Chapter 11 : Year 2: The Future
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As Harry entered Ron's bedroom on the top floor, the sound of raindrops against the tiles of the Burrow and the wind rattling the window filled his ears. In his mind, they sounded more like massive explosions than little drops of water hitting glass and roofing tiles. Sighing heavily, he threw himself onto his bed and shut his eyes, completely exhausted after what felt like one of the longest days of his life.
The day had begun early – much too early – when Mr Weasley had woken everyone up by causing an explosion out in the garage. He had snuck out, while his wife was still sleeping, to work on Sirius’ old motorcycle, and something had obviously gone very wrong. Just a few seconds later, he had stumbled into the kitchen in the exact same moment that Harry, Ron and Mrs Weasley, who were all both dazed, tired, and slightly confused, reached the bottom of the stairs. Mr Weasley’s left eyebrow had been singed, his face was covered in dust and silver smoke was rising from the sleeve of his dressing gown.
Harry could have gone back to sleep after that, but even if he had tried, Mrs Weasley’s yelling would have kept him up. Therefore, he had sunk down into the couch next to Ron and Ginny to wait for the sun to rise outside the window, so that the three of them could head off to the Ministry of Magic to attend the last day of Rodolphus Lestrange’s trial.
When it was finally time for breakfast, Mrs Weasley was still so upset that she burned both the fried eggs and the bacon. “Fix the motorcycle!” she had muttered while making the ruined food disappear with a flick of her wand. “I would like to know why on earth anyone would want to fix such a death trap!” She had ended up cooking plain oatmeal, which tasted so viscous and insipid no one would have belived it to be cooked by Mrs Weasley, had they not watched it themselves. Of course, no one dared utter a word of complaint, but quitely forced the breakfast down before leaving for the Ministry. By all appearances, Rodolphus would be going the same direction as his brother, who had been shipped off to Azkaban for life just a few weeks earlier. Once the trial was over, Ginny took a Portkey to Holyhead for the Quidditch try-outs.
“The timing couldn’t have been worse,” she haid said when Harry walked her out to wish her good luck. “My head is too full of other things… will you help me figure out what to do with my life instead of playing Quidditch tonight, when I’ve made a complete fool of myself at try-outs and messed up all my chances of making the team?”
But Harry had assured her that she would be fine. He was convinced that she would make the team, and that this was as perfect a day as any to start her career as a professional Quidditch player.
Then, Harry and Ron had been called up to Dawlish’s office, where they had been handed two giant stacks of paper each to deal with. Since Seyrod’s death, the Auror Department was even more understaffed than before, and Harry and Ron’s training had been put on hold, simply because there was no one available to teach them. Instead, they had been assigned to do paperwork. “You have to get this done today, boys,” Dawlish had said with a condoning look on his face. Since Harry and Ron had spent half of the day with the Wizengamot, they had had to stay at work until past seven. When they finally came home, Mrs Weasley scolded them for missing dinner, Ginny was upset because she had missed her last two shots during try-outs, and in the middle of this was Mr Weasley, holding baby Victoire in his arms. He was hushing and rocking her, but according to Ginny she had been crying incessantly for the last hour.
Now, Harry was lying in his bed with a pounding headache, and he could barely found enough energy in him to pull off his socks and put away his glasses before curling up under the duvet to finally go to sleep. He was going to turn nineteen in a couple of weeks, and he was beginning to feel like it might be time to move out of the Burrow and find his own place. The thought alone made him feel a little guilty, but he had loved living with the Weasley family more than they probably knew, and he was interminably grateful that they had opened their home to him as if he had been their own son. He just felt like it was time to grow up and try living on his own.
The next morning was yet another grey, hazy one. The last couple of weeks, it had rained so much that Mr Weasley had started to worry that the gnomes in their garden would actually drown – “Brilliant! That would save us some work!” said Ron heartlessly – but it seemed like the sky was finally out of water. Ginny was sitting in the backyard of the Burrow with a copy of the Daily Prophet lay open on her lap. She had reached the sports section and her thoughts had instantly drifted off, away from the rather dull article about the current overflow of referees in the British-Irish Quidditch League – which she was now sure that she would never be part of. Just the word Quidditch had been enough to direct her thoughts back to the try-outs and the fact that she had blown her chance. She had felt pretty confident until those last two shots, during which her nerves had caught up with her and turned her normal cannon-shots into loose passes. The Holyhead Harpies backup keeper had had no problem saving them, robbing Ginny of the chance of living out one of her childhood dreams.
