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After the Horcrux by Manwe Valarian
Chapter 9 : July 1998 Part II
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 11


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Before leaving St. Mungo’s Harry Owled the Weasley’s about Teddy’s improvement and that he will be going home. Harry Apparated to Grimmauld Place, and found Hermione sitting at the kitchen table reading a textbook. 

Looking up from the book Hermione smiled at him and asked, “All right there Harry?” 

‘Yeah, I’m a bit knackered, but Teddy’s fine so that’s good.” Harry walked to the table and sat across from her. She had several books sitting by her along with a pot of tea and some scones with butter. Harry Summoned a teacup and poured himself some tea before picking up a scone to eat. “What are you reading?” 

“Oh, it is a book on the psychology of workers,” she replied without looking up from the book. “My Dad recommended that I read up on psychological and sociological aspects of workers.” She looked up and saw Harry’s blank stare. Shaking her head at him, she let out a sigh before continuing. “I told him about trying to get House Elves rights and pay. We spoke quite a bit about it. He told me that I should read books like this so I have a better idea how to help the House Elves. He thinks that they may have been enslaved far too long to be given total freedom. That is why I need to have a plan in place to gradually get them to accept that they are worthy of freedom.” 

“These books are about House Elves?” questioned Harry. “They look like Muggle text books to me.” 

“They are silly,” sighed an exasperated Hermione. “You and Ron! Honestly! House Elves are not that different from people. They have feelings too.” 

“What about Goblins?” asked Harry. 

“What about them?” 

“Are you going to fight for their rights? After what happened?” 

Hermione stopped and looked at him for a bit before responding. “Yes. I suppose. You can’t judge an entire species because of a few bad ones. Can you?” Hermione started to read again, and Harry sipped tea and nibbled on a scone for a few minutes. 

“Where are your parents?” asked Harry, as he tried to stifle a yawn. “Are they having a bit of a lie in?” 

“They are at the bank trying to get a loan,” she replied without looking up from her book. “We have found a couple of nice places, but until our house in Australia is sold we are a little strapped for cash.” 

“How much would you need? I could always give you some. I mean. It is my fault you are in this position. Would twenty-five thousand pounds be helpful?” 

“Harry, you don’t have to…” 

“Yes, Hermione, I do. I have the money, and you withdrew all your savings when we went hunting for Horcruxes last year. So! Yes! I insist.” Harry stared intently at Hermione. In his tired and illogical state, he was trying to stare her down so that she would concede to take the money. After about a minute, they both broke out in giggles. Hermione was first and Harry followed. “What are you laughing about, Granger.” 

“The stupid look on your face, Harry. You looked like you had some of Fred and George’s U-No-Poo.” They both started laughing harder at her statement. 

After a couple of minutes, they stopped laughing. Harry took another sip of tea and a bite of his scone. “I wonder how George is doing with the shop?” he asked. 

“Ron said they want to open it soon. They didn’t have a day set yet.” 

Harry sat there and thought about what Hermione said. Ron was working with George at the shop. It was as if he is replacing Fred. “I should go see Ron today,” Harry said quietly. “Ask him if he wants to go into Auror training with me.” 

Hermione seemed to flinch a little when Harry mentioned Auror training. “Harry, are you still going to be an Auror?” 

“I really think that is what I should do.” Harry hesitated for a couple of seconds before continuing. “Ginny, seems to understand.”
 
“You’ve talked to her about it?” When he nodded his head affirmatively, Hermione spoke again. “That’s encouraging that you spoke to her.” She hesitated and bit her lip before continuing. “You once wanted Ron and me to join you as Auror’s…” 

Harry smiled at her. He could tell that she didn’t want to be an Auror, but she also didn’t want to disappoint him. “It’s fine if you don’t want to be and Auror. You and Ron can do whatever you want with your life.” Harry had stressed the words “You and Ron” which caused Hermione to blush a little. It was his turn to laugh at her. 

