It was a sudden pounding noise, not the alarm clock that woke both Harry and Ginny the following morning. The lack of rowdy pub goers had allowed them to once again sleep through their alarm. Heart pounding, Harry fumbled for his glasses, as Ginny, cursing, reached over to shut off the screeching alarm.
The pounding occurred for a third time.
“What?” Harry called irritably, having just poked himself in the eye as he tried to put on his glasses.
“Are you two awake in there?” Ron asked through the closed door.
“Obviously we’re awake idiot,” Ginny responded. “How many times do we answer you in our sleep?”
“Well, you’d better get up then. It’s seven thirty.”
Those last three words made Harry sit up quickly. He looked over at the clock and found that Ron was quite right. Their alarm had clearly been going off for about an hour. How could they have slept through it? Perplexing as that question was, the search for an answer was not important. What was important was the fact that both he and Ginny had to be at work in less than an hour.
Feeling completely awake, and now thankful to Ron for making sure they were awake, Harry jumped out of bed and headed for the door. He needed to take a shower before work. Before he exited the room entirely though, Harry looked back. Not only was Ginny not out of bed, she had pulled a pillow over her to block out the light. This was a maneuver Harry knew a all too well. It was a sure sign that little too much Firewhiskey had been ingested the night before. As he knew what Ginny was feeling right now, Harry let her be and headed off to take his shower.
He was waylaid by Hermione minutes later when he emerged from the bathroom.
“Is there something wrong with Ginny?” she asked.
“Nothing that a good hangover cure wouldn’t fix.”
“She was drinking last night?” Hermione eyed him suspiciously. “That’s not like her.
“You’re telling me. I tried to get her to stop, but . . . “ Harry ceased talking. Yes, it was certainly true he had tried to get her to stop, but she had been determined to drink every glass of Firewhiskey at that party. That was not normal for her. Even during her off- season Ginny wasn’t much of a drinker. When she was in training though she didn’t even like to be around the smell of alcohol.
Ginny had been acting odd all day though, hadn’t she? It had started after she had read that stupid Rita Skeeter article. Those reports, regardless of who wrote them, always seemed to wind her up. It had been happening more so in the last few months than it had when she first finished school and started playing with the Harpies. Harry told her then, and he truly believed it, that she’d get used to those stories. He had, for the most part. Reporters were out there to sell papers (as Rita Skeeter herself had once told Hermione), and so they tended to write stories that would sell, not the ones that were true.
“What now?” Hermione cried, rushing into the small kitchen at Ron’s cry. The room was starting to fill with smoke, and it was easy to tell why. He had left the eggs unattended for a little too long, and they had started to burn.
“I thought I told you we didn’t have time for this,” Hermione said wearily.
“We’ve got time. Besides after last night, I thought —“
“Shut up,” Hermione hissed at him, turning as red as Ron’s hair. “I thought we said we’d talk about that later.” She shuffled her feet and glanced back at Harry, not quite meeting his eyes. It seemed that Ron realized he was there just then, because he cleared his throat and turned back to the mess that was supposed to have been his breakfast. Definitely not wanting to hear any more of this conversation, Harry squeezed into the tiny kitchen, grabbed the Sobrius potion out of the cupboard and returned to his own room to make sure that Ginny was indeed awake.
There had been some progress since he had left. At least Ginny was sitting up. She turned her head very slightly as he approached, and a small moan escaped her. She clutched her head.
“Here.” Harry handed her a measure of the clear liquid. Ginny eyed it warily before taking it and giving it a sniff.
“Ugh,” she said pulling a disgusted face. “It smells like floor wax.”
“Doesn’t taste much better. But it works fast,” Harry said.
Within minutes Ginny was up and ready for her day. She still looked pale, but at least her headache and nausea would be gone. Replacing the bottle in the cabinet, Harry made a note that they needed more, and a second note to thank Fred and George for recommending it in the first place. That particular potion had come in handy a few times now.
“Forget those Ron. We’ll deal with them later,” Hermione said over the clank of dishes. She looked back at Harry apologetically. “We will deal with this later.”
With those last words, she grabbed Ron and the pair of them headed over to the fire in the corner of the living room. Seconds later, in two bursts of green flame, both Ron and Hermione had spun out of sight.
They had made good time, Harry thought, looking down at his watch. He didn’t have to be at work for another fifteen minutes. Leaning against the counter he grabbed a piece of the toast Ron had started to make. He was munching on it when Ginny finally made her appearance in the kitchen.