Ginny had never really thought much about what she wanted to do after Hogwarts until she had received that letter from Gwenog Jones. But for the first time in her life, she had been able to imagine her future – a future full of Quaffles flying through the air, cheering crowds and late, protracted trainings. It was a future that, up until lately, had been nothing but a distant dream, and suddenly it had been within her reach. She just hadn’t been able to control her own nerves long enough to be able to just lean forwards and grab it.
So what would she do instead? It was so easy for Harry and Ron – they had always known what they wanted to do, and thanks to Kingsley they had got a golden opportunity to fulfil it and actually become Aurors. She couldn’t think of a job better suited for George than running a joke shop – although, she thought with a sting in her heart, it would have been even more perfect if he had been able to do it together with Fred. Bill had always had a burning passion for bank business and a special talent for both Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts – it was like he had been made to be a Curse Breaker. He seemed to look forward to going to work every morning, even if he had been a bit more reluctant to do so since Victoire had been born. Then there was Charlie, who had always dreamed of working with dragons. Ginny had not been born at the time, but her parents enjoyed telling stories of how Charlie had gone from running around in the garden, pretending to spit fire on his brothers, to painting scarily lifelike dragons on his walls, to excelling in Care of Magical Creatures. After that, all he had had to do was pack his bags and move to Romania to live out his dream. And lastly, there was Percy, who no longer worked for the Minister for Magic, but had been promoted to a higher position within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He absolutely loved it, and why wouldn’t he? After all, he had always been strangely fond of laws and rules.
So it seemed everyone had found their place. Everyone but Ginny. She sighed and straightened her back while rubbing her eyes. All this thinking, combined with the sultry midsummer heat, had made her drowsy.
“Ginny!” a voice called. “Ginevra, where are you?”
Ginny frowned at the sound of her full name, folded the newspaper and rose to her feet. Her mother was just sticking her head out the kitchen window.
“There you are,” she said with an unreadable smile on her lips. “There’s someone here to see you.”
Ginny shrugged and walked in through the back door, which led directly into the kitchen. She almost tripped over her own feet when she realized exactly who was there to see her. It was none other than Darren Weinhold, coach of the Holyhead Harpies, and Gwenog Jones. It was surreal to see them there, in the Weasley kitchen, surrounded by their timeworn furniture and overcrowded shelves and counters.
“Miss Weasley,” said Darren Weinhold, nodding politely at her. He was a tall, handsome man in his thirties who had played Quidditch for Appleby Arrows for almost ten years, until a misfortunate Bludger had hit him in the elbow and crushed his bones. Although he could still move his arm he had had to give up his career as a Quidditch player – a Keeper needs two good arms.
“Ginny!” said Gwenog and smiled. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Yes… well… nice to see you too!” Ginny said. For the life of her, she could not figure out why they had come. The logical thing would be to just send a letter. Dear Miss Weasley, we regret to inform you that we cannot offer you the spot as a Chaser in Holyhead Harpies… There had been more than ten other girls at the try-outs, and it seemed like a waste of time to pay each one of them a visit, just to turn them down.
“During the little time you had, you made a good impression on me at the match at Hogwarts,” Gwenog said. “Of course, your opponents will be better in the British-Irish Quidditch League, but… I assume that Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup?”
Ginny was confused. Was this the “you are good, but not good enough” kind of praise, or was it the real kind? She nodded in response to Gwenog’s question. “We had a rematch a few weeks later. 390-40.”
“Can I get you anything to eat?” asked Mrs Weasley, who been standing silently just listening to the conversation up until that moment. “Or something to drink? You must be thirsty, having travelled all the way from Wales!”
