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Harry Potter and the Final Riddle by Timechild
Chapter 7 : The Announcement
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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The first couple of weeks went by relatively smoothly. As McGonagall had warned, the four of them found themselves to be the center of attention for the whole school. Ginny had proven to be more than her word by just taking Harry’s arm when they were walking together in public. Ron and Hermione were still holding hands as they walked together. Wherever they went, there would be a crowd of students following them and staring. Ron and Hermione just nodded to them. By the end of the third week, it was decided that there was no way that “the secret” was going to make it to Christmas, as there was just too much gossip going on anyway.

Therefore, on Monday morning of the fourth week, there was a call for the entire School to attend a special breakfast. While the students were eating, Fudge called everyone to attention.

“I have an announcement to make. Everyone please keep eating if they so desire, but give me your undivided attention for the next few moments.” Everyone turned and looked at the Headmaster.

“One of the more enjoyable duties of being Headmaster is the ability to substitute myth with fact so that no one is left guessing at the truth. It is in that duty that I inform you of what I have to say now. There have been a number of rumors circulating about the goings on of two particular seventh-year students that has risen quite a bit of speculation. So now, it is time to put that speculation to rest. If Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger will please rise…” Ron and Hermione stood up on cue, still holding hands. “It gives me great pleasure to announce that Mr. Ronald Weasley and Miss Hermione Granger of Gryffindor House are engaged to be married.”

Most of the students rose to their feet in a standing ovation. Ron and simply waved at the students while Hermione put her hands over her mouth and her head in Ron’s shoulder. She, for one, was not expecting this kind of positive response. The only noted absence from the ovation came exclusively from parts of the Slytherin table, although many of them were also on their feet. Harry and Ginny stood with the Teachers when they added their applause to the gathering.

“Yes, indeed, congratulations and best wishes to the both of you. Now, anyone who would like to add his or her own wishes may do so here at breakfast. We are asking, however, that we keep such only for here and now. We do need to keeping feeding our students knowledge and the happy couple also need to study.”

“Headmaster…” Hermione said as she turned to face Fudge, “we have a request to make.”

“Yes, dear, what is that?”

“We would like to be married here at Hogwarts during Spring Break.”

The crowd was now shouting and stomping their feet. Ron turned Hermione back to him and gave her a look.

“Ron, you’re not?” She thought at him with eyebrows raised.

“Yes, my love, I am.” And with that, he kissed her right in front of the entire Hall. He then did something even more surprising. He got down on his right knee and pulled out a box. Hermione gasped when she saw him open it and saw the small diamond ring contained inside. “This is how I am supposed to do this part, right?” He thought to her. She simply nodded. Harry nudged Ron that now was when he puts the ring on her finger and kisses her again. Hermione shot a look at Harry. Apparently, the two of them had collaborated on this for quite a while. Ron then rose up and took Hermione’s right hand. He carefully put the ring on her ring finger and she watched in amazement as it automatically sized itself to perfection. He then gave her another kiss. The wolf-whistles and whoops went out in force from the crowd. Most of the Muggle-Borns were explaining to the rest that this is the traditional way of asking for a woman’s hand in marriage. Most of those from wizarding families were either nodding or, if they weren’t one of those whistling, just dropped jaw shocked.

“But Ron, where did you get the money for this?” Hermione was completely perplexed.

“Believe it or not, I sold an idea to Fred and George.” He thought in reply.

“What idea?”

Ron laughed a little. “I will tell you later, but it was just a flash idea, that actually worked.”

“Order! Order please!” Fudge commanded. Everyone settled down as he raised his hands and then lowered them for all to resume their seats. “Well, now. I assume we have just witnessed how they do proposals in the Muggle community?”

“Yes, Headmaster.” Ron replied. Hermione was still so surprised that she couldn’t speak. The tears of joy were streaming down her face as she put her head back into Ron’s shoulder.

“Very good, very good. Now then, while everyone was enjoying you getting down on one knee for Miss Granger, the teachers have taken a quick vote and your request to be married at Hogwarts on Spring Break is wholeheartedly approved.”