“Did I miss them?” she asked, grabbing a second piece of toast and buttering it.
“They’d already gone to bed when we got home, right?” Ginny was watching the fireplace with her brow furrowed.
“And we didn’t get home that late.”
“No,” Harry said, wondering how Ginny could have noticed and remembered any of this, inebriated as she had been.
“So why did they oversleep then?”
Harry was about to explain that going to bed and going to sleep weren’t necessarily the same thing (as she should well know) when a sudden popping noise turned his attention to the fire. The scarred face of Alastor Moody, looking even more gruesome among green flames, had appeared.
“Morning, Mad-Eye,” Ginny said, through a mouth of toast.
“Miss. Weasley.” He nodded his head briefly in her direction before turning to Harry. “Get a move on, Potter. You’re running dangerously close to being late on your first day.”
“Er . . . yeah, right.” Harry checked his watch again. He had precisely ten minutes to get to the Ministry, and then up to level two. Remembering he had to account for the abundance of people in the atrium, he understood that he had budgeted his time wrong. The very last thing he wanted to do today was be late, yet he was doing a very good job of trying to accomplish that goal. “I’ll be there shortly.”
Moody seemed satisfied with that answer and a small pop announced that his head was gone from the fire. Harry threw down the small piece of toast he had left and headed for the fireplace himself. He still didn’t care for it as a way of traveling, but he didn’t have the time this morning to find a safe Apparition point. He was extremely appreciative that the Floo was a quick way to get to work. He had already grabbed a pinch of Floo powder and was about to throw it into the fireplace when the clanking of the dishes distracted him. He turned to see Ginny had her wand pointed at the sink, and the dishes were starting to clean themselves.
Seeing he was watching her, Ginny shrugged. “You know, sometimes I think Hermione forgets she’s a witch.”
“You might be right,” Harry told her. He leaned down and gave Ginny a quick kiss. “I’ve got to go.” Suddenly he felt a little jittery. He was off to his first day of work at the Ministry as an Auror. He’d been in training for three years, had it announced that he was an Auror yesterday. But just now, standing here looking down at Ginny, it suddenly hit him. He, Harry Potter, was now responsible for tracking down and capturing dark wizards on a daily basis. This wasn’t Voldemort. It wasn’t kill or be killed, but it was routine. This is what he was really going to be doing for the rest of his life.
“Harry?” Ginny was looking at him with concern. “You all right?”
He nodded. He wanted to tell her that he was thinking now maybe he had made the wrong choice. Perhaps he should have joined her in playing professional Quidditch. But now wasn’t the time to start up a ‘did I do the right thing?’ conversation. He had made his choice, and if he didn’t get going he was going to be late for his very first day on the job. That was certainly not the impression he wanted to make.
“I’ll see you later.”
“Have a good day. You’ll do fine,” Ginny said.
Harry was definitely feeling queasy now. Whether it was from the sudden cessation of spinning as he landed in the atrium at the Ministry, or what he was facing on the second floor, Harry didn’t know. He supposed it didn’t really matter anyway. There was no way he could deny the fact that he was feeling slightly panicky about what was going to happen when he reached the second floor. He would surely be assigned to a case today — and then what?
Navigating his way through the crowds of people was no easy task but over the last few years Harry had become somewhat adept at doing it, and garnering little notice. Today he was especially grateful for having developed this skill. The last thing he needed on his first morning in the Auror office was to be delayed by this or that person who had to stop and shake his hand for something he had done years ago, and couldn’t stand to talk about. He was pleased to note that he made it all the way to the lifts before he heard a single person utter his name and when he did, it was a pleasantly familiar voice.
“Good morning, Harry. I must say it’s surprising seeing you here.” Harry turned to see Mr. Weasley smiling at him, holding several large scrolls of parchment under his arm.
“Hi Mr. Wea — Arthur,” Harry corrected when the elder man started to scowl at him. Several years before, not long after the war with Voldemort was over Arthur and Molly had sat Harry down and told him to stop with this Mr. and Mrs. Weasley tosh. Mr. Weasley, in particular said that he had never been quite comfortable with the title himself. Mr. Weasley was his father and the last thing Arthur needed was to feel older than he already was. Harry had toyed with the idea of calling them mum and dad, something they said they would love. Somehow, even though he couldn’t imagine two people who were more like his parents, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Some of it, he told himself, was because of the nature of his relationship with Ginny. It seemed inappropriate somehow to be calling them by that name; but (and it took some time for him to realize this) the more pervasive feeling was of disrespect for his parents. Harry knew this was complete rubbish, but that was the way he felt. After several years he still slipped occasionally, particularly when taken by surprise like just now.
