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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 6: Year 1: Hogsmeade
It was a cold day in that time of year between seasons – some would call it late autumn, others early winter. Whichever one it was, both Harry and Ron shivered on their lunchbreak stroll around Westminster in London. Harry had wrapped his home-knitted scarf in Gryffindor’s colours tightly around his neck while making a mental note to thank Mrs Weasley for it once again – it really did come in handy on days like that one.
Fortunately, it was warmer inside the little office in the Auror Department of the Ministry of Magic, where Harry and Ron were seated across from each other, brewing an invisibility potion each. Heat was spreading not only from the embers underneath the two cauldrons that were placed on the desk, but also from the fire cracking in the corner of the room. Harry and Ron could hardly make out each other's faces through the smoke rising up from both cauldrons in front of them – Ron’s was pale yellow, in accordance with the book’s descriptions, but Harry’s had a stronger shade. Then again, potion making had never been his strong suit. He wondered if Snape was smacking his lips at him, wherever he may be.
Auror Training was a lot like school, only more interesting, and it focused on the things they actually wanted to learn. Harry thanked God they didn’t have to study History of Magic or Divination – he was also relieved that none of their teachers were anything like Professor Binns, the incredibly boring history teacher at Hogwarts, or their Divination professor, Trelawney. Harry missed a lot about Hogwarts – especially one person who went there – but those two professors never played any part in his longing to go back.
Harry and Ron were in a special training program, both because they hadn’t finished school and because the Auror Department had suffered great losses during the war and needed its new additions to be fit for fight as soon as possible. Their mentor, Michael Seyrod, was one of the few Aurors that were left, and both Harry and Ron had instantly taken a liking to him. He was a muscular man of average height, and although he probably hadn’t turned thirty-five yet, the bushy, tawny beard that covered his cheeks and his receding hairline made him look much older.
The door to the office suddenly burst open, and Seyrod appeared. He entered the room to inspect his apprentice’s potions, completely ignoring the fact that his sudden appearance had startled Ron, who had almost dropped one if his crystal phials. Somehow, though, he managed to catch it before it hit the floor and broke into a million pieces, and he shot a look at Seyrod while hissing:
“For Merlin’s sake! Trying to give me a heart attack, are you, Seyrod?”
Seyrod grinned and took a look at Ron’s work. “That looks really good. Well done,” he said approvingly, before turning to Harry with an amused look on his face. “You can’t be good at everything, Harry. I think you added the wolfsbane too soon, and I assume you chopped the Valerian nuts instead of crushing them with a mortar?”
Harry sighed, nodded and closed his potions book. He wasn’t too upset over having failed in making the potion. If he’d ever need to be invisible, he’d use his father’s invisibility cloak, not brew a potion. He honestly didn’t see why anyone would need a potion for it – those who didn’t have a cloak could just cast a Disillusionment Charm on themselves, right?
“Cheer up, mate,” Ron said, looking incredibly smug as he patted Harry’s shoulder. “I’m no easy opponent.”
Harry laughed and shook his head, and Seyrod rolled his eyes at them.
“Well, if you two are finished turning your training into a competition, I’ve got something to say that mightl make you want to kiss the ground I walk on," he said. “See, a little bird whispered in my ear that the Hogwarts students are going to Hogsmeade this afternoon, and I can think of two people you’d love to run into there.”
It was like being a kid on Christmas morning. Harry could see a wide smile, like a reflection of his own, grow on Ron’s face. Ginny. He hadn’t thought he would see her until it actually was Christmas. Even though it was only a few months away, it had felt like forever, and now he wouldn’t have to wait that long. He would get to see her today – see her, touch her, talk to her, hug her and kiss her. Every time the Weasley family’s owl landed on the windowsill at the Burrow with two letters tied to its leg – one from Hermione and one from Ginny – Harry missed her more. Most days he wanted to quit Auror Training and go back to Hogwarts, just so he could be with her.
Seyrod couldn’t stop himself from laughing when he saw the excited looks on their faces, and he looked around at the mess on the desks with a sigh. “Why don’t you go right now?” he said generously. “I’ll clean this up. But you have to remember how nice I’m being, okay?”
“We’ll repay you somehow,” said Ron, who had already jumped to his feet and grabbed his bag. “You know we love you for it, Seyrod!”
