The sound of voices woke Harry up. He was lying on his stomach in his bed in Ron’s room, trying his best to keep his eyes closed. His entire body was protesting against waking up this early, wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep, but he could see light flooding into the room through his eyelids and the voices, coming from downstairs – most likely the kitchen – were too loud to ignore. He rolled over and opened his eyes. The scarlet red curtains hadn’t been pulled together all the way the night before and were now allowing a wide streak of light to pass through the window and into the room, straight towards Harry’s bed. Much to his surprise Harry realized Ron wasn’t in the room. It must have been the first time in the history of the world that he got up before Harry.
After pulling on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, Harry headed downstairs. He stopped in the doorway of the kitchen, astonished to see Professor McGonnagall sitting at the kitchen table, having breakfast with Ron, Ginny and Mrs Weasley.
“Oh, Harry, you’re up”, Mrs Weasley said when she saw him. “Why don’t you come join us? Minerva has come with news.”
“Hello, Harry”, Professor McGonnagall said. It felt strange to hear her call him by his first name, but she had done so since the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry assumed it was because she was no longer his professor. “How are you? I‘ve heard of the incident at the dental clinic.”
“I’m fantastic, actually”, Harry said. “And yes, that was an unfortunate incident, but on the other hand we managed to catch another two of the Death Eaters that managed to escape that night.”
“Which brings us to the reason of my visit”, Professor McGonnagall said. “Ronald has informed me of Kingsley Shacklebolt’s offer. He is willing to let you become aurors without getting your N.E.W.T.S, correct?” When Harry nodded affirmatively she continued: “Even though I think you would only benefit from completing your education, you have both proved to be both worthy and qualified to accept such an offer.”
“Thank you, Professor”, Harry said, and Ron grunted in agreement, since his mouth was full of food.
“And Molly, there is no need to worry about that”, Professor McGonnagall said when she saw the disapprobative look on Mrs Weasley’s face. “Students rarely reach the level that these boys have even in their seventh year, and they are going to be just fine. But Miss Weasley, I assume you would be more interested in what I’ve told you?”
“What have you told her?” Harry asked while reaching for the juice jug.
“Hogwarts will open again in September”, Professor McGonagall answered with the hint of a proud smile on her face. “And they… I’ve been named headmistress.”
“Wow, congratulations!” Harry felt a bit awkward. He didn’t know if he should pat her shoulder or maybe shake her hand, but he settled for just an encouraging smile.
“Of course Ginny is interested!” Mrs Weasley said. “It would be nice to see at least one of my children graduating.” She ignored Ron’s muttering: “What about Bill, Charlie and Percy?” and turned her attention to McGonnagall.
“Splendid”, said the new headmistress of Hogwarts. “Gryffindor’s quidditch team will need a skilled captain to get the team together.” She winked at Ginny, who gaped.
That was when it hit Harry. On the 1st of September, Ginny would go back to school. He wouldn’t see her until Christmas. He watched her face, which still had an expression of pride and surprise over what Professor McGonnagall had told her. Ginny then met Harry’s eyes and smiled, and he felt as if a wave of warmth washed over him. It seemed like he would never get over how beautiful she was.
“Well, I shouldn’t take advantage of your hospitability any longer, then”, the professor said as she stood up.
“We’re just happy to have you here”, Mrs Weasley told her.
“I have to admit I was hoping to find Miss Granger here”, Professor McGonnagall said while pushing the kitchen chair in. “I assume she’s moved back to her parents house, then? The Daily Prophet said she managed to restore their memories.”
“That’s right”, said Ron. “I can promise you one thing, though – she’s going to be thrilled to hear that Hogwarts will open again. She really doesn’t understand why Harry and I won’t go back too.”
“I should head over there straight away”, McGonnagall said and smiled. “Thank you again for breakfast, Molly.”
“So, are you going to visit all your students this way?” Harry asked. “Because I hate to break it to you, professor, but I don’t think you’ll be finished before September.”
Professor McGonnagall smiled and shook her head. “Just a selected few”, she said, opened the front door and left. Just a few seconds later they heard the subdued bang of her apparating away.