“I’d have thought you’d be here twenty minutes ago, at least. Cutting it a little close aren’t you?” Mr. Weasley bent to check his watch, with the result that several of the large scrolls teetered and fell out of his arms. Harry helped him pick them up. Once they were situated securely again Harry answered the question.
“That was the plan but we — I — overslept.” His hand had gone automatically to the back of his neck as he stammered out this sentence. Damn, Ginny was right. When Harry chanced a glance at Mr. Weasley (Damn It!) he saw a fixed expression on the man’s face. Clearly he was thinking — or trying not to more like — of what had gone on that morning. The vexing thing was that nothing had gone on that morning. Yesterday morning . . . well . . . but not this morning. Harry debated for a second about trying to explain that, but decided he didn’t want to touch that topic with a ten-foot pole. There were some things that were strictly off-limits when it came to discussing Harry and Ginny’s relationship with her father and brothers. The fact she was practically living with Harry and Ron was at the top of that list.
After some minutes of awkward silence in which both men checked their watches several times, and craned their necks to see if the lift had arrived yet, Harry changed topics entirely.
“So what’re those?” He pointed at the scrolls. Arthur seized on the topic willingly.
“These are the most recent statutes on Muggle Relations and Crimes Against Muggles. Moody, Kingsley and I have a meeting about these latest attacks —“ Arthur sighed heavily. “The task force has requested the assistance of my office in the search for those missing Muggles. I just got these out of the archives for later review. We’re knee deep in drafting the new Muggle Protection Act.” The line for the lift finally started to move. As Harry and Arthur piled in the latter added, “but you never know when these things will come in useful.”
Once in the lift, which was jam-packed, they talked little. Proper etiquette seemed to forbid it. In any case, Harry was still too self-conscious to risk saying anything that might further incriminate him. On the sixth floor, half the people got out, and a short, dark-haired woman got on.
“Morning, Arthur,” she said brightly. “Heading up to the meeting?”
“No, not that one. I’ve got a meeting with Alastor Moody and Minister Shacklebolt on two,” Arthur said.
“Oh?” She sounded impressed. The doors opened on level three and she stepped out. “I shall see you later Arthur, Mr. Potter.” She inclined her head in a slight bow and then walked away. Harry looked at Mr. Weasley quizzically. It never made sense to him how a woman so much closer to Arthur Weasley’s age would call him by his given name but Harry was Mr. Potter? Half the time Harry felt he was in danger of forgetting his first name, because he was always Mr. Potter, Potter, or Harry Potter! There seemed to be only a handful of people who realized that his name was actually Harry.
“Arthur, Potter,” Moody called as the two men emerged seconds later on level two. Moody was not alone either. Standing with him was a young man who could not have been more than a handful of years older than Harry. He had closely cropped, dirty blonde hair, a firm jaw line, and a very muscular build. This Harry observed in a flash, but he also noticed that this stranger was watching them approach with a look of disdain. This was an expression so reminiscent of Draco Malfoy that Harry felt an instant surge of dislike. He had to remind himself not to jump to snap judgments. After all, Malfoy hadn’t been completely bad in the end.
“We’ve got to get straight to work, all four of us,” Moody said. “Potter, I’d like you to meet your new supervisor —“ Harry suppressed a groan with great effort, “ — Bredan Tougas. Tougas you know who this is?”
Tougas nodded curtly. The way he was looking — no, glaring — at Harry was doing nothing to increase the nerves he had been feeling since leaving home. He had a strong sense of déjà vu. For many years he had been under the instruction of someone whom he shared a mutual dislike. Nothing good had come of that relationship. Harry really did not want history to repeat itself. This is why, he reminded himself again, he should not come to snap judgments. He had just met the man — perhaps Tougas was a decent bloke. Stranger things had happened.
“I trust you’ll have no problems showing young Potter here the ropes?” Moody asked.
“No, sir, none at all.” He looked directly at Harry, a malicious glint in his eyes, as though daring challenge those words. Having no plans to do so, Harry felt this accomplished nothing except getting him to like Tougas less. The three to twelve months Harry was required to have a direct report supervisor were going to be excruciating, there was no doubt about that.
