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Harry Potter and the Death Eater's quest by justanothermuggle

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Format: Novel Chapters: 24 Word Count: 289,675 Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Fluff, Romance, Action/Adventure Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Shacklebolt, Arthur, Bill, Molly, Fleur, George, Ginny Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Arthur/Molly, Bill/Fleur, Ron/Hermione, Draco/OC

First Published: 10/03/2008 Last Chapter: 12/21/2008 Last Updated: 09/13/2009

Summary:

My first fanfic - completed

Updated: 09/13/2009 Summary: My first fanfic - completed The battle is over, Voldemort is defeated. Now

The battle is over, Voldemort is defeated. Now it's time to go on living, but even with Voldemort gone, evil isn't dead. This is my story what happened after the Battle of Hogwarts, picking up the story where JKR leave our trio in the headmaster's office

Banner by me. Thank you Ghost Chicken for your great proofreading.

The sequel "Harry Potter and the Right of justice"is now posted.

Chapter 1: Tears of Sorrow and Joy [View Online] [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N September 5th. The entire story has been reposted. There's been a couple of tyops and other small details corrected.

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Chapter 1 – Tears of Sorrow and Joy

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She felt a jolt in her left arm. She instinctively knew what it meant as she saw the Dark Mark fade, but didn’t want to believe it. The Dark Lord was dead. She didn’t need to wait until the Daily Prophet confirmed it and hailed the Potter boy as the great hero.

“If I only would have been there, I could have fought, and maybe even have died by the Dark Lord’s side. There’s nothing left. No meaning. My world has ended.” She sat in silence as an idea began to form and take shape in her mind. “Yes, my world has ended. All that’s left for me now is to make sure Harry Potter’s world ends too. I will make him suffer a fate worse than death.” Her face contorted into an almost inhuman expression of twisted mirth as she let out a laugh devoid of any trace of sanity.

An exhausted Harry left the headmistress’ Office with Ron and Hermione, as ever, by his side. The ordeal of the battle had finally begun to take its toll. He felt the pain slowly wash over him—as though the effects of the Cruciatus curse burned through every cell of his body. The spot on his chest where Voldemort’s killing curse had struck him throbbed with a dull agony that pounded at him with every beat of his heart.

Exhausted themselves, Ron and Hermione led their friend up to Gryffindor Tower, where they removed his trainers and socks and heaved him onto his bed, covering him with a quilt. Barely aware of what was happening, Harry whispered, “thank you,” through dry and cracked lips as he drifted into a deep sleep.

Ron and Hermione watched over him for a while, still in protection mode. No one knew better than they what he had been through. He told them how he’d discovered he also was a Horcrux. He had told them bits of what happened in the forest. They marveled to know that Harry Potter had managed to survive the killing curse again. He’d promised to tell them all the details later, once he’d had some rest. Now satisfied that their best mate lay asleep and safe, they collapsed onto Ron’s bed and fell asleep in one another’s arms.

Ginny awoke in a classroom where the Weasleys had stayed for the night, her head cradled in her mother’s lap. She remembered that the events of the previous night weren’t a dream. Molly was still asleep, so Ginny sat up carefully and crept out of the room to take a walk through the corridors of the shattered castle, if for no other reason than to clear her mind. She thought about Fred and then Tonks, Lupin, Colin, and all the others.

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Grief consumed her as she slid down against a wall and cried. Her shoulders shook and her chest heaved with her sobs. Bloody leaking hosepipe. She didn’t like crying normally, but this time it actually felt good. Finally, she thought about Ron, Hermione and…Harry.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about Harry at this moment. Maybe she was still in shock and couldn’t feel much at all. Part of her felt completely empty. Flashes of the battle played through her mind in a seemingly endless loop. It was frustrating. She had felt so much yesterday, seeing him for the first time in months. Then there was that excruciating anguish that flooded her very being as a sobbing Hagrid approached the entrance to the castle carrying Harry’s limp and lifeless form in his massive arms.

