Chapter 33 : Year 4: The first of September
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It was Harry who had suggested they would go outside for a walk before lunch, and Ginny had gladly accepted. As she was quite the talker, Harry wasn’t sure whether or not his girlfriend had picked up on the fact that he was unusually quiet; truth was that the nervous fluttering in his stomach kept him from really paying any attention to what she was saying.
They stopped by a red light, and Ginny stopped talking, lifted her head and looked around. “Where are we going?” she said. “We’re not heading for King’s Cross Station, are we?”
Harry’s mouth went dry. “Well… I was thinking that–“
“You know,” Ginny interrupted, pulling up the sleeve of her sweater to check her watch. “It’s past eleven anyway. The barrier will have closed by now, and the train has already left. Besides, we don’t know anyone who’s going to Hogwarts this year, do we?”
“No,” Harry admitted. “But I’ve got… come on, just trust me on this one. I really want to see it again, even if we can’t get on to the platform. I’ve missed Hogwarts lately, and if I could see just a little bit of it…”
Ginny eyed him curiously before succumbing to his wish. Grabbing him by the arm, she started to walk again, across the road and towards the train station. Harry let out a sigh of relief, because he wanted the whole thing to be a surprise – he couldn’t wait to see the look on Ginny’s face when she saw it.
They made their way through the station, zigzagging between the travellers, the sounds of voices and train engines filling their ears. Harry smiled at the sight of a man in a long cloak, pulling a young boy with him by the arm. Their clothing caught a lot of attention, and already before the man spotted Harry and started staring shamelessly at him, Harry knew that they were wizards. Most likely, they had been to see someone off to Hogwarts – perhaps an older sibling to the boy – and had lingered behind until now. What Harry had said before had only been an excuse to get Ginny to go with him, but as he thought of the Hogwarts Express, which was heading north in this very second, he actually did miss Hogwarts. He thought of the excitement in the eyes of all the children sitting in the train departments, chewing on Chocolate Frogs and sharing stories of their summers, and the magnificent feast that was waiting for them in the castle. Had he appreciated enough when he had been one of those children? It seemed like the years had gone by so fast that he had barely time to do that.
“Well, here we are,” Ginny said, stopping by the barrier and turning to Harry. “Platform 9 and 10.”
Harry looked up, his eyes scanning the metal barrier. The fluttering in his stomach had increased, and he closed his eyes and took two deep breaths before setting in action the next step of the plan.
He turned to Ginny and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s run through it,” he said.
“Run through…? Harry, are you mad? I told you; it’s already closed!” Ginny said, shaking her head at this suggestion.
“No, it’s not,” Harry said, and when she opened her mouth again to protest, he quickly added: “I know, I know. It’s supposed to be closed, but they’ve kept it open for a bit longer today.”
Ginny raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms over her chest. “And why would they do that?”
Harry grabbed her arm and took a step closer to her. “Come on,” he said, placing one arm around his waist. “Trust me. I wouldn’t let you run straight into a wall if I didn’t know you’d just pass right through it, would I?”
Ginny’s facial expression softened, and she smiled, reached over and pressed her lips gently against his. Then she pulled away, grabbed his hand and turned towards the barrier.
“Alright,” she said. “But we’ll do it together.”
And they did. They ran straight towards the barrier, and they never hit any metal; it was nothing more than a barely noticeable breeze, and then they were on the other side.
The man and his son, who had just seen Harry Potter walking through King’s Cross Station, had made it to the exits. They had sat in the Muggle section of the station for a while after seeing the boy’s sister off, just watching these peculiar non-magical folks with a curiosity that could nearly be compared to that of Arthur Weasley’s. But as the young boy had grown sick of sitting still, they were now heading home. The man was still quite sad over having said goodbye to his daughter, a first year, but the fact that he had been only yards away from Harry Potter had significantly improved his mood. If he had turned his head to the right after stepping out onto Euston Road, his day would have become even better; none other than Hermione Granger was just passing by. That would have been something to include in the letter to his daughter that the man had already started composing in his head. But by coincidence, something to the left caught his eyes instead, and he missed the chance.