The crowd erupted again in applause. Colin Creevy shouted out from the crowd “Does this mean we’re all invited?” The crowd immediately hushed when he said that. Colin realized at that moment that he might have just made a serious miscue in etiquette.

“Hmm, now let me see.” Ron said, rubbing his chin and looking quite serious as Hermione looked puzzled at what he was thinking. “Everyone invited? Professor McGonagall, would we have enough chairs to do that, say, in the center lawn?”

“I believe so.” McGonagall replied

“And there is the question of food and who could prepare it.”

“I will, Mr. Weasley sir, with help of course.” Everyone looked around and there stood Dobby.

“Why thank you Dobby.” Ron was still rubbing his chin, but he raised an eyebrow at Harry. Harry could tell that Ron was enjoying this. Hermione still wasn’t sure what was going on.

“Tell you what, Colin, let’s you and I make a deal. Here is the deal. Everyone is invited if you do two things. You, personally, as in Colin Creevy.”

“Okay…” said Colin, “what are they?”

“Number One, you will not take any pictures of Hermione and me before the wedding, starting now.”

Colin looked dejected, but said “OK”

Ron went on, “and Number Two, you take ALL the pictures AT the wedding!” Hermione smiled as soon as he said this.

“You mean it? Me?” Colin jumped up and down.

“Yes Colin, he means it.” Hermione finally got out while giving Ron an ‘I’m so proud of you’ look. “Do you think you can handle it? A wedding is much different than trying to be a news photographer.”

“What I don’t know now, I will by then, Promise!!!”

“Then we have a deal.” Ron announced to the shouts of joy from the crowd.

“Brilliant, my love.” Hermione said to her betrothed.

“Thank You, though I admit I had just thought of that right after he asked that silly question.”

“Quick thinking.” She smiled at him again.

“Congratulations!” Said the Patil twins. Ron and Hermione both looked surprised at seeing them.

“Thanks, I didn’t know you were back. I thought your mother pulled you out of here permanently.” Hermione said to Pavrati.

“She did, but over the summer we convinced her that it was actually still safer here than at home. Besides, we wanted to come back and see what we can do to help.”

“I will let Harry know.” Said Ron. The girls bowed ceremoniously to the couple and moved on. The next one to come up was Lavender Brown.

“Many happy years to you two.” She said. Both Ron and Hermione were a little embarrassed. “It’s all right; I knew sooner or later you two would be together. It was just a matter of time. The whole House knew it too.”

“Really?” Said Ron; looking perplexed. The statement confused Hermione as well.

“Yes, of course. We were betting you two would be together after the Chamber incident. When it didn’t happen, some of us thought we might have a chance with you, Ron. But after last year and you getting poisoned, it was obvious.” She reached over and kissed Ron’s cheek. “It was fun while it lasted, but I knew deep down I had no chance. She completes you, Ron.”

Hermione simply dropped her jaw at Lavender’s statement. Ron blushed as she simply smiled and walked on. Hermione looked at Ron with total amazement.

“She saw that?” Hermione asked

“I’m still stuck on the whole House seeing that, love. They sure kept their views secret, didn’t they?” Ron responded. He then looked at Hermione and smiled. “But she is right on one thing, you do complete me, my love.”

Hermione’s eyes welled up with tears again as she looked deeply into Ron, who let everything he felt right now open for her to see inside her mind. That was their commitment to each other, to let each see all of the other, good and bad, up and down. Ron’s soul seemed to shout how much Hermione had made him whole. Suddenly, without warning, she threw her arms around him and planted the most passionate kiss yet.

“Oh Ron, my dearest…”

The crowd actually stop shouting and came to almost a dead silence. The air around them had begun to crackle with an almost electric aura of energy dancing in swirls and flickers. Up above at the teacher’s table, Harry was holding Ginny quite close to him. They were both beaming with joy at their “brother and sister.” The happiness was apparent from everywhere in the room. Even McGonagall, who seldom displays any emotion, was seen smiling down on Ron and Hermione with a look of complete satisfaction. When they finally broke their kiss and looked again in each other’s eyes, the energy surrounding them was almost blinding. They then touched noses, and the room seemed to explode with the pent up energy that had built from their embrace. Almost everyone was simply caught in the moment. Even some of the students were simply going “wow” at this sight. The moment seemed to just stand still in time, until a familiar shrieking voice broke the mood with a start.