Harry finished his scone and poured another cup of tea. Hermione was reading, but started to talk again, “Sometimes it feels like I have had two different lives, one with the threat of Voldemort and now one without,” she said in a very reflective mood.

“There are times when I still find myself looking over my shoulder for Death Eaters and Dementors. I know that most of the Death Eaters are in Azkaban, but it’s, as though, a piece of me still hasn’t accepted that the war is over.” The two friends looked at each other for a moment, while thinking about what she had said. 

“I know. All my life was spent finding ways to stay alive until I could defeat him, now that he is gone. My life is so different,” confided Harry. “I am not having nightmares where I see him doing terrible things. Many nights I sleep with only pleasant dreams filling my head. The most amazing thing is…” He reached across the table and laid his hand on top of Hermione’s. “…I still have my close friends, the ones that I love, with me.” 

Hermione looked like she was going to cry, at his words. She wiped her eyes, and started to laugh again, “You certainly have changed Harry. When did you become so in touch with your emotions?” 

“Since, I don’t have a piece of a certain Dark Lord in my head. I must say, getting rid of him has certainly helped me think clearer.” 

“And perform spells better,” added Hermione. “Ginny told me about what happened at the Tonks’. She seems to think that because you no longer have his Horcrux you have become a stronger wizard.” 

“I don’t know about that, but spells and different things seem to be coming to me easier now.” 

“I wonder,” said Hermione as she looked at him with an analytical stare. “I wonder if you can do Occlumency now. Also, if Snape was able to break into your mind…” Harry could tell that Hermione was in her analyzing mode, and nothing he could do would stop her. “…why didn’t he see that piece of Voldemort? You did say he didn’t find out about you until he was Headmaster. Correct?” 

“That is correct, oh grand inquisitor,” mocked Harry. 

Hermione clicked her tongue and stared at him before continuing, “Harry, you have been involved in an area of magic that no one has ever experienced before…” 

“No! Stop! Hermione. You are starting to sound like those Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries. I am not an experiment, and I don’t want to relive those experiences for anyone’s investigative jollies.” 

Hermione looked a little hurt and embarrassed at Harry’s statement. “I didn’t mean to sound like that, Harry,” she said softly. “It is – well – you have seen and experienced things that no one else has and liv – er – are able to tell people about the experience.” 

“Maybe someday, I will tell more people about what I’ve experienced, but not for a while.” Harry sipped more tea. “The pain is still too fresh. The guilt is too powerful.” Looking at Hermione, and seeing the look on her face, Harry continued, “Yes! I am feeling guilty that I survived and others didn’t.” 

“Have you spoken to Ginny about those feelings?” 

“Yes.” 

“And what did she say?” 

Harry sighed, a long sigh like a man who realizes he cannot win an argument. “She said she would curse me in a very painful place, if I don’t stop thinking like that.” 

“Smart girl,” giggled Hermione. She looked back to her book, and Harry grabbed another scone to eat. The two friends sat in a calm comfortable silence for several minutes, until a small hyperactive owl interrupted their peace and tranquility. 

Pig flew out of the kitchen’s fireplace and circled Harry’s head. He reached up to grab it, but it tried to avoid his grasp. After several attempts, Harry was finally able snatch the bird out of the air. “Ruddy bird is getting more hyper with age. I thought animals were supposed to calm down as they got older,” he grumbled, as he tried to untie the note from Pig’s leg. The owl was still trying to fly and was hooting shrilly. 

“Harry, he is probably excited to be delivering messages,” said Hermione between her giggles at Harry’s difficulties. 

Harry was finally able to untie the large scroll from the bird and release it. Pig flew around the kitchen several times at top speed while hooting excitingly, before it flew back up the fireplace’s chimney. After laughing at the owl, he looked down at the scroll. It had a piece of parchment wrapped around a newspaper clipping. It was from Ginny. She wrote on the outside of the scroll to read the parchment first then look at the clipping. Opening the scroll Harry read her message: 

Dear Harry,
Mum and I received your Owl from St. Mungo’s, and decided to give Mrs. Tonks a hand with Teddy today. You can rest up a bit, because Mum also expects you and the Grangers to be here at five for supper.
Love,
Ginny
P.S. I never knew you and Andromeda was so close. Hee-Hee! 


