Over the next few days, they returned to Hogwarts to repair and rebuild, and in about a week, the school was nearly back to normal. It was announced in the Daily Prophet that Hogwarts would reopen that September, and that Kingsley Shacklebolt was now the official Minister for Magic. Ron and Hermione seemed to be avoiding each other, but no one asked them about it, assuming it was just romantic awkwardness. Harry and Hermione were still staying at the Burrow, however Harry had started considering Grimould Place to live in. After all, he couldn’t stay with the Weasleys forever. They were like his family, but he didn’t want to outstay his welcome.
It was coming up to lunchtime, and the Burrow was filled with the smell of french onion soup being prepared. Harry had visited Otteris St Catchpole, the nearby muggle town a few days earlier, and had bought a second hand Scrabble set in a toy shop. He now sat in the living room, attempting to teach Ginny how to play it. It was a difficult task, as she kept joking that a game involving no miniature explosions was completely pointless. They were laughing heartily when Ron came in.
“Alright Ron?” Harry said cheerfully. Ron nodded his head slowly and then went to sit down, when Hermione came in from the other door. They both turned bright red, and made rather imaginative excuses to leave. Harry and Ginny looked at each other, bemused. No one knew what had caused their newfound awkwardness, but everyone was wondering about it. Ginny spoke up.
“Ok, listen. You two have been avoiding each other ever since we came back from cleaning up Hogwarts that day. Neither of you are happy, and you’re both acting like complete prats. What the hell happened?” Ginny had a way of being so blunt that she baffled the people she was talking to into silence. She raised her eyebrows calmly at them, urging them silently to answer her. Ginny was used to being answered at this point in her routine, so she was completely taken aback when Ron shouted,
“Nothing! What the hell are you on about!?” And stormed out of the room. His language warranted a slap from Molly on his way through the kitchen, but Ron carried on out into the garden, through the gate and onto the country path that lay behind it. Harry whistled under his breath.
“Phew. That does not seem like nothing. Hermione, can you just tell us?” Hermione went bright red, however she had the sense to know that someone would have to find out eventually, and told them the exact story of his ‘rejection’. When she was done, Harry and Ginny looked at each other, and laughed, so hard that Hermione started to get upset.
“It’s not funny! All I want is to be with Ron, but he doesn’t… doesn’t want me!” It was only the tears that had filled her eyes that made Harry control his laughter, and say,
“Hermione, you are the most intelligent person I know, but you are, at this moment, being stupid.” Ginny elbowed him and said,
“Hermione, Ron wants you so much! He wouldn’t get so worked up if he didn’t. He’s my brother, I can read him like a book. That fact is greatly helped by his complete lack of subtlety or tact, but still. I haven’t seen him this crazy about someone since he was five and he saw those posters of Celestina Warbeck. The thing is, he’s reacted in the exact same way as he did then. ” She had a mischievous smile on her face as Hermione stood there open mouthed. “Well go on then!” urged Ginny, and Hermione followed Ron’s path out the kitchen door. Harry and Ginny waited a minute before bursting out laughing again.
Hermione didn’t know how far Ron had gone. She decided to just follow the path until she reached a fork in the road. But she didn’t find one. The path carried her along onto a stony beach. Ron was standing, shoes off, at the water’s edge, throwing stones furiously into the sea. He looked up when he heard her crunching in the pebbles towards him. “Oh.” He said. “It’s you”. Hermione looked up into his troubled face, and snaked her arms around his neck. She kissed him so lightly that he could barely feel it. For a second, he looked rather perplexed, but then cradled the back of her head with one hand, and felt her hair with the other, as he gently pulled her towards him again. They seemed to fit perfectly together. He ran his fingers through her curly hair, as she felt his strong back with hers. Their kisses were slow, tender, not rushed as they had been the night of the battle. His hands traced every outline of her body. He held her close to him, and as they swayed slowly on the spot, he knew exactly how much he loved her.
On the way back to the Burrow some time later, both of them smiling uncontrollably, Hermione explained to Ron the conversation she had had with Harry and Ginny. Ron looked concerned at the fact that they had managed to misunderstand each other so disastrously, so he made her swear that they would always tell each other what they were thinking, in an effort to avoid such circumstances in the future. They walked into the Burrow, Ron’s arm around Hermione’s waist, to be greeted by smug smiles from Harry and Ginny, and a whomping from Molly for missing lunch.