Hermione did not see the wizard and his boy either; she was leaning against the wall of the large building, sighing in relief over her luck. She had lingered behind on Platform 9 ¾ for a little too long, doing her part of the proposal plan even more thoroughly than she and Harry had agreed on, which meant that she had also almost run straight into him and Ginny on her way out. Fortunately, she had seen them first and managed to crouch down between a very large man and his suitcase and thereby prevent herself from giving anything away.
After taking a few minutes to collect herself, Hermione began walking towards the hidden spot from which she was planning to Disapparate. She couldn’t help but feel nervous; she and Harry had been planning the whole thing for weeks, and she could only hope that it would be everything Harry had imagined.
Only around five minutes later, Hermione walked into hers and Ron’s flat. It was unusually quiet, and she rolled her eyes as she realized that her boyfriend must still be asleep. She would never understand how he could relax enough to waste away days like that, but unless she woke him up, she was sure that he would gladly sleep until late in the afternoon.
Hermione had only just started to consider going to the Ministry to get some work done – she was aware of the fact that it was Saturday, but with Malfoy still gone, she had quite a lot on her plate – when a knock on the door interrupted her plans. She walked back out into the hallway and opened it up.
A very tall man with thick grey hair stood on her doorstep, his beard a little more rampant than normally. According to Ron, one could tell how busy he was just by looking at his beard – if it was neatly trimmed, it meant that he was calm and relaxed. If not, that was an indication that he was very busy at the moment.
“Mr Robards,” said Hermione now. “What a nice surprise.”
“Haven’t I told you to call me Gawain?” replied the Head Auror, a smile playing on his lips. “It’s always lovely to see you too, of course. However, I must admit that the reason for my visit isn’t quite as pleasant.”
“Oh, really?” Hermione said. “What’s wrong, then?”
“It’s work,” Gawain said, instantly muzzling whatever worst-case scenario had begun to form in Hermione’s mind with his calming smile. “I’m here to drag Ronald away from home, on a Saturday and all! We’re having a meeting in the Auror Office that simply cannot wait until Monday. Of course, I do hope this doesn’t interfere with any plans you might have for today.”
“Oh, no, it’s alright,” Hermione assured him. “Ron’s still asleep, though. I’ll go and wake him for you – would you like anything to drink while you wait? A cup of tea, coffee, lemonade?”
“A glass of lemonade sounds lovely,” Gawain said, stepping into the hallway and closing the door behind him. “Don’t tell my wife, though; she keeps complaining about my sweet tooth. She’s the one who created it, though, isn’t she, with her delicious cookies and pies and…?”
He trailed off, and Hermione smiled while walking into the kitchen. There, she poured him a glass of her mother’s homemade lemonade and left him sitting at the table as she headed for the bedroom.
Gawain had time to get a refill before Ron appeared in the kitchen, his hair still quite messy but with clothes on and clean teeth. Gawain stood up almost immediately, and after thanking Hermione, he turned to the younger Auror and said:
“I’ll explain everything once we get to the Ministry. First, we must go and get Harry; I need him there as well.”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick look, and then Ron said: “Mr Robards… Gawain… is it really necessary that Harry comes? I know for a fact that he’s busy and–“
“I wouldn’t come and drag you out of bed like this if it wasn’t important, Ronald,” answered Gawain.
Ron’s shoulders drooped as he nodded, and he started to follow his boss towards the door when Hermione stepped into their way.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I understand that this is important, but it’s just that… Harry’s in the middle of proposing to Ginny, sir! If you could at least give him another hour…”
Gawain’s deep eyes widened. “He’s proposing? But why didn’t you say so? I… er… we’ll start the meeting without Harry, then. We probably won’t be leaving tonight anyway, so we should have time to fill him in later…”
“Leaving?” Hermione echoed, but Gawain was already half way out the door. Now, he raised his hand and waved it quickly while saying:
“Thanks again for the lemonade!”