He winked at his teacher before leaving the room. Harry followed close behind. Ron stopped in the hallway outside the office and raised his wand.
“Wait!” Harry said. “It’s probably better if I do it. You don’t want to get splinched again, do you?”
The bell above the door that lead into Three Broomsticks gave out a tinkling sound as Ginny pushed it open and stepped into the inn, happy to escape the winds, which were even colder there than down in London. She could feel her cheeks heat as the warmth from inside hit her, and looking over her shoulder she could see that her friends' faces had taken a rosy colour. Luna smiled at her and began unwrapping her scarf, and Ginny turned around again to look at the place.
It had changed. Last year, when Snape and the Carrows had controlled Hogwarts, they hadn’t been allowed to visit Hogsmeade at all, so there was no telling when or why Madame Rosmerta had redecorated the place. It seemed to have expanded, but given the fact that it looked the same from the outside, Ginny assumed it had been done with magic. Its old chairs and tables had been replaced with new ones, with cushions that looked as soft as a cloud on every seat and beautifully embroidered tablecloths on each table. The curtains hanging in the windows had changed colour from a deep purple shade to white, and the large chandelier hanging from the ceiling was new.
Madame Rosmerta walked past just them as they stepped inside, carrying a golden tray. The ringing of the bell made her turn her head towards them, and she smiled widely.
“Oh, it’s so lovely to see you again!” she said. “I think there are a few tables available in the back.”
“Thank you,” Ginny said. “It’s nice to see you too. The place looks great.”
“Well, you know, most of it was destroyed that night," Madame Rosmerta said as she began stacking empty glasses onto her tray. “They didn’t just keep to Hogwarts, the Death Eaters.”
A little while later, Ginny, Hermione and Luna had found a table in the back, and they were sipping on three glasses of hot butterbeer while looking out the frosty window. Those who passed by on the street outside – mostly Hogwarts students – had put on their warmest coats and scarfs, and it was difficult not to notice how few of the scarfs that were green and silver. The number of Slytherin students was lower than ever, and it was always sparse at their table in the Great Hall. Many of those whose parents were Death Eaters, or at least had sympathised with Voldemort, had chosen not to come back to Hogwarts; Durmstang had never had so many British students before.
“Ginny, Luna, Hermione!”
Neville’s voice made the girls lift their heads just as he stopped by their table, holding a cup of hot chocolate in his hand. Next to him was Dean Thomas, whose curly hair glistened as though they were covered in frost. He looked a tad uncomfortable, but Neville didn’t seem to notice.
“Can we sit with you?” he asked.
A little while later all five of them had crammed in around the small table. Dean had rushed to the seat next to Ginny’s, which worried her a little. Since they played quidditch together now, they had begun talking again, and she was very relieved to find that they could be good friends despite of everything – although she hadn’t been able to bring herself to tell Harry in any of her letters. Dean placed one of his arms on the seatback of her chair, and she sighed noiselessly. She really hoped he didn't have more than friendship on his mind; that would certainly complicate things. She and Dean were not just part of the same circle of friends, they also spent most evenings together on the Quidditch pitch with the Gryffindor team. She couldn’t afford to lose him as a seeker – he was the only one who had actually caught the Snitch during try-outs, even though they had kept going for nearly two hours.
Hermione, Luna and Neville were in the middle of an intense discussion regarding a Charms essay that Professor Flitwick made them write, and Ginny could see in the corner of her eye how Dean turned his chair so that he faced her.
“Ginny,” he said in a low voice. She turned her head towards him. He was leaning towards her, and he was a bit too close for her to feel entirely comfortable. “I’ve never had the chance to say it,” he continued, “but I’m so glad you’re okay. I thought about you a lot last year when I was on the run.”
“Dean,” Ginny started to say, but he raised his hand to silent her.
“When I got to the Shell Cottage, and Bill assured me you were all right…,” he said, taking a deep breath. “You have no idea how relieved I was.”
He placed his hand over hers. In the next moment, everyone in Three Broomsticks fell silent, except for Madame Rosmerta, who squeaked: “Mr Potter! Mr Weasley!”
Ginny instinctively pulled her hand away, as if she had burned it, and turned around. Half of her heart filled with bliss when she saw Harry and Ron standing right inside the door. The other half saw only Harry’s face. His jaw was clenched and his forehead wrinkled. His gaze wavered between her and Dean, and when it stopped for a moment on Dean’s arm resting on her seatback, Dean quickly removed it and pushed his chair a few inches away from hers.