She remembered screaming in horror as though her heart and lungs had been literally ripped from her body, knowing that her beloved Harry was dead at the hands of Voldemort. But then, he miraculously appeared from under his invisibility cloak, throwing it off with a look of pure vengeance in his hauntingly striking green eyes. By Merlin’s beard, Harry Potter was alive! Her languishing heart leapt as a jolt of pure adrenaline coursed through her veins, followed almost immediately by a surge of intense anger.

Of course she was thrilled that Harry had beaten the evil tosser and lived to tell the tale, but still… Did she love him or hate him? Was she truly angry with him, and if so, could she forgive him? She didn’t know. All Ginny knew now is that she needed to go to him and let whatever was going to happen…happen. Resolved, she got up from the floor, wiped her tearstained face on her sleeve, and made for Gryffindor Tower, where she found Ron sitting by himself in the common room. With a weak smile, she strode over and gave her brother a firm hug.

“Hi, Ron. What’s going on? Where are the others,” Ginny asked as they broke their embrace.

“Hermione’s in our room watching over Harry,” Ron told her. “I’m here sending away anyone who wants to try and see him.”

Harry. Ginny immediately knew she wanted to see him, needed to see him, now that she knew where he was. Despite very mixed emotions flying around her heart, she simply couldn’t wait any longer. “Is he okay,” Ginny asked, biting her bottom lip. “I want to go up.” She gave Ron her don’t-even-think-about-telling-me-no look as he considered his answer.

“He’s sleeping. Madame Pomfrey was here earlier to look in on him; she told us to let him sleep. He was put through a lot yesterday. We all were, but not like Harry. You might as well go on up. You I won’t try to stop,” Ron said with a sigh and the half-grin so characteristically Ron.

Good answer, dear brother-of-mine. Ginny had started toward the stairs when she turned back to Ron again. “How are you,” she asked.

Ron’s gaze fell to his lap, where his fingers picked at an imaginary loose thread on his trousers. “I don’t know. We won, but so much was lost. I’ll be fine, I guess,” Ron replied as he cast a weary glance at his sister.

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Ginny returned his with an empathic sisterly look, and the proceeded up the stairs to Harry’s dormitory, making sure her wand was tucked safely away in case her first impulse might be to Bat-bogey him. With trembling fingers, she grasped the knob, quietly turned the latch, and carefully opened the door. She slipped through, closing it silently behind her. She found Hermione sitting next to Harry’s bed in the rocking chair she had conjured, watching him as a nurse would watch a recuperating patient.

“Hi, Ginny,” she said softly. “I think he’s having nightmares.”

Ginny sat next to Hermione and looked down at Harry. He was sleeping deeply, but moved back and forth moaning, the sweat beading on his troubled brow.

“I think he’s reliving the night of the third Triwizard task when he faced off against Voldemort in that graveyard. He mumbled something about Cedric a little while ago,” Hermione said sadly.

“W-what can we do,” Ginny asked with a tear in her voice.

“I think the best thing we can do is just be here for him.” Hermione looked up at Ginny meaningfully. “How are you? Are you okay,” Hermione asked her friend.

“It’s so surreal. It’s over, but F-fred is g-gone,” Ginny replied as a tear stole down her cheek.

Hermione stood and caught Ginny in a sisterly hug. “I know,” she said haltingly, “I know.” A shudder shook her body. Hermione had made it a point to keep strong for her friends. She hoped her parents were all right, but for now, she knew she needed to be here for her friends.

They looked back at Harry, who began to thrash about in his sleep. “No, not Sirius,” Harry cried out. “No, don’t be dead…Sirius!”

Ginny gazed down at Harry, her Harry, and instinctively took his shaking hand a clasped it between her own. Although she had lost Fred, Harry had lost so much more. His parents, his Godfather Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Tonks, who made Harry Godfather to their son, and Dumbledore. Dumbledore’s death had been so hard on him. Knowing Harry, she figured he would probably take the blame upon himself for everyone killed in the battle. More than anything, though, there was one single emotion filling Ginny.