And in the next moment, he had dragged Ron out into the staircase and shut the door.
“What did you mean by leaving?” Ron asked as he hurried down the steps along with his boss. “Are we going somewhere?”
“Most likely,” Gawain replied. “As I said, everything will be explained once we get there…”
The two men walked in silence, Ron half a step behind as he struggled to keep up with the pace that Gawain’s long legs could manage. They stepped outside, and Ron looked up in surprise at the cloudless sky, grinning at the thought of how happy Harry must have been with those circumstances. It was hard to concentrate on anything, really, as so many questions were swimming around in Ron’s brain; he desperately wanted to know how things were going with Harry and Ginny, and he was also both curious and confused about what was going on with the Aurors. It wasn’t until he nearly walked into Gawain that Ron realized that they had reached an empty alley, and that the older man had pulled out his wand.
“Apparate straight into the Auror Office,” he instructed Ron, “to the middle office.”
Ron envisioned the large room, with the oblong table and high chairs, in which he couldn’t recall getting anything but bad news about dangerous missions, and raised his wand. For a few seconds, he felt as if his entire body was compressed, every cell leaving its place inside of him. Then, as the office appeared before him in a blur, the cells jumped back into place, and his feet landed on the stone floor.
There were only three chairs at the tables that weren’t taken; Ron assumed that one was for him, one for Harry, and one for Gawain. The rest of them were taken by Ron’s colleagues – Hestia Jones, Dawlish, Williamson, Seamus Finnigan, Andrew Saxby, a nervous-looking Neville, and Jack Marwick. There was only one face among them that was unfamiliar to Ron. It belonged to a woman who looked like she was in her sixties or seventies, with grey, curly hair and tired eyes. She had a certain air around her – it was, for some indefinable reason, obvious to Ron that she didn’t belong at the Ministry of Magic, perhaps not even in the magical world.
“So, everyone is here,” Gawain said.
“What about Potter?” asked Jack Marwick, a man about five years older than Ron with blond, almost yellow hair and a certain arrogance that had made Ron despise him from the very start.
“He couldn’t make it today,” said Gawain shortly, and before Marwick was given the chance to protest, he continued: “We have a visitor today, as you can see.” He made a gesture towards the old woman. “Over the last years, we have received many reports about Death Eaters mobilizing somewhere in Russia, and we’ve never been close to actually finding them. But last night, the Scandinavian Ministry contacted us, and it turns out that we might have been searching on the wrong side of the border.”
“Finland?” asked Hestia, whose brain seemed to have worked faster than the others’.
“Exactly,” Gawain confirmed her guess. “It wasn’t until Marja here,” he said, making a gesture towards the visitor again, “stumbled upon a few of the people who have been on our wanted list every since the war…”
“Stumbled upon?” Marwick said derisively.
The scornful tone in his voice made the woman, who had looked terrified ever since Gawain had acknowledged her presence in the room, open her mouth and speak.
“They came to my house,” she said in a strange accent. “For my boy. My son… He left, he… go to England, five years ago. To fight, he say to me…”
“Marja’s son sympathised with the Death Eaters,” Gawain explained.
Again, perhaps after seeing the looks on everyone’s faces at hearing this information, Marja opened her mouth.
“He was a good boy! Don’t think he was not good. I loved him, he was… he was good.”
“I’m sure you did,” Gawain said, pausing a moment before continuing: “He was killed shortly after arriving to England, and with Voldemort controlling the Ministry, no one was ever convicted of the crime. We suspect that these certain Death Eaters, in Finland, thought that he got scared after seeing the reality of it all and just returned home. So now, when they are trying to rebuild their forces, they decided to track him down and have him live up to his promise of serving as one of them… only to be met by his poor mother, and learn that he’s no longer alive.”
“And they just let you go?” Hestia asked, her eyes fixed on Marja. “Did you have to defend yourself?”