“We haven’t got time to sit herr chit chatting all day, gentlemen,” Moody said. He turned to Arthur. “Whenever you’re ready Arthur.”
“The sooner the better.”
Moody turned back to address Tougas. “As both you and Potter here also have busy days I suggest you show him around so he can get started. You’ve got other work to do too, remember!”
Was Harry mistaken in thinking there was something of a warning in Moody’s expression and his words? He wasn’t given long to dwell on this question at all. Within seconds Moody and Arthur had disappeared behind the closed door, Tougas spared it one frown and then spun on his heel and started walking away, without giving Harry the slightest acknowledgement. This was certainly a form of treatment Harry wasn’t used to. There were less than half a dozen people who ever ignored him: his aunt, uncle and cousin when he was younger, and Severus Snape (the latter being very infrequently indeed).
“You coming, or what?” Tougas barked, snapping Harry back to the present. Without saying a word he hastened to catch up.
Given his relationships with the Minister for Magic, the current head of the Auror office, and one of the current active Aurors (Tonks), Harry had a better opportunity to spend time in the department than most of his fellow trainees. It was an opportunity he took. The first thing he had noted, and it surprised him somewhat, was the fact that the department was rather small. At any given time there were a maximum of four-dozen Aurors on staff. This was about one-tenth the size of the ordinary Law Enforcement patrol.
As he had been here several times before and done a pretty thorough job of exploring the place with Moody and Tonks, Harry could see little point to taking another tour. He suspected that this might be Moody’s attempt at helping to build rapport between himself and Tougas. If that were the case, he would not be pleased to know that it seemed to be failing miserably. Tougas was one of the least talkative people Harry had ever met. He walked along at a steady pace, and would point out where spare parchment and quills were, where the memo sheets were kept, the interview rooms for victims or suspects, and then finally the cubicles where several Aurors were already hard at work, reading and writing reports. They barely looked up as the two men passed.
As Harry had thought it would be, the ‘tour’ was over very shortly when he was shown to his cubicle. Unlike his neighbors, Harry’s new workspace was currently devoid of papers and wall hangings. He was looking around the small, unremarkable cube, trying to adjust to the idea that he actually was an Auror, when Tougas spoke again.
“Here.” He was holding up a thick roll of parchment. That had to be twelve feet long at least. Harry took it, somewhat reluctantly, owing to the renewed wave of nerves he was feeling. This was his first case. It seemed so sudden. Not ten minutes ago he was standing downstairs talking with Mr. Weasley about almost being late for work, and now he was actually being set to it. Yes, he had been training for this very thing for the last several years, but to have it come to fruition . . .
“Thanks,” Harry said, hearing the trepidation in his voice and hating it. The best thing for him to do would be to get started right away. He always handled doing things better than thinking about them. Tougas, however, had a few more things to say.
“I’ll let you know from the first Potter that just because you’re famous out there —“ he gestured toward the lifts “- does not mean you can get away with not doing the same work as the others. Bear in mind, I know all about your supposed triumph over You-Know-Who. It was a lucky chance that prevented you getting everyone killed. Be warned now Potter, I will not tolerate stunts like that, even from you.”
It was with immense effort that Harry said only, “yes, sir.” There were so many other things he wanted to say to Tougas just now. Yes, he might have read about what happened. But it was highly doubtful that he actually knew what went on the night of Voldemort’s downfall. The only person other than Harry who knew what happened was Ginny. She was the only other person who was there after all.
“Good. Then I suggest you get to work. I expect a report on that document on my desk before you leave today.” He turned on his heel and walked away. At the end of the row, Harry saw Tougas meet up with a tiny witch with mousy brown hair.
“Potter, hey Potter.” Harry turned around. It was Romeo de Rossi. He was leaning over his cubicle from the next row.
“Hey Rossi, what’s up?”
“Did you see them?”
Romeo rolled his eyes, as though he thought Harry was trying to play with him. “The Task Force. They’re meeting in that room right over there.” He pointed to a room close to the elevators, between Moody’s office and the archives.
“Yeah?” Harry looked in that direction, but could not see anything.
“I’d love to get in that room,” Rossi said. Harry couldn’t honestly say he agreed with that sentiment, he and Tonks (as far as he knew) were probably the only two in the whole department who did not want to be in that room.
