share a room.”

     There was a long pause as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley stared at each other, and Harry had the distinct impression that they were having an entire conversation silently. Finally Mrs. Weasley seemed to notice Harry was still standing there.

“Well go on then if you must…” she snapped, but Harry knew she’d accepted it.

     Harry walked at a steady normal pace until he was sure that he was out of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s line of sight and then he bolted up the stairs as fast as he could and burst into Ginny’s little room. She jumped violently from her bed where she had been lying.

“Good Lord Harry! You almost gave me a heart attack! What’s up, why are you so chipper?” she said suspiciously.

“Oh just came up to get settled…” he said with a mischievous grin.

‘What do you mean?” said Ginny looking confused.

     Harry plopped down on the bed next to her and kissed her and then he grinned at her again.

“Ron put his foot down and told your Mum that Hermione’s staying with him while we’re here.” explained Harry.

“Ok….” said Ginny still confused.

“So your Dad decided if they got to stay in the same room….” Said Harry, prompting her to figure it out.

‘Oh!” said Ginny excitedly, “You get to stay in here with me! No secret switching?”

“Yup,” said Harry and he laughed as she flew into his arms and hugged him excitedly.

     She began to kiss him purposefully and he felt her gently begin to push him back onto the bed. Her red hair fell around his face in a silky sheet as she moved over top of him. He wrapped his hands around her waist and let his fingers trace the soft skin under the edge of her shirt. But then he remembered that he and Ginny had something they needed to talk about. He pulled his lips from hers, but she simply began to kiss down the side of his neck. He closed his eyes and enjoyed her touch; he had to use all his self control to stop her. 

“Ginny wait…” he whispered, and she stopped and looked down at him.

“What’s up?” she said.

“We need to talk about something, and I think we should talk about it before we continue...” he said, as he brushed her hair back and caressed her cheek.

     She allowed him to sit up and face her and then she absentmindedly began to trace the lines on the palm of his hand.

“What’s up?” she said again, and she gave him a wary look.

“I talked to Kingsley today… and I told him that I don’t want him to involve Ron and Hermione in missions for the ministry anymore.” said Harry slowly, he was trying to gauge her reaction.

“Ok…” she said, she didn’t sound angry, so Harry assumed it was safe to continue.

“Ginny… I love you, and you know I hate having to leave you. But darling, I want to be an Auror, that means even when they’re not asking me to do things just because I’m Harry Potter, my work will always be dangerous… I need to know if you are going to be able to handle that.”

     Ginny looked into his eyes. There were so many emotions in her gaze, fear, sadness, love, determination. Finally she spoke.

“I know that you will always be doing things that are dangerous Harry. You were right before, when you said it’s one of the reasons I love you, because you have to be making the world better, its part of who you are. And yes, I’m always going to hate it when you have to go away, but I will learn to bear it, because I would rather live a life worrying about the man who I love more than life itself, then live a life without you.” She put her hand on his cheek and gave him a loving smile.

“Sometimes… I think you all might have been better off if I just hadn’t sat in Ron’s train compartment first year. Then you all could just lead normal lives, you could have spent your sixth year focusing on being Quidditch captain instead of wondering whether your boyfriend was dead or alive…” said Harry quietly.

‘Harry Potter you seem to forget that if you hadn’t met Ron on the Hogwarts express… then I would be a skeleton in the Chamber of Secrets right now, and Hermione might be dead cuz the creature would have started killing Muggle borns” said Ginny firmly.

     Harry quickly looked up at her. He had not thought of this, but she was right, if he and Ron hadn’t figured out how to get into the Chamber of Secrets then Ginny would have certainly died and Hermione might have been next.

“You have to stop blaming yourself, and realize that we are truly better off for having had you come into our lives. You are not some god damn curse!” she pulled his face to hers and looked him intently in the eyes as she said this.

     Harry sighed and nodded, he wasn’t sure what else to do. He loved Ginny so much, and he wanted to believe what she was saying, but it was so hard, everyone he seemed to care about always ended up being hurt, how could he believe he wasn’t cursed?

“Harry, it wasn’t your fault. None of it was your fault. You were thrown into situations way beyond your level of comprehension, and forced to deal as best you could. Can’t you see how proud I am of you? You are the strongest most amazing person I know, I only wish I could make you see how much we all love you and care for you. No one is going to let you go. So stop trying to make us.” She said firmly.

    Harry was overcome, he had never in his life felt so needed, so appreciated for who he was, flawed and broken. He put a hand on the base of Ginny’s neck and he pulled her to him and kissed her hard. He loved her more than anyone could ever imagine, the man he wanted to be was a man that made her happy, that was what his life was about now. She pushed him back on the bed again and this time Harry did not resist as she once again began kissing his neck and working her way down. He let his hands wander over the smooth soft curves of her body. He pulled her tightly against him and began to kiss her passionately. He knew that for the rest of his life, she was the only person he ever wanted to hold.

     A while later Harry and Ginny lay together in Ginny’s bed.  Harry’s heart was still pounding rather vigorously, and he was feeling a bit light headed.

“I think I might have just found a positive in you going on dangerous missions.” said Ginny playfully.

“I won’t argue with you there…” said Harry giving her a hug, “that was beyond fantastic.”

     Ginny giggled and gave him a kiss on the cheek, as she did her stomach grumbled surprisingly loudly.

“You’re not hungry are you Gin?” teased Harry.

“I’m actually famished, I didn’t have any breakfast and with the workout I just got.” she grinned at him.

“Well you should go get something to eat, I’m gonna pop upstairs and talk with Ron and Hermione for a bit ok?” said Harry.

“Ok... but don’t be too long.” said Ginny with a smile. With that she got out of bed, got dressed and headed downstairs to make herself some lunch.

     Harry pulled his clothes on and headed up towards Ron’s room. He kept his ears open for the buzzing of the Muffliato charm which would indicate Ron and Hermione wanted privacy, but when he reached the top of the stairs he could hear them talking from the other side of the door. He hesitated, because it sounded like they were having a serious conversation.

“I just want to be sure that it’s what you want…” Ron was saying, “Your education is really important to you... I don’t want you to do anything that might screw it up in anyway.”

“Ron…” said Hermione softly, “You are so much more important than anything I could learn, when I thought you were gone, the only thing I could think of was how much time I wasted, on things that don’t matter, when I should have been experiencing life with you. I don’t want to keep missing out, and besides you know that I won’t let my education fall by the wayside, it’s just a change in the way I go about things. Unless, the real reason you’re saying all this is cuz you don’t like the idea..”

“Hermione... I LOVE the idea... I can’t wait, I just wanted you to be sure it’s what you want to do…” said Ron kindly, “and by the way I have to take issue with that bit about us not experiencing life, because in the past few months I’ve experienced some things with you that I hadn’t thought of in my wildest dreams.” Ron added mischievously.

“Oh Ron…” sighed Hermione, “Here you lie weak and injured… and that’s still the first thing on your mind…” she was trying to sound reproachful but the amusement cam through in her voice.

“No the first thing on my mind is you… it’s always you.” said Ron, “but I have to say you have me pretty addicted to the second thing.” Hermione giggled.

     Harry decided he’d better enter before the conversation took a more awkward turn, so he cleared his throat loudly and knocked on the door. He heard Ron say ‘come in’ so he opened the door. Hermione had re arranged Ron’s room so that his bed was the main focus of the room, she had moved it to the center of the wall, and had engorged it so that it could fit them both comfortably. At the moment, Ron was lying in bed propped up with pillows and Hermione was sitting cross legged on top of the covers facing him. They both looked at Harry when he entered and smiled.

“Bloody hell Ron, I’ve seen Inferi that look better than you!” teased Harry.

“Well by the time they got me to St. Mungo’s and patched me up I had lost almost 3 pints of blood.” Retorted Ron, “Let’s see how good you look running on half a tank!”

     They both laughed and Hermione made room for Harry to come sit on the bed next to her. He looked at each of his friends with all the care in the world. They had given so much for him, even though they never said it, he knew that there were few people that loved him quite as much as the two people sitting in front of him.

“But really are you ok?” Harry said to Ron seriously, and he shot a glance at Hermione, who probably knew Ron’s condition better than he did.

“He’s going to be fine,” said Hermione, “Healers can recreate blood, but it’s a tricky process so they don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary. They said he just needs to rest until he gets his strength back.”

     Hermione squeezed Ron’s hand as she said this and he gave her a gentle look. Harry was nodding his head in understanding, and also trying to think of how to begin what he needed to tell them.

“Harry…” said Ron, “I want to thank you for that Felix, I’d be dead as a door nail right now if I hadn’t had it, I’m sure of it. You saved my life.”

“No…” said Harry mildly irritated, “I’m the reason you were almost dead! Why can no one see that? Everyone thinks I’m a hero, but the only reason I save them is because being close to me puts them in situations they need saving from.”

“Harry… don’t do that...” said Hermione gently, but he cut her off.

‘It’s true Hermione; you have both been through so much because of me. Because you happened to become friends with ‘the Chosen One’ and if anything happened to either of you, it would be my fault. I’ve asked Kingsley to no longer include you in missions at the ministry. It’s not your job to risk your lives and I can’t make you do it any longer.” Harry looked down at his hands, his emotions were threatening to overtake him.

     He felt a soft hand on his shoulder and he looked up to meet their gaze. Hermione was looking at him intently, and Ron was simply giving him a sort of sad exasperated smile.

“Harry listen to me…” Hermione began slowly, “You have been a wonderful friend to me and Ron, I really doubt we would have found each other if it wasn’t for you, and I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if you hadn’t pushed me and encouraged me. As far as the darkness that was brought into our lives, you didn’t do that Harry, Riddle did by making you his target. It wasn’t as if Ron and I were forced to stay by your side Harry, we did it because we love you, and that’s not going to change.”

“And we did it because we want to stop evil just as much as you Harry,” said Ron, “I’ve never seen your friendship as a burden, it’s given me the opportunity to help in ways that I never would have been able to as plain Ron Weasley, and you can’t blame yourself for every bloody thing that goes wrong in the world, sometimes things just happen.”

     Harry looked into the faces of his two best friends and truly appreciated the fact that they were not going anywhere. He smiled at them and shook his head.

“Thank you, for everything. There will never be a way to even begin to pay you back for all you’ve done, but I have to put my foot down on one thing. No more missions.” They began to protest but this time it was Harry that cut them off, “Ron you are a radio commentator, and Hermione whatever you choose to do I’m betting it’s not going to have to do with actively fighting Dark Wizards, I’m the one who wants to be an Auror, who wants to fight evil for the rest of my life. It’s not fair to keep pulling you back in, everyone’s right, you’ve done enough. So can you please be content with helping me from the sidelines like you’re so wonderful at? You always encouraging me and coming up with inventive ideas Ron, and you looking for a book that will tell us everything we need to know Hermione. I will always need you there in that capacity, but I can’t have you coming into the battle with me anymore, I can’t have your blood on my hands. I just can’t.” his voice trailed off as he finished.

     They both looked at him with understanding and they nodded slowly.

“Ok Harry… we can do that.” said Hermione giving his shoulder a squeeze.

“Thank you…” said Harry quietly and then he got up off the bed, ‘I’d better get back to Ginny, did you guys want us to bring you up some lunch?”

“I was going to go down and get us some in a bit.” Said Hermione kindly, “why don’t you go spend some quality time with Ginny?”

     Harry smiled appreciatively at the two of them before he headed to the kitchen to join Ginny in some lunch.

     Later that evening Charlie and George stopped by to check on Ron. Harry and Hermione helped him downstairs to sit in an arm chair in the living room. He was looking better and better by the minute as his brothers regaled them with stories of their newest invention and they all laughed appreciatively.

“yeah we’re launching our new line of Exploding  Toilet seats next week, it should have been this week but some one has been going out almost every night with his girlfriend.” mocked Charlie.

     George made a face at him but seemed otherwise completely unembarrassed.

“You’re just jealous because all you have to keep you company at night are the Pigmy Puffs.” He retorted.

“Who’re you dating George?” asked Ginny in curiosity.

“Angelina…” said George, “She came to see me a lot after... you know everything happened, and it all just sort of clicked into place... You know?”

“I think I might know what that’s like…” said Harry with a smirk as he kissed Ginny on the head.

“Well I think I’m going to head off to bed.” said Ron, “I’m still rather tired.”

“Yeah I bet you are…” breathed Charlie under his breath, and Harry, Ginny, and George began to giggle. George on the other hand was not as discreet as Charlie. He called out to Ron and Hermione as they were headed towards the stairs.

“Oi! Be careful you two. If what we heard on Christmas was any indicator, you might bust Ron’s head open again!” he said with a satisfied smirk. Harry could tell he’d been dying to rib on them about this ever since it happened.

     Both Ron and Hermione turned around very quickly and stared at the group with a horrified expression.

“Were you eavesdropping on us?” gasped Hermione towards George.

“Well not exactly, you weren’t being very quiet.” teased George.

“But we used Muffliato, you shouldn’t have been able to hear anything!” she said irritably.

“That spell is meant to muffle the noise of conversations, but when you’re say…. Screaming at the top of you lungs? You can be heard through it somewhat.” said George.

     Hermione turned a flaming shade of scarlet and turned to huff up the stairs indignantly, grabbing Ron’s arm to pull him with her. Ron was also quite red but when he got to the stairs he turned to give his older brothers a guilty grin, which they returned with thumbs up, and the whole room collapsed into laughter.

     Two days later Harry, Ginny, and Hermione returned to Hogwarts. Ron was in his flat but he was not scheduled to return to work until the following week. Hermione had made a fuss about him staying by himself but he had promised her that he was fine. He was on his feet again, and while he was still slightly pale, he seemed to be back to his old self.

     On Friday night Harry and Ginny were sitting in Harry’s room working on an assignment for Herbology class with Neville helping them, when Hermione and Ron cam bursting into the room looking very happy.

“What’s up with you two?” said Harry as he put down his quill.

“We have something to tell you.” said Hermione breathlessly, “and then I need your help.”

“Ok…” said Harry he was still confused.

“I’ve just spoken to McGonagall… and I’m moving out of Hogwarts.” said Hermione.

“What??” said Ginny, “You can’t drop out of school Hermione! I know that this thing with Ron has been hard on you but think about what you’re doing!”

“Oh don’t be silly I’m not dropping out of school! Ron and I have just decided to move in together.” Said Hermione with an amused sigh, “I’ll be coming up to the school each day for my lessons.”

‘Wow! That so great! Good for you!” said Harry earnestly.

“Yeah, after everything that happened… we just don’t want to waste anymore time being apart you know?” said Ron as he gave he a one armed squeeze.

“Yeah I do.” said Harry with a smile as he glanced at Ginny.

“Wow…Hermione. You’re Head Girl, and now you’re shacking up with your fiancé… talk about Hogwarts scandal.” teased Neville.

“Yes McGonagall wasn’t extremely keen on it either, but there’s no rule that says seventh year students can’t live off the grounds. So she said as long as I kept up with my duties she would allow it.” explained Hermione.

“So what did you need our help with?” asked Harry.

“I was hoping you all would help me levitate all my luggage down to Hogsmead.” said Hermione with a smile.

     They all jumped up to give her a hand smiling and chatting happily.

     The next few weeks seemed like they were straight out of a dream for Harry. He spent long amazing days with Ginny, followed by even more amazing nights. Neville and Luna came to visit them often, and Hermione and Ron also stopped by rather regularly, thought not as regularly as they’d used to. Like Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione were in the honeymoon phase of their new living situation and were acting so unashamedly happy that Harry thought some people must find it sickening, but since he was feeling the same way he didn’t mind a bit. He felt so at peace once again, but it was even better, because he had finally accepted that part of him that would always need to be fighting, and so had everyone else. So he was free. The world seemed absolutely perfect.

     Therefore the scene that met him when he walked into his room one evening towards the end of February surprised him very much. Hermione was sitting on the couch holding a cup of tea which she was staring at intently. Ginny was sitting next to her with a hand on her shoulder in what looked like an attempt to comfort her. Ginny leaned over and said something softly into Hermione’s ear and Hermione nodded slightly. Ginny got up and walked over to Harry.

“I gave her a cup of tea… because it’s what Mum always does to comfort us when we’re upset. But you need to talk to her Harry, she’s not listening to me.” said Ginny gently.

     Harry walked across the room to his friend. He knelt down in front of her and put a hand on her knee, he could tell that Hermione had been crying, and he was completely bewildered as to what could be wrong.

“Hermione…” he said softly, “what in the world is wrong? Is it Ron? What did he do this time? I swear if he’s being stupid again I’ll kill him myself.”

     Hermione gave a weak laugh and Harry moved up next to her on the couch and put his arm around her as she spoke.

“I’m afraid you killing him would only make the problem worse Harry…” she said quietly, “and he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“Then what is it?” Harry pressed gently.

     Hermione turned and looked at him, her lip was trembling and her eyes were filling with tears again. She took a deep breath before she answered him.

“Harry I think that I’m pregnant.” She said, and a few tears spilled over the edges of her eyes.

     Harry sat there… momentarily stunned. He let her words sink in and then without thinking his eyes moved to Hermione’s perfectly flat stomach and then back to her face.

“How… don’t you use that charm?” he was very confused, if Ginny had used a charm that had effectively prevented pregnancy for so long, how could Hermione have messed it up?

“Yes… but it’s… Oh Harry I was just so stupid!” she cried.

“You’re going to have to explain this to me.” said Harry, still thoroughly confused. 

“That charm….” Hermione began, “is not something girls can use all the time because it freezes our reproductive organs, we have to take it off for two weeks every four months, or it can mess things up rather badly.”

     Harry looked to Ginny for confirmation and she nodded slightly. Harry wasn’t sure of the exact workings of the female reproductive system, but he knew enough that this seemed to make sense.

“I decided to take the charm off for the two weeks before we went on that mission. We were all so stressed, tired, and busy that I knew Ron would barely even notice… I was supposed to put the charm back on the day we got back. But then with everything that happened with Ron, I completely forgot about it until later that week, and now… well lets just say all the signs are right.” She looked down again and took a small sip of her tea as if she needed something to do.

     Harry didn’t press her, he was not one hundred percent sure what signs women had that they were pregnant, but in his experience, when they started noticing signs, it was a pretty sure thing. He looked up at Ginny who shrugged in a way that confirmed his suspicion. He squeezed Hermione’s shoulder in comfort.

“Have you told Ron yet?” he asked her.

“No…” said Hermione, “I can’t bear to... there’s a test I can do… a spell that tells you, but I’m too scared.”

“Why?” said Harry, “I mean yeah it’s not ideal timing, but Hermione Ron loves you, and you love him. You’re going to be getting married soon, a baby really isn’t the end of the world.”

“I’m too young Harry...” she whispered, “I have so many more things I want to do before I become a Mum, not to mention I don’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby!”

“Hermione I understand that you’re scared, and I know you weren’t expecting this so soon, but I also know that you’ll be an amazing mother, and you and Ron will still have amazing adventures, and some you couldn’t even imagine.” He hugged her again, “Go home and tell Ron, then take the test, and you two find out whether we’re going to be having a new arrival in our family. I promise everything is going to be ok…”

“You’re right Harry…” she said quietly, and she rose to leave. “Thank you for the tea and the comfort Ginny.” She said.

“Anytime Hermione. Just try not to worry, it’s going to be ok…” Ginny encouraged.

     Hermione bid them a half hearted goodbye and then she walked out the door. Harry turned to Ginny and let his utter shock finally register on his face. Ginny shook her head in agreement.

“Poor Hermione...” she said softly, as she put her arm around Harry, but then she looked up at him and added, “Don’t worry by the way, I’m always very careful.”

“Good.” said Harry, and he gave her a squeeze.

     Harry was not at all surprised when Ron walked into his room the next day looking like someone had just told him his favorite Quidditch team had been permanently disbanded. He slumped down in a chair by the fire without saying a word. Ginny got up and headed for the door but not before shooting an encouraging look in Harry direction.

“She told you then…” said Harry slowly to Ron.

     Ron was staring into the fire but Harry could tell he was not even really seeing it. He nodded numbly in response to the question.

“So did she take the test?” asked Harry.

“Yup…” said Ron weakly, “Little green line came from her stomach to the tip of the wand…” he made a motion as if he was watching the scene again in his mind, “means she’s pregnant.”

     Harry went over and put his hand on Ron’s shoulder, he had been expecting this to be the outcome, but it was also a heavy thing to hear in such finality.

“She’s going to the doctor tomorrow to have it confirmed…” said Ron his voice sounded tired.

“Are you alright mate?” said Harry.

“I dunno Harry… I mean a baby? I love Hermione, and I knew I wanted us to have a family. It’s just really soon. I don’t know how to be a Dad… what if I drop the kid or something.” said Ron, and he put his face in his hands.

“Hey... you’re going to be a great Dad, any kid would be lucky to get you, and as far as worrying about dropping the baby. We’ll get you plenty of practice with Teddy before your kid gets here, so that the chance of brain damage will be minimal for the little guy.” said Harry, “I mean he’s already gonna be at a disadvantage mentally with you as a father.” teased Harry.

     Ron aimed a kick at Harry, but he also smiled.  Harry chuckled and sat down next to his friend.

“I think you’re going to be just fine Ron…” said Harry.

“Yeah I know...” said Ron sounding a bit more re-assured.

     Hermione left for the doctor at four the next day, as soon as her classes were over. Ron arrived in Harry’s room around room around four thirty and he, Harry and Ginny had been waiting there for almost two hours. Harry had asked Kreacher to bring them up some dinner, because he knew they would never get Ron down to the Great Hall, and now a mostly uneaten plate of roast beef sandwiches was sitting on the table. Ron had been anxiously pacing the length of the room for the past half hour and after while Ginny got fed up.

“Ron will you please sit down, your pacing is making me twice as nervous!” she snapped.

“I can’t Ginny... if I sit still I feel like I’m going to explode!” said Ron tensely.

     Harry was unsure what to do for his poor friend. He was almost about to suggest Ron play a game of wizard chess with him, all the while knowing Ron would probably say no. When suddenly the portrait swung open revealing a beaming Hermione. Ron ran to her as fast as he could and put his arms around her.

“How did it go?” he said quickly.

“The charm was wrong! I’m not pregnant!” she said excitedly.

     The three of them stood there in shock for a moment and then Ron let out a yell of relief and happiness as he picked Hermione up and spun her around in a circle.

“Yes, the Doctor explained that false positives are very rare with the spell, but they can happen if a person had been through a particularly bad emotional upheaval.” explained Hermione with a smile. 

     Ginny let out a deep sigh of relief and went over to hug Hermione, while Harry jumped up to do the same, and also to pat Ron on the back.

“See? I told you both that everything would be ok...” said Harry.

“Yes, but I’m not exactly sure this is what you meant.” teased Hermione.

     Harry shrugged non-commitedly and they all laughed.

‘You know… I think I might be just the tiniest bit disappointed.” said Ron as they all moved to take seats around the fire.

     Hermione, who had been settling herself in next to Ron comfortably, looked up at him as though he had completely lost his mind.

“You’re what??” she said.

“Well of course I’m very happy that you’re not pregnant. We’re not ready yet, but this whole situation, and thinking about a baby. Has made me realize that I really want one… later.” said Ron with a smile.

     Hermione gave him a hug and beamed at him adoringly.

Chapter 12: Where the Heart Is
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                                                        Chapter 12: Where the Heart Is

     Harry and Ginny lay in bed together, and at that particular moment they were both laughing so hard they could barely breathe.

“And then what happened?” gasped Ginny.

“Well I sort of started saying random words that sounded like what Muggles think magic spells are and my Uncle Vernon turned even purpler, but I got to do whatever I wanted for that summer. Later they found out about the statute for underage wizardry and I got it good... but it was totally worth it.” Harry was still laughing at the memory.

     When Harry had returned from the mission in Germany he and Ginny had started playing a game every night.  Asking each other questions, and also telling each other things that they thought the other one didn’t know. There were no specific parameters, just anything that popped into their heads. It had now been a month and Harry was absolutely amazed with all the things he’d learned about Ginny, and how much he still had to learn.

“Ok so you heard about the best prank I pulled on my aunt and uncle, now it’s my turn.” Said Harry, “I want to know. What’s the biggest lie you ever got your Mum to believe?”

     Ginny’s face spread into a huge grin and she rolled over and put her head on his chest so she could watch his face as she told the story.

“When I was nine, my Mum had a beautiful china tea pot, and one day Fred, George, and I broke the handle off of it while we were playing tag in the house. Which we weren’t supposed to do, so they came up with this brilliant plan, where I would convince Ron that he did it in his sleep, because Ron had a sleep walking problem when he was little. So I did it, not only did I convince Ron that he knocked over the tea pot in his sleep when he was coming downstairs for a glass of water, but he was so upset that he went to Mum crying about it, and she felt so bad for him that no one got punished! He still thinks that he did it to this day.” She grinned evilly.

“Ginny Weasley remind me never to give you a reason to lie to me, because I’m fairly sure I’d never know it if you did. You are the master conniver.” said Harry in awe.

    Ginny gave a small mocking bow of her head and then laughed.

“So my turn now?” she said, absentmindedly tracing little circles on his chest, which sent shivers down his spine but in all the right ways.

“I was wondering…” she continued, “When was the first time you knew how you felt about me?” she looked at him carefully.

“The first time I knew I had feelings for you? or the first time I knew I loved you?” asked Harry.

“Both.” Said Ginny with a sneaky grin, knowing she snuck in an extra question.

“Well the first time I knew I had feelings for you was when Ron and I pulled back that tapestry and saw you and Dean snogging.” said Harry, he began playing with a strand of her hair as he talked.

“Really??” said Ginny, “That early? I thought it was sometime in the spring…”

“Nope… after I saw you kissing him, the image of you kissing me refused to get out of my head.” said Harry with a smile and Ginny giggled happily.

     Harry gently ran his index finger across Ginny’s cheek until he reached her lips, he traced them gently and she kissed his finger.

“I knew I loved when I came upon you comforting that little girl outside during the battle” He said softly.

“What?? You were there?” whispered Ginny.

“I was under the Cloak, and I was headed to the woods. Headed to my death, and then you were there. I almost couldn’t go, because I loved you so much. You were the one thing that had the power to hold me back, my one selfish reason to want to stay on this earth. I wanted to say goodbye to you so badly, but if I had held you even for a second, I would have never had the strength to let you go.” He pulled her close to him, and she willingly cuddled into his arms.

“So same question.” He said with a smile.

“Well I knew I had feelings for you the first moment I saw you, but you knew that already.” said Ginny with a teasing smirk.

“Yeah… but I’d like to hear the whole story if you don’t mind.” said Harry.

“Well… You walked over to ask Mum how to get to the platform, and I remember that I thought you were the most handsome boy I had ever seen. Being that I was only nine at the time, that was quite a new feeling for me. I think it was your eyes,” she gently put her hand to his face and touched the corner of his eyes as she said this, “I had never seen anyone with such green eyes before. Then I heard Fred and George whispering about how you were Harry Potter. I knew who you were of course, everybody did. So after the Hogwarts express left, I turned to Mum, and I asked her if you were a prince. She laughed and asked me why in the world I would think that. I told her that princes were very handsome boys who saved people, and did brave things. And everybody always talked about the great Harry Potter and what he did, and now I saw that you were very handsome, so I thought you must be a prince. I remember Mum gave me the funniest look that day… now that I think about it; I bet she suspected I would fall in love with you…” Ginny paused for a moment contemplating that thought.

“So when did you fall in love with me?” prompted Harry.

“When? I have no clue… that just sort of happened along the way, but I know when I knew I was in love with you… it was when Hagrid carried you up those steps. Remember what Ron said to Hermione, about how he grew up the moment he thought she was dead. That’s exactly how it happened for me too Harry. Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve found your soul mate, until you are confronted with their death, and you realize that if they are dead, part of what makes you who you are dies along with them. That’s how I knew Harry.” She laid her head against his shoulder and his kissed the top of it. They lay there in silence for a few minutes, each of them reflecting on what the other had said.

“You know Harry…” said Ginny thoughtfully, “You spend so much time worrying about all the bad things that have happened because of the struggles you faced with Riddle, but did you ever stop to think of some of the very good things that came out of it?”

     Harry sat up and looked at her, he was very curious to see where she might be going with this.

“Like what?” he said.

“Well… this is just me speaking from experience, but I think that love like ours… is born out of hardship, you and I love each other so passionately because our love had had to endure so much, and it has, and we know it can, which means we’re bonded in a way that most other people don’t even understand. And look and Ron and Hermione, I honestly don’t know if Ron would have ever gotten around to growing up and loving Hermione the way he was supposed to unless he had been forced to realize that he couldn’t live without her. You have given us all the gift of knowing exactly what is most important in our lives, where our hearts truly lie. That’s a rare and precious gift.” Ginny put her hand over his heart and gave him a warm tender look. He shook his head and smiled at her.

“Ginny you always have a knack for making me out to be the best person on the face of the earth.” He teased.

“Well maybe not the best person… but I want you be able to see just a little, of how I see you.” she said gently, and she gave him a long sweet kiss.

     Harry put his arms around her and snuggled them deep down into the warmth of the blankets on their bed. He buried his face in her wonderful smelling hair and let her mold herself against the curve of his body so that lay together intertwined.

“Ginny I love you so much…” he whispered.

“I love you too Harry, more than you can ever imagine.” she breathed back, and they both drifted off to sleep.

     A few days later Ginny was running around the room trying her best to keep up with little Teddy who had master the skill of walking in the month and a half since they had seen him last. When they had taken him back to Andromeda’s after Christmas they had made an arrangement with her that Harry and Ginny would take him one weekend a month while they were in school and then every other weekend as soon as they finished. Yet with the mission to Germany it had still been almost two months since they had seen Teddy.

     At that moment Teddy came toddling over as fast as his little legs would carry him holding one of Ginny’s shoes and he hid behind Harry for protection. Ginny was close behind him and he squealed in delight as she grabbed him up and blew raspberries on his belly while taking her shoe away from him. Ever since Teddy had arrived and was walking he had been getting into everything, the first order of business was to baby proof their room before his next visit. Harry smiled over at Ginny and Teddy who were now playing with his cars on the floor, Ginny looked up and met his gaze and she grinned back. Harry couldn't help feeling like they were a happy little family.

     Later that evening Ron and Hermione came over to see Teddy for a little while. Ron took the baby in his lap for the first time and began to tell him the story of Babbity Wabitty and the Cackling Stump. While Harry was not one hundred percent sure that the baby even understood what Ron was saying but he seemed to find the different voices and funny faces Ron was making hilarious, and Ron seemed to be enjoying himself as well. As the story ended the baby sighed and then put his head on Ron’s chest and closed his eyes. Ron looked up and met Hermione’s gaze with a smile. Harry walked over and picked up Teddy so he could take him and place him in the crib at the end of the bed.

     A few hours later Harry and Ginny crawled into bed and sat peering over the edge of the crib at the sweet sleeping infant. Ginny gave a sigh and gently brushed the hair on Teddy’s head.

“I almost wish we didn’t have to take him home tomorrow…” she said, “It feels like he just belongs here, with us.”

“I know what you mean…” said Harry giving her a squeeze, “but once we finish school we’ll have him every other weekend, he can even have his very own room, if you like, and in a few years we’ll have a baby of our own.”

     Ginny looked up and him and smiled, he gave her a kiss and then looked back down at his sleeping godson, he leaned over and kissed the top of Teddy’s head, and then lay down with Ginny to have a peaceful nights sleep.

     A few mornings later Harry woke up early and feeling strangely refreshed. He slipped out of bed and hopped into the shower. He let the hot water pour over his neck and shoulders and he relished the feeling, he closed his eyes and let the water flow over his face. Just then he heard the sound of someone else entering the bathroom.

“Mind if I join you?” said Ginny as she stepped around the shower curtain.

     She gave him a kiss and he stepped aside so she could let the water run over her. No matter how many times he saw it Harry could not help but stare at her beautiful body, he could never imagine a day when he wouldn’t want her with ever fiber of his being. He stepped over and put his arms around her so that the water poured over both of them; she leaned up and gave him a kiss as the water flowed over their faces. As Ginny began to wash her hair Harry massaged her shoulders for her and she sighed in enjoyment. Ginny rinsed her hair and then turned back to Harry; she put her arms around his neck and kissed him. The kiss was long and lingering, after a moment he felt her lips part and she gently traced his bottom lip with her tongue. Harry responded by deepening the kiss, he ran his hand down her side from just under her arm to her hip bone and then he placed his hand in the small of her back and pulled her body tight against him. He loved the feel of her soft skin against his. He picked her up and pressed her hard against the wall as he began to kiss her neck and her collar bone slowly working his way down. Ginny let out s small gasp as she entwined her fingers in his hair.

     About two hours later Harry and Ginny made their way towards the Defense Against the Darks Arts class room. The after effects of their early morning activities had not yet worn off, in fact in Potions class they had both been grinning at each other so much that Slughorn had finally asked them if there was some joke he was missing, which simply made them begin to giggle together as they tried to assure him that there wasn’t. When they met up with Hermione outside the Defense Against the Dark Arts class room she gave them both a suspicious look.

“What are you two so cheerful about?” she said.

“Oh nothing…” said Ginny, “It’s just a really lovely day today.”

     Harry’s mood went downhill very quickly when he entered the classroom it was set up with normal rows of desks and each one had a piece of parchment sitting on it numbered one to thirty.

“We’re going to be having a pop quiz today!” said Bill briskly, “I would like all of you to take your seats.”

“Now for the purposes of this exam I could obviously not use a real person as my subject because many of these spell are highly dangerous, I will therefore be sending my non-verbal spells into the chalkboard that you see in front of you.” Harry noticed the large chalkboard that had been moved to the far left corner of the room. “You will have thirty seconds to write down an answer and at the end of the quiz the chalkboard will read back the answers and you will correct you papers. I will warn you that the parchment in front of you has been bewitched so that answers can only be changed within the thirty seconds allotted for them, if you try to change answers later, I shall know. Now let’s begin.” Bill finished and walked to the front of the room.

     Harry was very nervous, he had not practiced his non verbal spell recognition near as much as he should have and he was very worried he might fail this test which would be a dark spot on his almost consistently perfect grades in D.A.D.A. Bill raised his wand and did a swish and flick, a jet of white light shot out of his wand tip and was absorbed by the chalk board. Harry had known it was useless to hope they might get to see the effects the spells, they were supposed to be identifying him them by their movement. Yet for this particular spell it didn’t matter. The minute Bill had made the motion the picture of a large troll getting a club dropped on its head popped into Harry’s mind and he smiled as he began to write.

     Bill cast another spell; he flicked his wand and then pointed it at the board with intensity. The board gave a shudder as the spell hit it, and Harry knew that if it were alive it would be screaming in pain, a shiver went down his spine as he thought of Hermione and Lucius Malfoy, but once again he knew exactly what to write.

     This went on for the next twenty six questions with the exception of two spells that Harry had never seen before; he knew every spell that Bill performed simply from all his experiences. This made Harry think about what Ginny had said the night before, maybe it was time that he stop dwelling on all the bad that had come from his experiences and start to think about the good that brought as well. He knew that having been through what he had been through in his life, would help make him a more keen Auror when the time came, and that in turn could help save even more lives. Bill sent the final spell towards the board. It was one swift and strong slashing movement and a jet of green light shot out of the end of Bill’s wand and hit the board so hard that it jumped and almost toppled over. Harry thought to himself that no one in this room would get the final answer wrong.

     Ten minutes later, Harry, Hermione, and Ginny were all sitting in Harry’s room discussing the test. Harry was rather pleased with his results, he had only gotten two wrong out of the entire thirty questions. Hermione of course had gotten one hundred percent but she was fretting over how much more she needed to study because she had actually guessed on one of the spells!

“Hermione,” said Ginny, “Are you planning anything for Ron’s birthday?”

     Hermione smiled at them both.

“Yes actually I’m planning him a surprise party at the Three Broomsticks. I was hoping maybe you could help me spread the word to some friends up here, since I’m rarely up here in the evenings anymore.” She said with a grin.

“Three Broomsticks eh? You letting Ron gawk at Madam Rosemerta as a birthday present?” teased Harry.

     Hermione shot him a glare but as she turned back to Ginny she smiled.

“So have you talked with Harry about the other thing?” she said.

“No… I haven’t really gotten a chance…” said Ginny with an apologetic look.

“What other thing?” said Harry curiously.

“Well we’ve been thinking that we really need to talk about the guest list for the wedding, because it’s going to be a nightmare if we put it off too long…” said Hermione.

“Why would it be a nightmare?” said Harry.

“Oh Harry…” said Ginny, as she shook her head, “because it’s your wedding. Everyone in the Wizarding world is going to be trying to get an invite to your wedding. So we’re going to have to be careful who we tell where we’re having it, and we’re going to have to be very selective about who we invite.”

“But it’s not just my wedding…” said Harry feeling rather frustrated, he was so sick of being famous, “it’s ours” he said taking Ginny’s hand.

 “ all of ours” he added looking at Hermione.

“I know Harry,” said Ginny, “but we all accept the fact that you’re the one everyone is going to clamoring to see.”

“Well it’s not going to happen like that.” said Harry firmly, “We are only inviting people who are there because they are all of our friends or family.”

     Hermione gave him a grateful smile and then without warning she pulled a huge scrap book out of her little beaded purse which she still carried everywhere. She flipped through it and Harry noticed diagrams, and color charts. He chuckled to himself; leave it to Hermione to be organized in everyway. Harry shot Ginny an amused look and she gave him one back that confirmed she had already spent far too long pouring over this book in her spare time. Hermione flipped towards the back were she had some diagrams of the Great Hall.

“Right.” She said, “McGonagall says that the Great Hall can hold up to four hundred people but I very much doubt we want that many.”

     Harry’s stomach rolled over and he shook his head vigorously. He definitely did not want four hundred sets of eyes watching one of the most intimate and important moments of his life.

“How about two hundred and fifty?” said Ginny, “Then we can still have plenty of room for dancing.”

“That sounds like a good number.” Said Harry, it was still a bit high for him, but he knew any less would be asking a lot, whether he liked it or not, he was famous, and a big wedding was going to be expected.

“Ok, so sometime soon we’ll all sit down and talk about guests.” said Hermione, then she glanced at Harry’s watch and jumped up.

“I’m going to be late for Muggle Studies!” she yelped, and she ran through the door.

“I still don’t get why she took that class up again…” said Harry, “she knows how to live in the Muggle world better than most Muggles.”

“Yes but she’s right. It does give her a different perspective on Muggle relations, and with the job she wants…” Ginny stopped quickly and put her hand to her mouth, looking horrified at herself.

“Hermione knows what job she wants to get after she graduates?” asked Harry in curiosity.

“Yes... but I’m not allowed to talk about it. You know how she is… the job she wants requires Outstanding in every single N.E.W.T. and she doesn’t want to tell people about it until she is sure she can get in.” said Ginny with an eye roll.

“But she knows she’ll get all O’s… she always does…” said Harry exasperatedly.

“That’s not true… she got an E on her Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. Remember? Why do you think she’s studying so hard in that class?”

     Harry laughed and shook his head, it was so like his dear bushy haired friend to decide to go for the most difficult job around, and then make herself sick trying to get it.

“So once she’s gotten all her O’s and she is done worrying like crazy then I get to find out?” said Harry.

“I suppose so. I don’t make the rules, I just have to follow them.” said Ginny raising her hands as if to absolve herself.

“Oh and you can’t let her know that I slipped and told you this.” Ginny added seriously.

     Harry began to laugh again.

“You didn’t tell me anything!” he said incredulously.

“Yes, but she’s being very funny about all of this. She doesn’t want anyone to know she’s got a job in mind. I don’t think even Ron knows, the only reason I know, is because she told me when she thought she was pregnant, cuz she was so worried she’d never get the job if she had a baby.” explained Ginny.

“Ok… Whatever you say Gin...” said Harry with a shrug, sometimes he wondered if he’d ever understand girls.

     Ginny walked over and sat down in Harry’s lap, he could tell by the look on her face that she had something she wanted to talk about.

“What’s up sweetheart?” he asked.

“I wanted to ask you something about the guest list.” she said.

“Ok go for it...” he answered.

“Harry are you going to invite your Aunt, Uncle, and cousin to the wedding?” she asked.

     Harry sat there looking at her for a minute. He had not expected this question, and truth be told he had not thought about it at all.

“I hadn’t really thought about it…” he answered truthfully, “but I guess I might... I mean they were horrible to me, but they’re still my family. I doubt they’d even come… well... Dudley probably would, we made up before I left last summer. Yeah... actually now that I think about it... I think we can just invite Dudley, he’s the only one of the three of them that admitted he didn’t think of me as a waste of space, so I think that warrants and invitation.”

Ginny smiled and gave him a kiss.

“There’s actually something else I wanted to talk to you about Gin.” said Harry.

“Sure, what’s up” said Ginny

“Remember how last night you were talking about how everything I’ve been through with Riddle has brought about good as well as bad?” said Harry. Ginny nodded as she absentmindedly ran her fingers through the untidy hair on the back of his head.

“Well I was thinking about that today in Defense Against the Dark Arts class…. Ginny I realized that everything that I’ve been through and everything that I’ve seen gives me an advantage that other Auror’s won’t have. I’m not saying I’m better than them, or more skilled... it’s just…” Harry struggled to find the words to explain what he was thinking.

“It’s just that you have learned how to handle situations by being thrown straight into them, and it’s given you very keen instincts.” Ginny finished for him.

“Yes,” he said thankfully, “That’s exactly it.” He took her chin between his index finger and thumb and pull her face down so he could kiss her.

“This is what I’ve been trying to tell you silly. If you stop to look at, you have so much to give the world that no one else could. You are much more of a blessing than you have ever been a curse.” she said gently.

“And I can use what I know to save lives…” said Harry. Ever since he a truly understood that fact it had been like a fire in his brain, every time the face of a dead loved one floated to his mind he would tell himself that he would make amends, he would save more lives.

     Ginny took his face gently in her hands and she looked deep into his eyes. He could tell that she was trying to figure out what was going on inside his head. She gently caressed his cheek and looked at him thoughtfully.

“Harry you have nothing to atone for,” she said as if reading his mind, “but I know that I can’t convince you of that by just saying it, I’m simply going to have to stay here beside you until you finally realize it for yourself.”

     She gave him a kiss and he put his arms around her and held her close to him.

‘Thank you...” he whispered, ‘I truly do not know what I’d do without you.”

‘Well hopefully you’ll never have to find out.” She said with a smile, and then she stood up.

“Come on we have to get going or we’ll be late for Herbology.” She said and she held her hand out to him, which he took gratefully, and they walked out of the portrait hole hand in hand.

“OUCH! Neville that’s my foot!” whispered Ginny furiously.

“Sorry! It’s not like I can see anything in here its pitch black. Where are they anyways.” said Neville.

“They should be here any minute!” said Harry softly.

‘Oh I see them their coming up the road!” said Luna from her spot as lookout by the window.

     Everyone crouched low, and waited. They heard the voices of Ron and Hermione coming up the street.

“Hermione, I don’t see why we have to come over here. I honestly don’t care that Aberforth is out of butterbeer, I’d rather just spend my birthday alone with you…” Ron was saying.

“Oh don’t be silly I want to toast you turning nineteen!” said Hermione as they walked up the front steps.

“Umm... Hermione it doesn’t look like its open.” said Ron.

“Oh nonsense, it looks perfectly open to me...” she said pulling him into the dark bar.

“Umm... Hermione…” Ron began questioningly, but then the lights flew on and everyone shouted surprise!! And they cheered.

     Ron was so shocked he jumped back and looked around at the twenty or so faces that filled the room. Then he turned back to Hermione who was grinning at him and he gave her a hug all the while shaking his head.

“Wow… umm... thanks everybody. I definitely did not see this coming. You got me good, but um… yeah… let’s have a party!” said Ron with a smile and they all cheered again.

     Ron made his was over to where Harry and Ginny were standing, and they both gave him hugs. Ron still looked slightly dazed but also very pleased with the turn out he had gotten.

“Happy Birthday mate.” Said Harry, and Ron gave him an appreciative smile before turning to Madam Rosemerta behind the bar.

“One Firewhisky please” he said and then he turned to Harry and grinned, “I’ve always wanted to say that to her.”

     Harry laughed before he also turned to the owner of the bar.

“Make that two Firewhisky’s” he said.

“Three,” said Ginny from beside him.

“Four,” said Hermione coming up beside Ron.

     They all took their shots and then turned to each other, and raised there glasses.

“Here’s to Ron Weasley, the best friend anyone could ask for.” Said Harry and they all clinked their glasses together while Ron turned slightly pink.

     After they had finished their drinks Harry and Ginny made their way through the bar to a table against the wall. They sat their watching with amusement all the things that were going on. Hermione and Ron had taken a seat at a round table with George, Angelina, Charlie, Lee Jordan, Charity, and some other people from Ron’s work, there seemed to be a steady stream of drinks coming to the table and with time everyone seemed to get louder and crazier. After about a half hour Ginny and Harry were distracted as Hagrid came to have a seat next to them.

‘How’re you two doin?” he said.

“We’re great Hagrid.” said Harry.

“Not partakin in the festivities?” said Hagrid.

“No we are... I guess we’re just not as fond of drinking.” said Ginny sending a slightly reproachful look towards the larger table.

     Just as she had said that Hermione got out of her seat and swayed dangerously as she made her way up to the bar, Ron followed her to help her get another bottle of Firewhisky.

“You know...” said Hermione to Rosemerta with a sloppy grin, ‘he’s always fancied you.” She pointed lazily at Ron and giggled.

“I can’t believe you said that Hermione!” said Ron, but he didn’t not look angry he simply laughed with her. Harry seriously wondered if either of them would remember this in the morning. Rosemerta, who had plenty of experience with drunken patrons, simply smiled at the two of them.

“Well it seems he only has eyes for you now.” She said to Hermione patiently.

“Yes... he does...” said Hermione, and then she threw her arms around Ron’s neck and began kissing him avidly, which he responded to immediately.

“Ugghh... gross.” Said Ginny in disgust, “I do NOT like drunk Hermione… it’s like Lavender Brown all over again. I swear if she starts calling him Won-Won I’m leaving.”

     Both Harry and Hagrid laughed appreciatively, and then Hagrid went to the bar to get them each a butterbeer.

“So are you sure you’re doin all righ’ Harry?” he said as he returned, “I heard abou’ the thing you three did fer the Ministry… an I just wanted to be sure tha’ things were goin ok since then.”

     Harry was touched by the amount of care that Hagrid had, he really was like a family member to Harry, like a loveable uncle. He smiled up into Hagrid crinkled black eyes and he patted his arm assuringly.

“I’m actually doing really great Hagrid. That mission helped me realize what’s really important. And even better a combination of that mission and Ginny’s amazing patience helped me finally start thinking about all the ways I can use my past to help make the world a better place, so I think I’m probably the most at peace I’ve been in a long time.” Harry said sincerely.

     Hagrid’s small black eyes began to tear up as Harry spoke and when he was finished Hagrid gave him a firm pat on the back, that almost made Harry choke on his butterbeer.

‘I’m so happy to hear tha’ Harry. I worry ‘bout you so much. Too much put on yer plate too young… I’m so glad you are finally findin some peace.” Hagrid said.

“Thanks Hagrid.” said Harry with a smile.

     Just then there was a loud thump and they looked over to see that Ron had tried to sit down and missed his chair, he was now looking around rather confused, as if he thought the chair had somehow tricked him.

“Hagrid do you think you could maybe help us get Ron and Hermione back to their flat, I think their about done for the night.” said Harry in amusement.

“No problem…” said Hagrid who was chuckling.

     He went over and stood Ron back on his feet, while Harry and Ginny helped Hermione up. They bid goodbye to the rest of Ron’s party guests and then took Ron and Hermione back to their flat and put them in bed before making their way back up to the castle.

Chapter 13: Secrets and Seekers
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                                                  Chapter 13: Secrets and Seekers

     The next day when Harry and Ginny met Hermione outside of Defense Against the Dark Arts it was all they could do to keep straight faces. Her hair was thrown into a messy ponytail and she looked like she hadn’t slept in a few weeks.

“Hey Hermione…looking good.” said Harry with a smirk.

“Ohh... not so loud…” she moaned and put her hands on each side of her head.

     Hermione spent the entire class period with her head down on her desk and after it was over she made her way to Harry and Ginny’s room where she flopped on the couch and groaned.

“If I ever even think about touching a drop of Firewhisky for the rest of my life, promise me that you will slap me silly.” she said.

     Harry laughed and went to the kitchen to make her a cup of strong tea; he heard that sometimes that would help. Ginny came over and told him that she would be right back and then she hurried out the door.

“So how’s Ron?” asked Harry in amusement.

“He’s slightly better than me… he can hold his liquor a bit more than I can.” Said Hermione miserably, just then Ginny came back in and she had a small bottle which she poured into Hermione’s tea.

Harry gave her a questioning look.

“Potion I got from Bill, he said it should put her right in about ten minutes.” explained Ginny, “hey what’s that?” she added pointing to the window sill.

     There was a very funny looking bird sitting on the window ledge, he was snowy white but he had a bright yellow comb that he kept fluffing up on the top of his head making him look positively hilarious. Hermione sat up to look at the bird as Ginny brought her the cup of tea. Harry went and opened the window, and the bird flew happily in and gave a high pitched trill which cause Hermione to groan and sink back onto the couch. The bird held out its leg, which had a note attached to it, and Harry reached out to take it.

“Here you go!” said the bird, and both Harry and Ginny jumped.

“Harry did that bird just talk??” said Ginny.

“He’s a cock-a-too...” said Hermione weakly from behind them, she had gotten up and come over, she still looked rather weak but since drinking the tea her color was returning.

“Cock-a-too’s can be trained to say certain phrases but they’re just repeating what they hear, they don’t actually know what their saying.” she explained. 

“Here you go!” said the bird again, still holding out its leg.

     Ginny took the note off and unfolded it. As soon as she did she rolled her eyes and began to laugh.

“I should have known… he belongs to George.” she said, and she handed Harry the note.

      Hello all,

        This is George here, I was wondering if the four of you could pop down to the store on Friday night around nine o’clock, we’re having a bit of a celebration. Don’t dress up it’s casual, though birthday suites are frowned upon. Send me a note back with Freddie McFeatherton. He may look a bit funnier than an owl, but he’s very dependable, and he never shuts up, just like the original. Cheers!


     Harry laughed as he handed the note to Hermione and then he looked back at the strange bird.

“So you’re Freddie are you?” he said.

“Freddie!” said the bird bobbing his head up and down and squawking.

“I wonder what that’s about?” said Hermione.

“Dunno but I guess we should go and find out.” said Harry, he wrote a hasty note telling George they’d be there and tied it to the leg of the bouncing bird, who took off through the now open window.

“You’ll let Ron know that we’re going tomorrow night?” said Harry to Hermione, she nodded slowly and then headed for the portrait still looking slightly ill but much surer on her feet.

     The next night at eight forty five the all met at Ron’s flat. They had been trying to figure out what George might have up his sleeve for the past thirty six hours but none of them had come up with anything particularly good.

“Maybe they have some new invention we get to try first!” said Ron for the third time.

“Maybe we should just go and then we’ll find out!” retorted Ginny.

     Ron made a face at her but then they all Apparated to the spot in front of George’s shop. They could see that lights were on inside but not the main store lights, there was a softer glow coming through the window. They entered and saw that the shelves had been pushed aside to make a wide open space in the middle of the room and there were fairy lights strung all around the room to give it a soft magical feel. George and Charlie were standing towards the front of the room talking. The large picture of Fred that had been at his funeral was also there, and it was interjecting comments where it saw fit. To Harry’s surprise the small wispy haired man who had presided over Dumbledore’s funeral and Bill and Fleur’s wedding was also there. Suddenly Harry was starting to get an idea of what was goin on here.

“George, what the bloody hell is going on?” said Ron.

     George looked up and saw the four of them and a big smile came to his face.

“Ah so glad you could join us! See Angelina and I decided we’re going to get married. We needed two witnesses, we already had Charlie here, but seeing as I couldn’t decide on one of you I just invited you all” said George brightly as if he were informing them that there was a sale on Fanged Frisbee’s.

     They all stood there in stunned silence, they were so overwhelmed with information, that they had no idea what to do next. It was Fred’s photo that finally broke the silence.

“What do you mean only one witness here? What am I chopped liver?” said Fred.

‘No... You’re a painting…” teased George, “so pretty equal to chopped liver in this instance.”

“if I could get out of this frame….” said Fred threateningly.

“then I’d still kick your butt because I always did when you were alive..” said George, then he turned back to the rest of them, “Now you lot come stand by Charlie if you don’t mind.”

     Harry finally remembered how to walk and he led everyone else forward. Now that he was getting over his shock, he found the whole situation absolutely hilarious. Of course this is how George would get married, he shouldn’t have expected anything else. Suddenly they heard the door to the back room open.

“Are you ready for me yet?” called Angelina.

“Yeah we’re ready!” said Charlie, who then began to hum his own rendition of ‘Here Comes the Bride’ loudly while Fred conducted him with grand motions from inside the portrait.

    Angelina stepped out of the doorway wearing a simple white dress that complimented her dark skin beautifully and little flowers in her hair. The minute she saw the antics of Charlie and Fred she began to laugh hysterically, and soon everyone was laughing. They finally regained composure as she reached George and took his hand to stand before the little man.

“We are gathered here today to celebrate the glorious union...” the man began but Angelina cut him off.

“Excuse me, not to be rude. But we’re getting married in the middle of a joke shop. We don’t really need the formalities, just skip to the really important stuff.” she said.

     The little man looked highly affronted but George gazed at her in admiration, and everyone else began to laugh again.

“Very well,” said the little man, “Do you Angelina Marie Johnson; take George Richard Weasley to be your husband?”

‘Don’t do it!! You have so much to live for!!” whispered the picture of Fred and they all chuckled as George aimed a kick at the edge of his frame.

“I do.” She said smiling at George.

“Do you George Richard Weasley take Angelina Marie Johnson to be your lawfully wedded wife.” said the man.

‘You bet I do!” said George with a big grin.

“Rings?” said the man, and they slipped them on each others fingers.

“I know pronounce you bonded for life.” He tapped his wand and a golden chord bound their hands together.

“George you may kiss your bride.”

     George wrapped his arms around Angelina and dipped her low with flourish as he planted a big long kiss on her while they all clapped and cheered.

“All right break it up! You’ll have plenty of time for that later!” said Charlie after a few more moments.

     George and Angelina broke apart and looked around at everyone and grinned then Angelina waved her wand at the back of the store and a table covered in food came flying into the room and plopped down in the middle of the floor.

“Let’s eat!” said George, and they all sat down around the table.

“So George what on earth brought this about so quickly?” said Hermione as she reached for a roasted chicken leg.

“Well…” said George, who was leaning back in his chair with his arm draped across his new wife’s shoulders, “we were talking the other day… about how trading off whose place we stay at every night was getting to be a bother. So I said to Angie, almost jokingly at first, that we should just get married and then everything would be simpler. Well she said, ‘do you want to?’ and well here we are...” he shrugged and grinned.

“We were just going to elope,” said Angelina, “but we thought why not just get married here in the joke shop and then we go on holiday to France for our honeymoon.”

“You’re going to France?” said Ron incredulously.

“Yup we’re leavin tomorrow...” said George happily, “We’ll be there for two weeks and then we’ll be coming back to the Burrow to spend Easter with the family and let Mum and Dad know we’re married.”

     Harry choked on the piece of roast beef that he was eating and looked up at the two of them in disbelief.

“Mum and Dad don’t know you got married?? And you’re going to wait two whole weeks to tell them?” he said in astonishment.

“Well of course they don’t know. Do you really think Mum would have let us get married without her here if she had known?” said George.

“We’re planning to fib and tell them we eloped, so that you all don’t get in trouble, for being in on it.” Angelina assured them.

“Thank goodness for that!” said Ron, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near you when you tell Mum.”

“You’re a braver man than I was George…” teased Fred’s photo as he shook his head mockingly, and George shot him an amused glare.