Ron, Harry and Ginny had spent the last couple of hours doing their best to stay out of the kitchen. It was the last day of August, and Mrs Weasley was busy cooking an amazing feast, since it was Ginny’s last night home. The next morning she would go back to Hogwarts for her final year. Bill and Fleur had arrived early, and as soon as they entered the front door they were put to work – which was exactly the thing that the three teenagers hiding up in Ron’s room were trying to avoid. George, who had moved back to the flat above the shop in London, had probably predicted what would happen if he’d show his face in the kitchen before dinner was ready, because he hadn’t shown up yet. Mrs Weasley had started casting a glance at the clock every now and then, worrying that he might miss dinner completely. She knew that he was struggling, and the thought of him being alone in that empty apartment almost broke her heart.
She expected Mr Weasley, Percy and Audrey to get back from their work at the Ministry at seven o’clock sharp, and she planned to have everything ready by then. Much to Mrs Weasley’s content, Percy and Audrey had announced that they were now more than just friends, which automatically made Audrey a regular dinner guest on the same level as any of the Weasley children.
“Hermione’s family is coming”, said Ginny, who was sitting in Ron’s bed with her face pressed against the window.
The words barely had time to leave her mouth before Ron had jumped to his feet and practically thrown himself out through the door and down the stairs to meet Hermione. Ginny laughed.
“You’d think that it’s been two years since he saw her, rather than two days”, she said.
Harry, who had been lying on his back in his bed, got up on his feet as well, walked over to her and sat down next to her.
“I can understand that”, he said, reached out his arms and pulled her close to him. “Every moment that you’re not with me feels like an eternity.”
Ginny grinned. “Wow, did you steal that line from Ron’s book on how to charm witches? Because it sucked!”
Harry laughed and started tickling her until she begged for mercy. “I meant it, you know”, he then told her.”
“I wish you would come with me to Hogwarts”, Ginny said, leaning her head against his chest. “We could go to classes together, as we would be in the same year… play quidditch together – if you’d make the team, that is”, she teased him and grinned when his eyes narrowed. “We’d have every day to be together.”
Harry smiled and kissed her cheek. “You’re making me doubt my decision, Ginny.”
“Great”, she answered. “I mean, sure, you already told McGonnagall you weren’t coming back this year… but you are Harry Potter. She just can’t turn you down.” Ginny turned around so that they were facing each other. “And it would give us the chance to do this a lot more…"
She leaned in and kissed him while wrapping both her arms around his neck. Harry could feel his pulse increase while he pressed himself towards her. He tried to memorize every detail of what he was feeling in that moment – her soft hair between his fingers, her lips against his and the warmth of her body, streaming over to his.
Hermione, who had just reached Ron’s bedroom, interrupted herself when she realized what was going on in there.
“Potter!” Ron hade caught up with Hermione, and the sound of his voice made Ginny and Harry jump and let go of each other. “I’ve been very accepting when it comes to the two of you, but this?” Ron’s frowning face reddened to the point where it matched the colour of his hair as he made a gesture towards them. “Snogging my little sister in my bed?”
Ginny rolled her eyes and shook her head. Then, ignoring the angry look on her brother’s face, she walked past him and gave Hermione a hug.
“Hello. How are you feeling about tomorrow?”
“I’m a little torn”, Hermione answered. “I’m glad you’ll be with me. And I’m excited to meet everyone again – those that will actually come back, that is…” She glanced over at Ron, and Ginny’s eyes automatically turned to Harry.
“I know”, she said.
“Mum says we should come down”, Ron said. “George is finally here, and the others are on their way. And you two obviously can’t handle being left alone up here. Come on.”
He shot a long look at Harry before grabbing Ginny’s arm and starting to drag her down the stairs. Harry and Hermione exchanged a look and laughed before they followed them.
The kitchen was now crowded with people. George was standing just inside the door, showing off some article from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes to Mr and Mrs Granger, who seemed both fascinated and delighted judged by their exclamations and avid questions. Fleur was sitting on one of the kitchen chairs, her arms crossed over her stomach, with an uncomfortable look on her face, as if she really just wanted to get up and leave. Bill and Mrs Weasley were busy moving all the food from the stove to the long table, using their wands. At the very same moment that Ron, Ginny, Harry and Hermione entered the kitchen, the front door opened and Mr Weasley, Percy and Audrey stepped inside. All three of them were smiling widely.
