Chapter 4 : On the Beach and in the Shop
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“Not again,” Ron moaned.
“Quiet, Assistant Head.”
Harry and Ron sat in beach chairs, soaking up the sun and downing butterbeers as fast as they could pull them from the cooler that was between them. Fluttering his copy of the Morning Prophet, Harry began to read aloud in a haughty, pinched voice:
Ronald Bilius Weasley, OMFC or ‘Ron the Great’ as this writer prefers to call him, will be assuming duties as Assistant Head of the Auror Corps., upon confirmation from the Wizengamot. ‘It’s no secret he’s a brilliant tactician,’ said Acting Head Auror Harry Potter, OMFC, who is also awaiting confirmation. ‘It’s largely because of him this war’s finally over. He should get a second Order of Merlin, First Class for what he did tonight. Not a single casualty. On either side. Wizarding Britain owes him a debt of gratitude.’
“Will you stop reading that bloody article?” Ron demanded. The towel he’d placed over his head to block out the sun muffled his voice.
“Not yet, I haven’t gotten to my favorite part,” Harry said with a mischievous grin, as he shifted in his beach chair. The quartet had long shared the limelight that Harry alone had used to occupy; to Harry, this was a huge relief. Fame could be lonely and brutal. However, Harry still relished with sadistic glee those times when the press focused solely on his best mate. With an ever-widening grin, he continued to read.
Unfortunately, the dashing young Auror is off the market. Auror Weasley was recently engaged to the ‘Anchor of the Golden Quartet,’ the lovely Undersecretary to the Minister for Magical Law Enforcement, The Right Hon. Hermione Granger, OMFC. The couple intends to be wed by the end of the year.
“You wanna play?” Ron pulled the towel from his face and rested it over his wet swimming trunks. “Here.” Ron snatched the paper from his best mate.
“Oh, so sorry there ‘Chosen One.’” Ron needled and began to read, doing his best Percy imitation:
Auror Harry Potter, OMFC, has been ‘Chosen’ once again. Just prior to the final battle of the Second Wizarding War, Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt officially announced he is appointing Potter to Head the Auror Corps. ‘I can think of no better choice or anyone more suited to this task. Mr. Potter and his Aurors, despite their youth, have at long last given us the safe and secure future we so desperately need.’ (See related story covering the Chosen One’s heroic stand at the Battle of Diagon Alley.)
Ron fixed Harry with an adoring gaze, batting his eyelashes at him.
“Merlin’s groupies.” Harry groaned.
Ron laughed. “Wait for it.” He continued to read.
The handsome new Head just recently became engaged to the stunning and talented Ms. Ginevra Weasley, OMSC. As you know, Ms. Weasley was awarded her Order of Merlin, Second Class, for her valiant efforts as a resistance leader at Hogwarts at the onset of the Second Wizarding War. She is currently an all star Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies. (See the Sports Section for predictions regarding her possible selection as Captain of the British National Team!) Sorry girls! This hero is no longer in the available category!
Ron collapsed into laughter. “And hearts break all over wizarding Britain.”
Harry couldn’t help but smile. “You gotta admit. It’s a lot better than the tripe they usually print.”
“That it is.” Ron pulled two more butterbeers out of their cooler and handed one to Harry. They tinked their bottles together and drank. “Even though you lied.”
“What? Ron, I meant every word I said about you in there…”
“Not about that. ‘Not a single casualty.’” Ron gave Harry a disapointed glance.
Harry looked sheepish. “It didn’t add anything to the story. It’s not important.”
“Harry, when my friend and brother nearly gets himself killed trying to protect his stupid git of a partner, it damn sure is important.”
“Saving Creevey sure as hell doesn’t make you a stupid git. That was one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen …Standing up in the middle of that crossfire…”
They shared a solemn look, which turned into a knowing smile. They tinked their bottles together again and reclined back in their chairs. The duo looked out over the shoreline to where the girls were gathering shells. Ginny was wearing a rather skimpy two-piece that showed off her amazing Quidditch physique, her long red hair tied up in a pony tail, swinging behind her. Hermione sported an equally revealing one-piece, her unruly hair tied in a bun. Drinking her in, Ron couldn’t help but observe that his Hermione obviously didn’t spend all of her time behind a desk. Realizing they were being ogled, the girls looked up and waved, devious smiles covering their faces.
“Touch my sister and I’ll kill you.” Ron smiled.
“In your dreams, Carrot Top.” Harry smiled back. Fortunately, Ron’s over-protectiveness had finally become something to laugh about instead of the weighty topic of urgent peace talks.
They both took a long pull on their butterbeers.
“The whole week off, right?” Ron asked collapsing back into his beach chair with a grunt.
