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SIYE Time:20:11 on 19th June 2018


Some Cuts Leave Scars
By melindaleo

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Category: Post-DH/AB
Characters:None
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 282
Summary: Not all wounds heal completely – many scars aren’t readily visible. Join Harry and his friends as they journey through the year following the war, learning how to maneuver over hurdles both unique and lingering. An 8th-year sequel to the summer of These Cuts I Have.
Hitcount: Story Total: 25994; Chapter Total: 820
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Much thanks to my lovely beta, Sherylyn and my two irreplaceable alpha readers who kept this moving along - Arnel and Ryan!




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Chapter Twenty
Growing Pains



Ginny sighed contently as she leaned back against Harry’s warm chest. The two of them sat in the center of his huge four-poster bed where they’d spent the entirety of the afternoon. A fire crackled merrily in the hearth and cast long shadows on the walls and ceiling. The low hiss of a log settling only added to the soothing contentment Ginny felt. She’d arrived that morning, coming directly from the try-outs, and had yet to see anyone else. Not that she was complaining — she and Harry had a lot to catch up on, and it absolutely felt like coming home to spend the day in his arms. It amazed her how quickly Grimmauld Place had become home rather than the Burrow, but that’s how she thought of it.

Harry had been eagerly listening to all the specifics of the try-outs, and Ginny found him to be a most appreciative audience. She wanted to share every little detail of the try-outs, from the moment when she’d arrived to the culmination of her interviews. Her excitement hadn’t abated, and he appeared happy to let her ramble. He held one lock of her hair, and he twisted it gently around his fingers as she spoke.

“And I know it’s the team I always dreamed of, but I don’t think that’s what’s coloring my opinion. I really think the interview with the Harpies went well. They’d kept loads of notes of my performance during the try-outs, and they even asked me to demonstrate my Sloth Roll. Best of all was that Gwenog Jones remembered seeing me play at Hogwarts, and that has to be a good sign, don’t you think?”

When Harry didn’t respond, she turned her neck to peer up at him. He continued absently playing with her hair and didn’t show any inclination toward answering.

“Well, what do you think?” she demanded.

Harry’s bright eyes rounded in surprise. “Oh, you’re expecting an answer to this one?”

Ginny elbowed his stomach slightly harder than necessary, and he let out a breath. She supposed she had been talking non-stop for quite a while now. “Ha, ha. Funny. Not.”

Harry grinned, leaning over to kiss the top of her head. “I think it sounds perfect. I knew you’d be brilliant.”

He said it as if he knew there could be no other outcome, and it filled Ginny’s heart with warmth. “You always had faith in me,” she said, snuggling back against his bare chest.

“‘Course I do,” he said, wrapping his arms around her and resting his cheek on top of her head. “I just feel bad for all those other teams you’re going to let down.”

Ginny snorted. “How will they ever cope?”

“Better than the ones who didn’t interview you at all. They’ll just be kicking themselves throughout your entirely brilliant career,” he said, again twisting her hair around his fingers. He’d somehow managed to take offence that not all the teams in the League had requested interviews — even the ones who weren’t looking for a Chaser.

“I love you,” she said happily, slightly giddy at his indignation on her behalf.

“I know,” he said smugly.

Ginny turned her head and quirked an eyebrow.

Harry grinned wolfishly. “Well, you have spent the afternoon showing me just how much.”

Ginny elbowed him again, “Prat.”

“I’m going to have bruised ribs if you keep doing that,” he said, letting go of her hair to rub his abdomen.

“Then stop being a prat,” she said, smirking.

“Right. Ginny is allowed to take the mickey all she likes, but if I do the same, I’ll be manhandled. Got it. I’m still learning all these relationship rules,” he said seriously.

“Glad you have that one straight, then,” she said, laughter bubbling in her chest. “So, tell me what you’ve been doing all week.”

“Working, mostly. I earned my qualification in Stealth and Tracking this morning,” he said, and she could detect the note of pride in his voice. “The last one I have to take is Potions, but I’m not ready for that yet.”

“Congratulations, Harry! That’s wonderful. You should’ve mentioned that before,” she said, twisting to kiss him soundly.

“Well, I think the field training helps a lot. Even the higher-ups have acknowledged that the newer classes are doing better than in previous years. They think it’s the hands-on practice that’s doing it, and they’re talking about restructuring the entire Auror process.”

“That makes sense. So, all you have left to go is Potions, then I can call you Auror Potter?” she asked.

“You can call me anything you like,” he said, nuzzling her neck. “I think it’ll be some time before I’m ready for the Potions exam, though.”

“I don’t understand why you struggle with that one so much, particularly now that I know what a fabulous cook you are. It’s really no different than following a recipe,” she said.

“It’s very different,” Harry said vehemently, and Ginny suspected he’d had this argument before. “When I cook, I follow a recipe, yeah, but it’s more individual. If there’s a spice I like, I use more. I don’t think I ever follow a recipe exactly, or even make anything the exact same way twice. A potion has to be exact, from the timing right down to the number of stirs. I’ve never been very good at following rules.”

“You don’t say?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

“And yet you expect that I’d be good at Potions?” he shot back.

Ginny let out a bark of laughter. “I suppose I never thought of it that way.”

“Well, now you know,” Harry said, looking incredibly superior. Ginny elbowed his gut again.

“Ow! Ginny, will you stop doing that?” he asked, massaging his ribs.

“I thought you understood the rule that you’ll be manhandled if you give me a hard time,” Ginny said, turning her head to peer up at him with a grin.

Harry grimaced as he pulled several strands of her hair out of his mouth. “Right, sorry about that.”