“Oh how cute! They make such a perfect couple!” someone shouted in a very sarcastic voice. Everyone turned and saw Pansy Parkinson walking towards Ron and Hermione followed by several of the Slytherins who did not rise at the announcement. “Everyone’s favorite little couple is going to get married here at the school. Oh how sweet…YUCK!” The Slytherins behind her laughed as she made a face. Hermione looked Parkinson right in the eye.

“No one is forcing you to attend, Parkinson. If you want no part of it, feel free not to show that day. It is Spring Break after all; you may do as you please.” She said with a blazing look on her face. “I will not feel the least bit offended if you decide to go elsewhere.”

“Nor I.” Said Ron. “In fact, I could care less what you do.” He was so matter-of-fact about it that Parkinson stood straight up in surprise. No one had ever seen Ron just brush off such a comment before. Either he got mad or was saddened by this type of criticism, but now he just brushed his hand in the air as if it was nothing. Harry, Ginny, McGonagall, Moody, and even Fudge couldn’t help but smile at this.

“We don’t plan to, any of us.” She stated with clenched teeth. Those behind her reinforced that notion.

Ron, to everyone’s glee, just spun his finger in the air in a “whoop” motion.

“However, as everyone else is giving you their best wishes on your engagement, we thought we would add ours as we’re leaving.”

She leaned close into then and whispered in Hermione’s ear.

“Our wish is that Draco had been successful in his quest this last summer, Mudblood.”

Hermione almost shrieked when she heard Parkinson’s remark about Malfoy’s attempted rape of her. Somehow, she had known about it, and worse, loved the idea. The Slytherins behind her laughed and pointed. Ron was no longer nonchalant, but he had his wand out before anyone could intervene. The hard look in his eyes told the general population that what they had not heard, that Ron had, was bad; and that they should duck for cover. Parkinson, however, was completely laughing.

“Go ahead, Weasel-by, hit me with something. By the time my father is done with you. Little Miss Mudblood will be on her own and ripe for the picking!”

“No, Ron, she’s bating you. Don’t do anything. She means it, her father is connected.”

“Yeah, one problem Parkinson.” Ron said smiling.

“What’s that?”

“My wand works well this time. Eat slugs!”

Suddenly, Parkinson doubled over with her arms on her stomach as if someone had punched her. Then, all of a sudden, she belched, and out came two large yellow slugs.

“Tell me, Professor Potter, do you find that an acceptable penalty for such offensive language?” Ron turned to Harry. Hermione looked at Ron with surprise.

“Hmmm, yes I think that works well, almost. Horace, I am afraid I am taking one hundred points from Slytherin House for the use of that kind of filthy language by Miss Parkinson.”

“I am afraid I have to agree, Harry. Now if you will excuse me, I have a few detentions to assign to this lot for their unwarranted demonstration.” Slughorn led the dissenters out of the hall with a few chosen words that Professors were not supposed to say. Harry chuckled at Parkinson and her band, as the Slytherin Head along with Filch and Hagrid escorted them; the latter having risen to make sure that none of the other dissenters tried anything.

As they reached the door, the one called Nott turned and shouted, “This isn’t over Potter! There are still quite a few surprises waiting for you!”

“If this is the best you got, then it damn well better be, boy!” Ron shouted back at him.

As soon as the door closed, Ginny ran over to Hermione and put her arm around her shoulder. Hermione was in tears, but this time of pain as the memory of Malfoy came flooding back. Ron was enraged; and now showed it as the source had been removed.

“Tell me there is some way we can kick those bloody hellions out!” He shouted.

“Unfortunately not. Mr. Weasley. I must say though you reacted with considerable grace given what I believe Miss Parkinson had whispered to you.” Said Fudge. “Your actions and those of Mr. Potter and Mr. Slughorn are the appropriate ones. We cannot, however, expel students for not liking other students; although I wish we could in this case.”