Opening the newspaper clipping, Harry’s jaw dropped and he started to sputter something unintelligible. Hermione grabbed the parchment and clipping out of his hand and started to laugh at him. 

The Daily Prophet had published a picture of him and Andromeda Tonks leaning on each other sleeping at St. Mungo’s. The headline read: Harry Potter’s Love Child in St. Mungo’s. The two friends were laughing so loud that they didn’t hear Hermione’s parents enter the kitchen. 

“What is so funny?” asked Mr. Granger. Hermione handed him the parchment and newspaper clipping. He and his wife read them together, and looked at Harry with amusement. “So Harry, I see you have an attraction to older women,” he quipped. “Keep your hands off my wife.”
 
After everyone shared a laugh, Hermione asked how things went at the bank.
“Not good, dear,” replied her father. “We could get a loan, but with the payments and living expenses, things would be too tight. I think we may have to look at smaller places now.” 

Harry stood up from the table and left the room without a word. He went upstairs to his room and recovered all the Muggle money he had left from the trip to Australia. It totaled over twenty-four thousand pounds. Even though the AMC paid for everything in Australia, Harry still paid for meals and things at the airports while in transit. Walking into the kitchen again, Harry walked up to Mr. Granger and thrust the wad of notes into his hands. “Here take this! If that isn’t enough to get the house you need, then I shall get some more,” stated Harry. 

“Harry, I can’t take this from you,” responded Mr. Granger, looking at the large wad of pound notes. “We will be fine.” He tried to hand it back to Harry. 

“That is what I took to Australia and they wouldn’t take my money there. If you need it, take it, I don’t care.” 

“Harry, are you sure? I think that would be enough for a down payment and living cash.” 

“Yes, I am positive. Why don’t you call the estate broker now and close the deal.” 

The Grangers left immediately to buy a house. Harry was left all alone in the house. He thought about going to sleep, but he wasn’t that tired. He wanted to go see Ron at the joke shop. He walked onto the stoop of his house and Apparated to an alley by the Leaky Cauldron. He had already changed his hair color, and tinted his glasses. He thought a light brownish-blonde hair changed his appearance the most dramatically. It seems to have worked. He walked through the Leaky Cauldron and into Diagon Alley without anyone looking twice at him. 

The joke shop had a sign hanging in the window that said it would be opening in two days. Harry waited for some teens, probably third years to leave, before knocking on the door. He had to knock several times before Ron looked out the window. He looked at Harry with a strange expression before realizing who it was and opening the door for him. 

“Hey Ron, I just stopped by to see how you were doing,” said Harry as he walked into the shop. It looked as if Ron and George were in the process of setting up display racks for the various items. “I hear you’re spending a lot of time here.” 

George smiled at Harry. “I hear you like older women, Harry. Don’t you go using Ginny to get to Mum. It would break her heart,” laughed George. Harry also laughed at his remarks, but when he looked at him; George’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. They remained cold and hard. “I’m going into the back to get more merchandise.” George turned and left Ron and Harry alone. 

“Yeah, I’m trying to help get everything ready for the Grand Reopening in two days,” offered Ron without looking Harry in the eye. “I barely have time to talk to Hermione. How are her parents getting along with the house hunting?” 

“They think they may have found a place. If everything goes well they may be moving out of Grimmauld Place. If you would want to, you could move in. Although, I think Hermione will also be moving out with them.” 

“Aaaah – I don’t know – I’ll think about it.” As Ron was saying this George came out of the back room with a new case of Skiving Snack boxes. He looked pointedly at Ron. Ron in turn blushed and started to get a little nervous. “Well, I guess I should be getting back to work. Thanks for stopping by Harry.” 