“Don’t let it happen again,” she said primly, leaning back once again. “So, really. Is that all you did all week? Just work. I thought you, Ron and Hermione would get up to something being all back together again.” In fact, even with the excitement of the Quidditch trials, she couldn’t help that tiny bit of envy that crept in, thinking of the three of them enjoying themselves without her. Again.

Harry shrugged. “We went out for dinner in Muggle London one night, and I got loads of time with Hermione when Ron and I were working opposite shifts.”

Ginny detected a note of wistfulness in his voice that sparked her curiosity. “And what did you do?”

“Not much,” Harry said shrugging. “We took Teddy to the park one day. It was just nice to have a proper conversation with her. I missed Hermione.”

“You know, you can always write to her at school,” Ginny said, her forehead creasing. She really hadn’t thought much of the fact that Harry hadn’t had any time with Hermione without either her or Ron being there. It was only natural that he’d miss that — Hermione had been a huge part of his life since he was eleven.

“I know,” he said. “It seems silly to write twice though. I know you’ll tell her what’s going on.”

“That’s not the same as getting a personal letter, Harry. In fact, I know she’s written to you,” Ginny said, recalling visiting the owlery with Hermione.

“Yeah, but I always tell you to give her my best,” he said, beginning to sound defensive.

“Honestly!” she said, exasperated. “What is it with boys and writing? Once we’re back at school, you’re to write her a letter just for her. Trust me, you’ll make her very happy.”

“Or what? You’ll elbow me in the gut again?” he asked, smirking.

“You’d best hope I don’t get my wand.”

“Yeah, ‘cause it’s not like I’ve ever managed to dodge a curse or anything.”

“You’re such a prat,” she said, giggling as he tickled her sides in an attempt to roll her over. Ginny knew where this was going, and her stomach rumbled in protest. “Oh, no, Harry. Not again until you feed me. I’m starving.”

“You’re always starving,” he said, paying more attention to that spot on her neck that always drove her mad than to her words or her stomach’s rumbling.

She put her hands on his chest and pushed him back. “No, really. I’m starving. I’ll be far more enthusiastic with some sustenance.”

Harry squinted at her, his eyes sparkling as he weighed his options. “All right, then. Want to go out? There are loads of Muggle restaurants nearby, or we can go over to Diagon Alley.”

Ginny smirked. “You just don’t want to face my brothers downstairs. I don’t want to get dressed and done up to go out, though. I want to eat now.”

Harry sighed, heaving himself to sit upright. “I suppose we might as well get it over with. I’ll be happy to see you elbowing them for a while. I’ll run down to the corner and get some take-away. How does that sound?”

Ginny smiled warmly. “That sounds perfect.”

They dressed casually and went downstairs. Ginny could hear voices in the kitchen, but Harry kissed her and ducked out the front door without seeing who was there. She smiled fondly, amused at his wariness of facing her brothers after spending the afternoon closeted with her. She supposed it fit, though. He never backed down from conflict, but he rarely actively sought it out, either.

When she entered the kitchen, she found Ron pulling his head out from the fire and brushing ash everywhere.

“Nice look, Ron,” she said, shaking her head.

“Where’d you come from?” he asked, looking shocked. There was a large smudge of soot on one of his cheekbones.

“I thought you understood this, Ron. When a witch and a wizard love each other very much—”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” Ron said, his ears turning scarlet. “How long have you been here?”

“I came from the Quidditch try-outs this morning,” Ginny said casually, pouring herself a glass of water from the pitcher on the counter. “They went well, thanks.”

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “Where’s Harry?”

“He went to get take-away for dinner. Behave yourself or we won’t share,” she said blithely.

“And what have you been doing since you arrived? I didn’t know you were here,” Ron said, scowling fiercely.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. “D’you really want to know?” she challenged.

Ron’s face went through a variety of expressions, as if he couldn’t quite decide which to focus upon. He clenched and unclenched his fists as he paced to and fro.

“Ron, it’s none of your business. I’m certain Harry hasn’t asked what you and Hermione have been doing when you’re in the house alone. It’s. The. Same. Thing,” she said, stressing each word.

“It’s not the same,” he said hotly, whirling towards her.

“Of course it is. Don’t be ridiculous, or I won’t tell you about my interview with the Cannons,” Ginny said, taking a sip of her water. Responding with anger wasn’t working. She needed another tactic, and a small, childish part of her enjoyed winding him up.

Ron stared at her blankly for a moment before his face lit up. “You interviewed with the Cannons?” he asked eagerly, sitting at the counter beside her. “Did they offer you a position? When do you start? I can’t believe my sister is going to play for the Cannons. Can you get me tickets?”

“I don’t know how Hermione puts up with you,” she said, shaking her head. “Slow down — I don’t have any offers yet. I also interviewed with the Harpies, the Falcons, the Wanderers, and Pride. Now I have to wait to see if any of them makes an offer.”

“Five? You had five interviews? Ginny… that’s brilliant!” he gushed.

“Thanks,” Ginny said, also feeling it was quite brilliant.

“Hello,” Hermione trilled, entering the kitchen and stopping to give each of them a kiss. “How are you, Ginny? How did it go?” she asked, frowning at the ash all over the floor surrounding the fireplace. She cast a quick Scourgify to clean it.

“Where have you been?” Ron asked. “I spoke to George, and he said you’d left the shop early. I was getting worried.”

“I helped George at the shop today,” she said, answering Ginny’s blank look. “Then I went to the West End to get these,” she said, pulling several tickets from her pocket and waving them in the air.

“What are those?” Ron asked warily.

“Theatre tickets,” Hermione said, excited, and Ginny squealed with delight.

“Really? We’re going? You got tickets? What are we going to see?” she gushed.

“It’s a musical called Cats, and it’s playing at the New London Theatre. It’s been there quite a while, so it was easier to get tickets at short notice. I saw it with Mum and Dad years ago,” Hermione said.

