|SIYE Time:5:38 on 22nd February 2018|
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Disturbing Imagery, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations
Summary: The year after the war was a confusing time for the teen warriors. They had fought against the greatest evil - what was next? Follow them as they try to find out. Canon pairings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 84106; Chapter Total: 3283
Awards: View Trophy Room
Special thanks to StephanieO and seekers_destiny for their great beta work!
Hermione stepped gracefully out of the Floo into Professor McGonagall’s office. Professors Clarke and McGonagall were waiting for her.
“I trust you are feeling better,” Professor McGonagall said as she gestured for Hermione to sit across from her desk. Professor Clarke took the chair next to Hermione’s on the opposite side from the Headmistress.
Blushing, Hermione sat down. “I am feeling much better, thank you.”
“I am glad to hear that,” Professor McGonagall said. Her expression was stern. “Miss Granger, Professor Clarke and I have had several discussions over the past week as to what your punishment should entail. We’ve spoken several times about your appointment as school prefect.”
Hermione’s eyes widen and she gasped. “But…I thought that missing class for a week was my punishment.”
Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow. “You thought being sent to spend a week with your boyfriend was punishment? No, that was done because we were concerned for your emotional and mental health.”
Falling back in her chair, Hermione blinked back tears, her face red with embarrassment. “I understand. I just…I guess I didn’t really think about it. Please, don’t take away my prefect status.”
Surveying the young woman in front of her, Professor McGonagall said, “Miss Granger, I want you to understand the seriousness of your actions, because I don’t believe you understand the import of your actions. You attacked another student verbally, physically, and magically in front of the entire school and without apparent provocation. Not just any student, you attacked a young man who has literally saved our entire world and way of life. Harry is a hero to the whole wizarding world and the entire school saw you attacking him.”
Holding up her hand to hold off Hermione’s explanation, she said, “I know you were upset and you were angry, however that does not excuse your actions. Especially after I discovered that this was not the first time you have unleashed magic upon a classmate after your feelings were hurt. Do you honestly think a younger student would feel comfortable approaching you with any issues after seeing that display?”
Hermione’s face fell as she considered what Professor McGonagall said. She hoped that the younger years saw her as a role model, not someone to be feared.
Seeing the understanding in Hermione’s face, Professor McGonagall continued, “I am putting you on probation. If at the end of the term, there have been no further incidents and you have completed your detention we will review the situation.
“You are to serve detention with Professor Clarke every Saturday until the end of the term. She will describe what the detention will entail. You are hereby withdrawn from all extracurricular activities until further notice. Miss Granger, I will not lie to you, you have done a lot of damage to your reputation and your friendships. Miss Weasley is most distressed at the turn of events. Initially, she requested that you be moved into a different dorm room, but she has reconsidered and wishes to speak with you before making such a decision.”
“Why does she get to decide?” Hermione asked wounded at the implications. “I’m sorry I attacked Harry, but what is that to do with her?”
Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow. “You put her fiancé in the hospital wing and you turned your wand on her.”
“I did?” Hermione tried to review what had happened, but honestly she didn’t recall many details of the fight.
“Yes, you did,” Professor McGonagall confirmed. “I am taking all of the student’s concerns about safety seriously. I believe they are owed that after the year they endured. It is not a matter of Miss Weasley being allowed to decide in which dorm you are placed, it is a matter of whether Miss Weasley feels safe sleeping in the same room with you.”
Hermione blushed and dropped her eyes, unable to meet Professor McGonagall’s gaze. She couldn’t ever remember being in a position like this before. Teachers had always liked and approved of her, she hadn’t been reprimanded for her behaviour like this since the Norbert incident in her first year. At least then her actions had been defensible.
“Professor, I am truly sorry for my actions,” Hermione said miserably. “I would never hurt Ginny or attack her.”
The headmistress cast a Patronus and a few moments later, there was a knock at the office door. Ginny opened the door and entered
the office. Hermione imagined she must have been waiting out in the corridor as she arrived so quickly.
Professor McGonagall stood up. “If the two of you wish to speak, I would ask that you speak here.” She gestured to a small sitting area.
Hermione looked over at Ginny once they’d settled into the sitting area. “I am really sorry, Ginny.”
“I understand you were upset about Ron, but why didn’t you talk to me? You yelled at my dad and then threw yourself into your studies.”
“You just abandoned Ron,” Hermione defended herself. “He’s been going through a lot.”
“Gee, he lost a brother, I wonder what that would be like,” Ginny said sarcastically.
Hermione winced at Ginny’s tone. “I know, but…”
“I know how hard it is,” Ginny said coolly. “You don’t need to explain it to me. Ron is being a complete prat about everything. He needed a wake-up call. Harry tried to talk to him, George tried to talk to him, and Bill tried to talk to him. Nothing worked. Do you realize on the night he was arrested, Ron had already started one bar brawl and was on his way to starting another. Is that the behaviour you’re condoning?”
“No, I don’t condone his behaviour, but I don’t think he should have been arrested,” Hermione explained.