“Ron, if you still want to be an Auror, Owl Gwain Robards. They are doing preliminary testing on the second of August.” 

“Oh – a – um – alright I’ll remember that. Thanks Mate.” Harry walked out the door and Ron closed it behind him. 

Harry knew that Ron wasn’t going to Owl Gwain about Auror training. This disappointed Harry, he would be going into Auror training alone. For the first time since Harry walked into Kings Cross Station to board the Hogwarts Express almost eight years ago, he was going to be alone. Ron or Hermione had always been there with him. Harry didn’t want to admit it but he was feeling a little uneasy about doing anything without them by his side.
 
It was Wednesday, and he had his buttered scones with tea so he should do some shopping. He walked around Diagon Alley looking at the various shops. He didn’t buy anything. He needed time to sort out exactly how he was feeling and what he is going to do. 

He walked for several hours, mindlessly wandering the Alley. Until his stomach reminded him, he hadn’t eaten a substantial breakfast. He walked to where Florean Fortesque’s Ice Cream Shoppe used to be. There was a sandwich shoppe there now. He bought himself a sandwich and a bowl of onion soup, and sat at a small table out by the street. He finished these and then bought a Butterbeer. 

As he drank it, he realized something. He has been walking around Diagon Alley for over three hours and no one has recognized him. His Transfiguration techniques must be very good, if no one recognized him. He is the most recognizable wizard in England now. This fact made him happy, now he can now go out in public with Ginny and not get mobbed. If only Ginny approves of his new look. 

Harry started to feel a little guilty for not going to Tonks’ house with Ginny and Mrs. Weasley. He wanted to spend some time with Hermione and Ron today. It doesn’t look like he will be able to do that with Ron. He is definitely a partner, or at least employee number one, of Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Harry started to wonder whom else George has working there. Two of them won’t be enough to stock shelves, wait on customers, and keep people from nicking the merchandise. 

Standing up Harry had made a decision, with less than a month to get ready for the preliminary testing he had better get studying. He walked to Flourish and Blotts and bought textbooks for seventh year students in Potions, Transfiguration, Charms, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. He even bought a book on Household spells. If he wants to live in Grimmauld place, than he is going to have to make it more livable. 

After purchasing his books, he walked past Quality Quidditch Supplies and looked at the new Firebolt. He wanted to buy one, but the reality is he will never need a broom of that quality again. He smiled to himself as he thought of someone who could use a professional quality broom, Ginny. If she wants to play professional Quidditch, than she will need a Firebolt. 

He thought about her birthday coming up. A Firebolt would be a perfect birthday present for her. He never did get her anything for her other birthdays, nor has he given Ron or Hermione many presents. He will have to make it up to them, like Sirius… 

If anyone had been watching him, they would have seen the smile on his face disappear and darkness overshadow his handsome face. Even after two years, the pain of Sirius’ death is like an open wound. A wound that opens the flood gates of guilt and remorse of everyone who died fighting Voldemort. 

Harry left Diagon Alley with his head hung so low, it was bouncing off his chest. He didn’t look up as he walked through the Leaky Cauldron and into a Muggle London alley to Apparate home. He landed on the stoop outside of his house, and entered without looking around. All the depression and sadness that he has kept under control had now overwhelmed him. He dragged himself through the hallway to the kitchen and slumped over onto the table, leaving his package of books by the front door. 

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Unknown to him, Kreacher had noticed his behaviour and was carefully watching him. He stood watch over his depressed master until Hermione and her parents got home. He immediately led her to Harry, who by now was sleeping on the kitchen table. “Master, is not well, Miss. He seemed very sad when he got home,” stated the House Elf in a soft whisper. 

[ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ] 

Hermione walked over to him and gently shook his shoulder. “Harry, you all right? Harry wake up. It is almost time to go to the Weasley’s.” Harry lifted his head up and stared blankly at Hermione. The look in his eyes must have scared her because she sounded panicked when she spoke again. “Harry, what happened to you? You were fine this morning, but now you are – a – mess.” 