There were six Aurors (seven if Moody was included, even though he was technically only serving in an advisory capacity) working together to track down the two most wanted Death Eaters: Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. It was common belief, both within the Task Force and in the Auror department as a whole, that they were responsible for the recent increase in dark activity, and the three cases (as yet unsolved) of missing Muggle-Borns.
When the task force was first formed two years previous it was the talk of the department (including those currently in training). Everyone assumed that Harry would want to join straight away. He had given it some thought, but the only reason he would want to join would be to track down Bellatrix Lestrange, Sirius’s killer. But one of the first things they had been told in training was not to make the job personal. At that time it had only been a year since the battle with Voldemort. Remembering how personal that had been, Harry had no inclination to ever get involved in a case like that.
Rossi, seeing that he was not going to get the reaction out of Harry that he wanted, turned to some of their fellow trainees who were more agreeable to this discussion. Harry sat down and unrolled the scroll. Across the top was written:
Use of the Cruciatus Curse on Lorenzo Abbot
Use Of Avada Kedavra Curse On Lorenzo Abbot
Use Of Cruciatus Curse On Kathleen Abbot
Use Of Avada Kedavra Curse On Kathleen Abbot
Wanted for questioning on:
– involvement in the murder of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
– Death Eater Membership and possible other crimes perpetrated under the direction of deceased Dark Wizard He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named
Even in official documents, four years after Voldemort’s death, people still refused to say the name. Harry could not stop himself from rolling his eyes. This shocked him far less than learning that Yaxley, who had indeed been on that astronomy tower the night Dumbledore was murdered, was the one that had killed Hannah Abbot’s parents. He vaguely remembered hearing about their deaths during his last year at Hogwarts. At the time they hadn’t known which Death Eater it was. How they had found out, Harry didn’t know, but it had to have been information they got from another captured Death Eater. It had to be pretty strong evidence, whatever the case, if Yaxley had already been charged.
The remainder of the parchment contained boring legalese that would matter a lot more when Yaxley was caught and went on trial in front of the Wizengamot. At the very bottom of the long document, were hand written notes. Harry paid the most attention to these as they contained what he considered to be the most useful information: reported sightings, possible locations, and crucial (and largely unknown) family histories.
It took much longer than Harry thought to read that report. By the time he finished nearly everyone had gone to lunch. After grabbing a quick bite with Rossi, it was back to work on the summary that Tougas had requested. It seemed like make-work to Harry. Wasn’t reading the bloody thing enough? Did Tougas doubt him so much that he was using this task to make sure Harry actually read the report?
As the afternoon hours raced by, Harry found his attention starting to wane. The legalese that comprised two-thirds of the document was as dull as a History of Magic lesson. More than once he found himself nodding off. As such it was a near miracle he was able to finish his analysis by the end of the day. He dotted his last sentence feeling triumphant. At least he wouldn’t have to bring work home as had become custom during his training.
“What the hell is this?” Tougas asked moments later, after skimming Harry’s report. “If I wanted a summary I’d have read the report myself. Were you not listening to me when I specifically said I wanted an analysis? I want this redone by tomorrow morning.” He threw the parchment back at Harry. “Now get out of here.”
Harry snatched up the parchment and left, walking away quickly so that he couldn’t do something he would later regret. Tougas had asked for a report. That’s what Harry gave him, not a summary. What exactly was he looking for? His evening wouldn’t be free after all.
Twenty minutes later Harry was stepping out of the fireplace into his own flat. He could see Ginny sprawled out on the couch. It looked like she was sleeping. She was always worn out after training, and given how rough she had been feeling this morning Harry didn’t want to wake her. As quietly as he could he crept over to the small area that had been designated as his work area (no one could realistically call it an office) and threw his scrolls on the desk.
Harry turned around to see Ginny sitting up.
“Hi. Did I wake you?” he asked crossing over to the sofa.
“Nah, I wasn’t sleeping. How was work?” she asked, sitting up to make room for him. Harry sighed choosing to lean back instead of answer the question. Work had been lousy. He didn’t much feel like talking about it. He didn’t need to. “That well, hey?” She cuddled up to him. Putting his arm around her Harry changed topics.
“What about you? How’re you feeling?”
“Fine. Just worn out. The first practice of the season is always like that though.”
“Yeah. Maybe the first day is always the hardest,” Harry said, glancing back at the pile of papers on his desk. He should probably get started on that report. The sooner he started the sooner he’d be finished.