Weinhold smiled. “Thanks to Apparition, it doesn’t make much difference whether we travel from Wales or from the house next door,” he said. “But perhaps a little snack, while we discuss Miss Weasley’s future with the team?”
Ginny flinched. Her future with… did she have a future with the team?
“What do you…?”
Gwenog Jones met Ginny’s eyes and nodded. “Yes,” she said. “Perhaps we should have started with that. We’re because we would like you to be the new Chaser of the Holyhead Harpies.”
Ginny couldn’t stop the loud shout of joy for slipping out of her mouth as threw herself forward to hug her old childhood hero. Gwenog was stiff in her embrace, and Ginny blushed as she let go of her and turned to Weinhold, who smiled widely at her cheerful reaction.
“I guess that you accept our offer, then?”
Ginny smiled goofily and nodded. Her lips almost hurt from stretching so widely, but she couldn’t stop smiling. She could see her future again. She was walking out onto a Quidditch pitch, looking up at the enormous bleachers high above her, where she spotted her entire redheaded family, squeezed together and cheering loudly. She saw her own poster hanging on the wall of some little girl’s bedroom, like she had once covered hers with photos of Gwenog...
Ginny turned her head to her mother. Mrs Weasley was crying, but she was beaming with pride as she pulled Ginny into her tight embrace. Ginny couldn’t wait to tell Harry, but he was still at work. And she would have to write to Charlie – he was the biggest Quidditch nerd of the family, and he would probably be the happiest when he heard it. Him and George, Ginny thought, because it was the twins who had taught her to fly. She smiled and wondered if Fred was watching her in that moment. She hoped that he was.
Gwyn Stayner didn’t look like she belonged behind the desk in a Head Office of a department in the Ministry of Magic. But if one would have to guess which department it was, it would probably be the one for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Her hair was fair with elements of grey and pulled into an untidy ponytail. Her robe was so torn that it looked like rags, and Hermione couldn’t help but stare at her ulcerated face and neck as she wondered if she had perhaps overdressed for the occasion. Her new robe and neat hairdo seemed so out of place compared to the woman sitting across from her.
“I can see that you’ve noticed my appearance,” Gwyn Stayner said, making Hermione blush and turn her eyes away. “Don’t worry – I don’t always look like this. We had a small incident with a cursed phoenix that came at me. You should have seen my face before – it was a lot worse. I’m telling you, those beaks are sharper than you’d think…”
“Why would anyone do that?” Hermione asked in shock. “To an innocent animal?”
“Well, that’s what we have to work with,” Gwyn Stayner answered. “Some people give vent to their cruelty by becoming Death Eaters. Some curse their animals, while others… just the other week, we discovered a werewolf – a friend of Fenrir Greyback's – who bit people on purpose to create a pack of wolves. The worst part is he went after little children. He kidnapped them, locked them in his basement and made them fight each other during full moon, to sort out the weak links.” When she saw the tears in Hermione’s eyes, she raised her eyebrow and said: “Can you handle that, Miss Granger? Because those are the kind of things we are dealing with here.”
Hermione swallowed. “That… that’s what I want to fight against,” she said. “That is why I w-want to work here. When people take advantage of innocent children like that… it doesn’t have to be children. It could be something else, like… like house-elves. People have no right to treat them like slaves!”
Gwyn Stayner smiled. “Yes, I’ve heard about your passion for the rights of house-elves,” she said. “You actually inspired my assistant’s latest opinion piece for the Daily Prophet. Freedom and clothes for our fellow elves! Have you read it? I think it was last month…”
“Your assistant wrote that?” Hermione straightened her back. “I would consider it an honour if I could meet him and discuss a constitution of Universal Rights of House-elves, like he mentioned in his article!”
“I suppose you could meet him on Monday,” replied the older witch. “On your first day.”
Hermione tried, but failed, to hold back her smile. “Are you saying that I got the job?”
“Yes. I like your commitment, and I’m sure that you will be a refreshing addition to our department. I have no doubt that you will work hard and diligently, considering your dedication to school. You see, I’ve talked to Minerva – she’s a good friend of mine. She had nothing but praise for you, young lady.” She winked at Hermione and checked her pocket watch. “Be here at eight thirty on Monday.”