“I told Kingsley if he owls us, we’ll quit.”
“Good show, mate. The least he can do for pulling us away from the Burrow four years ago is to leave us alone now.”
“Four years? Bloody hell, Ron. It feels like an eternity.”
“You can say that again.”
“Well, I intend to make the most of the next four.” Harry smiled wistfully. “I’m gonna sell Grimmauld Place and build your sister a decent house.”
“Hermione an’ me are already talking about kids,” Ron said with a bashful grin.
“You too?” Harry asked.
Ron nodded. “I guess it’s not really surprising though is it?”
“No. We’ve all had our lives on hold long enough.” A devilish grin spread across Harry’s face. “You know, if we time this right, our kids could go to Hogwarts together.”
Ron broke into a heartfelt laugh. “Poor Filch!” Harry joined in and the two tinked their bottles together again and drained them, trying not to spill the beer through their guffaws.
“Gods. They’re sure to be little hellions.” Harry laughed and then fell silent.
Ron sensed a swift change in Harry’s mood. “What is it, bro?”
“Nothing…it’s just…Well…I guess it just started to seem like it would never end.” Harry finished with a touch of pain in his voice.
“I know…Me too. I was really worried last night. More worried than I’d been in a long time in a fight.”
Harry fixed Ron with a troubled gaze. Last night had been too close. Far too close.
Ron continued, “There was a time there when I thought…”
Ron shifted uncomfortably in his seat before he could finish. “That maybe we made a mistake proposing to the girls when we did. That we should’ve waited a little longer.”
“And not pounced just because we thought the end was in sight?” Harry asked, with a cocked eyebrow.
Harry grabbed two more butterbeers, handing one to Ron. Then he sighed, trying to shake himself out of the reverie. “Doesn’t matter. It’s over now. We get back from vacation and we start chasing shop lifters and sorting out domestic disputes.”
“That sounds like all the excitement I could ever ask for.” Harry measured Ron’s tone as he spoke. There was more honesty than joke in it.
The girl’s laughter from near the water got their attention. They were just out of earshot.
“Now what do you suppose those two are up to?” Ron asked.
“Hmmm. Well, all I can tell is that Ginny is very, very happy.”
“It doesn’t work like last night all the time. I’m not sure why.”
“Hermione had mentioned something about the space the Horcrux had occupied in your soul being filled by her, or you both having survived being possessed by Voldy or you focusing on her before you took the killing curse or, gods, take your pick. I don’t think she’s really sussed anything out about it,” Ron finished.
“A mystery Hermione can’t solve? Merlin, mate, I can’t imagine how much stress that must put you through.” Harry shook his head and smiled.
“You have no idea,” Ron said resignedly.
“If she’s figured anything else out, she hasn’t told us.” Harry shrugged. “I just like it. A lot.” Harry’s smile was a mile wide.
“I know you’ve heard me say it a million times, but I’m really happy for you two, mate. Besides, now we can finally make you a proper part of the family.”
“Thanks brother.” Harry smiled at Ron, nodding his head. The girl’s laughter interrupted their conversation again.
“Whatever’s going on down there may not bode well for us.” Ron said, mock worry in his voice.
Down near the shoreline, Hermione was laughing uncontrollably. “He didn’t!”
“He did!” Ginny responded.
“What did you do?” Mirthful shock filled Hermione’s voice.
“What do you think I did? I warned him that I couldn’t keep quiet if he kept doing that.”
“Oh gods! Right in the Wizengamot?” Hermione’s shock was evident.
“He finally had to put a Langlock curse on me, because the Chief Warlock kept looking around to find out where all the noise was coming from.”
“Why didn’t he just use Muffliato?”
“Well, I was doing my best to keep him from being able to concentrate, so I don’t think he was thinking very clearly.”
Hermione laughed so hard she couldn’t breathe.
“Oh, c’mon, Hermione. Don’t tell me you and my brother haven’t been just as bad. With the hours you’ve all been working, when else do you ever get the chance?”
Hermione turned three shades of crimson.
“Granger?” Ginny began to fear her story was about to pale in comparison. “Hello, Ms. Right Honorable…Gods. What have you two done?”
Harry and Ron were forced to look up when they heard Ginny’s uncontrollable peals of laughter. Both she and Hermione were blushing so violently Ron almost mistook it for sunburn.
“I think we better break that up before the entire wizarding world finds out about our sex lives,” Harry said, only half jokingly.
“Oh, bugger,” Ron muttered, then, raising his voice so it carried down the beach, “Oi! Don’t you two want a butterbeer or something?”
“No thanks!” Ginny shouted back, holding her sides as she continued to laugh.
As Ginny caught her breath, she and Hermione sat on the beach facing the waves, leaving their men to think the worst.