“I still love him, Hermione. I always have and I always will. I should be angry that he broke up with me last year. I should be furious that he walked away from me and faked his own death without a single word, but I’m just glad he’s alive!

I should have known what was really happening when Voldemort came from the forest with his body, but by Merlin, I should want to kill him myself for making believe he was dead! Yet, Hermione, seeing him now—like this—I…I can’t. I can’t be angry because I love him. I love him so much…” Ginny whispered through soft sobs, as

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hot hears coursed down her face, spilling onto her shirt. Hermione reached over and hugged her again.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you’re here, Ginny. Harry is like a brother to me and I’ve stayed by his side through all of this hell. But in truth, yours is the face, above all others, he’ll want to see when he wakes. I’m sure of it.”

Ginny’s heart beat faster. “Did he…speak of me while you were gone,” Ginny asked hopefully.

Hermione let out a long breath. “He tried to hide his feelings and focus on what we had to do, but I know he thought of you all the time. He didn’t want me or Ron to know, but he couldn’t hide it from us. Not really.”

Harry tossed again in his sleep. “I must…let him kill me,” Harry sighed. “She must live…love… her.” Harry’s body jerked violently again as if he’d been hit with a sledgehammer. He gasped and then let out a slow breath. “Love…Ginny…” Harry breathed as he fell back into a peaceful sleep.

Hermione and Ginny looked at each other and didn’t say anything at all for a moment, but then Hermione broke the silence. “He did tell us bits of what happened yesterday, but he was half-asleep at the time.” Hermione continued, “And he went into the forest because he needed Voldemort to kill him. In fact, Voldemort threw the killing curse at him. The killing curse, Ginny, and he survived it again!”

Ginny allowed tears of happiness to flow down her cheeks while one year of bottled-up love, hope and affection exploded inside her. “He loves me,” Ginny began to cry again. “I guess I always knew he did. I mean, I was hoping he still loved me, but he’d never said it before. But then again, I’d never said it to him either.”

“Then tell him you love him, Ginny, because I don’t think anyone ever said that to him. At least not after his parents were killed. Do you want me to stay,” Hermione asked.

“No. I think I want to be alone with him,” Ginny replied as a surge of love filled her bosom like a rose opening up to the summer sun.

Hermione hugged Ginny again, saying she would join Ron in the common room, and admonished her to call down the stairs if she needed them. Ginny still held Harry hand, giving it comforting strokes as he slept on. What had really happened in that forest? Why did Harry want Voldemort to kill him? In fact, Voldemort thought he had. How did Harry survive? Well, whatever happened in the forest turned the tide of the battle—there was no doubt about that. Whatever it was, it must have been what he had to leave her for last year. But he loved her. Of that she could be sure, and that was all that mattered now. He deserved a chance to explain himself to her when the time came.

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Harry felt bathed in the warmth of a bright light as he began to stir. Was he awake or dreaming? Was he alive or dead? He didn’t know, but in the light he saw the one face he wanted to see more than any other. Ginny was there in the light…or was she the very light itself? Hadn’t he been at King’s Cross Station with Professor Dumbledore, or was that only a dream? No, it was Ginny this time…unless she too, was a dream. Harry still felt a bit confused, but he spoke into the light anyway. “Ginny. Beautiful Ginny,” Harry rasped. “Am I alive?”

“Yes, Harry,” she said barely above a whisper. “You’re alive.” She smiled through her tears, her gaze focused on his bruised and battered beautiful face.

He still drifted in and out of sleep and his eyes were only half-open. “But he hit me with the killing curse…you were the last thing I saw. But how can I be alive?”

“Harry, wake up. You’re alive. You did it. You beat him. He’s gone,” Ginny said, still holding his hand. “If my voice and my touch don’t feel real enough, maybe this will.” Ginny caressed his cheek with her other hand as she gazed lovingly into the emerald eyes she’d missed so desperately all those months they’d been apart. She leaned down and kissed his lips, pouring all of her pent-up love and yearning into it.