     They all stayed in the joke shop late into the night. They had a fantastic time, the ate until they felt like they would burst and then they played games and finally George put on some music and they all danced around like crazy. As the music played George’s cock-a-too began to swoop around the room making hilarious noises that almost sounded as if he were trying to sing along.

“Where did you find that thing anyway George?” said Harry as the bird swooped low over him making him duck.

“Angelina found him actually, in a Muggle pet shop. We weren’t one hundred percent sure he would be able to figure out how to carry letters for us at first but he does just fine. And he’s quite a laugh most days. Aren’t you Freddie?” he said this last part to the bird, who had just landed on the top of his head and was sitting their affectionately while George danced looking like a ridiculous hat.

     At about one in the morning Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione decided it was time to leave, they walked out of the shop to Apparate and they were still all talking animatedly about the evening.

“I cannot believe them…” said Ginny, “well at least we know that Easter Break won’t be boring.” She added with a laugh.

‘Oh great scot!” said Ron stopping in his tracks, “That reminds me, the second week of your Easter break I have to spend in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian National team just won their last game of the finals so they are going to the Quidditch World Cup, and Lee wants me to do a week long exclusive where I interview each member of the team in depth. I was wondering if you all wanted to come with me. We’ll get to stay in a nice hotel and you guys can go see the sights. What do you say?”

“That would be so amazing Ron!” said Harry eagerly.

“Oh yes Ron that would be so much fun!” Ginny echoed.

     They all Apparated back to Hogsmead and Ginny and Harry left Hermione and Ron at the door to the Hogs head as they headed back up towards the castle talking excitedly.

“Harry dear if you don’t watch what you’re doing there will be no potatoes left!” said Molly Weasley.

     It was Easter at the Burrow and Harry had been assigned the job of peeling the potatoes which he was finally able to do magically but he was so distracted by the imminent arrival of George and Angelina, that he had let potatoes almost peel themselves into non existence.

“Sorry Mum,” he said as he quickly fixed the potatoes.

     Ginny who was sitting next to him chopping up carrots leaned over as soon as her mother had turned away.

“You’d better snap out of it unless you want her to realize we know something’s up.” She whispered in his ear.

     He nodded quickly, the last thing he wanted was for Mrs. Weasley to have any inclination that they had been involved in George’s crazy scheme in any way, this was going to be a dangerous enough situation to watch without being caught in the cross fire. A moment later they heard someone coming through the garden and Mrs. Weasley looked out the back window.

“Oh George is here! And he’s brought Angelina what a lovely surprise!” she said as she happily ran out the back door to meet them.

     Ron and Hermione were seated across the table from Harry and Ginny peeling apples, as Mrs. Weasley ran out into the garden Ron met Harry’s eye.

“Here we go…” he said with a sense of grim amusement.

     Mrs. Weasley walked back into the kitchen with George and Angelina.

“It’s so very nice to see you Angelina,” she was saying, “Charlie’s been saying how you and George are inseparable, but we so rarely see him anymore with how busy he is in the shop, and now he’s running off to who knows where for weeks at a time.” She shot George a reproachful look.

“I was actually in France Mum.” Said George, “and Angie was with me.” He put his arm around her shoulders as he said this.

“What on earth were you doing in France?” asked Mrs. Weasley.

“Oh I just needed a bit of a break…” said George as he sidled over and casually grabbed an apple from the pile next to Ron and Hermione, and plopped down in a chair to eat it.

“Oh and we got married…” he added as an afterthought, as he took a bite of the apple.

     Hermione put her head in her hands and sighed, but Harry had to try very hard to suppress a laugh. George always had a knack for winding his mother up.

“YOU WHAT??” screeched Mrs. Weasley so loudly that Mr. Weasley came running in from the living room where he had been tinkering with a Muggle toaster.

“Molly what on earth is wrong??” he said looking around for whatever had upset his wife so badly.


“Which one…” he said looking around the kitchen.

     George raised his hand half heartedly and gave his father a goofy grin before going back to eating his apple. It was easy to tell that he was thoroughly enjoying this. Angelina had taken a seat next to Harry and while she was not being as blatantly care free as her husband, Harry could tell that like him, she was trying very hard to suppress her laughter. Mrs. Weasley looked like she might explode on the spot.

“Oh Mum, calm down…” said George still enjoying himself far too much, “I’m an adult with my own respectable business and I wanted to get married to the girl I love. Elopement is a Weasley tradition it’s only fair that someone carried it on.”

“He does have a point there Molly.” Said Mr. Weasley but he quickly stopped talking when he saw the look his wife was giving him.

“Now Mum…” said George as he got up and went over to put his hands on her shoulders, “if you keep yelling like this you’re going to make your brand new daughter-in-law feel like she’s not wanted.”

     Mrs. Weasley’s expression softened immediately as she looked at Angelina who was still sitting in the seat next to Harry working very hard on arranging her face into a serious expression.

“Oh but of course your wanted dear!” she said, “I’m thrilled that you’ve joined our family. It’s just you two gave me such a shock!” she gave them another reproachful look.

“Oh Mum…” said George giving her a one armed hug, “you know that this scene wouldn’t have been complete without me finding some way to get you screaming at me.”

     Mrs. Weasley gave him an affectionate slap on the side of the head, and glared up at him but she returned his hug, and then began to laugh, everyone in the room relaxed and began to talk with George and Angelina about their trip to France.

     They all had a wonderful Easter with the Weasley’s, after her initial shock Mrs. Weasley was overjoyed to have Angeline join their family. They had a decadent Easter feast and they each got their delicious Easter basket with chocolate eggs and treats.

     A little less than a week later, Harry was standing outside of a huge hotel in the capital city of Sofia, in Bulgaria. To Harry’s great surprise they were standing outside of a Hilton Hotel, a famous chain of Muggle Hotels. They all walked into the plush lobby and Ron walked straight to the desk.

“We have suite under the name of Weasley?” he said.

“Yes, Mr. Weasley your room is ready, you will be on zee twelfth vloor, if der is anything you vant, please just call.” Said the young woman handing him a key with the number twelve oh six printed on it.

“Could I actually get a second key? Since there are four of us?” He asked.

“But of course...” she smiled and handed him a second key, which he tossed to Harry and they all headed for their room.

     When they had all gotten into the elevator, and Ginny had pushed button for the twelfth floor Harry turned to Ron and gave him a confused look.

“Ron why are we staying in a Muggle hotel?” he said curiously.

“Security reasons mate. Whenever someone from the Ministry is going to be interviewing famous people, they make them stay in Muggle lodgings, so that the celebrities don’t attract too much attention when they’re coming and going. I had to take some lessons in blending in with Muggles; you know learning Muggle money and such, before Lee would let me come here.” Ron explained.

“And learning how to talk on the telephone.” teased Hermione as she squeezed his hand and giggled.

     The elevator stopped at the twelfth floor and they all got out. The door in front of them read number twelve fourteen, they looked both ways and saw that the numbers were ascending down the hall from left to right, so they turned to the left and began to walk. They reached door number twelve oh six, and they went inside. The suite was large and airy, the first room that they walked into was a beautiful living room with plush couches and chairs, and Harry watched in amusement as both Ginny and Hermione gasped and pressed ran to press their faces against the floor to ceiling windows on the far edge of the room which gave them a spectacular view of the city twelve stories down. Harry chuckled as he watched them chatter with excitement, and then he turned to Ron.

“Pretty nice Ron...” he said with a smile and Ron simply shrugged.

     They uncovered a pull out sofa bed in the couch and Ron was going to suggest that they flip a coin to decide who got the bedroom but Ginny and Harry insisted that Ron and Hermione take it, this was after all Ron’s business trip. They all began to unpack and after about five minutes, Ron snuck back out into the living room and went over to Harry.

“Hey Harry!” he said, “Hermione was telling me that those funny black boxes,” he pointed to the TV, “Show you some kind of moving talking pictures, but I don’t get it.. why is that so entertaining?”

“Well I guess we’ll have to show you.” said Harry with a laugh.

     After about ten more minutes they were all unpacked, Ginny and Hermione announced that they were going back downstairs to ask about sight seeing, and Harry decided that he would take a shower. He hopped in and let the warm later relax all his tension, he was very excited to be in a new country having these new experiences with his friends, the weight that had been in his heart seemed to be completely lifted. It was hard for Harry to even remember why it had been so strong in the first place, he had a purpose again, and this time he was going to help people, and make their lives better.

     Harry stepped out of the shower and pulled on a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt, he doubted they would go anywhere that evening so he wanted to be comfortable. When he walked out he saw that the girls were not back yet, but the scene that met him made him start laughing. Ron was sitting on the couch with the TV on, and he was staring at it with such wonder and intensity that Harry thought he might start drooling. He went over and plopped down on the couch next to Ron.

“Found out what’s so interesting about TV have you?” he said with a smirk.

     Ron jumped, he had even realized that Harry had been sitting there. Then he turned to look at Harry with a look of awe and excitement on his face.

“Harry this is amazing! Look you use this little thing.” He held up the remote, “and you push the little CH button, and it puts hundreds of different moving pictures on for you. This one is about someone committing a murder, and now the Muggle police are trying to find who did it. I think it’s that guy right there, but they seem to think it’s his brother. Oh! And this one,” he switched the channel, “in this one that bloke thinks that he likes her, but her best friend likes him. Oh and then there’s my favorite.” he changed the channel again, “this is what they call movers, which means they are longer, and more complex I think, this one’s been on for about forty-five minutes and it only looks about  halfway done. It’s about these people that are trapped in a mall by what look like Inferi, but they eat people, and if you get bit you become one too! It’s disgusting but brilliant!” Ron grinned at Harry.

     Harry threw his back and laughed and then he patted his best friend on the shoulder, and took the remote out of Ron’s hands.

“Ok, first a few things,” he said, “This? Is called a remote control.” He held up the remote. “The little CH stands for channels, and the different pictures you see are different channels, just like on the Wizarding Wireless, and the thing your watching is called a movie. Other than that you’ve pretty much figured it out on your own, well done Ron. Oh yeah one other thing, things on the Telly aren’t real, there just like plays, you know being acted out.”

“Oh good I was wondering about that,” said Ron just as a zombie on the T.V screen attacked a girl.

     The boys settled into to continue watching the movie.

“What do Muggles call those things anyway?” Ron asked Harry.

“They call them zombies,” said Harry, “and you’re right they are very similar to Inferi, except that they are undead because of some kind of virus or disease, and they feed on live humans, and if you get bit you are infected too.”

‘Brilliant…” said Ron with a smile.

     Just then Hermione and Ginny came back into the room laden with brochures and also with food. Ron smelled the food immediately and perked up.

“Ugghh... what are you two watching!” said Hermione, as she noticed the grisly zombies, but at the exact same moment Ginny said, “cool!” and joined them on the couch.

     They spread the food out in front of them and began to eat, Hermione resigned herself to watching the movie but she screamed and hid her face on Ron’s shoulder anytime something scary happened.

     The next day was Sunday and since Ron didn’t have to start his interviews until Monday, Hermione decided they should all go to an amusement park right outside of town for the day. Ron and Ginny had never even heard of one, and Harry had never been to one due to the fact that whenever the Dursleys would go anywhere remotely interesting they would leave him with Mrs. Figg.

     The day was immensely enjoyable, Harry and Hermione thought they were going to laugh themselves silly the first time they got Ron on a roller coaster, he yelled so loud that people on the ground looked up in alarm. They rode rides until they could barely see straight, and they ate a whole bunch of carnival food. Ginny had a particular fondness for caramel apples, which she had three of. They even took a turn at some of the board walk games. Ron knocked down all the pins in a baseball throwing game, but towards the end Harry caught him nonchalantly putting his hand in the pocket were his wand was, so Harry suspected that he had cheated. This didn’t seem to bother Ron much though, as he handed a huge blue stuffed bear to Hermione, who laughed.

     The next two days Ron stayed in the Hotel room taking interviews, while the other three went out to explore the city of Sofia. One Wednesday Harry decided that he was going to stay in with Ron. Hermione and Ginny had decided to visit the largest unicorn nursery in Europe which was only an hour away from where they were staying, and since baby unicorns seemed to have an aversion to boys, Harry decided it would be more fun to stay home and watch Ron’s interview.

“So who are you interviewing today Ron?” Harry asked as he ate a piece of bacon from the breakfast tray they had ordered.

‘Their Seeker,” said Ron trying to sound casual, “He’ll be here at ten o’clock.”

“You’re interviewing Viktor today?” said Harry with surprise.

“Well I had to get it over at some point…” said Ron with a shrug.

     About a half hour later there was a sharp knock on the door. Harry quickly turned off the television and retreated to a chair in the corner of the living room with the Quidditch book that Hermione had gotten him for Christmas, he would of course be listening to the interview, but he also didn’t want to appear rude. Ron cleared away their breakfast and then got up and went to the door. He opened it and Viktor Krum shuffled into the room. Ron took his hand and shook it professionally.

“Thank you very much for coming Viktor.” He said cordially.

“It vas my pleasure.” Said Viktor and they both took seats in the living room.

     Ron smiled and then motioned for Viktor to wait for a moment. He sent his Patronus flying out of his wand, his terrier darted through the wall and a moment later he said,

“Lee we’re all ready over here, just give us the ok and we’ll go on the air.”

     After a few seconds another Patronus loped into the room, it was a rather adorable chimpanzee.

“Ready here when you are,” it said, and then it vanished.

     Ron put his wand to his throat and muttered an incantation. Then he smiled brightly and began to speak.

“Hello everyone! And welcome back to the Daily News, I’m your Quidditch correspondent Ron Weasley and I’m on location in Bulgaria talking with the Bulgarian National team about their upcoming participation in the Quidditch World Cup. Today I am talking with the world renowned Bulgarian Seeker Viktor Krum. Viktor it’s nice of you to join us!”

“It’s nice to be here Ron.” Said Viktor.

“So Viktor how long have you been playing Quidditch?” said Ron.

“Since I vas eleven. Dats ven my fader first taught me the game.” said Krum.

     The questions went on like this for about an hour. Ron asked him about his life as a Quidditch player, his opinions about who would likely play against them in the cup, his opinions of his other team mates, Harry was extremely impressed at the level of professionalism these two men were showing they were talking casually and even laughing together at some points, to the ignorant listener there would be no way to tell the rivalry that still brewed under the surface for these two. After an hour Ron began to do his wrap up.

“Well there you have it folks. A Bulgarian Seeker with high hopes for his team’s victory at the Quidditch World cup. Tune in tomorrow while I interview Keeper Kushnikov on which strategies he might be using this time around. This is Ron Weasley for the Daily news saying, have a great day.” Ron put his wand back to his throat and then he cleared it loudly before talking normally.

“Right well thanks for your time Viktor, that was a really great interview.” Said Ron and he reached to shake Viktor’s hand again but Viktor did not move, he was looking at Ron with determined intensity.

“Weasley I vish to talk to you off the record. About Hermione.” He said purposefully.

     At these words Harry abandoned all pretense of reading his book and began to listen, he knew whatever was about to happen it was going to be important.

“Ok...” said Ron rather stiffly, “What about her?”

“Weasley, Hermione is yours now, you haff von her. But I know dat there are still some questions in your mind, about her and I. I think dat you are a good man, so I haff decided I vill answer any question you may haff of me concerning her.” said Viktor, he sat back and looked at Ron expectantly.

     Ron looked absolutely dumb founded, Harry could tell he was having an internal struggle between not wanting to give Viktor the satisfaction of knowing that he had been wondering about Hermione’s relationship with him, and his burning desire have his questions answered.

“I think I just have one,” said Ron slowly.

“Yes?” said Viktor.

“Did you ever kiss her Krum?” said Ron.

     Viktor chuckled and shook his head in amusement before he looked back up at Ron.

“May I be completely honest with you Weasley?” he said, and Ron nodded. “I believe that I vas in love with Hermione dat year I vas at Hogwarts. But she never loved me the same vay. She is so logical, she said we could not be serious because I vas leaving at the end of the year, and we had no future. But truly I believe a part of her heart already belonged to you, ven I met her… No Weasley I never kissed her, I only ever held her hand. She said she only vanted to kiss someone if she loved them, and she couldn’t love me. I believe you are the only man she has ever kissed, or loved.”

     As Viktor said these things Harry saw Ron’s face falling to the point were he looked completely miserable, when Viktor had finished Ron looked up at him and gave him a half hearted smile.

“Thank you Viktor...” he said and he stood to shake the man’s hand.

“Not at all Weasley, just promise me that you vill take care of her.” said Viktor seriously.

“That’s a promise I can definitely keep.” said Ron fervently.

     Ron let Viktor out the door and then turned and flopped on the couch with a thoroughly disgusted look on his face, Harry moved into the chair closest to his friend but he was unsure what to say to Ron in this particular situation.

“I’m scum…” said Ron morosely, “I cannot believe I did that to her.”

     Harry knew what Ron was talking about, in their sixth year Ron and Hermione had been about to start dating when Ron decided that he was going to date Lavender Brown instead to get back at Hermione for allegedly kissing Viktor two years earlier. His actions had completely crushed Hermione’s feelings and she had barely spoken to Ron for the whole year.

‘Why am I so stupid Harry!” said Ron, punching the back of the couch in anger, “she waited for me!! and I  had to go and completely mess that up, I’m such a lousy git.. I don’t deserve her.”

“Hey now…” said Harry, “While I will admit you were a pretty lousy git during sixth year, you aren’t one now. You love her very much and you make her very happy. I know that what you heard today must really feel awful, but you can’t take back what you did. All you can do is try to make her happy from this day forward.”

‘Yeah… you’re right.” said Ron, ‘I’m just so disgusted with myself…”

“I know... but it’ll be ok… she’s already forgiven you.” said Harry bracingly.

     Ron nodded his head slowly and then sat up on the couch to turn on the television. Harry could tell his friend was done talking about it so he joined him in watching an action show and they ordered some lunch. Ron did a sports re-cap for the news around three oclock and then around four the girls arrived home.

“Oh I wish you could have seen the baby unicorns!” gushed Hermione, “they were so sweet they let us hold them and everything!”

     Ron got up from his seat and walked straight to Hermione, he wrapped her in his arms and gave her a long hard kiss.

“I love you more than anything else in the world, you know that right?” he said to her.

“Yes of course I do Ron... I love you too.” she said still looking shocked, “What was that for?”

     Ron shrugged and pulled her over to sit next to him on the couch, Ginny came and snuggled into the chair next to Harry and they both began to talk excitedly with the boys about all they had seen that day.

Chapter 14: Words Unspoken
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                                                    Chapter 14: Words Unspoken

     As soon as they got back to Hogwarts a week later one of the first things they noticed was pamphlets had been put up on all the noticed boards informing seventh year students that they would each be required to have a meeting with Professor McGonagall to discuss the career they were hoping to pursue. That Tuesday evening Harry, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and Hermione were sitting in Harry’s room discussing that very topic.

“Well of course I want to work for the Quibbler with my Dad.” Luna was saying, “There’s not a lot of specific N.E.W.T.s needed for a job in news, but I know you need one in History of Magic, and one in Charms to be a newspaper manager, which is what Daddy is making me.”

“How about you Neville?” said Harry.

“I don’t really know yet…” said Neville, “I want to do something with Herbology, but I’m hoping after I go to China I’ll have a better idea of what jobs to look at.” He said with a shrug, and Luna patted his arm.

“You want to be an Auror right Harry?” asked Luna, and Harry nodded his head, “What about you Ginny?” Luna continued.

     Harry looked down at his fiancé who was sitting next to him, she had not actually told him what she was planning yet, so he was quite curious about her answer.

“Well… I’ve been talking a lot with Bill… and he thinks I should go into Curse Breaking for Gringotts, he says I have quick instincts and I think the way Curse Breakers tend to think.” She said.

“Wow really?” said Harry, he was deeply impressed, “that’s really cool Gin.”

“Yeah.. it won’t be forever, once we want to settle down and start a family I’ll have to get a tamer job, but I think that I’d like to finally have my chance to get in on some excitement!” she said with a playful glare at Harry, he laughed and gave her a hug.

“How about you Hermione?” asked Neville.

     Hermione was sitting quietly by the fire pretending she was very engrossed in her book. Ron was away at the Quidditch Finals with Lee, and he wouldn’t be back until the next day. Hermione now looked up at them in fake surprise.

“Hmmm? What did you say?” she asked.

“I asked what job your thinking about getting after school.” said Neville.

“Oh... umm… I’m not sure yet… I mean I don’t want to get my hopes up for anything…” she mumbled.

“Oh Hermione, just tell us what you want to do…” said Harry with an affectionate eye roll.

“Well… if you must know… I’m thinking about going into magical law. Doing the research to help with those trials was thrilling to me, I think  I would really enjoy helping make sure justice is served, and if I position myself right, maybe I can even work on House Elf rights eventually!” her face was shining as she said this and Harry could tell how much it meant to her.

“Wow… that’s a lot more school isn’t it?” said Harry.

“Four more years in law school, and then a year as an apprentice to a lawyer, and that’s IF you make it in, they only accept students with all O’s on their N.E.W.T.s” said Hermione, she was starting to look worried again.

“You’re going to be brilliant Hermione.” said Harry, and she smiled thankfully at him.

     At that exact moment an owl came swooping into the room and dropped a letter on the table for Hermione and Neville. Neville opened it and rolled his eyes.

“It’s from the Ravenclaw prefects, apparently some of their third year boys are trying to make their own Firewhisky in a bathroom on the fourth floor.” He stood to leave and Hermione made to stand with him. “I got this one Hermione...” he said kindly.

“I think I’ll go with you… I’m a bit tired...” said Luna and she sprang up lightly and slipped her arm through Neville’s. “Goodnight all!” she called.

     The other three sat there in silence, Ginny began to look over her Herbology homework and Hermione went back to reading her book. Harry looked at Hermione, he had spent enough time with her over the past year and a half to realize that something was bothering her, and he was trying to decide whether he should bring it up. After a few more minutes of indecision he decided that it couldn’t hurt.

“Hermione are you ok?” he asked.

     She looked up at him with a sad smile, and then back down at her book.

“Yes I’m fine…” she said in a small voice, then she looked back up at him with the same sad expression, “Actually Harry do you think that we could maybe go for a walk?”

     Both she and Harry looked at Ginny to make sure that it would not bother her, but Ginny did not even look up from her assignment, she simply waved her hand in permission, looking thoroughly nonplussed, Harry squeezed her shoulder on the way out and she smiled.

     Harry and Hermione walked in silence along the corridor for a few moments.

“So what’s up?” Harry asked.

“Ron….” She said softly, “what else?”

‘Oh what has he done now??” said Harry exasperatedly.

“I love how every time we have a problem that everyone thinks he’s done something.” said Hermione with a weak laugh.

“Well considering his track record.” said Harry.

“Well he hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s just ever since we’ve come back from Bulgaria, he’s been…. Sad.” Said Hermione, “and I have no clue why, he’s been extra attentive and sweet, but it’s like he’s punishing himself for something terrible he did, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what he thinks he did. I was hoping maybe you knew…”

     Harry and Hermione had now made their way out onto the grounds; the air was light and cool but not uncomfortable. They sat down on the shore of the lake and watch the moonlight reflect off the water.

“Yeah I know…” said Harry slowly, he was trying to figure out how to word this so Hermione would not be completely confused.

‘He’s upset because he found out you didn’t snog Viktor Krum…” Harry began, as he had suspected a look of complete bewilderment came over Hermione’s face and Harry began quickly wracking his brain for how to explain this to her.

“During our sixth year… right after you asked Ron to Slughorn’s party, Ron and I found Ginny and Dean snogging in a secret passage, Ron yelled at Ginny and kind of insinuated that she was easy… and you know Ginny, that set her off. She told him that he was so up tight because he was the only one in the world that had never been snogged, and she also told him that you snogged Viktor.”

“What??” gasped Hermione, she looked livid, but Harry put his hand up and she let him continue.

“That’s why he started dating Lavender; I think that he felt like somehow having never kissed someone made him even more out of your league. Then in Bulgaria, when he interviewed Krum, Krum told him the truth. He said that you had never kissed him and that he suspected that you had feelings for Ron before you even met him. Now Ron feels like he doesn’t deserve you even more.” Harry explained.

     Hermione sighed exasperatedly and threw her hands down in her lap. She shook her head and then looked back up at Harry with a completely frustrated expression on her face.

“But he must know by now how much I love him! How can he feel that he doesn’t deserve to be with me after all this time??” she said.

     Harry sat there looking at her for a moment. He was trying desperately to put this in words she’d understand, sometimes talking to girls felt like trying to translate into a foreign language. Another part of him was pleasantly surprised how easy it was for him and Hermione to talk, a year or two previously talking about their feelings and emotions probably would have been awkward and hard, but with everything they’d been through, there was just no point to awkwardness anymore. Suddenly Harry had a breakthrough.

“Hermione… you know how Ron destroyed the locket Horcrux last year?” he said, she nodded and he went on, “The thing about Horcruxes Hermione is that they will try to psychologically break whoever is attempting to destroy them, try to put them in so much pain that they aren’t able to continue.”

‘I know…” said Hermione softly, “I destroyed the cup remember? In the chamber of secrets, Ron told me to not hesitate, he didn’t let it say much but the things it did say…” she shuddered involuntarily.

“Would you like to know what the locket said to Ron?” Harry said gently as he put his hand on her shoulder.

‘Yes...” she said with a small nod.

“It told him he was worthless. He was the last born son, last loved, and that he had nothing special to offer to his family or to anyone else. Then it turned into you.” When Harry said this Hermione looked up at him in alarm, “you asked him why in the world you would want to be with someone as insignificant as him, when someone as great as me was right in front of you, you told him he was nothing. And he broke, Hermione, he almost couldn’t do it.”

     Hermione sat there in stunned silence, a solitary tear ran down her cheek.

“Don’t you see Hermione; the locket went right for his worst fear, the fear that he is not enough for you. Losing you is the only thing that could ever truly break him, and I think that with all the stupid things he has done over the years, he’s terrified that you will one day realize that he’s not worth the time.” Harry said gently.

     Hermione took a deep breath and looked down at her hands, then she looked out over the lake and she seemed to be deep in thought, finally she reached into her robes, and pulled out her little beaded bag. Harry wondered with slight amusement if there would ever come a day where Hermione did not carry this little bag with her everywhere she went. She pulled out a small book that seemed to be covered in red velvet. She tapped the book with her wand and the edges of the pages glowed and then it fell open she began to sift through the hand written pages until she came to a particular page.

“Here… I want you to read this.” She said, she gave him a very hard determined look as she held the book out to him.

“But Hermione…” said Harry, he felt as though reading Hermione’s private diary might be inappropriate.

    She simply shook her head and thrust the book towards him again, giving him the same determined look. Harry picked up the book and began to read Hermione’s elegant handwriting. Though the words were rather smudged in some places due to the larges tears that seem to have been shed while it was being written. It read:

December 22, 1997

Ron left. I stood out in the woods and screamed for him, I begged for him to come back but he wouldn’t. He said that I chose Harry. I don’t know what to do anymore, how can he not see that I choose him. That I chose him such a long time ago. Sometimes I wonder if I should just forget him, but then he gives me that beautiful smile, and I remember why my heart will never be able to let him go. Ron always says he’s just “Harry Potter’s friend” but why can’t he see that there has never been a day in his life that I have thought of him that way. Harry is a great person, he’s a wonderful, strong friend, but it’s not Harry’s face I see when I when I fall asleep each night. It’s not Harry who I miss so much I don’t want to get up each morning. Ever since the night Ron left I feel empty inside. I’m trying to put on a brave face for Harry, but it’s so hard. I snuck in and stole one of Ron’s shirts while Harry was sleeping so I could at least have the sweet smell of him with me while I cried myself to sleep. I wish he could see himself the way I see him. Ron is so brave and strong, and kind. He’s the most loyal person anyone could know, he made me fall in love with him by never leaving my side, I wish he could see that every man in the world could try to win me, but it wouldn’t matter. Because no man in the world has protected me, and stood beside me the way he has. I’m so lost without him.

     Harry closed the book and looked back Hermione, she was still looking at him with the same expression, as if she was trying to will him to understand, and he did.

“Have you ever told him that?” Harry said softly.

“No….I haven’t…I thought he knew... I thought he’d finally figured it out.” she said in a small voice. “Harry… can I tell you what happened after they locked you and Ron in the basement… at the Malfoy’s?”

     Harry froze and looked at her carefully. He and Hermione had never talked about that night, she didn’t even know that he had heard Ron talk about it, so as far as she knew this is the first it was being spoken of since it happened.

“Of course you can… if you think you’re up for talking about it…” said Harry gently.

“Well they dragged you and Ron off, and then I was standing there. I’ve never felt so alone Harry. I was so scared…” her voice was barely audible and trembling slightly as she continued, “then Bellatrix gave me this horrible look… she sneered at me and said, ‘do you have any idea what you’re about to endure Mudblood?’ Harry I was so scared I couldn’t breathe… I almost collapsed. But do know what happened right at that moment?”

“What?” breathed Harry.

      He had been raptly listening to her story never taking his eyes from her face, she looked up and met his gaze, her face was full of the pain she was remembering but there was something in her eyes as she continued, something deep, burning, and beautiful.

“I heard Ron screaming my name… and his face flashed before my eyes, and I was strong. He gave me strength. Even when she was torturing me, when I felt like I couldn’t stand another second, I clung to the sound of his voice. He kept me going. I’ve never loved anyone else the way I love him, and I never will.” She smiled as tears welled up in her eyes.

     Harry put his hand on Hermione’s arm and she looked up to meet his gaze.

“Tell him Hermione,” Harry said meaningfully, “this is something he should hear you say.”

     Hermione smiled at Harry and nodded her head in agreement. They both stood up and made to go their separate ways, before Harry turned to head back to the castle, he stopped. He turned and gave Hermione a hug which she accepted.

“Thank you so much Harry…” she said, “You know you’ve always been the brother I never had, I’m so thankful for you.”

“The same goes for you, you know.” Said Harry with a smile, and then he headed back to the castle with a warm feeling in his heart.

“Oh those two…” said Ginny a few minutes later when Harry’s was in his room retelling the events that had transpired by the lake.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a funnier couple,” said Ginny shaking her head, “yet they’re perfect together.” She flopped back on the bed and looked over at Harry.

“You know Mum knew Ron would fall for her the first time she saw them together,” she said, “I remember at the time I was too young to really see what Mum meant, but she leaned over to Dad and said, ‘look at the way Ron acts with her Arthur.. I don’t’ think he even knows he does it…’ a few years later I began to notice what she meant. Whenever Hermione is in a room, Ron subconsciously stays close to her, he kind of orients himself to her, like she has some kind of gravitational pull, you know?” Ginny looked at him for confirmation.

     Harry nodded, he knew exactly what Ginny was talking about, he’d spent the majority of the last eight years of his life with Ron and Hermione so he was keenly aware of the way they seemed to have a invisible life line that tied them to each other.

“It’s been that way for years you know…” he said absentmindedly.

“Oh I know…” said Ginny and then she began to giggle.

“What?” said Harry with a smile as he kissed her nose.

“As frustrating as your fourth year was… it was kind of morbidly hilarious to watch Ron get so flustered and completely frustrated over Viktor encroaching on territory that Ron hadn’t even realized he had claimed yet!” she started laughing again, and Harry joined her appreciatively.

“I wish I had gone to that Ball with you…” said Harry wistfully, “you looked very pretty that night.”

 Ginny rolled her eyes and gave Harry a playful swat on the stomach.

“Don’t even pretend that you were looking at me, I know you only had eyes for Cho back then.” she teased.

     Harry made a face, while Cho Chang was very pretty, he now had no idea how he could have even noticed her existence with a creature as beautiful as Ginny in the room. When Ginny saw his reaction she began to laugh again, and she leaned over to give him a kiss.

“Hey Ginny…” he said, when they had gone quiet again.

“Yeah?” she said.

“Was that what it was like for you when I was gone? The way it was for Hermione?” asked Harry quietly.

“Yes…” she answered delicately, and she put her hand to his face, “but there was a difference Harry. You left me because you had to, you had a job to do that was bigger than you and me, and I understood that, I was proud of you for it. Although that didn’t stop me from dreaming of you every night, and sleeping with your picture propped up on my nightstand so you were the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning.”

     Harry brushed his hand across her cheek and kissed her ardently.

“When we were out on the run…” he said, as he ran his fingers through her soft hair, “We would have to take turns keeping watch, and it was maddening, just sitting in the darkness and trying to make sure that no one was sneaking up on you. Your mind started to play tricks on you and the loneliness was overwhelming. You know what I did to stay sane?” he looked intently at her, his conversation with Hermione had made him determined to make sure that Ginny knew how desperately he was in love with her. 

“I took out the Marauder’s Map and I found you on it. I watched you sleeping and somehow just seeing your name, and knowing you were safe, made me feel close to you. I always wondered if you were dreaming of me…” he said.

“I can guarantee that I was almost every time.” She said with a smile. 

“You kept me going out there you know Ginny, you were the only hope that I had left, the hope that you were waiting for me to come home. Fred was more right than he could ever have imagined when he told you that I needed you to be my happy ending.” He pulled her close and held her tightly; it was almost as if something inside him was afraid that she would disappear if he let her go.

“And to think that I worried you would find someone else…” she said with a smile.

     Harry laughed and shook his head, he began to kiss her, first her cheeks her neck, her nose, each hand, and then her mouth. He bought his face close to hers.

“The moment I held you in my arms Ginny Weasley, there was no other person on this earth that I ever wanted to hold. You are the only woman that exists to me.” he said firmly.

     Ginny ran her fingers through his hair and kissed him. She continued to kiss him and he responded quickly to her hints which he was beginning to learn by heart, he shifted his weight so he was over top of her and began to kiss her slowly and deeply, he slipped his hands into hers pinning them to the bed as he intertwined their fingers. He would love her until the day he died, she was the happy ending, she was his whole life.

     Two days later Harry and Ginny were eating breakfast in the Great Hall with Hermione. They had gotten in the habit of usually taking a quick breakfast in their rooms so they wouldn’t be late for classes, but today the seventh year students had a free day, because they were all going to have their meetings with Professor McGonagall. Harry, Hermione, and Ginny had decided it would be a nice morning to go visit Hagrid, because none of them had their meetings until the afternoon.

     After they had finished breakfast they made their way down the sloping lawn towards Hagrid’s cottage. He was sitting on the back steps with a group of first year students gathered on the ground around him. They could see that he was holding up a piece of silvery white hair.

“Now unicorn hair,” he was saying, “Is very useful, it can help bind up yer wounds, or hold things together coz it’s very strong ye see?” he pulled on the hair to emphasize that he could not break it.

     When Hagrid saw them he smiled brightly and waved for them to come sit next to him. He went on to explain the distinct properties of Unicorn hair to the first years and then he sent them on a scavenger hunt in his garden where he had mixed Unicorn hair in with pieces of plain white string, and their job was to bring him back four stands each. He then turned to them.

“What a nice surprise! What’re you lot doin down here?” he said happily.

“Well we don’t have classes today, and we thought we’d pop down and see you for the morning.” said Harry.

“Lovely!” said Hagrid, “these here firs years are me only class today since yeh seventh years have the day off… so we can have lunch!”

     Just then a pretty little first year girl with black curly hair came running up to Hagrid and handed him four silvery hairs. She smiled brightly at them, and Harry noticed she was wearing the blue and bronze colors of Ravenclaw.

“Wow… so soon Lucy?” said Hagrid with pride, “you must have been listening very closely.”

“I always listen very closely to your lectures Professor and I also read the chapter on unicorns last week in my spare time.” she said politely.

     Hagrid chuckled and smiled at her, but Harry noticed that Hermione was looking at the little  girl in wonder.

“What was you name again?” she said faintly.

“I’m Lucy Dartbrook,” she answered immediately with a petite curtsy, “and you’re Hermione Granger, I asked my parents if I could buy your biography in Diagon Alley, well yours and Harry Potters” the girl inclined her head towards him, “and also Ron Weasley’s. But I like yours the best I’ve read it three times. I’m Muggle born as well you know!”  Lucy smiled brightly at Hermione, who smiled back looking slightly overwhelmed by the small child.

“Well Lucy…” said Hagrid with a smile, “Since you’ve finished so quickly you can go play with Fang if you like, he’s been itching for someone to play fetch with.”

“Actually Professor if you don’t mind there’s a very nice tree by the edge of the garden there, I thought I might go sit there and read some more of Hogwarts a History, it’s so fascinating!” she said excitedly.

     Hagrid smiled and waved her off and as soon as she was out of sight Harry, Ginny, and Hagrid collapsed into laughter.

“Hey Hermione I think you’ve been cloned!!” gasped Ginny.

“Yeah the second I met lil’ Lucy I thought I had gone back in time!” laughed Hagrid.

     Hermione was still sitting there with a look of shock upon her face, but she also looked pleased as she watched the little girl reading. The rest of them couldn’t stop laughing until the end of the lesson.

     After the lesson was over Hagrid invited them in for tea and they all sat around talking happily. When it came time for lunch Ginny and Hermione insisted that Hagrid let them help make it. He teased about how they needed to practice their cooking skills so Ron and Harry wouldn’t starve and they smacked him around affectionately.

“Hermione’s going to have to learn how to feed a small army to keep Ron satisfied!” interjected Harry and Hermione threw a carrot at him while Hagrid guffawed.

     At one o’clock after an extremely delicious lunch of vegetable soup and cheese sandwiches, Hermione got up looking very nervous and said she needed to go to her meeting. She stood there looking at the door in apprehension for a minute until Ginny finally gave a sigh and walked around the table.

“Well don’t just stand there, come over here so we can all give you hugs for good luck!” she said, as she embraced her friend. Harry and Hagrid moved to do the same and then she smiled at them appreciatively.

‘You’re gonna be brilliant. McGonagall’s going to hear what you have to say and tell you she thinks you’ll be an excellent lawyer. I know it.” said Harry encouragingly.

     Hermione gave them all a small smile and then turned to hurry out the door.

“So…” said Hagrid, “how’re you two? It’s been awhile since I’ve seen ye around Ginny. Yer looking very well. I’m guessin being the future Mrs. Harry Potter has something ta do with that!” he said with a knowing smile.

     Ginny simply grinned at him and gave a noncommittal shrug.

“So what does it feel like ta know that pretty soon yer gonna have the most famous name in all the wizardin’ world?” said Hagrid as he lightly elbowed her.

      Harry rolled his eyes at this comment and crossed his arms in annoyance but Ginny simply laughed.

“It’s pretty cool actually, I mean everybody’s already associated me with Harry for over a year now anyway, but it will be really nice to make it official.” she said as she kissed Harry’s cheek.

“So how about plans? Ye got a date yet?” said Hagrid.

     Ginny and Harry looked at each other. They had made a pact with Ron and Hermione to be very careful about who they told their wedding plans to, and while they trusted Hagrid and they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he would be invited, he did have a tendency to say things he shouldn’t when he’d had too much Firewhisky at the Three Broomsticks.

“Hagrid you have to understand that if we tell you these things you have to keep them quiet. This thing is going to get out eventually, but the longer we can keep it a secret the less the crowds will be clamoring to get in.” said Ginny slowly.

“Of course!!” said Hagrid, “I understand that... I’d never betray your trust! After what happened yer firs year, with Dumbledore, I’ve made a deal with Rosemerta that I’ll remain her loyal customer as long as when I’ve had too much to drink she kicks me out an sends me home before I can start spoutin my mouth off.. Ye see?”

“Alright then Hagrid.” said Harry, “We’re getting married here, on December 20th, in the Great Hall.”

     Hagrid looked at both of them and a huge smile spread across his face.

“Shoulda known… you’d not get married anywhere else Harry. This is yer home... just like me.” he said with a smile. 

     Just then the door burst open and Hermione was standing there smiling from ear to ear and panting very hard. Harry thought she must have run all the way from McGonagall’s office.

“You were right Harry! She said I’d make a brilliant lawyer!!” she gasped, she looked at my records and said that all my teachers seemed to think with the proper amounts of studying that I’m perfectly capable of O’s on my N.E.W.T.s, even Bill said it!”

     She walked over and sat down at the table, Hagrid brought her a glass of water which she drank gratefully as she tried to catch her breathe.

“We talked to the Head of the Ministry law school, and he said that pending my N.E.W.T. grades they were ready to accept me in the fall! Isn’t that wonderful??” she said excitedly.

“Yes it is!!” said Harry earnestly, he was very happy for his friend.

     After a few more minutes of talk Harry got up and headed for the door. It was his turn to go speak with McGonagall. Once again the three of them came to give him hugs of encouragement and he walked out the door. He made his way up the lawn and into the castle, as he walked down the corridor towards McGonagall’s office he saw that Argus Filch was standing just outside the doorway with a clip board.

“Harry Potter?” said Argus looking at him questioningly and holding his pen over the clipboard.

‘Filch you know it’s me…” he said exasperatedly, but Filch simply stood there glaring at him, “Fine, yes I’m Harry Potter.” Said Harry in annoyance.

     Filch check the name off the list and then turned to the gargoyle and said, “Harry Potter” it jumped back just as it usually did. Harry suspected these new security measures were put in place for the day so that the whole of the seventh year did not know the password to McGonagall’s office. When Harry entered McGonagall was sitting at her desk and she motioned for him to sit in a chair opposite her, he obliged and she gave him a business like expression.

“So, Mr. Potter. I believe that it is your ambition to become an Auror?” as she said this she flipped open his file and began to read.

“It is Professor.” he said, feeling a little nervous.

“Well it seems that you have  top grades in most of the subjects required to become an Auror, you will need an O in Defense Against the Dark Arts, which it seems will be no trouble for you, you will also need an O in Transfiguration, while this may take some intense studying on your part, I have seen your work improve greatly this year, and I am reasonably sure this will not be a problem, the only thing that may be an issue is the O that is required in Potions. While Professor Slughorn happens to think that you will have no problems with this N.E.W.T. I have some concern, you are going to have to put in extra effort for this N.E.W.T do you understand?”

“Yes Professor,” said Harry but knot was growing in his stomach, an O in Potions? It seemed impossible.

“I have already spoken to Kingsley and pending your N.E.W.T grades, the Auror training program is more than happy to welcome you in when it begins the end of June, and if you pass all of those exams you will be inducted into the Auror department in early September.” She said.

     Harry nodded his head taking in everything she was saying. She smiled slightly as she closed his folder.

“Needless to say Harry, we are very excited to see what things are in store for you in this very fitting career that you have chosen.” She stood up and reached out to shake Harry’s hand, he stood up as well and accepted her handshake feeling all the while that the exchange was a bit awkward.

“One more thing Harry, there is another issue of some delicateness that I need to discuss with you.” she said.

    Harry looked at her curiously he had no idea what the Headmistress might be about to tell him.


Chapter 15: Something Old and Something New
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                                   Chapter 15: Something Old and Something New

“Ok… what’s going on Professor?” said Harry.

“Harry in a little less that two months you are going to be moving out of Hogwarts to live on your own. I think it is time that we had a discussion about what you plan to do with the properties that you own.” she said to him.

“Properties?” said Harry feeling thoroughly confused, he knew that he owned one property, Grimauld Place, Sirius had left it to him in his will, but he didn’t know of any other property that he owned.

“Yes...” said McGonagall, “You are aware I take it, that you own Grimauld Place, but Harry you also are the owner of your parents house in Godrics Hollow.” she said.

     Harry stared at her. Now that she said it he felt completely stupid for never having realized it before. Of course he owned his parents house, he was their only son.

“You will need to decide of course which house you would like to make your residence and then also decide what you would like to do with your second property. While your house in Godrics Hollow will need some repairs I believe that with some renovations it should quite comfortable, if you should choose to live there. ” said McGonagall.

“Ok….” Said Harry slowly, he was still try to process this situation.

“No doubt you will want to discuss this with Miss Weasley. So I will dismiss you at this time and ask that you bring me a decision by Friday so that we can begin to work on the legal aspects.” she said, “Oh and Potter when you come on Friday I would like you to bring Ronald Weasley with you, I have something to discuss with him as well.”

     With that she walked to the door and opened it for Harry. He walked through it still feeling a bit in shock.

     A few hours later Harry was sitting in his room with Ginny. They were sharing and enjoyable evening all to themselves, something they rarely got. Harry had just filled Ginny in on the conversation that he had with McGonagall earlier.

“Well of course we’re going to live in Godrics Hollow!” said Ginny excitedly.

“I don’t know…” said Harry.

“What?? Why would we not? You don’t want to live in your parent’s house?” said Ginny in confusion. 

“Yeah I do… a lot... it’s just…” Harry’s voiced trailed off, he wasn’t exactly sure how to continue, he knew that what was bothering him was silly, but he also couldn’t shake it. It was the dream. Somehow Harry couldn’t shake the feeling that if he and Ginny moved into his parent’s house, it would allow his dream about her and his daughter dying to become a reality, and the thought terrified him.

     Ginny got up from the chair she was sitting in and came over to kneel in front of Harry. She looked up into his face to read his expression.

“This is about that dream isn’t it?” she said knowingly.

     Harry nodded his head slowly and tucked her hair behind her ear absent mindedly so he could put his hand on her face.

“I now it’s stupid…” he said quietly, “but I’m afraid to move to a place where that dream could become a reality.”

“Harry…” said Ginny, as she moved to sit in his lap, “That dream was just a dream, the only reason that it took place in your house was because that’s where it happened to you. Darling I could get struck by lightning when I walk outside tomorrow, or strangled by the giant squid…we never know how long we have left.

“Don’t say things like that.” Harry whispered as he looked down at his hands, just the thought of losing her was enough to bring tears to his eyes.

“My point is…” said Ginny as she put a hand under his chin and lifted his face so she could look in his eyes, “we can’t live our lives worrying about death, because if we do, we’ll never enjoy living. Ok?”

“Ok...” said Harry and he put his hand behind her neck and began to kiss her as hard and fiercely as he could, she responded in kind intertwining her fingers in his hair. After a few moments they broke the kiss and looked at each other, they were both breathing raggedly.

“See?” said Ginny with a teasing smile, “that’s more like it.”

     Harry laughed and put his arms around her while she laid her head against his chest.

“So why do you think McGonagall wants you to bring Ron along?” she asked.

“I have no clue… I mean, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with an answer to that question, but I’ve got nothing…” said Harry.

“Well I guess we’ll just have to wait until Friday.” said Ginny, as she relaxed against him and closed her eyes.

“Hey Gin... I’ve been thinking of something else…” said Harry, “I need to get an O on my potions exam, and the more I think about it, the more I know there is only one way to do that. I need to use the Prince’s book to study.”

     He looked down at her to judge her reaction and she looked back up and him with confusion and shock on her face.

"I though it burned up in the Fiend Fyre?" she said.

“Well I’m pretty sure the fire went out when we shut the door, and it was in a cupboard. So there’s a chance. I at least have to go see you know? I’m thinking about going next week.” He said.

“I’m going with you.” She said immediately.

     Harry nodded in resignation. He knew it would be pointless to try and stop her.

      Friday afternoon Ron and Harry made their way up to McGonagall’s office, when they arrived there she was waiting for them and she gave them a pleasant yet subdued smile.

“Please take a seat.” she said, “Now Harry have you decided which of your two properties you are going to be making your residence?” she asked.

“Yeah…” said Harry, “Ginny and I discussed it and we think we want to live in Godrics Hollow.”

“Excellent, We will have a team of Ministry contractors help you do all the renovations that are needed this summer.” She said, “Now have you given any thought to what you might like to do with Grimauld Place?”

“We have actually, I’d like to give it to Ron and Hermione to live in.” said Harry giving Ron a grin.

“Harry… we couldn’t… blimey a house?” Ron looked completely stunned.

“That is very generous of you Potter.” said McGonagall with a smile, “but it so happens that I have asked Mr. Weasley here today to inform him that he is already in possession of a house, if he chooses to take it.” she gave Ron a kind look.

“What…” said Ron weakly, he was slightly slumped in his chair and he looked like he might be about to pass out.

     McGonagall smiled at him sympathetically and pulled out a long piece of parchment from her desk. As she unrolled it she explained.

“This is a copy of the last will and testament of Albus Dumbledore, Rufus Scrimgeour presented you with the items that were left to you over a year ago, but what you are not aware of, is that there was a separate clause in the will that was specified to be for my eyes only until such a time came that it could be made known. I will read it to you now.” She unfolded the paper and put on her glasses.

     Harry and Ron looked at each other in completely bewilderment. They had no clue where this was going.

“My dearest Minerva,” Professor McGonagall began to read, “I have added this clause in my will so that if, and only if the time is right, you can help me carry out these specific wishes. I have the utmost trust your abilities in this matter. If Harry Potter and his friends should be successful in their mission, which we all hope and pray they are, I would like to do all I can to help them live a long and happy life. It is my belief that Harry will wish to live out the remainder of his days in Godrics Hollow in his family house, and I also believe that Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger will never want to be too far away from him. Therefore I have added this clause to my will that states, in the event of the marriage of Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, the pair will inherit my families home in Godrics Hollow, I believe it to be a wonderful home to raise a family, I myself had a pleasant childhood there. If this union does not occur my house shall remain the property of Hogwarts along with all my other worldly possessions, as stated previously Minerva I have the utmost confidence in you to carry out this matter. Thank you.” McGonagall put the letter down and looked at the two boys. 

“I own Dumbledore’s house…” said Ron in awe, he looked at Harry who just as shocked as he was.

“Not yet Mr. Weasley,” said McGonagall, “but if you carry through on your plan to marry Miss Granger this coming December then yes, you will own Professor Dumbledore’s childhood home.”

     Ron let out a long sigh and slumped back in his chair still looking completely floored.

“I’ve arranged a meeting with a Ministry lawyer for next week, he’s going to take you both to Godrics Hollow and let you see your properties. And Mr. Weasley, I have decided that if you wish, you and Miss Granger may move into your home this summer. While it will not yet rightfully be yours it is currently the property of Hogwarts so as headmistress I can allow you residence until the property becomes your own.”

    Both boys nodded at her and then began to get up to leave.

“Before you go Potter, do you have any ideas about what you would like to do with Grimauld Place?” she asked.

     Harry sat back and thought about it, he wasn’t sure what he would do with his second house. He also found this whole situation ridiculous. Most eighteen year olds didn’t even have their own apartments and here he was trying to figure out what to do with his second house. Just then Ron leaned over and whispered in Harry’s ear.

“Oi! Why don’t you give it to Neville? I’m willing to bet he and Luna are going to be shacking up when they get out of school and Neville deserves a nice place. I bet Luna could even make Grimauld Place look cheery with that insane decorating of hers.” he said.

“Good thinking Ron!” said Harry appreciatively, he turned back to McGonagall, “I’d like to give Grimauld Place to Neville Longbottom to live in.” he said.

“Very well then… we’ll let you inform Neville of the plans and we will get started on the paperwork for all of this today.” She said pleasantly and the boys made their way to the door.

‘Blimey I own a house Harry!” said Ron in excitement as they went down the stairs, “the most expensive thing I ever owned was my chess set! And now I own a house!”

     Harry laughed and clapped his friend on the back. He was once again appreciative to Dumbledore in a way he could never express. Dumbledore knew that Harry would want to spend the rest of his life close to Ron and Hermione; he knew that they had been bonded in a way that could never be broken. Now they were going to live down the street from each other, their children would grow up together, it was almost too good to be true.

“Harry!” said Ron, interrupting Harry’s thoughts, “promise me you won’t tell Hermione, and make Ginny promise too! I want to see the house and get it looking just perfect before I tell her, I want it to be a big surprise!”

“Ok…” said Harry with a smile, “but how are you going to explain McGonagall asking you to her office?”

“I dunno I’ll think of something…” said Ron with a shrug and they walked quickly back towards Harry’s room bursting with excitement.

     Harry and Ginny were making their way up the corridor hand in hand. It was well past midnight and they were being carful to stay quiet. Harry wasn’t quite sure why they were being so sneaky about this, it wasn’t as though entering the Room of Requirement was forbidden, but somehow he felt as though what they were doing needed to remain a secret. They reached the corridor on the seventh floor and they stood before the wall that they knew would soon hold a door.

“Harry, so you have any idea what we’re going to find on the other side of that door?” asked Ginny quietly.

“No…” said Harry, “FiendFyre is relentless, so I have no idea how much damage it did.”

“What about….Crabbe?” said Ginny with a slight hint of fear in her voice.

     Harry squeezed her hand encouragingly.

“I don’t think there will be anything left of him to be honest, not with the way that fire burned.” he said, and he felt her shudder next to him.

“You don’t have to come with me…” he said quietly but she shook her head determinedly.

“Let’s do this.” she said.

     Harry began to walk back and forth purposefully in front of the wall thinking to himself. I need to see the room where things are hidden. Over and over, suddenly the door appeared. Harry looked at Ginny who took his hand and then he slowly opened the door. They were met by the stench of burned wood all around them. There were shelves and shelves of blackened objects. Some were identifiable others were charred piles. Harry made his way down the row where he knew the cupboard to be. As he turned the last corner his heart leapt, the fire seemed to have stopped about ten feet short of reaching the cupboard. The edges of it were still slightly singed and the heat had caused the surface of the wood to bubble and distort but other than that it was completely in tact. He ran to the cupboard and opened it, there sitting on the shelf was the Prince’s potion book, he grabbed it and held it tightly like an old friend, the cover had been slightly warped by the heat but other than that it looked in perfectly fine condition. He opened it and touched the pages lightly, somehow after learning everything about Snape, this book seemed to be even more special. His revelry was broken by a sharp cry from Ginny who had walked down the row next to the one he was standing in.

“Harry! Come here quick!” she called, sounding very upset.

     He ran to where she was as fast as he could and immediately found the cause of her distress. There were was a pile of ashes in the middle of the floor and in the middle of them something was gleaming. Harry bent down and picked it up, it was an ornate ring with a family crest on it, and Harry knew whom it belonged to. He looked at Ginny who was looking rather pale as she stared at the little pile with a look of dismay.

“It’s ok Gin…” he said comfortingly, “he didn’t suffer; he was killed by the smoke long before the fire even got to him.”

     Harry looked around and saw an ornate jar sitting on the shelf, he picked it up and scooped as much of Crabbe’s ashes into it as he could and then he took out his wand and sealed the top, he put the ring in his pocket and then looked back at Ginny.

“I think I’ll give these to Draco,” he said indicating the jar and the ring, “I know he’ll give him a proper farewell.”

     With that the two of them turned and walked out of the room. They walked in silence down the hall, Harry looked down at Ginny she was quiet as they walked side by side. He could tell something was on her mind, but he was having a very hard time reading her expression. They arrived back at the room and Harry placed the jar with Crabbe’s ashes in it, and the Prince’s book on the end table near the couch. He was caught off guard when Ginny grabbed his arm and spun him around, she pinned him against the wall and began to kiss him with all the force she had. He was momentarily stunned but then responded so vigorously that he picked her up off the ground, she wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled his shirt off so forcefully that it almost ripped. He carried her towards their bed which he plopped her down on, but he before he could even make a move she had pulled him onto the bed with her and pinned him on his back. She began kissing every inch of him, Harry gasped closed his eyes in enjoyment, he had no clue what had brought on this sudden aggression in Ginny, but he had absolutely no intentions of making her stop.

     It was full hour later when Harry and Ginny were finally laying next to each other in their bed. Harry was covered in sweat, and he was still trembling and trying to get his heart to calm down. It had been by far the most intense hour of his entire life. Ginny was lying next to him in the same state, and she looked up at him with a smile.

“All I can say is wow Gin… I mean we’ve had some pretty amazing nights... but wow.” He said softly, his breathing was not quite back to normal yet.

“My sentiments exactly.” She said with a smile, “that is definitely something that needs to be repeated.”

“Ginny… what brought that on? I mean I’m not complaining it was… well there are no words for what that was, but I’m just wondering why…” said Harry slowly, he brushed her hair away from her face and so he could study her expression as she answered.

“When I saw Crabbe’s remains in there, it just really hit me that, that could have been you. You could have died so many times out there, you were really close, but you didn’t. I don’t know if I believe in God or not, but every night you were gone, I asked whoever might be listening out there, to just keep you safe, and bring you home to me, and somebody listened. I guess… I was just really thankful to have you…” she kissed the spot right over his heart and then laid her head on his chest.