“It feels good to laugh like that.” Ginny said.
“It does,” Hermione replied.
“The last few months have been…”
“At least you get to see Ron at work. Harry and I have the link, but it’s just been so hard lately, even with the weekly training sessions. I’m on the road or at Holyhead…” Ginny’s brow furrowed.
“Being together at the Ministry doesn’t help that much. Last night, waiting for Harry’s Patronus…Gin, I was really worried. How many times can 'Reckless Git and Danger Ponce' tempt fate? At least during the Horcrux hunt I was with them. Now, I’m stuck at the Ministry waiting for news…”
“At least you were with them back then.”
“I’m sorry Gin, I didn’t mean to bring that back up.” Hermione placed a calming hand on Ginny’s shoulder. Hermione knew that Ginny’s time at Hogwarts while they were off hunting Horcruxes had been brutal. She and Neville had been caught trying to steal the Sword of Gryffindor. The Carrows had tried to make her tell them where Harry was. The things they had done to her…
“No, Hermione, it's okay.” Ginny smiled. “I just want him back. All of you, actually. I’m tired of sharing Harry with the rest of the world. And the demands they place on him…I’ve seen the strain…” She shook her head, as if struggling to empty it of negative thoughts. “This drawn out war has been hell on all of us. I’m just glad it’s finally over.”
Hermione nodded. “I won’t miss the late nights, wondering if Ron’s going to be coming back. Or if he does, what news he’ll bring with him.” Hermione shuddered. “No more,” she said with finality.
“I knew Harry got hurt last night.” Ginny’s head dropped. “I could sense it through the bond. Waiting for him to finally tell me everything was alright nearly killed me.” Hermione put her arm around Ginny’s shoulders.
“I’m ok.” Ginny smiled at her best friend. “Thank you.” Then she continued, “You’ve noticed how much more powerful their magic has become? And ours too?” Ginny asked, though she thought she already knew the answer. “I figured it would keep them safe.”
“But it is stronger, isn’t it? For all of us?” Ginny asked.
Hermione smiled. “Yes. I think so, too. Dumbledore always said love is the most powerful magic. I think, with everything we’ve been through our love has enhanced our magic more than anything else could. Exceptional circumstances…”
“Ok. I’ve noticed it and I was certain that you did too, but it just hasn’t dawned on them, has it?” Ginny fixed Hermione with a knowing look.
“No. I don’t think so. The rest of the Aurors have noticed how far ahead of them Ron and Harry are and I know it surprised them how quickly you and I picked up the new training…”
“Occasionally, I see Harry do some pretty powerful but unintentional wandless magic and it’ll obviously surprise him, but he still hasn’t completely put it together.”
“Ron’s the same way. Men.” She shook her head. “So dense. But I suppose that makes them more lovable.” They shared another laugh.
“Again, as long as it helps keep them both safe, I don’t care if they ever figure it out,” Ginny added.
“Well, I’ve been meaning to lecture them both about it, eventually.”
“Let’s save it for later in the week, then. That’ll be a good bonfire-on-the-beach discussion. Remind those two how important we are to them.”
“Now that’s a brilliant idea.” Hermione smiled. “So, are you keeping our Head Auror in line otherwise?”
Ginny grinned, “Harry wants to sell Grimmauld Place.”
“How did you finally get him to agree to that?”
“Do I really need to say?”
The two began to laugh again, until a shout from up the beach interrupted them once more.
“Oi! Don’t you two have an engagement party to get ready for?” Harry asked.
Ginny and Hermione got to their feet and headed back up the beach to where Harry and Ron sat. Ginny plopped down in Harry’s lap. Hermione sat on the sand with her back against Ron’s knees.
“So, what was so funny?” Ron asked.
“None of your business big brother,” Ginny said, kissing Harry.
“I was afraid of that.” Ron grimaced.
“Time to go in?” Hermione asked.
Harry checked his watch. “Yes, I suppose it is. We’ve got about two hours before we need to be at the Burrow.”
“Remember, we need to stop off at Madame Malkin's to check on the dress designs, too,” Ginny added. “But we should be quick. Mum’ll go spare if we’re late.”
“So will mine.” Hermione’s mom, Dr. Kathy Granger, was helping Molly with the preparations. “Ron, love, it’s really nice of your parents to do this at the Burrow. I still feel guilty that we’re not helping,” Hermione said.
“She wasn’t having any of it,” Ron replied. “It was all Harry could do to have her let Kreacher help. Otherwise, your mum and mine; no one else.”
Ginny piped in, “I tried to help yesterday. She nearly hexed me out of the Burrow. Too bad, I was trying to find a distraction…” Ginny trailed off.