Harry pulled out of his dreamlike state of half-sleep and returned to reality. Ginny was truly there at last—and she was kissing him! After what seemed like several sunlit days, she drew away. They stared into one another’s eyes and Ginny could see that he was wide awake. “Ginny, it wasn’t a dream,” Harry asked hopefully.

“No,” she said, still caressing his battered cheek. She kissed him tenderly again. “I’m here.”

“Did I say anything,” Harry asked as if he suspected he had been talking in his sleep.

“Yes. You did…and I loved hearing it. I love you too, Harry,” Ginny said with a smile.

He couldn’t hold back his tears anymore. He finally allowed himself to cry. Ginny had never seen him like this. He was shaking miserably, as if all the burdens he had carried for so long finally began to break him.

As Harry’s emotional dam broke, Ginny heart broke with it. She slipped into the bed next to him, wrapping her arms around his heaving shoulders as she gently pressed his disheveled head against her breast. She nestled her now-moist cheek into his mass of raven hair and held him close while he sobbed. “I’m sorry I had to leave you. I didn’t want to leave you, but I had to go,” Harry explained through his tears.

“I know, my love. I don’t understand, but I know. Voldemort’s gone now and there’s nothing to keep us apart.

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Nothing at all,” Ginny soothed while Harry settled and collected himself.

He rose up, turned, and took her face in both of his hands. In quiet desperation he promised to tell her about the past nine months. “I want you go know it all, Ginny, but first I need to tell you this: I might have said it in my sleep, but I want to say it now—I love you, Ginevra Molly Weasley.” More tears streaked down his face.

“I tried to be angry with you for leaving me behind, but I just can’t. It doesn’t matter anymore. Not now. You’re here, safe in my arms, and I’ll never let you go. You are so annoyingly irresistible and I love you, Harry James Potter.”

“Then please listen now. I need to tell you everything, and I mean everything.” Harry settled himself against the headboard and took her soft white hand into his rough tanned one and began to tell her…everything.

Ron and Hermione waited in the common room on the sofa, holding each other and speculating as to what might be happening upstairs in the boys’ dormitory. After two hours, Ron became nervous. “It’s too quiet up there. Maybe I should check on them,” he said as he disengaged his arms from around Hermione and hoisted his six-foot five-inch frame off the sofa.

“Let’s both go,” Hermione said with a resigned sigh. She was afraid that they might come upon a scene that Ron might not be too keen on. She followed Ron across the common room to be the staircase that led to the dorm and climbed the stairs to the topmost door. As they approached, they could hear Harry and Ginny talking. Talking is good. That means they’re not snogging. Hermione followed Ron into the room and found Harry and Ginny cuddled up on Harry’s bed, holding hands.

Ron stopped abruptly and narrowed his eyes. “What are you doing, Harry,” he demanded.

Harry and Ginny looked at him incredulously, but it was Ginny who answered. “Ron, I love Harry and he loves me, but Voldemort kept us apart. Now he’s gone and we’re back together again. Don’t you dare go all big-brotherly on me, Ronald Weasley, or you’ll be watching out for Bat-bogeys next,” Ginny warned her brother firmly. She immediately regretted her threat, though, as she registered Ron’s less-than-favourable leer.

Ron didn’t say another word, but turned on his heel and left the room, freckled brow furrowed and sapphire eyes flashing. He left the door standing wide open in his wake. Harry and Ginny looked questioningly at Hermione, who sighed resolutely. “You two stay here. I’ll talk some sense into him.” She stepped back out through the door and closed it behind her.

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Hermione returned to the common room where she found Ron furiously pacing back and forth like a lion in a cage. “Hermione, he can’t play with her feelings like that. Be with her, dump her, snog her on his birthday, and then get together in his bed the first thing today,” Ron stormed.