     He hugged her and then closed his eyes. He knew he would sleep very well that night.

“You ready to go Harry?” said Ginny the next day at one o’clock.

     They had just finished eating lunch and they were now on their way to Godrics Hollow to visit their future home. They would be meeting Ron there, he had cleverly convinced Hermione that the only reason McGonagall invited him to the meeting with Harry is because they needed a witness that knew Harry for legal purposes. This seemed to satisfy her, so she was completely unsuspecting of the huge surprise that was coming her way.

“I suppose I’ll see you all later tonight. Then you can tell Ron and I all about your house!” she said brightly.

     Harry and Ginny exchanged very brief glances, they both knew that Ron would have already seen the house first hand, but they were determined not to spoil his surprise. They said their goodbyes and towards the front gate.

“You know they should make a certain spot that people can Apparate to inside the grounds with security in place, because having to walk all the way down to the gate every time you want to leave is bloody annoying.” grumbled Ginny.

“Well most students don’t come and go as much as we do…” said Harry with a smile and he kissed her hand.

     When they reached the gate Ginny took Harry’s arm, she had never been to Godrics Hollow so she needed his help to get there. A moment later they were standing in the town square; it looked drastically different from the last time Harry had been there. The last time he’d seen this square it had been a bitterly cold Christmas Eve, and it had been covered in snow. Now it was rather cheery in the warm air of late spring. He saw people puttering around from shop to shop, and children playing by the monument in the middle of the square. Many people noticed him too, they waved and whispered to each other, but somehow it didn’t bother him that they noticed him. He thought it might be because no on looked at him with surprise, they all seemed to think it was perfectly natural that he would be here and he had to agree with them.

“You wanna go look at the memorial?” said Harry.

“Ok…” said Ginny, she looked at the WW2 memorial and then back at Harry with a confused expression.

     Harry chuckled and led her towards it by the hand. Just as it had the Christmas before when they got close to the monument it changed and standing before them were the statues of a man, and woman, and the woman was holding a baby in her arms.

“Oh….” Said Ginny in wonder, “Is that…”

“My family… yes.” said Harry as he put his arm around her.

“It’s beautiful Harry…” she said, and they both stood there in silence for a moment.

     They heard a popping noise behind them and they turned to see Ron walking towards them with a very round little man.

“Hello my name is Darius Finchley, and I am here to show you both your respective properties here in Godrics Hollow, now which one of these fine houses would you like to visit first?” he said cheerfully.

“Well which one is closer?” asked Ron.

“They are both down that road right there,” he pointed to the road to the east of the square, “I believe we will come to the Dumbledore home first.”

“Then lets go there,” said Harry.

     They made their way to the road and walked down for a few minutes before the little man stopped in front of a large brick house. Harry realized that he had walked by this very house the last time he was in Godrics Hollow but he had never had an inkling that it was Dumbledore’s home. The house had a small wrought iron fence around the yard, and an ivy vine was making its way up the left corner. The house itself was not grand enough to be considered a mansion, but it had its own kind of old elegance about it. The little man opened the gate and beckoned them to enter. Then walked up the front steps and stood in front of the door.

“Ron do you want to do the honors?” said Harry.

     Ron nervously walked forward and opened the front door, and they all walked inside. The house was warm and inviting, the downstairs seems to be carpeted with a plush oriental carpet with deep red and green tones. They were standing a foyer; to their left was a beautiful dining room that looked like it could comfortable sit fifteen people. To the right was a large living room with bay windows that looked out on the street and a massive stone fireplace, there were also a set of French doors leading to the back of the house. Directly in front of them was a grand staircase made of dark wood that lead up to a small landing and then broke into two stairs cases one to the right and one to the left.

“Oh I can just see the scolding the little Weasley’s are going to get from Hermione for sliding down that banister.” said Ginny with a grin.

     Ron turned to grin at her and then they began exploring the house, they found that the French doors lead to a beautiful closed in back porch that looked out on a large back yard and a pretty garden, and there was a nice sized kitchen off the dining room. They explored upstairs to find that there were three bedrooms not including the master bedroom. The mater bedroom itself had its own bathroom, and a small balcony that looked out over the garden.

“This is pretty amazing Ron…” said Harry as they stood on the balcony together.

“That’s the understatement of the year mate… this place is bloody unreal… I can’t believe that Hermione and I are going to live here. I’ve never had anything this nice in my whole life.” he said in wonder.

“You deserve it Ron.” Said Harry, putting his hand on his friends shoulder, “you both do.”

     Ron smiled at him. Just then Ginny came running into the room her face aglow with excitement.

“Ron!! You have to come see what I’ve just found!” she gasped.

     Both boys looked at each other and then followed her quickly, completely at a loss as to what could be so exciting. She ran down the hall a little ways and opened the door to what they had thought was a closet, she then ran inside. Harry looked at Ron in confusion, but then they both walked over to the door. As soon as they looked around the door frame they saw that what was behind the door was not a closet, but a set of stairs, it looked like this was the entrance to the attic. Harry climbed the stairs and let out a gasp when he reached the top. Ron who was right behind him stopped dead and stared around in amazement.

     The attic ran the whole length of the house and in it was shelf after shelf of books. It was an entire library that looked like it held books ranging in age from fifty years old to hundreds of years old. There was a comfortable chair by the window, and a writing desk in one corner of the room. Harry turned and looked at Ron; he was still standing there looking dumbfounded.

“There must be over five hundred books in here!” said Ginny, “do you think this is Dumbledore’s personal library?”

“It has to be…” said Harry and he smiled, “wait till you show Hermione this Ron, if she didn’t already think you were the most amazing man on planet earth, I think giving her, her own library would probably do it.” He winked at his friend and then chuckled at the look on his face.

     Ron was still looking around like with an expression like someone had clonked him over the head rather hard. Harry saw him silently mouth the words, her own library. Then he looked at Harry and smirked.

“I’m not going to see her for weeks!” he said, and the three of them laughed appreciatively.

     They all made there way down stairs and met Mr. Finchley by the front door.

“Is everything in order Mr. Weasley?” he asked.

“Everything is absolutely bloody perfect!” said Ron enthusiastically.

“Alright well the house could use a deep cleaning it has not been lived in for quite some time, we can send in a team of Ministry Custodians, but we’ll need to know when you and your wife plan to move in.” said Finchley.

     At the words ‘you and your wife’ Ron turned slightly pink, and shot a look at Harry and Ginny who were both grinning.

“We’ll probably be moving in around August.” Ron answered the man not bothering to correct him, then he leaned over to Harry and added, “I reckon a month at the Burrow might be enough time to get Mum used to the idea of us moving in together before we’re married.”

“You should show Mum the house…” said Harry looking over his shoulder as they walked down the road, “she’ll be so excited she might actually forget you aren’t married.”

     Ron chuckled appreciatively, and then gave his new house another loving glance before they reached the gate to Harry’s house. Just like last time Harry had been here there was a plaque hanging on the gate, that gave a description of what had happened in this house seventeen years ago, and paid homage to him and his parents. As they got closer to it, you could see the graffiti all over it, people had left messages, some written in magic, some carved, but they all were messages of encouragement and support of Harry. More messages had been added since the last time he’d been here; many of them were congratulatory, telling him they knew he could do it all along.

“Ugh! Just like people to defile a perfectly respectable memorial!” said Finchley in annoyance, and he took out his wand and removed the sign from the gate as they entered. He was about to discard the sign, and Harry made to stop him but Ginny spoke first.

“Sir! If you wouldn’t mind terribly could we have that sign? I think I’d like to hang it up in our home.” she said, and Harry felt his heart swell in gratitude to her.

     Finchley looked at the old dirty sign and then back at Ginny in confusion, but then shrugged and handed it to her.

“Whatever you say Mrs. Potter.” and he began to walk up the path towards the house.

     Ginny also did not correct him and Harry looked down at her with a raised eyebrow she gave him a slightly sheepish grin.

“I know… but I liked hearing it, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, I’ll be Mrs. Potter soon enough.” she said as she hugged him.

    They walked up the path towards the house, it was a pretty white cottage set on the edge of the woods, it was slightly smaller than Ron’s house and there was a gaping hole in the top right corner of the house. Harry stared at this spot for awhile, before Ginny gave him a squeeze and looked up at him in concern.

“Darling are you sure that you want to go in right now? We could have the Ministry workers come and fix the place first, if it would make it easier.” she said gently.

“No…” said Harry softly, “I need to see it like this…”

     He walked forward and carefully opened the door. He was standing a small living room; he had seen it many times before in his dreams. He walked to the spot were his little toy broom was still propped in the corner, behind the living room was the dining room with a comfortable sized kitchen adjacent. The kitchen had large windows that looked out on the woods. The stairs to the upper level of the house acted as a divider between the dining and living rooms and Harry stood before them now, staring up them and trying to find the will to keep moving.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” asked Ginny again quietly as she slipped her hand through his. He nodded silently and they began to climb the stairs. At the top of the stairs there was a long hall, he walked towards the back of the house and slowly opened the door, his parents room looked as though it had been completely untouched. There was even a pile of dirty clothes in the corner that no doubt belong to his father. Harry went over and gently touched the silk robe that was lying on the foot of the bed, this was his mother’s, he had never felt as close to her as he did in that moment. He left the room and headed down the hall, he found another bedroom that his Dad seemed to have turned into a study, and a bathroom with an old fashioned claw foot tub. Harry had to chuckle at the way his Dad’s side of the sink was a jumbled mess of products while his Mom’s was neat and organized. He was more like his Dad than he had figured. When he came to the end of the hall he hesitated, the door to his room was bent and broken he looked at Ginny who squeezed his hand encouragingly and then they both stepped through the doorway. Utter devastation met them, the room was full of debris and the forest had started to make its way in through the gaping hole in the roof, Harry noticed on that the wall closest to them still had a faint bit of peeling blue wall paper, with little trains on it. He felt a lump rising in his throat. Ginny put her arms around him and hugged him tightly.

“So do you have any idea how you would like to have the house renovated?” said Mr. Finchley, making both of them jump, he and Ron had silently joined them.

“I want everything to be put back exactly as it was.” said Harry immediately, he looked down at Ginny with a smile. “Now Teddy can have his own room.”

     They all walked back downstairs and out the front door.

“Blimey Harry you can see my house from here!” said Ron standing on the front step, “we really are going to close.”

     Harry gave him an appreciative smile and they all began to walk back down the road, they passed a small church with a cemetery behind it and suddenly Harry stopped. He looked at Mr. Finchley and reached out to shake his hand.

“Thank you for all you’ve done sir. It is much appreciated. I think before we go, I’d like to visit my parents grave, so I will say good day to you here.” He shook the little man’s hand and Finchley Disapparated on the spot with a nod of his head to Ron and Ginny.

     Harry walked towards the cemetery but then he noticed that the other two were hanging back.

“Well what are you waiting for? Come on!” he said beckoning to them, and the both ran to meet him with relieved looks on their faces.

     They all walked quickly into the cemetery, Harry conjured a bouquet of roses and lilies to put on the grave. When they got to the small grave marker the other two stood back as he stepped forward to place the flowers on the grave, and brush away the dead one’s he’d left last Christmas.

“Hey Mum… I brought you flowers.” He said softly, “Hey Dad… how’re things going up there? I brought some friends with me again. This is Ron, he’s my best mate, I know you would’ve liked him Dad, he’s always making sure I don’t take myself too seriously.” Ron smiled appreciatively at him. “and this is Ginny” he put his arm around her as he spoke, “she’s my fiancé, and yes everyone has mentioned the resemblance to us. We’re getting married in December; I wish you could be there. I wish I could walk you down the isle Mum, I wish you could give me your words of wisdom Dad.” Harry sank to his knees in front of the grave, his throat was burning and tears were filling his eyes, “I miss you both so much…” he whispered.

     Harry felt warm hands grip each of his shoulders and he welcomed the comfort of his best friend in the world, and the love of his life. Harry sat there in silence, with his old family and his new one.

Chapter 16: Hogsmeade Happenings
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                                   Chapter 16: Hogsmeade Happenings

     Harry let out a disgusted sigh and tossed the Prince’s Potion book on the table in front of him grumpily. For once they were not in Harry’s room, a large group of seventh year students had congregated in the library to study together. Dean and Seamus both aspired to be Aurors as well so they had joined Harry in pouring over the Prince’s potion book. Neville was sitting across the table from them helping Lavender go through her Herbology notes, Lavender wanted to be a Healer so Herbology and Potions were her two biggest N.E.W.T.s.  Ginny was buried in her Transfiguration notes, and even Luna was studying, she was reading her Charms book and absentmindedly creating streams of multicolored bubbles whenever Madam Pince the librarian was not looking.

     Harry glared at the Potions book. He ad been right in thinking that it would probably help him get an O on his Potions N.E.W.T. but not being able to have the book with him in the exam meant that he had to memorize every potion Slughorn had told them might be on the exam, and that was precisely what he, Dean, and Seamus had been doing since about two o’clock that afternoon. Seamus groaned and flopped back in his chair. Madam Pince shot him a dirty look.

“I don’t want to look at another potion ever again!” he said, “Who the bloody hell cares that you need three sprigs of boomslang dried by a campfire for Polyjuice Potion!”

 “I expect our examiners might…” said Dean miserably, and he plopped his head in his hands.

“I think it’s time for you boys to have break.” Said Ginny briskly, “you’ve been at it all day, and I think you deserve one.”

     They all looked up at her with tired dead expressions that confirmed what she had just said and she giggled in spite of herself.

“Why don’t you all go down to the Hogshead and have a drink with Ron? I’m sure that Hermione is itching to get him out of her hair while she is trying to study.” said Ginny.

     All the boys agreed readily to this but out of the corner of his eye Harry thought he saw a slightly annoyed look pass over Lavender’s face and as Seamus went to give her a kiss on the forehead, he also looked slightly perturbed. Harry walked over and gave Ginny a kiss, and Neville did the same to Luna, and then the four boys headed out of the library, down the steps, through the front door, and down to Hogsmeade.

"This is exactly what I needed tonight!” said Seamus excitedly, “Nothing like drink, to lift the spirits!” he did a little jump and clicked his heels together and the other boys laughed appreciatively.

     They reached the Hogshead and when Aberforth saw the number of people entering he looked momentarily overjoyed at the amount of business, but then his face fell when he saw Harry.

“Just give us a moment to go get Ron and we’ll all be coming down for drinks Aberforth.” Said Harry encouragingly and the man’s face lit up again.

     The four boys climbed the back staircase and knocked on Ron and Hermione’s door.

“Come in…” said Hermione’s voice but she sounded distracted.

     They opened the door and saw Hermione sitting at the kitchen table with what looked like at least ten books and four piles worth of notes all spread out around her. She looked up at them and immediately she looked overcome with gratitude.

“Oh you’ve come to take Ron out thank goodness! He’s in our bedroom reading at the moment, but he’s been so antsy he’s driving me absolutely crazy.” she said with relief.

     Harry walked across the room to the bedroom door which was cracked open, and peeked his head in, and had to stop himself from laughing. Ron’s Quidditch book was lying abandoned on the bed next to him, it seemed he had gotten bored so he’d taken to making paper airplanes and flying them around the room and making them crash into each other. He seemed to be holding some kind of competition to see which paper airplane was the strongest because the losers were scattered all over the floor in pieces. Just then the two flying in the air collided and one of them ripped the other to shreds viciously.

“Survival of the fittest eh Ron?” said Harry and Ron jumped.

“Harry!” he said, ‘Thank God you’re here mate! I’m so bloody bored! She’s been studying for the last six hours, and she won’t even let me turn on the Wireless because it distracts her, I tried turning it on in here and putting Muffliato on the door but the buzzing distracts her too. I was going to just come up to the castle but then I remembered that you lot are studying as well…” Ron stood up as he finished looking thoroughly miserable.

“Well us guys have decided to take a bit of a study break. Why don’t you come downstairs and we’ll all get some drinks?” said Harry, and the two of them walked back out into the main area of the flat.

     The other three boys were all still standing nervously by the door. They had enough experience with Hermione to know not to disturb her while she was studying. Ron however walked over and knelt down next to her, he tucked her hair behind her ear and kissed her cheek and she smiled without looking away from her notes.

“I’m gonna go down to the bar and have some drinks with this lot ok?” he said.

“That’s fine... just don’t drink too much…” her voice was distracted but affectionate.

“Love you.” Said Ron as he stood and planted a swift kiss on her forehead, she gave his arm a quick squeeze in response and then he was out the door and downstairs with the guys.

     They all headed down to the bar and found that Aberforth had moved his nicest round table over by the fire for them. They all sat down around it comfortably and Harry ordered them each a shot of Firewhisky and also five of the largest bottles of Butterbeer.  Seamus looked forlornly at his one shot but Harry laughed.

“Just one hard drink tonight boys, we all have more studying to do in the morning.” He said.

     Seamus and Dean both groaned in unison but they begrudgingly agreed with Harry and they all clinked their glasses together and downed their shots.

“So Ron,” said Dean, “how have you been mate, I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve seen more than a glimpse of you somewhere in the castle. How’s being a Quidditch commentator?”

“It’s bloody brilliant!” said Ron enthusiastically, and he launched into a long exciting story about the last game of the Nationals that he and Lee had gone to. The other boys oooed and ahhhed at all the appropriate moments and they were all laughing and having a wonderful time.

“You know Ron...” said Seamus conversationally a little while later, “I hope you don’t’ take this the wrong way but I’m kinda glad you don’t live in the castle anymore… it’s bloody awkward having my girlfriend’s eyes light up every time she here’s your ruddy name. You think after you shacked up with Hermione she would have taken the hint…”

“Sorry Seamus, I really should have never started that whole stupid business in the first place, Hermione’s really always been the only girl for me.” said Ron with and apologetic shrug.

“s’not your fault” said Seamus chugging a butterbeer, “she needs to just get over it already…”

“You think you’ve got it bad??” said Dean with a teasing smile, “at least your girlfriend isn’t in love with the famous Harry Potter… and at least Ron doesn’t like Lavender back. I spent the last half of sixth year worrying that Harry was going to hex me when I wasn’t looking!” said Dean sending a wink in Harry’s direction.

“Sorry about that mate,” said Harry as he grinned at Dean and raised his butterbeer bottle in his direction.

“Nah… don’t worry.” Said Dean as they all laughed, “at least I wasn’t the one who had to deal with her telling everyone I had a hippogriff tattooed on my chest.”

     Harry almost choked on his butterbeer at this statement and glared at all of them as they roared in laughter.

“I still can’t believe that she said that…” he said slightly grumpily, “I don’t even know anyone who has a tattoo!”

“Yes you do…” began Ron immediately but then stopped and turned pink when they all looked at him questioningly.

“You have a tattoo Ron?” said Seamus, “When did you get that?”

“I don’t think he was talking about himself…” said Neville with a knowing grin on his face.

     They all shared looks with one another, and then looked back at Ron in disbelief. Ron was now a terrific shade of red, and he was pretending to read the label on his butterbeer bottle.

Hermione Granger has a tattoo??” said Dean in awe.

“What is it?” said Harry in amusement.

“It’s the word ‘knowledge’ in Latin, but the letters look all old and cracked and they have vines growing through them. It’s very cool looking.” said Ron quickly, his face burning, “her Dad told her she could get it when she came of age.”

“So… where is it?” said Seamus with a snigger.

     Harry was also slightly curious about that, he had seen Hermione in her swimming suit the summer before, and had not noticed any tattoos.

“None of your bloody business that’s where…” muttered Ron as he took another swig of his butterbeer, but they all looked at him expectantly so he rolled his eyes and glared at them.

“Fine it’s on her left hip bone are you happy?” he said grumpily, but he smiled.

“Nice…” said Dean appreciatively and they all chuckled.

“Hermione Granger… who’d have thought…” muttered Dean.

“What do you mean?” asked Ron.

“Well after she basically refused to give Viktor Krum anything fourth year she kinda got a reputation for being….” Dean trailed off in an attempt to be civil.

“As pure as the ruddy Virgin Mother…” finished Seamus.

“Thanks Seamus….” Said Dean with an eye roll but Seamus just grinned.

“Not even close…” muttered Ron under his breathe, and the other boys exchanged knowing smiles.

“By the way, I wanted to thank you Ron. You won me five Galleons!” said Seamus with a mischievous smirk as he sipped his butterbeer.

“Oh you are NOT going to tell them about that stupid bet! That’s very mature…” said Neville indignantly aiming a kick for Seamus but he moved out of the way laughing.

“What bet?” asked Harry and Ron.

“I can’t believe you brought this up Seamus…” said Dean shooting him a dirty look, but then he turned back to Ron and Harry and continued.

“In our fifth year… after the incident with Viktor, all the Gryffindor boys in our year started a running bet on who would be the first person to get Hermione in the sack…” said Dean sheepishly.

     Ron turned a deep shade of red and glared at Dean like he was about to put him through the wall.

“Hey I didn’t start it! And it’s not like we tried to do anything about it, it was just a guessing game! Come on Ron, you know if the shoe was on the other foot you would have joined in too.” Dean said quickly.

     Ron still looked rather annoyed but he couldn’t argue with that logic, so he asked Dean a question instead.

“How come we never heard about this bet until now?” he said.

“Because you and Harry were the two most likely candidates!” said Seamus with a snigger.

“I just want you both to know that I never participated.” said Neville throwing his hands in the air, to show his innocence.  

“Yeah… yeah Neville you’re a saint.” Said Seamus lazily, he was clearly enjoying himself, “so anyway when Hermione moved in here with you, we all knew you’d finally won. And I got five galleons! Dean lost three…”

“You betted on ME??” said Harry incredulously.

“Yeah… well you know fools hope.” said Dean with a silly grin, and Harry laughed.

“So who gets the money if no one got Hermione in the sack, and it was her who did the sacking?” said Harry with a smirk in Ron’s direction.

     Harry had to jump out of the way as Ron lunged at him and tried to tackle him to the floor. All the other boys burst out laughing and Harry moved his chair towards Dean thoroughly out of Ron’s reach and they all sat there grinning at him while he glared back.

“I told you she wasn’t innocent…” said Ron grumpily.

“Apparently not!” said Seamus still chuckling.

       They all sat there in silence for a few minutes before Dean once again changed the topic.

“I can’t believe you’re going to Asia this summer Neville. You have to send us some pictures! I hear Asian girls are out of this world, I mean look at Cho Chang and she was only half Asian!” he said.

     Neville chuckled and shook his head at Dean.

“I think I’ll be a bit more focused on the plants than the girls Dean, I’m pretty satisfied with the girl I have.” he said.

“How’s that going anyway?” said Ron, ‘I mean… I love Luna, but she is a bit loopy.”

“She’s not as much so when you spend a lot of time with her…” said Neville, “you start to understand the way she thinks, and then you realize how smart and insightful, and wonderful she really is. I mean I’ve accepted the fact that my children are going to believe in nargels and crumpled Hornsnacks, but I don’t think I mind that much.”

“Wow… children? I didn’t know that you guys were that serious…” said Seamus.

“Yeah I guess we are… I’ve been thinking about asking her to marry me when I get back from China… but I want to get a job so we have a decent place to live first. We would be way to cramped living with her dad in that little house, and Gram would never let me live it down if we had to move in with her.” said Neville.

     While Neville was speaking both Harry and Ron choked on their butter beer and ended up spitting ample mounts of it out on the table. Everyone looked around at them in surprise but they looked at each other.

“You didn’t tell him yet??” said Ron to Harry incredulously.

“I’ve been studying my brains out for the past three weeks! It wasn’t the first thing on my mind!” Harry retorted.

     They both turned to look at Neville who was looking at them with a very confused but curious expression on his face.

“Ok Neville, I don’t exactly know where to begin this story, but I actually have an extra house, that I legally gave to you a few weeks ago, I just forgot to tell you about it…” said Harry.

“You have an extra… wait what?” said Neville looking bewildered.

     Ron and Harry launched into the whole story about their houses in Godrics Hollow, and Grimauld Place and the will, and finally at the end Neville sat there looking dumbfounded.

“So you’re going to give me your house Harry?” he said softly.

“Yeah… I want the person who lives there to be someone I trust and care about.” said Harry, “and it could really use some cheery decorating, which I’m sure Luna will be great at.” He said with a smile.

“Harry…I don’t even know what to say…” said Neville weakly.

“Don’t say anything mate. You and Luna deserve it, and I’m really happy to give it to you…” said Harry, and Neville gave him an appreciative smile.

“Hold the phone…” said Seamus, “Ron you own Dumbledore’s house? As in the house Albus Dumbledore grew up in??”

“That’s right, it’s absolutely brilliant!” said Ron with a grin, and both Dean and Seamus gave whistles of admiration.

     The boys talked for another hour or so before Harry looked at the time and realized it was past midnight.

“Hey, we should all probably hit the sack, we have a lot of studying to still do tomorrow.” He said.

     The other boys made noises of protest and rolled their eyes, but in the end they knew he was right so they all stood to leave.

“Go make sure Hermione actually gets some sleep.” Said Harry to Ron with a smile, and Ron gave handshakes and pats on the back to all his friends before heading back to the stairs and up to his flat.

     The boys made their way back to the castle. Harry parted ways with them at his room but when he got through the door he noticed that Ginny was not yet there. He exited his room and made his way back to the library. She was still sitting at the table with Lavender Brown. Luna must have left for bed because they were two of only a few people still remaining in the library.

     As Harry approached he took out his wand and waved it so that all Ginny’s things were swept up and put in her bag. Ginny looked up in annoyance, no doubt thinking it was Madame Pince, but when she saw Harry she grinned. Harry walked over slung her bag across his shoulder and proceeded to scoop her up in his arms.

“Studying’s done, time for bed.” he said, and she giggled and kissed him.

“Goodnight Lavender,” she said and Lavender gave them a half hearted wave as they left the library.

     As Harry carried Ginny out of the library he heard Madam Pince say, “well really!” but he simply smiled and walked on. He let Ginny poke the horse in the painting and turn the apple doorknob since his hands were full and then he carried her into his room and plopped her on the bed.

“Just like old times huh?” he said with a grin and he kissed her. He pushed her down against the bed and began to kiss her neck.

“Harry wait…” she breathed softly, he pulled away and looked at her.

“I told you I’m being careful… but that’s means that we can’t… not this week.” she said.

     Harry groaned and flopped face first into the blankets of his bed, he had been really looking forward to an enjoyable night with Ginny to relieve some of the stress he’d been through that day.

     Ginny laughed softly and she rolled him over so she could look at him. She leaned down and gave him a long lingering kiss. He was just about to ask her why she was torturing him like this when she gave him a mischievous grin.

“Just because we can’t make love, doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.” She whispered, and she nibbled on his ear lobe sending a delightful shiver down his spine.

    Sometime later Harry was lying on his stomach in his bed and Ginny was tracing a line down his spine with her finger and smiling at him. They had not had sex, but Harry had definitely experienced some new and unforgettable things.

“So remind me why we don’t do that more often?” he said with a smile.

“Now that I know how much you like it maybe we will.” said Ginny.   

     Harry sat up and put his arms around Ginny; he kissed her and pulled her close to himself.

“Do you have any idea the unbelievable amount that I love you?” he asked.

     Ginny flopped onto her back and looked up at him with a contented expression.

“I think that I have a pretty good idea.” She said with a smile.

     Harry took his index finger and touched it to Ginny’s chin, he softly traced a strait line down her neck, across her torso to her bellybutton. She smiled at him and sighed in pleasure.

“You know you save my life everyday Ginny.” said Harry softly.

“How’s that?” she said.

“Because you’re the only reason I can be just me. If you weren’t here I’d let everything over take me, I’d be a guilty wreck, but you never get tired of finding the good in me, I would be completely lost without you.” he said.

“That's why they call it a soul mate.” said Ginny with a smile, and she kissed him again.

     Hermione was talking to McGonagall in her office. She was standing before Bellatrix Lestrange at the Malfoy’s. She was moving towards Ron who had just locked the door to his bedroom and was giving her a mischievous grin.

     Harry quickly got out of her mind and looked at her. She was panting and tears of frustration were welling up in her eyes. Harry had agreed to help Hermione practice her Occulmency but they had realized in the past half an hour that she was not very good at it when she was under a lot of pressure. They were now standing Aberforth’s empty bar, facing one another. At that exact moment she flopped down in a chair and began to sob.

“Oh Harry I’ll never get an O on my Defense Against the Dark Arts N.E.W.T! I’m rubbish at practical work!” she sobbed.

‘Yes you will…” he said rubbing her shoulder, as he handed her a piece of chocolate, “you’re just very stressed out, you’re going to be fine. We just have to think of a way to give you incentive.”

“I don’t see how…” she said softly, as she nibbled the chocolate.

“I think I have an idea…” said Harry, “can you think of someone who you would never want to see your thoughts, who the very idea of them getting into your head disgusts you?”

     Hermione sat there for a moment and then a hard look came across her face.

“Yes…” she said softly.

“Well then pretend that I am that person, trying to get into your mind.” said Harry.

     Hermione nodded and then looked down at the floor for a minute. When she looked back up Harry was caught off guard by the look of utter hatred that played across her face. She stood and positioned herself for his attack and he began. He saw a flash of her waking up in the hospital wing second year and then he was pushed from her mind so forcefully he stumbled back. He had also heard something; he guessed Hermione had been thinking it so hard it actually translated into audible words in Harry’s head. She had said, “Get out of my head you bitch.”

“Who in the world did you pick Hermione?” he said in wonder, he had never heard Hermione swear before, and even though it was only in her head, it was slightly off putting.

“Why?” said Hermione in confusion.

“Get out of my head you bitch?” Harry repeated.

     A look of horror crossed Hermione’s face and her hands flew to her mouth as she flopped down in the chair again.

“Oh Harry I’m so sorry! You know that wasn’t meant for you!” she said.

“Yeah… I know it’s fine. But who was it meant for?” asked Harry.

“Bellatrix, she’s the first person I could think of that I would loathe having in my mind… and it worked Harry when I was imagining you were her, I pushed you out with no problem.” she said brightly.

“Yeah… let’s just be careful what you’re thinking when it’s the examiner not me.” Said Harry with a smirk, and Hermione smiled at him appreciatively.

Just then they heard a loud thump upstairs and then shuffling noises, they heard the door to Hermione’s apartment open.

“’Mione I’m home… you down there?” said Ron.

“Yes I’m down here with Harry we’re practicing for our Defense Against the Dark Arts exam!” she called, and they heard the sound of Ron coming down the steps.

“How’s it going?” asked Ron as he pulled up a chair and sat backwards on it looking at them.

“It’s going very well.” Said Harry honestly, “we just figured out a way to help Hermione use Occulmency consistently.”

“It makes her cuss like a sailor though.” he added with a teasing wink.

“Oh really?” said Ron looking at his fiancé with admiration.

     Hermione giggled and ruffled his hair and then she went on to tell him about what she and Harry had just been working on.

“Good for you babe…” said Ron a moment later, “if that miserable wench was still alive I’d probably have a few words for her myself.”

“Harry why don’t you stay for dinner?” said Hermione, “You could send a message for Ginny to come down as well. I think we could all use a study break for the evening.”

     Harry didn’t hesitate, he sent his stag Patronus flying out the end of his wand and then used it to ask Ginny if she would come down to the apartment. A few minutes later a beautiful silvery mare cantered through the wall and told them she was on her way. She arrived about five minutes later looking very cute in a t-shirt and jeans with her hair in a pony tail. Harry walked over and gave her a firm kiss, he hadn’t seen her much that day because he had been practicing with Hermione.

“Missed you.” He whispered into her hair and she pressed her face against his shoulder.

“Ok… enough of that…” said Ron with an eye roll, “lets go make some food!”

     They had a lot of fun making their dinner, they made shepherd’s pie, and Hermione and Ginny gave the boys the task of chopping up vegetables. After they had eaten there dinner which surprisingly turned out wonderful, they listened to the evening portion of Ron and Lee’s show. They recorded this portion during the day it just ran later at night. Ron tried to act casual as they all complimented him on his smooth radio presence.

“You know last week someone on the street recognized me.” he said nonchalantly.

“How is that possible? You’re on the radio, no one sees what you look like…” said Ginny.

     Ron shot her a dirty look but then continued with what he was saying.

“I was in George and Charlie’s shop, and they called me by name, and when I answered them some witch asked me if I was the Ron from the radio, she said she recognized my voice.” he shrugged but he was smiling.

“That’s so cool Ron!” said Harry earnestly, “give it a few more years and you’ll be as famous as me.” He winked at his friend.

     After awhile they decided to go out and watch the stars, it was a warm night, and the stars were bright. They walked up to a little knoll that was beyond Hogsmeade and lay in the grass talking and laughing. They were just remarking how quiet it seemed to be when something happened. They heard a group of voices coming up the hill.

“Yes but where did you get it?” whispered one.

“My father bought it for me in Knockturn Alley now be quiet!” said another.

“What are we going to do?” said a third.

“We’re going to set the Dark Mark in the sky over this hill… to remind everyone Lord Voldemort’s followers are not gone!” said the first voice.

     Harry stood up and pointed his wand at the direction of the voices. He muttered, Lumos, and he saw immediately that the voices were a bunch of Slytherin sixth years, there were about ten of them and the oldest one gave Harry a sneer when he saw them. He was holding a shriveled hand that looked suspiciously like Draco’s Hand of Glory, Harry was fairly sure it was another of the same. Ron, Ginny, and Hermione stood up behind Harry and raised their own wands.

“Harry Potter, how nice to find you secluded and out numbered.” sneered the leader, “this must really be my lucky day.”

“You may think we’re out numbered, but we can disarm you easily, please put down your weapons so no one has to get hurt.” said Harry calmly.

“Yes Potter I’m sure you think you’re far greater than us, but we shall see…” he said, and he leaned to whisper to his second in command, “get that filthy Mudblood first.” he said.

     There was a roar from beside Harry and he felt himself be knocked out of the way. He heard Hermione scream Ron’s name but when he looked up Ron had grabbed the sixth year boy by the throat and was holding him up so his feet were off the ground. The boy was trembling from head to toe and his face was tinged with blue. The other children seemed too stunned to move.

“Say that again… I dare you…” growled Ron, he held the boy so their faces were almost touching, “get out of here… or I will kill you, and I won’t need to use my wand.”

     With that he threw the boy on the ground where he crumpled. He looked back up at them with loathing but then stood shakily still in Ron’s shadow, he turned and motioned for his compatriots to leave. They all began walking down the hill and Ginny, Harry and Hermione came to stand beside Ron. Hermione put her arms around Ron and he leaned down to kiss her head.

     The lead boy reached the bottom of the hill and he paused suddenly he spun around and shouted Sectumsempra! Harry watched the scene in slow motion. The spell had been meant for him but it had been poorly aimed, it flew towards Ginny and Harry watched helplessly as the bolt of light slashed open her cheek sending her blood flying and she fell to the ground.

“No!” he screamed and he sent a stunning spell at the boy who crumpled, and the others took off running in terror. Harry dropped to the ground beside Ginny; the large gash on her face was gushing blood. Without thinking he ripped off his shirt and pressed it to her face trying to stop the bleeding.

“Hermione! Call McGonagall and Bill!” he yelled in panic.

    Hermione jumped and then quickly sent her otter Patronus bounding down the hill towards the castle. Harry looked down into Ginny’s face, she was deathly white, her eyes wide with fear and they were focusing and un-focusing.

“Ginny Weasley you stay with me, do you hear me?” he said firmly.

     She nodded her head weakly but she kept her eyes focused on him, he could feel the tension in her body and he knew she was exerting all her effort to stay coherent. A few moments later Bill was at his side.

“What happened Harry, and who is that boy at the bottom of the hill?” said Bill quickly as he removed the shirt to look at Ginny’s wound.” Harry looked down the hill to see McGonagall dealing with the petrified boy at the bottom of the hill.

“Don’t know his name… but he and a bunch of his blokes were coming up here to set the Dark Mark and they happened upon us.” Harry said weakly, he was still looking at Ginny, Bill done a spell on her face and the bleeding had stopped, the wound now looked a few days old but she still looked white as a ghost.

“We scared them off, and told them to go back to the castle, but that boy sent the Sectumsempra spell at me at the last second. He missed and it hit Ginny.” Harry felt his throat burning and he knew he couldn’t go on.

“She’s going to be fine Harry.” Said Bill as he put a hand on Harry’s shoulder, “We just need to get her back to the school and Madam Pomfry will make her right as rain.”

     Bill created a stretcher and then magically lifted Ginny onto it, and then began to levitate it back towards the castle. Harry walked along beside the stretcher never letting go of Ginny’s hand.  

Chapter 17: Examinations
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                                                       Chapter 17: Examinations

     Harry sat in the hospital wing for what felt like days. On their way back to the castle Ginny mustered enough energy to ask Bill if she was allowed to pass out. Bill laughed at her and said yes and she had fainted a few seconds later. Harry had been sitting with her in the hospital wing holding her hand ever since.

“Mr. Potter you should really get some sleep…” said Madam Pomfry gently, “Your fiancé is perfectly fine. Apart from the scar, she will be no worse for wear.”

     Harry touched the pale pink line that now ran from corner of Ginny’s nose up her cheek to her temple, Madam Pomfry had healed the wound as soon as Ginny was brought in, but she also explained that since Ginny was hurt with a powerful dark curse, this scar would never go away. Harry felt a sob welling up inside him and he did his best to force it back down.

“I’m not leaving her…” he said firmly.

“Well then you should at least take the bed next to her and get some sleep.” said Madam Pomfry slightly testily, and she walked away.

     Harry pulled the bed a little closer to Ginny, so he could keep holding her hand and then he lay down next to her.

“I’m so sorry Gin…” he whispered, then he kissed her hand and he let the tears come.

     He wasn’t upset that Ginny would have a scar, nothing in the world could make Ginny seem unbeautiful to him, he was upset for her, that she had once again gotten hurt. Yet he also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he and Ginny could not live without each other, their fates were tied to each other, which meant that danger was now a part of Ginny’s life as well, he just hated seeing her like this so much.

     Harry wasn’t sure when he fell asleep, but the next thing he knew there was soft light trickling in through the window. He looked over and saw that Ginny was awake and smiling at him.

“Hey you...” she said.

“Ginny you’re awake!” gasped Harry, he jumped out of his bed and wrapped his arms tight around her.

“Hey… take it easy I’m fine…” she said, as she ran her fingers through his hair.

“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry this happened Ginny.” said Harry pulling her tighter.

“Good Lord Harry I’m not mortally wounded or anything…” said Ginny with a slight hint of exasperation in her voice.

“Hey do I have a scar?” she asked curiously almost as an afterthought.

     Harry nodded his head slowly but Ginny simply said “cool!” and tried to hop out of bed to go look in the mirror. Harry pinned her down where she was and gave her a stern look.

“You are NOT getting out of this bed until Madam Pomfry gives you the ok.” said Harry.

     Ginny rolled her eyes and then crossed her arms.

“But I want to see my scar!” she said poutily.

     Harry sighed and he went across the room to take the small mirror from the wall and bring it over to the bed. Ginny traced the light pink scar that ran the length of her cheek and then looked up at Harry.

“Still think I’m beautiful?” she said.

     Harry rolled his eyes exaggeratingly and leaned down to kiss her.

“I think you are absolutely breathtaking.” He said.

“Good… cuz I actually think this scar is kind of cool, and with the collection of scars my brothers are accumulating I was beginning to feel left out.” She said with a grin.

     Harry sighed and plopped down on her bed next to her; leave it to Ginny to be excited about nearly being killed by a curse. He put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. Just then Hermione and Ron came walking into the room.

“Here Harry… though you might like this.” said Ron, tossing Harry a t-shirt.

     At that moment Harry realized that he had been shirtless ever since he had pulled his shirt off to stop Ginny’s bleeding. He was vaguely embarrassed now that he realized he’d walked across the grounds and through the castle that way while bringing Ginny here, but he really didn’t care that much. She was safe and that was all that mattered.

“I didn’t mind...” said Ginny with a wink.

“You look a whole lot better Gin…” said Ron to his sister, “that scars permanent though eh?”

“Yeah I expect so…” said Ginny nonchalantly, “You’d better get back on your game Ron cuz you and Percy are now the only two Weasley children without cool scars!”

“I have a scar!” said Ron hotly, “It just happens to be on the back of my head so it’s harder to see… but it makes my hair grow funny there now, look!” he turned his head so they could see the thinner patch of hair over the place were his scar was.

“Congratulations Ron... your scar looks like the beginnings of a bald spot.” said Ginny dryly. 

     Ron crossed his arms and glared at her but she just laughed.

“I’m not anxious for you to be getting anymore scars…” said Hermione putting a hand on Ron’s arm before she turned to Ginny and Harry.

“The boy who attacked you last night was named Daniel Murdoc, he’s in Slytherin and his father has been implicated in some rather nasty crimes that have happened in Surry within the last month.” She explained, “He’s been expelled from Hogwarts, and as Head Girl, McGonagall told me to ask you if you wanted to press charges.”

     Ginny looked at Harry and then back at Hermione. Harry was very much wanting her to press charges, he wanted to rip the filthy little rat limb from limb, but it wasn’t his choice.

“What will happen to him if I press charges?” said Ginny.

“He’ll be sent to trial, and since we were all witnesses he’ll probably spend a few years in Azkaban for attempted murder.” said Hermione.

“Oh no... I don’t want that, he was just a dumb kid. I think getting expelled is punishment enough.” said Ginny.

     Harry was about to protest but Madam Pomfry walked back into the room. After a quick examination of Ginny she told her she was fine to go, but she needed to rest for the day. Without another word Harry scooped Ginny up into his arms.

“Harry James Potter I am perfectly capable of walking!” she said crossly.

“I don’t care, I’m carrying you anyway.” He said and they walked for the door.

     Harry took Ginny to the room and tucked her into their bed propped up against pillows then he ran down to the Great Hall and got them both a tray of breakfast.

“This is absolutely ridiculous!” complained Ginny, when he made her eat in bed, “I’m perfectly fine!! There’s nothing wrong with me!”

“Madam Pomfry said you needed to rest so I am going to make you rest if it kills me.” said Harry with a kiss to her nose.

     Ginny still looked rather cross but she acquiesced and turned her attention back to her bacon and eggs. After a few more minutes of eating she set the tray to the side, brushed away the crumbs and turned to look at Harry.

“How are you doing love?” she said as she ruffled his bangs softly.

“Isn’t that what I’m supposed to be asking you?” said Harry with a smile.

“Well I was just worried that with everything that happened you were going to start blaming yourself again…” she said softly.

“I think part of me will always blame myself when you are in harms way, but I also think I understand things a little bit better now.” said Harry.

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.

“Ginny…” said Harry taking her hand, “I love you more than I love myself, I could endure many things in this life but living a life that didn’t have you by my side isn’t one of them. You are my soul mate, and best friend, I know that trying to live without you would be like trying to live without breathing. Do you feel the same way about me?”

“Yes… you know I do.” whispered Ginny.

“Well then that’s what I have to accept, that you will always be in danger, but that’s I dunno fate I guess. Because we can’t be away from each other, so I will spend my life trying to protect you, but I know that it’s your fate to live a life that’s more dangerous than other peoples, because that is my fate, and my life is tied to your life.” He kissed her hands and smiled at her.

“Very well put Harry Potter… I’m glad you are finally starting to realize that.” She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him. “Now if I’m stuck in bed all day can I at least have some of my books so I can study?” she said with a teasing grin. Harry smiled back at her and went to retrieve them from the couch.

    By the next morning the story of Ginny’s injury had spread throughout the entire castle. There were of course hundreds of rumors flying around. Some of them were very close to the truth and others so far fetched that one had to wonder if anyone actually believed them. Over lunch Harry heard one first year girl avidly telling her friend that the ghost of Severus Snape had appeared in Ginny’s room and tried to behead her in vengeance, but the ghost of Albus Dumbledore had stepped in and saved her. When he heard this he snorted and almost choked on his Pumpkin Juice.

     The rumor that seemed to annoy Ginny the most was that Harry had somehow had a fit of insanity and attacked her without knowing what he was doing. This of course bothered Harry too, but after all the random visions, and collapsing because of his scar that he had done in his fifth and sixth years, he was used to people assuming he was psychopathic. Ginny on the other hand took it very personally. As she and Harry were walking towards the Herbology greenhouses she turned and snapped at a bunch of third year girls who were looking at them warily.

“Yes that’s right! I’m still with him! I’m walking beside him and holding his hand! Maybe that should be a clue that he didn’t do anything!” she snapped and then stormed off.

“Sweetheart, it’s me… you knew people were going to talk…” said Harry as he squeezed her hand comfortingly.

“I know but it’s just so unfair that you spend all your time protecting me and taking care of me and people still blame you for every bad thing that happens! No wonder you have a complex…” she grumbled.

“Well thank goodness I have you to get me over that.” He said as he leaned over to kiss her on top of the head, and they both walked into the greenhouse.

     The next Saturday Harry woke early with feelings of excitement and anticipation wriggling in his stomach. He went to the window and threw it open wide. It was a warm sunny day and the air was full of life and energy. It felt like the beginnings of summer. Harry inhaled the sweet smells and then turned back to the kitchen to make himself some breakfast. Today was the Championship for the House Quidditch teams. Harry thought it was very fitting that Gryffindor would be playing against Slytherin for the Cup. While Harry had learned over the past year that Slytherin had produced some worth while people, he still had a disdain for his rival house, even more so after what the Slytherin boy had done to Ginny.

     Ginny came out of the bathroom after having taken her traditional pre-game shower, she was wrapped in a towel as she walked in to kitchen and grabbed a piece of toast. Harry and Ginny had been living together for almost eight months so any shyness that they might have had, was long since forgotten. Ginny came over and kissed his cheek.

“You ready for today, my unparalleled Seeker?” she said with a smile, as she put her arms around him.

“I think so…” said Harry, “I mean we saw Slytherin play their match against Ravenclaw and they’re really good, but I think we’re better.”

“I know we’re better…” said Ginny, “I’m gonna go get dressed, you should too we don’t want to be late.”   

     Ginny turned and headed for their wardrobe and as she did Harry gave her an affectionate swat on the bottom she jumped and giggled but then kept walking.

     A few minutes later they headed out of the portrait hole hand in hand wearing their Quidditch robes. As soon as they exited they saw Dean, Seamus, and Lavender standing outside there door with satisfied smirks on their faces.

“I knew it...” said Dean, “everybody’s been saying that Ginny Weasley has been secretly shacked up with Harry Potter all year, but I wanted to see if it was true.” He smirked at them.

“It’s not exactly been that big of a secret Dean…” said Lavender who was standing next to him holding Seamus’s hand, “Ginny moved all her stuff out of our dormitory in September, we all assumed this is where she moved to.”

     Harry gave a shrug and nodded his head in agreement, and they all began to walk towards the front door.

“So are you lot ready for this?” said Ginny, already beginning to get in Captain mode.

“I think so…” replied Lavender, “I’ve been working really hard; well you know that Ginny, I’m just nervous, Slytherin is so vicious.”

“Yeah but we’ve got Bradley and James and they’ve been itching all year to send some Bludgers at anything green that moves!” said Seamus with a smile.

     Just then Ron and Hermione showed up in the Entrance Hall to walk with them down to the grounds. At the sight of Ron, Harry noticed Lavender break into a huge smile, but the smile faded quickly when she saw him walk forward with his arm firmly around Hermione’s waist. Harry also noticed that Seamus had dropped her hand and was looking annoyed.

“Hey we came up to watch your game!” said Ron enthusiastically, “I know you guys are gonna kill them!”

     They all walked down to the Quidditch pitch and Ron and Hermione said goodbye to them and went to find a place in the stands. The others made their way into locker rooms and met up with their Beaters who were both sitting there looking positively gleeful.

“Right…” Ginny began, “So Slytherin is a tough team. We saw them play before and they are very fast and they are rather vicious. They seem to have practiced the fine art of breaking the rules in a way that doesn’t get caught, that being said Brad, James we are going to be relying on you more than ever. You send Bludgers at anyone near you, do you understand? Seamus, this is why I picked an Irishman for my Keeper, you stay strong boy, don’t let them past you no matter what intimidation tactics they take.” Seamus gave her a hard determined look and he nodded his head once. “Harry,” said Ginny as she turned to look at him, “Slytherin’s Seeker has got nothing on you, she’s not as attentive or as fast, you get that Snitch Harry, and you get it quick.”

     Ginny put her hand out and every one of them put their hand on top of hers and they looked around at each other with determined faces.

“I made this team knowing that if a day like this came, we could work together, and we could win. Now go prove me right.” With that they all shouted ‘Gryffindor’ and ran onto the field.

     As usual the Slytherin team seemed to have gone for brawn over brains. All of their players with the exception of their Seeker were hulking boys over six foot tall, their Seeker on the other had was a short petite girl with shiny black hair that was cut short and slightly spiky to frame her slender face. She was their Captain and she walked to shake Ginny’s hand. Harry wasn’t sure what had passed between the eyes of the two girls but he knew that it sent shivers down his spine. He did not like the way girls could talk with their eyes. Madam Hooch blew her whistle and the game began.

     The game was nothing short of grisly. The chasers on Slytherin seemed just as happy with slamming their weight into whoever had the ball and trying to break their arms, as they did with actually trying to intercept passes. When they did have the ball they lobbed it so hard at Seamus that Harry was worried his hands might be broken trying to stop it, but true to his word Seamus was fearless. Harry knew he would have plenty of bruises after the game but an hour in he had only allowed two goals past him. Though his fearlessness was nothing compared to that of Ginny, who had scored four goals on the Slytherin Keeper. She used her quick reflexes to weave in and out of the big Slytherin Chasers who had long since given up trying to actively get possession of the Quaffle and were now simply trying to knock Ginny off her broom and take her out of the game. Harry was spending so much time worrying about Ginny that he knew he was not watching enough for the Snitch. She on the other hand seemed to be having a marvelous time, and for the moment Dean and Lavender were doing a good job at keeping the Slytherin Chasers off of her. Harry tore his eyes away from his fiancé to go look for the Snitch, he had to trust that his teammates would take care of her and get back to the job at hand. Harry zoomed around the edge of the field looking for the Snitch; suddenly he saw it fluttering near the left goal hoop not five feet from him. All of a sudden he heard a sickening crack from the other end of the field. He turned his head just in time to see Ginny falling off her broom and hitting the ground with a thud. There was an outcry from the crowd, apparently one of the Slytherin Beaters had gotten frustrated and simply cracked Ginny in the head with his bat. Harry was frozen he didn’t know what to do, he looked at Ginny laying unconscious on the ground and then to the Snitch still hovering by the goal posts, he knew if he waited seconds longer the Snitch would be gone.

“HARRY POTTER!” yelled a voice.

     He turned to see Ginny sitting up on the ground, there was blood trickling from her head and she looked a bit dizzy but she was glaring at him.

“GET THAT SNITCH NOW!!” she screamed.

     Everyone turned and the Slytherin Seeker tore up the field but it was too late. Harry was there in seconds with the little gold ball struggling in his hand. 

     A few hours later they were all sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room having a wild party. The Quidditch Cup had been placed on the mantle of the fireplace and everyone had been dancing around it and cheering for hours. Every few minutes someone would yell ‘to Harry!’ or ‘to Ginny’ and they would all toast their butterbeers and cheer again. Harry and Ginny were cuddled on the couch together not much caring if anyone else saw their antics.

“I can’t believe you were almost going to let that Snitch get away.” She said as she nuzzled the side of his neck.

“You’re slightly more important than Quidditch darling.” He said as he lightly kissed her.

“Yes but I was fine… if you had ignored that Snitch I probably would have killed you.” said Ginny, giving him a longer kiss.

“Ok break it up you two! This is a party! You can have that kind of celebration on your own time!” said Seamus loudly as he plopped down next to them with Lavender. Seamus had a shot of firewhisky in his hand and it was readily apparent that he had already had quite a bit to drink.

     Lavender on the other hand was not paying any attention to them, her eyes were focused on the far corner of the room where Ron and Hermione had cuddled up with a bottle of firewhisky and were communicating thoroughly nonverbally. Seamus looked from Lavender to the corner and his eyes narrowed. He shrugged her arm off his shoulder and stomped away disgustedly. Lavender got up and followed him to where he stood brooding. They began to have what was supposed to be a private conversation, but with Seamus’s drunken state it didn’t stay private for long.

“Well that’s just bloody stupid!” he said angrily, “If you don’t want to be with me fine!! But don’t tell me you’re waiting for Ron Weasley!! Because it doesn’t look very likely that he’s ever coming back! And you’re just being pathetic!”

     Lavender stared at him as though he had slapped her. Her eyes filled with tears as she looked around the room at everyone who was staring at them. She turned and ran out through the portrait hole with her hands over her face.

“I think…. Maybe I should go talk to her…” said Ron.

     Harry looked up to see that Ron and Hermione had come over and were standing behind them. Harry gave Ron a quizzical look but Ron simply shrugged his shoulders.

“What would you say?” said Harry.

“I dunno…” said Ron looking uncomfortable, “but I feel like I need to get this over with, let her down easy you know?” he turned and put his arms around Hermione.

“Is that ok with you?” he said carefully.

“Yeah… it’s fine… just be careful what you say Ron…” she said, and she touched his face affectionately.

     Ron walked to the portrait hole and opened it. He turned and gave them a nervous look before walking out.

“HEY! Where does he think he’s going??” shouted Seamus.

“To fix the mess you just created you twat.” said Dean dryly.

     Harry, Hermione, and Ginny sat there in silence for a few minutes. Hermione was looking into the fire but she was shifting back and forth nervously.

“Hermione don’t you be nervous for one second.” Said Ginny comfortingly, “She could throw every trick in her book at him and he wouldn’t bat an eye. He’s totally and completely yours.”

“Thanks…” said Hermione with a smile.

     A few more minutes passed and suddenly the portrait hole swung open again and Lavender came storming in.

“I NEVER WANT TO SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN FOR AS LONG AS I LIVE RON WEASLEY!!” shouted Lavender, and she ran towards the girls dormitory, Seamus tried to talk to her but she rounded on him, “AND THAT GOES FOR YOU TOO!” she yelled and she stormed up the stairs.

     Both Ron and Seamus stood there stunned for a second and then they looked at each other.

“Don’t worry mate… I have a feeling she’ll be speaking to you again by morning.” Ron said to Seamus, “with me on the other hand… I think she means it.” He slumped onto the couch next to Harry and Hermione moved up to sit next to him.

“What on earth did you tell her?” said Hermione softly.

“The truth, that I only started dating her to make you jealous, and while I really did like her a lot, I had been in love with you for two years already when I started dating her…” said Ron with a sigh.

“Oh Ron… you didn’t…” said Ginny putting her head in her hands.

“I did… and you know what I’m glad I did!” said Ron with a slightly annoyed look on his face, “Yeah now she hates my guts, but she also knows how things really are and she can get on with life, and be with Seamus if she wants, or some other bloke, and she won’t be hung up on me.”

“I have to agree with Ron here…” interjected Harry, “Sometimes being honest is the best option even if it’s not the most tactful one.”

“I suppose you’re right…” said Hermione, “I just feel bad for her, she’s my friend.”

    By Monday morning Lavender and Seamus walked into breakfast holding hands again so Harry assumed that they had made up. They sat down to eat but then Lavender said something in Seamus’s ear and got up and walked towards them. She stopped in front of Hermione and looked at her in a nervous way.

“Hey Hermione….could we talk for a moment?” she said slowly.

     Hermione had been so engrossed in studying her Arthimancy book that she hadn’t even noticed Lavender walk up. When Lavender spoke she jumped and turned to look at her.

“Of course we can…” she said with a gentle look, and then both girls got up and walked out of the Great Hall.

     Harry watched them go and then looked at Ginny for confirmation that this was one of those girl things that he didn’t understand. Ginny nodded her head in agreement, so Harry went back to eating his eggs. About ten minutes later Lavender and Hermione came back into the hall smiling and laughing together, Lavender went to take her place with Seamus but before she did she turned and gave Hermione a hug, which Hermione returned. Harry shook his head and looked down at his plate; he really thought that he would never fully understand girls. Hermione came back and plopped down next to them.