“Hermione, my love, everything is going to be all right. They aren’t going to hurt you, no way. If they try, there is going to be a lot of piece-parts that have to be mopped up…all of them theirs.” He hugged and kissed Hermione and rocked her until she, at last, stopped crying and looked up at him. She was smiling again.

“Oh my hero. You came to my rescue again. I was so worried that there was going to be blood spilled; on this our day of announcement. I was afraid that Parkinson had goaded you into something she could have you arrested for.”

“And give that little brat something to gloat over…not today, my love. Her words were the most offensive things I have ever heard out of any woman’s mouth. However, she didn’t touch you. If she had hurt you, then that would have been a different matter.”

“Pansy’s way is too smart for that, Ron.” Came a voice from across the room. A Slytherin third year that he did not know came up to him and shook his hand. “Michael Hunter, nice to meet you.” Ron nodded. “Look, we just wanted you to know that the rest of us in Slytherin are not in with that lot. We wish you two the best. We knew they didn’t like you, but we had no idea they were planning to take it that far. I mean, we guessed that this breakfast was about either you two or your sister and Professor Potter, but we knew nothing of their plans. No hard feelings…sir?”

Ron looked at the youngster for quite a while, and then shook his hand again. “No hard feelings mate. Believe me, I understand having someone in your house doing things that you just can’t believe they would do.”

Everyone clapped when they shook hands the second time, then the rest of the Hall came over in small numbers to congratulate Ron and Hermione. Ginny walked over to Harry and stood beside him. Ron and Hermione were, once again, all smiles; but Hermione never left Ron’s shoulder.

“This shook her bad, love.” Ginny thought to Harry. “There is got to be something more we can do. As long as Parkinson and her lot are here, they will continue to make things as miserable as possible for them.”

“I agree, but as Fudge said, we have no grounds.”

“How would he know? He’s only been Headmaster one month. Maybe we are asking the wrong Headmaster?” Ginny nodded in the direction of the Room of Requirement. “Wouldn’t hurt to ask?”

Harry nodded, and they went around the crowd and headed out the door towards the seventh floor.

***

Unfortunately, when they arrived, Dumbledore’s portrait had no better news for them then Fudge did.

“Very disturbing, indeed. Nevertheless, the Headmaster is correct; all appropriate actions have been taken. Their conduct, while offensive, is not criminal in any way.” He told Ginny when she gave him a detailed report of what had just happened in the main hall.

“It just isn’t right. You should have seen them, Professor, before that evil girl said those rotten things. They looked so happy. She was beaming, and Ron had just gotten down on one knee. Everyone was cheering and they looked in such bliss. And that Hag Parkinson had to ruin it all.” Ginny hissed.

“Yes, you are quite right, Ginny. Ron and Hermione deserved better. Although I am surprised that they chose to say those things in such an open forum. I would have thought that they would have waited until a more private setting to make such a comment.”

“There’s no way they could have, Dumbledore.” Harry chimed in. “We have been moved to the East Tower and all are classes are in here to keep away from gawkers. This was their one and only chance.”

“Ah, yes that does explain things. The main thing is that Mr. Weasley did not overreact.”

“Yeah, I was surprised too. Though it was fun to watch Parkinson spitting up slugs. I can’t believe he remembered that.”

“And I am surmising correctly that you found it fun to dock Slytherin one hundred points; given how many Snape had taken away from you in your career.”

“Actually, no. One of the things I promised myself when I accepted this position was that I would not retaliate for Snape or Malfoy. I did it because it was appropriate only.”

“You did well, Harry. Now, seeing as I have both of you here, let’s get practicing, shall we?”

Harry and Ginny looked at each other and said, “Yes sir!”

Dumbledore and the rest of the portraits began putting Harry and Ginny through several drills designed to disarm and deflect spells more serious than the usual jinxes and curses used in dueling and combat. To the surprise of all the portraits, Harry was able to deflect all the spells that were thrown at him by the simulators, even the Adva Kedavra curse; which was thrown by the simulated opponent and to which Harry blocked easily. To everybody’s surprise, including Harry’s, Ginny also easily deflected all the major curses thrown, until the Opponent began the killing curse, Harry shut down the simulation.

“Harry! What did you do that for? He couldn’t hurt me.” Ginny exclaimed.