“Ron, listen. She…”

“She’s my sister and I don’t care if he’s my best friend or the frigging hero to every wizard in Britain…”

“RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!” Ron jumped. He could have sworn that his mother had just come into the room. Hermione drew her wand and pointed it straight at her boyfriend’s nose. “You are making a huge arse of yourself! Now you listen before I mute you and leave you at the mercy of Ginny’s Bat-bogeys!”

She’s so beautiful when she’s on about something, even if she is a bit scary sometimes. Whether it was Hermione’s words or her wand pointed at his face that got his attention, it had an immediate effect. Ron knew from experience that she wouldn’t hesitate to hex him, so decided it would be best to just shut it and hear her out.

“Do you remember how Harry told us he’d gone into the forest because he found out that he was the seventh Horcrux,” Hermione asked him with a steely glint in her eyes.

“Yeah, I remember. What does that have to do with them,” Ron said, pointing toward the stairs leading to the dormitories, his head cocked and his blue eyes still wide and blazing.

Gods, he is so incredibly hot when he’s angry. “Well, Harry talked in his sleep, and maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but Harry walked into that forest to die…for us."But above all, he went to die for Ginny so she could live. Her image was the last thing he saw before the killing curse slammed into him.

“So…what?”

So…what? Is he kidding me? “Ron, don’t you understand? Dying for someone like that…it’s what Harry’s mum did! It takes a very deep love to make a sacrifice like that? Harry is not playing with Ginny’s feelings. Far from it.”

Ron stared at her, nonplussed. “’Mione, what are you trying to say?”

Hermione thought for a few seconds and then asked him, “How many blokes do you know would say they’d

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willingly die for their girlfriends?”

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Ron listened and silently contemplated the enormity of what his girlfriend just said to him and it finally dawned on him. She’s right, of course. She’s always right. Merlin, now I love this annoyingly brilliant woman.

“Harry did actually die for Ginny…sort of…” Hermione went on, “and for all of us. As a result, Voldemort couldn’t touch us.” Hermione looked at Ron compassionately, almost regretting having lectured him. “I don’t mean to come down so hard on you, but you must understand that Harry and Ginny are perfectly mad about each other and deeply in love. Ron, this is nothing new—it’s been building for years.”

She reached up and brushed a lock of ginger away from his eyes so she could search them as she talked to him. She held him captive with her own chocolate pools. “Please be happy for them. Ginny’s your sister and Harry’s your best friend. You and I both want them to be happy, yeah?”

Hermione slid her hands over Ron’s chest and around his neck. She moved against him, rose up on her tiptoes coaxing his ginger head toward hers, and kissed him full on the mouth. “How do you want Harry and Ginny to feel about us? He loves you like a brother and me like a sister…and you know Ginny and I are best friends.” She laid her bushy head against Ron’s broad chest and caressed his back.

Ron calmed down considerably and drew her into a tight embrace. “I guess…I’d better go up there, admit I’m an arse, and…and tell them I’m sorry. And can I tell them about us? I’d like Harry to hear it from me—that the kissing thing was just a heat of…of the moment thing.”

Hermione nodded and released him. Ron climbed the stairs to the dormitory, rapped softly on the door, and slowly opened it. Harry and Ginny were still sitting close together, talking and holding hands. He had to admit he felt genuinely happy for them. They looked up at him expectantly.

“Erm…look, I’m sorry I freaked out and behaved like a senseless gnome,” Ron reddened in apology, “and I’m happy for you. Honest.”

“Are you sure you mean it,” Ginny asked guardedly.

“Yeah, but just try not to snog too much where I can see you, okay?” Ron smiled nervously and cleared his throat. “And I also wanted to tell you…well, Harry, you saw the kiss…Hermione and I sort of got together. It wasn’t just a kiss in the heat of the battle yesterday. It was…erm…real.” Ron flashed his patented half-grin, guaranteed to stave off the angriest of tempers, except for Molly Weasley’s.