“Oh I’m so glad that’s sorted out! Now I can focus on my exams.” She said brightly, but then a panicked expression started to grow on her face, “what if I forget everything! What if I studied the wrong thing!” she gasped.

“Hermione you did this same thing when we took our O.W.L.s everything is going to be just fine.” said Harry patting her arm.

     Hermione tried to give him a smile but it turned out as a grimace and she quickly began pouring over her Arithmancy book again. Just then McGonagall stood up and announced that all Seventh year students should be preparing for their first exam of the day. Hermione yelped and began reading her book even more furiously. Harry, who had been sitting with the Prince’s Potions book open on the table next to him began doing the same. Potions was his and Ginny’s first exam and he wanted to try and cram the last bits of knowledge into his brain.

     A few minutes later after wishing a frazzled Hermione good luck, Harry and Ginny made their way down to the Potions dungeon. Slughorn was standing in the front of the room with two other important looking people that Harry knew would be their examiners. The first part of the test was two hundred written questions on the proper usage and administration of potions. Harry thanked his lucky stars that he had used the Prince’s potion book to study. After an hour of pouring over the test he felt fairly confident in his results. He had only guessed on about fifteen of the two hundred questions and most of those were educated guesses.

     Then came the practical part of the exam, they were asked to create three potions, a Polyjuice potion, its Antidote, and also a Draught of Living Death. Harry was instantly relieved, these were three of the potions that the boys studied the hardest so he had absolutely no problems with making them. After another hour and a half he had finished and he looked into all three of his pots, to check them. The Polyjuice potion bubbled sluggishly, its antidote looked as clear as water, and his draught of living death had a perfect pearly sheen. Harry felt his heart swell with hope as he realized he might well stand a chance at an O. He silently blessed Severus Snape for making the Prince’s Potion book, and thought to himself how ironic it was that it might be Snape who ultimately helped him achieve his dream of becoming an Auror. He wondered if Snape would be happy to know that, a year ago he would have said no right away, but with everything that happened Harry sometimes wondered if maybe Snape was the smallest bit proud of him for what he had accomplished.

     The examiner announced that their time was up. Harry looked over and was pleased to see that Ginny had also achieved very good results with her potions. One of the examiners stepped up to their table, he began with Ginny, he did a complicated movement over her Polyjuice Potion and it began to bubble very rapidly.

“What I am doing…” the man said, “is aging your potion magically, it dilutes the potion and makes it last only minutes, but for the purposes of this exam it is sufficient. Now young lady will you please add a piece of your hair to the potion?”

     Ginny plucked a piece of her long red hair and dropped it in her cauldron. The potion immediately changed to a brilliant ruby red that looked like it was almost on fire. The examiner took a ladle full and tipped it to his lips. He sipped it down and immediately his features began to distort and shrink while his hair shot out and then there was an exact replica of Ginny standing before her.

“Very good Miss Weasley,” said the examiner Ginny, who was studying himself in a hand held mirror, “now for your antidote.” he sipped her clear potion and almost instantly he was himself again. 

“Now we will test your Draught of Living Death.” The examiner motioned for his compatriot who opened the box that was sitting on Slughorn’s desk and pulled out a small brown field mouse. They brought the mouse down and took and eyedropper full of Ginny’s potion and gave it to him. The mouse instant fell over as if dead, the examiner made sure that the mouse was still breathing and then gave Ginny a bright smile and an approving nod as he moved on to Harry.

    He repeated the same process with Harry, turning his Polyjuice Potion the golden color it turned with his hair, drinking it and turning into him, then drinking the antidote and turning back. They tested his Draught on a mouse and then moved on down the line. Harry felt relief swell inside him.

     The rest of the week passed without incident. Harry and Ginny had their Herbology exam on Tuesday and their Transfiguration exam on Wednesday. As McGonagall had expected Harry had done just fine on his Transfiguration exam, and he even managed to completely turn himself into an end table during the practical, the only blemish was that one of the legs had a toe on it. Harry was very proud of Ginny who turned herself into an absolutely perfect replica of a stuffed arm chair.

     Harry Thursday exam was Charms, while Harry knew that he wasn’t going to get an O on that particular exam he didn’t mind that much. He hadn’t studied that hard for his Charms exam because he had been to busy cramping his head full of potions and difficult Transfiguration techniques. All in all he left the room thinking he probably scraped an E on the exam.

     On Friday morning Harry and Ginny met a positively panicked Hermione outside the doors to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

“I’m going to fail… I just know it…” she moaned.

“Hermione you have studied harder than I have ever seen you study, and that’s saying something!” said Harry.

     Just then the door opened and Bill ushered them into the classroom. They all took their seats and the written portion of the exam began. As he had suspected Harry knew every single answer. He was positive that he had gotten one hundred on this portion of the exam. He snuck a peek at Hermione and saw her scribbling away looking much more confident and he looked at Ginny who, like him, had already finished her exam and was sitting back in her chair with a satisfied smile on her face. When they were done the examiners asked them to leave the room, and then announced they would call them in reverse alphabetical order for their practical exam. Ginny was one of the first names called and she skipped lightly into the room completely at ease. After about ten minutes she came bouncing back out with a huge smile on her face.

“I didn’t do anything wrong! and I even got the bonus point!” she said happily.

“Good job Ginny!” said Harry giving her a hug.

“It’s really not that bad Hermione… I know you can do all the stuff they’re asking.” said Ginny comfortingly. She put a hand on Hermione’s arm, and Hermione gave her a grateful smile.

“Well I’m going to go start packing our stuff so we’re ready to leave in the morning!” said Ginny and she headed across the hall to their room.

     Harry and Hermione stood in the hall for a few more minutes and then Harry heard his name called. He slowly walked through the door and saw the two examiners standing there.

“Hello Mr. Potter, it’s nice to see you.” said one of them, “may we just see your wand please?”

     Harry handed them his wand and they quickly checked it over to be sure there were no cheating spells on it before handing it back to him.

“Now Mr. Potter can you please produce a Patronus for us, and you get one extra bonus point if you can make the Patronus talk.” said the man.

     Harry shot his stag Patronus out the end of his wand and it cantered to the other end of the room and then turned and walked graceful up to the examiner.

“What would you like me to say?” Harry made the Patronus ask, and the little man chuckled appreciatively.

“Now Mr. Potter I would like you to attempt to break into my mind.” said the man.

     Harry stood before the man and concentrated, he thought the spell Legimens and he immediately saw a brief picture of the man sitting in a chair by the fire reading a story to a young boy before he was pushed back out.

“Very good Mr. Potter.” Said the man, “now I would like you to defend your mind.”

     The man put all his focus on Harry and Harry began to feel the man prodding for a way into his mind, but Harry held strong, after about a minute the man broke his gaze away from Harry and exhaled loudly.

“Very impressive Mr. Potter.” He said, “now one last test, I would like you to drink this water, it is laced with Veritaserum.”

     Harry drank the water obediently and felt the sense of straightforwardness come over him again, but this time he was ready for it and he remained aware.

“What is your name?” said the examiner.

“Hermione Granger.” said Harry, it was the first name that came to mind, he had to careful sound out each word to get it to come out of his mouth but it had worked.

     The examiner smirked at him but then he continued.

“What color is the sky?” he asked.

“Pink.” answered Harry carefully.

“What season is it?” asked the examiner.

“Winter.” replied Harry.

“Very well Mr. Potter you have passed your practical with flying colors and you are free to go.” said the man handing Harry a cup of the green antidote, which Harry drank gratefully.

‘Thank you very much sir!” said Harry and he ran out into the hall.

“It’s going to be fine Hermione,” he said, encouragingly, “I’ve practiced all that stuff with you you’re going to be just fine.”

‘Oh thank you Harry… that makes me feel a lot better.” She said with a smile.

“You want me to stay and wait with you?” he asked.

“No you go help Ginny pack I’ll be in soon.” She said with a smile, and Harry gave her a quick hug before heading back into his room.

Chapter 18: Goddbyes and Hellos
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                                               Chapter 18: Goodbyes and Hellos

“Harry come on we don’t want to be late!” said Ginny, she was hauling her trunk towards the door of their room on Saturday morning.

     Harry look around the room with a feeling of sadness. This had been the first place he and Ginny had ever lived together. They had so many good memories here he sighed and turned to face her. She gave him an understanding look.

“I know love, but we’ll make more wonderful memories in our home.” she said, she always had an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what he was thinking.

     Harry shook his head and put his arm around her. They both walked out the doors of their room for the last time. They met Hermione in the Entrance Hall she was smiling at them brightly. She had of course done perfectly on all her N.E.W.Ts even DADA, they wouldn’t get their grades until the following Friday but none of them were that worried.

“You ready to go down to the train?” she asked.

“Yeah…” said Harry, and they all began to walk across the lawn, and they all piled into a carriage.

“Ron’s decided to take the train with us, since he’s moved out of the flat in Hogsmeade we’ve discussed it and think it’s more practical for us to get a place in London.” said Hermione.

     Harry and Ginny made eye contact briefly but then looked away not wanting to spoil Ron’s well kept secret. Harry looked out the window at the castle that was now disappearing into the distance and a lump began to rise in his throat. It was just beginning to sink in, he wasn’t going back. Hogwarts had been his first real home, he’d spent every happy moment of the last eight years of his life either within its walls or at the Burrow and when he wasn’t there, he was dreaming about the next time he would be. It was at Hogwarts that he learned to be the person he was today. A tear leaked out the corner of his eye and he quickly brushed it away, but Hermione who was sitting across from him noticed.

“Harry what’s wrong??” she said quickly sounding concerned.

     Ginny picked up on her tone right away and leaned in so she could see Harry’s face, placing a hand on his knee.

“It’s nothing…” said Harry regaining his composure, “I’m just a little sad to leave, Hogwarts was the first place I ever called home you know? But it’s ok because now I have a family, and I’m going to make my own home.” He smiled at both of them.

     They returned his smiles, and shortly afterwards the carriage stopped at the train station. They climbed out and Ron was standing on the platform waiting for them with his trunk.

“I still don’t see why we have to take the train when we could just ruddy Apparate home from right here…” he grumbled.

“Because it’s tradition Ronald!” said Hermione slightly condescendingly, and she took his hand to go find a compartment on the train, but before she got on she stopped.

     Hagrid was standing on the edge of the platform giving the three of them a very watery look. They all walked up to him and stood before him.

“So… I guess… this is goodbye…” he said softly, “I can’ imagine bein’ here an’ not lookin’ forward to seein’ you lot… I mean ya weren’ here las’ year but tha’ was different now yer done… so I expect you won’ be back too often… yer all grown up.” Hagrid’s tears spilled over the edges of his eyes and all three wrapped there arms as far around him as they could and hugged him.

“Hagrid we’ll come see you…” said Ron.

“Of course we will Hagrid! You’re one of our best friends.” said Hermione.

“Hagrid, I’ve neither you nor I has ever had much family….” began Harry, “In some ways that’s a curse but in some ways it’s a blessing, because we get to pick our family along the way, and you’re my family Hagrid I could never forget you.”

     Hagrid howled and squeezed them close to him the tears running down his cheeks. The train whistle blew and he quickly released them. He was still crying but he was smiling from ear to ear.

“Get on the train all a ya, go have some more adventures, and send me some little ones to have adventures with here at school!” he said with a grin, “I love ya all!”

“We love you too Hagrid!” they all yelled. They laughed and waved and blew kisses to their big friend as the train pulled away and Hagrid slid out of sight.

     Harry Potter sat back in his seat and sighed as he prepared to leave Hogwarts for the very last time.

“Ronald Bilius Weasley! If I ever catch you doing that again I’ll stick your fingers together!” said Mrs. Weasley sharply.

     It was Wednesday evening of their first week back at the Burrow, George and Angelina had come over for dinner along with Bill and Fleur. Ron and Harry had been assigned dishwashing duty and Harry had just aimed a jet of water at Ron’s head. Ron had responded with a particularly rude hand gesture and unfortunately his Mum had walked in right at that moment.

“Sorry Mum…” he muttered with a smirk at Harry.

“You’d better be…” she said severely, but then her voice softened, “now are you two done? We’d like to have some tea as a family before everyone goes home.”

     Harry and Ron finished what they were working on and then followed her into the living room. They sat down with their respective fiancé’s and Mrs. Weasley brought them all some cups of Chamomile tea. The tea was soothing a relaxing, and soon they were all in a sort of quiet comfortable state.

“So Fleur,” said Ginny, “when are you due to have the baby, it’s got to be pretty soon right?”

     Harry had also been thinking that his soon to be niece or nephew must be arriving any day now. He didn’t know much about pregnancy but he knew that it only took nine months, and they were fast approaching that marker with Fleur. Fleur on the other hand gave a slightly annoyed look and shifted her large round belly, which looked uncomfortable.

“Sadly no…” she said grumpily, “You human girls have it so easy… I am part veela, and veela pregnancy can last up to eighteen months. Though the doctor does not believe I will last that long, he has put the due date sometime in late September.”

“Oh… sorry about that…” said Ginny with an uncomfortable shrug, she obviously was not sure what else to say. Just then Angelina saved her.

“Speaking of pregnancy…” she said with a big grin.

     They all turned and looked at her and George, then Mrs. Weasley let out a squeal of excitement and jumped up to hug her daughter-in-law so quickly that she almost spilled her tea. Everyone else laughed appreciatively and went to hug George and Angelina.

“How far along are you?” said Fleur excitedly.

“Bout a month, I saw the Doctor yesterday and he said I’m due in mid March.” said Angelina.

“Oh then our babies will be close to the same age!!” said Fleur excitedly.

“A month already? Wow you didn’t waste any time did you George?” said Bill with a teasing smirk.

      George simply shrugged and grinned at him.

“Well… we knew we wanted kids, so we weren’t trying to get pregnant, but we weren’t trying NOT to get pregnant, we just kind let whatever happened happen.” He shrugged again and kissed Angelina’s cheek.

“This is so exciting!!” gushed Mrs. Weasley, “ I was so excited about getting one grandchild, and now I’m going to have two in the span of six months!” she looked like she was about to cry with happiness.

     George and Angelina looked at each other with amused looks on their faces. They both smiled and then George turned back to his mother.

“Actually Mum… well... on second hand maybe you should sit down for this.” George gently pushed her down in her chair and gave her a look of mock gravity, Angelina giggled.

“Mum... you’re not going have two grandchildren in a span of six months… you’re going to have three.” George knelt in front of his mother with a smile playing at his lips waiting for his words to sink in.

“Three….” She said but then a look of comprehension dawned on her face.

“Twins!” she gasped and she pulled George into a hug and began crying again.

     The whole room erupted in cheers and hugs. Somehow it seemed all too fitting and perfect that another pair of Weasley twins were going to be born into the world. It seemed to, in a small way, heal the gaping void that was left by Fred’s death.  Harry looked into George’s face and realized that it also seemed to fill the void with him, at least to some extent.

“So have you thought about names?” he asked curiously.

“Yes we have actually…” said Angelina, “if they’re girls we’re thinking Molly Nymphadora and Ginerva Hermione.” she said.

“Really,” whispered both Ginny and Hermione together.

“Of course!” said George brightly, “if I’m going to have daughters I at least want them named after some of the best witches I know.”

     Both girls looked like they might cry and Mrs. Weasley was already completely a mess.

“If their boys” continued Angelina, “they will be called Fredrick Arthur, and Sirius George.”

     Everyone around the room was quiet, they all looked slightly overcome, and Harry himself felt his throat burning and he was trying to find his voice, which he finally did.

“I think that’s perfect either way.” he said with a smile.

“Thanks Harry!” said George appreciatively, and the mood seemed to lighten, and George took the opportunity to change the subject. “So are you all ready for Saturday?” he asked.

     Harry looked at him confused and then back at the other three, none of them seemed at all confused.

“What’s Saturday?” he asked.

“Graduation of course!” said Hermione, “all seventh years students and their families go back to Hogwarts for the ceremonies and then a grand party!”

“I didn’t know they even had graduation at Hogwarts…” said Harry.

“Well of course they do silly… why wouldn’t they?” said Hermione.

“Well it’s not as though I have an older sibling to go see graduate, and I haven’t read Hogwarts a history in it’s entirety like you Hermione so how would I know?” he retorted.

     She seemed to shrug in agreement but then she turned her attention to Mrs. Weasley.

“Mum do you think we could go to Diagon Alley before Saturday. The girls are supposed to wear dress robes for the ceremony and the pair I wore to the Yule Ball don’t fit me anymore.” She said.

“Yes of course dear, we’ll go down on Friday morning after your grades come in.” she said.

     At the word grades Hermione’s face went white again.

“Oh don’t even start you’re going to have perfect grades and you know it.” said Ron kissing her quickly.

     She smiled slightly but she still looked wracked with nerves.

     Harry was awoken on Friday morning by what sounded like a heard of elephants thundering past the door to Ginny’s room. He was momentarily disoriented and confused but then he heard shrieking coming from the kitchen.

“They’re here! They’re here!” Hermione screeched sounding panicked.

     Just then Harry heard slow shuffling footsteps outside the door followed by the groggy tired voice of Ron.

“’Mione… sweetheart... calm down... you’re going to make yourself sick.” he called sounding exasperated.

“So I guess our grades are here then…” said Ginny.

     She had been asleep on Harry’s shoulder, and now he looked down into her very sleepy somewhat annoyed face.

“I guess so… you want to go look?” asked Harry.

     Ginny groaned and flopped face first into the pillow, Harry laughed and ran his hand through her hair. A second later she sat up and sighed.

“Yeah all right lets go look…” she said irritably, and she grabbed her robe and threw it on.

     Harry pulled on some pajama pants and an old t-shirt and they both walked down the stairs.

“Hermione it’s seven thirty in the morning!” said Ginny testily as they entered the kitchen, “If your going to have a melt down can you at least do it quietly so only your fiancé has to be woken up?”

    Hermione was pacing back in forth in front of the table where three letters were sitting. She would randomly reach out her hand towards the one on the right but then pull it back and start pacing even more vigorously. Mrs. Weasley was cooking eggs and sausages on the stove, she was shaking her head and chuckling at Hermione’s antics.

“Hermione… just open it already…” said Ron, he was sitting in a chair with his head in his hands looking half asleep.

“How about we all open them together?” said Harry he went over and picked up each letter and handed each of the girls theirs. Hermione took hers like it was a bomb about to explode.

     Harry carefully opened the letter and pulled out the contents. There were two sheets of paper. The first was his grades. They read.

Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests

Harry James Potter:



Defense Against the Dark Arts………………..O



     The second letter seemed to be a message from the Minister of Magic Harry was practically jumping with excitement and pride as he opened it.

Dear Mr. Potter,

     On examination of your grades you have been accepted into the Auror training program here at the Ministry. All new recruits to the Auror program must arrive at the Auror department in the Ministry of Magic at precisely nine o’clock this following Monday to begin training. The Auror exams will take place in August. We are very pleased that you have chosen to join this fine and brave branch of our protectors. Hoping you are well.

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic

     Harry began to read the note again, but suddenly he was startled by another shriek from Hermione. She had finally gotten up the courage to open her letter.

“There’s two pieces of parchment!” she squealed, “that’s a good sign!!”

    She opened her grades and then began to cry.

“Oh ‘Mione it’s ok… it was a really hard thing to do…” said Ron, giving her a sympathetic look and rising to hug her.

“No…No…” she mouthed shaking her head.

“I did it!” she gasped through her tears, she was laughing now… “I did it!” she said again louder.

     Ron yelled and scooped her up into a big hug.

“I knew you could do it!” he said kissing her.

“A moment ago you thought I hadn’t…” she said with a teasing smile.

‘Well you were bawling you eyes out!” retorted Ron, he sat back down in the chair and pulled her into his lap, “come on I want to see your grades…” he said and he took the paper and started reading it.

“Did you do it Harry?” said Ginny walking over to him.

     Harry nodded and grinned and Ginny threw her arms around him and squealed in excitement.

“My husband the Auror,” said Ginny as he ran her fingers through his hair and looked adoringly into his face, “now that’s sexy.” She said with a smirk.

     Mrs. Weasley shot Ginny a slightly reproachful look when she said this, but Harry just grinned and kissed her. Ron and Hermione had just overheard what was being said.

“You did it too Harry??” said Hermione excitedly, she ran and hugged him fiercely.

“Good one mate!” said Ron with a big grin.

“and I’m guessing you did as well Ginny?” said Hermione.

“Yup, all you need for curse breaking is O’s in Transfiguration and Charms, and an E in Potions, they teach you most of the stuff once you get to Gringotts.” Said Ginny happily, and they all sat down to eat their breakfast and talk excitedly.

     The next day Harry and Ron were sitting in the living room in their dress robes waiting for the girls to come down. They had been discussing starting a game of Wizard chess because they were bored, but just then the girls descended the stairs. They both look particularly beautiful in their robes. Ginny was wearing the midnight blue robes with sparkly accents that Harry had helped her pick out in Diagon Alley the summer before. Her hair was pinned up on the sides and she seemed to have curled it slightly so it waved elegantly. Hermione’s robes were deep crimson which accented her brown eyes perfectly. Her hair was also pinned up on the sides but the most surprising thing was that it was bone straight, and sleek and shiny. Ron walked over to her and touched her hair with wonder.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“Yeah it’s cool…” he said, “but I like you with curly hair too…”

“It’s only for one day… just to try something different.” she said with a smile.

     They all walked into the kitchen where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were sitting with Mr. and Mrs. Granger. The Grangers fireplace had been connected to the Weasley by Floo for the time being.

“Shall we go then?” said Mr. Weasley.

     They all walked out into the garden to Apparate to Hogwarts. Mr. Granger took hold of Mr. Weasley’s arm and Mrs. Granger took hold of her daughters. The all turned on the spot and a moment later they were all standing at front of the gates to the school.

“Well that was a rather unpleasant sort of thing…” said Mr. Granger.

“Yeah it takes some getting used to.” said Ron as they began to walk.

     Harry thought it was funny how he was so choked up about leaving this place a week ago, and now here he was back already. Yet somehow it already felt different, he knew that he would not be going up to the castle, or to his Dormitory. Well it wasn’t his anymore, he remembered. He was just a visitor, and he was saying goodbye.

     As they made their way up the grounds they saw a huge area with lights and at least three hundred chairs set up on the lawn. As they drew closer Professor Sprout the head of Hufflepuff House hurried up to them with a kind smile.

“We need all graduates in the tent behind the stage please! Guests can go take their seats.” she said.

     She hurried Harry, Ginny and Hermione away from their family and into a tent filled with their classmates. They waved hello to Neville and Luna, along with Dean, Seamus and Lavender, but Professor Sprout was already herding them into a line alphabetically. After a moment music swelled outside the tent and they began to walk, they all took seats on the stage and then McGonagall stood to give her speech.

“We stand today on the brink of a truly great future,” she began, “our world had seen much darkness as of late. We have experienced things that many thought would break us, but we endured. And our endurance was brought about in large part by the brave young men and women who sit behind me. I am truly privileged to have taught and watched as these outstanding young men and women have grown into great people who will no doubt bring about great change in our world. Please join me in applauding this years graduating class from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!” she began to clap and everyone else rose their feet to join her.

     Harry laughed as he saw Ron, George, Angelina and Charlie hooting and cheering. Then the processional began, McGonagall called each student by their full name and as they walked forward to receive their diploma she stated what career they would have. After a few moments she got to Lavender, McGonagall stated that Lavender would be joining St. Mungos to work as a Healer in their pediatric department. McGonagall handed her a diploma and gave her a formal little hug. The next person down the line that Harry knew was Seamus, McGonagall announced that he would be in training to join the Auror department and she handed him his diploma. Harry saw Seamus’s sandy haired mum cheering in the audience. There were a few more names called and then;

“Hermione Jean Granger…” said McGonagall, all of the Weasley’s and Grangers got to their feet and yelled and cheered as Hermione walked towards the front of the stage.

“Miss Granger received the highest grades of anyone in her year, and she will be going on pursue a career in Magical law.” said McGonagall.

“That’s my girl!” yelled Ron over the sound of the applause and several people laughed and cheered.  

     The next people that Harry knew were Neville and Luna. McGonagall stated that Luna was going to become the co-editor of the Quibbler. She also stated that Neville would be retuning to Hogwarts the next year to be the teaching assistant to Professor Sprout. Harry looked at him with shock and amazement and Neville shot him a huge grin before taking his seat.

     There were several more names called, they were all people who Harry might have recognized by their faces, but he didn’t know them. Then McGonagall paused.

“It is my very great privilege to call this next name, indeed there was a time where many of us wondered whether this day would ever be a reality. But now it is my most humble honor, to call forward Harry James Potter.” she said her voice slightly shaky.

     As Harry stood to walk forward he noticed it was not just the Weasley’s who got to their feet, but every person in the whole assembly and the noise was so defining that McGonagall had to wait until after Harry had taken his diploma to continue.

“Harry will be joining the Auror program in a few weeks, and I think I speak for everyone here when I say how grateful and how proud we are of him.” She pulled him into hug which he accepted and then he walked back to his seat slightly hot in the face, it was a few more minutes until the crowd was finally calmed down.

     There was another ten minutes worth of name calling and finally there were only a few people left.

“Ginerva Muriel Weasley,” said McGonagall and Harry felt his heart swelling with pride. He joined the Weasley’s in clapping and cheering and he didn’t much care that people on stage were looking at them.

“Miss Weasley will be joining Gringotts bank as a curse breaker,” said McGonagall as she handed Ginny her diploma and gave her a quick hug.

     A few moments later after McGonagall had finished giving out the diploma’s she turned back to the audience.

“Ladies and gentlemen…” she began.

“Pssst! Harry take your wand out…” whispered Neville.

“Huh?” said Harry but then he noticed everyone had taken out their wands so he did the same.

“It’s tradition to send up sparks when she announces us!” said Neville.

“and now…” McGonagall was saying, “it gives me great pleasure it introduce… your graduates!!”

     She gave a grand gesture to them and them all stood and sent showers of sparks into the air with a cheer while everyone applauded them, and Harry could not remember the last time he’d felt so happy.

     An hour or so later they were all sitting around a large round table laughing and talking. The chairs had been replaced by the round tables and there had been a feast to end all feasts. Now everyone was enjoying desert, or dancing on the magnificent dance floor that was created in the center of the party. At that exact moment Harry was sitting at a table with Ginny, Neville, Luna, Seamus, Lavender, Dean, George and Angelina. They were all laughing at the antics of Ron and Hermione who were spinning around crazily on the dance floor seeming to have a wonderful time.

“Well at least she seems to be enjoying it...” chuckled George.

      A few minutes later a slow song came on, and the party got quieter. Suddenly Neville seemed to get a sort of funny determined look on his face and he stood up and clinked the side of his glass.

“Hey I’d like to make a speech!” he said.

     All eyes turned to him and those who were on the dance floor sat down to listen.

“Everyone knows me now, as the person who helped lead the resistance in Hogwarts last year. Well what many people don’t know is that for a very long time I was useless at magic, I almost thought I was a Squibb, but then I met some amazing people who showed me just what I’m really capable of. And I wanted to thank them for that,” he motioned towards everyone sitting at his table. “but I didn’t find my true bravery, until I met Luna Lovegood, when I first met her I thought she was crazier then all get out,” Luna giggled appreciatively, “but I soon came to rely on her care and supportive nature, she one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known and she helped me become the man I am today, and I have something I need to ask her.”

     Neville bent down on one knee in front of Luna’s chair and audible gasps were heard throughout the room. Harry looked over to the table where their parents were all sitting. Neville’s grandmother had her hands over her mouth, and Mr. Lovegood’s eyes were filled with tears.

“Luna Lovegood will you marry me?” said Neville, the whole room was deadly silent waiting for her answer.

“Yes, I think I’d like that very much.” she said serenely with a smile.

     The whole room erupted in cheers as Neville placed the ring on her finger. Harry and Ginny who were sitting closest to the pair leaned over to hug them. The music started again and everyone made their way out onto the dance floor. Harry pulled Ginny into his arms and swayed back and forth to the music they both laughed at George and Angelina who were dancing so enthusiastically that they were scaring other couples near them.

“I’m not sure that’s good for her in her delicate condition.” said Ginny with a smirk.

“I don’t think even being pregnant with twins could make Angelina delicate.” said Harry as he laughed and kissed Ginny’s forehead.

     The next day Harry and Ginny got up at the crack of dawn to put into play Ron’s master scheme. He met them in the hallway already dressed.

“You ready?” he asked.

     They both grinned and nodded. Ron went down stairs and they heard the small pop of him Disapparating. Both Harry and Ginny snuck up the stairs, Ginny silently opened the door and snuck into the room. She stuck her head out and made the signal to Harry that was supposed to indicate that Hermione was dressed decently and he could come in. He entered the room and found her fast asleep in bed wearing what looked like a pair of Ron’s old pajama’s that were now too small. Harry thought she looked rather adorable. Ginny and Harry both looked at each other with evil grins and then jumped onto the bed on either side of her.

“Wake up sleepy head!!” yelled Ginny, and Hermione jumped awake looking at both of them in surprise.

“Why on earth did you do that??” she said angrily, “and where’s Ron?”

“Ron is the reason we did that…” said Harry.

“and also slightly to get you back for Friday.” said Ginny with a teasing nudge.

“What do you mean Ron is the reason you woke me up?” said Hermione looking confused.

“He has a surprise for you this morning.” said Harry with a smile.

     She gave him a questioning look but he simply smiled and shook his head, he was not giving anything away. She glared at him and crossed her arms.

“Now there’s no use being pouty, just get dressed and then we’ll show you.” said Ginny.

     Harry stepped out of the room to allow Hermione to change but he could still here her through the door trying to get information out of Ginny. True to her word Ginny didn’t tell her a thing, and Harry smiled in pride. Hermione and Ginny stepped out of the room. Hermione had changed into a pair of jeans and a flowy blue blouse, and she’d put her hair into a pony tail. As soon as she walked out Harry raised his wand and put a spell on her that blindfolded her.

“Harry Potter, you take this off right now!” she fumed, she tried to step forward but she tripped and Ginny grabbed her arm to steady her.

“Now don’t get mad at Harry, Hermione. Ron made us promise to do all this.” said Ginny.

“What is all this about?” said Hermione, she still sounded rather alarmed.

“Well can I trust you to take my arm to Apparate or are you going to hit me?” teased Harry.

“I won’t hit you…” she said, but as she took his arm she added under her breath, “yet…”

     Harry chuckled and took her arm to Apparate. When they landed in front of Ron and Hermione’s new home in Godric’s Hollow Hermione almost fell over. Harry quickly reached out a hand to catch her.

“Are you ok?” he said.

“I’m fine.” She snapped, ‘but Apparation was not meant to be done blind folded, it makes everything worse.”

“Well we’re about to take the blind fold off…” said Ginny, and she removed it while saying, “Ta da!”

     Hermione looked around up and down the street in the early morning light, and then back at the house she was standing in front of. She looked at the two of them with a completely confused expression on her face.

“Do you know where we are Hermione?” asked Harry.

“Yes, we’re in Godric’s Hollow, you’re house is just up the road there. And a little ways down is the grave yard where you’re parents are buried.” She turned back to the house, “and this is Dumbledore’s house… but why are we here?” she asked.

“How’d you know this is Dumbledore’s house?” asked Ginny.

“There was a picture of it in the ghastly book Rita Skeeter wrote about him. But you didn’t answer my question… why are we here?” she looked very determinedly at both of them.

“Maybe you should go look inside… that might clear things up.” said Ginny with a smile.

“Oh I couldn’t go in! That’s breaking and entering!” said Hermione.

“I think you’re expected.” said Harry.

     Hermione gave him a quizzical look but then opened the gate and walked towards the front door. Harry and Ginny followed right behind her, and watched as she opened the door. Ron was sitting in the middle of the stairs directly in front of her, and he had made a banner that hung over his head that read; WELCOME HOME HERMIONE!!

     When Hermione saw him she stood there and stared at him.

“What in the world….” she said.

     Ron stood up and pulled out a copy of the clause in Dumbledore’s will that told them they were the owners of the house. As he read it Hermione put her hands to her mouth and by the time he was done she had collapsed to her knees on the floor and was looking at him with a dumbfounded expression. Ron smiled and walked over to her, he picked her up and set her back on her feet as he put his arms around her.

“This is our house?” she whispered.

“All ours, and we can get it set up anyway you like this summer. But I think you’re going to love it… it’s perfect.” said Ron.

“Ron our own house!!” she jumped into his arms and he swung her around laughing.

“And we’ll be right down the road from you!” she said to Ginny and Harry excitedly.

     Suddenly she stopped and looked at all of them with a very suspicious look.

“How long have you known about this?” she said slowly.

     Harry looked down at his feet and shuffled uncomfortably, he noticed that neither of the other two met were meeting Hermione’s gaze either.

“Ronald Weasley…” said Hermione in a voice that was unsettlingly like Mrs. Weasley’s, “have you known about this since that day McGonagall called you into her office over a month ago?”

“Ummm… there’s a distinct possibility.” Mumbled Ron.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU KEPT THIS FROM ME FOR SO LONG!!” she yelled and she began to punch him hard in the shoulder.

“Ouch! Hermione I was trying to make it a surprise!” Ron yelped, he tried to stay away from her and finally managed to grab both her hands and hold them tight so she couldn’t hit him anymore.

“Now Hermione, are you really going to stay mad at me, or are you going to let me show you around our amazing house?” he said gently.

“I should stay mad at you…” she said with a pouting lip.

“But you’re not going to…” said Ron he leaned over and began to whisper in her ear, she began to giggle and then turned slightly pink. Suddenly she remembered Harry and Ginny were still in the room.

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten you were conspirators…” she said with a glare, but she seemed to be over her annoyance she was now happily allowing Ron to lead her through the house, so Harry and Ginny followed. Ron showed her the whole downstairs and then the upstairs, with the exception of their bedroom.

“We’ll save that for after these two leave…” he said with a wink.

     Ron had made breakfast, a feat that in and of itself shocked Hermione almost to the point of fainting, they were about to walk back downstairs and eat when Ron stopped her and turned her around.

“So what do you think of the house?” he said.

“Oh Ron it’s absolutely perfect!!” she gushed.

“Can you think of anything that might make it better?” he asked with a smirk.

     Harry and Ginny exchanged knowing glances, this was what they had been waiting for, they knew this was going to be a sight to see.

“No… I don’t think so… I love it the way it is.” Said Hermione slowly, “why do you ask?” she added.

     Ron said nothing, he simply smiled widely and steered her down the hall to the left towards the plain wooden door that looked like it was a closet. Ron had put a big red bow on the door. With a card that said, to my beautiful Hermione, with all my love.

“You’re giving me a closet Ron?” she said in confusion.

“Open the door…” said Ron.

     Hermione opened the door, and looked up the stairs.

“Ok… so you’re giving me the attic?” she said still looking confused.

‘Are you going to go look or what?” said Ron rolling his eyes.

     The three of them waited at them foot of the stairs, in anticipation of the moment. Suddenly there was a joyous shriek and Hermione came flying back down the stairs and launched herself into Ron’s arms so enthusiastically he was almost knocked over.

“Ron there’s a whole library up there!! Rare precious books!” she gasped.

“And every single one of them is yours…” he said.

     She stared at him dumbfounded for a second and then she kissed him full on the mouth. Harry was reminded of the last kiss like this he’d seen them share. That one was over House elves; he shook his head and chuckled.

“Ok you two, they will be plenty of time for that, this is your house now…” said Ginny. ‘I’m famished.”

     They all went downstairs to share what Harry had a feeling would be the first of many breakfasts that they would all share in Ron and Hermione’s home.

Chapter 19: The Aurors
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                                                        Chapter 19: The Aurors

     Harry awoke bright and early on Monday morning. He was a jumble of nerves as he slipped out of bed and went down to take a shower. He came back to Ginny’s room and found her out of bed and dressed in a nice pair of navy blue robes. She was just pulling her hair back into a pony tail.

“What do you think?” she said, “do I look serious and professional?” she made a mock serious face at him and stood up straight like a statue.

“You look seriously beautiful.” said Harry as he kissed her cheek, “I hope there are no guys in your training group because they’ll never be able to focus.”

“May I once again remind you of how completely biased you are.” She said with a smirk.

     Harry shrugged and changed into a pair of khaki’s and a polo shirt. He knew he would receive his crimson Auror’s robes that day, but he wanted to look nice when he went to the ministry. Harry and Ginny made there way downstairs and saw Ron sitting at the table also dressed for work, he was eating a stack of pancakes. Hermione was sitting next to him, once again in a pair of his old pajamas, she was sipping tea but she looked sleepy.

“How come you’re up this early?” said Ginny to Hermione.

     Hermione was not due to start law school until September so she was the only one of the three that got to have a proper summer vacation. She yawned and smiled.

“I wanted to see you all off to your first day of work!” she said brightly.

“What are you going to do today?” asked Harry as he sat down and pulled some of the pancakes towards him.

“Luna and I are going to Diagon Alley to look at some decorating materials.” said Hermione.

     All four of them shot quick glances at Mrs. Weasley who was busy making more pancakes. She did not turn around so they assumed Hermione’s statement had been vague enough to escape her notice. They were still trying to work out a way in which to tell Mrs. Weasley that they owned their own houses which they would be moving into before they were married. Ginny looked down at her watch and yelped.

“I’ve got to go! I have to be there in fifteen minutes.” She stood and headed for the fireplace, “Hey Hermione do you and Luna want to meet me for lunch?”

“Sure!” said Hermione, “we’ll meet you outside of Gringotts at noon.”

     Harry gave Ginny a hug and kiss and wished her good luck, and then she was off into the fireplace. Mrs. Weasley gave a sniff, and they all turned to look at her.

“You ok Mum?” said Ron.

“Yes…” she said softly, “I just can’t believe my last baby left to head off to work… all my children are grown!”

“Yes… but now you get grandchildren to look after…” said Harry with a smile.

     She smiled back at him and then returned to making pancakes. Harry was finishing his pancakes and he happened to look up at the clock on the wall. It was Mrs. Weasley’s special clock which did not tell the time. He noticed a few startling things about the clock. The first was how Fred’s hand now pointed unmovingly to dead. Seeing it in such finality once again sent a shot of pain through Harry’s heart, but there was something else he’d noticed. The clock held several more hands then it used to. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and all seven of their children’s gold hands were there as usual, but there were also four silver hands that Harry had never seen before, they read; Fleur, Angelina, Harry, and Hermione. There were also two tiny bronze hands growing from the base of Angelina’s silver one, and a slightly larger bronze hand was growing from the base of Fleur’s.

“Mum how long have we been on your clock?” Harry asked curiously.

“Oh from around the time we officially accepted you as part of our family I expect, I mean I’ve always thought of you and Hermione as my children… but I guess when you started calling us Mum and Dad that made it official to the clock. It’s funny like that.” she said.

“And those little bronze hands?” said Harry, “They’re….”

“The grandchildren yes, they show up there as soon as the family knows about them, but I doubt they’ll have names on them until they’re born. Like I said… it’s a curious clock.” she smiled at the clock affectionately.

“Speaking of clocks… we’d better go Harry… we don’t want you to be late your first day!” said Ron.

     He and Harry rose from their seats and made for the fireplace. Hermione came and gave Ron a kiss goodbye, and she wished Harry good luck. Harry stepped into the fireplace and said, ‘Ministry of Magic’ he was then whooshed away and ended up stumbling out into the crowded Atrium. A few seconds later Ron was standing behind him. They made there way through the Golden gates with the morning throng. When they reached the lifts they joined an already crowded car. When they came to Ron’s floor, Magical News and Information, Ron gave Harry an encouraging pat and then stepped out of the lift.

“Hey! Meet me for lunch in the cafeteria ok?” he said.

“Yeah all right…”called Harry as the doors clanged shut and they began to rise again.

     After a few more moments the cool voice announced they had arrived at the Auror headquarters. Harry stepped off the lift and looked around; he walked down the hall to the door that opened into the Auror head quarters. It was just as chaotic as the last time that he had been here. There were about forty people all sitting around in cubicles that they had decorated in many interesting ways, and there were memos flying back and forth not to mention a good deal of talking. A fairly young witch with long brown hair looked away from the animated conversation she was having with the man in the cubicle next to hers and smiled when she saw Harry. She walked up to him and shook his hand firmly.

“Mr. Potter!! It’s wonderful to see you, my name is Coraline. Just follow me and I’ll take you to the conference room. The rest of the new arrivals are there, the Minister will be coming down to talk with you shortly.” She smiled brightly at him and then began to walk lightly across the room towards a large door in the left corner. Harry followed her, still feeling slightly nervous.

     When Harry entered he saw five other people were in the room and he was relieved to see that he recognized all of them. There was Seamus and Dean of course; Harry had expected to see them. There were also two girls in the room, Susan Bones, who had been in Hufflepuff. And, Harry felt his stomach drop uncomfortably; Cho Chang was standing next to her looking at him with a nervous smile.

“Hey Harry…” she said sweetly, and he gave her an awkward wave.

     The last person in the room was sitting over to the side and it was plain to see that everyone else in the room had been edging away from him, as if they were not sure what to do with him. Harry on the other hand broke into a huge grin when they made eye contact and went across the room to him immediately.

“Draco!!” he said enthusiastically as he shook his friend’s hand, “It’s been awhile! Sorry we haven’t gotten over for dinner yet… things have been a bit hectic.”

“No worries things have been a bit crazy for me too.” said Draco with a smile.

“So you’re gonna be an Auror too huh?” said Harry.

“Yeah seemed like the best fit, with all the inside knowledge I have to offer.” said Draco.

“Well I think it’s brilliant.” said Harry and he pat Draco on the back.

     The other people in the room were looking at them in shock and confusion, it looked like Seamus might have been about to ask something, but then Kingsley walked briskly into the room, and they all took their seats. Harry took a seat next to Draco and to his surprise Cho took up the seat on his other side. He glanced at her but she seemed to be aptly paying attention to Kingsley. Though Harry thought he saw the hint of a smile on her face.

“Hello and welcome to the Auror department.” said Kingsley, “as you know from now until the month of August you will be in training. Then in August you will take your Auror entry exams. Don’t be discouraged if you do not completely pass at that time. The tests are given again in December and then again in April and you need only retake area’s you’ve failed. It is perfectly common for Auror’s to take the exams two or three times. I personally failed my stealth exam twice.” said Kingsley with a chuckle. His relaxed attitude seemed to be doing wonders for the group.

“Now I am going to be breaking you into teams of three for the duration of your training. One of the greatest assets to an Auror is knowing how to use his team members to the best of their abilities to make the team as strong as possible. After I separate you into your teams I will take you to meet you team supervisors and get you set up in your team area’s then I will ask you to take the rest of the morning to talk as a team, and figure out each others strengths and weaknesses and how to couple them together to make your team as strong as possible. This afternoon you will be taken to your first team exercise.”

     Kingsley looked around at them all appraisingly and then he pointed at Harry and Draco.

“You two will be our team leaders,” he said, and they both nodded their heads in resignation, they had been expecting this.

“Mr. Potter,” Kingsley continued, “Your team will be Mr. Finnegan and Miss Chang. Which means Mr. Malfoy’s will be Mr. Thomas and Miss Bones.”

     Harry shifted slightly uncomfortably in his seat. It was not that he didn’t like the people he was paired with he was just unsure about being paired with Seamus who tended to be quite a hot head, and Cho who tended to be rather emotional. Not to mention the way Cho’s eyes lit up when she found out she would be on Harry’s team made his stomach squirm uncomfortably.

     Kingsley led them out to the main Office and towards the right corner. He walked up to a tall olive skinned man who was sitting in one of the cubicles. The man saw them coming and he got up with a smile.

“Anton... I would like you to meet your team. This is Harry Potter, Seamus Finnegan, and Cho Chang.” He made a motion towards them.

“This is Anton Cruz; he will be your supervisor for your training. You’re desks are there…” he pointed to three desks that were set it a circular fashion so the all faced each other. Without another word Kingsley headed off with the other three, and left Harry, Seamus and Cho standing there facing this new stranger.

“Right… well I’m Anton, and I’m your supervisor. Who was made group leader?” he asked looking around at them, Harry raised his hand awkwardly.

“Right…” said Anton cheerfully, “then I would like to make it clear that I am here as a supervisor only all decisions are to be made as a group and they must be approved by Harry here. You two will answer to him.”

     Harry inwardly rolled his eyes, that’s just what he needed having the decisions put on him again. Yet at the same time he was flattered that Kingsley had picked him for the job, it was comforting to know that the Minister had faith in him.

“Oh we’ll have no problem following Harry… he was the leader of Dumbledore’s Army and he was wonderful!” said Cho admiringly.

     Once again Harry was inwardly exasperated. It looked like he was going to have to address this situation soon enough as well. As if he didn’t have enough on his plate already.

“Right then,” said Anton, “your first test this afternoon will be a maze, it’s very similar to the maze you went through your fourth year Mr. Potter. They actually got the idea for the Tri-wizard tournament from our training program. Be advised the maze will be very difficult and somewhat dangerous, though I can assure you there is nothing life threatening and you will be monitored closely. Some of the skills you will need in the maze include, knowledge of magical creatures, knowledge of dark curses and their defense, knowledge of transfiguration and charms, and also knowledge of potions. You may now go discuss your plan for completing this task. The task will begin at one o’clock.” With that Anton went back to his work, so Harry, Seamus, and Cho went to their desks and sat down.

“Ok… so let’s talk about our strengths…” said Harry.

“I’m very good with charms!” piped up Cho right away, “and I’m pretty fair with transfiguration as well.”

“Right you will take care of the charms then,” said Harry, “and I’m not bad with Transfiguration so we can tackle that together.”

     When he said this last part her eyes lit up like fireworks and a huge grin spread across her face. Harry felt like putting his face in his hands and groaning, but he resisted. He would have to tackle the Cho problem later. Right now they needed to focus on their first task.

“I’m rather good with Magical Creatures…” said Seamus, “they’ve always been a fascination of mine.”

“Great you can work on that…” said Harry, “I’ll take the bulk of the Dark Magic since it’s sort of my expertise, but let’s just go over the basics so I know we’re all protected. You can both produce a Patronus yes?” they both nodded to him “you both can do basic stunning?”

“Of course we can Harry you think we’d be in training to be Auror’s if we couldn’t?” said Cho.

“I’m just checking…” said Harry throwing his hands up, “one more thing, can either of you throw off the Imperius Curse?”

“I can,” said Seamus, but Cho shook her head no.

“Sorry Harry I just never could get the knack of it.” She said.

“that’s ok…” he said trying to sound comforting without getting her hopes up again, “just know if we need to we may stun you.” She nodded in understanding. 

“We’ll all work on Potions together?” he said, and they nodded.

     They spent the next hour and a half discussing all the scenarios they could think of that might happen within the maze. Harry explained to them everything he could remember about the maze from the Tri-Wizard tournament, and they all talked about different team strategies for how to deal with different situations. They were just discussing their tactics for dealing with a potential dragon when Aton walked up to them smiling brightly.

“Time for lunch!” he said, “You will all meet in the main Atrium at one o’clock and we will be Apparating to the spot of your first exercise.”

“Sir for this exercise are we allowed to use anything at our disposal?” asked Harry, his mind went to the Invisibility Cloak that he had tucked into his robes that morning just in case.

“As long as it is not illegal or dangerous, yes Harry.” said Anton with a smile. ‘Enjoy your lunch…” he added, and he walked away.

“Got anyone to eat lunch with Harry, because we were all going to go to a coffee shop in Diagon Alley.” said Cho with a sweet smile.

     Harry was forcibly reminded of the last time he had been in a coffee shop with Cho, which had been a complete disaster.

“Sorry, I made plans to have lunch with Ron…” he said quickly and he got up to leave, “see you both at one!” he said and he hurried out of the room.

     Ron was waiting for him at the entrance to the cafeteria. Harry was surprised to see that it worked mostly like a Muggle cafeteria; you simply walked down the line and picked out your food. As the joined the slowly moving line and grabbed trays Harry suddenly realized how famished he was.

“So how’s your first day been so far?” asked Ron.

     Harry groaned as he began to pile roast chicken and mashed potatoes on his plate. Ron laughed appreciatively.

“That bad huh?” he chuckled.

“No…” said Harry grabbing three rolls and heading for the drinks, “Parts of it have been brilliant it’s just… well I’ll tell you when we find a seat.”

     Ron and Harry looked around the crowded cafeteria, many pairs of eyes looked back hopefully at Harry from large round tables, most of them were people he didn’t even know. Harry rolled his eyes in frustration and made his way towards a small booth at the side of the room, which they both slid into.

“I really hate being so popular…” Harry grumbled as he stabbed a green bean with a little more force than needed and popped it into his mouth.

“Eh… maybe it will die down some day… or maybe you’ll get used to it…” said Ron with a shrug. “So what’s happened today?”

“Well most of it’s been great,” said Harry honestly, “we’re in teams, and this afternoon we get to go to a maze that’s like the one I did in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.”

“That’s brilliant!” said Ron enthusiastically through a mouth full of mashed potatoes.

     Harry smirked as he thought of the comments Hermione would make if she saw him right now. Ron swallowed before he continued.

“So what’s the bad news?” he said.

“Well… not so much bad as annoying…” said Harry, “I was made the team leader, which I expected but I still kinda wish I could try being a follower, just once…”

“Harry you’ll never be a follower even if you try…” said Ron, now shoveling food into his mouth again, “It’s just not in your nature.”

     Harry sighed and shrugged Ron was probably right, as much as it bothered him to have to lead his team, it also felt like where he belonged.

“So is that all that was bothering you,” said Ron as he took a swig of his drink.

“No…. Cho Chang is on my team as well.” said Harry.

     Ron choked on his juice and sent it spraying all over the table. Harry quickly grabbed his food out of the way and looked up at Ron who was staring at him with wide eyes.

Cho Chang…. Is in your…” Ron trailed off and he began to shake his head, “Oh…. Oh I’m not going to be anywhere near you when you have to tell Ginny this…”

“Do you think she’ll be mad?” said Harry nervously.

“Not at you… but yeah I think she’ll be furious.” said Ron, “You didn’t see the way Cho gushed about you the year you were gone, told everyone she had been your first girlfriend. Nobody even knew about Ginny then cuz you guys had dated for such a short time. Cho made it sound like she was waiting for you and that made Ginny furious.”

“How do you know about all that?” asked Harry curiously.

“Ginny came to visit me when I was staying at Bill and Fleur’s… when I… you know… left you guys. We went out to lunch and overheard Cho talking in Diagon Alley, I practically had to keep Ginny from trying to rip her head off right then and there.” said Ron.

     Harry groaned again and flopped his head into his hands. Why in the world did girls have to be so complicated? He was engaged to Ginny, wasn’t that enough of a hint, but no, girls needed to be told straight out, he had a feeling he could be married to Ginny and Cho would still think there was a chance she could steal him away. He looked up at Ron with a thoroughly annoyed expression.

“I guess I’m going to have to set her straight, you’d think they’d get the hint when we got engaged!” he said irritably.

“I hear you mate…” said Ron with a commiserating look, “but I guess some girls just want to hold on no matter what.”

     A little while later Harry and Ron made their way to the Atrium. Seamus, Cho, Dean, and Susan, were standing there all ready. When Cho saw him she smiled and waved for him to come over and join them. Ron gave Harry a sympathizing look and Harry responded with an eye roll.

“Good luck mate…” said Ron, and Harry had a feeling he wasn’t just talking about the maze.

     Ron walked back towards the lifts, and Harry walked to meet his group.

“Did you guys have a good lunch?” Harry asked, being careful to focus on the whole group when he asked the question.

“Yeah it was nice,” said Dean, “this whole Auror thing is amazing! Isn’t it?”

“Yeah it is…” Harry agreed.

     Just then Draco walked up to them with and gave them all a cheerful hello which everyone returned. Harry assumed since everyone was no longer shying away from him that he had explained his story to Dean and Susan, and they had relayed it to the others over lunch.

“Sorry I’m late, I went home to have lunch with the wife.” said Draco.

“It’s ok Anton hasn’t gotten here yet.” said Harry. “What’s your supervisor’s name?” he added as an afterthought.

“Martin.” said Draco.

“You’re married?” said Cho her voice thick with surprise.

“yes I am…” said Draco simply and then turned his attention to Anton and Martin who were now walking towards them.

“Hello all. I hope that your lunch was enjoyable.”  said Anton, “now I believe I am correct in assuming that you all attended the Quidditch World Cup four years ago.” They all nodded their heads in agreement. “Right well the exercise will be taking place in the same field so we can all Apparate to that spot now.” With that the supervisors took out their wands, they all followed suit and Apparated to the large empty moor where the Quidditch World Cup had take place.

     Now stretching out before them was a vast maze of hedges that were at least ten feet tall. They stood before an entrance and they could see inside was dark.

“Now this maze will be slightly different than the other maze you were in Mr. Potter.” Said Martin, he was speaking to Harry in particular but everyone was listening carefully, he then turned his attention to all of them.

“There is no light in this maze, and I advise you to use spells for light carefully, because some of the creatures inside will not take kindly to them. The object is to find your way out of the maze. If you have not done so by five o’clock this afternoon Ministry officials will collect you from wherever you are. Mr. Potter your team will start from this point. Mr. Malfoy I will be taking your team to the other end of the maze and you will need to find your way back to this point. Does everyone understand?” they all nodded in understanding, “Very well, Mr. Potter, Miss Chang, Mr. Finnegan you may begin, good luck.” He motioned for them to enter the maze, which they did slowly. As soon as they entered the maze was pitch black and they could no longer see where they had entered from. Cho let out a little squeal of fright and grabbed onto Harry’s arm. He almost shook her off but then realized that for practicality sake it was better to know where she was, he reached out to the left and grabbed Seamus’s arm as well.

“Let me find the wall,” whispered Seamus, “got it!” He said a moment later.

“Ok now what?” said Cho.

“Well my Mam, taught me a trick when I was little…” explained Seamus, “If you put your left hand on the wall of a maze and never take it off, then you’ll find your way out. It takes a bit longer, but it’ll insure we don’t get lost in the dark…” he said.

“Perfect…” said Harry and then he moved closer to Seamus pulling Cho with him, he threw his Invisibility Cloak over all three of them, he knew their feet would still show, but he wasn’t really planning to use it to completely hide them, just to mask their light and give them a cushion of safety.

“What is this Harry?” said Cho, and Harry realized with a start that these two didn’t know about his Invisibility Cloak.

“It’s an Invisibility Cloak, it’s a family heirloom, I’ve had it since my first year.” He explained quickly.

“No wonder you, Ron, and Hermione were so good at sneaking around.” muttered Seamus.

“Now every time we want to use light we have to make sure we’re under this, got it?” said Harry ignoring Seamus’s comment. They both nodded and then Harry lit his wand and looked up and down the maze to the right and left. It looked deserted.

“Which way do you think?” he asked Seamus.

“We go right,” said Seamus.

     They began to walk right, about twenty feet or so down the line the found another path to the left, they took it and it ended up being a dead end, they turned to head back all the while Seamus kept his left hand firmly on the left wall, they came to another turn off and as they made to turn down it Harry’s wand light caught movement, he pulled them back quickly. He put his finger to his lips to indicate quiet and then they cautiously leaned around the corner and shown light on what was in the path. There were twenty Hippogriffs, ten on each side of the path standing proudly and stately creating a very narrow walkway between their sharp talons, and beaks. Harry began to take off the Invisibility Cloak.

“Harry what are you doing?” whispered Cho frantically.

“They won’t hurt us as long as we respect them, and if they catch us trying to sneak past, I think they might see that as a grievous insult.” He explained.

     As he shown the wand light on the hippogriffs all twenty pairs of large yellow eyes flashed to them. Harry felt Cho trembling beside him but they all bent into low respectful bows that they held for a good minute or two before Harry dared to peek up. All the hippogriffs in the row had responded by bowing to their knees. They all walked forward slowly.

“Don’t’ look into their eyes, just walk forward.” whispered Harry.

     It felt like it took ages until they finally came to the end of the row of Hippogriffs, as soon as they were clear Seamus firmly planted his hand back on the left wall and they continued walking.