“I don’t think Harry should have had to carry around a portion of Tom’s soul for most of his life,” Ginny returned evenly. “There is nothing fair about this situation. It sucks! I spent the last year being tortured by Death Eaters, the three of you had to go on the run, my brother died, and my mother couldn’t deal with everything and had a potions overdose. Instead of leaning on his family, Ron decided the best way to deal was to go out drinking, partying, and pretending that none of this happened.”
Hermione didn’t respond so Ginny continued, “This isn’t about Ron’s behaviour; this is about your behaviour. All of us have had horrid experiences in this war, all of us, but you seem to be keeping score. How many times does Harry have to apologize? You decided that you were going to go with Harry. You insisted upon it. Did it not occur to you that it might be dangerous? Or did you assume Harry was going to be the only one in danger? He’s had nightmares about you being tortured — they’d mostly disappeared until last week. You equated Ron’s selfishly going out drinking and relying on Harry to rescue him with Harry being tormented by Voldemort and accidentally waking you up.”
Tears glittered in Hermione’s eyes. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you want from me.”
“I want you to understand that friends don’t keep track of past wrongs. You’ve accepted Harry’s apology, but as soon as you get angry you throw Malfoy Manor back in his face. You made sure he understands how much he ‘owes’ you because of your friendship. If he was truly your friend, he wouldn’t owe you anything.”
“I don’t mean it like that,” Hermione defended herself. “It just seemed like Harry was forgetting everything that we’ve gone through together.”
“He remembers,” Ginny said firmly. “He remembers and he loves both of you. Both of you have hurt him so deeply, but he still loves you and wants to be your friends. But knowing what you’ve gone through, why do you trust him so little?”
“I trust Harry!” Hermione was stung by that implication.
“You trust Harry in a crisis, you trust Harry to be brave, you trust Harry with your life, but you also need to trust his decisions. He loves Ron and he didn’t do this because he was angry at Ron or wanted to get back at him. He did it because he wants Ron to get some help. Not once did you ask Harry why he’d done what he did — well I supposed you did screech it at him before you started attacking him. But you didn’t ask him in a way that indicated you would be willing to listen.”
Tears did start falling as Hermione listened to Ginny. Could Ginny be right?
“Hermione, I don’t want to fight. I’m sick of the drama and I’m tired of the sick feeling in my stomach every day. You can stay in our dorm, but please think about what I’ve said.”
Hermione quickly wiped her face. “I will, I promise.”
Ginny surveyed her for a moment before reaching out and pulling Hermione into a hug. Hermione gratefully returned the embrace.
Professor McGonagall smiled at the two girls. “It seems an accord has been reached. Thank you, Miss Weasley. I need to speak to Miss Granger for a few more minutes.”
“Of course, Professor,” Ginny said.
Once Ginny left, Professor Clarke made arrangements to meet with Hermione for her first detention. Hermione left the Headmistress’ office in a pensive mood. She resolved to attempt to repair any relationships she may have damaged with her tirade. She certainly didn’t want that disgraceful fight to be her legacy here at Hogwarts.
Harry grinned over at Seamus as they climbed the steps to enter the Metropolitan Police Crime Academy. The Auror trainees were taking their first Muggle class today — it was ‘Forensic Awareness for First Responders’. Susan and Katie were the most nervous for the class today. As Purebloods, neither of them had much experience in dressing like Muggles.
Michael’s mother had come down to London the previous day and had taken them all shopping. She’d taken the time to show them how to match clothes appropriately and what clothes were not appropriate. Recalling some of the outfits worn by wizards at the World Cup, Harry thought that was probably a good idea.
In the end they had decided on a ‘uniform’ of sorts. The wizards all wore dark trousers with a white shirt and tie. Katie also chose to wear dark trousers with a pink jumper. Susan felt more comfortable in a skirt so she wore a dark pencil skirt with a grey blouse. Auror Dawlish had given all of them ballpoint pens and legal pads with which to take notes. Harry found he was actually relieved to be using a pen rather than a quill. It had taken him years to get used to writing with a quill and he really preferred using a pen.
Entering the building, the group followed signs to a classroom where they joined other law enforcement personnel. The group all sat together in a row. Harry looked around curiously.
“I’m glad we’re able to attend some of the courses here,” Harry said quietly to Seamus.
Seamus nodded as he looked around the room.
He grinned as he noticed Katie and Susan trying to work their pens. Katie seemed rather afraid of the pen. She tried pushing on the clip without any success.
“Seamus, how does this thing work?” Katie hissed as she held out a ballpoint pen.
Taking the pen, Seamus showed her how to click it open... After closing the pen, he handed it back to her. Dubiously she took the pen back and cautiously she clicked the pen. She promptly screamed and dropped the pen.
Harry, Seamus, and Michael started laughing at her surprise. Glowering at them, she picked up the pen and made a mark on her paper. She looked over at them in astonishment. “That was easy.”
Susan was trying to write without clicking the pen. Somehow she managed to unscrew the pen and it fell apart on her. Michael took pity on her and re-screwed the cap and showed her how to use the pen.
Harry and Seamus smiled as the two girls practiced writing.