That being said, Gwyn Stayner stood up. The door behind Hermione was flung open, and she got up on her feet, thanked her new boss and hurried out.
Ginny’s bedroom door was slammed shut with a bang that almost made Ron trip over his own feet on his way up the stairs. He grabbed the handrail in the last second and managed to regain his balance, and a few seconds later, Harry’s scraggy figure appeared on the landing above him, just outside Ginny’s room. Ron’s eyes narrowed.
“Oi, Harry!” he called. “What did you do to her this time?”
Harry started walking down the stairs. When he reached Ron, he sank down and sat on one of the steps with his chin resting in his hands, all without saying a single word.
“Well?” Ron said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Is Ginny mad at you?”
“She’s mad, alright,” Harry answered. “Completely mental! She slammed the door in my face. Had it not been for my Seeker reflexes, I would have been picking pieces of shattered glass out of my eyes right now,” he said grumpily while pointing at his glasses, which slid down to the tip of his nose just then, as if to help him stress his point.
“I thought we talked about this,” Ron said. “I stay out of your relationship as long as you don’t do anything stupid. So what did you do?”
Harry sighed and rolled his eyes. “She told me she had good news. You’ve heard about the Holyhead Harpies, right?” When Ron furrowed his eyebrows, Harry continued: “She made the team.”
“What? Nobody ever bothers to tell me anything!” Ron muttered. “I’m only her brother, you’d think that she’d want me to know…”
Harry ignored him and continued: “So I told her that I had good news too. I wanted her to be the first to know… that I’ve bought a flat. In London.”
Ron could feel his chin drop to the floor. A flat? He was moving out? He couldn’t recall Harry ever mentioning anything about buying a flat. Why had he not mentioned it?
“And I really thought she would be happy for me,” Harry said, “but she just threatened to hex me unless I got out of her sight.” He shook his head and sighed again. “Girls, Ron. Will we ever fully understand them?”
“She’s probably a bit shocked,” Ron said. “I mean, you’ve never told us you were thinking about moving out. And now you’ve bought a flat out of the blue? What do you reckon Mum will say about it?”
“It’s not that I’m not eternally grateful that you’ve let me stay here,” Harry said. “Or that I haven’t loved every second of it. I just feel like it’s time to grow up and take the next step. I’m turning nineteen, we’re getting paid now… it seemed like the right move.”
Ron nodded. To be fair, he and Hermione had started talking about getting a flat together in London as well. Preferably somewhere near the Ministry, as she worked there too now – which she had burst into the Auror department to announce in the middle of Dawlish’s presentation of the group of suspected Death Eaters that had run off to South America.
“Any advice on how to tell your mother?” Harry asked hopefully.
“Oh, it won’t matter what you do, mate,” Ron said and patted Harry’s shoulder. “She will lose it, start to cry and try to bribe you into staying by always cooking your favourite food, washing all your clothes, cleaning the room for you... Then she’ll move on to threats. I’ve seen it happen three times before.”
Ron could see Harry’s shoulders slump and suddenly felt guilty. He knew what his friend must be thinking – he dreaded the day when he would have to tell her that he was going to move out.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Ginny will come around. Don’t do it in front of me, but perhaps you could… you know, point out the advantages of not living under the constant surveillance of Mum. I can’t even put my arm around Hermione’s shoulder without her showing up. She’s mental, that’s what she is.” He fell silent. Then he realised that his mother had probably heard him – as he had just said, nothing escaped her – and he quickly added: “But she’s also wonderful. Kind, loving, and an amazing cook.”
Harry looked confused. But only a few second later, he heard Mrs Weasley calling from somewhere downstairs: “Nice save, Ronald!” and the two young men exchanged a look and burst into laughter.
A/N: I can't believe how many people have read this story! It's amazing. Thank you so much!!! I would also like to thank you so much for your reviews. I can't tell you how much I appreciate them, or how happy it makes me when you give me response. I would really like to know what you think of this chapter too :)
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