“I’m not a witch,” Marja whispered. “They said… they wanted to hurt me. To shut me up. But I saw my son’s friend there, and I looked at him… and he told them to leave me.”
“Perhaps he was making his friend one last favour,” Gawain said. “Either way, Marja didn’t keep it to herself, and the Scandinavian Auror Force are trying to track them down in this very minute. They have requested our help with the actual confrontation. These people are wanted for crimes they committed in Great Britain, and so it’s only right that we arrest them. And, seeing as we are the ones who have experience with dealing with Death Eaters, it’s also the safest option.”
“So we’re going to Finland?” Ron asked.
“A group of us,” Gawain confirmed.
“When?” asked Seamus.
“I can’t say,” Gawain said. “As soon as we hear back from the Scandinavian Ministry, we’ll have to be ready to leave.”
Ginny had never seen Platform 9 ¾ so clearly before; there was no steam there to bedim her sight, no students pushing heavy trunks towards the Hogwarts Express or parents jostling each other, trying to get one last glimpse of their children through the train windows. But even if there had been many things and sounds and noises there before to keep her from really noticing it, she was absolutely positive that it had never looked anything like this whenever she had been there before.
The floor of the platform was covered in a thin layer of petals in different colours, making a beautiful contrast to the stone floor beneath. Above their heads, large branches spread out like a green roof, and rays of sunlight seeped through here and there, casting a pattern of light and shadows on the flowers below. Ginny felt like she had stepped into a forest glade, and the scent of the flowers and the trees, a perfect mixture between fresh and sweet, was so lovely that she couldn’t stop taking deep breaths through her nose. Her lips were already curled into the widest of smiles when she turned towards Harry.
“Did you do this?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Well, not on my own; Hermione helped me with the charms, and it was Professor McGonnagall who set it up so that they kept the barrier open a bit longer for us. Do you… do you like it?”
“Like it?” Ginny started to laugh, and in the next moment she had thrown her arms around his neck. “Harry James Potter… this is the loveliest thing anyone has ever done for me!”
Harry was smiling too know, and he wrapped his arms around her waist as he leaned in and kissed her. His touch sent little electric shocks through her body, and she caught herself wanting to get even closer to him, despite the fact that they were already pressed against each other. Her hands flew to his neck, and as the warmth of his skin spread onto hers, she marvelled at the fact that while his hair was, without exceptions, always messy and untidy, it was also incredibly soft against her fingertips.
Eventually, Harry pulled away. “You know,” he said. “I’m… I’m so glad that I’ve got you. I don’t think I tell you that as much as I should.”
“Yes, you do,” Ginny said, looking into his incredibly green eyes; they were almost the same height, which meant that their eyes were as well. “I mean, look around. This is absolutely wonderful, Harry. I have to ask, though… I know for a fact that you’re aware of the fact that my birthday was weeks ago, because you celebrated it with me. So what is this for?”
“It was weeks ago?” Harry pretended to be surprised. “No, I thought it was today…”
He grinned as Ginny rolled her eyes at him, and then his hands were on her waist again, and his lips brushed against her cheek as he leaned in and said, in a low voice:
“Today is September first, year 2001. Which means that exactly ten years ago today, we met for the first time.”
Ginny couldn’t believe that he had actually thought of that, and decided to make such a big deal out of it. She also couldn’t help but smile at it though; it was just so sweet of him. She thought of that day ten years ago, and how her own excitement at having seen Harry Potter had actually overshadowed her annoyance over being the only one out of her siblings who couldn’t go to Hogwarts. She had woken up that morning and expected to just be dragged to King’s Cross Station and be forced to watch her brother’s go off to Hogwarts, which sounded like a real fairy tale to her, while she would be stuck at home with her mum for yet another year. What was even worse was that she wouldn’t even have Ron to share the misery with that year – and then it had ended up being the highlight of her week, if not even the rest of the year. Harry Potter, she remembered telling her dad that night, he was standing right next to me!
“Yes,” she said, raising an eyebrow at her boyfriend. “I remember that day.”