“It’s about cats?” Ron asked, looking less than thrilled.

“It’s about special cats. I tried to find something that wasn’t too Muggle. If you give it a chance, you might actually enjoy it,” Hermione said, crossing her arms in front of her, a challenge obvious in her pose.

“Oh, I think it’ll be loads of fun. All sorts of posh people go, and we can all get dressed up, and the lights will go down, and it’ll be like being transformed,” Ginny gushed excitedly.

“Yeah,” Ron said, rolling his eyes. “Getting all dressed up and learning about cats. Can’t think of anything else I’d rather do on a Saturday night.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “And how many Quidditch matches have I sat through with you?”

Ron finally seemed to realize he was on dangerous ground. “All right, all right. I didn’t say I wasn’t going. Of course we can do things you like, too.”

Hermione continued to look cross. “You’ve never even been to anything like it. You might enjoy it. Ginny is certainly excited, and she loves Quidditch as much as you do. You can enjoy both, you know.”

“Yeah, but Ginny doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. She’s just like dad and gets overly excited about Muggle things,” Ron said.

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Ron, broaden your mind, why don’t you?” Hermione said, scowling.

“Why is Hermione doing a Trelawny impression?” Harry asked, entering the kitchen with a bag full of Chinese take-away. He placed it on the counter between them all, and the delicious aroma filled the kitchen.

Ron immediately reached into the bag and grabbed the topmost container, taking a giant whiff. “I love this stuff.”

Ginny knew that the others had had Chinese in George’s flat for the first time last summer, and Ron had been a fan ever since. She’d tried it for the first time over Christmas break, and was eager to have it again. Harry handed her a stack of plates while he turned to get the cutlery.

“Hermione got theatre tickets, and Ron is being difficult,” Ginny told him, handing out the plates. She didn’t feel any inclination to join the fray, instead enjoying the sparring between her brother and Hermione.

“Not di-cult,” Ron said through a mouthful of beef that he was pulling off a stick with his teeth.

“You’re so revolting,” Ginny said, scrunching her nose at him.

“We’re going to the theatre?” Harry asked, sitting down with them and pulling one of the containers from the bag. Hermione placed the others around the island.

“Yes, tomorrow night. The show is called Cats,” Hermione said, shoving a napkin towards Ron.

“I think I remember Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon seeing that one. Aunt Petunia used to love to go to the theatre, and Uncle Vernon used to like to impress clients,” Harry said, filling his plate.

“I used to go all the time with Mum and Dad,” Hermione said wistfully.

Harry paused, looking at her with a furrowed brow. “I wonder if my mum went when she was young,” he said, then seeming to realize he’d spoken out loud, looked away quickly, his face coloring. He stuffed an egg roll in his mouth as if to keep from talking.

Ginny’s appetite vanished as she paused with a fork hovering in front of her lips. She’d suddenly realized that there was no one left for him to ask. It was easy to forget how little Harry actually knew about his parents. A deep sense of guilt throbbed in her gut when she thought of the way her mother could exasperate her to the point she avoided reading her letters, when she knew he’d give anything for the chance to simply talk to his mum.

“She might have done,” Hermione said, her eyes very bright. She, too, had put her fork down.

“Bet she did,” Ron said, his mouth full. “She was Muggle-born, right? I bet she brought all sorts of Muggle things to your house. I bet your dad even got to have one of those telly-things.”

Harry snorted, shoveling another bite of eggroll in his mouth. “And a barbeque. I bet she told him all about a barbeque, too.”

“What’s a barbeque?” Ron asked curiously.

“It’s an outdoor stove, where you cook over an open flame,” Harry replied. “Muggles use them in the summer.”

Ron didn’t look very impressed, so Harry tossed a fortune cookie at his head. “I bet ten Galleons you’d like the taste.”

Hermione and Ginny started at each other, blinking, while Ron ate the fortune cookie.

“Boys,” Hermione mumbled, causing Ginny to grin. As much as she might not understand them sometimes, Ron was good for Harry, and Harry seemed to roll with Ron’s bluntness.

“What smells so good?” George asked, entering the kitchen and looking over the various boxes on the island.

“Hurry up before Ron eats it all,” Ginny said, as George quickly washed his hands and grabbed a plate.

“How did try-outs go?” he asked.

“She had five interviews,” Ron said.

“Congratulations, Ginny,” Hermione said, looking rather startled before she resumed eating her dinner.

“Five? That’s bloody brilliant,” George said, shoveling noodles into his mouth.

“Yeah. I was hoping one of them would’ve sent an owl immediately, but I suppose I’ll have to wait,” Ginny said, sighing. She knew if a team was certain they wanted a particular player, they tended to send an offer post-haste.

“Even if they did, you wouldn’t have it yet. The Ministry is still searching anything that comes here,” George said.

Ginny dropped her fork, looking at him, stunned. She’d forgotten. Anything going to Harry’s residence was inspected because there were still a few random Death Eaters on the loose and trying to harm him.

“You forgot that, didn’t you?” Ron asked. “Must’ve been because you were so distracted all day.”

He turned to glare at Harry who calmly took a bite of his dinner and didn’t meet his eyes.

“Oh, give it a rest, Ron. We spent our entire first day together locked up in your room, too,” Hermione said, surprising them all. The color on her cheeks flamed brilliantly, and she stabbed a piece of beef without making eye contact with any of them.

“What’s this? Harry, were you corrupting our sweet, innocent, docile little sister again, hmm?” George asked, smirking at Harry before turning his attention to Ginny. “Or was it you who was corrupting our sweet, innocent, valiant savior? I wonder what Mum will think? Her ickle babies getting up to making babies of their own. Ron, you should’ve set a better example.”