“They have it so much easier,” Harry whispered. “I hated learning to use a quill.”
“I know,” Seamus agreed. “My mum always had a quill, but all of us kids just used pens.”
Once the instructor strode up to the podium, Harry was enthralled. His pen flew across the paper as he took notes on cross contamination, types of evidence and how to preserve the various types of evidence.
During the lunch break, the group took the opportunity to meet some of the other law enforcement officers. Harry was happy to see all of them interacting with their Muggle counterparts. This is really what he hoped for in the future — more Muggle and wizarding cooperation.
The next night when Harry was talking to Ginny over their mirrors, he was still quite enthusiastic about his class. “Michael and Terry were talking about developing some spells that would help with collecting and preserving evidence. It’s really interesting. I wish we’d learned more about developing spells in school. Michael said that he was recruited by the Ministry to work in spell development, but he wanted to be an Auror.”
“Spell development is supposed to be really hard,” Ginny commented.
“It sounds like it is,” Harry admitted. “I really wish I’d paid a bit more attention to the classes I picked in my third year. I got completely lost listening to Michael and Terry talking about Arithmancy. Ancient Runes sounds really interesting as well.”
“I like Ancient Runes,” Ginny said. “Bill always made it sound so interesting. I considered taking Arithmancy, but I was worried about taking on too much.”
“I don’t know that I would have liked Arithmancy after listening to them talking today, but I’m thinking about picking up Ancient Runes. They offer it as an adult class at the Ministry.”
“That would be great,” Ginny said. “I bet it would help you a lot in your work.”
“Don’t tell Hermione yet,” Harry cautioned. “She can be…a little too enthusiastic sometimes.”
Ginny laughed. “Don’t worry, I understand.”
“How are things going with Hermione?”
Glancing around her dorm room, Ginny instinctively lowered her voice even though she’d already cast privacy spells. “Things are okay. I think she was surprised to discover that she’d upset so many people. I think she’s still really embarrassed that she lost control like that. She apologized, but things are still a bit tense. Some of the younger students are a bit scared of her, but many of the older students are a bit more forgiving. We’ve been through a lot and we’ve all reached our own breaking points. It’s really brought home to a lot of people that we all need some help dealing with everything that’s happened. Madam Florence has been around talking to all of the houses, but she’s spent a lot of time in Gryffindor Tower this past week. It’s been nice having her around.”
“That’s good,” Harry replied.
“Have you heard anything from Ron?”
He shook his head. “No, he’s still going to work and his community service. George is continuing with his support group and I think it’s really helping him. When I came down to breakfast the other day, he was laughing at something in the paper. I haven’t heard him laugh like that in a long time. He just seems brighter and more content.”
Ginny blinked away tears. “Really? I hope he’s getting better. I worry about him so. He did sound good in his last letter. He’s had tea several times with a girl from the support group.”
“Yes, Ruby,” Harry smiled. “I met her the other day when they were having lunch together. Ruby’s brother was killed in a Death Eater raid last summer. I think it’s done him a lot of good to see that there are other people who’ve gone through something similar and come out on the other side of it.”
“I wonder what Angelina thinks of that,” Ginny mused.
Harry shrugged. “I have no idea. I really can’t figure out their relationship at all.”
“It’s complicated. Angelina and Fred dated briefly whilst they were in school,” Ginny explained. “They went to the Yule Ball together and dated for most of their last year at Hogwarts. They broke up before the twins made their epic escape, but they all remained friends. George has had a crush on her for a while and I heard Fred encouraging him to ask her out last spring when we were at Aunt Muriel’s, but he’s afraid she either won’t want to date him or will see him as a fill in for Fred.”
“How do you know all this stuff?” He asked in admiration. “You’re even better at this than Hermione.”
Ginny laughed. “I listen to people. It’s not that difficult.”
“I did wonder why I hadn’t seen Angelina around lately.”
“George mentioned in his last letter that Angelina was going to Canada. She has a cousin over there who is pregnant and is supposed to be on bed rest, but she has two little kids so it’s kind of hard to be on bed rest. Angelina is going to go out and help her cousin. I think she also needs a break from everything going on here.”
“I can’t blame her,” Harry said. “It would be nice to be able to get away from everything for a while.”
“Thinking of doing a runner on me?” Ginny asked teasingly.
“On you, never,” Harry reassured her. “With you - now that I might be able to do.”
She laughed. “Good answer, my love.”
He grinned. “You never know, sometimes a bit of distance provides the clarity you need. Being apart from you made me realize how much I love you and need you in my life.”
She blew him a kiss. “Maybe it will bring Angelina and George similar clarity.”
“Happy birthday,” Ron said as he hugged his oldest brother.
“Thanks,” Bill said with a wicked grin. He handed his brother a bottle of beer and gestured towards the kitchen. “There’s food in the kitchen and plenty of drinks to be found. Most of us are out in the back garden.”