“There is a difference between the other curses and this one. If you don’t block this one, you die.” Harry retaliated.

“It isn’t like we’re going against Voldemort here; this thing isn’t even at level five. He wasn’t getting through me.”

“I can’t take that chance, Ginny. Not with you, nor Ron, nor Hermione.”

Ginny looked at him with complete despair. How can she prove to him that she can handle anything that might come up if he is going to place safeguards on everything and try to keep her away from the danger? Harry saw the look on her face and nodded that he understood.

“I can guess how you’re feeling, love. But I told you this is how it has to be. Remember what I said at Dumbledore’s funeral. What if that was yours because of me? I can’t take that chance. Too many have died for me as it is. If I lived to see your funeral, I would go mad. I am only taking Ron and/or Hermione along anywhere only if I cannot get away with not taking them. I need to know you are here and safe. I know you don’t like this, and I am not saying your powers are weak or incompetent in any way.”

“I know you’re not,” she said quietly, “but how can I help you when I’m not there?”

“By giving me one less thing to worry about…” Harry replied and stroked her shoulder. Ginny loved the caress, but inside her, there was a gnawing and it wasn’t for attention. The reality of Harry’s mission was hitting her. He would soon be leaving on his quest, and she would be here without him. It was growing inside her like a cancer, with the pain beginning to well up.

“Are you ok, my love?” Harry asked as some of the feelings had transferred to him.

“It’s nothing but a little disappointment, darling. I had hoped to be able to help you find the Horcruxes, that’s all.” She lied and tucked the feelings deep inside. She hated using Occlumency on Harry, but she was not going to show any type of fear and pain in front of him. He saw her as strong and accepting, and that was what had to be.

“Harry!” Hermione shouted as she came running into the room. “You’re not going to believe this, but we found Hufflepuff’s Cup.”

“Where?” Harry asked.

Ron came running in just then, “That’s even weirder, Australia.”

“Are you sure about that?” Ginny asked, “That doesn’t sound anywhere close to right. How did it get out of England?”

“That’s the funny part, it got passed around over the last forty some odd years until it ended up in the hands of this computer baron who made millions on the dot com faze a few years ago. He took it with him to Australia when he left to avoid US Income taxes.”

“Sounds right up there with the kind of stuff we deal with.” Harry said, almost laughing. “So where is this guy?”

“That’s the bad news. He died about six months ago of a mysterious illness. The cup was left to some museum in his will, but it doesn’t say which one.” Hermione said

“Great! Now how do we get it?”

“Well, we could steal it?”

“Hermione?!?!” Ron said startled.

“Hear me out. I also discovered that there is a poker tournament going on in Australia right now where all the major players are playing in Sydney.”

“Ok, what has this got to do with the Cup?” Asked Harry.

“I just happen to know one of those players. He was my next-door neighbor before I came to Hogwarts. He’s a top player now, but before he took up poker…well…he was a thief; and a pretty good one I hear.”

“Oh, really, and you think he might be willing to help us in this little, ah, problem?”

“I don’t know, but he just might have some idea. We can always modify his memory later, but he has never refused me before. Although…”

“Although what?”

“Well, he never said goodbye to me when I left for Hogwarts for first year, and he moved away by the time I got home for the summer. His parents told me that he never wanted to have anything to do with me again, but that didn’t make sense after all those nights. He knew I was different, and never said anything bad. Also, I never trusted his parents.”

“Why not?”

“Because he never did.”

“Wait a minute, what nights?” Ron asked, the thought suddenly dawning on him.

“Ron! It wasn’t anything like that. He was just a…um…companion when I was younger.”

“How much younger?”

“Eight”

“Eight?? How old was he and what was he doing?”

“He would come over when my parents were going out to…well, you know, keep me company. He’s twenty-three now, so that would have made him about…fourteen-ish?”

Ginny started laughing hysterically. Harry was looking at her as if she had just gone off the deep end. Hermione shot her a look of complete anger.

“And what’s so funny?” She asked her.

“I just got it!! He was your babysitter!”