Hermione got up on her feet. She rushed through the room, zig-zagging between the tables and chairs. When she reached Ron, he wrapped his arms around her, lifted her off the ground and spun her around. Then he put her back down and kissed her passionately, which gave rise to cheering, applause and wolf whistling all around the inn.
Ginny followed Hermione’s example and rose to her feet. She hurried over to Harry, who only stared blankly at her. When she tried to hug him, he didn’t hug her back – he just stood there, his arms hanging straight down, numb in her embrace. She let go of him, pushed the door open and dragged him outside.
“I don’t know what that looked like,” she said and shivered, not knowing if it was from the winds, or from his cold treatment. “I didn’t want to tell you in a letter…”
“I didn’t know Dean was back this year,” was Harry’s only answer. He tore his arm from her grip and started walking away. Ginny hurried after him.
“Harry! Harry Potter!” Her angry voice, which was almost identic to her mother’s, made him stop.
He turned towards her, and much to her surprise Ginny realized that his eyes were full of tears.
“I get it,” he said. “You didn’t know how to tell me…”
“No, I didn’t,” Ginny agreed. “I didn’t want to do it in a letter, so I thought I’d wait until we met face to face to avoid any misunderstandings…”
Harry nodded and turned away while wiping his cheeks with the back of his hand. “You don’t have to say it.”
Ginny sighed in relief and walked over to hug him again, properly this time. But he backed away.
“Stop it,” he said. “You’re only making it harder.”
“Making what harder?” Ginny didn’t know what he was talking about. “I missed you… what did you think I wanted to tell you face to face?”
“That you’re leaving me for Dean.”
“Leaving you? Haven’t I made it clear that there’s no one but you in my world?” Ginny grabbed Harry’s arm, forcing him to meet her eyes. “What I wanted to tell you face to face was that Dean is the seeker on the team, and that we’re friends again.”
Ginny was annoyed, but it didn’t stop Harry from asking:
“So do you always hold hand with your friends? Or sit that close?”
“God, Harry, what’s wrong with you? So he might have shown a little interest today, but you know that I love you! I don’t even see anyone else, and I never will.” She shot him a dark look. “Why are you ruining this? I’ve missed you so much, and now that you’re finally here… don’t be like this.”
And finally, Harry’s face softened. He took a step towards her, wrapped his arms around her and held her close. Ginny hugged him back, closing her eyes and breathing in the scent of him. Then, he bent down his head and kissed her, like he’d never kissed her before, as if he had completely forgotten that they were standing in the middle of the street in Hogsmeade with quite a few spectators around.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I just haven’t seen you in so long, and the first thing I saw was him… I’m sorry. I know you wouldn’t do that, and neither would he. I love you. It’s so good to see you again. I guess I just… I’m just really scared of losing you.”
Ginny leaned her head against his chest. “Don’t be,” she said, “because you never will.”
Back inside Three Broomsticks, Ron had sat down at his friends’ table, resting one arm around Hermione’s shoulders while casting the occasional cold glance at Dean, who sat across from him, unknowingly discussing McGonnagall’s decision to not let Luna comment the upcoming quidditch game between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.
“It’s scandalous!” he said and flung out his arms. “You’re brilliant, Luna, everyone knows it!”
He turned his head towards Ron and raised his eyebrows when he saw the crotchety look on his face. Ron snorted – perhaps Dean thought he was an idiot, but he really wasn’t. He hadn’t missed Dean’s flirting with Ginny, and Ron had two reasons to be upset. Dean had hit on his little sister and his best mate’s girlfriend! If that wasn’t crossing the line, Ron didn’t know what was.
“What’s up, Ron?” Dean finally asked.
“I want you to stay away from Ginny,” Ron told him. “I don’t know if you remember, but she’s with Harry. Your friend Harry.”
“That didn’t stop him from falling in love with her when she was with me,” Dean said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“You should probably move on,” said Luna. “Love tends to be a volatile thing, especially at our age, but not for Harry and Ginny. You know, nargles can steal away the feelings we have for each other, but they can’t seem to do it in this case.”
Dean stared at her, and he looked like he was debating whether he should laugh or just ignore what she’d said. Eventually he smiled and said:
“You’re right, Luna. Perhaps you could ask those nargles to steal away my feelings instead?”