He looked away from her and down to his hands. “I was doing fine,” he said in a soft remorseful voice. “Having a good day at Diagon Alley. I even went to Flourish and Blotts to buy textbooks to study for my Auror’s exam.” If he had been looking at Hermione he would have seen the look of shock on her face at him wanting to study over the holidays. “Then I stopped to look at a Firebolt in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies. That’s when it hit me. All the pain of Sirius’ death, the realization of all the people who have died to protect me while fighting against him, washed over me. I couldn’t stop it.” He laid his head back down on the table to keep Hermione from seeing him cry. 

Hermione sat down beside him and put her arm around his shoulders. “Harry, it isn’t your fault. They chose to fight against Voldemort…” 

“I know,” he said as he raised his head up and wiped the tears from his cheeks. “What scares me is how I could be feeling so good one second and the next I was plunged into despair. All I was thinking was how wonderful it was for Sirius to buy me that Firebolt, and …” 

“Harry, remorse can be like that,” said Mr. Granger from across the room. He walked over and sat across the table from him. “I still get choked up about my mother when I see foxglove flowers. She loved them.” He paused to look at the two teenagers. “You two have seen more death than any human should have to endure. Harry, I wish I could tell you that the pain will go away with the years, but it doesn’t. I still get broken up at times about Mum’s passing. Don’t you go thinking that you are weak. There is nothing wrong with feeling remorse from time to time, as long as you don’t let it control your life.” He stopped talking and let Harry think about what he said. After a significant pause, he cheerfully spoke again. “Now, I do believe it is time to go to the Burrow, is it not?” 

Harry was at the Burrow with Hermione and her parents fifteen minutes later. The Grangers told Harry and the Weasley’s about buying a house and being able to move in immediately. Everyone was excited for them. They were definitely on their way back to a normal life. Mr. Weasley had arrived at the Burrow from work only a few minutes before Harry. Bill and Fleur also showed up, to check on Ginny, because they had received an owl from Percy about the attack. Percy was there for the same reason. The only family members in England that weren’t there were Ron and George.
 
Mrs. Weasley was delighted to have a houseful and produced a wonderful meal for everyone. Everyone finished eating around seven, and then pitched in to clean up. During the evening, Harry’s depression subsided and he was smiling and happy again. He did notice Hermione talking to Ginny who seemed to be watching him with a concerned look. Harry didn’t seem to be able to talk to Ginny much before or after the meal because she was talking to Hermione and Bill. He knew that Bill was one of her favorite brothers, so he thought nothing of this. 

Bill, Fleur, and Percy left shortly after the table and dishes were cleaned up. Hermione wanted to wait for Ron, but when he didn’t show up by ten she took her parents home. Harry finally had the opportunity to talk to Ginny alone. They were in their new favorite spot; the bench outside the back door.
 
“Hermione told me about you,” said Ginny deeply concerned. “I thought you had recovered from all that guilt.” 

“I have, well sort of. Mr. Granger said it is normal to feel remorse for many years,” replied Harry. “He even says that he still feels remorse over his mother’s death.” 

“So, you are not blaming yourself, are you?” 

“No. Ginny, I am not. I just get upset when I think about how much fun life would be if they were still with us.” He looked at Ginny and saw her eyes were misty. He supposed she was thinking of Fred, Dora, Remus, and even Colin. 

“I guess that is reasonable,” consoled Ginny. She sat there and looked out at the dark landscape. Clouds covered the moon and stars so the woods around the Burrow were extremely dark and foreboding. As Harry watched her, he noticed that she seems to be nervous about something. 

“Harry, I have been doing some thinking about this coming year. If I want to impress Gwenog Jones, I am going to need a better broom.” She stopped talking at this point and looked away from him. Harry was waiting for her to ask him to buy her one. He was already planning to buy her a Firebolt for her birthday. “I am going to start working at the joke shop for George. He needs the help and I need the gold.” 