“Wow, it smells amazing in here!” said Audrey as she hung her purse on the coat hanger inside the door.
“Terrific. Everyone’s here”, said Mrs Weasley. “Let’s dig right in!”
Everyone sat down at the table and began loading their plates with colossal piles of Mrs Weasley’s delicious food. “It’s just like being back at Hogwarts”, said Percy contently as he filled his cup – which appeared to have been silver coloured once – with pumpkin juice. After all the plates were filled, Mr Weasley rose to his feet to make a toast.
“First of all, to my beautiful wife, for cooking such a lovely dinner for us”, he said and gave Mrs Weasley a tender smile. “Secondly, to Ginny and Hermione, who are leaving for Hogwarts in the morning. And to… to the fact that the war is over! So perhaps to you then, Harry?”
George grinned and raised his cup. “To mum, Ginny, Hermione and Harry!”
The others joined in, and a ringing sound filled the room as they bumped their glasses together. At the other end of the table, Mrs Weasley gasped loudly and put her cup down so quickly that its content nearly spilled over the edge. She put her hand over her daughter-in-law’s and said in shock:
“Fleur, you’re not eating! What’s wrong?"
“Oh”, said Fleur. “Eet is a magnifique dinner, I just…”
The scratching of Bill’s chair against the floor as he stood up interrupted her. He smiled at her and let his gaze wander between the confused faces that stared back at him.
“There is something else”, he said, “that we should toast for tonight. We weren’t going to tell yet, because it’s so early… but I just wanted to do this before you leave for school. Fleur is pregnant. We’re having a baby!”
The buzz of voices, the sound of the little wheels of suitcases against asphalt and trains passing by filled the air around King’s Cross Station. There were people everywhere – the people flow that occurred every year on the first day of September had always baffled the Muggles working there. Harry was pushing a trolley carrying Ginny’s bags in forwards, zig-zagging though the crowd on his way towards platform 9 and 10. Ginnys was walking closely behind him. Her father’s arm rested around her shoulder. He was trying to comfort her, as she had just said goodbye to the rest of the family – except for Mrs Weasley, Ron and Hermione – and her eyes were red and swollen from the crying.
Hermione and Ron had stopped between platform 9 and 10, just next to the brick wall that lead into platform 9 ¾. Realizing that the others had caught up with them, they took each other’s hands and started running straight towards the wall. In the next moment, they had disappeared. Harry followed them, and Ginny and her parents came closely behind. It was an amazing feeling, running through that wall and getting onto the platform. The first thing you’ll see is the magnificent, red steam train that would soon head off the first place that Harry had ever called his home. The brick wall was a passage between the Muggle and Wizarding world, and the people, who had tried their best to be discrete as they passed through the Muggle part of the station, hoping to blend in, had started to relax and let their guards down. Many of them wore traditional wizard clothing – robes and mantles in different colours and hats that would have attract a lot of attention on the other side of the wall. The hoots of owls, the flapping of wings and loud voices filled the atmosphere. Even the smell was different on this side – it was a mixture of fresh parchment, train fumes, a sweet candy aroma and something else, something undetectable. Perhaps it was the smell of magic.
A voice called: “That’s Harry Potter!” It was followed by a few more voices, and then, suddenly, everyone on the platform fell silent. The Weasleys, Harry and Hermione stopped, and it was then that Harry realized that Mr Weasley had stuck his hand in his pocket, ready to pull out his wand. Harry knew what he must have been thinking – if a dental clinic in Sydney hadn’t been safe, could this place really be? They still had no clue how the Death Eaters had found out about Hermione’s parents. Was it possible that someone had found out that Harry was coming to the platform that day? Would they really take the risk of attacking him in front of all those people? Just in case, Harry moved his hand closer to the inside pocket of his jacket, in which he kept his wand, and looked around. Most people had stopped moving and were turned towards him, staring shamelessly at him and the small group of people he had come with.
