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         “I’m going to miss you,” Ginny said quietly, gaze on her feet. She stood on Platform 9¾, half hidden behind a column, flowing red hair practically all that could be seen of her head, glinting in the warm June sunlight.

         Before her stood a very different Harry Potter than the one she’d first seen on this very platform at the age of ten. True, his jet-black hair still stood in all directions, but his bright green eyes, no longer framed by his wire-rim spectacles, held that empty soul they had since Sirius Black had died. However uneventful his sixth year at Hogwarts had been, his godfather’s death had taken a toll on him. Especially since December.

         His response was slow. “I will too.” He hated to lie to her, but what else could he do? He had kept rather to himself over the second semester, mainly conversing only with Jackie and Luna. Luna was still his only schoolmate who knew about Jackie, and she had kept his secret for him.

         Unaware of his turmoil, Ginny could no longer resist. She threw her arms around Harry’s neck and pulled him down, burying her face in his shoulder. He didn’t respond, whether to wrap his arms around her, or to push her away. Ginny grew irritated.

         “You think you’re the only one who loved him, Harry? Do you think you’re the only one who’s hurting?”

         Someone called her name a few pillars down. “Ginny, we’re leaving. Where are you?”

         Biting her lip, Ginny moved back. Harry still hadn’t moved, eyes downcast. The gentle breeze seemed to brush his bangs from his head, revealing his lightning bolt scar. His gaze moved up her body and met hers. A flicker of something she didn’t quite recognize came to his eyes, and he embraced her. His lips found her ear, and between two gentle kisses, he whispered, “I’m sorry.”

         Eyes smarting, Ginny whirled and sprinted from his presence to join Dean Thomas, who was waiting with their respective parents. Harry’s eyes hardened as she disappeared.

         “I really am sorry, Ginny,” he whispered more to himself than to Ginny, sliding his hands into his pockets and heading for his own ride “But it’s better that you don’t know. You worry too much – about everything.”

         “Have fun doing magic tricks, Harry?” Dudley taunted him from the passenger seat of Uncle Vernon’s new car.

         “Yeah, I did,” Harry said absently, fingering the neck of Jackie’s bottle. He hadn’t informed his other aunt’s family of his leaving Hogwarts for Christmas, so it would be a big shock to them when he left permanently sometime this summer. Still, Jackie had a point: Potter Estates was far too lonely, and this family was better than none.

***




         Curled on in a window seat overlooking a peaceful village, Ginny kicked one foot lazily. Her right fingers were curled around her wand, the tip of which tapped the windowsill. Despite both her parents being wizards, Luna Lovegood’s home was located on the edge of Ottery St. Catchpole, a quaint Muggle village in Devon. A tall, towering house, it resembled the Weasleys’ cottage, but was designed so as to look quite Muggle, and consequently has no sight charms on it. These two, being best friends from a young age anyway, often got together to study during the summers, since they lived so near each other.

         “What are you daydreaming about?” Luna teased from where she was completing her own summer homework. She had been seen with Harry a lot during the last five or six months of school, and she seemed to have become slightly more serious under his moody influence. Getting together with Ginny more during the earlier year and a half had also caused her to put aside some of her more queer traits.

         “Harry. You know that look where you can’t exactly tell what someone’s thinking, but you know it’s something important?”

         Luna nodded. She had put down her wand for the moment, and was twisting her dirty blonde hair into a thick braid that reached past her hips.

         “He had that kind of look in his eyes last time I saw him. Somehow I can’t get it out of my head.”

         Tossing her braid over her shoulder, Luna got up and stretched her back. “Wish I knew what was bothering him,” she sighed. “His letters have been downright gloomy all month. Much shorter too. It isn’t like him to be long-winded, but he’s been awfully curt recently.”

         “Recently? Have you heard from him?”

         “Yeah,” Luna said, glancing at the window, where the village children were yelling over a street game. “I just got a postcard yesterday.”

         “He’s been writing to you?!”

         Luna frowned. “What are you so upset about? You weren’t together, were you?”

         “With that four-eyed dork? Not on your life!”

         “Ginny, wait!” Luna exclaimed as Ginny grabbed her things and stormed toward the door. “Where are you going?”

         “I’m going home!”

         The house shook with the force of the slamming door. Sighing, Luna closed her book and headed for the fireplace.

***




         “Are you Mrs. Dursley?”

         “Yes, that’s me.” Having opened the front door of No. 4 Privet Drive, Petunia Dursley had discovered a tall, somewhat skinny girl wearing a gray jumper and blue plaid skirt standing on the front step. Although her overall appearance was somehow otherworldly, she didn’t look particularly unusual. It was the atmosphere around her that caused Petunia to recognize the girl as a wizard. She stared down at the young woman, arching an eyebrow. “And you are?”

         “I’m Luna Lovegood. Harry’s girlfriend?”