     They ran into two more dead ends but no more dangerous creatures. Harry was beginning to feel that his team was doing very well. Suddenly they rounded a corner and looming in front of them was a tall dark hooded creature. Harry felt the air around him go cold and he was about to send out his Patronus when he realized that Cho and Seamus were not reacting like they had seen a dementor, they both looked terrified, but not drained of their warmth and happiness like him. Suddenly something clicked in his head.

“Cho what do you see?” he said quickly.

“Inferi…” she whispered her eyes wide with terror.

“Seamus?” asked Harry.

“A banshee…” said Seamus, but he already had a look of understanding on his face as he shouted, “Ridiculus!” and the boggart poofed into thin air.

     They kept walking they got to a patch of wild looking vines that reached out for them ominously.

“Devil’s Snare…” said Harry.

     Cho took out her wand and said the incantation. Solarus! Golden light burst from the tip of her wand and the plant coiled back immediately allowing them to pass. They got to the other side and were about to walk through when a branch snapped out and grabbed Cho’s ankle, she screamed as the plant began to drag her back. Harry quickly sent a severing spell at the branch and it released her. He put his arms around her to help her up and drug her away from the plants reach. She collapsed on his chest and began to sob; he patted her shoulder in an awkward sort of way, and looked to Seamus for help but Seamus had become engrossed in playing with the leaves on the maze wall.

“It’s ok Cho….” said Harry.

“Oh Harry… you saved my life… thank you so much.” she looked up at him as she said this, and he became uncomfortably aware that her face was only inches from his. She held his gaze for longer than she should have and Harry quickly pushed himself away from her standing her back upright.

“Let’s keep going…” he said to her and Seamus.

     They kept walking through another few dead ends and then suddenly Harry saw a speck of light.

“I think that’s the exit!” he said excitedly. They all quickened their pace, and soon they could see the clearly defined shape of the archway that would lead them out. Suddenly as they drew near their path way blocked by another towering figure, this time Harry had no doubt in his mind, the minute the figure appeared the air went ice cold. He didn’t even hesitate.

“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” he bellowed, as he focused hard on Ginny’s smiling face.

     His silvery stag shot out of his wand and charged the dementor. He was pleasantly surprised to see that a sliver fox was also viciously attacking it while a graceful glowing swan was diving around it’s head pecking feroucisly.

“Good one guys!” he said with pride to his team, and they all ran to the exit and back out into the sunshine.

“Congratulations!” said Anton, who was waiting outside for them, “It’s only four fifteen, you finished early. You’re free to go home whenever you like.”

     They all smiled at him and walked back up towards the top of the hill. They were getting ready to Apparate when Harry put a hand on Cho’s shoulder.

“Cho… I think we should talk.” he said, and she smiled at him.

“Ok Harry!” she said happily.

     Seamus shot Harry a questioning look but then he shrugged.

“See you guys tomorrow then I guess. Nice work team!” with that he turned on the spot and Disapparated.

     Harry and Cho sat down on the hill that overlooked the maze. They sat in silence for a few minutes looking at the maze before Cho spoke.

“What did you want to talk to me about Harry?” she said.

“Cho….” He began, he wasn’t quite sure how to do this, he’d never been in a situation like this before, “you still like me don’t you?” he finished.

“Of course I do Harry… I really never stopped, I was just confused.” she said softly.

“Well Cho… I wasn’t confused…” Harry said, he was trying to word this in a way that wouldn’t hurt her feelings too much, “You are pretty and nice and I really did like you, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. And the fact is we’re just not right for each other…”

“We could be…” said Cho in a small voice, “I was really messed up that year, I didn’t act the way I should have towards you. If we tried again I know things would be different.”

“But Cho… I already found the person that is right for me…” said Harry gently.

“Ginny Weasley…” scoffed Cho, “Yes every boy at Hogwarts thought she was the one…” she said derisively.

“Yes but none of them are getting married to her,” said Harry slightly irritably, “I LOVE Ginny Cho, she’s the only person who’s ever truly understood me. She’s my soul mate, and I’m sorry if that hurts you. But it’s also not going to change. So as long as we’re on the same team, do you think we could be friends?”

     Cho said nothing for a few minutes, and then she stood up stiffly and looked down at him with a cool expression.

“Sure Harry whatever you say.” She said with an air of indifference but he thought he saw tears in her eyes as she Disapparated.

     Harry stood and Apparated back to the Burrow. He was standing in the back yard, he felt like his heart was made of lead, he hated having to hurt Cho’s feelings he wished it didn’t have to be that way. Suddenly Ginny opened the back door and smiled at him. Warmth seemed to spread through his whole body, he felt like he hadn’t seen her in years, and he thought nothing in world could ever come close to being as beautiful as her. He walked across the yard as quickly as he could and wrapped his arms around her. He held her tight and buried his face in her hair, just simply wanting to take her in completely. As he did he knew that he had done what was needed, there was no way he could ever be parted from the angel in his arms, and that was something people would have to accept.

“Not a great first day then?” she said softly as she hugged him back.

“It was ok…” he said, “I just didn’t realize how much I was going to miss you.” He said, as he kissed her.

“Well… that’s always nice to hear…” said Ginny, she was smiling but Harry could see something in her eyes that was not happy.

“Everything all right love? How was your first day?” he said.

     Ginny sat down heavily on the back steps and Harry joined her and put an arm around her shoulders.

“The first half was really brilliant…” began Ginny, “our Goblin instructor took us deep down into the bank and explained a lot of the different spells, and how to handle the dragons, and they gave us a brief over view of what we would be doing for the bank. It sounds so fun!”

“So what happened that was bad?” said Harry cautiously.

“Well I went and had lunch with Hermione and Luna… and that was fun, Luna is just itching to get a look at Grimauld Place, but when I got back to the bank one of the head goblins met me and told me I had to go to their offices.”

“What?” said Harry sharply, “Why?”

“Apparently over the lunch break the goblin who was training my group found out that I am your fiancé, and he refused to teach me anymore…” she said softly.

“What does that have to do with anything??” said Harry hotly.

“Well, dear after you broke in there last year many of the goblins really don’t like you. I mean most of them know that you stopped Riddle and saved everything and that’s been good for them, so they forgave you, but there is still a select group that really hate you there.” explained Ginny. “you could tell who they were cuz they all muttered around glaring at me, and they wouldn’t call me by my name, I was just, ‘his betrothed.’”

“But they can’t stop you from working at Grigotts because of me! That’s so unfair!” Harry said furiously. 

“Calm down love I still work there… they just had to assign me to a new instructor. He’s a much younger goblin and he’s much friendlier. I like him a lot more than my first instructor so it all worked out fine… it was just a bit of a stressful day.” She kissed his cheek reassuringly.

“It just so stupid that you keep getting into situations because of me…” he kicked on of the Wellington boots next to him over in annoyance.

“Well… as you said before that’s part of my life now…” said Ginny as she squeezed his hand, “so tell me about your day.” She said.

     Harry launched into the story about the maze and the teams and how he and Draco were made team leaders, he was very careful to leave out names in the re-telling of the story. He knew Ginny had had a bad day already and he remembered what Ron said about her being furious, and he was trying to figure out how to keep that from happening.

“So who is on your team?” said Ginny after a few minutes.

     Harry took a deep breathe; he knew there was no getting around this. He just wanted to make it as painless as possible. He pulled Ginny into his arms and began to kiss her deeply and slowly, she didn’t resist and she slipped her hand behind his neck and kissed him back. After a few moments she pulled away and looked curiously into his face.

“What was that for?” she said with a smirk.

“You know that I love you more than anything else in this world, and nothing could ever change that right?” said Harry.

“Uh oh…” said Ginny, a wary look coming across her face, “Harry who is on your team.” She said, her voice full of suspicion.

“Seamus…” Harry began, but Ginny crossed her arms and look impatiently at him waiting for him to continue. Harry sighed he knew now there was no easy way around this.

“and Cho Chang…” he added in defeat.

     Just as Ron had predicted anger flashed in Ginny’s eyes and she stood up immediately and glared down at him. He stood up to meet her gaze.

“I bet she just planned that all out didn’t she?” Ginny whispered furiously.

“No she didn’t! Kingsley put us in the teams she didn’t have a choice…” said Harry quickly.

“ARE YOU DEFENDING HER!” yelled Ginny.

“NO!!” said Harry as quickly as he could, he needed to explain this before it got worse. He put his hands on Ginny’s shoulders and looked into her blazing face.

“Look she did try to put some moves on me… but I didn’t let her!” he was talking as fast as he could, trying to get this all out before Ginny exploded, “after the maze I sat her down and talked to her. I told her that I love you, that I’m never ever going to leave you, and that she could accept that and be my friend, or she could not, but it wasn’t going to change anything. She seems to have accepted it ok?”

     Ginny was still glaring at him and she looked far from happy, but she seemed to be calming down.

“Harry, I don’t think I like the idea of you being friends with her… even if she says she’s accepted it, I don’t trust her.” said Ginny in a hard voice.

“Do you trust me?” said Harry, putting his forehead against hers.

“You know I do…” her voice softened as she said this and she ruffled the back of his hair.

“Well then trust that I’m only going to be as friendly as I need to, to make work comfortable. Whether we like it or not she and I are going to work together, but I’m not looking to make her one of my best buddies. Ok?” said Harry.

“Ok…” said Ginny, “But if she tries one more thing she’s going to have to answer to me, and I am NOT going to be as nice as you are Harry Potter.”

“Fair enough…” he said, and she wrapped his arms around her and picked her up in a bear hug.

Chapter 20: Four Walls Make a Home
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                                            Chapter 20: Four Walls Make a Home

      It was late July at the Burrow. Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione were all sitting in the living room facing each other. They could hear Mrs. Weasley bustling around in the kitchen, and they were waiting. They were waiting for the moment when Mr. Weasley would come through the back door, and then they would put their plan into action. Ron looked around at them with a very grave expression. Harry himself had a knot growing in his stomach.

     Harry and Ginny had been working full time for almost five weeks. Harry loved his new job and many of the initial stressors had since dissipated. Cho Chang had seemed to accept that she was not going to be getting back together with Harry, and while her attitude now seemed slightly cool towards him, she was not being disagreeable. Harry had been quite pleased when he noticed Dean’s interest in her almost three weeks ago, and she was finally starting to accept some of his advances. In fact they had a date the previous Friday night. Ginny was also doing much better, she was still having issues with some of the goblins, but her obvious talent for her job was winning them over and she seemed to be enjoying herself immensely.

     It was now one day before Harry’s nineteenth birthday, and Harry had decided that there was only one present he truly wanted, and that was to move into his house with Ginny. Unbeknownst to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley the four of them had been working diligently in their free time with Ministry contractors, to have the houses they owned remodeled to exactly how they wanted them. The houses had been ready for almost a week, but they had yet to tell the Weasley’s about their plans. Now they all sat nervously waiting for the moment that had finally arrived.

“All right you lot.” Said Ron, with the vague air of a coach prepping them for the big game, “we’re just going to go in there and tell the truth, it might get ugly but we’ve got to stand strong.”

     They all nodded in agreement, and just then they heard the back door open and Mr. Weasley call a greeting to whatever family members might be listening.

“All right… let’s do this.” said Hermione, giving them all meaningful looks, and they all rose and headed for the kitchen. 

     When they entered the kitchen Mr. Weasley was giving his wife a warm hug and telling her about his day. They all stood nervously in the doorway and Harry cleared his throat, making the Weasley’s turn to look at them.

“Hello you lot!” said Mr. Weasley brightly, “everything all right?”

“We have something we need to talk to you about…” said Ginny.

“Well then come sit down and we’ll have a chat,” said Mr. Weasley, he sat down at the table and Mrs. Weasley joined him, the other four took their seats across from them.

“First of all I’d like you to read this…” said Ron as he handed them his copy of the clause in Dumbledore’s will. They read it and their eyes got very wide.

“Oh Ronald that’s wonderful!! You and Hermione are going to own a house!” she beamed at them.

“You’ll notice in there it mentions that I own my parents house as well, which is just down the road from Ron and Hermione’s house.” interjected Harry.

“I did notice that dear. That will be so wonderful for you all!” said Mrs. Weasley happily.

     They all exchanged glances. This was going to be the part that she did not like as much.

     Ron leaned forward to begin the conversation. He seemed to take awhile choosing his words carefully as he spoke.

“Mum… now that we know about the house, we’ve been thinking we’d like to move in sooner rather than later, like…. Tomorrow.” He said slowly.

“But you’re not married yet,” said Mrs. Weasley immediately her voice was soft but sharp, “this contract states you need to be married to own the house.”

“Well the house is owned by Hogwarts at the moment… and McGonagall gave us permission to move in this summer if we wanted to.” explained Hermione softly.

“Oh she did, did she?” said Mrs. Weasley her voice rising, “Well remind me to thank her for that!”         

“Molly…” Mr. Weasley began, but she cut him off.

“Don’t Arthur!” she said severely, “now I let them share bedrooms in this house even though I don’t think it’s very appropriate… but shacking up before they’re married! I didn’t raise my children that way! And I’m guessing you two want to move into Harry’s house as well!” she added turning on Harry and Ginny.

“Yeah that’s right.” said Ginny he voice was hard and Harry was truly hoping that she was not about to get in a screaming match with her mother, but she continued, “God forbid we should want to start our lives with the people we love, what scandalous degradation! You should disown us!”

“Don’t you speak to me that way young lady!” shot back Mrs. Weasley, “You think you know everything, but living with someone is a big commitment and it changes your relationship! Now if you’re married to them that’s one thing, but you don’t know what you’re getting into.”

“Ha!” said Ginny, and Harry had a very bad feeling he knew where this was going, “You don’t know anything mother!” she shouted, “Harry and I lived together for almost the whole of last year at Hogwarts in our own private room, and Hermione was living in Hogsmeade with Ron since after he got hurt in February and it made our relationships stronger. Yeah it’s hard sometimes, but we’re adults, and we know what we want.”

      Mrs. Weasley looked like she might be about to literally explode, she was bright red and she was shaking from head to toe and she looked around at them furiously.

“You… all of you…” she seemed too angry to make coherent sentences.

“Mum, we’re not kids anymore, we are all grown up and ready to start making our own life choices.” said Ron gently.

‘We know you are…” interjected Mr. Weasley, he was obviously trying to diffuse the situation, “sometimes it’s just hard for us parents to let you make them.”

     At this Mrs. Weasley stood up sharply slammed the dish towel she was holding down on the table and stormed out of the room, they could hear her crying. They looked around at each other, Hermione looked perfectly horrified that she had made Mrs. Weasley cry. Ginny and Ron both looked rather guilty and wouldn’t meet each others eye. Harry himself felt as bad as they all looked.

“Don’t worry about it you lot…” said Mr. Weasley encouragingly, “she’s been very apprehensive about have an empty nest, and I think finding out she’s going to have it earlier than expected has just set her off a bit. I’m sure she’ll be fine in an hour or two. I’ll go talk with her.” with that he rose to leave.

     When he left Hermione slumped in her chair and looked like she might cry.

“Oh I feel so bad!” she whispered.

“Don’t Hermione… Mum does this. I think if we just give her an hour or so everything will be just fine.” said Ron as he put an arm around her shoulders.

“We should probably all start packing.” said Ginny.

     An hour later as Harry was helping Ginny put all her worldly possession into a massive pile of cardboard boxes there was a soft knock on the door. Mrs. Weasley came in looking somewhat tear stained but no longer angry.

“Are you ok Mum…” said Ginny as she went to give her mother a hug.

“Yes I’m fine… I just came to apologize.” She said softly.

“Oh Mum you don’t have to do that…” Harry began, but she held her hand up and he stopped.

“Yes I do…” she said, “You all have every right to move out of our house, you are grown adults, with your own lives. I should not still be treating you like children.”

     She looked around Ginny room nostalgically and then back into the face of her daughter.

“I remember when I got this room ready for you Ginny. I was so happy to finally be decorating for a girl. My one and only little angel.” She touched Ginny’s cheek lightly and Ginny smiled at her. “I’m going to miss you so much my Ginny Minny.” She said and Ginny hugged her tight.

“I’m going to miss you too Mum.” She whispered, but then she pulled back and wiped the tears from her mothers eyes, “but it’s not like I’m moving to America, we’ll probably still be here everyday!” she smirked.

“I know…” said Mrs. Weasley with a sigh, she looked around at Ginny’s room which was half in boxes, “but it won’t be quite the same.”

     Harry and Ginny went to hug her again and then she pulled away and put her hands on her hips, looking much more like herself.

“Don’t forget to sweep after you’re done packing.” She said briskly and then she headed back downstairs.

     The next morning Harry was woken up extra early by Ginny.

“Happy Birthday!!” she said happily.

“Thanks…” said Harry sleepily, he said up and attempted to find his presents on the end of the bed. The room was so full of cardboard boxes that getting in and out was becoming a sort of maze.

“How on earth did you have this much stuff in this room Ginny?” teased Harry looking around in wonder.

     Ginny giggled at him and kissed his cheek.

“That’s one of those things about girls you’ll never understand…”she teased, “and by the way your presents aren’t up here. Since we had so much stuff to do today we decided to have you open your presents later tonight. And your party has been moved to this coming Friday… if that’s alright with you.”

“That’s fine.” Said Harry, “Now how do people go about moving in the Wizarding world?” He hopped out of bed and threw on the only pair of clothes that he had not packed.

“I assume you guys don’t hire movers?” he said.

“What’s a mover?” said Ginny looking at him curiously.

“Never mind…” said Harry with a chuckle, “What do we need to do?”

“We just need to move all my boxes downstairs and wait for Dad… he’s going to use the moving spell to send all our stuff to the house.” she said.

     They walked out the door to Ginny’s room and they heard the tell tale sign of raised voices wafting down from a few floors above.

“Oh what are they arguing about now…” said Ginny.

“I dunno lets go find out…” said Harry with a grin.

     As they got to the top of the stairs they saw that the hall was full of more cardboard boxes, apparently Ron and Hermione were in the process of moving Ron’s stuff out. Harry and Ginny slipped into Ron’s room which seemed twice as big when it was empty.

“but Hermione I spent most of my childhood savings on those!! You can’t just throw them away!!” Ron was saying angrily.

“Ron! Where are we going to put twelve Chudley Cannon posters in our house? They’re bright orange! They won’t match anything!!” she said in frustration.

“I don’t care! I didn’t tell you to throw out all those bloody Muggle books you brought from when YOU were a kid!” retorted Ron.

“That’s completely different! I want to keep those books to read to our children Ronald! Are you planning on handing your posters down as an heirloom?” said Hermione sarcastically.

     Ron was about to shoot another comment back at her but Ginny stepped in between them. She was obviously trying to keep a straight face as she spoke.

“Ok you two…” she said, “Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t you have three extra rooms in your house?”

“Yes…” said Hermione, she made to say something more but Ginny cut her off.

“AND aren’t you planning on waiting until Hermione finishes law school before you start trying to have kids?” she continued.

“Yes…” said Hermione.

“so that leaves three empty rooms for five whole years… don’t you think maybe Ron could use one of them for his Quidditch stuff?” said Ginny looking from one to the other.

“Yes… I guess if I get my whole library upstairs Ron should get his own room to do what he wants in…” said Hermione with a sigh, she began to take Ron’s posters off the wall knowing she had lost the argument.

“Thanks luv,” said Ron kissing her on the head and beginning to fold the posters she was taking down.

“You know some day you two are going to have to learn how to solve arguments for yourselves, cuz I won’t always be around.” said Ginny with a wink, and Ron rolled his eyes at her.

     A few minutes later they all stood there looking at Ron’s completely empty room.

“Blimey it looks a lot bigger with nothing in it…” said Ron, “it’s weird to think that after today this isn’t my bedroom anymore. I’ve lived in this room since I was born.” Ron looked around nostalgically.

“And now I have to share my room with a girl…forever!” He said with mock disgust, and Hermione punched him playfully in the arm.

     Harry and Ginny helped Ron and Hermione move all Ron’s boxes down into the back yard, and then Ron and Hermione helped them with Ginny’s. About thirty minutes later they were all standing in the warm summer sunshine looking around the yard at the huge piles of cardboard boxes. The boxes were separated into two piles and surprisingly it seemed like Ron’s was bigger.

“How is it that you have collected more stuff than your sister?” teased Harry, “I thought that girls were supposed to be the one who accumulated huge amounts of stuff?”

“Yes but my brother never throws anything away…” said Ginny joining Harry’s teasing, “I bet he still has his pajamas from when he was nine packed in their somewhere…”

     Ron glared at both of them, but they simply laughed because Hermione gave a pronounced eye roll behind his back and nodded in agreement with what they said. Ron turned to look at her and she arranged her face in a look completely innocence. He gave her a grumpy look but she simply smiled and kissed him. Just then Mr. Weasley came walking out of the house brushing the crumbs of his breakfast off his robes.

“You lot ready? Oh, Happy Birthday Harry.” He added with a nod in Harry direction.

“Thanks Dad… and yeah we’re ready.” he said.

“Whose stuff is whose?” asked Mr. Weasley.

“The stuff on the right is Ginny’s the stuff on the left is mine.” said Ron.

“Right then…” said Mr. Weasley.

     He walked around Ron’s boxes randomly poking things with his wand. Then to Harry’s surprise the whole pile of boxes glowed and rose and inch off the ground. Mr. Weasley raised his wand and said, ‘Mobulus Apparatum’ and the whole pile of boxes disappeared with a small pop that sounded very much like the sound of Disapparating. He walked over and performed the same action on Ginny’s boxes. Then he turned to them and smiled.

“Your things are now at your respective houses. Come on inside and say goodbye to Mum before you leave.” He turned towards the house they all followed him.

     Mrs. Weasley was standing in the kitchen and she seemed to be fidgeting constantly. She kept wiping her hands on her apron even though they were perfectly clean. When they all walked in she tried to smile at them but her face was so lined with worry that the smile froze awkwardly into a sort of grimace.

“Oh Mum… please don’t fret. We’re going to be here all the time.” said Ron hugging his mother.

“I know… you will…” said Mrs. Weasley, “It’s just… my last two babies…”

     Harry inwardly chuckled at Mrs. Weasley calling Ron her baby when he was a full foot taller than she was and he had to lean over to kiss her on the head.

“I love you Mum…” said Ron with a chuckle.

“Oh I love you too Ronikins!” she said and she pulled Ginny into the hug as well, she motioned for Harry and Hermione and they squeezed in so they were all giving Mrs. Weasley a group hug. When they pulled back she kissed each one of them firmly on the cheek and then stood back to look at them.

“My sweet little ones… you’re all so grown up.” she said with a smile, “go on... go get unpacked and we’ll see you soon.”

     They all stepped into the garden and got ready to Apparate. As Harry was turning into the darkness he caught a last glimpse of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley standing on the back stoop waving goodbye.

     All four of them landed in front of Ron and Hermione’s house. They looked at each other and smiled.

“You all should come down here this evening after you’ve gotten settled, we’re going to have George and Angelina over for dinner, and we can have a little mini celebration of Harry’s birthday.” said Hermione.

“Sounds great!” said Harry enthusiastically.

“All right now shove off you two, we’re going to go break in our new house!” said Ron with a grin, and he scooped Hermione off her feet and into his arms.

“Ronald!” she gasped, but then she laughed along with the rest of them. Ron kicked the gate open with his foot and then shot one more mischievous look at Harry before carrying Hermione into the house.

“Gross…” muttered Ginny under her breathe, but Harry just laughed and gave her an affectionate elbow to the ribs. He motioned that they should walk down the street, and they did. As they reached the gate to their house Harry stopped and stared at it in wonder. The Ministry team had cut back much of the vines that were growing on the fence, and replaced the rusted gate with a shiny, black, iron one. Harry opened it slowly and stepped onto the now well trimmed lawn with it’s quaint foot path made of mismatched stones that lead to the door of the house.

     The house itself was whole again. A pretty white cottage with a stone fireplace that set nestled on the edge of the woods. Harry turned to Ginny who was smiling back at him. He scooped her up in his arms in one swift motion and she laughed.

“You’re brother has some good idea’s once in awhile.” He teased, and he walked towards the house and pushed open the door so he could carry her over the threshold.

     Though Harry had initially said that he had wanted everything to stay exactly the same, he and Ginny had talked for along time about it and decided that while the central elements of the house would stay the same, they did want to add their own flair to it. Now that Harry saw the effect he was very happy with it. The floors were bare wood, but there was a deep blue area carpet that covered most of the living room. They had bought an overstuffed cream colored couch and two matching chairs in Diagon Alley, and they all sat comfortably around the fireplace. Above the fireplace itself hung the plaque that had once been on the gate. Harry thought it off set the room perfectly. Along the mantle were five pictures. One of Harry’s parents at their wedding. The one of his father chasing him around on his little broom. One of the whole Weasley family plus Harry and Hermione that was taken at his seventeenth birthday party. One of Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron that was taken at their graduation, and one of Harry, Ginny, and Teddy.  The pictures were spaced out to fill the mantle, and Harry smiled as he thought of all the room there was for other pictures. The last touch to the room was that Ginny accented it with vases of sunflowers, whose color contrasted perfectly with the dark blue carpet. At that exact moment the room was full of cardboard boxes but to Harry it was still perfect.

“Wow… this is really our home. Isn’t it?” breathed Ginny.

“Yes it is…” said Harry with a smile.

     He set Ginny down and they ran quickly to the stairs, eager to check out the upstairs of their house. They ran past their bedroom, they want to save that for last, and went first to the bathroom. This they had left mainly the same, they moved on to the study which was also mostly the same except that Harry had made room for his chess set and some of his books. They walked down the little hall towards Teddy’s room. His name was written on the door with big red block letters. Harry slowly pushed the door open and looked inside. He caught his breath when he saw it. It was absolutely perfect.

     They had put back the same blue wallpaper with little red trains on it, but unlike Muggle wallpaper, these trains moved around the room in slow circles on their tiny tracks. Teddy was a little over one year old and he was walking so Harry and Ginny had gone back and forth about whether he was too big for a crib or not, in the end they had decided to get him what was called a sleeper bed. It was in the shape of a train, and it still had the railing but it could be removed as he got bigger. They had bought him a whole toy box full of new toys, and also two very special presents. The first was a little stuffed wolf that was lying on his bed waiting for him and the second was a picture of his parents, it was taken just after Tonks had given birth to him. Harry had gotten the picture from Andromeda a few weeks earlier. Tonks and Lupin were smiling out of the picture and waving brightly while baby Teddy squirmed in Lupin’s arms and both his parents kissed him excitedly. Harry and Ginny had put the picture in a silver frame and hung it on the wall by Teddy’s bed. An inscription had been written on the bottom of the frame. Death cannot stop true love; it can only delay it awhile.

     Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand as they looked around the room.

“I think its perfect.” she said.

“Me too…” said Harry with a smile, “I can’t wait to see what he thinks of it next weekend!”

“Only one more room to look at now.” Said Ginny with a grin.

     She pulled Harry by the hand back down the hall towards their room. She pushed the door open and they walked in. Harry loved it immediately, there was a big king sized bed in the middle of the room, with a fluffy white down comforter on it. His parent’s bureau still stood in the corner and his mother’s vanity sat just inside the door. There were large windows with soft lace curtains to the left that had a beautiful view of the woods. Harry went to the window and saw two deer walking gracefully through the woods, a stag and a doe. They stopped and looked up at him for a second it felt like they were holding his gaze, and something in his heart stirred.

“Oh they’re so beautiful…” whispered Ginny, who had come to stand next to him.

“A stag and a doe… just like…” her voice trailed off and Harry smiled, the deer walked into the woods out of sight and Harry turned back to her.

“Ready to try out the new bed?” he said with a grin.

“We really should unpack…” said Ginny.

     Harry wrapped his arms around her, he brushed the hair off her neck and began to kiss it slowly. He kissed from the edge of her collar bone all the way up to her ear lobe. She sighed and wound her fingers in his hair.

“We have all day to unpack…” he whispered in her ear.

“Well when you put it that way…” she said with a smile, and she pulled him towards their new bed.  

“Harry do you know where you put my blue skirt?” called Ginny a few hours later. She and Harry had finished unpacking and they were getting ready to go down to Ron and Hermione’s for dinner.

“Nope…” he said apologetically, as he stepped out of the bathroom after having just taken a shower. Ginny sighed in frustration and walked back to their bedroom.

“I should not have let you put away any of the boxes with my clothes in them!” she said in frustration.

     Harry looked around the room seeing the combination of his things and Ginny’s was the perfect touch to make the house completely theirs. He went over to the wardrobe to get some clothes as he did he noticed a long flowy blue skirt that was tucked behind his work robes.

“Here it is!” he said to Ginny as he pulled it out.

“Ah! My hero.” She said with a giggle as she came over to take it from him and kissed his cheek.

    A few minutes later they walked out their front door hand in hand. They were about to walk down the front steps but realized they would have some trouble. The whole front stoop was littered with baskets. They seemed to hold every kind of scrumptious food you could think of, from wine and cheese to freshly baked muffins whose smell was intoxicating. Harry picked up one of the cards that was attached to a package. It read:

Dear Mr. Potter,

     Here is a welcome home gift. I knew your parents very well and I’m so pleased and proud you’ve come to live with us here in Godrics Hollow. My name is Delilah Hopkins, and I live on Second Street, if you and your lovely fiancé ever need anything or simply want to pop in for a visit please don’t hesitate. Welcome to our community, we’re so very excited to have you.

Delilah Hopkins

     Harry handed the note to Ginny who read it and smiled.

“I think I’m really going to like living here!” She said.

     They read a few more notes and they all seemed to be along the same vein, then they began to walk down the road towards Ron and Hermione’s house. The night was warm and pleasant and it was barely even dusk. Many people on the street waved to them as they passed, and smiled. Harry and Ginny waved back thinking that this place was already starting to feel like home. When they got to Ron and Hermione’s house they knocked on the front door. Hermione came to the door looking quite sweet in a simple white dress and a purple apron that was smudged with food. She smiled at them and invited them in, but at that moment they heard Ron’s voice from the kitchen.

“Umm… Hermione it’s bubbling over!! What do I do??” he called in a panicked voice.

“Oh dear, I’m trying to let Ron cook spaghetti but it’s been quite a process.” She explained quickly and then ran for the kitchen calling, “just turn the heat down Ron!”

     Harry and Ginny exchanged amused looks and then followed Hermione towards the kitchen. They found a scene of utter chaos with food everywhere. Yet their seemed to be a delicious smell wafting from the room.

“Hey guys!” said Ron happily, they had gotten the spaghetti noodles under control and Hermione was just testing them to make sure that they were soft enough.

“So I think everything is done in here Ron, you did a wonderful job, even if you did destroy the kitchen doing it.” said Hermione with a slight eye roll.

“Hey… this is what it takes to create art!” said Ron importantly waving his hands around, he caught sigh of Hermione’s face and chuckled, “I’ll clean it all up later,” he promised and he kissed her temple.

“The cake still has to bake for another twenty minutes so let’s go sit in the living room.” said Ron.

“You baked me a cake?” said Harry incredulously.

“Yes I did.” said Ron, “I actually really like this cooking thing and once Hermione’s in law school I’m going to have to learn how to cook or we’re both going to starve, cuz she’ll be too busy studying.”

     Hermione swatted him on the back a glared up at him.

“I’m still going to feed you!” she said hotly.

“Yes but you’re going to be very busy so I want to be able to feed you sometimes too.” said Ron with a smile.

     They made their way into the living room which had a warm but elegant feel to it. Ron and Hermione had kept the large, plush old fashioned furniture that came with the house. It was situated around the fireplace. Harry also noticed that a book shelf had been added to the room no doubt containing many of Hermione’s pleasure reading books. Harry wondered in amusement if every room in the house now held a book shelf based on which books Hermione might want to read in it. The fire place mantle held pictures on it. It had the same picture of the family at Harry’s birthday party, and them at graduation, but the other two pictures were of Hermione’s parents, and one of Ron and Hermione that Harry had taken the night they got engaged. Hanging above their fireplace was a quote written in elegant script and put in a picture frame it read;

Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with this remover to remove.

O no! It is an ever-fixed mark, that looks upon tempests and is never shaken.

     As Harry read it he felt something stir in him. He thought it was one of the most beautiful and real portrayals of love that he had ever seen written. He had never seen the quote before, but something about it seemed familiar.

“Who’s that quote by Hermione?” he said motioning to the mantle, “It’s absolutely beautiful.”

“It’s by one of the greatest Muggle playwrights in the world, William Shakespeare. It’s from one of his love Sonnets.” She answered, “I put it there because it tends to remind me what love really is, or at least what love means to me.” She added with a smile.

“Yeah….” Said Harry thoughtfully, “I think it’s really brilliant.”

     Just then there was a loud knock on the door, and they heard George’s bright voice.

“This couldn’t be my brother’s house, he’s been living here for almost twelve hours and it’s still standing!” he said gaily and Ron rolled his eyes and made to answer the door.

     Angelina and George walked brightly into the living room, and plopped down onto the couch with Harry and Ginny.

“Will you just look at them Angelina… all grown up!” said George and made a show of fake crying on her shoulder.

“Oh cut it out…” she said with swat to his head, but she was laughing.

“George is in a more mischievous mood than usual tonight.” She explained and they all laughed appreciatively.

“Well dinner’s almost ready…” said Ron, “I just need to set the table and bring out the food.”

“Hey I’ve got a brilliant idea!” said George, “We not making Harry help because it’s his birthday and I really think that setting a table might put Angelina under to much stress in her condition.” He winked at her and she rolled her eyes. “So I think that all the Weasley’s should do the table setting…”

“Sounds good to me…” said Ginny and she got up from next to Harry to follow Ron into the kitchen.

“I’m on my way too!” said George, he leaned over to kiss Angelina.

“Love you girly.” He said, then he kissed her stomach.

“Love you Peanuts.” He said, and then he jumped up and ran into the kitchen with his siblings.

“Peanuts??” questioned Harry as he looked at Angelina; she threw her head back and laughed.

“When I went to the doctor last week; George, being the ever inquisitive boy he is, asked the doctor what size the babies were right now, and the doctor told him they were about the size of peanuts. I guess the name just stuck, and I have to admit calling them Peanut one and Peanut two instead of IT, is kind of nice. It makes them feel a little more real.” she said with a smile.

“Oh that’s so sweet.” said Hermione wistfully.

“Don’t worry Hermione you’re time will come soon enough…” said Angelina.

     Just then all three Weasley’s came marching back into the room wearing ridiculous chef hats that George had apparently conjured and laughing hysterically. All three of them made a show of standing up straight and proper and then George said,

“Deener iz served!” in his best French accent that was very reminiscent of Fleur.

     They all laughed and followed them into the dining room. Harry was very impressed with what Ron had achieved, it was by no means the kind of birthday feast Mrs. Weasley would have given, but he managed to have salad, garlic bread, and mouth watering spaghetti. After they had eaten dinner they brought out a large chocolate cake with nineteen candles, and they all sang happy birthday to Harry. He opened his presents from them while they all ate cake, with the exception of Angelina who was feeling a bit nauseous. She assured them that it wasn’t a big deal, just part of being pregnant. Angelina and George had given him many products from George’s joke shop including one of their newest Exploding Toilet seats, which George suggested he place carefully at work for fun. Ron and Hermione bought him a very cool sort of coat with many pockets, including on for your wand, and one for potions.

“It’ll come in handy for an Auror.” said Hermione, and Harry smiled at her appreciatively.

     After a little while they discussed what they might do with the rest of their night. Hermione and Ron had a huge back yard, but it was slightly too small for a Quidditch match, not to mention Angelina wouldn’t be able to join in.

“Hey I’ve got a great idea!” said Angelina, “This house is huge, why don’t we play hide-and-seek, I haven’t played that since I was a kid!”

“Oh I have an even better idea! Let’s play sardines!” said Hermione.

“Aren’t sardines a fish?” said Ron.

“No… well yes... but it’s also a game. It’s like reverse hide and seek, one person hides and everyone looks for them, you all hide with them until there is only one person left, and they lose, and become the hider the next round.” she explained.

“Brilliant…” said George, “I’m hiding first!! Count to one hundred!” with that he bolted out of the dining room.

     The better part of the next two hours was spent playing the game, and everyone had immense amounts of fun. Hermione was abysmal at picking hiding spots and everyone found her within five minutes. On the other hand not only were George and Angelina expert hiders, but they would try their hardest to lose because they loved hiding. Around ten o’clock Harry was walking along the upstairs hall, he knew he had lost this round because he hadn’t seen anyone in about five minutes. He stuck his head into Ron’s study and looked around, he didn’t see anyone but just as he was about to leave he heard a slight shuffling noise. He walked into the room and peeked around the desk to find all five of them crammed underneath it. As soon as they saw him they all burst into fits of laughter that they had been trying to suppress while hiding.

“Oh this is too much fun… but we need to get home.” chuckled George, “I have to open the shop at seven tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah we should probably go home too…” said Ginny.

     They all walked down to the front door and said their goodbyes.

“Next time’s at our house!” said Harry and they all brightly agreed.

     Harry and Ginny walked down the street towards their house.

“Did you have a good birthday love?” asked Ginny, as they walked through their gate and towards the front door.

“It was wonderful…” said Harry.

      They began to scoop up all the welcome baskets, which they took in and put on the dining room table. Harry looked into the kitchen and noticed a large object covered with a blanket sitting on the counter. He realized that he hadn’t actually gone into the kitchen yet that day so he hadn’t noticed it.

“Ginny what’s that?” he asked curiously.

“Oh it’s your birthday present from me…” she said softly, “I really hope you like it... I’m not one hundred percent sure…”

     Harry walked over to the object and removed the blanket. Underneath was a cage and a pair of bright green eyes stared out of it at him. The owl was small and round, she looked to be about the size of a melon. Her feathers were a reddish brown and they looked as soft as velvet. She cocked her head to the side to look at him and gave him an affectionate little hoot.

“Do you like her?” breathed Ginny, “I know you miss Hedwig, but I thought it was time to get a new owl.”

“She’s beautiful Ginny,” he said, he smiled at her and then looked back to the owl, “so what should we call her?”

“Oh Harry you have to pick, she’s your owl.” said Ginny.

“She’s going to be our family owl… and I want your opinion.” He said kindly.

“Well… I thought she looked sort of like a Fiona.” said Ginny.

“Fiona…” Harry looked at the owl, “It’s perfect.” He decided.

     Harry opened the cage and let the owl fly out the window to go hunt. He smiled at her as she flew away but then Ginny tugged on his arm and he looked down at her.

“I have another present for you…” she said with a playful grin.

“And what is that??” said Harry returning her look.

     She ran over to the stairs and turned back to him before she ran up them.

“I guess you’re going to have to come find out…” she said with a wink and she ran up the stairs.

     Harry grinned and ran after her, thinking that for the first time in his life he had a home that was completely his.

Chapter 21: Changes Big and Small
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                                         Chapter 21: Changes Big and Small

     Harry walked down the hall slowly. He was completely exhausted, it had happened to work out that the first week that Ginny had to be away on Gringotts business coincided with a weekend that Teddy was scheduled to be staying with them. Harry adored his godson but he had been taking care of him all by himself for the past two days, and he couldn’t wait till Ginny got home later that day. Not only was watching Teddy by himself tough but Harry had been sleeping alone in their big bed for a week and he missed her terribly. Harry pushed the door to Teddy’s room open, and saw the happy little boy standing in his bed looking over the railing. His hair was the exact same shade of blue that was on his walls.

“Uca Ha-ee” Teddy squealed, he was in the very beginning stages of talking. At first they had a very hard time understanding what he was saying but now both Harry and Ginny were fluent in Teddy language.

“I guess you’re up from your nap huh?” said Harry as he walked towards the little boy.

“UP!” said Teddy lifting his arms towards Harry.

“What do you say?” said Harry.

“Peees…” said the little baby, and Harry smiled and picked him up.

     Harry began to carry him across the room towards the door when Teddy put his hands on each side of Harry’s face and looked into his eyes.

“A Gi-ee?” asked Teddy. Harry knew that ‘A Gi-ee’ was teddy’s attempt to say Aunt Ginny; this was a question Teddy had been asking constantly since he arrived.

“She’ll be home in just a few more hours bud…” said Harry. “But Ron and Hermione are going to come over to play with you; they should be here any minute.”

“Wa a My-ee?” asked the toddler.

“Yes that’s right Ron and Hermione.” said Harry with a smile, he plopped his godson down in his playpen in the living room and went back to going over the notes he’d made about his teams latest exercise. His Auror exams were only a week away and he was studying as much as he possibly could. There was a knock on the door and Harry called for his friends to come in. As soon as Ron and Hermione entered the room Hermione flew to Teddy and lifted him out of the crib kissing his cheeks.

“She’s gotten so affectionate with him lately… I think her maternal instincts are kicking in.” said Ron to Harry as he came to sit next to him.

“She says she wants to wait until after she’s done with school to have a baby, but I’m betting she won’t hold out that long.” He added under his breath and Harry smirked.

     Hermione came over and sat down with them holding Teddy.

“How’s the studying going Harry?” she asked.

“It’s going alright…” he said, “how’re things with you.”

“Oh they’re great, I start school in three weeks and I’m very excited. Oh did you hear that Neville is back from China?” she said.

‘No I didn’t that’s wonderful!” said Harry enthusiastically.

“Yeah I think him and Luna want to have us all over to Grimauld place sometime this week…” said Ron.

“That’d be great! I’ll just have to run it by Ginny when she gets back.” As Harry said this he instinctively look at the clock in impatience.

“You’ve really missed her this week haven’t you?” said Hermione with a knowing smile.

“You have no idea…” sighed Harry.

“Hey do you mind if Hermione and I make you some dinner you look like you’re really busy… we’ll feed Teddy too of course.” said Ron.

“That would be wonderful… thanks so much.” said Harry.

“You want to go make some dinner little man?” Ron said to the baby.

“Wa!” Teddy responded smiling and reaching out to Ron.

“What does ‘wa’ mean Harry?” Ron said as he picked up Teddy.

“It’s his attempt to say your name. You’re Wa and she’s My-ee.” He explained.

     Harry continued to go over his notes. He knew that he did very well in his stealth, and his dark defense was spot on. He was just worried about some of the more complex spell work that he might be asked to perform. He heard laughter in the kitchen and the baby squealing, and pretty soon delicious smells reached his nose. A few minutes later Ron brought him in a plate with grilled cheese sandwiches and sausages on it. Harry had to chuckle because Ron also seemed to be covered in baby food. It was on his shirt, his pants; there was even some in his hair.

“That’s why you shouldn’t get Teddy wound up before you feed him.” said Harry with a laugh.

“Oh sure you tell us that now…” said Ron, and he retreated to the kitchen.

     Harry was just starting on his cheese sandwich when he heard the door open behind him, and then the most wonderful voice in the entire world spoke.

“Hey… anybody home?” said Ginny.

     Harry jumped out of the chair he was in and ran to her in only a few wide steps. He gathered her up into his arms and hugged her as tight as possible.

“Hey you….” She said softly as she hugged him back.

     He kissed her, and he kept kissing her. A week had been far too long to not be holding her, touching her, his life didn’t seem right without her with him.

“Missed me did you?” she said when she pulled away.

“Hold on one more second…” said Harry, and he kissed her again.

“Good Lord Harry you’d think I was gone for a year.” she teased.

“Felt like it to me…” he said as he buried his face in her hair and gently nuzzled her neck,

“That bed of ours is far too big when you’re sleeping in it alone.” He whispered in her ear.

     She giggled and pulled his lips back to hers so that she could kiss him again.

“Alright break it up!” said Ron from behind them, but then he grinned at his sister, “You hungry Gin? We’re making grilled cheese.”

“I’m starving!” said Ginny, and she walked towards the kitchen, “Is my Teddy in there??” she added excitedly as an afterthought.

     Harry smiled and nodded as Ginny ran quickly into the kitchen. He heard the baby screech ‘A GI-EE’ and he happily made his way into the kitchen to join his family.

     The following Tuesday evening they all were standing if front of Grimauld Place. They weren’t exactly sure how to get into it because it was a hidden house in a Muggle neighborhood, but it was no longer under the Fidelius Charm. Yet their worries were unfounded apparently you simply had to know the house existed and you could see it. The minute they walked up to the door they could tell the house was different. The grisly looking knocker had been replaced by an elegant knocker that was a golden lion and a bronze eagle intertwined.

“Wow Luna must have really outdone herself if she even changed the door knocker!” said Ron in appreciation.

     Harry knocked on the door and a few moments later Luna came and opened it with a smile.

“Oh I’m so glad you all could come!” she said brightly, and she ushered them into the hallway.

     If Harry hadn’t known it was the same house, he probably would have never guessed it. The only thing that was the same about it was that they were still standing in a long hallway that lead to the stairs on the left and the kitchen at the end. The hall way was full of cheery light, and the color scheme had been done over in a mix of deep red and soft blue that worked very well together. The most startling thing that Harry noticed was that the picture of Mrs. Black was gone. It had been replaced with a huge blown up picture of the four of them with Neville and Luna at their graduation.

“How in the world did you get rid of that picture Luna? It was held with on with a permanent sticking charm!” said Hermione, her voice sounded slightly put out. Harry had a feeling she was wondering how Luna could have done magic that she wasn’t able to.

“Oh I didn’t, Kreacher did!” said Luna brightly.

“Kreacher??” said Harry incredulously.

“Yes I assumed you knew… when you legally signed over the house to Neville and I, I guess he came with it… I was working here one day and he just popped up and started calling me Mistress. He was slightly unpleasant at first I think his feelings were hurt, because he thought you pawned him off. But after I gave him his own room on the first floor and told him he could keep anything I didn’t want he became almost inseparable from me. He seems very happy.” Luna smiled and led them towards the kitchen.

     When they arrived in the kitchen Neville was sitting at the large kitchen table reading a book on Herbology, and Kreacher was bustling around in the background making dinner. When Kreacher saw Harry his face turned to stone, and Harry felt very guilty. He had not meant to pawn off Kreacher, he had honestly just forgotten about him until then.

“Luna do you mind if I talk with Kreacher for a moment?” he asked.

“Not at all…” she said, “Kreacher would you mind going out in the hall and talking with Harry for a moment.” She spoke to him very kindly, and Hermione gave a look of approval in her direction. 

“I will talk with the Potter boy if my mistress wishes.” said Kreacher and Harry noticed that he said ‘my mistress’ to Luna almost with as much care as he had said it when he spoke of Mrs. Black.

     Kreacher followed Harry out into the hall but he did not look at him he kept his eyes on the floor as he spoke.

“What is it you wish to speak to me about Harry Potter?” He said gruffly.

“I wanted to make sure you knew that I was in no means trying to dump you off when I gave you to Neville and Luna. You have been a wonderful house elf to me, you’ve been an invaluable helper, and you’ve saved my life more than once!” said Harry earnestly.

“Does you mean that Harry Potter?” said Kreacher softly.

“Of course I do!! The only reason I gave you to Luna and Neville is because I wanted you to be happy and I thought you would be happier back here in Grimauld Place, and I knew Luna would be a good mistress to you.” Said Harry, this last part was only a half truth, Harry had not consciously put Kreacher here for those reasons, but now that he saw them he was glad that Kreacher was here. Kreacher looked up at him his dry, cracked, old lips were trembling, and tears were in his eyes.

“Thank you Harry Potter sir, you is a good man. You is so good to Kreacher, giving him to such wonderful Mistress, Kreacher is very happy.” He said.

“I’m truly glad to hear it Kreacher.” Said Harry patting the little elf’s shoulder and then they both walked back into the kitchen.

     The other five were seated around the table having what looked like an exciting conversation. Harry went and took his seat next to Ginny. Neville seemed to be telling them all about his trip to China. He had just finished telling them about the Chinese fireball dragon they had run into when looking for rare toadstools in the mountains.

“So I have a question Neville? I was going to ask it before you left but I never got the chance.” said Harry.

“Go for it!” said Neville with a smile.

“How come you never told us about being Professor Sprouts assistant??” asked Harry.

“Yeah what about that?” chimed in Ron.

“Well it all happened very fast on the last day before we left…” explained Neville, “McGonagall called me to her office and Professor Sprout was there too. She said she had something very important to ask me. She then explained that she wants to retire in two years, so she asked if I would come on fulltime as her assistant, and then in two years, take over for her.”

“You’re going to be the Herbology teacher in two years??” said Hermione in awe.

“I’m actually going to be more than just that…” said Neville with a smile, “I’m also going to be the Head of Hufflepuff House.”

“But you were in Gryffindor!” said Ron incredulously.

“The Head of House doesn’t have to be from that house…” said Luna serenely, “it just usually happens that way. Speaking of Heads of House do you know who just became the new head of Gryffindor?” she said smiling.

“Gryffindor got a new Head of House? What about McGonagall?” said Harry.

“After last year she decided she had too much on her plate, so she appointed a new head of Gryffindor.” said Neville.

“Well who is it??” demanded Ginny.

“Hagrid…” said Neville with a smile, they all erupted into cheers.

“Yes we went to see him yesterday… he’s very happy.” said Luna, “He has some other big news as well but I’m sure he’ll want to tell you that in person.”

“Speaking of big news…” said Neville taking Luna’s hand, “Do you guys have any plans for Saturday evening?”

 “Don’t think so…” said Harry looking around at the others, “What did you have in mind.”

“We’re getting married!” said Luna happily.

“You’re getting married this Saturday!” said Ginny in disbelief.

“Yeah… it’s just going to be a small ceremony at Luna’s house…. family and close friends only. Luna been working on the arrangements for a little while, but it’s going to be very simple. You guys will be our best men and maids of honor right?” he said looking around at them.

“Of course we will, but what are Ginny and I going to wear?” said Hermione.

“Oh you can just wear dresses you already have. I actually picked purple and blue as the wedding colors last week because I knew you have a lovely purple dress Hermione, and Ginny has a nice dark blue one.” said Luna.

“Well I guess everything’s settled then. Saturday it is!” said Ron with a laugh, and they all got ready to eat the delicious dinner that Kreacher was bringing to the table.

     The next day Harry was walking through Diagon Alley after having spent a particularly nice lunch with Ginny. She had to go back early because there was an issue with on of the vaults and the goblins needed assistance dealing with the impatient customer, goblins didn’t do well with humans. Harry wandered through Diagon Alley and decided to pop into Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes to say hi. As usual the store was crowded and busy. George was making his way into the back room, but he saw Harry and waved cheerfully at him before disappearing. Harry began to make his way around the shop and he noticed Katie Bell, a former teammate on his Quidditch team looking through the Pigmy Puffs.

“Hi Katie!” he said walking over to her, she jumped and looked at him as though she had been caught, she smiled but there was an air of impatience about her.

“How have you been?” said Harry, “Do George and Angelina know you’re here? I’d bet they’d love to see you!” Harry knew the three of them had been good friends at school.

“No… they don’t.” she said quickly, “I’m just here because my little niece is wanted a Pigmy Puff… I’m actually one my way out.”

“But don’t you want to say hi?” he said, feeling confused.

“No… not really.” She said stiffly, “I don’t really have anything to say to Angelina after the way she’s been acting.”

     Harry looked at her with a completely confused face, but just as Katie had been talking Angelina had appeared behind them.

“And just how have I been acting Katie?” she said testily.

    Angelina was a few inches taller than Katie but Katie turned around and met her with a glare that Angelina returned; they stood there for a few seconds not even blinking. Harry was unsure what he was supposed to do, so he simply stood there frozen and watched them.

“Lets just say some of us think the way you go through Weasley twins like trading cards is a bit vulgar.” said Katie coldly.

“What did you just say to me…” said Angelina, her voice was low and deadly, and Harry had a feeling something very bad was about to happen.

“Funny isn’t it…” spat Katie, “How you dated Fred Weasley for three years, and then five months after he dies you’re dating his brother. Rather handy there was a carbon copy of your boyfriend around, so you could just pick up where you..”

CRACK!! Katie’s sentence was cut short by Angelina slapping her across the face with all the force she could muster. Katie stumbled backwards and looked up at Angelina in rage.

“If you weren’t pregnant I would…” she began, but Angelina cut her off.

“You’d what??” she spat, “Give it your best shot! I’m only three months along and I could take you down without breaking a sweat!!”

     Angelina towered over Katie, and glared down at her furiously.

“Now you listen to me you stupid, ignorant little wench. I loved Fred and when he died it tore me apart, and it tore George apart too. We spent time together because we felt the same kind of pain. I fell in love with George because of who he is, and I know Fred would want us to be happy. I don’t have to justify myself to someone like you….”

     She shoved Katie back against the shelves making a few Pigmy Puffs fall to the floor with a squeal, and then she turned and stormed off. Harry followed after her to make sure she was all right. Angelina walked to the stairs at the back of the shop and stomped up to the flat that she and George owned above it. She went to the kitchen and slammed a tea kettle on the stove, Harry was about to leave and let her have sometime alone when she turned and gave him an apologetic look.

“Oh Harry you don’t have to leave, thanks for coming up to make sure I was ok.. It was really sweet of you. Do you want some tea? It tends so calm me down especially now that I’m pregnant.” She sat down at the kitchen table and Harry joined her.

“So are you ok?” Harry asked kindly.

“Yeah I’m fine, it just makes me so mad when people say things like that. Fred and George are completely different people, and it’s not like I meant to go after George it just sort of happened you know?” she said.

“That’s almost word for word the way George described it me… and yes I understand…” said Harry with a smile,

“Would you mind telling me how it did happen? I’m curious…” he asked.

“Not at all… I know that with you I’m not trying to defend my relationship, so telling the story is actually enjoyable.” Said Angelina with a smile, the kettle began to whistle behind her so she got up to pour them each a mug of tea and then sat back down across from Harry. 

“When Fred died… it was horrible for me…” she began softly, “I felt like no one understood how I felt. No one knew how involved Fred and I were because we kept it quiet. George was one of the few people who knew the extent of our relationship, and he was sworn to secrecy. When Fred died I felt like a part of me died with him, he’d been such a huge piece of my life. I remember there were days when I just wouldn’t get out of bed. I’d lie there all day trying to convince myself that there was still a reason to want to move. After a few weeks of this my Mum got fed up, she came to my house drug me out of bed and told me I needed to stop sulking and get on with my life. I knew she didn’t understand, but I also felt like I had to do what she asked of me. Those were some of the darkest days of my life Harry… I felt like an empty shell, I was going to work and seeing my friends but nothing felt real, I didn’t feel real.” She took a small sip of her tea and looked at him to make sure he wanted her to go on, she must have seen that he was hanging on her every word, because she gave a small smile and continued.

“One day it all just got to be too much, I got up to go to work, but when I left my house I couldn’t do it. I Apparated here to Diagon Alley thinking I’d just lose myself in the crowds, I wandered aimlessly for awhile, and then I ended up here without even realizing it. At first it was so painful, to be here and know that Fred wasn’t, but something drew me inside. I saw Charlie and he came and hugged me. I asked where George was and he said in the back. I went back there and he was sitting on a cardboard box staring at the wall. I remember saying, ‘you’re having a bad day too huh?’ and he looked up at me. I think we could see in each others eyes that we were feeling the exact same kind of pain. He came over and hugged me and then we just talked, we talked for twelve hours Harry. By the time Charlie stuck his head in to ask what in the world we were doing; it was nine o’clock at night. When I got up to leave George asked me if I would come over again the next day after work, and I said yes. I remember that was the first time since Fred’s death that I had something to look forward to.” She paused again.

“Then what happened?” asked Harry slowly.

“Well… I started coming over here each night and I just never stopped. I mean at first I felt the same things that Katie feels, I worried that I was using George as a way to stay close to Fred, but the fact of the matter is that George and Fred may look identical. (well at least to some people I’ve known them so long they look very different to me) but they are completely different people.” She said.

“Yes… they definitely are.” said Harry.

“Anyway I guess it’s not extremely romantic but George and I just… needed each other, I guess. George was the only one that could really understand me enough to help me heal, and as we helped each other heal, we also grew inseparable. I came to visit him a week after Christmas and give him his present. That night was the first time I kissed him, as soon as I had done it I said I was sorry, but he immediately asked me why? I began to say that it wasn’t right because of Fred, but he stopped me. He said that Fred was gone, and that if there was one thing he was completely certain of, it was that Fred would have wanted us both to be happy. He asked me if he made me happy, and I said yes. He told me I made him happy too, and we started dating the next day… and well… you know the rest.” She finished and grinned at him.