This started a long and convoluted discussion on nargles’ free will and how no witch or wizard had ever managed to tame them – “Of course no one can tame them, they don’t exist!” Ron said – and Hermione tuned out.
“I wonder where Harry and Ginny went,” she said.
“I'm sure they willl be here soon,” Ron answered, grabbing her hand under the table. “I really missed you.”
“I missed you too,” Hermione said and leaned her head against his shoulder. “Don’t get me wrong, I love being back at Hogwarts, but it’s not the same without you.”
“I know what you mean,” Ron said. “I wish you could be with me at the Ministry every day.”
“I might be, next year,” said Hermione, a smile growing on her face. “Professor McGonnagall talked to a few people at the Ministry, because she’s aware of my… passion for the rights of house-elves. Guess what they said? They’re saving me a spot in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures!” She looked so proud that Ron couldn’t help but laugh.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “I can’t think of anyone who’d be better suited for a job like that. Well, maybe Hagrid… but then again, he’d only bring the creatures home with him, so he might not be that good after all!”
The bell by the door, followed by abrupt silence, announced that a certain person had come back into the inn. Sure enough, Ron thought as he lifted his head, Harry and Ginny had just walked in through the door. He smiled when he realized that Ginny was walking close to Harry, holding her arm around his waist with a glowing smile on her face.
“I guess we need to make some more room over here,” said Madame Rosmerta while Harry and Ginny slowly made their way through the room. It seemed like every person in there wanted to shake Harry’s hand, pat him on the back or ask him to sign the coasters with Three Broomstick’s emblem on them.
When they reached the table, Madame Rosmerta had already conjured a larger one and an extra two chairs. As Harry and Ginny sat down, she placed two glasses of butterbeer in front of them. Dean stood up and reached out his hand towards Harry.
“Sorry, mate,” he said. “I won’t try anything like that again.”
“Good,” Harry said and smiled obliquely. “It would be sad if I would have to be mad at you. I like you too much.”
Dean laughed before turning to Ginny. “I guess I should apologise to you too.”
“There’s no need,” she said. “You can make it up to me by catching the Snitch on Saturday before McLaggen has made herself an enemy to the entire team, forcing someone – like me – to send a Bludger at her.”
Caroline McLaggen had turned out to be even more intolerable than her older brother. Had it not been for the fact that she’d only let in three goals during the last two games, Ginny would have gladly kicked her off the team long ago.
“McLaggen?” said Harry in surprise.
“McLaggen?” Ron echoed. “He’s older than us, what’s he doing here? Hermione?”
“This is his little sister,” Neville explained.
“But she’s about as pleasant as Cormac,” Dean added. “She can drive half the team mad before Madame Hooch has even thrown the Quaffle in the air.”
“And is she a Keeper?” Harry asked. “Like Cormac?”
“Yes,” Ginny answered. “And unfortunately a very good one. So I can’t have her replaced.”
“Look,” said Luna, who had been quiet for the last couple of minutes. “It’s snowing.”
Indeed, large snowflakes were whirling to the ground outside the window, glistening in the light of the street lamps before finally landing soundlessly on the cobblestone street. It was getting darker, and most student had started moving back towards the castle for dinner. Regretfully, Hermione turned her eyes from the window and towards the large clock behind the bar, feeling her heart sink as she realised the time.
When the group reached the entrance gates to Hogwarts, Dean, Neville and Luna quickly said their goodbyes and moved along to give the couples a bit of privacy. Ron gave Ginny a quick hug before he wrapped Hermione in his arms and kissed her one last time.
“I’ll write,” he promised.
Hermione smiled. "I almost believe you."
Harry hesitated for a moment before he pulled Ginny into a close embrace. He kissed her softly and ran his hand through her hair, which was full of little white crystals. “I’ll see you at Christmas.”
And the snowflakes that were still whirling from the sky, a few of them landing ever so gently in Ginny's red hair, the biting cold that turned their exhalations into white smoke and the thin, white layer of snow that creeked under their feet as they walked, made it feel like it wasn’t such a long time away.
A/N: If you've got time, please leave a review and let me know what you thought of this chapter. I actually just rewrote it, because I didn't like the first draft. Any comments will be weolcomed! :)
Also, I don't really think Harry's the jealous type, but I figured the distance takes its toll even on him! I would love to hear what you think.