         Harry’s aunt looked shocked. “Come inside,” she said, and led her to the kitchen. “I wasn’t aware that he had a girlfriend.”

         “I imagine there’s a whole lot about him that you don’t know,” Luna said, smiling slightly. It wasn’t exactly a lie – most of their classmates were saying they were together, that they had been since winter break. They’d never confirmed or denied when approached on the subject. “You’re aware, of course, of the shield protecting your house while he’s here?”

         “Yes, I am. And of the fact that it will become nonexistent after he turns seventeen this month.”

         “That makes this a little easier, then.” Luna thanked her for the drink, but she noticed something as she sat down. “Um ... where is he?” While his outlook (not his attitude) had improved since meeting her, Harry had grown into somewhat of a Marauder in his own right. There was no telling what he could be up to.

         “No, I don’t, really. He’s been more open with me this summer, but he said this trip was more private than the others.”

         “Others? He hasn’t mentioned any to me.”

         Petunia’s explanation was interrupted by the slamming open of the front door. Another door admitted Harry’s Uncle Vernon into the kitchen. Luna covered her mouth to keep from laughing. Harry called him a walrus, but Luna couldn’t help coming up with far more creative terms.

         “Petunia, what is this ... this creature doing in here?”

         “I’m a friend of Harry’s, and I’ve been petitioned by his remaining family to remove him from your care. Of course, this will require that you relinquish all control of his person, possessions, and finances. If you are willing to do so, my superiors have instructed that you read and sign these papers.”

         “You do realize what would happen if I left?” Harry asked, having appeared shortly behind his uncle.

         Luna squealed and hugged him, saying, “Yeah, but you’re turning seventeen this summer anyway. Why wait?”

         Harry laughed and glanced at his uncle, leaving one arm wrapped around Luna. “It’d probably for the best, Uncle Vernon. I’m sure it’d stop giving you indigestion and ulcers if I moved out completely and was done with it.”

         Vernon had already signed everything. Dudley walked – or waddled, more like – into the kitchen, and upon catching sight of him, Luna grabbed Harry by the arm to escape before she lost it completely. Harry’s things were packed quickly, and Harry went back downstairs to give his foster family a quick goodbye. When he came back, he was grinning from ear to ear.

         “What’s so funny?”

         “Nothing,” Harry replied with a very different grin that clearly stated he was lying. “You ready, babe? I’m taking you to Potter Estates – just finished getting it back up, but maybe we can clean it up a little.”

         “How’d you know—?”

         “Pried it right out of your head while you were talking to my aunt. Why’d you tell her you were my girlfriend?”

         “I couldn’t think of a better connection. Let’s go.”

         Harry cast the teleportation spell and they landed in the foyer of Potter Estates. Harry uncorked Jackie’s bottle, and she materialized beside the hat rack. She greeted Luna with a hug and scolded Harry for not letting her out sooner.

         “So where have you been going all summer?” Luna asked once her tour of the house had been completed. “Your aunt – the Muggle one – said you’ve been disappearing on and off since you got back.”

         “I’ve just been traveling,” Harry replied, dropping his backpack on the floor. “I was researching ancient magic and its history and things like that – everything, really. You can blame Jackie for that.”

         Luna stuck her tongue out at Jackie and attached herself to Harry’s arm. “He’s mine!”

         Jackie put her hands on her fists and glared right back but burst out laughing before she could come up with a reply. Harry opened the door they had stopped in front of last.

         “This’ll be your room when you visit,” he informed Luna. “I was planning on inviting Hermione and Ron over too. Maybe they can help do something about that place.”

         “And what’s wrong with it?” Jackie said indignantly. But she glanced about briefly, then gave a sheepish grin. “I mean, aside from needing some cleaning. I guess I didn’t do the greatest job on bringing it back up, did I? Housekeeping was never my strong point.”

         “Well, it was empty for twenty years,” Harry said with a shrug.

         “Eighteen,” Jackie corrected. “My parents took a whole year to die of grief.”

         “They died of old age,” Luna informed her. “You disappearing was just the last straw.”

         “How do you know that?” Harry asked, surprised.

         “My dad runs the Quibbler, remember? I know everything about that kind of stuff. By the way,” she added, facing Jackie, “can he have the first interview with you once you come clean?”

         “Sure,” Jackie replied, “but that won’t be for a while. Harry, you can’t invite anyone else to stay here!”

         “Aw, come on, Jackie,” Harry cajoled. “Let me have some friends over.”

         “It wouldn’t look good though, Harry,” Luna broke in. “Ron’s off working a summer job. Hermione would be in this huge house alone with you, and Jackie wouldn’t qualify as a chaperone because, officially, she doesn’t exist.”

         “I don’t need to be told that by you, thank you,” Jackie told her. She glanced offhandedly at Harry. “Why not invite the entire Weasley clan over? That way Ginny will be here too.”

         “What does that have to do with anything?” he snapped back.

         Jackie just grinned.

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