Harry was speechless for a couple of seconds. He had thought of many things that she might say, but this wasn’t one of them. “Do you know how much you will be making and what your hours will be?” he asked rather harshly. “Brooms can be very expensive and I hope you don’t end up working the same hours as Ron. I’ll never see you again.” 

“You could always stop by for lunch,” she said meekly. When she said this, the expression on Harry’s face indicated that he was hoping for more time alone with her than that. “Please don’t be mad at me. I just want to get a job and have my own money.” When she said this, she looked pleadingly into his eyes.
 
“I am not mad at you. I was hoping to have some more time with you this summer. When do you start?” 

“Tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, so I need to be getting some sleep. I am sorry if I ruined any of your plans this summer. I do love you.” 

Harry held her tight not wanting to let her go. He had wasted a day. He could have been with her all day but he decided to go to Diagon Alley instead. Ginny finally spoke after realizing that he was acting strange. “Are you all right?” 

“I miss you already Ginny. I could have been with you today.” He stopped talking and gently kissed her. “Can’t we just spend the night here?” 

“I would love to spend it in your arms, but not on this ruddy bench,” she laughed. “Harry it isn’t like we won’t see each other again.” 

Harry pulled back from his hug and stared into her eyes as he gently brushed his hand across her cheek, enjoying the feel of her soft skin beneath his fingers. “I’ve become so use to seeing you every day, that thinking I won’t be able to do that is almost painful to me.” 

Ginny stared at him for a second before wrapping her arms around him and snogging him. They finally quit when they both needed air. Harry had a dazed look and her face was flush and breathing heavy. Finally, after thirty more minutes of snogging, Harry walked to the edge of the Wards and Apparated to his house. 

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Harry woke up the next morning realizing that he wouldn’t be seeing Ginny. He almost considered getting up at six in the morning to go to the Burrow so he could have breakfast with her. He didn’t do this since she isn’t a morning person, and liked to sleep in until the very last possible second before she gets up. 

Hermione and her parents were leaving to buy supplies and furniture for their new house. The money he gave them was enough to get the house they wanted and to set up an office in an addition, so they could start up the dentistry practice again. He thought about asking if he could join them, but reconsidered asking. Hermione hasn’t had time alone with her parents since the summer of their fourth year, and that was only about a month. The most she has seen them has been a week or two since then.
Harry decided that if he was going to stay in this house he will need to start cleaning it. Kreacher has been doing an excellent job with keeping the dust and cobwebs controlled. He hasn’t attempted to clean up or get rid of any of the furniture, draperies, or do anything with the wallpaper. Harry found the book on household spells and began to read it. 

He spent the entire morning reading about the various ways to clean and remodel a house using magic. The book told him that Kreacher could not change anything in the house without being told to. It was one of the magical laws that House Elves are bound by. The one thing that he realized was needed was a plan. Picking up a piece of parchment and a quill, he started in the attic, and spent the rest of the day writing down all the work that needed done in each of the rooms of his house. 

The Grangers returned from their day in time for supper. After eating, Harry started to ask them for their opinions of what he should do with various rooms. Hermione started to tell him the things that she would do, until she suddenly stopped talking and looked at Harry. “Are you sure you want my opinion, Harry? Or should you be asking another witch about this,” she asked and raised her eyebrow at him. 

“Well, Professor McGonagall is rather busy, Hermione,” joked Harry. Hermione glared and clicked her tongue at him. “I plan on asking her opinion. It isn’t like she is going to be living here.” Hermione glared even harder at him, before he finished with a, “Yet! Just because I am asking you for an opinion, it doesn’t mean I’ll be using it.” 

The next morning after the Grangers left to start setting up their new home. Harry sat down in the study and looked through all his books. If he was going to study up for the Auror test in less than a month, he will need to get busy. There is no way he will be able to cover all the material in all the books in one month. He doubts that even Hermione could do that. He needs to come up with a plan for studying and cleaning up his house. 