Ron sputtered, and then tried very hard not to laugh. Harry’s face contorted to a smile, but he managed to keep it straight. Hermione, however, was flushing totally red with embarrassment.

“All right!” She shouted. “He was my babysitter! Fine! Happy?”

“That depends.” Ginny thought to her, “Is he cute?” She then giggled again. “What fun is it to talk about your babysitter if he wasn’t cute?”

“Well, yes, I guess you can say he was kind of cute.” Hermione thought back at her, and then started giggling herself. Soon both women were laughing aloud and hugging. Ron and Harry just stared and shrugged their shoulders.

“Lucky you,” Ginny said out loud, “all I ever got were Fred and George, and they were not fun.”

“Well, Jayson was fun most of the time. I never thought of him as a babysitter because we spent most of the time either in homework or in discussing things like literature, music, movies. He just never treated me like a child.”

“You two had the same homework?” Ginny asked puzzled.

“Well, Jayson wasn’t the most studious, and my homework was very advanced for an eight year old; which is why Jayson was probably my only friend in the Muggle world. However, he knew a lot about art, especially antiques. The one time I got a report topic I couldn’t handle it was in History, and Jayson helped me do it on Egyptian antiquities of the Pre-King Tut Pharaohs.”

“How did you do?”

“I got an ‘A+’, and harassed by some of the boys in my class as an ugly little bookworm. I would have been in major trouble if Jayson hadn’t been walking home from his school early.”

“What did he do?”

“Beat the snot out of them, then decided I needed to know Judo. It was Jayson that taught me.”

“He sounds like a neat guy. I’m sure he’ll help us now if you ask him.” Ginny said very sedately. She just realized that Hermione now had a reason to go with Harry. She grew envious of her, but she pushed that aside too rationalizing that it was her friend and for the cause. She looked at Harry with total seriousness. “You have to take her with you to Australia if you’re going to stand any chance with this guy. Remember, the name Harry Potter does not mean much in the Muggle World. I am also guessing that it doesn’t in the Poker World either.”

“No I suppose you’re right. Anyway, we will leave on Friday night after dinner. In the meantime, can you get any more information on how we can get in touch with this Jayson guy?” Harry asked.

“I’ll try.” Hermione said.

“Good, now I think some food is in order. Then we need to get lessons ready for our students tomorrow.”

“Not to mention your own homework.” Dumbledore’s portrait stated.

“Right. Now we need to get to it. Good Night Dumbledore.”

“Good Night Harry. Good Night Everyone!”

“Good Night Professor!” Ron and Hermione said as Harry headed out the door. Ginny started to follow, although slower. Her face beginning to look sullen.

“Miss Weasley?” Dumbledore stated. She turned to face him.

“Yes Professor?”

“Please, call me Albus.”

“OK…Albus. That will take getting used to.”

“I know. Is there something you want to get off your chest, Ginny?”
Ginny stared at the painting for a while. Could portraits use Legilimency, she wondered? She had been careful not to let any emotion show to anyone, for she did not want anyone to think she was too immature to handle the situation. She shook her head.

“No, sir, it’s nothing.”

“It isn’t nothing, Ginny, but I will not push the point tonight. But there is something to bear in mind. Emotion never goes away, and ‘growing up’ does not mean losing one’s pain.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Good Night, Ginny.” With that, she exited and went to the Hall.

***

The next days went with such a commotion that they seemed to blend together. Almost everyone was surprised to see Ginny sitting down to lunch at the Gryffindor table, as it was explained that they would be taking their meals in the tower. Ginny hadn’t even noticed that everyone was looking at her until Hermione showed up looking for her. She almost asked her why she was sitting there when she looked at Ginny’s face. Her expression was depressed and her eyes blank.

“You can’t keep it bottled up forever, Sis, even Occlumency doesn’t work that well.” Hermione thought at her so that no one else could hear. Ginny looked up at her and then looked around. She jumped when she realized where she was.

“How did I get here?” she yelled.

“You walked here from the Room, Sis. We were starting to get worried, so I came looking for you.”

“I’m fine, Hermione, I just needed to do some thinking.”

To her surprise, Hermione laughed. “Fine? I don’t think so. You’re upset with Harry not taking you. Well join the club. I already told him that he needs to stop being so protective of you.”