     Harry returned her smile and leaned over to give her a pat on the arm.

“Angelina I know Fred would be really happy to know you and George are together. And don’t worry about people like Katie… they’ll realize that eventually.” He said.

“Yeah I expect so… and if they don’t I really don’t give a damn.” She said. Harry looked at the clock on the wall behind her and jumped.

“Oh hell! I was supposed to be back at work five minutes ago!” he yelped.

“Better get going then…” said Angelina, “thanks for talking with me Harry it was really nice.”

“Anytime…” said Harry with a smile.

“Oh and if you don’t mind let’s keep the bit about my hitting George and Charlie’s paying customers to ourselves ok?” she said with a wink.

     Harry laughed and nodded in agreement as he turned on the spot and Apparated back to the Ministry.

     A few days later Harry and Ron were standing in Mr. Lovegood’s study on the second floor of Luna’s unique house. The study, for lack of a better word, was full of crazy artifacts and of course the large printing press that printed the Quibbler. Ron and Harry were both in their dress robes and Neville had bought an even fancier pair of black robes with a bow tie. He was looking slightly nervous and very excited.

“You ready for this Neville?” said Ron with a smile.

“More ready than I’ve been for anything in my life!” said Neville happily.

“Honestly I think Luna is more excited that she finally gets to move into Grimauld Place, then she is about the wedding.” added Neville with a laugh.

“Luna hasn’t moved into Grimauld Place yet?” said Harry curiously.

“Nope she comes to be with me most days, and she’s been there a lot fixing the place up, but she didn’t want to move in until we were married. She’s sort of old fashioned like that.” explained Neville.

“So when you say she’s old fashioned, does that mean you guys haven’t…” Ron trailed off and raised his eyebrow meaningfully.

“Nope… we haven’t. She wanted to wait, and I was fine with it.” Said Neville, then he looked at the two of them with a sneaky smile, “So…umm… what’s it like?” he said.

     Ron and Harry looked at each other for a moment and then looked back at Neville.

“I don’t think there are words that can accurately describe it.” said Ron.

“It’s just something you have to experience for yourself, which I imagine you will in a few hours…” said Harry with a affectionate punch to Neville’s arm. Neville grinned back at them and then Mr. Lovegood bustled into the room.

“I’ve been sent to ask if you are ready?” he said.

“I think we are…” said Neville taking a deep breathe,

     They walked down to the kitchen where they met Neville’s grandmother. Usually Harry found her a little frightening, but today she was smiling from ear to ear as she hugged Neville.

“Neville I would like you to wear these…” she said pulling out a pair of beautiful ruby cufflinks and pinning them to each of Neville’s sleeves, “Your father wore these when he married your mother.” She explained. She and Neville shared a long gaze and Harry and Ron almost felt like they were intruding. Just then Mrs. Weasley poked her head in the door.

“Everyone ready?” she asked.

“Yup!” said Neville with a smile and he held his arm out to his grandmother and they walked out the door.

     A moment later Ginny and Hermione came waltzing down the stairs both looking very pretty with their hair pinned up in curls and wearing flowy dresses of blue and purple. Ginny took Harry’s arm and smiled as they walked out into the yard and down the little isle that had been created.

     There were fifty or so people sitting in chairs in the yard, the area had been outlined with little lights that seemed to hang in the air and purple and blue flowers that entwined the edges of the seats.  A lovely arch had been created by the edge of the creek and Neville was now standing under it with the little wizard that Harry was beginning to recognize all too well. Harry noticed that the isle itself was strewn with white flower petals. He and Ron took their places next to Neville and Ginny and Hermione stood opposite them. A moment later the soft music that was playing swelled and everyone stood for the entrance of the bride. Harry watched Neville’s face and his heart was warmed by the look of unadulterated joy that came to it when he saw Luna. She was walking on Mr. Lovegood’s arm, her dress was simple it was made of some kind of whispy material that flowed and moved as she walked and it came down to the ground, just covering her bare feet. Her hair was pulled back into an intricate French braid that had strand of little white flowers woven through it. She walked slowly to Neville beaming at him the whole way. When she reached him the little man spoke.

“Who gives the woman to this man?” he said.

“I her father do give her.” Said Mr. Lovegood very formally, but his voice trembled, and he hugged Luna tightly before placing her hand in Neville’s and sitting down in the front row with Mrs. Longbottom. 

     Neville and Luna turned to face the little man and he gave his speech about marriage and the importance of the life long bond, after a few minutes he looked at Neville and Luna.

“Now Mr. Longbottom and Miss Lovegood will give each other their own vows which they have written.” he said.

     Neville and Luna turned to face each other and they smiled adoringly into each others faces.

“I Luna Lovegood…” began Luna, “Promise to love you, Neville Longbottom, for the rest of my life. I promise to care for you and protect you no matter what the circumstance. I promise to give you my very best every day because it is what you truly deserve, and because I love you.”

     Harry looked up and his eyes met Ginny’s, he held her gaze for a long and beautiful moment. Then Neville was speaking.

“I Neville Longbottom, promise to love you Luna Lovegood for the rest of my life. I will defend you in all circumstances. Protect you with every breath that is in me, support you in every endeavor, and love you until the day I die.” He touched her cheek softly as he finished.

“Now for the rings….” said the little man.

     Neville turned to Harry who handed him a small gold ring, and Luna took Neville’s from Ginny. The little man stood up importantly and turned to Neville.

“Do you Neville Franklin Longbottom, take Luna Elise Lovegood to be your lawfully wedded wife? To love her, honor her, and cherish her until the day of your death?” he asked.

“I do.” Said Neville and he placed the ring on her finger.

“Do you Luna Elise Lovegood, take Neville Franklin Longbottom to be your lawfully wedded husband? To love him, honor him and cherish him until the day of your death?” he asked.

“I do.” She said and she placed the ring on his finger.

“By the power vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I now pronounce you bonded for life.” He touched their joined hands and the chain of yellow light enveloped them. “Neville you may kiss your bride.”

     Neville grinned and pulled Luna into a long kiss. Everyone stood from their seats and cheered. Neville and Luna broke apart and smiled and then they walked back down the isle and into the house. Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione followed them in. As soon as they were all inside they let out an excited cheer and hugged both Neville and Luna. They all laughed and smiled as they walked back out into the yard which had already been transformed into a small eating area with a dance floor.

     They all ate a lovely dinner, and then about half way through Ron stood up and clinked his glass. Everyone cheered and then stopped to listen to his speech.

“I remember the day I met Neville, he came stumbling into my compartment on the Hogwarts express with the girl that is now my fiancé, and they were looking for his toad. I remember thinking he was a bit of a dud… but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I also remember the day I met Luna… reading her Quibbler upside down and looking for secret messages…” many people chuckled appreciatively including Mr. Lovegood, “but the fact of the matter is, both Luna and Neville are amazing people who I’m very privileged to know and I’m so happy that they found each other. I know they’ll be happy for the rest of their lives. So here’s to Neville and Luna!”

     Everyone raised their glasses and cheered. The party went on for another few hours, and then Neville and Luna got ready to leave. They were going to spend two weeks in Ireland on their honeymoon before Neville had to start work. They all went to the front yard to cheer for the happy couple who waved and blew kisses to their guests before Disapparating into the night.

“Why don’t you lot just stay at the Burrow tonight?” said Mrs. Weasley a minute later, “It’s getting very late, and we have your rooms all made up for you.”

“Yeah that’d be nice…” said Harry and they all walked back down the road towards the Burrow. Ginny leaned against Harry and gave a sleepy sigh.

“We’re next you know…” he said as he leaned over to kiss her on the head.

“I know…” she said happily, “I can’t wait.”

     Harry smiled as he put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her.

Chapter 22: New Arrivals
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                                                        Chapter 22: New Arrivals

Expelliarmus!” yelled Cho, and her opponents wand soared gracefully through the air and landed in her hand. Harry was sitting in the stands with the other Aurors in training and they all jumped up to cheer for her. Dean let out a long whistle and she beamed at him. They were in their first day of their Auror exams and the first examination had to do with dueling. There were five duels and if you could overcome your opponent three out of five times you passed. Cho had done exactly that and now she ran back up to the stands to sit down next to Dean with a smile on her face.

“Really well done Cho!” said Harry earnestly.

“Thanks Harry!” she said, “I’m really glad you and Seamus helped me practice throwing off the Imperius Curse.” With that she smiled and turned her attention to the arena so she could cheer on Dean who was going next.

     Harry and Cho had finally reached a somewhat comfortable place, she seemed to have finally gotten over him completely and now was happily going steady with Dean who seemed to absolutely adore her. Dean made it through his dueling test beating his opponent four out of five times. He came back to the stand and re-claimed his seat next to Cho. Then it was Harry’s turn he walked down into the arena feeling slightly nervous. He stood and faced his opponent. It was a younger Auror that he recognized from around the office. She raised her wand a fraction of a second quicker than he did. He felt the Imperius curse take him and he quickly resisted and through it off and then thought the word, stupefy, and the girl went flying backwards and landed on the ground.

“Round one goes to you then Mr. Potter.” She said with a smile, she quickly flicked her wand again but this time Harry was read for her. He shouted Protegio! and created a shield between them that protected him from her jelly-legs jinx.

     The rounds went on like this for the next twenty minutes and by the time they were done, Harry had beaten her a perfect five out of five times. He went back to his seat feeling rather good about his performance.

     He took a seat next to Seamus who had already passed his test. Seamus had seemed particularly quiet that day which was unusual for him.

“You alright Seamus?” said Harry.

“Yeah I’m fine... never better!” he said with slightly too much enthusiasm.

     He and Harry sat and watched as Draco began his duel. He, like Harry, was having no trouble at all. Suddenly Seamus spoke again.

“I broke up with Lavender yesterday.” He said.

“Oh…” said Harry, then a thought came to him, “it wasn’t because of…”

“Nah it wasn’t because of Ron...” Seamus finished for him, “I think she really is finally over him, it just wasn’t right you know? No matter how hard I tried to make it work, she’s just not the one.”

“Yeah….” said Harry and his eyes moved briefly to Cho Chang, “I know how that feels.”

“How did she take it?” Harry added.

“She was ok…I think she’s been feeling the same thing, she just didn’t want to be the one to end it you know?” said Seamus, Harry nodded and they went back to sitting in silence. After a moment Seamus spoke again.

“Harry… how did you know? That Ginny was the girl for you, I mean what tipped you off in the end?” he asked.

     Harry sat there thinking. He wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question. In truth he didn’t think that there really was an answer that would make much sense.

“I don’t know…” he answered truthfully, “but I think… that’s it’s not something that you can pick out, there aren’t clear cut signs or anything. It just….is. I mean I look at Ginny and I couldn’t tell you why but everything inside me from the top of my head to the tips of my feet tells me that she is the only girl I will ever love. I think when you find her, something inside you will just know.”

     Seamus smiled at him and then stared off at nothing for a few moments. He seemed very deeply lost in his thoughts.

“It sounds wonderful…” he said almost wishfully.

“It is…” said Harry earnestly, he patted Seamus on the shoulder, “You’ll get there some day...” he said encouragingly.

“Thanks Harry…” said Seamus with a grin, and they both stood to applaud Malfoy who had just finished his duel.

     Their examiners told them that they would have an hour long break for their lunch before coming back to take the second half of their defensive magic examination.

“Hey why don’t you come have lunch with Ron, Draco, and I?” said Harry.

“Really?” said Seamus enthusiastically, “that’d be great!”

     Draco usually went home for his lunch break to eat with Pansy but every Monday he would stay at the Ministry to have lunch with Ron and Harry. While Ron and Draco would never become bosom buddies they had fallen into a comfortable routine in which they were more like rivaling brothers than enemies, and they got along just fine. They met Ron in the cafeteria and they had a very enjoyable lunch, they all laughed and talked with each other, and Harry could tell Seamus’s melancholy mood was all but gone. As they were leaving to head back to work Ron pulled Harry aside for a moment. The other two headed back waving goodbye but not before Ron got in a smart remark.

“Oi! Malfoy, have fun waving your wand around and acting like you’re important!” he called, his voice was somewhat derisive but he was smirking.

     Draco turned back to him with the same teasing smile on his face.

“Not like you could go through it Weasley! You might scratch your pretty face, and you’re a celebrity now!” he said and then both he and Seamus laughed and kept walking.

“I’m on the radio you stupid git no one sees my face!” Ron shouted after them, but they just laughed all the harder and waved goodbye to him over their shoulders.

“I’ve got to get back soon too Ron,” said Harry, “What’s up?”

“Oh I was just wondering if you want to come to Diagon Alley with me after work and then we could head home together?” said Ron.

“Sure… what for?” said Harry.

“I’ll tell you after work.” said Ron with a smile.

     Harry met Ron in the Atrium at four o’clock, he was completely exhausted. The second half of their defensive Magic exam had dealt with magical creatures, and he had the luck of the draw to get a dragon, and boggart, and a sphinx. He had passed with flying colors but he was now more tired than he had been in over a year. He also had a large burn on the side of his head that was covered in sticky yellow paste. It no longer hurt but it was starting to itch and it was annoying him. The Healer said he could wash it off after an hour.

“Well you look lovely.” Ron said sarcastically, when Harry showed up, “I think the yellow goes nicely with your black hair you should think about keeping it.”

     Harry punched him in the arm while Ron chuckled at him.

“I HAD to be the one to get chosen to fight a dragon…” he muttered, “So why are we going to Diagon Alley anyway?” he said as they started walking slowly with the crowd towards the fireplaces.

“Well… Hermione’s been feeling lonely with me not at the house…” said Ron, “She’s there all day by herself you know, and even when she starts school next week, her school ends a few hours earlier than work. So I decided maybe we should have a pet, to keep her company.”

“What ever happened to Crookshanks?” said Harry curiously.

     Ron’s face got very somber at this and he looked seriously at Harry.

“Hermione sent him with her parents when she sent them to Australia. She thought he’d be safer there, since she couldn’t bring him on the run with us. When we went to pick them up last summer her Mum told us that he’d died during the year. It wasn’t that surprising, I mean he was pretty old when she got him, but she took it really hard. She really loved that mangy old cat you know?” said Ron.

“Yeah…” said Harry, he was slightly saddened by the news, “he was a pretty cool cat, he was friends with Sirius when he was a dog, and he tried to warn us about Wormtail.”

“Yeah he was quite the old fighter.” said Ron.

“So are you going to get her another cat?” said Harry.

“No I had another idea.” Said Ron, “Come on I’ll show you.” He added.

     They had just reached one of the fireplaces and they stepped in and said, Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, a moment later they were standing in the back of the shop. Ron had apparently informed his brothers that he was coming because they simply waved in greeting as Harry and Ron walked out of the back room, across the shop, and through the front door. They walked across the street to the Magical Menagerie shop where Hermione had first bought Crookshanks. These people also seemed to be expecting Ron.

“Ah Mr. Weasley! How nice to see you we’re all set up for you in the back!” said a kind looking lady who was standing behind the counter.

     She ushered them towards a room door that was behind the counter and as they walked forward Harry gave Ron a questioning look.

“I sent them an owl earlier today letting them know what I was looking for, and they said they’d have them ready at four fifteen so I could choose.” He explained.

“Have what ready?” said Harry, but they had just stepped through the door and his question was immediately answered.

     They were in a large room that was obviously used to let people interact with the animals. In the middle of the room was a huge circular play pen with twenty adorable squirming puppies in it of many different shapes and sizes.

“What were you looking for Mr. Weasley?” said the sales woman.

“Well I don’t want something too small…” said Ron who was playing with a very cute German Sheppard puppy, “because I want my fiancé to feel like our dog could protect her if I wasn’t there, and our family as well, you know… eventually.”

     Harry who had picked up a lovable little dachshund puppy and was petting it, now looked down at the puppy.

“I think Ron’s saying you won’t be intimidating when you grow up.” He said to the puppy with a smile, and the puppy responded by licking his nose, Ron rolled his eyes.

“You know what I mean….” He said, “that little guy is precious, and I know Hermione’d love him, but he’s not going to scare away anyone who might try to hurt her when I’m not around… unless maybe he bit their toes off.” He and Harry both laughed at that.

     The clerk encouraged them to take as long as they liked and play with all the puppies. They had a great time throwing them balls and watching them chase their tales and tackle each other. Ron was completely undecided, he was leaning towards the Irish wolf hound puppy but he worried that it would get too big. He also thought Hermione might think the poodle was sweet but the sales lady told him they were very high maintenance.

     Harry’s eyes suddenly fell on a very fluffy little puppy. It had soft extremely bushy fur that was a dark reddish brown. The reason it had caught his attention is because it’s fur and it’s movement looked extremely similar to Ron’s Patronus.

“What breed is this one?” he asked the lady.

“That’s an Airedale Terrier.” She said, “They have a lot of energy and they like to run around but they’re wonderfully sweet dogs.”

     Ron was now examining the puppy too. He took it from Harry and the puppy immediately snuggle it’s head under Ron’s chin affectionately.

“Hey there little guy….” Said Ron, “Harry doesn’t he kind of look like my…”

“Yeah… that’s why I noticed him.” said Harry with a smile.

“How big will he get?” said Ron.

She will stand somewhere around two feet tall at the shoulders when she’s full grown.” said the lady.

“That’s not a bad size girlie!” said Ron to the puppy, then he turned his attention back to Harry, “you think Hermione will like her?” he said.

“Yeah I think she’ll love her,” said Harry, with a smile.

“I’ll take her.” said Ron to the sales lady.

     Harry and Ron walked out of the shop a few minutes later. Ron was holding a carrying basket with a blanket over it that concealed the little puppy inside. They decided to Apparate home because they didn’t want to take the puppy through the Flu, they Apparated to the end of their street so they could enjoy the walk down it in the warm late summer air. When they got to Ron and Hermione’s house Ron turned to Harry with a smile.

“You wanna come with me to show her the puppy?” he said.

“Yeah alright,” said Harry with a grin.

     They walked up the walk way to the front door and Ron opened it carefully. He set the basket on the floor behind him and checked to see that his robes hid it. Just then Hermione came running down the stairs beaming.

“You’re home!” she said and she ran into his arms, “Hi Harry! What are you doing here?” she said happily as she finished hugging her fiancé.

“He just popped by for a minute before heading home.” said Ron.

“Oh ok…” she said, “Well let's go in the living room.”

“Wait a minute…” said Ron, “I have a surprise for you..”

“Honestly Ron… if you give me anymore surprises I think I might not be able to take it.” teased Hermione with a smirk.

     Ron smiled at her and put his arm around her waist as he continued talking.

“Remember what you were telling me last night before we fell asleep? That you’ve been feeling lonely here everyday while we’re at work? And how you’ve been missing having Crookshanks around?” he said.

“Yes…” she said softly.

     Ron pulled the basket out from behind him and Hermione gasped in excitement.

“It’s not a cat…” he said quickly, Harry could tell he didn’t want her to think it was and then be disappointed, “I thought that I could kill two birds with one stone, and buy you a pet that would keep you company and also help you feel a bit safer when I’m not here…” he explained.

     Hermione looked at him quizzically, but at that moment the puppy give a little whimper and stuck her nose out from under the blanket, apparently she had gotten impatient and wanted to see her new surroundings. The minute Hermione saw her she shrieked in happiness and scooped her out of the basket.

“Oh Ron!!!” she gasped, “It’s so beautiful! Is it a boy or a girl?”

“She’s a girl.” He said.

     Hermione held the puppy up so she could look at it. The puppy wiggled all over with excitement and tried to lick her nose. It seemed to like Hermione very much.

“She’s a terrier isn’t she? Oh she’s going to look just like your Patronus when she grows up. She’s so perfect!” said Hermione excitedly, she hugged the puppy tightly and it cuddled against her contentedly.

“Do you know what you’re going to call her?” asked Harry.

“What do you think Ron?” said Hermione immediately.

     Ron shook his head and smiled at her.

“She’s your dog Hermione, I want you to name her.” He said.

“I think I’m going to call her Amelia.” Said Hermione, looking down at the puppy, “My favorite book when I was a child was about a dog named Amelia.”

“Sounds great…” said Harry, “Well I’m going to let you guys introduce your new family member to the house, and I’m gonna go home and see Ginny.” He said and he opened the door.

“Ok Harry! See you soon!” said Hermione cheerfully.

     Harry walked up the road smiling, when he got to his gate he saw Ginny standing in the door way with her arms crossed, and he immediately felt guilty. He had forgotten to tell her he was going to Diagon Alley with Ron.

“You’re late Harry Potter, and what on earth happened to you?” She said accusingly, as he walked up to her.

“I had to fight a dragon in my test today, and I know I’m late….” He said meekly as he wrapped her in his arms. “I’m sorry….” He whispered, as he gave her a long slow kiss.

“So where were you?” said Ginny a few moments later, her voice still held a hint of annoyance but she cuddled against him and smiled.

“Ron asked me to go to Diagon Alley with him to buy a puppy for Hermione, and I forgot to tell you.” Said Harry apologetically, but there was no need. At the mention of the word puppy Ginny’s eyes lit up like sparklers and grew very wide.

“Hermione has a puppy!” she said excitedly, “ooooo when do I get to see it??”

     Harry laughed and kissed her nose.

“We could probably go down and see it after dinner if you like,” he said.

“Oh I can’t wait I love puppies!” she said, and they both went inside to have dinner together.

“Harry will you please go get him ready to go??” said Ginny impatiently.

     It was Saturday afternoon and Ginny and Harry were getting ready to go to Hogwarts to visit Hagrid. At that exact moment Harry was playing with Teddy in the living room, they were playing Teddy’s favorite game which he simply called monster. Harry would hide behind the couch and Teddy would sneak to the edge and peak around it, Harry would roar at him and Teddy would run a way giggling.

“Ok…” said Harry, he got up off his knees and picked up his godson, who was still laughing hysterically.

     Harry trumped up the stairs with Teddy and took him to his room. He pulled out a pair of his little jeans and a red t-shirt. He plopped Teddy down on the floor to change him but before he could catch him Teddy ran across the room to his bed and grabbed his stuffed wolf. Teddy refused to go out of the house without it. Teddy sat down on his bed and looked at the picture next to it.

“Mama a Da-dee?” he said when he looked from the picture to Harry.

“Yes that’s your Mama and Daddy.” said Harry gently as he sat down on the bed next to Teddy.

     They had this conversation at least once a day whenever Teddy was over lately. He was in a very curious stage, and he asked hundreds of questions.

“You’re Mommy and Daddy loved you very much. You were their most special gift.” Harry told the little boy as he began to undress him and put his new outfit on, “they were very brave, and they fought to keep the bad guys from winning, to keep you safe. They are always with you in your heart.” He put the boys hand on his heart as he said this.

“mama a da-dee ii ma hawt?” asked Teddy looking from his heart to Harry.

     Harry knew he was too young to truly understand yet, but he wanted to make sure that Teddy remembered knowing this from the time he was little. He wanted him to always know how much his parents loved him.

“That’s right buddy.” He said softly.

“Are my boys ready to go?” said Ginny, who had come to the door.

“I think so…” said Harry with a smile, “You ready bud?”

“Yes…” said Teddy, he picked up his wolf and kissed the picture of his parents, then toddled over to his Aunt Ginny who swooped him up in her arms.

     Harry felt very nostalgic in that moment. He marveled at how much Teddy had grown in the past year and a half, he was so grown up now. They all walked out of the room and as they were walking down the stairs Teddy kissed Ginny on the cheek and wrapped his arms around her neck.

“Luff you A Gi-ee” he said.

“Oh I love you too sweetheart.” she said and she hugged him.

     They walked down the road and met Ron and Hermione outside there house. They all turned on the spot and Apparated to the gates of Hogwarts. Teddy was fussing a bit as they walked up the hill, he never liked Apparating. Ginny had gotten him calmed down within a few minutes.

“So any ideas what this big news Luna was talking about is?” said Ron.

“Nope… when we told Hagrid we wanted to come visit him he was annoyingly secretive about it.” said Ginny as she sifted Teddy’s weight from one hip to the other.

     They all came in sight of Hagrid’s house and they stopped dead. The house that they saw before them bore some resemblance to Hagrid’s house but if they hadn’t seen Hogwarts sitting farther up the hill they might have thought they’d Apparated to the wrong place. The house before them was still stone and it still had a thatched roof, but instead of Hagrid’s one room hut, it was a sprawling stone house with at least three large round rooms put together in a honeycomb type pattern and a second story above what seemed to be the original house. They all looked at each other in confusion.

     They walked up to the door, which seemed to be the same, and they knocked. Hagrid opened the door with a big grin.

“Hello you lot!” he said cheerfully, “What do ya think?” he opened the door and motioned around at his new house.

     What had once been Hagrid’s entire house was now a large living room, the fireplace was in the same place but it now was surrounded by an enormous couch and three big chairs made out of unfinished wood with big squishy cushions. It reminded Harry of pictures he’d seen of ski lodges, it was very cozy. There was an archway to the left of the fireplace which seemed to lead into a large kitchen, and an archway to the right that led to a dining room, where Hagrid’s big wooden table sat. There was also a beautiful wooden spiral staircase that ran around the wall of the main room and seemed to lead to the second story.

“Hagrid it’s gorgeous!” breathed Hermione, “Did they give you a bigger house because you’re the head of Gryffindor House now?”

     Hagrid chuckled and ushered them into the house. they all fit easily on his big couch and he walked back into the kitchen to get a tray of tea that he had apparently already made.

“Tha’s part of it…” he said, “I’ll tell ya the rest in a minute. Firs let me have a look at Teddy! Lord look how he’s grown, got a lot of his dad in ‘im doesn’ he?”

     Teddy looked up at the big man in alarm and squirmed closer to Ginny when Hagrid reached out for him. Hagrid’s face fell and Harry quickly jumped in.

“Don’t worry Hagrid, he just doesn’t know you that well, he’ll warm up to you.” He said then he turned his attention to his godson.

“That’s Hagrid Teddy…” he said softly, “He’s your friend; you don’t have to be afraid.”

     Teddy looked warily for a moment from Harry and Hagrid.

“Hagid?” he said questioningly.

“Yes Hagrid, he’s our friend…” said Harry again patiently.

     Teddy seemed to relax and a short while later he was running all over the house chasing Fang the boar hound who seemed to think the little boy was his new best friend.

“I’ll be… he’s grown up fast...” said Hagrid with a smile, “So how are you all? Passed your Auror exams there Harry?”

“Yup, all the new Aurors did actually. Anton said it was the first time in eight years that no one has failed a single section of the exams. The all tried to tell him it was because I trained most of them in Dumbledore’s Army of course, but I think they’re just talented.” said Harry.

“Well you would think that…” said Ron with a smirk, and Hagrid chuckled.

“You ready to start school again Hermione?” Hagrid continued.

“Oh yes,” said Hermione happily, “I start on Monday and I’m so excited. I heard there are twenty Wizards from different places all over the world who are going to be in my class it’s going to be wonderful!”

“It sounds it…” said Hagrid, “How bout you Ginny liking Gringotts?”

“Yeah it’s a hoot…” she said dismissively, and then she gave him a determined look, “So are you going to stop beating around the bush by asking about work and tell us what in the world is going on with your house?” she said pointedly.

     Harry turned slightly red and gave her a guilty shrug. The rest of them looked at him curiously.

“All righ… you caught me Ginny… Somethin kinda big has happened in my life…well not quite yet... but it will very soon.” He said.

“What’s happened Hagrid?” said Harry in interest.

“Well ya see…” he began, “I’m not as young as I once was… and the older I get the more I begin to feel kinda lonely. I’ve never really had anyone else who was like me… then I met Olympe, ya remember… Madam Maxine?”

     They all nodded their heads in remembrance. They had known in their fourth year that Hagrid had a sort of fling with the giant Head mistress of Beauxbatons Academy. But they hadn’t seen her since so they had assumed it had died out.

“Well she an I have kept in touch ever since we met see?” said Hagrid, “An we’ve been talkin lately… bout how we’ve both been feelin rather lonely.”

     Hagrid took a deep breath and looked around at them like he was about to make an announcement.

“So Olympe has resigned as Headmistress at Beauxbatons an she’s gonna move up here with me.” He said happily.

“Oh Hagrid that’s so wonderful!!” said Hermione excitedly and she jumped up to hug him, everyone else followed suit and Hagrid looked around at them happily.

“Are you two going to get married?” asked Ginny.

“Well… we haven’t really talked ‘bout that…” said Hagrid, “I mean I don’t expect we’ll be havin any children cuz we’re both getting on in years, we just know we care ‘bout each other a whole lot, an we wanna be together.” He shrugged in a sort of noncommittal way.

“Well I think that’s wonderful Hagrid.” said Harry with a smile, and Hagrid beamed at him.

     Just then Teddy walked up to Hagrid and reached his hands up to be picked up. Hagrid looked down at him in surprise but picked him up easily with one hand, Teddy pulled on Hagrid long beard and giggled as Hagrid tickled his tummy.

“See, I told you that he would warm up to you Hagrid.” said Harry with a smile.

     They spent another few hours with Hagrid and only after Teddy had fallen asleep with Fang in his basket did they finally tell Hagrid they should be getting home. They said their goodbyes and then walked out of the grounds to Apparate.

“So what do you make of that?” said Ron as they walked, “I definitely didn’t see that one coming.”

“Yeah, but I think it’s really sweet,” said Ginny, “Hagrid deserves to be happy.”

     When they got back to Godric’s Hollow Harry and Ginny parted ways with Ron and Hermione at their house and then walked back up the road towards their own little home, Harry shifted the weight of his sleeping godson and as he did he wrinkled his nose.

“We’re going to have to give Teddy a bath…” he said, “He smells like Fang.”

     Ginny laughed as she opened the door to the house and let Harry through with the sleeping baby.

“We’ll give him one in the morning. I don’t want to wake him he looks so peaceful.” She said as she kissed his little head.

     Harry and Ginny changed Teddy into his pajamas and put him in his bed he sighed and pulled his stuffed wolf close to him as he slept.

“I love you Teddy,” said Harry as he kissed his godson on the head and then left the room.

“Hermione are you sure we’re at the right spot?” said Ron a few days later.

     They were standing on a street in the middle of Muggle London, they were supposed to be meeting Hermione’s mother. She was taking Hermione and Ginny to look at Muggle wedding gowns, because both of them had decided not to wear robes. Harry and Ron had come along because Mrs. Granger had said she wanted to take them all out to lunch later, and they wanted to give their opinions where they were allowed.

“Of course this is the right spot Ron, my Mum used to pick me up here all the time.” Said Hermione impatiently, “look here she is now.”

     A pale blue care pulled up beside them and the all hopped in. Ron, Ginny, and Harry got in the back seat and Hermione hopped in the front seat with her Mum.

“Hello all!” said Mrs. Granger brightly, she looked at them in the rear view mirror as she pulled back out into traffic, “nice to see you again Ron and Harry. You must be Ginny, Hermione’s told me so much about you, it’s wonderful to finally meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you as well Mrs. Granger,” said Ginny.

“Oh please dear you can call me Jean,” said Mrs. Granger, “that goes for you too Harry, and Ron dear you can, of course, call me Mum now.” She said with a smile.

“Thanks… Mum.” said Ron slightly awkwardly but he grinned.

“Now I’m taking the girls to a boutique on Helms street, there’s a game arcade across the street so I thought that would give you boys something to do.” she said.

     Ron leaned over to Harry and quietly asked him what a game arcade was. Harry grinned and said he’d show him when they got there. When they pulled up to the boutique it was a fancy little store that had windows full of lace with large poufy white gowns in them. They went inside and Harry was overwhelmed, he thought they might drown in the sea of white fabric that surrounded them. There were hundreds of dresses on racks, and as soon as they walked through the door a group of women converged on them, they began asking Ginny and Hermione if they were there for wedding dresses, and then they asked who was the bride, when they said they both were brides they each seemed to have a woman assigned to them whose job it was to get them anything they wanted. The women asked if Ron and Harry if they were the grooms, Harry looked at Ron who seemed just as overwhelmed as he was, they cautiously answered yes. The women asked if they were going to be staying to watch the girls try on dresses, and both girls automatically said no.

“What??” said Harry indignantly, he really wanted to watch, he looked over and Ron looked very disappointed as well.

“I don’t want you to see my dress before the wedding I want it to be a surprise.” said Ginny.

“That goes for me too,” said Hermione.

“Then why are we even here?” said Ron grumpily.

“Because we want to have lunch with you, and also because I want your opinion on what kind of dress I should look for.” said Hermione as she put her arms around his neck and kissed him she pulled back and smiled, “so how do you want me to wear my hair? So I can know when I try on veils.” She said with a smile.

“I want you to wear it up.” said Ron immediately, “I love your hair when it’s up, and you have such a pretty neck.”

     Hermione smiled and giggled slightly.

“And as far as your dress, just don’t get anything to frilly; I like you in more simple stuff. Like what you wore to the ball. That dress was really classy, just like you.” Said Ron, and then he kissed her again.

“Hey you, same questions.” said Ginny to Harry with a teasing smile. He put his arms around her waist and kissed her before he answered.

“Wear your hair down…” he said as he ran his hand through it, “I love the way your hair flows, its absolutely breathtaking.”

“and as far as the dress goes, get anything your heart desires I love you no matter what you’re wearing.” He said, and she giggled.

“Thanks a lot Harry that’s very helpful.” She said with a teasing swat to his shoulder, he shrugged guiltily and then turned to face both Ginny and Hermione.

“Right… you two have your money yes?” he said. He had gone to Gringotts and exchanged four hundred galleons which turned out to equal two thousand pounds. He had split this up evenly between the girls to buy their dresses and veils and whatever other wedding things girls bought.

“Yes, and thank you again Harry,” said Hermione, “I can’t believe you’re doing this for me.”

“Consider it a ‘thank you for everything you endured to help me’ gift.” Said Harry with a smile then he turned to Ron, “come on let’s let them do their girl stuff for awhile.” He said and he and Ron walked out the door.

     Harry saw the arcade that Mrs. Granger had been talking about across the street, they quickly crossed and went inside. Harry saw that the place had a ping pong table, a pool table and a few old arcade style games playing bad tunes. He asked the man behind the counter for a seat of balls and two cue sticks and he spent the better part of the next hour trying to teach Ron how to play pool. Ron was a faster learner and by the time the girls joined them around noon he was already beating Harry consistently.

“Where are your dresses?” Ron asked curiously as they all headed back towards the car.

“Oh Ron, you don’t just walk out of a shop like that with a dress.” said Ginny, “you have to order the one you like and then you pick it up once it comes in.”

“Well sorry…” said Ron, “How was I supposed to know…”

“But you both found dresses you like?” said Harry.

“Oh yes we both found perfect ones,” said Hermione happily, “I know you’re going to love Ginny’s Harry she looks so ravishing in it.”

“I bet she does…” said Harry with a smile.

     Mrs. Granger took them to a restaurant in a near by mall. Apparently this was a place she often took Hermione to eat because they both seemed to know the menu rather well. They had a very good lunch, and both Ginny and Ron were especially good at remembering to be careful what they talked about in the middle of the Muggle restaurant. Ron summoned the salt shaker to himself once out of habit, but the minute it started to move Hermione grabbed it and made it look she might have just bumped it with her elbow. Ron gave her an apologetic look and was much more careful from that point on.

     After they ate Mrs. Granger informed them that she needed to go buy some new ties for her husband, and Hermione told her that she and Ginny had a store they wanted to stop in as well so Mrs. Granger agreed to meet them at the mall entrance in forty five minutes, and they went their separate ways.

“So where exactly are we going?” said Harry as the four of them walked through the mall.

“You’ll see…” said Ginny with an evil grin.

     A few seconds later they stopped outside a colorful shop. Harry looked inside and he felt the color begin to rise in his face. This shop seemed to be entirely devoted skimpy lingerie. Harry glanced over at Ron who was staring at the shop with his eyes bugging out and his mouth hanging open slightly. Harry thought with amusement that the last time he’d seen this look on Ron’s face he’d been looking at a girl who was part veela, apparently the thought of Hermione in some of the things in the window display had the same effect. Harry knew that as far as Ginny was concerned that was the effect it had on him.

“We thought you two might want to help us pick out this aspect of our wedding day attire.” said Ginny as she grinned up at Harry.

     Harry needed no more prompting he took Ginny’s hand and walked quickly into the store with her, and he saw that Ron and Hermione were right behind them. Hermione pulled Ron into one section of the store and Ginny pulled Harry into another. Harry sat down on a bench and watched her with enjoyment. She came back holding two separate things.

“Which one?” she said with a smile.

     The first one was black and there wasn’t much to it except strings and a few carefully positioned pieces of lace. Harry felt his blood pumping in his veins and he shifted eagerly. The second one was a sheer bottle green corset that was accented with lace.

“Definitely the green one…” he breathed.

     Ginny smiled and hung the black outfit back up and then she made to walk to the back of the store.

“Where are you going??” said Harry.

“To try it on…” said Ginny with a mischievous look.

“Don’t I get to come?” he asked.

“Nope…” she said as she grinned evilly again. Harry groaned and flopped back on the bench in disappointment.

“Do you know what you’re doing to me here Ginny?” he said his voice full of frustration.

“Yup…” she said slyly, “and it’s fun.” With that she pranced away.

“Tease!” Harry called after her with a glare, but she simply winked at him and disappeared into a dressing room.

     A few moments later Ginny came out and said she was buying the green outfit. They met Ron and Hermione at the register. Ron was looking particularly pink in the face as the lady put Hermione’s purchase in a bag. Harry caught a glimpse of crimson lace as the store clerk handed it to her. He leaned over to Ron and muttered in his ear.

“Did you get to see it on her?” he asked, Ron grinned from ear to ear and nodded his head.

“Lucky…” said Harry, “You’re sister is the meanest fiancé in the world.”

     Ron shook his head and chuckled appreciatively.

Chapter 23: Auror Potter and the Tale of Dudley Dursley
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                          Chapter 23: Auror Potter and the Tale of Dudley Dursley

     Monday morning Harry got up early, he was very excited. He went downstairs and cooked a breakfast of eggs and bacon and toast. Today was his first day as an official Auror and he couldn’t wait. About ten minutes later Ginny came down the stairs dressed in her navy blue Gringotts robes, she plopped down at the table and smiled at him.

“You’re making breakfast for me? What’s the occasion?” she said with a smile.

“I dunno I couldn’t sleep, so I got up early.” said Harry.

     Ginny got up and walked over to him, she slipped her arms around his waist from behind and rested her chin on his shoulder.

“You’re not nervous are you Auror Potter?” she teased.

     Harry turned from the stove so he was facing her and she smiled up at him, he returned her smile and leaned down to kiss her.

“Maybe a little bit,” he said with a smirk.

“Well don’t be, you’re going to be a wonderful Auror.” she said, and she kissed him again, “now where’s my breakfast?” she added with a wink.

     Harry laughed and walked over to plop the eggs and bacon down on the table. They sat there and ate in silence for a few minute, and then Ginny looked up at him.

“Harry I’ve been thinking about something.” she said.

“Oh yeah what’s that?” said Harry as he stood to get a pitcher of orange juice from their refrigerator.

“I’ve been thinking that if you’re going to invite your cousin Dudley to our wedding that maybe we should go visit him and talk with him, I bet he’s been through quite a lot in the past two years.” said Ginny.

“You know that’s not a bad idea….” said Harry, “I think visiting Dudley now that he’s no longer living with my aunt and uncle might actually be fun.”

“Well that’s settled then,” said Ginny, “we’ll see if we can get hold of him in the next few days.”

“We gotta get going Gin, we don’t wanna be late for work. It’s my first day!” said Harry with a smile.

     Harry and Ginny walked to their fireplace, which they had connected to the Flu only the week before. Ginny threw in Flu Powder and the green flames erupted.

“I love you Harry.” She said as she kissed him quickly, and then she stepped into the fireplace and said, Gringotts Bank, and with a swirl of flames she was gone.

     Harry stepped into the green flames and said, the Ministry of Magic, he swirled around and landed in one of the fireplaces a moment later. He was so used to this by now that he didn’t stumble he simply stepped out and began to make his way towards the golden gates with the throng of workers. He saw Seamus and jumped into the lift with him.

“Hey Harry! You ready for the big day?” he said brightly.

“You bet I am.” Said Harry with a grin.

     When Harry and Seamus arrived at the Auror Headquarters they met up with the other new Aurors, who were all standing around in the main area looking at each other, none of them seemed to know what to do. Just then a tall broad shouldered man walked out of the large office at the end of the room and came straight to them. Harry thought the man seemed to be a friendly looking person, but he could also appreciate how intimidating he would be if you were to make him angry. He smiled around at the group and then introduced himself.

“Hello all,” he said, “My name is Matthias Harrison; I am the Head Auror for our offices. I’m sorry it took me so long to meet you, I’ve been on recognizance in Scotland for the past month, but I’m very please to meet you now. Right, lets get you set up at your desks, and we can see what work we have today.”

     He led them through the room, and pointed out cubicles here and there. Draco and Dean got cubicles near the back wall and Cho and Susan got cubicles in the center of the room. Finally Auror Harrison stopped at a group of three cubicles on the far left of the room.

“Here you are Potter and Finnegan. That other space belongs to Holly, I’m not sure where she is right now, but she’ll turn up. Oh almost forgot here are your name tags!” he handed them each a golden name tag and then said goodbye and walked away briskly.

     Harry carefully pinned the small gold name tag, which read; Auror Potter, to his robes and he looked up at Seamus and grinned. Seamus had pinned his, Auror Finnegan, name tag on as well and he grinned back at Harry.

“Well, its official… we’re dark wizard catchers.” said Seamus.

“Yeah….” Said Harry thoughtfully, he looked at Seamus with a sheepish smile, “so what do we do?” he asked.

“No idea…” said Seamus, and they both started laughing softly.

     Just then someone just outside their line of vision said a particularly good string of swear words rather loudly. Then both jumped and a moment later a very pretty red headed girl came storming around the corner towards their desks. When she saw them sitting there she stopped dead. Harry hazarded a guess that she would barely come up to his shoulder, and she was petite, reminding him of a pixy. Her red hair was cut short and shaggy, in a style not unlike Ron’s but it suited her soft face, giving her a spunky look. Even though she was small Harry got the feeling she was not the kind of person you wanted to mess with…she gave them an apologetic look and then walked forward.

“Sorry about that… I didn’t know you were here yet.” She said as she walked forward and shook their hands. From her accent Harry could tell that she was Irish, and out of the corner of his eye he saw that Seamus had noticed as well, but it was the girl who mentioned it first.

“Finnegan eh? So you’re Irish as well then. That’s nice… there aren’t near enough Irishmen in this department, and I’m the only Irish woman. Oh but where are my manners? My name is Holly, Holly Flynn. What your names?” she said all this very quickly and the boys were slightly overwhelmed.

“I’m Harry” said Harry slowly, and she smiled at him.

“Right you are… it’s really nice to meet you.” She said with a smile.

“I’m Seamus,” said Seamus.

“Lovely name that…” said Holly, “It’s really nice to meet you as well Seamus.”

“thanks…” he said, still looking a bit wary of this bouncy girl.

     She made her way over to her desk and plopped down in her chair. She leaned back lazily in the chair and smiled at them. They smiled back at her genuinely, her carefree attitude was infectious.

“So what exactly are we supposed to do Holly?” said Harry.

“Oh a lot of the day we spend filling out paper work and such. We only go out on jobs when there is a problem, but since you all don’t really have any paperwork to fill out yet, I expect it will probably be a rather slow day. But don’t worry sometimes that’s more fun.” She smiled and winked as she said this.

“How long have you been working here Holly?” asked Seamus.

“Bout a year… I came here after I finished school. It's been really great, cept for the incompetence of certain people!” she spat out the last part in annoyance and quickly wrote something on a note.

“Sorry I just remembered what was annoying me when I came over, Coraline Jameson is driving me crazy with her paperwork and stupid going-by-the-book. She doesn’t understand that’s not how things work sometimes…” Holly crossed her arms and called Coraline an extremely rude name under her breath.

“Don’t hold back… tell us how you really feel Holly.” teased Seamus as he and Harry snorted in laughter.

“I’m sorry…” said Holly with a guilty look, “does my swearing bother you?”

“Nah… I’ve heard much worse…” said Harry.

“I’ve said much worse…” said Seamus with a grin, and Holly laughed.

“Yeah I’m rather aggressive by nature I’m afraid.” she explained, “not only do I have my Dad’s fiery Irish temper, but I’m also a filthy half breed, as many have liked to call it.”

“What’s that mean?” said Seamus.

“My mum is a werewolf, so every time the full moon comes around I get twice as aggressive as usual.” She explained to him.

     Harry was keenly interested in this piece of news.

“So you’re a half werewolf?” he said.

“That’s right, got wolfy blood running through my veins…” she said with a smirk.

“Is that the only side effect that you have? Being more aggressive with the full moon?” asked Harry.

“It’s the only thing I’ve ever noticed… why do you ask?” she said giving him a curious look.  

“My godson is a half werewolf.” Said Harry, “he’s only one and a half right now, but I was just curious what we might be in store for.”

“Oh really?? Who are his parents?” she said excitedly.

“Remus Lupin, and Nymphadora Tonks Lupin.” Said Harry quietly, “they died in the battle at Hogwarts.”

“I didn’t know they had a son…” breathed Holly, “My mum talked about Lupin, he was one of the first werewolves to marry a human since she did it almost thirty years ago, and of course I’ve heard all about Tonks from people here, they miss her terribly.”

“Yeah so do we…” said Harry with a sad smile.

“So that means your godson is a half werewolf and also a Metamorphmagus huh? What a unique child. Has he done any metamorphizing yet?” she said.

“Oh yeah… he does it all the time. His hair is now consistently the same shade of blue as the wall paper in his bedroom.”

     Holly and Seamus both laughed at this.

“Well just so you know, you probably don’t have to worry about him being aggressive with the full moon. I think that’s more of a female thing. My brothers are half werewolves, and it mostly just makes them always hungry and very high energy. Oh and when he grows up he’ll probably be a bit hairy, but that happens to some boys even without werewolf genes!” she said brightly, and Seamus laughed again.

     They spent the rest of the hour talking and laughing with Holly, she was very fun and friendly. It turned out she was quite the tomboy and knew just as much about Quidditch as they did if not more. She had been on her school’s Quidditch team as Seeker, so she and Harry swapped stories about their best Snitch catches and Seamus piped in about his greatest Keeper moments. Harry could tell that the three of them were going to get along very well, and he couldn’t help but notice the way Seamus watched Holly with admiration. He smiled to himself, and thought that work was going to be very interesting.

     That afternoon just when Harry, Holly, and Seamus were having a heated debate over whether Ireland deserved to beat Bulgaria in the Quidditch World Cup for a second time, Draco walked up behind Harry and gave him a playful slap to the back of the head.

“Hate to break up the party, but I was wondering if you wanted to do some actual work Potter.” he teased.

“Why do you need someone to help you sign your name again? I know it’s hard to remember… but I’ll give you a hint it starts with D.” retorted Harry, but he stood to go with Draco.

     Draco punched him in the arm and Harry responded by giving him a shove before turning back to Seamus and Holly.

“I guess I’ll see you guys later…” he said.

“Yup! Don’t worry about us Harry, I’ve got a stack of back paperwork to fill out a mile high and I know Seamus is just dying to learn how to fill out an incident report form.” Holly grinned evilly and winked at Seamus. He groaned and flopped his head into his hands.

“Woman you’re evil….” He moaned.

“Yes I am… it’s good you figured that out early.” said Holly with a smile.

     Harry rolled his eyes and laughed at the two of them before turning to walk away with Draco.

“So what are we doing?” said Harry.

“Well… I’ve got a little assignment from Kingsley. It been on my agenda since the first day I came to the Ministry, but it’s been put on hold because more pressing things came up. I asked Harrison if I could include you, because I want your honest opinion. I need someone who can see things from a different angle.” said Draco.

“Ok….” said Harry, “so are you ever going to tell me what we’re actually talking about?”

“In a minute, lets get to Harrison’s office first, I don’t want to talk in front of everyone this is top secret.” said Draco.

     Harry stopped and looked at Draco warily.

“How dangerous is that assignment going to be?” he said slowly. He didn’t want to do anything life threatening without at least telling Ginny first.

“Well the hope is that it will not be dangerous at all, I don’t see why it would be… but the matter is……delicate.” He looked around quickly to see who was listening, then he ushered Harry towards Harrison’s office.

     Harry was now extremely curious, he couldn’t think of anything that could be this top secret and closely guarded but at the same time, not dangerous at all. They entered the office and Harrison greeted them kindly and they took seats opposite him across his desk.

“So Draco would you like to explain?” he said.

“Just one moment,” said Draco and he proceeded to put the Muffliato Charm and an Imperturbable Charm on the door. Then he turned back to Harry.

“Sorry about that but the Minister and I believe that it is of the utmost importance that no one hears of this except the select few people who we have trusted the information with. Therefore it goes without saying that this information does not leave this room. Not even Ginny, Ron, and Hermione can know.”

     He was looking at Harry with one of the most serious faces Harry had ever seen him wear.

“Of course… that’s part of my job, I swear I won’t tell a soul.” said Harry.

“When I was a Death Eater,” Draco began, “I saw things that no one outside that circle could be privy to. Because of this I have very specific information. One of the things that I witnessed was the relationship between Bellatrix Lestrange, and Tom Riddle.”

     Harry sat there in shock for a moment and then looked incredulously at Malfoy.

“When you say relationship do you mean…”Harry began, and Malfoy nodded his head somberly.

“But she was married!!” Harry said indignantly.

     Malfoy snorted and shook his head.

“Rodolphus was never anything more than a figure head to her, the marriage was arranged by her parents when she was a child. You saw the way she looked at Tom Riddle, the way she worshipped him, she was completely in love with him.”

“and Rodolphus just let them be together?? I didn’t fight for his wife?” said Harry.

“You think he really would have fought his lord and master over a woman who didn’t even want to be with him?” said Draco.

“But….” Harry murmured, something wasn’t making sense in his head, “Tom Riddle didn’t love her did he?” he couldn’t picture this being true.

“Of course he didn’t… Riddle was incapable of love.” said Draco bitterly, “but he was still a man… and therefore had needs, and he used people for everything else, why not for that as well?”

     In his head Harry realized that all this made sense. Now that he thought about it you would have had to be blind not to see how absolutely adoring Bellatrix was of Riddle. She kissed the ground he walked on, she had endured over fifteen years in Azkaban because she refused to denounce him. And Draco was right, Tom Riddle was a man, if she had offered herself to him, Harry doubted Riddle would have had any qualms about taking advantage.

“So why is all this important?” he said slowly, “They’re both dead.”

     Draco and Harrison exchanged very grave looks with each other and then they looked back at Harry. Suddenly something registered in Harry’s brain and he felt like someone had hit him over the head with a Bludger.

“There’s a child…” he said softly.

    Draco slowly nodded his head.

“He was born in September, two years ago. I don’t think Riddle saw him more than twice before he died, but in truth I think he cared about the child more than he ever cared about Bellatrix. He saw the child as a way to carry on his legacy.” explained Draco.

“Where is he?” said Harry, his head was still spinning from this news.

“He’s in the orphanage that Riddle was raised in.” said Draco, “you see the child was being raised predominantly by Bellatrix’s house elf Lonny, because Bellatrix was out causing murder and mayhem most of the time. Yet Riddle gave the elf specific instructions. If a day came, when neither of them returned she was to take the baby and leave it in a basket on the steps of that orphanage. You see as confident as Riddle was that he would kill you, he knew there was a slight chance that it could go the other way, and he wanted to be sure his child was left somewhere that he could be hidden, but he was sure the magical world find him eventually. He knew that orphanage was where he was found, and as much as he hated it there, he was bonded to that place.” 

“So what are we doing about it?” said Harry.

“Well that’s what we need to discuss.” said Harrison, “obviously we can never let the child’s parentage be known, even though he is far too young to have committed any crimes, there are those who would want him killed simply because they don’t want any of Riddle blood to be left on this planet.”

“That’s horrible!! He’s just a child, and he can’t help who his parents are!” said Harry angrily. His eyes moved to Draco as he said this and Draco nodded his head, and gave him a small appreciative smile.

“We know Harry… that’s why this is so secretive.” said Draco, “the question is, would it be better to bring him back into the wizarding world to grow up, or to leave him with the Muggles.”

“We’re obviously going to be keeping a very close eye on him no matter what,” said Harrison, “because even though he is just a child, we can’t ignore his parentage, and as he grows we want to be watching him for signs of the same tendencies as his father and mother.

     Harry nodded, he understood that. As much as they couldn’t pass judgment on the boy, they also couldn’t ignore that he might be predisposed to some nasty behaviors.

“So what do you think Harry?” said Draco.

“Well… what would happen if we brought him back?” said Harry.

“We could probably get him set up with an adoptive family within the week.” said Harrison, “there are plenty of wizarding families looking to adopt.”

“What would we tell them about him?” asked Harry.

“We would tell them that his parents died in the war, and he has been in the care of the Ministry, just like many orphans are at the moment.” said Draco.

“Ok…. Then I think we should do that…” said Harry slowly, “I think if we get him with a good loving family it will decrease the risk of him becoming like his father. I worry if we leave him in that orphanage he will grow up angry and vengeful just like Riddle. In fact, I have a feeling that’s what Riddle was hoping for when he left him there.” 

“Alright then…” said Draco, and he stood up, “let’s do it.”

“What right now??” said Harry in surprise.

“Yes right now, that’s what my assignment for the day was.” said Draco with a slight eye roll, “we just wanted to have a discussion before we proceeded.”

“Alright then…” said Harry still feeling a bit overwhelmed.

“We’re going to Apparate from here, to avoid any unnecessary questions.” Said Draco, “you can come Side Along since you’ve never been there before.”

“I have actually…” said Harry, in truth he hadn’t ever been there in person, but he’d been there in Dumbledore’s Pensive, and as long as you could think about your destination you could Apparate.

     Draco gave Harry a raised eyebrow but then shrugged his shoulders in a non-committed sort of way and took out his wand.

“Oh by the way, leave your robes here, we don’t want to scare the Muggles.” said Draco.

     Draco took his robes of and was wearing a dark blue button down shirt and dress pants underneath. Harry didn’t realize until that moment that he had never seen Draco in Muggle clothes before, he looked very different. Harry removed his robes, he was wearing a bottle green polo shirt that Ginny had bought him, and khakis. They both turned on the spot and a moment later they were standing outside a tall disheveled looking building. Harry thought that, if it was even possible, the place looked every more lonely and drab than it had in Dumbledore’s Pensive. Harry and Draco walked up and knocked on the door. A small round woman with a kind looking face opened the door. She was not the woman Harry had seen in the Pensive, but that memory was over fifty years old so that woman was long gone.

“How may I help you?” said the woman.

“We’re looking for a boy who may have been left here a year ago in May.” Said Harry thinking fast, “he was my sister’s son, and we think she may have dropped him off in this area.”

“Alright then…” said the lady, “Who’s this fella here?” she said nodding towards Draco.

“He’s my attorney.” said Harry immediately.

“Ok then…” she said and she ushered them in, “Why don’t you have a seat in my office and I’ll be right in.” she led them to a small room to the left of the foyer and then bustled out.

“Your attorney??” said Draco leaning over to Harry and giving him an incredulous look.

“Well you’re dressed nicer than me… and people usually bring attorneys when they’re trying to get custody of kids.” He said, “I mean we’ll have to Confund to get her to believe we gave her the right legal documents, but I thought the less we have to alter her memory the better.”

“Good thinking.” Said Draco, and then he quickly sat up straight and smiled at the woman who was walking back into the room.

“So when did you say you’re nephew would have been left here?” she said opening a large book, that seemed to be her records.

“A year ago in May…” said Harry, “he would have been a baby, about eight months old.”

“Oh well that would be Judah!” she said looking up at Harry, “he was left on our doorstep the end of May, quietest little thing. It was lucky it was summertime cuz he sat out there all night till we found him because he didn’t make a peep.”