Taking a sip of his beer, Ron made his way through Shell Cottage. As promised, the kitchen counter was covered with food. There were platters of sandwiches, salads, crisps, and plenty of cakes and crumbles. Unlike his parents’ house, here the food was mostly brought prepared not homemade, but there was also no one pushing food on them as there would be at the Burrow.
That would come tomorrow with Bill’s official birthday party at the Burrow. Tonight was just the younger crowd — some of Bill’s friends from work and of course all of his brothers. After loading up a plate, Ron stepped out into the back garden. There were fairy lights strung all around the garden and plenty of seating as well. A roaring fire was blazing in the fire pit.
Making his way around the fire pit, Ron spied George and Percy. He watched them for a minute trying to figure out what was different. A moment later it hit him, George was laughing. He certainly wasn’t like his old manic self, but he was much better than Ron had seen him in a long time.
Percy looked up as he walked over. “Ron! You made it.”
Nodding to his brothers, Ron settled in to demolish the plate of food he’d prepared. Listening to the talking, he was surprised to hear that George was still going to his group meetings. He’d even met someone who he thought would be perfect for head chef of his pizza restaurant.
“Evan’s a great bloke,” George said. “He trained in both Muggle and wizarding kitchens. I think he’ll be great.”
“I have to admit, I was impressed with him,” Percy said. “I believe Robert will make an excellent manager. It seems like things are finally moving forward on this idea. Evan and Robert will make an excellent addition to the team.”
“When do you think it will open?” Ron asked curiously.
“We’re hoping after the holidays,” George said. “I don’t want to try and open during the Christmas season. That’s the busiest time of year at the shop and I don’t want to be split between the two places. That will give Evan and Robert some time to meet and develop the recipes. They liked the dragon theme and Evan had some great menu ideas. Fleur has been working with Robert to develop the look of the restaurant.”
As Ron listened to George and Percy, he realized that he’d been so wrapped up in everything happening to him, that he hadn’t paid
attention to what was happening with the rest of the family. George really seemed to be benefiting from the group he was attending. Suddenly Ron felt rather left behind. How could George be moving forward when he still felt so lost?
Moodily, he stood and walked over towards the edge of the cliff feeling very discontented for reasons he really didn’t want to examine. He paused and turned and walked towards Dobby’s grave. Someone had been tending to the gravesite, the grass was neatly clipped and there were no weeds. Instead there was a small flowering plant that wound around the base of the grave stone.
Turning, Ron hugged Charlie. “Charlie, it’s good to see you. When did you get in?”
“Thanks,” Charlie replied. “I got in this afternoon. I’ll be here for a week.” The two brothers gazed down at the grave for a moment. “What is the story with this grave?” Charlie asked curiously. “I’ve meant to ask Bill, but it never seemed to be the right time.”
Ron sighed. “Dobby was a house elf who used to work for the Malfoys; he tried to warn Harry about bad things happening before our second year. Harry ended up freeing him and Dobby has always kept track of Harry and helped him out. It was Dobby who rescued us from Malfoy Manor. He transported groups of us here to Shell Cottage. Harry was the last person he pulled out and Bellatrix had thrown her knife at Harry, but Dobby jumped in front of it. He died in Harry’s arms right down on the beach.
“It really shook Harry up. He dug the grave himself that night without any magic. Something…I don’t know how to explain it, but after that night Harry was so focused. It was like he suddenly knew what to do and how to do it. He’d been so fixated on the stupid Deathly Hallows before that, but after that night he stopped all that nonsense and concentrated on the important stuff.”
Charlie raised an eyebrow at Ron’s half resentful tone. “Didn’t his knowledge of the Deathly Hallows help him win?”
“I guess,” Ron allowed.
“Why are you so angry?” Charlie asked in an almost soothing tone of voice.
Ron stiffened, if it had been anyone else he would have yelled at them, but it didn’t feel right yelling at Charlie. “Harry is just going on with his life and I can’t seem to get there. Why isn’t he angry? Why isn’t he stuck?”
“Do you feel he’s left you behind?” Charlie asked.
Shrugging, Ron didn’t answer verbally. Charlie tugged his brother over to the small bench that Fleur had placed near the gravesite. The brothers sat quietly for a minute until Ron burst out, “He’s just going on with life! Fred d-died and mum overdosed on potions, Hermione’s relationship with her parents has been really rough, but Harry’s just fine. He’s working as an Auror and getting engaged. It’s just not fair!”
“After the year of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, what did you do that summer?”
Ron looked over at his brother in confusion. “I went home to the Burrow. We didn’t get to stay for long, but we spent the first week at the Burrow before heading to Grimmauld Place.”
“The week you were at the Burrow, what did you do?”
Shrugging, Ron thought for a moment. “The usual stuff - went swimming, played some Quidditch.”
“Mum and Dad were there with the twins and Ginny,” Charlie.
Ron nodded. Charlie said, “How did you feel?”
“What are you getting at?” Ron demanded. “I was fine. It was great to be home after such a horrid year.”
“How do you think Harry was?”
“Well…he was Harry. He was angry and…I don’t know.”
“He’d just seen Voldemort rise again. He’d been forced to watch Cedric die. He’d fought against Voldemort and been tortured by him, right?”