“You did? Thanks, but that’s not it.” She said back

“Aha, then there is something.”

“It’s just silly, Hermione, and please don’t tell Harry or Ron, please?”

Hermione just looked at her for a moment. “All right, I won’t, but you will have to sooner or later. It’s noticeable.”

“I’ll work on it.” Said Ginny.

“Good, now we have to help with classes?”

They scurried off to the Defense Against the Darks Arts classrooms, only to find a note to assemble in the Room of Requirement. They went up to find the students on pillows much in the same way that the D.A. had been two years earlier. Harry looked over at them and smiled. Ginny walked over and kissed Harry on the cheek.

“What happened to you?” He asked her

“Ate at the common room, old habits I guess.” Ginny said with a warm smile.

Harry chuckled then set the students off to work with disarming spells. Like the D.A. before them, the students paired off and began attempting the spells while Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione passed by offering assistance and tips. Harry walked around a wider loop and watched the whole scene, including the fact that Ginny seemed to be enjoying herself helping the first years. Hermione and Ron were working with four students in the West corner to improve their technique. Suddenly, there came a shout as one student seemed to go wild. He had disarmed six students in a row.

“Well now, showing off a bit are we?” Hermione asked the first-year.

“Expelliarmus!” the boy shouted and pointed in Harry’s direction. Harry’s wand flew out of his hand and landed just in front of Ginny, who let out an audible gasp and started to raise her wand. Harry simply looked at her and waved his hand.

“It’s all right love, he is no danger.” He thought to her, and then turned to the boy. “What’s your name?”

“Cedric McLaggen” the boy said with a grin on his face.

“That’s Cedric McLaggen, sir.” Said Ron, clearly angry, “This is a teacher you are addressing.”

“A teacher who took a hundred points from my house because he felt insulted for his friends.” The boy shot back. “If you don’t like it Weasley, too bad, deal with it.”

“McLaggen? Any relation to Cormac?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, he’s my brother, who’s now playing keeper professionally in the Senior League.” Said Cedric with a proud haunch.

Harry remembered Cormac well, and could see the family resemblance. His younger brother was not as tall or as stocky as Cormac, but the face was similar. Most of all, he had the attitude.

“How is it that you ended up in Slytherin? Your brother was in Gryffindor.” Harry asked.

“Well, he was the only one. All the rest of us got in Slytherin. He wanted Gryffindor to play Quidditch. What a waste, he never got on the team except one game, and he had to carry the whole team so much they lost badly.”

“Excuse me, we were there, and that is not what happened.” Snarled Ginny.

“Yeah, right, like I’m supposed to believe you. You and your brother were the reasons he was locked out. And everyone knows why to, because of ‘Professor Potter’ here playing favorites.” He said snidely.

“Well, now” said Ginny, with an evil looking grin on her face. “You think you’re quite accomplished at disarming are you?”

“I just got the great Harry Potter, didn’t I?”

“Only because you turned on him when he wasn’t prepared. Quite a cheap shot, if you ask me. But then, your brother believed in cheap shots too.” Ginny shot at him.

“Take that back, or so help me I’ll…”

“You’ll what? Disarm me? I will bet you five hundred house points you can’t.”

“What?”

“You heard me, I’m an assistant here, and I can give or take house points. Simple contest, you disarm me, you get five hundred. You don’t, you lose five hundred. Anything wrong with your hearing?”

“No!” Said Cedric in an angry voice.

“Was there any part of this bet you didn’t understand?”

“Nope, sounds clear to me, I accept. I get one chance I take it.”

“Actually, you can have any number you want so long as you are holding your wand.”

“Good…Expelliarmus!” Cedric shouted and pointed toward Ginny. Everyone gasped, but Ginny simply blocked the shot and it hit the wall.

“Is that the best you can do, boy?”

“Expelliarmus!” he shouted again, but again Ginny simply parried and the shot went to the wall.

“Boring me boy!” Ginny yawned. Harry was very surprised at the nonchalance in which she was frustrating the daylights out of McLaggen. Surprised, and yet somehow, also proud. He should be upset at the manner of Ginny’s challenge, but he wasn’t. In fact, the only thing he was mad at was that he didn’t think of it first.