“You finally got together? Well, then, the No Snogging Policy applies to you, too,” Ginny said. “My brother and my best friend—I do not need to see that. But congratulations anyway.”

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Harry slid off the bed, strode across the room, and crushed Ron in a brotherly bear hug. “You’re the best mate a bloke could ever ask for, Ron. Simply the best,” Harry declared as they slapped one another’s backs.

“You too, mate,” Ron said. “You too!” Both men grinned at each other, their friendship reaffirmed and a sense of family established. Hermione came into the room and looked on with a relieved smile. She glanced over at Ginny, who still sat on Harry’s bed, smiling brightly through fresh tears that coursed down her face into her lap.

The two couples snuggled up on the beds as Harry told Ginny, Ron, and Hermione everything that had happened to him during the battle. It was the only part of the story Harry hadn’t told Ginny yet. When he finished, he looked at them all intently and said, “We can never tell anyone else about the Horcruxes or the Hallows. We do not need any wanna-be Voldemorts wandering about or a load of crackpot wizards challenging me for the Elder Wand.”

“Too right, we don’t,” Ron said.

The four of them left Gryffindor Tower for the Great Hall to get something to eat. There was a lot of activity in the corridors. Those who fought in the battle, family who’d arrived, and house-elves all worked in teams, making repairs and cleaning up. As they passed by, they could hear people whisper, “it’s Potter,” or “it’s them—Potter, Weasley, and Granger.” Most of them merely wanted to thank them or congratulate them as they passed. In the Great Hall, they found a table laden with food, so they grabbed plates and helped themselves.

Harry and Ginny sat down together on one side of the table, while Ron and Hermione found places opposite them. As expected, many in the hall stole an occasional look at them, especially Harry, but no one tried to approach them. They suspected Professor McGonagall had told everyone still at the castle to leave them alone. George was the first to approach.

“Hello, George,” Harry said. “Where is everyone?”

“Well…Mum and Dad took Fred…his body…home, but they’ll be back soon,” he replied. “Bill and Charlie are helping with repairs and Fleur’s in the Hospital wing helping Madame Pomfrey with the wounded. I’ve seen other families taking their dead home. What about you lot? You okay?”

Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione could tell George was trying to put on a brave face and keep a stiff upper lip as he brought them up to date, but it was no good. The tremor in his voice and the deadness in his eyes spoke volumes. George Gideon Weasley, Jokester Extraordinaire, was slowly coming unglued. “We’re still in shock, I guess,” Ron replied. “But under the circumstances, I think we’re all right.”

“What about you, George,” Harry asked. He felt awful about last night’s events that had cost so many lives, one of them Fred Weasley’s.

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“Like Ron said, still in shock. It’s unreal, but I’m glad Voldemort’s finished,” George said trying to swallow his tears. “And it’s not your fault anyone died, mate. The killing was Voldemort’s doing. You’re just the one who put an end to it. You did what you had to do.”

Ginny wrapped her arms around Harry’s waist and squeezed. “He’s right, Harry,” she said, pressing a kiss into his shoulder.

“Thanks,” Harry said with a weak smile, wanting to believe it.

The five of them looked up as Professor McGonagall strode up the aisle between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables toward them, and she appeared to be in a hurry. “Professor,” Harry said politely.

“Mr Potter, Mr Weasley, Miss Granger, Kingsley Shacklebolt is waiting in my office. He has asked to speak with you immediately.” They excused themselves and followed Professor McGonagall to the Headmistress’ Office. Ginny and George assured them that they’d be waiting in the Great Hall when they were through.

Kingsley greeted them warmly and then asked Professor McGonagall to leave. He looked tired and very likely hadn’t had any sleep at all. “I have been appointed Interim Minister for Magic and I need to make an official statement about the fate of You-Know-Who, but I don’t know what to say. I know you have had bad experiences with the Ministry before, but I hope you’ll trust me enough to fill me in with some background into the battle last night. Now, according to Minerva, you came here on a mission for Dumbledore, looking for something?”

