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Everybody knows it hurts to grow up.
And everybody does, it's so weird to be back here.


“All right… so here we are,” Hermione said as they stood in front of the Leaky Cauldron, facing the lightly peopled street of Diagon Alley.

None of them moved.

“Well, let’s not all rush away at once,” Ron said idly.

“This is ridiculous,” Ginny groaned. “Come on! Harry, you and I are going this way. We need to get you some more parchment and a better quill. Ron and Hermione… you… go that way and we’ll meet for ice cream in an hour.”

“Yes ma’am,” Ron replied sarcastically.

“I dunno if I really want to,” Harry said uncomfortably.

“Well you are,” said Ginny matter-of-factly. “Come on… Go on, you two.”

They left Ron and Hermione standing by themselves, and after a while Ron said, “Well I suppose we’re to go this way.”

“Fine with me,” Hermione replied amiably. “Maybe we could… browse around the bookstore?”

“How about… we go to the book store and you browse around?”

“Deal,” she agreed, as they set off in that direction. “Wow… it looks like they’ve done an amazing job,” she continued, looking around in awe. “Everything looks just like it was before… except-”

“Almost all of the stores have changed hands,” Ron finished for her, as they looked again more closely.

“That makes me sad,” she replied glumly. “I really thought that maybe-”

“Hey. Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder as they stopped in front of the bookstore.

“Nothing,” he shrugged it off, frowning. “I could have sworn I heard somebody call out our names.”

She scanned the thin, early morning crowds. “Well I don’t see anyone… Come on, this is exciting. I haven’t been in a bookstore in so long.”

Ron smiled, glad to see her so pleased as they stepped inside.

They went ten minutes inside the store before being hailed by an old friend.

“Ron and Hermione still together? Looks like I lose the bet!” Seamus Finnegan joked warmly, walking up to them and clapping Ron on the back. “How are you doing, mate? I tried to call you earlier, but I don’t think you heard.”

“That was you? Good, I thought I was going mental…”

“Well, how are you?”

“I’m doing good-”

“Well,” Hermione corrected automatically.

“I’m doing well, then,” he said with a broad grin. “What about you? What are you up to these days?”

“Getting myself a girl,” Seamus laughed.

“Any luck?” Ron asked, amused.

“Not even the bad kind,” he waved it away. “No, I’ve gotten a job at the Ministry though. It’s not much at all, but it’s something.”

“Well go on, what is it?”

“Just the part that deals with press… but I’m really just a message runner now.”

“Message runner?” Hermione asked. “I thought they just sent the paper airplanes-”

“Oh, that was pre-War,” Seamus said, lowering his voice. “This is the post-War Ministry… Harder for people to intercept messages this way, if someone carries it.”

Hermione laughed. “I guess the way of the Muggles aren’t completely inferior to the ways here?”

“You’re right,” he smiled, recognizing what she meant. “Letter carriers,” he explained casually to Ron.

“Oh.”

“Well tell us more,” Hermione pressed on. “What’s going on in that department? Ron and I need to hurry up and take those NEWTs so we can get a job ourselves.”

“Haven’t you heard? They’ve pushed forward an amendment to those rules.”

“What?” Ron asked curiously.

“Yeah… For all of us students who were unable to finish due to the War… you can get a starting job now at the Ministry or St. Mungo’s, just with your OWLs.”

“Really?”

“But you have to come up with this sort of contract. They give you a kind of part-time job, at the same time granting you a seat for these special weekly classes they’ve set up. You do your schoolwork independently, learning at your own pace, but you have to get your NEWTs within an agreed amount of time in order to keep the job… I’ve just started two weeks ago, and it seems to be going very well.”

“Well that sounds perfect!” Hermione cried, looking at Ron with the same light in her eyes as when she had made him that color-coded study schedule.

“It does sound reasonable,” he shrugged. “And you can start any time?”