McLaggen was beet red in the face, while Ginny was simply looking as if she had just walked off the carriage after a Sunday ride. She even twirled her hair once, just to upset the boy.

“Expelliarmus!” “Expelliarmus!” “Expelliarmus!” McLaggen shouted in succession with a look of glee. Everyone froze; not expecting a first year to be able to rapid fire spells like this. Ginny’s look became stone cold serious and she pointed her wand right at the three white streaks of light.

“Alto Protego!” she thought to herself, and with a wave of her wand, all three lights bounced right back at McLaggen. One took out his wand, one hit him in the shoulder, and the last shot him back about six feet. Ginny just quietly walked over to McLaggen and smiled.

“No wand, Cedric, match is over, you lose. Five hundred from Slytherin for your arrogance. And that is ‘Professor Potter, sir’ from now on, or your house loses another five hundred for each time you forget.” With that, she simply walked away to the far end of the practice field, grabbed a book, and sat down to read. She was still playing with her hair while she was reading.

“You’re actually lucky, McLaggen. All she did was use your own spells against you. When it comes to dueling and jinxes, Miss Weasley is probably the best in the school.” Hermione came over and said to the boy. “I wouldn’t get on her bad side again, as your carcass may not survive it.” Harry started to say something, thinking this was now out of hand, when a voice he wasn’t expecting rose up.

“A very wise piece of advice, Miss Granger.” Dumbledore said through his portrait, shocking the class. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Albus Dumbledore. Until my death last year, I was the Headmaster here. In fact, I served as such for the longest tenure of any Headmaster of record.” The first years all bowed, except McLaggen who was still on the floor. “It is not only inappropriate to disrespect a teacher in any way, it is very foolish. As you could tell from Miss Weasley’s demonstration, the four people teaching you are head and shoulders above everyone else in this school on this subject, the rest of the staff included. You would be wise to pay much closer attention from now on. My apologies, Professor Potter, for interrupting.”

“Not at all, Albus, you have earned the right to speak any time you feel the need.” Harry replied in a confidence he didn’t quite share yet. The message of Dumbledore’s words were clear, he approved of Ginny’s actions. But why? He would need to ask later.

“Alright, class dismissed. Practice those spells and be ready for Mr. and Miss Weasley on Monday. Miss Granger and I have a trip we need to take for the school and will be gone for awhile.”

The students filed out of the Room amid whispers and pointed fingers. Hermione and Ron, in the mean time, went and picked up the McLaggen boy to take to the hospital wing. Harry started over to Ginny when Dumbledore addressed him.

“She did the right thing, Harry.”

“How, she knocked a student on his butt.”

“Well, no, she blocked his spells and they knocked him down. It was obvious from here that she realized the same thing that I had. Namely, the McLaggen boy was baiting you for some kind of revenge. Had Ginny jinxed him that would have been inappropriate. Instead, she challenged the boy to attack her and tossed his spells back at him. He has no one to blame but himself and she did what she felt she had to do.”

“Which was what exactly?” Harry asked

“Why, defend you of course. She is as protective of you as you are of her, almost.”

“Almost?”

“Do you remember me telling you that you need to keep close to your friends after the tri-wizard tournament?”

“Yes I do.”

“Here is an example as to why. She saw what you didn’t. Your friends are here by choice, Harry…Ginny most of all. She would follow you anywhere, and do anything for you.”

“Yes I know, Albus, even die for me. That’s what I am afraid of. My nightmares at night are all about seeing her on a stone slab at her funeral as I saw you. I can’t let that happen, Dumbledore, it would rip me to shreds inside. I know how good she is, and getting better. But I can’t do what is necessary in front of her, you know that. Besides, someone needs to survive and continue to teach, eh?”

“You do not know that it will not be you, Harry?”

“Perhaps, but the thought that it isn’t Ginny is my greatest fear.”

“I know.”

Over at her chair, Ginny heard the entire exchange between her love and the man in the portrait. His wanting to protect her made her love him even more, yet she turned her face away as the tears and the pain came down her cheeks.




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