Harry hugged her close to him. “No worries, love. You know I’ll always come back to you.” Harry felt that familiar burst of emotion from Ginny.
“Yeah. And you better not forget it.” She kissed him quickly. “I have to get ready.”
“Why waste the hot water? I’ll join you,” Harry replied wickedly.
“Oi!” Ron chirped.
Hermione batted him playfully.
Ginny eyed Ron. “Get over it big brother or I’ll be sure to treat you to another dose of this morning’s medicine.”
After Ginny and Hermione shared a smile about which Harry and Ron could only speculate, the Quartet gathered up their beach things and headed back to Shell Cottage.
“We can’t Floo?” Harry asked.
“This fireplace is down. We’ll have to Apparate,” Hermione answered. The idea of Apparating to Diagon Alley wasn’t particularly appealing.
The four were gathered in the sitting room of Shell Cottage, dressed and ready to leave.
“If we’re quick we may not draw too much attention,” Ron said hopefully. The original plan had been to Floo directly into Madame Malkin’s and avoid getting mobbed by the press. The battle the night before and the Quartet’s recent engagements had created quite a media frenzy. That is, larger than what the four regarded as the “normal” levels of the media frenzy they usually had to put up with.
“Here,” Ginny interjected, “I’ll send my Patronus off to the Harpy’s publicist. He should be able to run some interference.” With that, Ginny’s Patronus, which had changed from a horse to a doe in the last few years, sped off with a message. Hermione’s, which used to be an otter, was now a female terrier. She always complained about the transformation, but secretly, she adored it.
“Well then?” Harry looked around. “Let’s go.” Arm in arm, they walked out the door to the Disaparation point and with a loud “crack!” they were gone and reappeared in a small nook in Diagon Alley. The publicist was there waiting for them.
“Madame Undersecretary, Head Auror Potter, Assistant Head Weasley and Ms. Weasley, if you’ll follow me,” the Holyhead’s publicist said, gesturing.
Ron muttered under his breath, “I see this git has the order of protocol down.”
Hermione shot Ron a wry smirk.
“Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a crowd. They got word that you’d be coming to look at the dress designs today,” the publicist added -- Harry could never remember the man’s name. “I assure you it won’t be too bad.”
As soon as they turned into the street leading to Madame Malkin’s, they were mobbed by the press. The flashbulbs blinded them.
“Oh bugger,” Harry mourned.
“Ron! Ron! Do you think you’ll get that second Order of Merlin?”
“Harry, shouldn’t the minister have appointed you Head earlier? Is that a slight?”
“Will you take the Captaincy of the National Team, Gin?”
“What dress design are you getting, Hermione?”
It was Hermione’s turn to mutter. “Couldn’t ask me about my work on the House Elf law before I left Magical Creatures? No, it’s always about the girly stuff.”
Harry couldn’t help but chortle. He shot a look at the publicist. Rupert something… Ginandtonic? Feeling his distress, Ginny whispered in Harry’s ear, “Gingerly.”
“Thanks,” Harry whispered back. Then aloud to the publicist, “Gingerly, could you…?”
“Certainly Mr. Potter…Please, lads, this isn’t a press conference. No questions, please.”
That created an uproar. But with Gingerly leading the way, the Quartet managed to push through the mob, finally reaching the door to Madame Malkins.
“Ginny! Hermione! I thought you were going to Floo in?” Madame Malkin closed on the Quartet as soon as the door shut behind them, placing a kiss on each young witches' cheek.
“The Floo was down on our end,” Ginny explained.
“How horrid! Filthy press. Now. You two.” The seamstress eyed Harry and Ron, “Stay there, make yourselves comfortable and don’t come anywhere near the back of the store or I’ll hex you both, Aurors or not. Bad luck for the groom to see the dress.” With that, the men were forgotten, much to their relief. “Quickly now ladies; can’t have you be late for your party.”
As the ladies descended into the dressing areas to look at designs, Harry pulled Ron aside.
“Am I the only one that’s troubled by the fact that the entire press corps knew we were coming and that even Penelope Malkin knew we were going to the Burrow tonight?”
“No. That thought had crossed my mind, too…But, dammit, Harry. Do we always have to be looking over our shoulders? Sooner or later we do get to start acting like normal people again, don’t we?”
Harry didn’t have an answer.
A/N: Once I read TheDirigiblePlum’s take on the Potter/Weasley kids, I knew I could never write a story about them that could ever compete! I highly recommend her stories. They’re hysterical and definitely worth the read. My reference to Ron and Harry’s children being “hellions” is homage to her work. Also, the phrase “Ron the Great” belongs to justanothermuggle; who was kind enough to let me appropriate it. I do not own Harry Potter; the toys belong to JKR, she just lets us play with them.
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