“Yep,” Seamus nodded. “Just have your OWLs and a resume ready… notify the department you’re interested in… and they’ll give you a shot… They’re actually quite busy in my department. All the newspapers seem to be doing away with the old crowd of biased writers. They’re looking for fresh talent. It’s a pity I care nothing about print journalism. I was actually going to switch over to something like the Department of Education.”

“Education? Really?” Hermione asked, looking interested.
“Yeah,” he shrugged, adding with a smirk, “We can’t have another ‘teacher’ like Umbridge or Trelawney clogging up the school systems, can we?”

“Definitely not,” Ron answered.

Seamus laughed along with them, and then indicated the book he had in his hands. “Well I’m just going to go pay for this… I’ll see you around!”

“Good-bye, Seamus,” Hermione said warmly.

“Bye, mate,” Ron waved. “Maybe we’ll see you in one of those classes sometimes soon.”

“Yeah, yeah!” Seamus nodded. “Almost the entire lot is there! Neville’s with the fancy Herbology crowd, and Dean’s there too… and so are a ton from the other Houses…”

After he disappeared, Hermione turned to Ron with a look of amazement.

“Can you believe this?” she asked. “Why didn’t your dad mention all of this at dinner last night?”

“I dunno,” Ron shrugged. “He seemed to want to give us at least the summer off…”

“Well summer’s almost over. I think it’s a wonderful plan.”

“I suppose.”

“You suppose? Come on, Ron, aren’t you excited at all?”

“Well yes, of course, I’d love to get a job… but I don’t even know what I want to do.”

“I thought-”

“I’ve had enough of fighting, thank you very much… and it’s not like there’s much demand for Aurors right now,” he said coolly.

“Well it still would be nice to get credit for taking those classes,” she said, changing tactics. “If Seamus can switch around to different departments while he’s there, you can too.”

“And what about you?”

“Me?” she asked, turning to the bookshelves and running her finger across the spines as if to stall for time. “I’m not sure either… I guess I’ll have to do some research.”

“Great,” he said, pretending to be annoyed. “No doubt you love to do that.”

“Quiet Ron, and help me find something that will help.”


“Well you certainly got a lot,” Ginny said as they all sat down with their ice cream, purchases at their feet.

“Yes, well I haven’t gotten new books in a while,” Hermione shrugged. “You also will never believe what we-”

“That reminds me!” Ginny interrupted. “While we were buying paper, the most polite woman approached Harry and me. And can you guess what she was?”

“Who?”

“What?”

“Who? Don’t you mean who?” Hermione asked.

“No, what,” replied Ginny. “As in occupation.”

“Well, if she approached you as well,” Ron began slowly, touching the edge of the table surreptitiously, “then that leaves out she’s a –”

“Hush, Ron,” Hermione said, putting a hand on his arm. “Tell us, Harry. Who?”

“A reporter.”

“Really? Oh, that must have been dreadful,” she said sympathetically.

“Actually, it wasn’t,” Ginny shook her head. “Like I said, she was actually nice. And instead of pouncing on Harry and attacking him with questions, she just asked to schedule a short, fireplace interview with him later this week.”

“And what did you say?” Ron asked.

“Well, I said yes,” he replied. “She was very… very polite, and well I just couldn’t-”

“She was also very pretty,” Ginny added, a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

“Well it looks like Seamus was right, Ron,” Hermione said brightly.

“You saw Seamus?” Harry asked.

“Yes, I was just about to tell you,” Hermione answered.

Ron smiled to himself as she told Harry and Ginny about their encounter with Seamus, and what she had learned from that encounter. He sat back with his ice cream, seeing how excited she was at the prospect of classes and a job.
It occurred to him suddenly that that was what she had wanted, before they really settled down together. He frowned, wondering why it hadn’t dawned on him sooner. And then he was filled with this new kind of happiness. He felt nervous, and even dreaded the whole process to get everything started, but he knew that it would be worth it.

She was worth it.

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