“Yeah,” Ron said. He was still confused by the change in subject. “It must have been rough for him.”
“His relatives weren’t really there for him, were they?”
Ron shook his head. “No, he and his relatives never really got along well.”
“So after probably the worst experience of his life up to that point, he was dumped on his relatives while you returned to the Burrow and your normal life.”
Charlie held Ron’s confused gaze. “Ron, he’s already gone through his worst experiences - Voldemort’s re-birth, Cedric’s death, his godfather’s death, and Dumbledore’s death. He made it through all of those and managed to kill Voldemort. Now, he probably feels he’s entitled to live his life. I’m not saying you don’t have a reason to be angry with him or anything like that, but you need to talk to him. Ask him why he wasn’t there for you.”
“So Fred’s death didn’t mean anything to him?”
“Of course it did,” Charlie replied. “I saw him at the funeral and the other funerals as well. He was grieving with us, but you can’t expect Fred’s death to affect him as much as it did us. How much did Sirius’ death affect you?”
Ron flushed slightly. “Not much. I was more upset for Harry than I was about Sirius. I mean, he was a nice bloke, but I didn’t really know him.”
“Exactly, so why would Fred’s death affect him the same you?”
Ron gazed out over the sea as he thought about what his brother was saying. “I guess that makes sense. I just…I wish. He’s pulling away. He’s with Ginny and doesn’t want to go out with me and George.”
“I thought the two of you went to a Quidditch match together,” Charlie commented.
“We did,” Ron confirmed. “We started out having fun, but then he never wanted to do anything. We kept inviting him to come out with us, but he’d say he had to study or something.”
“He did just start in the Auror program,” Charlie pointed out.
Ron shrugged that off. He really didn’t want to let go of his anger that quickly.
“Do you have a problem with him being with Ginny?”
“Not exactly,” Ron said. “He’s crazy about her and he’ll treat her right, but…” He hesitated a minute before he burst out, “Do you think they’re sleeping together?”
Charlie raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know. I don’t really know Potter and Ginny doesn’t talk to me about things like that. Why do you ask?”
Ron explained what he’d overheard. Charlie frowned. “Merlin, I hope not! She’s only seventeen. I don’t like the way they went around announcing their engagement. Poor Mum, she really didn’t expect that and you can’t blame her for being so shocked.”
At this point Bill joined his brothers. “What’s going on over here? You two are looking entirely too serious for a party.”
Charlie quickly explained to his brother what they’d been talking about. Bill frowned slightly as he listened to them.
“You would have a problem with them sleeping together?” he asked looking between the two of them.
“Of course!” they both yelled. Ron continued, “She’s too young.”
“What about you?” Bill asked looking at his youngest brother.
“What do you mean?” Ron asked in confusion.
“What about you and Hermione?” Bill clarified.
The tips of Ron’s ears were fiery red and the redness was creeping up his face. “We haven’t…I mean she wasn’t ready.”
“But you wanted to,” Bill said.
“Of course,” Ron glared at his brother. He didn’t see how this had suddenly been turned around onto him.
“So you aren’t too young, but Ginny is?”
“That’s different,” Ron said. “Me and Hermione are both older and we have a really solid relationship.”
“Harry and Ginny are engaged,” Bill pointed out. “They’ve been dating for a year and a half.”
“But she’s too young!” Ron retorted.
“I don’t think you’re seeing her too clearly,” Bill said. “Yes, I’m not thrilled at the thought of my little sister having sex with her fiancé, but if it was one of you boys I would be happy for you.”
“But…she’ll get a bad reputation,” Ron pointed out. “There were already rumours of her being pregnant.”
“Started by your girlfriend,” Bill said sharply. “He loves her and he’s going to marry her. I have to admit, he’s the only person I’ve ever thought was good enough for her. For Merlin’s sake, he saved the whole world for her. I don’t think they need to prove anything to us. They may be young, but I know that you lost your virginity long before seventh year, Charlie. So did I and so did the twins.”
Ron blushed and looked down. Bill clapped him on the shoulder. “Ron, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I wish I’d waited a bit longer
and that Fleur was the only girl I’ve ever been with. Honestly, you and Hermione haven’t been dating all that long. It makes sense that she would want to wait.”
“Why didn’t Ginny?”
Bill shrugged. “I don’t know exactly, but she told Fleur that she thought she’d missed her chance to be with him. She was afraid that one of them would die before they could be together. They are ready to get married and start their family. Can you say the same?”
“No,” Ron admitted. He looked away.
“Can I ask Harry to come over?” Bill asked.
“Why?” Ron asked angrily. “He doesn’t need to be here.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Bill agreed, “but it will be Christmas soon and if the two of you aren’t talking it will make an already awkward situation worse. At least talk to him.”
“I guess,” Ron sighed.
Charlie summoned two more beers while they waited. It was probably ten minutes later when Bill and Harry walked over to Dobby’s grave. Ron watched uneasily as Harry approached. It was easier to maintain his anger and not face what he may have done so he didn’t really want to face his best mate.