Harry stole a glance at professor Dumbledore’s portrait. It nodded, indicating that it was all right to trust in Kingsley, so Harry began. “I’ll give you the background you want, but I’ll trust your judgment as to what you’ll include in your statement.”

“Thank you for your vote of confidence, Harry,” Kingsley said humbly. “So let me ask you now: what was your mission and what were you looking for?”

“Our mission was to destroy Tom Riddle’s…Voldemort’s…Horcruxes,” Harry began. He fully expected the Minister to inquire as to what a Horcrux might be.

As a former Auror, Kingsley Shacklebolt knew very well what a Horcrux was, but he had never encountered one before. “Horcruxes! Are you saying there was more than one?”

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“Riddle created six,” Harry said.

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The Minister’s eyes opened wide in shock and horror. “So you came here to destroy the last one,” Kingsley asked.

“The last two, actually…and the one we brought from Gringotts. But then I discovered a seventh.” The three friends told Kingsley about each of the Horcruxes, including Nagini, save one.

“Riddle’s diary, Gaunt’s ring, Slytherin’s locket, Hufflepuff’s cup, Ravenclaw’s diadem, and Voldemort’s snake,” Kingsley repeated, ticking each item off on his fingers. “But that’s only six. What was the seventh Horcrux?”

“Not what, sir. Who,” Ron answered darkly, cutting his eyes at Harry.

“I was a Horcrux, but one Riddle never intended. It happened when his killing curse backfired as a result of my mother’s sacrifice,” Harry explained. “Because of that, the twin cores our wands shared, and the blood he took from me to regenerate, the Horcrux tied our fates together.”

Harry went on to reveal the truth about Severus Snape and how he found out about his scar. Shacklebolt couldn’t believe his own ears. So the greasy sod was loyal to Dumbledore and the Order after all! Fantastic —utterly fantastic!

“In the end, I had to sacrifice myself, but my mother’s protected lived in the blood Riddle took from me, so his killing curse rebounded yet again, destroying the Horcrux, but leaving me alive and whole. I think you know the rest.”

Kingsley gazed in utter amazement at these three remarkable teenagers—teenagers—who had fought so valiantly against the deepest dark arts, and the proceeded to bring down and destroy the most insidious dark wizard in history.

His gratitude to these young wizards for their perseverance knew no bounds and there just weren’t words enough to adequately express it, but he tried anyway. “I thank you for your trust. In all fairness, I’ll seek your approval of the statement before I make it official. I think it’s safe to say that the truth about the Horcruxes must be kept secret. Does anyone else know about them?”

“Only Ginny,” Harry affirmed. Kingsley looked apprehensive, but Harry continued unabashed. “She’s my girlfriend and I’ll have no secrets from her. I trust her implicitly.” The love and sincerity on Harry’s face at the very mention of his beloved’s name left the older man in no doubt as to Ginny’s honour.

Minister Shacklebolt leaned back in the burgundy leather chair behind the headmistress’ desk, thinking on all he had just heard. “I think we’d better not spread the Horcrux story any further. Once we agree on the statement,

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I’ll count on you to support it. Unity will be of the utmost importance in this matter.”

“Agreed. Yeah, okay. Of course,” the three teenagers answered at the same time.

“We’re holding a memorial ceremony tonight on the grounds. It’s my wish that you be there,” Kingsley continued. His countenance impressed upon the three friends that this was less an invitation than an order. “Lastly, you three,” he said, pointing at Harry, Ron, and Hermione individually, “I’m asking for your help at the Ministry.”

Before they could protest, Kingsley held up his right hand, palm out, to silence them. Please think about it. We are in great need of good people. I know you hesitate, and I certainly understand, but I’ll try to make it a better place. Even though You-Know-Who is gone, there’s loads of work to do to restore everything to order. Again, please think about it.” With that, Kingsley excused them and they left the office.