“What’s all that you brought home?”
Harry just started to tell her about Tougas when the fireplace burst into life and Ron and Hermione fell out. They were beaming as they brushed the soot off their robes. Harry and Ginny gave each other curious looks before returning their attention back to their friends.
“Hey. Sorry we’re late,” Ron said.
“Yeah. I was starting to wonder where you two got to,” Ginny stated.
It was Ron and Hermione’s turn to exchange a glance, looking like they were glowing.
“We had a few things to sort out before we told you.” It was Hermione’s turn to speak. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, but didn’t say more. Instead she looked at Ron, who took up the story.
“We’re late tonight because we were in Hogsmeade. Fred and George are finally opening a shop there and they’ve asked me to run it.”
“Wow, Ron, that’s great.” Ginny and Harry got up to congratulate Ron on his promotion. He looked mighty pleased with himself. And it’s well deserved, thought Harry. Ron had been working with the twins for the last four years. He admitted himself that he did not have the greatest skills in the inventing arena, but some of his suggestions for running the business had been ingenious. Business at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes had surpassed all records after the war, helped along nicely by Ron’s contributions.
“Yeah. They asked me last week, but told me to keep it quiet or else!”
“And with Fred and George you take that request seriously,” Ginny said. Harry agreed wholeheartedly with her assertion. This news was too good to think about Fred and George’s more dangerous inventions though. He was on the verge of saying they needed to celebrate when Ron made another announcement.
“The Hogsmeade branch will be ready to open in about a month. As I’m going to be spending so much time there, particularly close to, and right after opening, I decided that it might make more sense if I had a place up there. We’ve been looking for places together.” He put an arm around Hermione.
It took just a second for Harry and Ginny to clue into what Ron was saying. He was going to be moving out, that much didn’t need to be thought through. But —
“You two are moving in together, officially?” Ginny asked, glancing at Harry yet again, before turning back to Ron and Hermione to confirm their guess was correct.
“Yes. Yes we are,” Hermione said, in a voice that was a little squeaky from the excitement she had been trying very hard to bottle up. She couldn’t contain it anymore though. She let out a little scream and hugged Ginny who was taken by surprise.
“A little out of the blue, isn’t it?” Harry asked Ron. “Have you two even talked about this before?”
“Not to death, but it has been mentioned. I guess it was a little out of the blue, but it just felt right, you know?”
Harry looked over at Hermione and Ginny. The former was still in a highly excitable state and was talking nonstop. Ginny was trying to listen to her, but Harry noticed she didn’t seem completely focused. She would smile or nod in all the right places, but certainly didn’t share Hermione’s enthusiasm. Did she also think that this was very sudden?
“We’re still going to be here until after Christmas,” Ron said, drawing Harry’s attention away from Ginny. “That’s OK, right?”
“Yeah, great,” Harry replied, still not completely focused on his friend.
“Good. Listen, Harry . . . “ Ron pulled him a little farther away from the girls and lowered his voice. “You’re OK with this, me and Hermione moving in together?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I dunno. I just thought that . . . she says you’re like a brother to her. When Ginny started staying over here a lot, you made sure I was OK with it . . . I just wanted to return the favor.”
“Thanks, Ron. If you two want to move in together, I say go for it.”
Harry again thought it was time to celebrate, but Ron and Hermione had one more announcement to make.
“You’re engaged?” Ginny asked incredulously, looking at the ring on Hermione’s finger that was being held out to her. The broad grins on both faces answered the question. Turning to Harry Ginny said, “well I guess we know why they slept in this morning, eh?”
Rather than looking embarrassed, the grins on their faces seemed to increase, and they nodded enthusiastically. The abundance of questions like whether this was too fast, what had got into them, and others of that ilk were driven from Harry’s mind. One thing was quite clear: they were exceedingly happy. Wasn’t that all that mattered? Ginny seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because she then said a celebration was in order.
After the previous evening Ginny refused to drink anything stronger than Butterbeer. Harry joined her while Ron and Hermione opened a bottle of champagne.
“Mum’s going to be disgusting. You haven’t told her yet have you?” Ginny asked after they had toasted the occasion.
“Er . . . no.” Ron cringed. “Don’t tell her, will you?”
A dangerous spark flared up in Ginny’s eye. “I wouldn’t dare think of it. But you have to let me tell the twins.”