All too soon, Harry and Bill were standing in front of Charlie and Ron. Harry gazed steadily at Ron.
“Why did you do that?” Ron burst out after a moment of silence.
Harry raised his eyebrow. “Why did I do what?”
“Get me in trouble like that,” Ron said. “I’ve had to do community service hours and my father had to pay a huge fine. Why didn’t you come get me?”
“I didn’t get you into trouble,” Harry contradicted him. “You did that yourself. You went out drinking and you started a fight. I went to your father because it seemed like there might be trouble. He made the decision not to help you.”
“And you just went along with it,” Ron said.
“What was I supposed to do?” Harry said angrily. “You’d been going out every week, sometimes more than once a week. I think I’ve bailed you out often enough. Do you know how much sleep I’ve lost getting you? Not to mention, you were making fun of me and telling me that I was being a pansy and everyone was laughing at me.”
“Are you sleeping with my sister?” Ron demanded.
“That’s none of your business,” Harry returned evenly. “I’ve never asked you about your relationship with Hermione.” He regarded his friend for a minute. “Is that why you got so angry with me? You seemed to become angrier after the Parents Weekend.”
“You were staying up at the school until midnight and following my sister around like a little puppy dog. You let her feed you. It was pathetic.”
Harry shrugged. “Yes, I stayed with her as long as possible. I miss her, I’m not going to apologize for that. I don’t know what you mean about following her around. I went there to see her. I don’t know why you are making such a big deal out of her asking me to taste something and offering me a bite. I’ve seen Fleur do that to Bill before and I’ve seen other couples do it. You act like she was feeding me the whole meal. She offered me a few bites. Why are you so angry? It’s like nothing I do is right.”
“Why did you stop coming over to the shop? It’s like you didn’t want to be friends anymore once the girls went back to school. You never wanted to go out with me and George.”
“You never invited me to go out with you and George.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I asked you all the time!”
“You asked me to go out with those shop girls,” Harry clarified. “I have no interest in hanging out with girls like that.”
“What’s wrong with the girls? They are fun.”
Harry shook his head. “They are party girls who are only hanging around because you are famous and keep paying for their drinks. I don’t need those types of friends and neither do you. Hell, I don’t want Ginny to worry about the type of girls I’m hanging around like Hermione does.”
“What does that mean? What the hell have you told her?” Ron demanded angrily.
“I haven’t told her anything,” Harry replied. “She’s seen the pictures in the paper and she’s noticed that you don’t write her as often. She’s asked about them and I’ve never really answered.”
“What?” Ron was somewhat derailed from his anger by this revelation. Hermione was doubting him?
“Ron, I tried to tell you when those girls approached us at the Quidditch game. Those girls just want to brag they know someone famous or they want to sleep with someone famous. The shop girls are the same way. I hate the way they all would come on to me if I stopped by when they were at the shop or the one time I did go out with all of you. I caught two of them trying to slip something into my drink so I didn’t drink anything for the rest of the night. I don’t need girls like that in my life and neither do you, but you wouldn’t listen to me so I had to not go out with you either. If you had asked me to go out with just you and George or me and Seamus, I would have gone in a heartbeat. But I don’t want to end up in the papers or wake up to find out that some girl slipped me a love potion and I slept with her or something.”
Ron stared at him in shock. This wasn’t at all what he’d expected Harry to say. “So you weren’t avoiding me.”
“Of course not,” Harry returned impatiently. “Why the hell would I do that? You’ve been my best mate since first year. I wouldn’t have asked you to move into Grimmauld Place if I was trying to avoid you. You decided you were angry at me and laughed at just about everything I did. I was ridiculous for running and going to the gym, I looked stupid with my ear pierced, I was studying too much. For Merlin’s sake, how old are you? I’m studying too much? I’m in Auror training. There is a lot to learn and I can’t afford to not pay attention. I didn’t finish my last year of school and there’s some stuff that is really hard for me.”
Bill and Charlie pulled away to leave the younger boys to work out their differences. George, who had been watching from a distance, gave his older brother a nod. He was glad someone had finally taken the initiative to make Ron talk to Harry.
“Working at the shop is hard for me,” Ron replied less angrily. “That’s why I started going out with the girls in the first place. There is so much pressure on me to be there for George and not mess up what they started.”
“There are other ways to deal with it than going out and getting drunk every night.”
Ron flushed. “I know, but I felt like…you wouldn’t understand.”
“What wouldn’t I understand?”
“What it’s like to have so much pressure on you to succeed and have your family counting on you,” Ron finally managed to say.
“Please tell me you’re kidding,” Harry said after a minute. “Ron, what the hell do you think it was like for me my whole time at Hogwarts? No, I didn’t have five older brothers to live up to - I had two dead parents to honour. I was constantly being measured by my parents and their willingness to give up their lives for me. Was I worth them dying? I still don’t think so, but yes I know about pressure to succeed. Did you hear them the summer before we left? Kingsley saying I was the last best chance to succeed and Diggle saying the hopes of the wizarding world rested on my shoulders — yeah I know about pressure.”