Ron’s ears turned red. “Hark! You’re one to talk,” he said, grumbling.

Ginny took a deep breath, finally reaching the limit of her patience and ready to go off on her intruding brothers when Harry beat her to it. “Seen Angelina recently, George?” he asked calmly.

Ginny watched, interested, as all the color drained from George’s face. He turned back to his plate and continued eating without comment.

“Angelina? What’s this?” Hermione asked, watching George carefully.

Harry took another bite of his dinner, looking exceptionally pleased. Ron, however, couldn’t contain himself. “George shagged Angelina,” he blurted.

“He fancies her,” Harry added.

“What?” Ginny shrieked, turning to look at George. This was major family gossip, something she usually was right on top of. How could she have missed this delicious tidbit?

“This is none of any of your business,” George said hotly.

“Oh, I see. My sex life is open for discussion, but yours is supposed to be off limits?” Ginny asked scathingly. “I don’t think so.”

“Hey! I’m still not open to discussing the fact you have a sex life,” Ron said, looking revolted.

“Well, I would hope you fancy her if you shagged her,” Hermione said. “When did this happen?”

“After the New Year’s party,” Ron said, grinning and switching his attention back to George with lightning speed.

“Sod off,” George said, snarling.

“New Year’s? Well, that was ages ago. What’s happened since then?” Hermione asked.

“George. Did you bugger it up?” Ginny asked, delighted that the attention was on one of her frequent tormenters for a change.

“For effs sake! I don’t fancy Angelina,” George said, standing up, his eyes wild.

“Yeah, I’ve seen you this worked up over a witch loads of times,” Harry said, pulling the top off a bottle of Butterbeer.

“Sod off,” George said, sinking back onto his stool.

“Have you even spoken to her since then?” Ginny asked, shaking her head at how ridiculous her brothers could be.

“Of course I have,” George said, sighing as if he’d given up on deterring them.

“And?” Hermione asked.

“And… we’re going out tomorrow night. Just to the Leaky Cauldron to have a bite,” he said. “And none of you lot are invited.”

“Oh, no. That won’t work. You need someplace quieter, more romantic. You need to show her you’re serious,” Ginny said.

“Like where? We always go to the Leaky Cauldron,” George said, whining.

“Harry, what’s the name of that restaurant you took me to over Christmas?” Ginny asked. “That would be perfect.”

“Hibiscus,” Harry said. “It’s around the corner from Ollivander’s.”

George nodded. “I know it,” he said, grudgingly.

“Call for a reservation,” Hermione said.

“And wear something nice,” Ginny added, opening her own Butterbeer.

“Looks like we’re all getting dressed up tomorrow, then,” Ron said, somehow sounding simultaneously needling and glum.

ooOOoo

They’d decided the easiest way to get to the theatre would be to take the Underground, since none of them were certain of a good Apparition point, and the station was only a few blocks from Grimmauld Place. Ginny had been on the Underground several times already, so she knew what to expect. She’d read all about the theatre in Muggle Studies, and this year’s teacher, Professor Wagstaff, actually seemed to know what she was talking about.

The others were all waiting for her in the sitting room. She’d attempted to curl her hair, but she really wasn’t happy with the results. She wished she could get it to curl like Hermione’s. Of course, Hermione always said she’d wished her hair was more like Ginny’s, so there you go. She’d ended up pinning it in a loose bun with various wavy tendrils hanging down.

When she entered the sitting room, Hermione — looking smart in a sleek black dress — was attempting to straighten the collar of Ron’s Muggle suit, while Harry sat on the couch petting a purring Crookshanks, who was curled up in his lap and moving his head continuously to get the spot he wanted scratched. Ginny thought Harry looked exceptionally handsome in his dark suit.

“What’d you do to your hair?” Ron asked immediately.

Instinctively, Ginny raised her hand to her limp curls. “Obviously, I’m as rubbish at twisting hair the way I want it to go as you are with a necktie,” she shot back.

“I think it looks beautiful,” Harry said, and from the soppy smile on his face, she could almost believe him.

“Ron!” Hermione said, slapping him on the arm. “It looks lovely, Ginny. As for this tie, that’s the best I can do.”

“Ginny felt the same about her hair, then,” Ron mumbled.

Before this could degenerate into yet another sibling spat, Harry picked Crookshanks off his lap and stood up. “Shall we go, then?”

“You’re covered in cat fur,” Ginny said, giggling. Using her wand, she quickly removed the lint from Harry’s trousers.

“Thanks,” he said, sheepishly.

Ron narrowed his eyes, but refrained from comment. Perhaps the dolt was finally learning.

They took light jackets and began the stroll to the tube stop. It was a breezy spring evening with a nip in the air, but still, it felt nice to be outside. Harry wrapped his arm around Ginny, and Ron did the same to Hermione as they walked.

“All right, we’re going to get off at Covent Garden and walk from there,” Hermione said, looking particularly stern as she spoke. “The theatre district will be packed with Muggles, so we’ll have to really watch what we say.”

“Believe it or not, Hermione,” Ron said, sounding exasperated, “I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the Muggle world while you’ve been at school, and I haven’t managed to need to call the Obliviators even once.”

“Has the Forest of Dean been overrun by Muggles looking for a spot of outdoor recreation in the winter, Ron?” Ginny asked, batting her eyelashes.

Ron used a hand expression Mum would hex him for. “For your information, I was the one keeping the Chosen-Boy-Who-Lived over there from spilling too much in a pub the other night.”

Harry rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t going to spill anything.”

“Where was this?” Hermione asked, giving Harry a ‘you know better’ look.

“Never mind,” Harry said, sounding suddenly urgent. “The tube stop is just there. Let’s get inside.”