Harry laughed. “Me too,” he said. “I remember you begging your mum to let you get on to the train and take a second look at me, after finding out who I was. Yes,” he added after seeing the look on her face, “I heard you talking through the window.”
“And Mum told me off for thinking you were some exhibit that I could just stare at, didn’t she? Oh, that’s embarrassing…”
“I think it was sweet,” Harry said. “And I also remember you being upset over the fact that your brothers were leaving you behind. You know, when I was younger I always wanted an older brother… I used to dream that I had one, that no one knew of, and that he’d come and save me from Dudley and my aunt and uncle… but in that moment, seeing you with them, I wanted a little sister.”
“You did?” Ginny beamed at him before adding: “I bet you don’t wish you had an older brother now, do you, after you’ve met all of mine?”
“What do you mean?” Harry laughed. “I happen to like your brothers!”
“Yeah, well… so do I, I suppose,” Ginny smiled. “Most of the time.”
“Back then,” Harry said, grabbing her hand and turning to look at the empty track, “I could never have even imagined that you and I would end up here, ten years later… or that I would be so in love with you.”
“Who would have ever thought it?” Ginny said. “You never noticed me, did you?”
Harry smiled faintly. “I’m sorry that it took me so long. But I honestly think that the only reason I didn’t notice you before was that you were Ron’s sister. I mean, you’re not supposed to think of your best mate’s little sister that way…”
“Didn’t stop you, though,” Ginny grinned.
“It couldn’t stop me, eventually,” Harry admitted, grinning back at her. “But I think it held me back before, without me even knowing. I wouldn’t have changed it though, even if I could.”
“Neither would I. That’s what makes us so great, don’t you think? The fact that we knew each other for so long, and that our relationship had time to evolve from friendship and into something more.”
“I think so too,” Harry nodded. “And fortunately, I did come to my senses. Too bad I had to wait until you were already with Dean, right?”
“Yes, but luckily for you, he wasn’t the right person for me.”
Harry took a deep breath before asking: “And do you think that you’ve found the right person now?”
Ginny smiled and wrapped his arms around his neck again. “Take a wild guess.”
“I know for a fact that I have,” Harry said, smiling back at her. “You know, I spent all of my childhood feeling like I didn’t belong, not at the Dursleys, not in school… and I’ve spent all of my life mourning over the fact that I don’t have a family. Over my parents, and Sirius and Lupin, and now… I know that I do have one. And I do have a place where I belong, and… It’s quite hard to believe sometimes, you know, that I really have all those things that I wished for. But the most important thing, and the one that gives me a place to belong more than anything, is what you and I have. And you. You’re just… I know that I’ll always want to be where you are, and that I’m supposed to be.”
He made a pause and let go of her hands. In the next moment, he had pulled something out of his pocket, and he knelt down amongst the petals, reaching for her hand. Ginny’s eyes were filled with tears and her mind was spinning in chaos in one way, while being perfectly still and calm in another, as if part of her had known that this was supposed to happen, right there and then. And Harry opened the box he had got from his pocket, revealing a golden ring with three small diamonds glistening in the sunlight that fell perfectly on it, and said:
“Ginevra Molly Weasley… will you marry me?”
Ginny felt something grow in her chest; it was as if her emotions were slowly expanding, and she wondered for a moment if her heart would in fact explode, and then she burst into tears, knelt down in front of Harry and managed, somehow, to say:
“Yes! Yes, of course I will!”
A/N: So there you have it. I've been so nervous about posting this, because I know that there are some people with very high expecations waiting for this moment, and I can only hope that you're not disappointed! I tried to keep it sweet, but not too soppy, because I just can't imagine that Ginny would that. Please, do let me know what you think; I'd love to get some feedback!
Also, I'm sure you're aware of the fact that this took me a little longer than usual, but I'm also sure you understand that life gets a little crazy sometimes, and that I always do my best to get the chapters up as soon as possible :) Thank you so, so much for continuing to read and support this story. It really does mean the world to me!
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