Ron looked away. He’d heard people saying things like that about Harry, but he’d never even stopped to think about what Harry might feel about that. Harry was supposed to save the world, right? As he glanced over at his best mate, Ron suddenly realized that he’d never even questioned that Harry would do what he had to do.
Instead he’d complained that it had taken too long or that Harry had gotten side tracked with the Deathly Hallows. He was still a bit upset that Harry had gotten them captured and Hermione tortured, but it wasn’t as though Harry had come through it in one piece. Harry had been hit with all three Unforgivables cast by You-Know-Who.
“It’s-” Ron stopped as his voice cracked embarrassingly. He started again. “It’s hard to think that Fred is dead. I hate seeing George so messed up and my Mum…she fell apart. It’s hard seeing my family in trouble.”
“I know that,” Harry said honestly. He stepped towards Ron. “I’m not part of your family and it’s torn me apart. I’ve gone over everything that happened millions of times to see what I could have done differently. I hate that so many people got involved and so many people died. I’ve been talking to George and spending time with Teddy. I tried talking to you, but anytime I did you just told me I didn’t know what it’s like to lose a brother.
“You’re right, I don’t know what it’s like to lose a brother, but I’ve lost a lot of people in my life — my parents, Sirius, Remus. Cedric and Professor Dumbledore were killed right in front of me and there was nothing I could do about it. So while I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, I do know a lot about losing people.”
Ron nodded, but didn’t say anything out loud. Harry sighed. “Look, Ron, I get that you are going through a lot and Merlin knows I didn’t handle things during our 5th year. I took things out on you and Hermione. I’m sorry, mate, I yelled at you and I wasn’t very fun to be around, but it’s thanks to you and Hermione I got through that year. You just want to push me away. You’re acting like I’m…some sort of authority to rebel against rather than your best mate. You laugh at me for studying, you make fun of me for how I act with your sister, and you smoke in my house even though I’ve asked you repeatedly not to do it. I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.”
Ron shifted uneasily. “It felt like all you were doing is getting on my case about things.”
“Ron, I understand that things were bad,” Harry said a touch impatiently. “What are you going to do?”
“Do? What do I need to do?”
Harry looked past Ron to Bill who was standing not too far away watching them. “Bill, I hope you have a great birthday. I hope I’ll see you sometime around the holidays.”
Coming over to the two younger boys, Bill looked at Harry anxiously. “Are you sure you don’t want to come over tomorrow?”
Harry shook his head. “I don’t think I’d be very welcome.”
“I’m sorry,” Bill said. “I hoped…”
“I know,” Harry replied. “Don’t worry about it.”
After saying goodbye to the other brothers, Harry left. Bill looked back at Ron and glared at him. “I wanted to invite him here tonight. He’s a good friend and he’s going to be our brother someday soon, but I couldn’t because I knew you’d act like this.”
“So you’re choosing him over me?”
“No you idiot,” Bill replied heatedly. “I chose you, obviously. I’m just angry that I have to choose. I’d rather have both of you.”
Bill stalked off towards the house leaving Ron staring down at the grave. Suddenly feeling he didn’t want to be there, he headed off closer to the cliff. Staring out at the sea he tried to wrangle in his thoughts. He knew if Hermione were there she’d be expecting him to apologize, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do that.
Hearing footsteps behind him, he turned to see Charlie approaching with two more bottles of beer. He handed his brother one and sat down on the grass.
“Are you mad at me too?”
Charlie shook his head. “Of course not, you’re going through a rough time just like the rest of us. Bill…he’s always been close to Ginny and it’s not surprising that he’s become close to Harry, but you know he’s not choosing Harry above you, right? He’s your brother and he’ll back you. He might be upset at you, but he’ll still back you.”
“I know,” Ron admitted after a minute. He took a swig out of his bottle. “I don’t mean to make him choose, but I’m still…I don’t know.”
“It’s okay,” Charlie cut across Ron’s stumbling. “You don’t need to explain it to me. Just think about it. We don’t need any more divisions in this family, but if you truly feel it is necessary I will be there for you.”
“Even after all that, he still didn’t apologize?” Ginny asked incredulously.
Harry shook his head. “I’m not surprised, he never does.” He shrugged. “The only good thing is that George tells me Ron has been going to counselling now. He didn’t want to go to the group meetings like George is, but he’s going to private counselling.”
“Prat,” Ginny grumbled.
Harry watched her with a smile tugging at his lips. Leaning forward, he kissed her gently. “You are so beautiful.”
She rolled her eyes, but her cheeks flushed a delicate red. He laughed and kissed her again. “Come on, let’s go for a run.”
The pair started for a run around the Black Lake. It was the third week they’d gone for a run after dinner. While Ginny would have preferred to run in the morning, if she was given a choice between running in the morning or running with Harry, she’d chose Harry every time. During the week, she and Demelza ran together, but Friday evenings were just for her and Harry and she guarded their time together jealously.
After running around the lake, they finished their workout with press ups and sit ups. Ginny collapsed back on the grass after her last sit up.
“You’ve been practicing,” Harry said admiringly.