The hackles on the back of Ginny’s neck rose in alarm over Harry’s alert tenseness. His eyes scanned the area, and the arm around Ginny’s shoulder’s flexed and pulled her closer. It was only now that she realized he had his wand in his other hand, and she hadn’t even noticed him pull it out.

“What’s wrong, Harry?” Hermione asked, her voice shrill. She, too, had noticed the change in his demeanor.

“It’s nothing,” he said hastily as they reached the steps descending into the tube station. He relaxed more visibly as they surrounded themselves with the many Muggles on the platform.

“Harry?” Ron asked questioningly once they were queued up and waiting for the train.

Harry shook his head, his cheeks going slightly pink, although his eyes never stopped sweeping the area. “I felt as if… as if I was being watched.”

“You think someone was following us?” Hermione asked. She, too, was now scanning the tube station.

Harry shook his head. “I dunno. I feel it a lot these days, particularly since discovering Rita had been lurking around. Usually, it’s someone hoping to get an autograph.” He said the last bit in a rush, his cheeks going even redder.

He never enjoyed all the fuss and fanfare, and Ginny knew people didn’t have any regard for his personal space. Even now, nearly a year later, they continued to crowd around him and want to discuss the Battle. It was a wonder he’d been able to move past it at all.

“But… we’re in a Muggle area,” Hermione said, keeping her voice low so they wouldn’t be overheard. The level of noise in the station circumvented that, anyway.

“Are we?” Harry asked, raising his eyebrows. “What was the giveaway? The lack of robes?”

“Don’t be snarky, Harry. It’s unbecoming,” Hermione said, holding her head in the air as the train pulled into the station.

Ron and Hermione took seats together on one side, while Harry and Ginny had to move further down to find another empty pair. Once underway and the noise of the train along with the hum of chatter drowned out their voices, Ginny leaned toward his ear. “Was it really a feeling of being watched, or is there something you’re not telling us? If there is anything else going on, we should all probably know about it.”

Harry shook his head, taking her hand. “No, there’s nothing going on. D’you ever get the feeling someone is staring at you, even if you don’t see anyone?”

“Of course. I think everyone does,” she replied, returning the pressure on his hand and studying the color of his eyes intently. She couldn’t detect any sign of avoidance.

“Yeah, well… usually there is someone staring at me, and I’ve sort of learned to tune it out, but… I dunno. It made my hair stand on end.”

“D’you feel it now?” Ginny asked, looking with suspicion at all the other passengers.

“No. It passed once we entered the station. Honestly, Ginny — more likely than not, it’s Rita. I’ve been swatting bugs like mad even though I know she’s been apprehended,” he said sheepishly.

Ginny smiled half-heartedly. She’d been looking forward to this evening, but she couldn’t just let it go. There had been too many attempts on his life already to brush it off. Maybe it was the war. Maybe it was living at Hogwarts under the Carrows’ with their penchant for sudden attacks, but Ginny didn’t feel like she could ever truly relax. There could always be something lurking around every corner, and that something was frequently looking to take Harry from her.

“Chin up,” he said, reaching over and raising her head to kiss her cheek with a feather-light touch. “Nothing is going to ruin your theatre experience.”

Ginny knew he was kicking himself for mentioning it, and she couldn’t have that, either. She wanted him to speak up. She wanted him to trust her enough to share what he was feeling or worrying about. Most of all, she wanted them to share a little peace.

“We are going to enjoy ourselves,” she said firmly, attempting to convince both of them. “We’ll both have fun. We’ll both keep our eyes open, and we’ll both kick anyone’s arse that attempts to get in our way.”

“Deal,” Harry said, grinning as he started to nuzzle her neck. “You look very nice, you know.”

Ginny giggled, smoothing the pretty turquoise dress that Hermione had leant her. “Except the hair.”

Harry pulled back, blinking owlishly. “I love your hair any way you wear it,” he said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Ginny beamed at him. “You’ve been reading up on that book my brother gave you, haven’t you?”

Harry’s face colored brilliantly as he twisted his lips to the side. “I might have perused it once or twice.”

“Um-hmm,” Ginny said, sniggering. The train stopped at Covent Garden, and they rejoined Ron and Hermione on the platform.

“I told you, Ron. It’s not connected to him, he just puts it in his ears. Sort of like an Extendable Ear only instead of eavesdropping, he was listening to music,” Hermione said, sounding exasperated.

“What’s up?” Harry asked, frowning.

“Bloke on the train had wires coming out of his head,” Ron said.

“Walkman,” Hermione said through gritted teeth.

Harry laughed, but Ginny frowned. “What?’

“Come on,” Hermione said, obviously unwilling to go through it again. “It’s a bit of a walk to Drury Lane, so we’d best keep moving.”

“Harry, look at this,” Ron said immediately after they’d left the tube station. The street was brightly lit with shops, and their shoulders were jostled by the many Muggles hurrying in all directions. Ron dragged Harry toward a shop selling sporting equipment, animatedly gesturing to something in the front window.

Hermine drew up next to Ginny. “Did he say anything more about being watched?” she asked fretfully.

Ginny shrugged. “He said he’s had the feeling a lot since Rita was exposed, but we should remain on guard.”

“Constant vigilance,” Hermione whispered, looking sad. “I suppose he’s lived so long with threats and danger, he probably isn’t certain how to live without them.”

“Who is?” Ginny asked, feeling jaded. “I think we’ve all been on edge since the war. Look at how Ron keeps checking where we all are and counting us. He’s like a mother hen.”

Hermione watched Ron bouncing on the balls of his feet as he gestured toward the window display animatedly and smiled fondly. “He’s better than he was last summer. I think Auror training has helped — given him something else to focus on.”