Ron turned a light shade of green. This made the other three laugh spraying more than one beverage across the table. The idea of the twins’ reactions allowed for at least ten minutes of hilarious speculation. Even Ron joined in with a few suggestions about what they would do to Harry and Ginny when their day came.
It was with the deepest reluctance that Harry extricated himself from the celebration to get to work on his report. This seemed the cue to break up the celebration all together. Ginny returned to the sofa and picked up a book she’d been reading on Quidditch tactics. Ron and Hermione tried to sneak off to his room without being seen but as the flat was rather small they failed miserably. Harry and Ginny exchanged smirks before returning to their own activities.
All was silent in the flat but for the shuffling of parchment, and the occasional sound of Ginny turning a page, which ceased all together after about an hour. Harry worked on his report for three more hours. When he had added what he hoped was sufficient analysis he gave up for the night. If he had to read any more wizarding law his brain might just turn to mush.
Ginny had fallen asleep. She must have done so some time before because she was snoring lightly. She looked so content that Harry was reluctant to disturb her. She did this a lot, falling asleep on the sofa. He had told her before that it was OK just to go to bed. It was a lot more comfortable than sleeping on that scratchy old sofa. In winter though he couldn’t really fault her. It was much warmer out here than it was in the bedroom, especially when you were sleeping alone, something they didn’t do very often because neither of them liked to anymore.
It was almost twelve-thirty, they both needed to get some actual sleep lest they repeat the chaos of the previous morning, and there was still something Harry wanted to talk to Ginny about. He’d been thinking about it for some time, but after tonight’s announcement . . .
Sneaking over to the sofa, Harry leaned down and placed a light kiss on Ginny’s lips. She let out a small sigh, but was still sleeping. Twice more he repeated his actions before her eyes flickered open. After getting over her momentary disorientation, Ginny asked, “did I fall asleep?”
“Yep. But now it’s late, we’ve got to actually go to sleep.” Harry tapped his watch. He helped her up and they retired. Once they were safely snuggled together in bed, Harry felt it was safe to bring up the subject.
“Gin, you awake?” That was a stupid question; she could not possibly have fallen asleep that quickly. This was not starting out smoothly at all.
“Yeah.” She rolled over to face him.
“How do you feel about Ron and Hermione?”
“What about them? The moving in together, or the engagement?”
“All of it.”
“They seem happy.”
“Yeah they do.”
“But you were there, Harry. You surely didn’t need to ask to know the answer. So what’s up?”
It was dark in the room, but a streetlamp outside the window was shining in, casting a light tin Ginny’s eyes. If he wasn’t mistaken, she was also smiling roguishly. Feeling a little less apprehensive now, Harry ran a hand through her hair.
“I was just thinking . . . all of the reasons for you not to move in here have been nullified now, haven’t they?”
Damn, that didn’t come out quite right.
“I suppose,” Ginny said curtly, sitting up. “Is this your way of asking me to move in?”
“A pitiful attempt, but . . . yeah.” Harry sat up too. “It didn’t come out right at all, but —“
“You know, Harry, just because Ron and Hermione are going to do it, doesn’t mean we have to too.”
“You’re right. It has nothing to do with them, other than the fact he won’t be here anymore. Didn’t we say that it would have been a little too weird to have both of you living here? Not that it really mattered, you’re here ninety-five percent of the time anyway.” Harry smiled, hoping she’d understand he liked that she stayed here so much.
“So you assume that means I’m just going to jump at the chance to move in here? What is it with you and my brother? He spent half his life thinking he needed to compete with you, and now you’re doing the exact same thing.” She sounded both disgusted and annoyed and her voice was rising.
“Didn’t I just tell you it has nothing to do with Ron?” Harry asked, his own temper starting to flare up. “I just thought . . . now he’s leaving, we won’t have to worry about that awkwardness. And, as you’re here so much it wouldn’t be that much of a change, would it?”
“It would be a huge change. There’s a big difference me staying over as opposed to living here,” Ginny said, her voice returning to it’s normal volume, though still sounding a little annoyed. “Ron and Hermione might be fool enough to jump into things, but I don’t think we’re ready for that yet.”
“You think it’s foolish for us to live together?” Harry asked.
“No. Wrong choice of words,” Ginny replied, not sounding at all like she really thought that. “Let’s just go to sleep, it’s late.” She lay down, and turned away from Harry. What exactly had he said that was so wrong? Why was she so tetchy lately?