She blushed at the admiration in his voice. “I have. I’m not up to your standards yet, but I’m trying. When I talked to Gwenog Jones at Slughorn’s last party, I asked her about what kind of work outs they do. She was impressed that I asked, she said most witches don’t know anything about working out. One thing she suggested was that I take a dance class.”
“A dance class?” Harry asked curiously.
Ginny nodded. “It helps with flexibility and it is supposed to be a good workout. There’s a studio in London that she recommended that is run by a witch. I owled her and she said I could take a class or two over the Christmas holidays.”
“That’s great,” Harry smiled
She smiled. One of the things she loved about talking to Harry was his whole-hearted support of whatever she wanted to do. Glancing over at him, she said, “Do you want to get cleaned up? I can get us into the Quidditch changing rooms.”
He grinned with a mischievous look on his face. “The Quidditch changing rooms? I’ve had many fantasies about you and the Quidditch changing rooms.”
Leaning close to him, she whispered, “Me too.”
His eyes darkened as he swept his eyes over her. Her heart skipped a beat before it started racing at the look in his eyes. He made her feel so sexy. Closing the distance between the two of them, he kissed her. When his tongue traced her lips, she opened her mouth allowing him entrance. She moaned as his tongue tangled with hers. A thrill ran through her as he pulled her close.
After several long minutes she pulled away and rolled her to feet. “Come on!”
“See if you can catch me,” she laughed as she took off for the changing rooms. He quickly followed and with his longer legs, he soon overtook her. They reached the door at the same time. Harry pinned her up against the wall and kissed her passionately. Ginny returned the kiss just as fiercely.
After a moment, Harry pushed open the changing room door and with a few waves of his wand it was warm and well lit inside. He smiled down at the beautiful woman in his arms.
Wrapping her arms around his neck, Ginny kissed him briefly. “After the Slytherin match my fifth year when I was trying to pretend I was over you, I came over to talk to you. It wasn’t anything important, but I was going to say something — I can’t even remember what. You were talking to Ron and laughing and then you took your shirt off.” She shivered as she thought back. “I can’t even tell you how that affected me.”
“I wish I’d known,” Harry said as he pulled her hips firmly to his. She could feel his arousal pressed up against her. “I’d have been more than happy to repeat that anytime you wanted.”
“How about now?”
With a quick movement, Harry pulled off his shirt. As Ginny watched he stripped off the rest of his clothes. The thought that now she could touch him whenever she wanted was intoxicating. The mood in the changing room went from teasing to passionate instantly. Harry transfigured one of the locker room benches into a more substantial surface and pulled her down on top of him.
Their lovemaking was intense as they quickly became lost in each other. The look of love and desire in Harry’s eyes as he watched her move above him was too much. Ginny found herself crying out and felt him flood into her. She collapsed on top of him and he wrapped his arms around her. Ginny could hear his heart racing and closed her eyes, secure in his arms.
“Baby, we need to get back,” Harry murmured regretfully into her hair.
“I don’t want to,” she replied.
He laughed softly and she could feel the vibrations of his chest. “I don’t either, but I don’t think Professor McGonagall would be too thrilled to find us here.”
“You’re right,” Ginny said as she leaned down to kiss him gently. She climbed out of his arms and started hunting for her clothes.
Soon they were both dressed once again. Harry wrapped his arms around her and held her close. “I wish you were coming home with me.”
“Two weeks, love,” Ginny said. “You’re coming to see the pantomime, right?”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Harry reassured her. “I was hoping you would come home with me, but if you want to ride the train…”
“No, I’d rather spend the time with you,” Ginny said. “We can spend the afternoon in London before heading to the Burrow.”
Harry nodded. “I was thinking of inviting your family to my house for dinner on Christmas Eve. That way if Ron wants to be a prat, he doesn’t have to come. Maybe he and Hermione can go to her parents’ for dinner or something.”
“Are you going to spend Christmas at the Burrow?” Ginny was surprised to realize she hadn’t even questioned what might happen.
He shook his head. “When I was a kid, every Christmas was spent with people who didn’t want me around and didn’t bother to hide it. I’m not going to willingly put myself in the same situation. Your family needs to be together. Christmas will be hard and you don’t need to be arguing over me. I’ve already been invited for Christmas dinner at Andromeda’s house.”
Ginny felt tears welling up in her eyes. She wanted to scream at her brother and mother for making Harry feel so unwelcome. “I’m coming over on Boxing Day.”
“You can come over whenever you want, love,” Harry said. “By next Christmas we will be married and we can do whatever we want.”
“That sounds amazing,” Ginny agreed. “I’m not going to spend the whole holidays at the Burrow while you are in London. I’ll spend Christmas Day with my family, but plan on seeing me a lot.”
“I am looking forward to it,” Harry replied with a smile. With one last kiss; he called out, “Kreacher!”
When the elf appeared, Harry stepped away from Ginny. “Can you please take Ginny to the Prefect’s bathroom?”
“Of course, Master,” Kreacher did as he was asked and returned for Harry. With a sigh, Harry said, “Take me home.”
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