“Harry said he passed one of his last qualifications yesterday. Did Ron?” Ginny asked, realizing Ron hadn’t mentioned it.

“No. He’s not nearly as far along as Harry because he’s spent so much time helping George. Harry gets rather focused when he’s determined,” Hermione said delicately.

“If by focused you mean obsessed, yeah, I know what you mean,” Ginny replied, rolling her eyes. “It’s good of Ron to help George. I want to do that, too, once I leave Hogwarts.”

“We all can,” Hermione said. “I hope his date is going well.”

“I hope he actually took her out to eat before shagging again,” Ginny said.

“Ginny!” Hermione said, scandalized.

“What? This is George we’re talking about, and honestly, Angelina’s not much better.”

Hermione sighed, shoulders slumping. “I suppose you’re right. I hope he remembers a Silencing Charm.”

Ginny giggled, linking her arm with Hermione and hurrying along to catch up with the boys. They stopped in front of the grand theatre which had the name of the show in lights. Their seats were near the front, and when the show opened, the entire stage turned, taking several rows of seats — theirs included — with it. Ginny was mesmerized. The only tense moment arrived when the actors dressed in their cat costumes appeared prowling amongst the audience. Except for Hermione, who’d seen the show before and knew what to expect, they startled and jumped. Ginny had to grab Harry’s arm to keep him from drawing his wand.

The remainder of the show was delightful, and Ginny’s smile only grew larger as it went on. She adored the music and the costumes and the lights of the stage, amazed the actors could put on such a breath-taking show in such a small area.

She wasn’t the only one who’d enjoyed herself. As they were leaving the theatre, Ron hooked his arm through Hermione’s, singing, “Oh, no, never was there ev-er a cat so clever…”

Harry raised his eyebrows, smirking. “Best not try out for the show, Ron.”

Ron’s ears turned red as he pulled himself together. “Shut it, Harry,” he mumbled, abashed. “D’you suppose those cats were Animagi?”

They’d agreed to duck down a side alley they’d noticed on the walk over in order to Apparate home. It was a chilly evening, and a light mist had begun to fall. Ginny huddled closer to Harry, seeking his warmth.

“If any one of us is catlike, it’s you,” Harry said, laughing as he ran his hand along her arm to warm her up. “If you were an Animagi, I think you’d definitely be a cat.”

“I think they’re a Muggle’s idea of magical cats… but I suppose the idea could’ve come from an Animagi. Since learning about the wizarding world, I’m always wondering what came from a wizarding influence,” Hermione said, running her finger over her mouth.

“A cat, huh?” Ginny said, considering. “A fierce cat, or a fluffy house cat?”

Harry threw back his head and laughed. “As if I’m dense enough to say anything but a fierce predator with you scowling at me like that.”

“Good answer,” Ginny replied, grinning. “I think you’d be some kind of protective bird. You’d have to be able to fly… and you have the sense to be afraid of a cat.”

“I think I’d like to fly,” Harry said, his eyes faraway.

“What about me?” Ron asked, paying closer attention to their banter.

“You’d definitely be the fluffy house kitty,” Ginny said without missing a beat, causing Hermione to throw back her head and laugh.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening and first introduction to the theatre.

ooOOoo

Harry was surprised to wake up alone. He drowsily reached across the sheets for Ginny, only to find her missing, and her spot cold, as if she’d been gone longer than it would take to run to the loo. His senses going on alert, he sat up, fumbling for his glasses and scanned the empty room. He was definitely alone. Swinging his legs off the side of the bed and working the kinks from his neck, he reached for a T-shirt and pajama bottoms. Securing the tie around his dressing gown loosely, he padded down three flights of stairs.

Entering the kitchen, he found her covered in flour and swearing at a sad lump of dough that sat in the center of the counter. There were several bowls of freshly cut fruit, but the crepes she was obviously attempting to make were unappealing. Some had scorch marks, while others had pulled apart, the melted fruit leaking out onto the plate. Harry could see she’d gone through several rounds of attempts.

Being ever the brave Gryffindor, he asked, “Having fun, Ginny?”

She looked up, her eyes narrowing. “Don’t even start,” she said, but the attempt at sternness was thoroughly ruined by the flour streaks in her hair.

Harry worked hard to keep his face straight. “I would’ve made crepes for you if I’d known you wanted them.”

Ginny looked at her mess, exasperated. “You’re always making food for us. I wanted to make something for you.”

“So, you decided to wrap my whole kitchen in flour, then?” he asked, losing the battle with his grin.

“Fine, forget it,” she snapped, using her wand to vanish the mess entirely. She picked up a cloth and began angrily wiping down the now spotless countertop.

“Hey — I would’ve still eaten those. I’m hungry,” he said, glancing around to see if there were any ingredients left. He’d spent years living on much less than badly cooked crepes.

“You’ll have to fend for yourself. Obviously, I’m rubbish at cooking and surprises,” she said sulkily.

Harry laughed, kissing the top of her head. “You’re not rubbish at anything. I don’t mind doing the cooking. In fact, I sort of enjoy it — as long as you don’t swing a frying pan at my head or anything,” he said, leaning over to pull the frying pan from a rack and placing it on the stove.

“That’s not funny,” Ginny snapped.

Harry attempted to control his features as he pulled eggs and milk from the cold cabinet. “Sorry.”

“No. I mean it. It’s not funny. Did they really hit you with frying pans?” she asked, looking stricken.

“It was just a joke,” Harry said, continuing to make breakfast. He didn’t see the point in making a fuss now. It was a long time ago, and he’d obviously come out of it without any kind of psychological fear of the kitchen or anything.

“I can’t believe your uncle,” Ginny said, swelling. “What kind of person would hit a kid with a frying pan? I have a good mind to go over there and curse a dozen frying pans to chase him around the kitchen.”