“Now you say you’re his uncle?” she said, “do you have any kind of statement from your sister saying she left the baby here? For legal purposes of course, if you could even tell me what name was on the note that was left with the baby that would be enough.”

“Oh I have a copy of that name right here,” said Draco immediately, he pulled out a blank piece of paper and pretended to read it, “His birth name was Marvolo Morphin Lestrange”

“That it was…” said the woman, giving a slight shudder, “ghastly name that, I mean we usually try to keep the name the parents give them, but I didn’t have the heart to leave the child with that monstrosity.

“Why Judah?” said Harry curiously.

“Dunno it just seemed to fit him.” said the woman, “and Judah Lestrange had a nice ring to it.”

“It’s Judah Riddle actually…” said Harry.

     The woman had been writing in her book but suddenly she stopped.

“Riddle? Did you say?” she looked at him with shock and a hint of fear, “As in… Tom Riddle?”

“How do you know about Tom Riddle?” said Harry, “I’d wager he left here long before you came to work.”

“My mother ran this place before me,” said the woman softly, “I grew up here, and no one who ever met him forgot Tom Riddle. He was so handsome yet so….frightening. He was cruel and evil yet somehow he still convinced everyone to do what he wanted and like him.” Revelation dawned on her face as she spoke, “of course…. Judah is his son, now that I think about it the resemblance in undeniable. So why hasn’t Tom come for him?” she asked this last question with a wary look.

“He’s dead…” said Harry, “he died around the time the boy was left here.”

“Oh… I’m sorry to hear that…” she said, but she did not look sorry she looked relieved.

“So will we be able to take Judah today?” said Harry.

“Yes I don’t see why not.” Said the woman, “if you follow me we can go get him.”

     They walked down a hall and into a room that was full of small children. Many of them were running around playing tag and squealing, or building towers with blocks. Yet Harry’s eyes were drawn to the small boy with dark hair that sat alone by the window, he was drawing a picture. Draco and Harry walked over and knelt down by the boy. He looked up at them with a curious smile, he had dark hair and chocolaty brown eyes, and even at two years old he was already strikingly handsome.

“Hi, who aw you?” he said politely. Harry was impressed with how well he talked.

“I’m Harry and this is Draco.” Said Harry, “what are you drawing.”

“Birds…” said Judah, pointing out the window at the birds roosting in the tree above him.

“Ah I see…” said Harry.

“You gonna take me to my home now?” said the boy.

“Yes that’s right we’re going to take you to your home.” Said Draco gently.

     Harry and Draco packed up the little boys things. He didn’t have much, most of his clothes were drab secondhand things he got in the orphanage. Harry carried him as they Apparated back to the Ministry. His eyes were very wide as they walked through the Atrium and he took everything in, but he didn’t speak. He seemed to be a very quiet child. When they got back to the Auror offices it was almost time to head home for the day. Draco spoke with Harrison and they agreed that Judah would stay with Draco and Pansy until a family was found to adopt him. As Harry was getting ready to head home the little boy, who was sitting on the edge of Draco’s desk, looked up at him and smiled.

“Bye Hawee!” he called and he waved his pudgy hand.

     Harry smiled and waved back, silently hoping against hope that the sweet little child, would grow up to live a much happier life than that of his parents.

     Three days later Harry found himself doing something he hadn’t done since he was in grade school. He was riding the bus. Dudley had moved into a flat that was right in the middle of London on a busy street. Harry and Ginny had tried to come up with every way possible to get there but in the end they couldn’t Apparate anywhere within walking distance, because the area was too heavily populated, and they couldn’t Apparate directly into Dudley’s apartment or use the Floo because Dudley had flat mates. Finally Harry resigned himself to the fact that they would have to Apparate to a less populated area near by and then take the bus into the heart of the city. Just then Harry heard the conductor call out the stop that he and Ginny were supposed to be getting off at. He grabbed her hand and the quickly hopped off the bus. Harry thought Ginny was looking particularly adorable that day, he could tell she had gone out of her way to look like a Muggle, but unlike some wizards who thought being a Muggle meant wearing four pairs of trousers, Ginny was very good at it. She was wearing a pair of plaid Bermuda shorts, and a plain white tank top with a green wrap around sweater. She had her hair in two braids, and was wearing a cute green and yellow hat that matched the colors in her shorts. They walked hand in hand up the street until they reached Dudley’s apartment building. Harry pushed the buzzer and a moment later they heard Dudley cheerfully tell them to come on up. As soon as they found his apartment and knocked the door flew open, and Dudley proceeded to scoop Harry up into a huge hug.

“Harry! How are you doing?” he said excitedly.

“I’m great Dudley… how are you?” said Harry as he massaged his ribs.

“I’m wonderful!!!” said Dudley with a big smile, “Please come in.”

     Dudley led them into his apartment; it was one large room with a living room and kitchen area, there was a loft over the kitchen portion with three beds in it. Harry thought the place had a nice airy feel to it. Dudley brought them over to the couch and they all sat down.

“So you must be Ginny…” said Dudley, “Harry told me you were beautiful, and he wasn’t exaggerating! It’s really great to finally meet you.”

“Thanks.” said Ginny and she smiled at him.

“So tell me what’s been going on with you since I last saw you Dud.” said Harry.

“That story is going to take the rest of the afternoon!” said Dudley with a laugh.

“Well we’ve got nothing but time…” said Harry.

     Just then a tawny barn owl flew through the open window carrying a small note and it landed on Dudley’s shoulder and nipped his ear affectionately.

“Hey there Paddington.” said Dudley ruffling the owls feathers, he took the letter and the owl flew to a perch in the kitchen.

“You have an owl Dudley?” said Ginny looking confused.

“He’s actually Hannah’s, but he’s here so much he’s kind of adopted me as well.” said Dudley.

“Hannah? As in Hannah Abbott?” said Harry curiously, and Dudley nodded.

     Hannah Abbott had been a student at Hogwarts with Ginny and Harry, she had been in Hufflepuff house and like many students she had left school the year Voldemort had been in power and never returned.

“Hannah is my girlfriend.” Said Dudley, “I’ve convinced my flat mates that she lives with her crazy old grandma who believes the postal service is an evil conspiracy, so she trains owls to carry their mail. Hannah goes along with the story and it seems to satisfy them.”

“Hannah is your…. Ok now we HAVE to hear this story.” said Harry with a laugh.

“Well it all started when we left the house two summers ago. You know what it was like then Harry. Dad was being impossible, saying he wanted to go and then he didn’t. He was scared of getting attacked by wizards but almost as scared of being seen with them. That first car ride was interesting, Diddle kept asking crazy questions, about stop lights and motorcycles, and even toll booths, I think the only thing that kept my Dad from turning the car around was how calm and collected Hestia Jones was. I think my Mum was very relieved when we arrived at what looked like an old country Inn, but we soon realized we were the only Muggles there. The place had been abandoned years ago, and the Ministry had turned it into a sort of safe house for those Lord Voldemort was targeting.”

“Oh I bet your parents loved that…” said Harry. Dudley gave an ironic little smile and continued.

“The first month there was beyond miserable. Mum and Dad refused to even leave our room except to eat, and even then they wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. I felt more alone than I ever have in my life, even when I did try to go out all the kids were talking about things I didn’t understand, and playing games I didn’t recognize. I guess I kind of got a feeling for what you felt like living with us all those years Harry. It’s really lonely being different.” Dudley looked up at him sympathetically and Harry smiled as he nodded.

“So what changed Dudley?” said Ginny.

“Hannah showed up.” said Dudley, “I’d seen her around but I never talked to her, I never talked to anyone. I began to spend a lot of time in the little library that they had in the Inn, I’ve never been one for reading much, but it beat sitting in the room watching my father complain that there was no television, and my mother cry. One day when I was reading the Swiss Family Robinson, which incidentally is now my favorite book, someone walked up and sat down next to me. It was Hannah, she said she’d seen me around and then she asked me if I was a Muggle. I told her yes, and she said, ‘not to be rude but how did you end up here?’ I told her all about how I was your cousin, and how we were in hiding because of Voldemort, she seemed very interested. She asked me to come have dinner with her and her friends that night. Mum and Dad were NOT happy, but I didn’t care, if it meant that I could make friends I was going to do it. That night Hannah was wonderful, she explained to everyone who I was, and as soon as they knew I was your cousin, I was in the club. They showed me how to play Exploding Snap and Wizards Chess, they explained all about Quidditch to me, by the time Christmas rolled around they were affectionately calling me the Magically Challenged one.”

     Harry and Ginny both laughed at this, and then Harry asked Dudley a question.

“So you really became friends with a bunch of witches and wizards? I bet your Mum and Dad weren’t to happy about that…” he said.

“I actually haven’t talked to Dad in about a year…” said Dudley somberly.

“It’s THAT bad??” said Harry.

“Well it wasn’t at first…” said Dudley, “I mean my Dad always hated that I was spending time with “your kind of people’ as he calls them. But I think he was ok with it while we were at the Inn because he knew there was no one else for me to spend time with. I’m pretty sure he let himself believe that I didn’t really like them all that much, I just didn’t have any other options. Then the you-know-what hit the fan.”

“What happened??” said Harry.

“In March of that year Hannah and I started dating. My father hit the roof. He told me he would not have me dating a bloody freak. I told him that I was dating Hannah, and if he didn’t like it he could find himself a new son. He saw that I was serious and he decided to let it go, he wasn’t ready to lose me over it, and at the time I still think he assumed it was a phase, and I would change my mind when I was around normal girls for awhile again. Then that summer we got to go home, and my mother and father threw every girl they could find at me trying to get me to ditch Hannah, but I wouldn’t. She is the only person who has ever really understood me and treated me like I deserved. You know my folks just let me do whatever I wanted my whole life, and treated me like I could do no wrong. Hannah has no problem telling me when I’m being a royal prat, but she also really truly believes I can do great things and because of that, I’m trying to. Anyway… in August I told my Dad that I was going to visit Hannah. That was the final straw, he told me that if I was going to go visit a person like her, then I hadn’t grown up to be the man he had raised me to be. He said if I was going to be serious with Hannah I wasn’t allowed to live under his roof. I said fine and I left, I went and spent two weeks at Hannah’s house, and then I contacted Marley and Jake, you know my buddies from high school, and they invited me to move into this flat with them, and well… here I am.”

“That’s so amazing Dudley…” said Harry, “well… not the part about your Dad but everything else…”

“Yeah… I’m the happiest I’ve been in a very long time…” he said with a grin.

     Just then Marley and Jake got home, they barreled in and said a cheerful hello to Harry. Apparently Dudley was not the only one who had changed in his attitude towards him, these two boys were at the head of the line to beat him up when he was younger, but now they were being perfectly nice to him. He wasn’t all that surprised, they did seem to always follow Dudley’s lead. Marley announced that he was starving and they ordered two pizzas. They all spent the next hour eating and talking, Harry had to admit that he had never seen Dudley looking so happy and healthy. Marley had to leave for work at six and Jake retreated to the loft to play video games.

“So where are you working now Dudley, I mean you must have a pretty good job to afford even a third of an apartment like this.” said Harry.

     Dudley gave a mischievous smile, and then quickly glanced up at the loft to make sure that Jake was playing with his head phones in, which he was. He lowered his voice slightly as he spoke.

“I actually work for your Ministry, I got the job last week.” He said with a grin.

     Harry had been taking a swig of his soda, but when he heard this he choked and sprayed it all over the table.

“Sorry…” he gasped, and Dudley laughed and tossed him a towel.

“It’s alright, Marley and Jake make worse messes everyday.” He said chuckling.

“You work for the Ministry of MAGIC??” said Harry softly.

“Yeah… I work in the Muggle relations offices.” said Dudley.

“How come I’ve never seen you around??” said Harry.

“Well I’m not actually IN the Ministry that often… my job is to go with witches and wizards when they have business to attend to in the Muggle world. The Minister thought that too many witches and wizards were drawing attention to themselves by not knowing how to act, and in some cases even dress appropriately for Muggle society, so he hired about fifteen Muggles who he knew had connections to the magical world to act as assistants and make sure that whoever needed to go into the Muggle world blended in properly.”

“That sounds like a fun job!” said Ginny enthusiastically.

“Oh it is… I do whatever they need me to, sometimes I’m their driver, sometimes I help them with money or clothes, but most of the time I just go with them and try to catch them if they happen to slip up, or get confused. You should see some of the things you lot try to do. One fellow last week tried to walk into a fireplace and I had to catch him before he caught his trousers on fire!” said Dudley.

     Both Harry and Ginny began to laugh. They stayed and talked with Dudley for another hour and then Harry looked out the window to find that it was already dark out.

“Oh we should really be going Gin… we both have work tomorrow, and you still have to finish that report on your trip to Mongolia.” He said.

“You went to Mongolia?” said Dudley.

“Yeah I’m a curse breaker for Gringotts Bank…” she said.

“That’s so cool… I always like Gringotts, but I have to admit the goblins are a bit scary, and the first time Hannah took me on the ride to her vault I almost lost my lunch.” said Dudley.

“You have no idea how weird it is to hear you talking about goblins, and Gringotts vaults Dud…” said Harry looking at his cousin curiously.

     Dudley threw his head back and laughed.

“You should see me play Wizards chess, I’m really rather good.” He said with a chuckle, “you might die of shock.”

     Harry laughed as they all stood, they walked to the door which Dudley opened for them. Harry gave his cousin a big hug, and then Ginny did the same. Dudley looked at her in slight surprise but then happily reciprocated.

“You should come see our place sometime soon Dudley.” said Harry.

“You can count on it!” said Dudley with a smile, and then they all said goodnight. Harry and Ginny walked outside and went to catch the bus that would take them to a place where they could safely Apparate home. 

Chapter 24: Victorie Wealsey and other strange events.
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                       Chapter 24: Victorie Weasley and Other Strange Events

     Before Harry knew it was nearing the end of September. It was hard for him to believe that he was going to be getting married in only two short months. It seemed like the year had flown by. It was a Friday night and he was walking back towards the office with Seamus and Holly. They had gone on assignment to apprehend a wizard in Finchley, who was hexing Muggles with a Jelly legs jinx for fun. It hadn’t been a very hard job and they were all laughing and talking on their way back. Just as they were about to get in the lift to go up to the Auror department Harry heard a voice call his name. He turned and saw Ginny running towards him.

“I thought I was supposed to be meeting you at Gringotts!” said Harry.

“Well I got off work early so I figured I’d come meet you all here, and then we can just take the Floo to Mum and Dad’s” she said as she kissed him.

     They were all going to the Weasley’s house that night to have a birthday celebration for Hermione. Her twentieth birthday had been on Tuesday but they had all been too busy to celebrate.

“Oh you must be Ginny! Harry’s told me so much about you!” said Holly happily.

“Yup that’s me…” said Ginny with a smile, “and you must be the infamous Holly.”

“Infamous eh?” said Holly shooting Harry a look of admiration, “I like the sound of that.”

     They all laughed and Harry thought to himself how much he appreciated that Ginny wasn’t the jealous type. Harry had told her about Holly the day he’d met her, and Ginny was completely unphased. She had no problems with Harry having female friends because she knew he wasn’t going anywhere. They arrived at the Auror offices and made their way back to their desks. Harry was packing up his things for the day when Cho Chang came around the corner and began walking towards them. Harry could see Ginny bristle with aggression as she walked forward and Harry instinctive wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Ginerva Weasley you behave yourself.” He muttered into her hair, and she seemed to calm down slightly.

“Hey Anton, asked me to give you these reports on the case you worked last week.” Said Cho somewhat shyly as she looked at Ginny who looked back at her with a thoroughly unfriendly expression.

“You almost ready to go Harry?” said Ginny, turning her back on Cho.

“I’ve just got to fill out a few things…” he said to her.

“Ok... I’m gonna go visit Ron and Lee then. I’ll meet you in the lobby in a few minutes?” she said.

“I’ll be there.” said Harry with a smile.

     Ginny leaned down to where Harry was now sitting at his desk and gave him a long purposeful kiss.

“I love you Harry.” She said, and then she walked away but not before giving Cho another withering glance.

“Wow….she really hates me doesn’t she…” said Cho in a small voice.

“She’ll get over it.” Said Harry taking the folders from Cho, “she’s just very hot headed, and once you make her mad, it takes her awhile to move past it. She’ll cool down eventually.”

“Ok…” said Cho, and she walked away looking slightly upset.

“So what in the world was that about?” said Holly with a smirk.

     Harry gave her the one minute version of the story which left out everything that wasn’t vitally important, by the end Holly was laughing.

“You know what Harry? I think I really like you’re fiancé… she reminds me of myself.” She said with a grin.

“Yeah you’re both rather fiery personalities… maybe it has to do with your hair.” Said Harry with a wink, he had finished his paper work so he packed up his things and got up from his desk.

“I’ll see you guys on Monday.” Said Harry, “Have fun tonight…” he added with a smirk.

     Earlier that week Holly had finally made the first move and asked Seamus if he wanted to go out with her, and it was the night of their first date.

“Oh don’t worry we will.” said Holly with a grin.

     Harry made his way to the Atrium and found Ron, Hermione, and Ginny waiting for him. Hermione had been in law school at the Ministry for three weeks. She looked very professional in a pair of black robes, with her hair pulled into a bun at the back of her neck.

“So how was everyone’s day?” said Harry.

“Not too bad…” said Ron with a shrug.

“Same here…” said Ginny.

“How about you Hermione?” said Harry, “How’s school?”

“Really challenging but really interesting. We get to start our mock trials next week.” She said happily

“What’s a mock trial?” said Harry.

“They make up cases and give us evidence and witnesses, then they assign one person to the defense and one person to the prosecution. You participate in five trials, and the number of trials you win determines your rank.” She explained.

“You’re rank?” said Ginny.

“Yes… you see on top of your grades, your rank is one of the most important parts of law school. The trials are held at the end of every month, and the points you accumulate from winning them help you move up in ranks. So when you graduate from law school, if you are a rank one lawyer people know you are very good, and you win most of your cases. If you are… say a rank eleven, people know that you aren’t very good at winning your case. It also keeps track of whether you win more as a defense lawyer or a prosecutor, so that you know which career is best for you.” Hermione explained.

“That’s pretty ingenious.” said Harry.

“Yes it’s very exciting… I can’t wait.” said Hermione.

     They all stepped into the fireplace and said the Burrow. They swirled around and landed in the Weasley’s kitchen.

“Hello all!” said Mr. Weasley brightly, “Everyone is in the living room. You all can head in there.”

     They all walked into the living room, which was rather crowded. The eight Weasley’s plus Harry, Hermione, Fleur, and Angelina made twelve people in the room. Harry and Ginny took a spot on the rug by the fire, while Ron and Hermione grabbed a seat on the window sill.

“Mum… you and Dad should think about remodeling the house…” said Ginny, “you don’t need all that space upstairs now.”

“Yes… we’ve been talking about that…” said Mrs. Weasley who was squished on the couch with Bill and Fleur.

     Even with the tight quarters they all had a wonderful evening. Mrs. Weasley made Hermione’s favorite meal, roast beef, and they all ended up having to eating in the living room because the kitchen couldn’t hold them. They sat around most of the evening talking and laughing. Mrs. Weasley brought in Hermione’s birthday cake and they all sang to her. Mrs. Weasley began passing cake around and just as they were about to give Hermione her presents there was a sound of breaking china. They all looked around to see that Fleur had dropped her plate. She was staring at her stomach with wide eyes.

“Oh… I am so sorry about the plate Mother!” she said to Mrs. Weasley.

“That’s fine darling…” said Mrs. Weasley fixing the plate with a wave of her wand, “are you alright?”

“Well… I hate to steal the spot light on your night Hermione…. But I think I just had a contraction.” She said.

     They all sat there dumbfounded for a second and then there was an eruption of noise and movement. Everyone began talking excitedly. Mrs. Weasley told Bill to take Fleur home, and that she would call the midwife. Everyone else sat there talking excitedly until Fleur turned to them.

“Well what are you all sitting around for? I want my family to be there to meet my baby!” she said excitedly.

     They all jumped up and made their way to the kitchen. They went through the fireplace to Bill and Fleur’s cottage in shifts. When they got there, they were even more crowded than they had been at the Weasley’s, but then Bill took Fleur upstairs to their room and a moment later Mrs. Weasley appeared with a plump friendly looking woman that Harry assumed was the mid wife. They hurried upstairs and then everyone else was left to wait.

“You sure you wanna stick around Angelina? I mean it’s not going to make you squeamish is it?” said Hermione looking at her in concern.

“Nah…” said Angelina patting the slight bump that was starting to show on her stomach, “it’s not like I’m gonna have to go watch, and besides I’m pretty much stuck doing it either way now… so I’m ok with it.” She grinned and George laughed.

     The excitement wore off after about two hours, and it turned out to be a rather boring evening. After three hours of sitting around in the living room Ron sighed in frustration.

“How long does it take to have a baby anyway??” he said grumpily.

“It’s her first baby sometimes that can take up to eight or nine hours… sometimes longer.” said Ginny with a laugh.

“Eight to nine hours!! It’s already ten o’clock…” complained Ron.

     By the time it was midnight Ginny was starting to nod off on Harry shoulder and Hermione was already dead asleep with her head in Ron’s lap. He was stroking her hair absentmindedly but he looked like he was seconds from nodding of himself. Mrs. Weasley came down the stairs and chuckled at them.

“It’s going to be a few more hours… why don’t you lot go get some sleep at the house, and I’ll come wake you when the baby is born.” She said kindly.

“Sounds good to me…” said Ron, and he proceeded to shake Hermione awake gently, she sat up sleepily and he explained to her what was going on.

     Harry and Ginny headed through the fireplace with Ron, Hermione, George, Angelina, Charlie, and Percy. They all trumped slowly up the stairs. Harry and Ginny stopped at the first landing along with George and Angelina.

“Night all…” said Charlie, “I’m gonna head up to my room. You know it not very fair that you all get to share rooms with beautiful girls, and I get to share a room with Percy.”

     Percy glared at him.

“Well find yourself a girl then…” said George, “I can think of one who wouldn’t mind.”

“You shut your mouth or I’ll shut it for you, you little nosey nelly.” said Charlie.

     They all laughed and bid him goodnight, and then he, Percy, Ron, and Hermione continued up the stairs. Ginny and Harry said goodnight to George and Angelina who were headed to George’s old room just down the hall, and then went into Ginny’s old room. It still in many ways looked like Ginny’s room, but it had been done over slightly. Instead of Ginny’s single bed there was a large double bed that was situated near the window allowing the moonlight to trickle in. Ginny barely had enough energy to change into a pair of pajamas that she kept there before she flopped into bed. Harry smiled and did the same he slipped his arms around Ginny and pulled her close to him. He kissed her cheek and laid his head on the pillow close to hers.

“Goodnight beautiful girl.” He said, and she made a happy “mmmm” sound in response.

     Harry closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. It felt like they had only been asleep for minutes, when he was awoken by the sound of sharp knocking on their door. He sat up and told the person to come in, and then he looked at his watch. It was three thirty in the morning.

“Well come on!” said Mrs. Weasley brightly as she stuck her head in the door, “Come meet your new niece!”

“Oh I’m so excited I was hoping it was a girl!!” said Ginny happily next to him, “let go see her!”

     Harry and Ginny put on their robes over their pajama’s and headed into the hall, where they met Ron coming down the stairs and he looked very amused.

“Where’s Hermione?” said Ginny.

“She’ll be down in a minute.” said Ron smirking, “I found out tonight that I might be a heavier sleeper than Hermione, but you DON’T wake her up when she’s sound asleep. She get’s rather grouchy… to put it mildly.”

     Ron could contain the snigger any longer and Harry and Ginny chuckled along with him. A few moments later Hermione came down the stairs, and she seemed perfectly pleasant, though she wondered what joke she had missed. They took the Floo back to Bill and Fleur’s. When they got there George, Angelina, and Charlie were just coming down the stairs smiling.

“Oh wait until you see her… she’s so gorgeous.” said Angelina with a smile.

“Yeah she definitely takes after her Mum, thank God.” said Charlie with a smirk.

     Mrs. Weasley came down the stairs a moment later and informed the four of them that they could go up. They climbed the stairs and entered Bill and Fleur’s bedroom. Fleur was lying in bed and she looked exhausted. Her hair was damp and slightly stringy with sweat, and she looked slightly pale. Even in her disheveled state she looked radiant. Harry thought that might have something to do with the glowing smile on her face as she looked at the little bundle in her arms. Bill sat on the bed next to her also smiling at the baby. When they walked in both of them looked up and smiled brightly they waved them over to see the new family member.

Victorie Apolline, looked strikingly like her mother, just as Angelina had said. She was the tiniest person Harry had ever seen. Her little fingers were so tiny he was afraid they would break if he touched them. Her eyes were open and they were a clear liquid blue just like Fleurs. She even had wisps of silvery blond hair on the top of her tiny head.

“Oh she’s breathtaking…” said Hermione.

“Yeah she’s really beautiful…” said Ron, he was looking at the baby with the same kind of dreamy expression he used to use around Fleur but this time it was different, more paternal.

“Would you like to hold her Ron?” said Fleur kindly.

      Ron looked at her in slight alarm. Harry had an inkling that Ron was feeling the same way he was, that if he touched the delicate little baby she might break. Apparently Bill also read this in Ron expression because he chuckled and shook his head before addressing Ron.

“You’re not going to break her Ron, she may look small but babies are extremely durable.” He said with another chuckle.

“All right then.” Said Ron, and Fleur gently handed him the baby. Ron took her with a trepidation that made it seem like she was some kind of bomb. Fleur laughed and gently showed him how to lay her in the crook of his arm to support her head. He smiled at the baby, who cooed back at him. Hermione sat next to him and gently caressed the babies head.

“So…. Five years?” said Ron to her with a smile, “Five years is a long time…” he looked back at Victorie.

“It may be negotiable…” said Hermione with a grin.

“Ok stop hogging my niece I want to hold her!” said Ginny to Ron impatiently.

“Hey she’s my niece too you know.” Ron shot back at her.

“Hey! No fighting over my child please….” said Bill with a smirk. 

     Ron carefully handed the baby to Ginny, who took her with ease, knowing exactly how to hold her. Victorie gazed up at her and smiled. She reached out her tiny hand and grabbed a piece of Ginny’s hair.

“Yes, she’s quite fascinated with red hair.” said Fleur, “She kept grabbing your mother’s as well.”

     Harry stood behind Ginny and looked down at the peaceful baby. He smiled as he kissed Ginny on the top of the head. A few minutes later they said their goodbyes and headed back for the Burrow. The sky was turning the shade of dark blue that comes just before sunrise by the time Ginny and Harry got back into bed.

“So Ginny I have a question.” said Harry, as they lay down in their bed.

“Ask away my dear.” she said with a smile.

“How long do you think we should wait before we have a baby?” he said.

“I don’t know…” she said with a pondering look on her face, “I don’t think I want to wait five years… but I do want to wait a little while. A couple years maybe, because I feel like once I get pregnant… that will be the end of my curse breaking, I mean I knew that was inevitable, but you know…”

“Ok… a couple of years is fine…” said Harry kissing her cheek, “I was just wondering.”

“Yeah well saying it is one thing…but we’ll see how long I hold out with all these babies being born around me.” she said with a smirk.

     Harry went into work on Monday morning feeling very light on his feet. Somehow the arrival of Victorie had put everyone in a very jolly mood. They had all woken up on Saturday and given Hermione her birthday presents over breakfast, and then went to visit Bill and Fleur again. They were incandescently happy with their new family member, and the feeling seemed to rub off. Harry was sitting at his desk talking with Seamus and Holly about their weekend when a memo fluttered up to his ear and he grabbed it. Seconds later another one flew up to Holly. The memo read,

   Auror Potter, you are here by asked to attend a meeting on an upcoming mission. You will be given information on the part you will play in this mission at said meeting. Please come to the main conference room in twenty minutes.

-          Auror Harrison.

“What does your’s say?” he asked Holly curiously.

“Got to go to a meeting about some mission in twenty minutes…” she said.

“Me too…” said Harry.

“How come I didn’t get one…” said Seamus with a slight pout.

     They had been going on assignments as a group so much over the past month that they were beginning to think of themselves as a trio, and sometimes forgot that they weren’t an actual, official team.

“I guess you’re just not as special as us.” teased Holly, and she winked at Seamus who smiled back at her begrudgingly.

     A few minutes later Holly and Harry headed for the conference room. They went in and found six other Aurors sitting around the large round table, and Harrison was standing in the front of the room.

“Ah there you are!” he said cheerfully, “please take a seat.”

     Holly and Harry sat down in two of the empty seats and then Harrison began to talk.

“As you all know our Minister has been dedicated ever since he was appointed, to bringing harmony amongst the Wizarding world as much as possible. He has now successfully rounded up all the known Death Eaters, he has made great strides in our relations with Muggles, and now he has a new task that he has asked for our help with. The Minister would like to improve the wizarding communities’ relationship with werewolves. As of right now, werewolves live as outcasts in our society, the Minister would like to change that, he would like to send a group of witches and wizards as ambassadors to the werewolves, to try and convince them that if they choose to, they can come back to our society and they will not be shunned. That’s where you eight come in.” he smiled brightly at them and made a grand sweeping motion with his hands.

     They all looked around at each other, and Holly and Harry met each others eyes for a moment before turning back to Harrison, who was continuing to speak.

“Obviously the Minister is taking every safety precaution.” Said Harrison, “he understands that many werewolves will not take kindly to the proposal, so he wants to make sure the people he sends are prepared to deal with sticky situations. Therefore he’s sending Aurors. Yet he also wants the werewolves to be accepting of those he’s sent. So using his sources within the werewolf community he has picked you eight, as wizards who are seen in a favorable light by werewolves at large. Marcus you are well known for saving that young werewolf who was being mistreated in Surry.” A large blond man to Harrison’s right nodded. “Janelle you gave that werewolf called Emily a place to stay when she was weak from her first transformation.” A thin woman with long dark hair smiled and nodded. “Holly you are obviously accepted because you are half werewolf.” He said looking in Holly’s direction. “Harry you are known throughout the werewolf community for being a great friend to the werewolf, Remus Lupin, and also you are raising his child now that’s he is deceased am I correct?”

“Yes sir, my fiancé and I are.” said Harry.

“Good…very good.” said Harrison. He proceeded to go around the table saying a kind or helpful thing each of the other four people did for werewolves and waiting for them to confirm it. Then he put his hands together in a business type way and walked over to a map on the wall.

“Now obviously we aren’t going to be able to meet with every werewolf individually because they are far too spread out, and many of the smaller groups are constantly on the move. Therefore we will be sending you to the largest known werewolf community in the world, which is in Rome. They are living in the intricate sewer system that was built by the Romans hundreds of years ago. It has been said they have a vast city down there, but few humans have ever seen it. A werewolf by the name of Wren Syler is their appointed leader, he is a king of sorts, and he is the man that you are going to see. The Minister has used his werewolf connections to correspond with Wren, and he is wiling to hear our proposition. The meeting is scheduled for next week on Tuesday. Let me caution you, meeting with Wren will not be the tricky part of this mission. It is the making your way through the werewolf city that will be more perilous. Wren’s guards will meet you at the gates of the city, to take you through, but I urge you to be constantly vigilant while you are there.”

     Harry stifled a smirk, the words constantly vigilant, had reminded him of his old friend Mad Eye Moody. He had been one of the best Aurors there was, he had finally met his end at the hands of a Death Eater in the middle of a fierce battle. Exactly, how he would have wanted to go, thought Harry.

     Harry and Holly made their way back to their desk, but just as they were about to round the corner Seamus came around it.

“There you two are… I was wondering when you’d get back. It’s time for lunch.” He said.

“Really? Wow… that meeting went longer than I thought.” said Harry.

“What was it about?” said Seamus.

“Come on! I’ll tell you all about it over lunch.” Said Holly brightly and she hooked her arm through Semaus’s and began to pull him towards the door.

     Harry laughed and shook his head at the two of them. He ran back to his desk to grab his money, and then he headed for the lifts. He met Ron as usual right outside the cafeteria, and he immediately began to tell him about the meeting he’d just had. Ron was fascinated and the conversation carried them through the line, to their table and at least half way through their meal.

“So do you reckon the werewolves will listen?” said Ron about twenty five minutes later.

“I dunno… I mean I hope they will, some of them are bound to. I mean they should have rights just like anyone else… and if their finally being offered them I’m sure some of them will take them.” Talking about the rights of magical creatures reminded Harry of something.

“hey where’s Hermione?” he asked, “she usually joins us by now.”

“She had to pack a lunch today cuz she didn’t have time to come down, her first mock trial starts at…..” Ron’s voice trailed off and his eyes got big, he said a curse word and then looked up at Harry.

“What time is it?” he said quickly.

“It’s twelve thirty five why?” said Harry. Ron swore again even louder and more forcefully.

“I’m late…” he said quickly, “I took the afternoon off so I could go watch her trials, cuz their open to the public, and she started at twelve thirty.”

      Ron jumped up and took his tray to the garbage can, Harry followed quickly behind him.

“hey you should ask if you can have the afternoon off and come join me…” said Ron, “I know it would mean the world to Hermione.”

“Yeah alright, I think I will…” said Harry, “where are the trials at?”

“Courtroom twelve… I’ll save you a seat.” Said Ron and then he took off running down the hall towards the lifts.

     Harry made his way back up to the Auror offices and then quickly walked to Harrison’s office. He knocked and heard Harrison say to come in.

“Hello Harry what can I do for you?” he said when Harry entered.

“I was wondering if maybe I could have the rest of the afternoon off…” said Harry, “one of my best friends is in her first day of mock trials in the law school, and I wanted to go cheer her on.”

“I don’t see why not Harry… things are rather slow here today I’m happy to say. Just be on call if an emergency comes up.” said Harrison.

“Thanks sir!” said Harry and he quickly walked out the door and back towards the lifts. When he got to the lowest level of the Ministry he made his way towards courtroom twelve. When he got there the trial was already started so he quietly snuck over to where Ron was sitting on the sidelines, with a handful of other people.

“How’s are girl doing?” he whispered.

“She’s bloody brilliant!” said Ron with a smile, “Completely ruthless, but it’s wonderful”

     Harry listened for a few minutes and got the gist of the case. Someone had allegedly performed a Confudus Charm on a Muggle and convinced him that he owed them four hundred pounds. Hermione was playing the part of the prosecutor trying to prove that the wizard was guilty.  At the moment the defense lawyer was questioning a witness.

“and when you saw the defendant walking up the street did he seem upset to you?” the defense lawyer asked.

     Hermione stood up quickly, she looked very striking in navy blue robes with her hair pulled back into a tight sleek bun.

“Objection your Honor.” She said forcefully to the judge, “not only is he leading the witness to the answer, but the witness’s opinion on the client’s demeanor gives no proof of his actions.”

“Sustained Miss Granger.” Said the judge, then he turned to the defense lawyer, “Mr. Blanch you will limit your questions to what the witness saw and heard, his opinions are not relevant.”

“Wow… you weren’t kidding about her.” Said Harry to Ron, “She’s vicious… it’s impressive.”

“It’s damn sexy if you ask me…” said Ron under his breath, and Harry smirked and nudged him in shoulder playfully. Ron smiled but he was too busy admiring his fiancé to look away.

     Harry could see his point. While he personally did not see Hermione in that way, she was definitely in her element here and there was something very attractive about her poised, fierce confidence. Hermione ended up winning every case that day, and by the time it was four o’clock she was positively beaming. As they were collecting their things the guy who had been in the first case against her walked up to her smiling. Harry and Ron could just hear what he was saying from where they were sitting.

“That was brilliant Hermione! I told you that you were going to be perfect…” he said with a smile.

“Thanks Jake,” said Hermione enthusiastically, “I was so nervous, but then it just sort of all fell into place.”

“Why were you nervous? You’re the best person in our grade…” said the guy called Jake, and he helped her put her books into the bag.

     At this point Ron stood up pointedly and walked forward, and Harry was right behind him.

“Of course she’s the best in her grade… she’s the best at everything she does.” said Ron with a smile as he walked up behind Hermione.

     She turned to him excitedly and jumped into his arms. He hugged her so enthusiastically that he picked her up off the ground, and then she put her hand behind his head and pulled him into an enthusiastic kiss.

“You were absolutely wonderful…” Ron said a moment later as he sat her back down on the floor.

“Thank you…” said Hermione still grinning from ear to ear. “Oh by the way this is Jacob Blanch, he’s in my year at law school. Jacob this is my fiancé Ron, and my dear friend Harry.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Hermione talks about you all the time.” Said Jacob, but as he shook Ron’s hand Harry couldn’t help but noticed that he did not looked very pleased at all. He shook Harry’s hand as well and then he turned to pack up his things.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Hermione…” he said.

“Ok... see you Jake…” said Hermione, but she was distracted because at that moment Ron put his arms around her waist and began kissing her ear. She swatted him away but giggled.

“Ready to go?” said Harry rolling his eyes at the two of them.

“Yeah…” said Hermione, and they all turned to head for the door.

     Ron and Hermione were too engrossed in each other at that moment to notice, but Harry happened to look back and catch the look on Jacob Blanch’s face. He was watching Hermione leave with a looking of frustration and disappointment on his face. Harry had a feeling he knew where it was coming from and he made a mental note to talk with Hermione about it at a later time. Preferably when Ron was not around to overreact.

“So where does the most talented lawyer in the whole Ministry of Magic want to go for dinner?” said Ron to Hermione as they walked towards the lifts.

“Oh are we going out?” she said happily.

“I think this day deserves a celebration.” Said Ron as they got in the lift and headed for the Atrium.

“Well…” said Harry as they exited and headed for the fireplace, “I’m going to go home and see my girl now… if you guys are bored later you should come over, we don’t have much to do tonight.”

“Alright… maybe we will.” Said Ron, and then he and Hermione waved goodbye as Harry hopped into a fireplace.

“Werewolves….” said Ginny while later, “honestly I swear they save the most dangerous missions just for you Harry…”

     Harry and Ginny were partaking in what was fast becoming a favorite tradition. At least once or twice a week after dinner they would draw a steaming hot bath and they would soak in it together for at least an hour and just talk about their day. At that particular moment Harry was leaning back against the edge of the tub and Ginny was sitting in front of him and leaning back against his chest. He loved how relaxing the warm water with the combination of Ginny’s presence was after a long stressful day.

“Well this one we kind of brought on ourselves…” he said as he kissed her shoulder. “Apparently the werewolves respect me because of Teddy and Remus.”

“I know…” said Ginny, she brushed her foot along his in the water as she spoke, “truth is I’m probably just jealous that you get to go to Rome and I don’t.”

     She turned her head to look up at him with a mischievous smile. He grinned and kissed her. He brushed her wet hair from her neck and began to kiss her neck slowly and softly.

“I’ll take you to Rome whenever you want you silly goose…” he whispered as he kissed her.

     She reached her arm up and wound her fingers through his hair.

“Well thank goodness for that…” she breathed softly.

    Harry slowly began to let his hands wander as he continued kissing her neck and shoulders. Ginny leaned her head back against his shoulder and closed her eyes. Harry watched her face as her lips parted and she let out a little gasp. Her felt her fingers tighten in his hair. He smiled watched her facial expressions with enjoyment as he continued to move his hands all over her body. Just then there was a knock on the bathroom door.

“Hey anybody home?” said Ron.

     Ginny made a noise that was somewhere between a sigh and a growl. She furrowed her eyebrows in annoyance but didn’t open her eyes.

“Do you think if we ignore him he’ll go away.” She grumbled.

     As if to answer her question Ron knocked on the door again more purposefully and once again asked if anyone was in the bathroom.

“Just a minute Ron…” said Harry in amusement.

     Ginny opened her eyes and sat up, she looked thoroughly frustrated.

“Hey where’s Ginny at?” said Ron from the other said of the bathroom door.

 “I’m in here too Ronald…” said Ginny annoyance thick in her voice.

“Oh….” Said Ron, and there was a long awkward pause. “Well I’m just going to go wait downstairs with Hermione then…” he said and they heard him leave.

     Ginny hopped out of the tub and dried off and Harry followed her. They got dressed and Harry headed for the door but Ginny caught his hand and pulled him back. She reached up and pulled his head down so she could give him a long and passionate kiss. He felt the tension building in his body and he pulled her tight against him and kissed her back fiercely. After a moment she pulled away.

“Slow down there tiger…” she said with smirk, “That was just my way of reminding you that after Ron and Hermione go home you better finish what you started.”

“Oh I was planning on it…” said Harry with a grin, and then they both headed down the stairs. 

Chapter 25: Werewolves in Rome
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                                                     Chapter 25: Werewolves in Rome

     Harry sighed as he picked up another envelope. It was early November and they were doing the job they had been dreading for the past two months. They were addressing all their wedding invitations. Harry’s trip to Rome kept being pushed back by circumstances beyond their control. First there was a nasty fight in the werewolf city and they were sent word that it was not safe for them to come at the moment. Then when things finally calmed down there was an issue at the ministry with one of the Auror’s who was going on the trip and it was postponed again. It had been rescheduled for the upcoming week, and everyone had their fingers crossed that it would finally happen.

“Right… I’ve changed my mind.” said Ron, who was sealing yet another envelope, “I don’t want a big wedding at Hogwarts, let’s just get married here with only our family.”

 “Oh stop complaining….” said Hermione as she briskly wrote a name on another envelope, “most Muggles have to write an entire address for the person their sending it to, and their entire return address on each envelope. All you have to write is a person’s name!”

“Yeah but two hundred and fifty people?” griped Ron.

“It’s two hundred and fifty split between four of us which means you only have to do sixty, and at the rate your writing I’ll be lucky if I get twenty out of you.” snapped Hermione, and Ron glared at her but went back to stuffing envelopes.

     Harry smirked at them and then absentmindedly began reading one of the invitation’s he’d picked up to put in an envelope. They were made of silky forest green paper with scrawling ivory writing on them. Those were the color’s that Ginny and Hermione had chosen. The invitation read;

Greetings! You are formally invited to the joint wedding of;

Harry James Potter and Ginerva Muriel Weasley


Ronald Bilius Weasley and Hermione Jean Granger

The wedding will take place on December the 20, 4:00 P.M.

At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

There will be a celebratory Ball following the ceremony,

Gifts are appreciated.

R.S.V.P. by no later than the 1st of December.

     Harry stuffed the card into a cream colored envelope and then looked at the list lying next to him to see who he was addressing it to. The next name on the list was ironically Draco Malfoy. He wrote Draco’s name on the envelope and added it to the pile. They had been working on the project for over an hour and Ron and Hermione’s dining room table was covered with envelopes. There had been a bit of an argument when Ron saw that Viktor Krum was on the list, but Hermione had told him frostily that Viktor was her friend, and she was inviting him. Ron had begrudgingly agreed and a few moments later when Ron and Harry went to the kitchen to grab a drink, Harry pointed out that Viktor coming was just more of a chance for Ron to show off the fact that he got to keep Hermione forever. Ron seemed much more chipper after seeing Harry’s point of view and the rest of the evening went on without incident. They had finished the pile by ten o’clock and Ron sat back and gave a pronounced sigh of relief. 

“It’s about bloody time…” he said, Hermione made an annoyed sound and glared at him.

“So we’ll take these to the Ministry tomorrow?” she said, pointing to the large bag of invitations.

      They were sending their invitations through the Ministry’s mail service, because there were far too many for Pigwidgeon and Fiona to handle on their own.

 “Sounds good…” said Harry.

“Right then I’m off to bed…” said Hermione briskly, she stood and said goodnight to Harry and Ginny, she shot Ron another annoyed glare and then stalked up the stairs without saying a word to him.

“Ummm… are you going to go after her?” said Ginny looking at Ron with slight worry.

“Yeah…. In a few minutes….” said Ron, looking thoroughly nonplussed, “Hermione and I have always bugged each other and now that we live together it’s like a daily occurrence… at least. I’ll go up there after you leave and tell her I’m sorry.”

“So it really doesn’t both you that you’re constantly arguing?” said Harry, he knew this to be true of his best friends, but he still found it curious that their bickering always seemed to bother him more than them, for them it was just a way of life…

“Nah…” said Ron, “if you’re constantly arguing you get to be constantly making up, and that’s the fun part.” He said and he wiggled his eyebrows at Harry in a mischievous way.

“Ewww…Hello Ron! Little sister standing right here!” said Ginny in annoyance, but Harry was laughing, and Ron just grinned. 

“Well you go enjoy that Ron…” said Harry with a smirk, as he and Ginny walked to the door.

“Oh believe me I will…” said Ron with a grin and he took the stairs two at a time.

      Ginny made a disgusted sound in her throat as she and Harry walked out the front door and down the steps. Harry chuckled and kissed the top of her head as they headed down the road towards their own house.


    When Harry went into the Ministry on the day of his mission he was feeling very apprehensive. He had said goodbye to Ginny that morning knowing that he wouldn’t see her for two days. While she was often gone for much longer than that on her trips with Gringotts, somehow the fact that it was him leaving, made the two days seem like and eternity to him. He was wearing his traveling cloak with all the handy pockets that Hermione and Ron had bought him on his last birthday over his robes and carrying a knapsack with his clothes and provisions when he arrived at the Auror headquarters. He made his way back to where his desk was to see if Holly was ready to go. He noticed Seamus’s chair was empty but then he smirked as he saw two pairs of feet sticking out from behind Holly’s desk. He poked his head around his own desk and saw Seamus sitting in Holly’s chair, with Holly in his lap.

“Hi guys…” he said, and they both jumped, but then they relaxed when they saw it was Harry.

“Oh it’s just you…” said Holly not moving from Seamus’s lap and looking completely unabashed, “Hi.” She added at the end with a smirk.

“You ready to go on this mission?” asked Harry.

“Yeah I’m actually pretty excited… my Mum told me about the werewolf city. She’s never seen it herself so she’s green with envy that I get to go.” she said.

     Just then Harry saw Harrison walking towards them.

“The boss is coming…” he said to Holly and Seamus, and Holly lightly leapt out of Seamus’s lap and perched on the edge of her desk instead.

“The team’s meeting in the main part of the office in five minutes you two.” He said to Harry and Holly, he smiled at them before walking off.

     Harry began to collect the things from his desk that he thought he might need and put them in his knapsack. He purposefully stayed busy so he could let Holly and Seamus say goodbye.

“Be careful out there… don’t do anything too insane.” said Seamus.

“Awww… are you worried about me?” teased Holly.

“I’m worried about the fact that you’re crazy. And have a knack for getting into trouble.” said Seamus.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” said Holly with a giggle, “so are you going to miss me?” she added mischievously.

“No not at all….” Said Seamus sarcastically, and then he gave her a kiss, she smiled back at him for a moment and then turned back to Harry.

“Ready to go Harry?” she said.

“I think so…” said Harry.

     They both waved goodbye to Seamus who looked lonely taking his seat by the two empty desks and then they headed for the center of the office. The other six Auror’s were waiting for them there. Harrison looked around at them brightly.

“Now you will all be going to down to the Atrium and taking the Floo network directly to the Ministry of Magic in Rome. It is important that you remember that it is called, Ministeria Magica Roma, because that’s what you have to say when you enter the fire.”

     Harry quickly slotted the name in his memory and hoped that he didn’t forget it and end up somewhere random like he had the first time he’d used Floo powder. Harrison told them when they arrived, the Italian Minister of Magic would give them further instructions, and they all left.

“Oh this is so exciting isn’t it Harry!” said Holly as they rode the lift to the Atrium.

“Yeah… it’s going to be an adventure.” Said Harry, he was still slightly worried about the Floo.

     Thankfully two or three wizards stepped into the fire before him so he heard the name again before he had to say it.   He walked into the green flames and said, Ministeria Magica Roma. He swirled around and a minute later he landed in a room with plush dark red carpet. He saw his fellow Auror’s and was relieved to know he’d done it correctly. He looked around and saw that the Ministry of Magic in Rome was much smaller than the one in England. They were standing in a lobby of sorts, but there were only a handful of fireplace’s in it. There was plush velvet couches and chairs in golden and red tones that matched the carpet. The walls seemed to be made of marble, and they stretched up high to the arched ceiling.  The walls seemed to be covered in paintings, reminding Harry of the Halls of Hogwarts but somehow these paintings seemed grander and older. There was a large receptionist’s desk in the far left corner of the room, and next to it was a long hallway with the same arched ceiling but the floor was shiny marble that look almost mirror like. Just then Holly came through the fire and stood next to Harry.

“Well this is quite the classy place isn’t it?” she said with a smile.

“Yeah…” said Harry, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

     They all walked over to reception and there was a plump but pleasant looking woman there. She had olive skin and her sleek black hair was pulled into a bun. She looked up and smiled at them.

“Ciao! Welcome to Roma. You are the party from England yes?” she said in her rolling Italian accent.

“That’s right,” said a man called Oman, who Harrison had made the leader of the mission.

“You take a seat over there. Somebody is gonna come to get you soon.” said the receptionist with a smile.

    They were all about to take seats in the reception area, when they heard a strange rhythmic clicking sound. They looked up to see a stunningly beautiful woman walking down the hall towards them. The clicking sound was made by her stiletto heels, which she wore with a striking black suit. As she walked towards them she smiled, she had brilliant white teeth set against her olive skin, and her hair hung in a shiny black sheet down her back. Harry couldn’t help but stare at her, and he felt slightly guilty.

“Eyes back in your head there Mister.” whispered Holly with a smirk.

     Harry gave her a guilty look and shrugged in apology. Holly just laughed and patted his arm. The woman had reached them now and she looked around at them happily.

“Ciao… my name is Isabella. Welcome to Roma.” She said, and Harry thought her Italian accent made her seem even more classy if that was possible, “The Minister, he will see you now. He’s gonna tell you what you need to know about, Gomorra.”

“Gomorra?” said Oman.

“It is what the werewolves call their city. I think they try to be, what is this word… ironic? Gomorra was a city of sin and decadence in la Biblia. You see?” explained Isabella. “the werewolves have been proud of being outcasts for hundreds of years. Only since Wren, have they made steps to… how you say…. Live with us?”

“Co-exist?” offered Harry.

“Si co-exist! Gratzi cari.” said Isabella, and she smiled at Harry who blushed slightly. Holly rolled her eyes and nudged him in the ribs.

     They walked down the long marble hall and to a set of large ornate wooden doors. Isabella knocked and a voice said something in Italian. She smiled and opened the doors. To Harry’s surprise they were in a large airy office, with windows that let in the warm sunshine. He could see the city of Rome stretching out away from them through the window. He didn’t know why but he had assumed this ministry was underground just like theirs. A tall broad shouldered man with sleek dark hair stood from his desk and walked to them.

“Ciao…” he said, “My name is Vizcaino Montagiano and I am the Minister of Magic here in Roma.” He said, and he shook each of their hands firmly.

“I am very pleased to have you all come to stay in my fair city, but there are a few things that I need to go over with you before I send you on your way.” He said.

     While the man still had a distinct Italian accent, Harry could tell that he was much more proficient at speaking English than either the receptionist or Isabelle, who seemed to be his assistant. The Minister continued.

“While the Ministry of Magic here in Roma, it very happy with what you are trying to achieve here we must emphasize that for security reasons we are claiming no involvement in your mission what-so-ever from this point on. I will be setting you up with representatives from Gomorra who will take you to the city, but we ask that when you leave you simply Apparate back to England. As I said before this is strictly for security reasons, we are all very hopeful that you will be successful in your mission, but if somehow you are not and we are seen as involved we risk breaking the truce we have made. You understand our position?”

“We do, and we respect you judgment.” said Oman, “We are very grateful for the help you have already provided.”

“Thank you…” said the Minister politely, “I will now introduce you to your guides.” He motioned towards a door in the far left corner of the room, and Isabella walked over and opened it.

     Two men walked into the room. Harry could tell that they were werewolves immediately. They didn’t have glowing eyes or fangs or anything ridiculous like that. But they had a somewhat diminished air about them, and there clothes were rather shabby. It was the demeanor that Remus Lupin seemed to have for much of the time Harry knew him. It was the demeanor of someone who has had to hide their true identity and live as an outcast because of something they couldn’t change. Harry immediately felt as though their cause was twice as important, and he couldn’t wait to get started.

“This is Benvolio Augustini,” the Minister motioned to the dark haired man, “and Richard Moore.” He said motioning to the man with pale brownish blond hair. “They are on the council of Wren Syler and they will be taking you to Gomorra. None of us knows its location, that is part of our truce. They will protect you and make sure that you arrive safely at Wren’s Citadel.” 

“For the purposes of our safety, you will not be allowed to leave with us until each of you has made an Unbreakable Vow with me that you will never speak the location to our city to any soul, unless the lives of our people are in danger.” said Moore.

     They all looked around at each other in trepidation. Then Oman spoke for them.

“We agree to those conditions.” He said.

     Harry watched as the Aurors knelt on the floor with Moore and took his hand. They swore to never divulge the secret and then Augustini touched their hands with his wand and a golden bond intertwined them. Then it was Harry’s turn. He walked forward slowly. He had never made an Unbreakable Vow before, and truth be told he was slightly disappointed that he had to make this one. He was secretly hoping that the only Unbreakable Vow he would ever make would be to Ginny in a little over a month’s time, but he knew this couldn’t be helped. He knelt on the floor and took Moore hands, they were rough and calloused.

“I Harry Potter do solemnly swear to never reveal the location of the werewolf city Gomorra, unless it is necessary to save the werewolves from death.” he repeated, just as he he’d heard everyone else do.

     Benvolio touched their hands and a band of golden light entwined them. It was hot on Harry’s skin for a moment and then it felt as if something had locked down inside him like a safe. He knew he would not ever be able to tell a soul about the city. They all stood to their feet and said goodbye to the Minister and also to Isabella. They walked through the door that the werewolves had come from and were standing at the top of a large round staircase. Moore turned to them.

“Please remove your robes, we are going to be entering Muggle Rome.” He said simply.

     They all took off their robes and stowed them in their bags. They walked down the stair case and out into the bright crowded street. It was very warm for November, but then Harry remembered that Italy was much farther South than England. After about five minutes Harry rolled up the sleeves of his shirt because he was sweating profusely. They walked for quite a ways, until the reached a huge circular stone structure that looked very old.

“The coliseum?” said Holly in wonder looking up at it, “you couldn’t have picked a slightly less conspicuous place to put the entrance to your city?”

“The fact that it’s conspicuous makes it the last place people would look for it.” said Augustini, “besides, it’s not like we have a big archway that says, ‘Gomorra this way.’ We keep the entrance well hidden.”

     They walked into the he stone passage ways. About halfway down one Moore stopped abruptly in front of an archway that looked out into the arena. He said some funny words and then Harry was horrified when he took out a knife and pricked the end of his finger. He touched the drop of blood to what looked like thin air in the archway and suddenly the archway shimmered and an opening appeared leading down a dark set of stairs.

“you have to use your own blood to get in?” said Harry disgustedly, it reminded him far too much of the cave he and Dumbledore had gone to,  to retrieved the locket horcrux.

“Well yes that’s the only way to know if someone is actually a werewolf.” explained Moore, as they walked down the passage. There were lights on the wall and they it up at intervals as the group walked lighting their path.

‘It’s not that big of a deal though look.” said Moore holding out his finger to Harry, the wound was almost healed already there was only an angry pink mark left.

“We heal very quickly.” He explained, “We kind of have to considering how much we tend to hurt ourselves when we are transformed. By the way that reminds me.” He turned to face the whole group.

“We have set up a special section of Wren’s citadel for you to stay the night in. It is absolutely imperative that you do NOT leave that area once darkness has fallen. We have set it up with protective spells so that no werewolf in his wolf form can enter that area. Even though we are not at the full moon yet, some of us have evolved beyond needing the moon. Therefore at night you must stay with in the confines of the area we’ve set out for you. Understood?” he said seriously, they all nodded in understanding.

     They continued walking until they reached the bottom of the stairs. They reached a vast tunnel with ceilings so high that Harry couldn’t even see them. It was dark and dank, but it was nothing like Harry considered a sewer to be. Moore read his facial expression and smiled.

“These are the aqueducts. The Romans built them hundreds of years ago. We simply found them a useful place to stay hidden. If you don’t know where you are going it is very easy to get lost.” He said, and he lit his wand and motioned for them to follow him.