Transfiguration, Charms, and Defense against the Dark Arts are subjects that he could easily read up on and practice on his own. Herbology is one where he could only read, unless he could get into Hogwarts. Potions is the subject that scares him the most. He could possibly convert some room into a Potion room, and try working both theory and practical Potions in it.
 
He decided to clear out a place in the basement, if he would happen to have an accident it won’t burn its way through floors and ceilings of his house. The rest of the day, he spent reading the Potions book. He decided on different Potions to make, and wrote down a list of ingredients. Tomorrow was the grand reopening of the joke shop, and he was planning to stop by to see Ginny. 

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When the shop reopened, he was one of the first in line to get in. There was only George, Ron, and Ginny working, trying to wait on customers, and make sure no one nicked any of the merchandise. Harry had transfigured his hair and glasses. Ginny looked at him a couple of times but never indicated she knew him. The shop was so full and busy that Harry never got close enough to her to talk. He decided to walk over to Quality Quidditch Supplies and buy her broom, while there he also purchased himself a Nimbus 20002. 

The rest of the day, he would walk into the shop for a few minutes to see if Ginny was on break. The first two times he had to wait outside of the doors for a few minutes to get in. The third time the crowds had finally thinned out enough for him to walk into the shop unimpeded. Finally, around three in the afternoon, He was able to approach her. She was already exhausted. Her face was flush and her hair was a mess. It looked like she hadn’t time to do anything but wait on customers all day. 

Harry walked up to her, and she turned her tired face to him and asked, “May, I help you?” 

“Yes, you can go to lunch with me,” replied Harry. 

Her face turned livid. She hadn’t recognized him. She stood up straight, stuck her chin out, and pointed at him. “Look! I am tired and in no mood to be talked up by some wanker…” She stopped talking because Harry had slid his glasses down his nose exposing his emerald eyes. Ginny relaxed and smiled at him. “I guess I can go to lunch with you. Even if you are a wanker,” she laughed. 

They went to the sandwich shoppe that used to be Fortesque’s. They each picked up a sandwich, crisps, and a bottle of water before sitting outside to eat. As soon as they sat down Ginny kicked her shoes off and complained about her aching feet. Harry ignored his lunch and started to massage her feet. As he did this, Ginny talked about all the customers they had today. Most of them didn’t buy anything. They just wanted to see the shop. Some of them were curiosity seekers. They kept asking Ron about last year. She stopped talking, leaned close to him, and whispered, “What should I call you? I don’t want to say your name in public.” 

Harry thought a little while before responding with a laugh, “James Blonde.” She gave him a quizzical look until he told her it was a Muggle joke. 

She ate and had to get back to the shop. Harry realized that he wouldn’t get anymore quality time with her that day. He stopped at Quality Quidditch Supplies to pick up his purchases. He also stopped at the Apothecary for the reagents for the potions he will be brewing. 

Harry started showing up at one o’clock in the afternoon to take Ginny to lunch. He would listen to her stories about the customers, while rubbing her feet or neck whichever one hurt the most that day. He also sent an Owl to Mrs. Weasley the day after buying Ginny’s Firebolt, telling her about it and seeing if she could keep Ginny from buying a broom before her birthday. The rest of his time was spent studying and working around the house. He had covered the House of Black tapestry over with drapes; this pleased Kreacher because he could still see Master Regulus and his mistress’ name by moving the drapes. He also made several improvements in all the rooms of the house without offending Kreacher. 

The thing that Harry did that offended Kreacher the most was cook. He wanted to start making lunches to take and share with Ginny. His first attempts at cooking were legendary in the mess and poor quality. The most notable was the steak and kidney pie caper. Harry tried to make these pies, and fell asleep while they were in the oven, only to be awakened by acrid black smoke in the house. He opened the windows to vent the smoke. The neighbors called the fire department to investigate the smoke coming from either #11 or #13, since the Muggles could not see #12. Harry watched from inside the house as the firefighters evacuated the homes on both sides of him and still couldn’t find the source. 