“It was my aunt, actually,” Harry said, chuckling at the image she’d stirred in his head as he put sausage links in another pan.

“Your aunt?” Ginny said, looking stunned. “Your aunt threw frying pans at your head?”

Her voice sounded very small, and Harry turned away from the toaster to see her eyes filling. He quickly walked over to her and took her in his arms. “Ginny… Hey, what’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Oh, I don’t know, how about the fact you can ask me what’s wrong after you tell me how your aunt used to swing frying pans at your head?” she said, sniffling.

Harry sighed, sitting down beside her. “Look, I’m sorry for joking. I won’t do that anymore. It was a long time ago.”

“No,” Ginny said quickly, swiping at her eyes. “I don’t want you to avoid talking about it. I can’t promise it won’t upset me, but it’ll upset me more if you hold back. I don’t want to be coddled, and I think it’s good that you’re sharing with me.”

“I did something right, then?” Harry asked, feeling thoroughly perplexed. He really didn’t think he ever stood a chance of understanding her — no matter how many times he reviewed his copy of Twelve Failsafe Ways to Charm Witches.

“You’re doing everything right, Harry. I won’t promise never to hex your relatives, but you’re doing fine,” she said, standing up and using her wand to make coffee.

Harry brought over plates of eggs, sausages and toast, and the two of them sat down to enjoy their breakfast. They’d only just begun when an owl swooped in carrying a large letter in a dark green envelope. Ginny froze when she saw it, egg dropping from her fork.

She stared at the letter for several moments, unmoving, unblinking. Unable to stand the suspense any longer, Harry finally reached out and untied the letter. He turned it over in his hands slowly, tantalizing her. She never took her eyes from it.

“Well, d’you want to read it?” he finally asked, amused.

She shook her head, swallowing compulsively.

“D’you want me to read it for you?” he asked.

Ginny began to nod before shaking her head again. Then, squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath and held out her hand expectantly. “I’ll do it.”

Harry solemnly pushed the envelope across the counter towards her. She picked it up and unsealed it. He watched as her eyes skimmed back and forth across the parchment. Harry felt his own breath catch, his heart thundering. Any team would be lucky to have her, but he knew she wanted the Harpies. They had to see how perfectly she’d fit with them. He waited, stock-still as she finished perusing the letter. She put it down on the table and resumed eating her breakfast without a word.

Harry looked at her, then at the letter, then back at her. Ginny put a forkful of eggs in her mouth.

“Well?” he asked, and it came out as an entirely unbecoming squeak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Well? What did it say?”

Ginny swallowed, then broke out into a huge grin. “They offered me a position on the reserve team. We’ll begin summer camp in July, and they won’t announce a starting line-up until August.”

Harry whooped, jumping up so fast he knocked over his stool. He pulled her into his arms and swung her in a circle. “Congratulations,” he said before kissing her soundly. “I knew you’d do it.”

“I’m going to be a Holyhead Harpy,” Ginny said, laughing giddily. “I’m going to play Quidditch professionally.”

“Of course you are,” Harry said happily, righting his stool to sit and resuming his breakfast. “So, you start in July, and you have to stay with the team for summer camp, yeah?”

Ginny’s smile faltered a little. “Yeah,” she said, also sitting. “The team stays together during training for the season. But… that means we’ll only have a fortnight before I leave again.”

It took all Harry’s resolve to keep his expression positive while his insides were churning. “Yeah, but a much shorter separation this time.”

Ginny bit her lip, her eyes drifting in that way he knew meant she was plotting something. He waited patiently, scooping up a forkful of eggs that tasted like ash in his stomach.

“Unless—” she said at last, twisting her lips, “there really isn’t any reason to return to Hogwarts now. I mean… I know what I’m going to do for a career. Once I accept this offer, there really is no reason to go back.”

Harry used his napkin to wipe his mouth slowly, considering his words most carefully. He’d suspected she might feel this way, but he also knew the promise she’d made to her parents would weigh heavily upon her if she broke it. Above all else, he knew he had to let it be her decision. He’d always hated when people tried to make life-altering decisions for him.

“You want to ditch the end of your seventh year?” he asked, keeping his expression as neutral as possible.

“Well, it would mean we get more time together, and I could work at George’s shop while you’re at work. That way, Ron wouldn’t have to spend so much time there,” Ginny said, toying with her food.

“That’s true,” Harry said.

“I know I promised to take my NEWTs, but what’s the point, really? I actually have an offer in hand now,” Ginny said, a plaintive note entering her voice.

Harry nodded, his own insides warring. The idea of her living here with him now and being close was appealing, but he would hate to disappoint the Weasleys, and he knew they’d be upset. There was also the long-term to consider. He certainly wasn’t ready to make any permanent plans, but above all, he knew he wanted a family of his own one day — one that couldn’t all disappear with a nasty break-up.

Ginny made him happier than he’d ever been. She was what winning truly meant to him, and every day was like a sunlit gift he’d never thought he’d have. Still, he couldn’t help the nagging worry that loomed in the back of his mind. The worry over what if she ever decided he didn’t make her as happy — if she decided there might be more out there… Someone better, someone unscarred inside and out… He knew she wasn’t shallow, but he also knew he came with a lot of baggage, and if she ever decided to ditch him, what would that mean for him? Would he lose the entire Weasley family, as well?

Harry didn’t let himself dwell on it, but the thought occurred to him now and again, mostly after a shift with the Dementors. For now, when he saw the future, he saw her and a family all their own. Someday… someday well in the future… but did she feel the same?

He unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth. “You have your dream career now, and I know how fulfilling that is… but, realistically, you can’t play forever. What happens when your playing days end?”