In the next few weeks, Harry, Ron, Ginny and Hermione lived in a happy bubble of new relationships. The only thing that tainted it was the constant ache inside of them for the ones that they had lost. Harry had made the decision to move to Grimmauld Place. He loved staying with the Weasleys, but he liked feeling a little more independent. He had asked Ron and Hermione to move with him. After all, he said, ‘it is an awfully big house.’ He wasn’t worried about living with them. After all, they had already lived together for the best part of a year anyway. Molly had insisted on throwing a huge party, inviting all of their friends.
The day of the party, Molly prepared non-stop. Her wand was a blur as she conjured up streamers, bunting, and food. The garden was decorated with hundreds of real fairy lights, and the inside of the house had been scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Molly really loved any excuse she could get for a good party, because it gave her a chance to tidy and boss everyone around.
The guests started to arrive in their ones and twos. Seamus and Dean brought a huge box of butterbeer, while Hagrid turned up holding a troll-sized bottle of firewhiskey. Katie Bell and Oliver Wood came together, causing much wolf-whistling and joking. Soon almost everyone who Harry, Ron and Hermione had known at school were there.
The Weird Sisters’ music could be heard, thumping out from the wizarding stereo, over the chaos of the party. After a good hour of dancing and laughter, Mrs. Weasley let out a few fire crackers from the end of her wand, and turned the stereo off. Everyone was silent, and Molly said, “dinner is served”. She conjured two long tables from her wand, and dropped them end to end in the garden. With another flick of her wand, the food that she had been preparing all day flew onto the, making them groan with the weight. Everyone took their places, and without hesitation, began to eat.
“So Harry,” said Seamus, in between bites of roast pork, “What you planning to do this year? Go back to Hogwarts? Get a job?” He trailed off, and ate a large roast potato whole. Harry contemplated. In all truth, he hadn’t even considered what he wanted to do in his life. It had always seemed to him that he would need to kill Voldemort before he did anything else, but now that he had done so, he had no idea what to do next.
“I dunno”, he said, truthfully. “I think I might look into auror training. I mean, that’s what I wanted to do in fifth year.” Ginny was sitting next to him, playing with a bit of broccoli. “What about you?” He asked, draping his arm around her.
“Who knows?” She said, rather dully, making no attempt to converse with him whatsoever.
“You alright?” He asked, concerned. Ginny was usually exuberant and bubbly at parties, but tonight she seemed withdrawn.
“Yes.” She said rather stonily. Harry decided to wait until he could talk to her properly. Whatever was worrying Ginny, he didn’t want her to have to say it with so many people around. He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and turned back to Seamus.
Throughout the evening, Ginny seemed bored, and she excused herself early to ‘get some rest’. Harry was seriously worried that he had done something wrong. He decided to consult Hermione, after all, she was better at the whole feelings thing than he was. He found her in a corner, furiously kissing Ron. Harry felt mildly disgusted, and cleared his throat loudly (to this date, it was the only thing he had learned from Professor Umbridge). They both snapped to attention. “Sorry to interrupt… this, but Hermione, could I talk to you?” She smiled rather blearily, and slowly stood up. She wobbled on the spot, and when Harry supported her with his arm, he could smell the firewhiskey on her breath. Harry half-carried her over to a sofa, and turned her head (she seemed unable or unwilling to do so herself) towards him. “Hermione…? Hermione! Pay attention!” He clicked his fingers in front of her face. “Is anything wrong with Ginny? Only, she seems a bit upset…”
Hermione interrupted him. “Harry, Harry Harry,” she said so seriously that it seemed to pain her. “Someone once told me… what was it… ‘girlfriends are as girlfriends do’. Or something like that, anyway…” Harry forced an appreciative smile, and Hermione continued. “It’s like… It’s…. Like…” She trailed off, and stared dreamily at her reflection in Harry’s glasses. He could tell she would be no help, stood up and lay her across the sofa, where she promptly fell asleep. He stood up, and walked up the stairs, quietly nocking on Ginny’s door.