Harry also wrote to many other friends at this time; Neville, Seamus, Dean, Luna, and Hagrid. He would drop by the Tonks’ once a week to see Teddy. Hermione had been hired into the Department of Magical Law enforcement the Magical Creature division, as an apprentice. Harry had dropped out of touch with his closest friends. The same people who he seemed to have spent almost every waking moment with were doing other things now. He even went to the Hogs Head in Hogsmeade to meet with Neville, Hagrid, and Aberforth. 

Harry was so busy with his studies and housework that he forgot his birthday was the next day, until he received an owl from Mrs. Weasley. She told him that his birthday party would be the following evening at the Burrow. She also assured him that Ron, Hermione, and Ginny would be able to attend. 

Harry, Hermione, Mr. and Mrs. Granger, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Fleur, and Percy were sitting outside at a dinner table waiting for Ron, Ginny, and George to appear. It had been a beautiful summer day and they decided to eat outside. Everyone around the table was looking at the time wondering if the other three would show up. They were already ninety minutes late. When Ron and Ginny showed up looking very tired, Mrs. Weasley exploded in a tirade. They all started to eat without George. Ginny sat down beside Harry and gave him a look that said she was sorry. 

After the meal was finished, Harry started to open presents. He told everyone that they didn’t need to give him anything. The last present that he opened was Ginny’s. It was a framed picture of the two of them from Australia. Brad Carl had taken it during their stay in Cooktown. The two of them had crawled into a hammock and fell asleep in each others’ arms. Harry loved the picture and kissed Ginny passionately in front of everyone. 

George showed up while Harry was kissing Ginny. He announced that his gift to Harry was a tour of the local pubs and the rest of the Weasley men were invited to tag along. Ron, Bill, and Percy decided to give it a go. Mr. Weasley didn’t have any desire to participate in George’s planned activities. 

They started out at one of the local establishments. They ordered a round of beer and played a game of darts, before moving onto the next pub. They went to three more pubs and did the same thing except they seemed to be ordering more and more beer with each pub. Harry was amazed that Percy and Bill came along and they were able to keep up with George’s drinking. Ron was slowly fading, at the third pub his head started to droop to his chest and stay there. 

At the fourth pub, and tenth round of drinks George looked at Harry with a mischievous look on his face. “Well, Harry, I am wondering what has happened between you and my sister,” George asked in a rather casual tone. 

“Nothing. She is working too much for us to spend any time together,” Harry replied in a jovial manner, as the nine beers had gone to his head. 

“That’s not what I meant. I noticed in that picture, the two of you seem very comfortable together. Have you?” he asked with a wag of his eyebrows. 

“Have I what?” drawled Harry. He was pretty welled trollied by this point and didn’t realize where the conversation was going. “We use to take an afternoon kip together in Australia.” Although Harry was oblivious to the type of questions, George was asking him, the rest of the Weasley men weren’t. Ron’s head was up and he seemed to be wide awake. 

“So, you are telling us that you’ve never shagged our little sister.” 

Harry noticed that all the Weasley’s were staring at him, “No! I’ve already told Ron this.” Harry had become irritated at George interrogating him like this. 

“So, she is still a virgin then,” replied George. 

“Yeah, I guess. She is.” 

“What the hell do you mean by that?” shouted George. 

“I am not the only bloke she has ever gone out with,” snorted Harry. No sooner than the words left his mouth than he realized he had made a huge mistake.
 
Ron, Percy and Bill had looks of outrage. He tried to calm them down by saying that he thinks that Ginny still is a virgin, and he only said that because he was irritated they were questioning him. He told them that he really loves their sister and he wishes that they would trust him not to hurt her. 

The entire time Harry was talking George didn’t say anything, but he sat there with a smile on his face like Christmas had come early.


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