A happy voice broke the silence, and when Harry turned his head to locate it he realized that Neville Longbottom was squeezing himself through the crowd of people, heading towards him. When he reached them he gave Harry a friendly hug before turning to Ginny, Hermione and Ron to do the same thing.
“I had no idea you were all coming back this year!” he said cheerfully.
“Oh, sorry, Neville”, Ron said. “Harry and I are just here to see the girls off.”
“Oh, okay.” Neville looked disappointed, but then he smiled at Ginny and Hermione. “Have you seen Luna? She’s coming back too, isn’t she?”
“I thought you would know, if anyone”, Harry said with a quizzical smile on his face, but Neville shrugged and shook his head.
“She hasn’t been answering my letters”, he said. Harry couldn’t help but wonder if he realized that everyone on the entire platform listened to every word they said.
“So, you’re repeating your seventh year, Neville?” asked Hermione
“They barely taught us anything last year, to be honest”, Neville answered. “And my grandmother says I shouldn’t appreciate the value of good education, even if it means I have to go to school for eight years.”
Since the minute hand had moved closer to the twelve of the large clock on the wall, people began talking again. Harry felt something pull his sleeve, and he jumped before he realized it was just a little girl standing next to him. She didn’t look a day over six, and she was staring at him, her eyes widened as she smiled shyly. Harry smiled back at her, not knowing what else to do.
“You’re my hero!” the girl said and proceeded to wrap her arms around Harry’s legs.
“Ella!” A woman rushed over to them, and she bent down to pry the girl off of Harry. “Ella, don’t ever run away from mummy like that again, do you hear me? I’m so…” She interrupted herself when she straightened up and realized exactly whose legs her daughter had clung onto, “… sorry.”
“It’s fine”, Harry said.
After Ella had glanced at him beseechingly for a while, Harry agreed to take a photo with the two of them. Then he turned towards the people he was actually there for. Mrs Weasley was close to crushing Ginny’s rib in one of her infamous, tight embraces, and Hermione reached her arms out towards Harry.
“It’s going to be so strange to be there without you”, she said.
“It’s school”, Harry smiled, and hugged her. “If I know you right you won’t be suffering.”
Hermione laughed. “Perhaps not”, she said, “but I’ll still miss you. Promise me you’ll write. And make Ron write a few letters too. It’s fine by me if you have to threaten him.”
“I’m sure I won’t have to”, Harry said. “He’s madly in love with you, remember?”
He smiled as his gaze wandered over to Ginny involuntarily. She had managed to free herself from her mother’s arms. Harry opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione beat him to it.
“I know. I’ll look after her.”
She smiled at him once more before turning to Ron. A few seconds later, Harry was attacked by Ginny who threw her arms around him and pressed her lips against his. Harry could hear Mr Weasley clear his throat and someone wolf-whistling before he had tuned out the world and was alone with Ginny. He could feel a wave of sadness coming towards him, ready to wash over him, but he pushed it away. He wouldn’t allow himself to feel it until the train had left. The sound of the steam whistle broke into their bubble and they ended the kiss without letting go of each other.
“Be safe”, Harry said.
“I’m the one who should tell you that”, Ginny said. “You’re the one who’s always in some sort of trouble. I know you have a habit of getting yourself into life-threatening situations, but how about you try to avoid that this year?”
Harry smiled. “I’ll try.”
The steam whistle blew again. “Ginny”, Hermione said. “We have to go.”
“I know.” Ginny pressed her cheek against Harry’s one last time. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
They reluctantly let go of each other. Ginny and Hermione got on the train. It didn’t take long before they had taken place in a compartment with Neville and Luna. All four of them looked out the window and waved, and those standing at the platform waved back at them. Harry’s eyes were fixed on Ginny’s face, as if he was worried he might forget what she looked like. Then the clock struck eleven, and the train started moving. A few moments later it had left King’s Cross Station, Harry and Ron behind.
A/N: I'm not really sure how I feel about this chapter. I think it just had to be there to get the story moving, but I can assure you that things are about to get more interesting.
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