“I know that, but that’s ages away. For now, I’m the young one pushing someone else into storing their broom,” Ginny said, her eyes alight.

He swallowed heavily “D’you… d’you want a family one day? A family of your own, I mean,” he asked softly, unable to look directly at her. He felt as if his insides were made of brittle ice and she was holding a sledge hammer as he awaited her answer.

“Of course I do,” she said fiercely, and he suspected he might’ve done a bad job of hiding his feelings. “I’m not nearly ready now, but one day, I want more than anything to give that to you.”

He looked at her then, and her warm eyes were looking directly at him and seeing entirely too much, and yet still not on the same page. “With kids, too?” he persisted.

“Yes, definitely kids,” Ginny said, then paused, her eyes widening as if it had finally occurred to her. “I suppose I’ll have to do something else then, won’t I? Maybe even before retirement age.”

Harry released the breath he’d been holding, happy she’d finally realized where he was going with this.

“I have more gold than I know what to do with. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to,” he said, his face burning now.

“No, I know my mum is happy, but I think I’d go spare without something else to do. It just seems so pointless to go back to Hogwarts now, though, just for my NEWTs. I’d much rather stay here with you,” Ginny said unhappily.

Visions of waking up every day with her by his side filled his mind, but Harry knew she’d end up unhappy if she broke her promise. “I didn’t think you’d want to let your mum win,” he ventured.

Ginny’s brow furrowed. “What d’you mean?”

Harry shrugged, pursing his lips. “Just that leaving school is exactly what she said you’d do.”

Ginny’s face darkened. “She did! She wouldn’t even listen to me! It was if she thought she knew me better than…. Oh,” she said sheepishly.

Harry fought a grin. “Perhaps she knows you a bit, after all,” he said delicately.

Ginny scowled. “I don’t want to listen to her ‘I told you so’s’ for the rest of my life, but even worse is the thought of the look on my dad’s face. I promised.”

Harry nodded. “As much as I want you here with me, it’s only two more months, and promises are important.”

Ginny stuck her lower lip out. “Two months seems like forever,” she said, moaning.

“Two months until what?” Ron asked as he and Hermione joined them in the kitchen.

Both still had their pajamas on, and Hermione’s hair was so bushy, she’d attempted to pull it back in a massive ponytail. Using his wand, Harry increased the amounts of eggs, sausages and toast that was still warming on the serving platter.

“Thanks, Harry,” Hermione said, pouring herself a cup of coffee. She shut her eyes as she took a sip and kept them shut as she savored it.

“Two months left of school,” Ginny said, resting her head in her hand as she leaned on the counter.

That caused Hermione to open her eyes. “Ooh, I know, and I really didn’t revise enough while I was here. We have less than two months until we take our NEWTs, and I’m not nearly ready.”

“Of course you’re not,” Ron said, piling some eggs on her plate and placing a piece of toast in her hand as she spoke.

“No, seriously, Ron. The NEWTs are supposedly very challenging, and I was already behind after being away for a year,” she said, absently taking a bite of her toast.

“Hermione… don’t tell me you haven’t already received offers from the Ministry,” Ginny said, still looking grumpy as she supported her head.

“Well, yes… but that doesn’t mean the exams aren’t important. Who knows what will come in handy later in life?” she replied huffily.

“Yeah… had this talk already, thanks,” Ginny said.

“Why are your knickers in a twist this morning? It’s too early for anyone to have hacked you off so bad yet,” Ron said, yawning.

“Oh? And you’re cheerful over the fact Hermione is leaving today then, are you?” Ginny asked.

Ron’s face fell as he stared at his sister blankly.

“It’s only for two more months, Ron,” Hermione said, patting him on the back and frowning at Ginny. “Then we’ll both be back here for good. Have you told your mother you’re planning on living here yet?”

“Nope,” Ginny said. “I won’t be living here right away, anyway.”

“You won’t?” Ron asked, looking pleased.

“I have to live with the team for pre-season training,” Ginny said calmly, but Harry could see her fighting a smile.

Ron’s fork clattered to the table. “You what?” he bellowed, his eyes wild.

“The Harpies offered me a position on the practice squad. I’ll have to prove I can handle it at summer camp, but after that… I’ll be a Holyhead Harpy,” she said, and this time she couldn’t control the smile that lit up her whole face.

Ron and Hermione both jumped up to congratulate her. Ron demanded to see the offer, and Ginny finally had to ask for it back after he showed no sign of letting it go. He handed it back reluctantly, then asked, “But… what about the Cannons?”

“I haven’t heard from the other teams, but… I’m sorry, Ron. This is the one I wanted most of all, so I’m accepting the offer,” Ginny replied.

Ron nodded. “I suppose you have the right name, so it was meant to be. I’m certain the Cannons will be all right. They’re your competition now.”

The kitchen door opened, and this time, George and Angelina came down the stairs. Both we’re wearing half a pair of George’s pajamas. “Morning,” George said, yawning.

Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione all stared at them, slack-jawed.

“Are we interrupting something?” Angelina asked, amused.

Harry shook himself out of his stupor. He again increased the amount of food with his wand before saying, “Of course not. Have some breakfast.”

As they sat around the countertop eating breakfast, Harry was suddenly struck with the feeling he was truly home. Hogwarts had been his first home, and the Burrow had always been his favorite place to spend the summer, but this… this feeling was what he’d always longed for. These people and a sense of belonging with them. Hogwarts was borrowed time, and he couldn’t imagine George and Angelina ever showing up for breakfast at The Burrow sharing a pair of pajamas, but here… here it all just seemed to fit. He fit. He squeezed Ginny’s hand beneath the table, and wasn’t at all surprised when she returned the pressure. They were all home.

The six enjoyed a lazy morning filled with laughter before Ginny and Hermione had to return to school.

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