     They walked for what seemed like hours to Harry, and he had to admit if he hadn’t had a guide he would have been completely lost in the maze of passage ways that wound through the dark. Finally they walked to what seemed like a dead end. The passage ended it what looked like a rough stone wall, it seemed as if this was the end of the aqueducts, and the natural stone had taken back over. Moore touched the wall and said something in Italian. Suddenly bright blue glowing lines began to twist their way along the wall from underneath his hand until they had formed the shape of two giant stone doors. Moore gave a push with his hand that should not have even made the massive doors budge, but they slid open easily revealing the city of Gomorra. Harry and Holly both gasped when they saw it. There was  what seemed to be a huge natural cavern in the rock. It had a high domed ceiling that was somehow casting a beautiful white light over the whole city. The city was vast and it stretched out as far as the eye could see across the whole cavern. There was a rushing river that seemed to come out of the cavern wall and make it’s way down through the city to the other cavern wall were it disappeared. Sitting on an outcropping of rock on the far wall was a huge ornate looking palace of white marble.

     The doors shut behind them and Moore and Augustini began to lead them down the cobblestone street.

“This is amazing!” said Holly enthusiastically looking around.

“Thank you…” said Augustini, “this city was founded seventy five years ago. Before that we simply scraped by in the aqueducts, but then Marcus Syler, Wren’s Grandfather, found this cavern and he moved us all here. We had fresh water and a place where we were protected and as you can see we have thrived.” 

     While it was obvious that the werewolves had thrived in their environment as Harry looked around he saw that most of the houses were rather small. They had one sometimes two rooms and most of them were made out of what looked like any building materials they could steal. It was obvious that, while the werewolves had managed to make a comfortable life for themselves, they were still living as outcasts, with many hardships.

     They walked down the main street of the town, and Harry noticed that many people came to their doorways to see them. Some people looked at them in curiosity, some in fear, and some in down right hatred. Harry was wondering what kind of response they would really get from the werewolves. Just then he saw a group of little children running and playing on the edge of the road, they quickly ran back towards a house when they saw the group coming.

“Are those….” Holly began, but Moore answered her question before she could even finish it.

“Yes, they’re werewolf children, and they were born not created by a bite.” he said.

“Does that cause any differences?” asked Harry.

“Yes, they were the ones I was talking about when I said some of us have evolved.” He explained. “Naturally born, full blooded werewolves do not need a full moon to transform. They can do it whenever they wish. Though it has been strictly forbidden for a werewolf to transform during the day in this city. It is one of the most strictly kept rules, for safety purposes of course. Werewolves are very vicious when in their wolf form, and they forget themselves. During the day if a werewolf was to change there would be far too many innocent by standers who could be hurt. Not to mention the fights that would break out. Therefore we have a strict curfew, you must not leave a dwelling in human form after eight o’clock at night.”

      Harry and many others nodded in understanding. He was beginning to see how the werewolves lived together so peacefully. The had come to a long wooden bridge over the river. They crossed it and as they did it creaked ominously. Augustini saw the worried looks on a few of their faces and he laughed.

“Don’t worry this bridge had held hundreds of werewolves at a time and it has never so much as trembled.” He said.

     When they made their way up across the bridge then began to climb a long set of stone steps that lead up to the palace. Harry was impressed with the view from the top of the stairs, you could see the whole city stretching out. Their guides lead them to the great front doors, which were opened by two intimidating looking guards. They entered the palace into what seemed to be a vast throne room. Harry felt like he’d stepped into some sort of fairy tale. The walls were line with burning torches, and the room was long and narrow. Sitting in a large ornate wooden throne and the front of the room was one of the largest men that Harry had ever seen, apart from Hagrid. He had a tawny look about him from his long reddish gold colored hair and beard to his round barrel chest, he reminded Harry of a regal lion.

“Hello…” he said formally, “my name is Wren Syler. I welcome you to my great city.”

“And we are honored to be here.” Said Oman.

Come sit with me and we will discuss why you have come.” Said Wren, he stood from his throne and walked to a table on the side of the room.

     They all took their seats around the table and the discussion began. Harry realized quickly that most of them were only there as a show of support. The talking was mainly between Syler and Oman. Oman explained the ministers plan to allow all werewolves the same place in society as other witches and wizards under the condition that they would use the Wolfsbane potion, or make sure they were very far from any people when they transformed. They discussed this for over an hour, and Wren asked many questions about the specifics of their rights. He then pointed out that he knew many of his people would not want to accept these terms. Oman told him that was inevitable, but pointed out that anyone who might be willing to accept them, would be considered a victory. After almost two hours of conversation Wren stood and addressed the entire group.

“I want to thank you all for taking the time to come here. I must discuss these things with my advisors before I make any decisions. It is growing late, your rooms have been set up on the left wing. My daughter Natalia will take you there.” He said, and a pretty young girl with the same reddish blond hair came forward and led them down a long hall that was lit by warm torch light.

     Their rooms were very comfortable. The five men shared one room and the three women shared another. The men room had a very robust feel to it. The chandelier that lit the room seemed to be made out of deer antlers, and the beds were cover in furs which were very soft and comfortable to lay on. They all met in the common area between the rooms where a very nice dinner had been prepared. They all ate and then as the food was being cleared away Oman looked around at them all.

“So I think today went well.” He said, “Wren seemed to receive our message favorably, now all we can do is hope that his council receives our message as favorably. I recommend that you all get some sleep. We will be up early tomorrow morning, we will have a another meeting with Wren to hear his answer and then we will head back to the Ministry. Please remember tonight that we are not to leave this wing, for our own safety and also for the good of the mission.”

     They all went to their respective rooms and got in bed. Harry had not realized how tired he really was and the softness of the fur lined bed was very inviting. He woke up with a start and wondered how long he’d been asleep, he looked out the window and saw the same white glowing light, but he suddenly realized that the light probably didn’t change in this place because it was not sunlight. He looked at his watch and saw that it read one o’clock in the morning. Sure enough he looked around and saw all the other Auror’s asleep in their beds. He jumped as he heard a long howl from down in the city and then another one answering it. He realized this was probably what woke him. He rolled back over and tried to go to sleep but the howling continued, finally he got up and headed for the door to the room. As he walked into the main area he saw Holly sneaking towards the doors that led off the wing.

“Holly Flynn! What do you think you’re doing??” he said in his best reprimanding and Hermione-ish voice.

     She jumped as if someone had burned her and then turned to him with a thoroughly annoyed look on her face.

“I was going to go see what a werewolf looked like until you ruined all my fun.” She said with a glare.

“Are you insane??” said Harry, “do you know what those things could do to you? Why do you think they were so careful to put us in a protected place?”

“they won’t hurt me Harry…. They don’t hurt their own kind, even and my Mum always said my brothers and I are close enough. She said when she was in wolf form she never had the urge to hurt us because our blood smelled like hers. She had to keep herself locked up because of Dad only.” Holly explained.

     Harry rolled his eyes as he walked towards her.

“Ok for starters, werewolves don’t actively try to hurt each other, but you heard what Augustini said, there are accidents, especially with the ones who can’t control it yet. And secondly these werewolves don’t know the smell of your blood so you don’t know how they’ll react. And thirdly, you promised Seamus you wouldn’t do anything stupid, and I’m pretty sure this was the exact kind of thing he was talking about.” said Harry.

“What Seamus doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” said Holly with a slight pout.

     Harry decided being reasonable wasn’t working. He wasn’t all that surprised, this was Holly he was dealing with, so he tried a different tactic. He took her by both her shoulders and looked sternly into her eyes.

“Holly Flynn if you don’t get back in that room and in your bed I swear I will tie you to one of those chairs for the rest of the night.” He said.

“You wouldn’t…” said Holly fiercely, and she stood on her tip toes so she was eye to eye with Harry and could stare him down, but he did not back away.

“Try me…” he said, matching her fierceness. She made a sound of annoyance and then stomped back over to her room, and yanked the door open.

“I’m going to be listening to make sure you don’t come back out you know…” said Harry.

“I know!” she said irritatedly and she glared at him before pulling the door shut behind her. He was reasonably sure she would have slammed it if the other girls had not been sleeping right on the other side.

    When they woke up the next morning Holly was still slightly grumpy but she admitted to Harry that she knew he had been right to stop her. They all walked back to the main hall of the castle where Wren was waiting for them.

“I have discussed the situation with my council, and we have decided to accept your Ministers offer. We will obviously have to tell our people about these new rules, and I would like to speak with Kingsley more about this in person, but for now you may tell him, that we are in agreement.” said Wren.

“He will be very pleased to hear it.” said Oman.

“You may Apparate back to your Ministry from here. We have no anti-Apparation spells on our city.” He said.

“Thank you once again for your time.” Said Oman, and they all turned on the spot to Apparate back to the Ministry.

     Harry was completely in awe of how easy it had been, he had expected a good deal more drama out of the situation. He and Holly made their way back to their desks and Seamus seemed to have just arrived. Holly ran happily into his arms and hugged him.

“You’re back already?” he said with a smile, “I take it that it went well then?”

“Yup it went off without a hitch…” said Harry, “I’m almost disappointed, nothing dangerous happened at all.” He said this last part with a smirk of sarcasm and Seamus laughed appreciatively.

     Holly and Harry spent most of the morning filling out their mandatory report on what part they played in the mission, and how effective they though it was. After lunch they attended a debriefing in which Oman went over everything with Harrison and they basically nodded and agreed where it was appropriate. Around three fifteen Harry was looking over a file about a witch in the upper east side of London who was bewitching her neighbors grass and making it turns neon colors when one of the Auror’s whose name he couldn’t remember walked around the corner.

“Hey Potter…” he said, “There’s a Luna Longbottom here to see you.”

“Oh! Really? Send her on back.” He said happily. 

     A moment later Luna came walking happily back amongst the desks. She was carrying a note book and had her long hair in a messy bun being held in place by a pencil and her wand.

“Hello Harry.” She said happily.

“Hi Luna! This is an pleasant surprise, what are you doing here?” he asked.

“Oh my father sent me to the Ministry to interview the Minister and see if he is continuing Fudges work of training Crumpled Hornsnacks.” said Luna serenely. “Unfortunately he’s claiming to have no clue what they even are.”

     Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw Holly giving Luna a very quizzical look, and he smirked.

“Anyway I thought I’d pop by and say hello… we haven’t seen you in awhile, we’ve been terribly busy with me starting at the paper, and Neville starting at Hogwarts.” She said.

“How does he like that by the way?” said Harry.

“Oh he loves it, he’s been so happy, he comes home every night with wonderful stories.” She said with a smile, “But you should really let him tell you about it. Why don’t you and Ginny come over for dinner this week sometime?” she asked.

“Yeah that’d be great!” said Harry enthusiastically.

‘Well I’d better be off… nice to see you Harry!” she said.

‘You too Luna!” said Harry earnestly, and she skipped off.

     Holly looked at Harry and Seamus with a questioning expression.

“Well she is…. different.” said Holly with a smirk.

“Yeah that’s Luna for you…” said Harry with a laugh, he looked at his watch and his heart jumped for joy, it was three forty five. Harry knew this was the earliest he could leave without getting in trouble.

“I’m going home, I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” He said quickly, and he gathered up his stuff and Apparated home, he was too anxious to see Ginny to bother with the Floo that day.

     The minute Harry appeared in the living room Ginny came running down the stairs and flew into his arms, and Harry felt like everything in the world was once again perfect.

Chapter 26: Forever
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                                                                 Chapter 26: Forever

     Harry Potter woke up on December the twentieth feeling very groggy. The first thing he noticed was that he was not in his large comfortable bed. He was in the small camp bed in Ron’s room that he had slept in so many summers before. Suddenly he remembered why, and it felt like someone had hit him with a blot of electricity. He was getting married today. He sat up in bed and threw his pillow at Ron who was still sound asleep.

“Eh.. Wusgoinon?” muttered Ron.

“Wake up! We’re getting married today!” said Harry happily.

“We’re…” Ron sat up sleepily and then his eyes got very wide as Harry’s words sunk in, “Bloody hell I’m getting married today…” he said. He stretched and yawned in spite of himself.

“I think letting George and Charlie take us out for our last hurrah as single blokes might not have been the best decision making on our parts…” said Ron with a smirk.

     George and Charlie had taken them on an absolutely crazy night which included a lot of drinks, a lot of laughter and had culminated in a very elaborate prank played on Percy at one o’clock in the morning. Harry had been too smashed to remember the details but he remembered fireworks, and noise makers, and Percy screaming a lot. He smiled at the memory.

“What time do you think the girls got in?” said Ron.

“Dunno… but from the looks of what Fleur had planned I doubt they got in before us.” said Harry.

     Ginny and Hermione had gone out with Fleur and Angelina to have a bachelorette party of sorts. Harry remembered with satisfaction the moment they had come down the stairs. Harry and Ron had been waiting for Charlie and George to show up, but when their fiancés had walked down the stairs they were rather distracted. Ginny was wearing a shimmery black shirt with small straps and a back that dipped very low showing ample amounts of her porcelain skin. She was wearing a short skirt and black high heels to compliment the shirt. Her hair was pulled half back and she looked absolutely breath taking. Harry looked at her stunned, he thought that his expression probably matched the dumbfounded look on Ron’s face as he looked at Hermione. She had tamed her hair into very pretty waves, and she was wearing a purple velvet shirt that formed to her body along with a pair of tight jeans and brown leather boots that came up to just below her knee. It was the most sensual Harry had ever seen Hermione look. Just then Fleur and Angelina had showed up and announced that they were taking Hermione and Ginny dancing.

“Do you think they were dancing with guys last night?” said Ron, breaking Harry’s reveling.

“Probably… but it’s not that big a deal. They were just having one last celebration before being stuck with us forever.” said Harry with a smirk, and Ron smiled in agreement.

     Harry and Ron made their way downstairs to the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley was busily cleaning up and there was a pot bubbling on the stove and issuing wonderful smells.

“There you two are! I was wondering when you were going to get up, it’s almost noon!” said Mrs. Weasley reproachfully.

“Well we were out until four Mum… we needed our sleep.” said Ron.

“Well just so you know I’ve made you some vegetable soup for lunch. I’m going to be heading to Hogwarts to help Hermione and Ginny in just a few minutes.” She said.

“They’re at Hogwarts already??” said Ron looking incredulous. “the wedding isn’t for four hours! What the bloody hell do they have to do that takes four hours?”

“Watch your mouth young man.” said Mrs. Weasley as she ladled them soup, “and Hermione and Ginny have been at Hogwarts since ten this morning. A girl’s wedding day is her day to relax and be pampered.”

“I still don’t know what kind of pampering takes six hours.” said Ron under his breath as he began to eat his soup.

     Mrs. Weasley looked around the kitchen to make sure that everything was in order and then she turned back to the boys.

“Right… now you two need to be at the school by two. Your brothers are going to meet you there Ronald, along with Neville of course. Now Harry, McGonagall asked me to inform you that she has taken the anti-Apparation spell off of the room which you lived in last year so that you can Apparate directly into the castle. Apparently the crowds are already starting to get a little rowdy.” She explained.

     Harry groaned into his soup. The time and date of their wedding had leaked to the public about two weeks previously. They knew as soon as they sent out their invitations it would only be a matter of time. Hagrid had kindly offered the services of him and Olympe to stand watch at the door and  make sure only those who could show invitations got in, the were going to take him up on the offer but Harry did not want to think about the chaos that was probably brewing outside Hogwarts school at that very moment.

“Well I think I’m on my way to the school now…” said Mrs. Weasley, she looked at both the boys with a nostalgic look, “I can’t believe you’re getting married today, my boys.” She smiled at them both and then turned on the spot and Disapparated.  

“So what should we do until two?” said Ron.

     They finished their lunch and then played a few games of wizard’s chess. They ended up checking and rechecking their suitcases. They were all four headed to India for a three week honeymoon. Harry had offered to let Ron and Hermione go anywhere in the world, his treat, but in the end they decided they’d all like to go to the same place. They thought it would be more fun to see the sights together. Ron had teased that he wasn’t sure how much Harry and Ginny would see them anyway, because he was planning on spending the majority of the trip in his room. Harry had laughed and said he quite agreed with that idea. At two o’clock Harry and Ron picked up their brand new dress robes and got ready to Apparate to Hogwarts.

“Hey Harry…” said Ron, giving him a kind of awed look, “do you realize the next time we’re back here we’ll be married men?”

“Pretty crazy huh?” said Harry and he grinned.

    He and Ron turned on the spot and landed in his room at Hogwarts. It looked exactly the same as when he had left it, and as soon as they got there many fond memories came flooding back. He noticed that Charlie, George, and Neville were all crowded around the window that looked down at on the grounds. Bill was sitting in a chair by the fire, when he saw them he stood up and smiled.

“There are the men of the hour…” he said.

“Oi! You two have got to see this!!” said George, who had just noticed they’d arrived, he motioned for them to come to the window.

     Harry and Ron walked to the window and Harry was momentarily stunned by what he saw. Even though the grounds were covered in snow and a blustery wind was blowing, there were what looked to be thousands of people outside. A long line of them wound it’s way down the path out the gates and down the road towards Hogsmeade.

“It’s got to be freezing out there…how long have they been standing there?” said Harry.

“Dunno… as long as we’ve been here…” said George, “look what happens when you wave at them.” He lifted his hand and waved and a couple hundred people towards the front of the crowd saw him and began to jump and cheer and wave back enthusiastically.

“Bloody hell….” Muttered Ron, as he walked away from the window and took a seat on the couch.

“Yeah it’s been pretty crazy.” Said Neville, “McGonagall had to make a new rule this year that only students with a valid reason to stay for Christmas were allowed, because over half the school tried to stay for the holidays just to try and sneak into your wedding.”

“Hey you guys want to go check out the Great Hall?” said Charlie brightly.

     Harry looked back towards the window warily.

“Are you sure that it’s safe?” he said. But all the boys laughed.

“Yeah it’s safe, McGonagall has magically sealed the castle for the time being. So they can’t get in.” said Bill.

     They all walked out through the portrait hole, and down the hall.

“So where are the girls getting ready?” said Ron.

“the Head Girl’s room,” said Neville, “the Head girl went home for break so McGonagall said they could use it.”

     They had reached the Great Hall. As the doors opened Harry looked around a stifled a gasp. The hall looked breathtaking. The traditional Christmas trees were set up along the edges twinkling with little white lights. There were hundreds of candles floating in the air casting beautiful shadows around the room. The magical ceiling was snowing light flakes that seemed to melt into nothingness where they met the flames of the candles. The house tables had been removed and two long rows of chairs had been set on either side of the hall with an isle in between them. In the front of the room where the head table usually sat was a large podium adorned with white roses and ivy. Harry looked at Ron who was still looking around the room.

“What do you think?” said Harry.

“I think it’s even cooler than I expected.” said Ron with a smile.

“We actually have a bit of a surprise for you.” said Bill.

     Both Harry and Ron looked at him questioningly.

“We thought you guys might be getting sick of Ferdinand Dibble. He’s the wizard who presides over most weddings.” explained George. “So we asked someone else, to marry you.”

“Who?” said Harry and Ron at the same moment.

“Me,” said Kingsley who seemed to materialize beside them.

“Really? Oh Minister thank you!” said Ron happily.

“It’s my pleasure Ron. I have truly enjoyed watching you all grow into such fine men and women, and I’m honored to be the one helping you make this important step in your life.” He said.

     George looked at his watch and then jumped.

“It’s two forty! We gotta get you two back upstairs!!” he said quickly.

“Why? We’ve still got an entire hour until the wedding…” said Harry.

“Well firstly, they are opening those doors at three o’clock, because it’ going to take them a bit to sort out who has an invitation and who doesn’t, and secondly we have to get you both ready. Ginny and Hermione are having some come and fix your hair and such.” explained George.

“I am not letting some ruddy hair dresser get hold of me…” said Ron grumpily.

“Well that’s too bad… cuz it was going to be Fleur…” said Bill with a smirk.

“Oh… I guess that’s all right then.” said Ron turning slightly red.

    By the time they got back to the room Fleur was already waiting for them and tutting about how little time they had. She pulled Ron into a chair immediately and began to comb through his hair using ample amounts of some potion and snipping it with scissors here and there. When she was done Harry was very impressed, Ron’s usually short shaggy hair that did whatever it pleased, had been made sleek and laid perfectly making him look very dashing. Next she grabbed Harry and pulled him into the chair, she dabbed ample amounts of potion into his hair and pulled it this way and that with a comb. George came over and sat next to him while she worked.

“I just wanted you to know Harry Potter…” George said with a smirk, “You’re taking the only sibling I have left that I’m proud to share the name Weasley with!” Harry laughed but Fleur smacked and told him to sit still.

“Well… I maybe taking Ginny, but you are getting Hermione today, and as far as I’m concerned she’s pretty impressive. I think you should be proud that she wants to become a Weasley.” said Harry.

“You’ve got a point there Harry…” said George, then he gave a playful grin, “but I have no clue why a girl with confidence, good looks, and brains, wants to married my ruddy pumpkin head of a brother.”

     They both glanced at Ron who was now pacing back in forth in front of the fire muttering incoherently to himself, and they sniggered.

“You all right there Ron?” said Harry.

“Just trying to remember my lines…if I don’t Hermione’s gonna murder me.” He said nervously.

     They had chosen to recite two of their favorite poems together as their wedding vows, and Ron had been nervous for the past two weeks that he was going to forget what he was supposed to say.

“Ron you know those lines forwards and backwards… don’t get yourself all worked up.” said Harry with a laugh.

“All done Harry!” said Fleur and she handed him a mirror.

‘Wow….” Was all Harry could say, Fleur had sculpted his short black hair into a slightly spiky but very classy looking style, she had even managed to tame the unruly hair on the back of his head, a feat that had not been accomplished in nineteen years. It was definitely the best he had ever seen his hair look.

     At three forty five, they received instructions from McGonagall that they were to Apparate to the empty classroom directly across from the Great Hall. Harry and Ron were dressed in their new robes, they took one last look at themselves in the mirror and then grinned at each other.

‘Let’s go get married.” said Harry.

“Alright…” teased Ron, as if Harry had said they were going to have lunch. They turned on the spot and landed in the empty classroom.

     There was a lot of noise coming from the other side of the door. A moment later Neville appeared next to them and smiled. Mrs. Granger was already in the room, apparently Hagrid had escorted her there through the crowd, she looked very pretty in a dress of dark forest green.

“Hello boys!” she said happily and she hugged them both, “Oh you both look so very dashing. I’ve just come from Ginny and Hermione, they’re so excited.”

     Harry and Ron grinned at each other thinking about their soon to be wives. Just then Mrs. Weasley Apparated into the room, Harry looked at her in surprise. He was so used to seeing Mrs. Weasley as she was at the Burrow, plain dress and apron, hair frizzy, and usual covered in whatever she was cooking or cleaning. Now she was looking quite lovely, her hair was pulled back in a bun and she was wearing the same kind of flowing green dress as Mrs. Granger.

“Oh my boys!!” she said walking to them and hugging them and kissing their cheeks, “You looking so handsome!”

     Harry could tell she was already on the verge of getting weepy, and he wondered just how much she and Mrs. Granger would cry during the ceremony. Just then Hagrid poked his head in the door.

“We’ve got everyone in their seats, an’ the doors have been locked agains’ any unwelcome guests so we’re ready when you are….” He said, then he looked down at Harry and Ron and smiled, “lan sakes…you two look dapper….see ya in there alrigh’?” he closed the door and they all looked around at each other.

     They opened the doors and walked into the entrance hall. Neville took Mrs. Granger’s arm and stepped forward. The doors to the Great Hall opened and the two of them began to walk slowly down the isle. Harry and Ron took their places on each side of Mrs. Weasley and they each offered her an arm.

“Ready Mum?” said Harry, and she looked up at both him and Ron with a watery expression.

“I love you boys both so much…” she said.

“We love you too Mum.” They said in unison, and then they walked forward into the Great Hall.

     As soon as they entered the doors closed behind them. There was soft music being played by a string quartet in the corner of the stage. Harry felt nervous as two hundred and fifty pairs of eyes turned to them. He stifled a slight snort of laughter as he glanced around. They had decided to split the hall into friends of the Weasley’s on one side, and friends of Potter’s and Granger’s on the other. Harry kind of liked it, because it made him feel even more like Hermione was his big sister, a feeling he’d been enjoying over the past year. But now as they made their way down the isle he noticed the vast sea of red hair to his left and he found it rather amusing. They took Mrs. Weasley to her seat in the front row with all of Ron’s brothers and then they made their way up onto the stage, Ron standing on the left and Harry standing on the right. Neville had taken his place next to Harry and Luna would go to stand on the other side of Ron. A moment later the doors of the Great Hall opened again and Luna walked calmly down the isle. She was wearing a flowing silk dress in the same dark green, and was carrying a small bouquet of white roses. Her hair was left long and flowing and she looked very pretty as she slowly made her way down the isle, and took her spot next to Ron. Harry’s heart began beating very fast now, he knew that the wait was over, this was the moment. He caught Ron’s eye and Ron had the same scared but excited look. Harry felt like he wanted to start bouncing up and down in anticipation, but he resisted. Suddenly the music the changed it swelled into a beautiful tune and seemed to become more purposeful, Kingsley motioned for the audience to stand to it’s feet, and the doors of the Great Hall began to open again. Harry felt liked they opened twice as slow.

    Hermione walked down the isle on the arm of her father. If ever anyone had called her beautiful it didn’t hold a candle to how she looked in that moment. Her hair was pulled up in an intricate style that wove itself in and out and around and then gathered into beautiful ringlet curls that cascaded like a waterfall from the back of her head. There were little white flowers placed here and there in her hair and a discrete veil came out of the back of her hair. Her dress was made of white satin and it sat off her shoulders coming to a perfect V neckline. It was tight to her bodice and then faired out into a beautiful princess ball gown, but perhaps the most beautiful thing about Hermione was the radiant smile that was on her face as she walked towards Ron. Harry truly believed that smile could light up the room if every other light went out. He looked at Ron and felt slight emotion rising inside him. He had never seen his best friend with such a perfectly happy look on his face, Ron was grinning so wide you’d think his face might crack and his eyes were glued to Hermione. It was painfully obvious that he wasn’t aware that anyone else was in the room. As she got closer Harry saw a tear leak out the side of Ron’s eye and he was touched, Ron was actually so happy that he was crying. It warmed Harry’s heart to know that after everything they’d been through, he finally got to see his best friends this joyful. Hermione and her father finally made it to the front and they stood before Ron and Kingsley.

“Who gives this woman to this man?” said Kingsley.

“Her mother and I do.” Said Mr. Granger, he hugged his daughter and then placed her hand in Ron’s.

     He went and took his place next to Mrs. Granger. He put his arm around her, because tears were already streaming down her face. Harry looked over and saw the same was true of Mrs. Weasley who was holding Bill’s hand and wiping her eyes with a handkerchief. Just then the audience turned their attention back to the doors. Ginny and Mr. Weasley had just walked through them. Harry felt as if someone had just shown a blazing summer sun on him. He felt warm from his head to his toes, his heart felt so full that he thought it might burst with joy. He couldn’t take his eyes off Ginny’s face, she was the most beautiful most perfect creature in the entire world. Five hundred dementors could have shown up at that moment and Harry felt he wouldn’t have even needed a Patronus, the sheer magnitude of his joy would have driven them away. Ginny was wearing her hair down accept for a small portion on the top, it framed her face in big beautiful curls and she was wearing a sheer veil that laid perfectly down her back. Her dress was strapless with an intricate lace corset top, and a full princess skirt similar to Hermione’s. She beamed at Harry as she walked down the isle and he was anxious for her to walk faster he want to touch her, to hold her, to know that the perfect creature coming towards him truly was his forever. Mr. Weasley and Ginny came level with Harry and they all turned to Kingsley.

“Who gives this woman to this man?” said Kingsley.

“Her mother and I do.” said Mr. Weasley, and he hugged both Ginny and Harry before taking his place next to the now sobbing Mrs. Weasley. Everyone took their seats and they all turned to hear Kingsley’s speech.

“Today…” began Kingsley, “I’m not going to talk to you, about why people get married. I have something I think is even more important on this most special of days. I want to speak to you all about the power of love. The four amazing people who stand before me, have already seen in their young lives, things that I hope many of you will never have to see, and experienced things no one should ever have to experience. Yet through it all they found something more valuable than any treasure found on this earth. They found a love that can endure all things, with the person standing next to them.”

     Harry glanced down at Ginny who met his eyes and held them, he felt like he had never had a more perfect moment than this in his whole life.

“That is why I can say with confidence that I have no fears about their future. I know that their love has seen them through the dark and dangerous times of their lives. So it is my hope and prayer that it will now carry them into their years of happiness, and light.” Kingsley smiled as he finished his speech.

“Now these two couple would each like to recite for you a poem, which they believe expresses the vows they would like to make to each other.” Kingsley said.

     Ron and Hermione were going to go first so Harry and Ginny turned to watch them, as they did Harry gave Ginny’s hand a squeeze. Hermione looked deeply into Ron’s eyes and then she spoke.

“I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.” She said.

     Now it was Ron’s turn. Harry held his breath hoping Ron would remember his lines.

“I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.” said Ron with a smile, and Harry exhaled in relief.

“I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers.” said Hermione.

“Thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.” replied Ron.

“I love you without knowing how, or when or from where…” said Hermione softly, and her eyes began to mist as she looked into Ron.

“I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride.” said Ron, squeezing her hands as he spoke.

“So I love you because I know no other way than this: where I does not exist, nor you.” said Hermione.

“So close… that your hand on my chest is my hand.” said Ron softly, and another tear leaked down his cheek.

“So close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.” said Hermione, with happy tears streaming down her cheeks.

     The room was deadly silent. Harry looked around and saw that not only Mrs. Weasley and Mrs. Granger were crying, but Fleur, Angelina, and many other of the girls in the audience were teary eyed as well. Harry himself felt a burning in his throat and he knew that if there was any chance of him getting through his vows without crying, it had just been ruined.

“Now Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley will recite their vows.” said Kingsley softly.

     Harry turned to face Ginny and took both her hands in his. He looked deeply into her perfect brown eyes as he spoke. There was no need for him fear that he would forget his lines, he felt like the words were coming directly from his soul.

“How do I love you?” he began, “Let me count the ways. I love you to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling is out of sight, for the ends of being, and ideal grace.”

“I love you to the level of everyday’s.” replied Ginny, “Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.”

“I love you freely, as men strive for the right. I love you purely, as they turn from praise.” Said Harry, he could feel the tears welling up inside him but he tried to hold them at bay.

“I love you with passion put to use, in my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.” said Ginny, and the tears began to fall down her face as she smiled.

     That did it, as soon as Ginny started crying Harry felt the tears spill out the corner of his eyes and he let them, he was happy and he didn’t care who saw it.

“I love you with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints…” he said, and he marveled at the truth of the words, wishing once more that his parents could be with him at this perfect moment.

“I love you with the breath, smiles and tears of all my life.” said Ginny.

“And if God choose, I will but love you better after death.” said Harry and he touched her cheek.

     Once again the room was silent. Harry heard pronounced sniffling throughout it, but he didn’t look. He couldn’t take his eyes away from Ginny for a second.

“Do you have the rings?” said Kingsley.

     Neville walked across the stage and handed Ron Hermione’s small gold band and then came back and handed Harry Ginny’s. Luna did the same with Ron and Harry’s rings, and then Kingsley turned to Ron and Hermione. Harry reluctantly tore his eyes away from Ginny’s face but kept his arm around her waist as they watched.

“Do you Hermione Jean Granger, take Ronald Bilius Weasley to be your husband? to love him, to protect him and to care for him in sickness and in health until the day of your death?” said Kingsley.

“I do.” said Hermione, as she beamed at Ron. She slipped the golden ring onto his left ring finger and he squeezed her hand. 

“Do you Ronald Bilius Weasley, take Hermione Jean Granger to be your wife? to love her, to protect her and to care for her in sickness and in health until the day of your death?”

“I do!” said Ron enthusiastically and a few people laughed as he put the small golden ring on Hermione’s finger, and then they both tuned to watch as Kingsley walked to Harry and Ginny.

     Harry turned to face Ginny again and took both of her hands in his and smiled at her.

“Do you? Ginerva Muriel Weasley, take Harry James Potter to be your husband? To love him, to protect him and to care for him in sickness and in health until the day of your death?”

“I do.” said Ginny, looking at Harry with the burning expression that he had come to love so much. She slipped the gold ring on his finger.

“Do you Harry James Potter, take Ginerva Muriel Weasley to be your wife? To love her, to protect her and to care for her in sickness and in health until the day of your death?”

“I do.” Said Harry, feeling that he had never said any words in his life that he meant more sincerely than those two, and he slipped the golden ring onto her finger.

“By the power vested in me as Minister of Magic.” Said Kingsley as he tapped Ginny and Harry’s hands entwining them in a golden band and then moving back to Ron and Hermione.

     He did the same thing to their hands and then looked at all four of them.

“I pronounce you bonded for life.” He said.

     Once again Harry felt as if something locked down inside him, but it was absolutely perfect. Every trace of him ever leaving Ginny was erased, he knew it was now physically impossible for him to ever be parted from her, and it was one of the most beautiful feelings he’d ever experienced.

“Harry? Ron?” said Kingsley looking at them each with a smile, “you may kiss your brides.”

     Harry scooped Ginny up into his arms and kissed her passionately. As he did he was aware of sparklers and loud cheers raining down around them but he didn’t care at all. He was kissing Ginny, he was kissing his wife. After a few more blissful seconds he let Ginny go and they turned to face their guests. Ron and Hermione had just done the same but Hermione was still looking slightly pink faced as she smiled around at everyone. The music started again and the four of them followed by Neville and Luna made their way out into the Entrance Hall to the sounds of enthusiastic cheering. As soon as they got out there they began cheering and hugging each other in excitement. A moment later the Weasley and Grangers joined them and there was a great chaotic jumble of crying and hugging and laughing. Soon after, once they had calmed down it was time to go back in for the feast, the Weasley’s and Granger’s went in first and then Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione got ready to make their grand entrance. The doors opened and Harry heard the familiar voice of Lee Jordan who was the D-jay for the party.

“Ladies and Gentlemen it is my great pleasure to announce for the very first time. Mr. and Mrs. Ron and Hermione Weasley and Mr. and Mrs. Harry and Ginny Potter!” he said enthusiastically.

     They walked happily into the room to the thunderous applause of their guests who where now all seated at round tables scattered throughout the room. They made their way to the front table and took their seats. Shortly after the feast began, it was wonderful. McGonagall had given them an all out Hogwarts banquet with everything you could think of. As the meal was winding down, Neville stood up and clinked his glass.

“So I’m the best man… and it’s tradition that I start off the toasts. I’ll just say that I’ve known these four sitting here for almost my entire time at Hogwarts, and they are some of the best people anyone could know. These three…” he said motioning to Harry, Ron and Hermione, “are braver people than I could have ever hoped to know, and Ginny is one of the strongest most dedicated and passionate people I have ever met. I knew that Ron and Hermione would get together since the second year I knew them. But I think it’s a beautiful testament to what love can be, to see everything they’ve come through to get to where they are, and then there’s Harry and Ginny. I got a true glimpse of just how deep and unchanging their love is, in the year Harry was away because Ginny refused to give up on him, no matter how bad things got. She loved him right up until the end, so I know that they will be happy for the rest of their lives. So here’s to my friends! May their love bring them joy forever!” Neville raised his glass, and everyone joined him.

     Harry was very touched and he smiled at Ginny and squeezed her hand yet again. Just then George stood up and clinked his glass.

“I would like to make the second toast!” he said, he pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and opened it with the air of reading some important document, “I would like to read you a love poem written by an amazing girl at the mere age of eleven, I’m sure it will touch your hearts and your souls.” said George, with an evil grin in Ginny’s direction.

“Oh no!!” groaned Ginny, putting her face in her hands, “how in world did he get hold of that??”

“Get hold of what??” said Harry with amusement, but then George began reading and his confusion was cleared up instantly.

“His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad, his hair is as dark as a blackboard. I wish he was mine, he’s really divine, the hero who conquered the Dark Lord!” George finished with a sing song flare and the whole room erupted into laughter.

     Harry was laughing right along with them though he rubbed Ginny’s back with his hand in a comforting sort of way. It was the poem that Ginny had sent him in a Valentines Day card her first year at Hogwarts. At the age of twelve Harry had thought it was terribly embarrassing but now he found it adorably sweet and he was glad George had found it.

“So it goes without saying…” continued George as the laughter died down, “That this day has been coming for quite awhile. So Harry… take care of my girl for me. I’d only give her up to a guy as deserving as you.”

     Ginny glared at George but she also smiled. George blew her a kiss and then lifted his glass with everyone else to toast them.

“I’d like ta say somethin as well…” said Hagrid, there was no need for him clink his glass because as soon as he stood the whole room noticed him, “When Ron was in his second year he came stumbling inta my hut burpin up slugs. I asked him what had happened an apparently he had tried to curse someone fer callin Hermione a bad name, an’ had accidentally cursed himself instead!” there was a great deal of laughter at this too, “but in that momen’ I got the sneaking suspicion tha’ Hermione and Ron were gonna end up here someday, an’ I was right.” Hagrid smiled at them. “An’ then there’s Harry, always had a soft spot fer him, growing up withou’ a family jus’ like me. I was really happy when he found the Weasley’s an’ when he found Ginny it made my heart lighter. It’s good ta see him finally have someone who makes him happy. To the happy couples!” he said and he raised his glass.

     The toasting went on this way for the next twenty minutes or so some people making hilarious toasts. Some making touching ones that made everyone’s eyes get misty, it was wonderful for Harry to feel like he had so many friends and people who loved him all around him. Then when the toasts where finally done, Lee Jordan spoke to the whole room again.

‘I think it’s time for our new couples to have their first dance!” he said and everyone clapped.

     Harry and Ron exchanged quick grins behind their wives backs. This was the moment they had been waiting for. Harry and Ron had been secretly taking weekly dance lessons for the past month so that they could surprise Ginny and Hermione that night. They took their wives hands and led them onto the dance floor. Harry expertly took Ginny into his arms and smirked as he saw Ron gracefully spin Hermione into his arms. Ginny was also watching Ron and then looked back at Harry questioningly.

“Have you two been keeping something from us?” she said with a knowing smile.

“There is a distinct possibility.” Said Harry as the music started and he steered her gracefully around the dace floor. He looked over and smiled at the completely shocked look on Hermione’s face as her and Ron glided by. Harry danced effortlessly with Ginny as the music played and he twirled her around and brought her back into his arms with flourish as the song ended. Another song began and other people joined them on the dance floor. Ron and Hermione made their way to where Harry and Ginny were dancing.

“Do you mind if I cut in and dance with my sister?” said Ron.

“Only if I get to dance with mine.” said Harry and Hermione grinned at him.

“So how are you Mrs.Weasley?” said Harry with a smile as he and Hermione twirled around the dance floor.

“I’m so wonderful…” she said with a huge smile, ‘I can’t believe we finally got here…”

“Well we did…” said Harry, and he looked over at where Ron and Ginny were dancing, he knew how Hermione felt, he couldn’t believe Ginny was finally completely his.

     A few hours later after a long night of dancing and laughing the four of them made their way to the door. They had gone upstairs and changed into their traveling clothes, and grabbed their suitcases. And now they were standing in the entrance hall waving goodbye to all their guests. The blew kisses to their friends and family and then they turned on the spot. They landed in a small Inn in India. They had come here only once before to make the reservation, but the woman at the desk smiled brightly at them. She handed them their room keys and they made their way down a hall.

“Well… goodnight Mr. and Mrs. Weasley...” said Ginny with a smile when she and Harry had reached the door to their room, “I’m sure we’ll see you around.”

“Don’t count on it…” said Ron with a smirk and then he took Hermione by the arm continued down the hall.

     Ginny and Harry walked into their room. It was very exotic be comfortable looking. The bed had bright red silk sheets and a red and gold canopy that hung from the ceiling almost in a tent shape.

“This is really cool!” said Ginny enthusiastically.

     Harry wrapped his arms around her and began to kiss her firmly; she wrapped her fingers in his hair and kissed him back with even more passion. Even though he had kissed her hundreds of times, something about her being his wife now made everything more exciting more intense. She pulled away and grinned at him.

“Why don’t you get ready for bed…. While I go… slip into something more comfortable.” She said with a grin.

     Harry didn’t need to be told twice, he let her retreat to the bathroom with her suitcase and he took his over the closet. He left it there and then stripped down to nothing but his boxers. He then laid down on the bed and enjoyed the feeling of the smooth silk against his skin. He closed his eyes and put his hands behind his head; he relaxed and let himself simply be perfectly happy. A moment later he heard the bathroom door open and he opened his eyes to admire his wife.

     Ginny was standing in the doorway giving him a playful smile. She was wearing the sheer green corset she had bought it hugged the curves of her body and accentuated her breasts perfectly. The only other thing she was wearing was a pair of little lacey green underwear. She walked towards him with the same smile playing on her lips. Harry felt like his entire body was on fire, but in a very good way. He was as excited as he had been that first night in his dormitory over a year and a half ago. He ached for her to reach the bed so he could hold her.

Credits: Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda and How do I love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browining

Chapter 27: Epilouge
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                                                         Six and a Half Years Later

     It was extremely warm for the first of March. So warm in fact that Harry Potter and Ron Weasley decided they would Apparate to the end of their street and walk home together, as they had done on so many occasion before. They were running late because so many people had been stopping them on the way out of the Ministry to wish Ron a Happy Birthday. He was turning twenty five that day and everyone seemed to be making quite a big deal out of it. They were all supposed to be headed to the Burrow at five o’clock which was the reason Ron and Harry were worried about being late.

“I hope Hermione’s not in too bad of a mood when I get home… she really doesn’t like having to rush around these days…” said Ron.

“Well I can’t exactly blame her… said Harry.

     They walked up to Ron’s house and sure enough Hermione Weasley was waiting on the front stoop with her arms crossed. She made her way down the front steps and waddled towards them. She could not do much more than waddle these days due to her huge round belly that made it very hard for her to walk. True to her word Hermione had gone through all five years of her law school training and then another extra year of apprenticeship to a judge before she and Ron had started a family, but she had graduated the previous May and by June she was pregnant. She was now due any day and had been in an increasingly bad mood ever since Christmas when she had been forced by her boss to go on maternity leave. Being stuck at home made her antsy and grouchy.

“You’re late.” she said to Ron glaring at him.  

“Hi love…” he said giving her a kiss, then he leaned over and kissed her round stomach, “Hey Rosie girl.” He said and then he put his arms around Hermione as best he could.

     Ron and Hermione had chosen to find out if their baby was a boy of a girl because Hermione wanted to be prepared for whichever she was getting. Ron had sort of wanted to be surprised, but he had also really wanted a girl, and his curiosity won him over in the end. When they found out it was a girl, he was over the moon with happiness.

“I’m sorry I’m late…” Ron said to Hermione, “I got held up with people wishing me happy birthday, and asking me how my wonderful wife is doing.” he said with a smirk.

     Hermione rolled her eyes but she smiled at him.

“We’ll see you at Mum and Dad’s in a bit Harry.” she said, and she and Ron walked back towards the house.

     Harry waved goodbye and then walked up the road towards his own house. He opened the gate and smiled as he walked up the path towards his. home He picked up a small tricycle that was sitting in the yard and put in on the porch. He was about to open the door when he heard a telltale shriek from the other side of it.

“JAMES SIRIUS POTTER WHAT HAVE YOU DONE NOW!!” shouted the voice in exasperation.

     Harry quickly opened the door and was met by his beautiful wife who was storming out of the kitchen. Harry went over and kissed her and patted the bump on her stomach. She was not near as round as Hermione, but she was not due for another three months. Ginny kissed him back but then closed her eyes and sighed in annoyance.

“Harry could you please go deal with your son? He’s been driving me batty all day, and I just need a five minute break!” she said.

“Yeah… that’s fine…” said Harry with a laugh and Ginny headed up the stairs.

     Just then Teddy came walking around the corner from the kitchen with his hands over his mouth clearly trying his hardest not to giggle in his godmother’s presence. When he saw she had gone upstairs he took his hands down and snorted in laughter.

“Hi Uncle Harry….” He said.

“Hey bud…” said Harry, “so what did James do?”

“Oh you have to go look…” said Teddy with a giggle.

“Uh oh…” said Harry and then both headed for the kitchen, “Hey nice hair…” said Harry as they walked ruffling Teddy’s florescent purple hair.

“Thanks…. I did it for James... he’s thinks it’s really funny.” said Teddy.

     They walked into the kitchen and Harry groaned at the scene that met him. James had somehow managed to pull the entire container of flour off the counter and was now sitting on the floor completely white, and playing in the flour like it was sand. When the one and half year old saw Harry he smiled brightly.

“Daddy!” he squealed and he began to crawl to him leaving floury streaks across the floor.

“Hey little man…” said Harry picking up his son. “What did you do?”

“Mess…” said James gravely pointing at the floor. Harry threw his head back and laughed.

“Yeah you made a mess alright…” Harry forced himself to give his son a stern look, “That’s was a bad thing to do James, you know you’re not supposed to play in the kitchen.”

“I sorry…” said the little boy.

“I’m gonna take him upstairs and give him a quickly bath…could you sweep up the flour Teddy?” said Harry.

“Yup.” Said Teddy and he grabbed the broom. Harry was still amazed sometimes at how much Teddy had grown, he was going to be eight in May, and in just three short years they’d be sending him off to Hogwarts. He looked so much like his father that sometimes just watching him made Harry miss Lupin, but he inherited a lot of his mother’s spunky personality.

     Harry carried his son up to the bathroom and washed all the flour off of him. James already, at the age of one and a half, looked remarkably like Harry. He had the same dark hair that even had the same untidy spot in the back no matter what you did with it. Ginny insisted he had the same smile as Harry and many of the same mannerisms. The only distinct difference was his big brown eyes, just like Ginny’s. Harry dressed James in a red shirt and overalls and then carried him down the hall to his and Ginny’s bedroom. Ginny was lying on the bed with her eyes closed but she looked up at them and smiled when they came in.

“There are my boys…” she said.

     Harry walked over and sat down next to her. James immediately crawled across the bed to her, he cuddled up against her and began to stoke her long red hair.

“I sorry Mummy.” He said meekly.

“I know you are Jamsey.” Said Ginny, pulling the little boy into her arms, “You just have to promise me you’re going to try real hard to be a good boy when Daddy’s at work from now on. You promise?” she said, and James nodded and hugged her, she laughed and hugged him back as she kissed his head.

     Now that he was sure his Mummy wasn’t angry with him James went back to being his curious self. He laid his head on Ginny’s stomach and made a face like he was listening intently.

“Can you hear the baby? Is it talking to you?” teased Harry.

     James shook his head but kept a serious face suddenly he jumped and looked down at Ginny’s stomach. Ginny laughed and ruffled his hair.

“You felt that didn’t you? That was the baby kicking.” She said.

“No kicking…” said James with a stern face.

     Both Harry and Ginny laughed, because they knew he was telling his baby brother or sister the rule that he had been told on many different occasions.


     The entire Potter/Lupin clan arrived at the Burrow almost exactly at five o’clock. The Burrow had been completely redesigned over the past few years to make it’s kitchen and living room three times as big, and also include a fair number of new rooms on the floors above. As Harry and his family made their way into the living room he stole a glance at Mrs. Weasley’s clock and saw that all of the hands, with the exception of Fred’s, pointed towards home. And there were a considerable amount of hands on the clock, twenty six to be exact. Every Weasley child was married, and there were thirteen grandchildren, counting the three that were on the way.

     Bill and Fleur had Victorie of course, who had just turned six and was already a striking beauty just like Fleur. They also had Molly Gabrielle, who was four. She was also beautiful but looked distinctly different from her older sister. While her hair was also sleek and shiny, it was vibrant red and often had the look of being on fire. Fleur was also pregnant again, she had her hopes up that she would finally get her boy and they were planning to name him Jeanne Luke.

     Charlie had been the longest hold out, but he and Verity, the girl who worked in the shop with him and George, had been married just a year and a half ago, and they already had a beautiful four month old baby girl named Elizabeth Celeste.

     Percy had married his Hogwarts sweetheart Penelope Clearwater the summer after Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione had been married. They had three children. William Arthur who was five, Gladiola Angelica who was three, and Ronald Marcus who was one.

     George and Angelina had the twins Sirius and Fred. At the age of five they were already shaping up to cause just as much mayhem as their predecessors. They both had caramel colored skin that was the perfect blend of George’s pasty white complexion, and Angelina’s chocolaty brown one. They had inherited Angelina’s dark tightly curly hair, but also George’s blue eyes and freckles. Mrs. Weasley always teased that they would be heart breakers when they got to school. George and Angelina had also just had a third child only a month previously. Tiny Ginerva Hermione was much darker like her mother, and she had big liquid brown eyes, that seemed to know more than they should for her young age.

     The moment that Fred and Sirius saw Teddy the three of them took off running out of the room with big grins on their faces, and Victorie was right behind them, her long silvery blond hair flying behind her, while she had her mother amazing looks she had turned out to be quite the tomboy, and she was always in the middle of whatever crazy stunt the boys pulled.

“You four behave yourselves! do you here??” called Mrs. Weasley, “I swear if you break one of your bed’s again I’m not fixing it, you can just sleep on the floor when you come to visit!”

     She shot a reproachful look at the children as they ran off giggling, but Harry knew that she loved having her house full of children again, and though she would never admit it. She adored having a pair of mischievous twins to drive her crazy once again. They all sat down in the now rather large and comfortable living room. Ginny dropped James off in the large play area that had been constructed for the younger babies in the corner of the room. Both three year old Gladi and one year old Ron were already playing there. James was right in between their ages and he loved playing with them both. Harry and Ginny took up seats on one of the large couches next to older Ron and Hermione.

“So any news about work yet Ron?” said George, who was sitting across from them with Angelina and holding baby Ginny.

“Nope… I won’t know until next week.” said Ron.

      Ron and Lee’s radio program had been growing in it’s popularity over the past six years to the point where they were both regular household names. Ron loved being in the thick of the Quidditch world and he had even gotten Ginny the job she had now, which was as a Quidditch correspondent for the Daily Prophet. It gave her a lot of time to work at home, which worked well with James and now a new baby on the way. But now Ron was being offered a new job. When Ludo Bagman had gone on the run almost ten years ago his position as Head of Magical Games and Sports had been somewhat dissolved, but now things were picking more than ever, and the department was imploring Kingsley to once again find them a head coordinator to help things run more smoothly. Kingsley approached Ron about the job, along with a few other people. They had gone and met with everyone in the department, and Kingsley was leaving it up to the department members to decide who was a good fit. They were all waiting anxiously to see what the outcome might be.

“I really think you’ll get it Ron…” interjected Ginny, “Everyone in the office really seems to like you, just some of the older grouchier people are complaining you’re too young. But they’ll get over it.”

“I hope so.” said Ron with a smile.

“Dinner!” called Mrs. Weasley, and there was a stampede. From all over the house children came running at the sound of that word.

     Meals at the Weasley’s were always loud, crazy, but extremely enjoyable affairs. There were six grand children who could eat by themselves, and two that needed to be helped, not including the two that didn’t eat solid food yet. James had a knack for getting whatever he was eating all over himself, and by the time the meal was half way over Harry was also covered in peas, applesauce, and pumpkin juice. He laughed in amusement, his son never made things boring. After dinner they all retreated to the living room to give Ron his presents. Molly and Gladiola, insisted on helping him open them because they wanted to help tear off the wrapping paper, but Ron was more than happy to let them, he was very fond of all his nieces and nephews. He got a very good haul of presents that year including a beautiful eagle feather quill from Bill and Fleur, and new traveling Cloak from Harry and Ginny, and a very special gift from Hermione, it was an autographed copy of the new book written by the Captain of the Chudely Cannons. As he said thank you to everyone and gave his wife a kiss, little Molly bounced up and down impatiently on his lap.

“Can we eat cake now?” she said slightly poutily. Ron threw his head back and laughed.

“Yes Molly… we can eat cake now…” he said.

     Mrs. Weasley insisted that the children eat their cake in the kitchen to avoid a mess. The adults got to eat in the living room. They all sat and talked for quite awhile. Hermione struggled to her feet and headed for the kitchen saying she needed a glass of water.

“Ron…” said Angelina reproachfully as Hermione left the room, “I can’t believe you didn’t go get that for her, look how hard it is for her to get around!”

“Believe me you don’t want to see the kind of fuss she would have made if I had tried to do it for her. She likes to think she can still do everything for herself.” Ron muttered shooting a look at the kitchen door to make sure Hermione couldn’t hear him.

     A second later Victorie came running into the room and her eyes were very wide as she looked around at all the adults.

“Something’s wrong with Aunt Hermione!” she said breathlessly.

     All the adults jumped up and headed for the kitchen. Harry, Ginny, and Ron were at the front of the pack and when they got there they saw Hermione leaning against the counter clutching her stomach. Ron ran to her and put his arm around her.

“What’s wrong love?” he said.

“Well I think I have another birthday present for you Ron… my water just broke.” She said with a slightly scared smile.

     Sure enough there was a puddle on the kitchen floor underneath Hermione. Ron’s eyes got huge as both Charlie and George let out cheers and Harry and Ginny went over to hug Hermione.

“Ok what do we do? Do we need to get you home? Do you feel up to taking the Floo? Do you need to lie down? Are you feeling dizzy?” Ron was shooting question after question at Hermione and looking very nervous.

     Harry smiled knowingly, he remembered how nervous he was when James was born. He took Ron gently by the arm and pulled him back so Mrs. Weasley and Ginny could get to Hermione.

“Best just let them handle it…” he said, “you’re just supposed to be here for support.”

“Right….” said Ron, still looking slightly pale.

“Hey…. Cheer up!” said Harry elbowing his best friend, “This is going to be one of the most amazing nights of your life.”

     Ron grinned at Harry and then they turned their attention back to Hermione. She had decided that she wanted to simply stay at the Burrow, because Mrs. Weasley was going to be helping her with the birth. After helping with the birth of almost all of her other nine grandchildren, the midwife had told her that she was fine to do it on her own, but they made sure they had the midwife on standby incase there were any complications. Ginny and Mrs. Weasley helped Hermione up the stairs to her and Ron’s room, and they came back down to the living room a few minutes later.

“Everything is coming along very nicely…” said Mrs. Weasley, “seeing as it’s only seven o’clock there is a good chance you and your daughter are going to have the same birthday Ron.” She said, and Ron grinned.

“So can I go see her now?” he asked.

“Yeah, let’s all go up.” Said Ginny, “She’s just going to be sitting around for the next few hours anyway.”

     Harry had figured out when James was born that the first few hours are rather uninteresting and consist mostly of the girl sitting around waiting for her contractions to get worse. They went up the stairs and headed into Ron and Hermione’s room. Ron quickly walked over and sat on the bed next to Hermione who was tucked comfortably under the covers and sitting propped up on pillows.

“How you doing Hermione?” said Harry.

“I’m fine…” said Hermione, “I had my first contraction on the way up the stairs, that was quite fun…” she said sarcastically. 

“I’m sure…” said Harry with a smirk.

“So you sure you’re ok… is their anything I can get you?” said Ron still looking rather worried.

“I’m fine Ron….nothing to do now but wai--” Hermione’s sentence was cut off mid-word and she scrunched her face up in pain. She said a particularly colorful swear word and squeezed Ron’s hand rather hard.

     Harry looked at her in surprise and stifled a snort of laughter. Hearing Hermione swear was always amusing to him. Once the contraction passed she shot him a look, but she gave a reluctant smile.

“Sorry about that…” she said, “But those really hurt!!”

     Ginny was looking at her watch.

“You’re contractions are about twenty minutes apart Hermione. You’re actually moving along quite fast. About twice as fast as I did with James.” She said.

“Well that’s good to know…” said Hermione, flopping back on the pillow.

     Harry and Ginny sat and talked with Hermione and Ron for the better part of the next few hours. Mrs. Weasley came in to