“You didn’t tell him about the Hallows,” Hermione whispered.

“Not a chance. I don’t trust anyone but you, Ron, and Ginny with that information,” Harry said determinedly.

When they arrived back in the Great Hall, they found that Mr and Mrs Weasley had returned, as well as Charlie and Bill. Mr Weasley reported that Percy had been held up at the Ministry and would join them all shortly.

“Harry dear,” Molly said, giving him a big hug, He could tell she had been crying and he could only guess at her feelings about losing Fred. Her fury when Bellatrix Lestrange almost hit Ginny with a killing curse had been the kind he never thought a loving mother remotely capable of, despite knowing Molly Weasley’s temperament. She gave Ron and Hermione each a hug as Arthur greeted them. He was visibly shaken, but Harry could see he did his best to remain strong for the sake of his family.

Harry felt happier than he had ever dreamed possible. He had a family that loved him, a beautiful loving girl who was in love with him, and good friends. But still and all, he carried the heavy burden of grief for those lost in the war. He just couldn’t shake the guilt, although time and time again he’d been told it wasn’t his to carry. The loss of Tonks, Lupin, Fred, and the others, coupled with the thought of his orphaned Godson, Teddy, and the pain he felt for the Weasleys pierced his heart like tiny darts. But one look from Ginny warmed Harry to his core, soothing the pain of the tiny darts stuck in his ragged heart. The knowledge that he was free from Voldemort and his curse lifted his spirits, if only just a little. They keep telling me it’s not my fault that Fred and the others were killed, but I just can’t help thinking there was something I could have done differently.

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Something that might have saved them.

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“Harry,” Arthur said, placing a firm hand on the young man’s shoulder. “George told us what he said to you and I couldn’t agree more. If you’re harbouring any guilt about Fred or any of the other dead, I want you to let go of it and think about all the lives you saved.” Harry turned his messy head to face his surrogate father with a look of wonder in his eyes.

“You saved us, Harry. Remember, son. If it hadn’t been for you, Ginny would have died under Hogwarts castle in her first year, I would have died at the Ministry, Ron last year…and who knows if Bill would have survived Grayback’s attack had Dumbledore’s Army—a force you trained—not been there to join the fight the night Professor Dumbledore was killed. Thanks to you, Harry, our family made it through this war in far better condition than many other families. It doesn’t take away the pain of losing our Fred, but it’s the truth nonetheless.”

Harry collapsed into Arthur’s arms as a son would into his father’s. The two men allowed a few tears to fall as their grief momentarily overtook them. “Thank you, sir. I’ll try to remember that,” was all Harry could say as he choked back another round of sobs.

Later that day, a Ministry owl delivered a draft of the statement for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to review and approve. Kingsley noted that it would be released to the public following the ceremony. Harry insisted that Ginny read it and offer her input as well.

The Battle of Hogwarts

Many questions have surrounded the whereabouts and activities of Harry Potter over the past year. Harry Potter, along with his friends, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, had, in fact, spent the better part of it fighting against the dark forces that had made the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named possible. Yesterday, the final battle against those dark forces took place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Staff and students, mostly members of Dumbledore’s Army led by Neville Longbottom and Ginevra Weasley, fought brilliantly alongside the Order of the Phoenix, decimating the ranks of the Dark Lord’s Death Eaters in an effort to bring an end to the terror and tyranny that had spread across our world.

The battle culminated with young Mr Potter facing off in a man-to-man duel against the Dark One himself, ultimately defeating him by repelling his own killing curse. Total casualties number just over fifty (see attached

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list). A memorial/awards ceremony held at the school honoured those who so bravely gave their lives in the conflict and those who demonstrated great courage in the face of grave danger.

For utmost courage and upholding the finest values of our magical society, the following awards were presented at the ceremony:

Order of Merlin, First Class: Harry James Potter, Ronald Bilius Weasley, Hermione Jean Granger, and posthumously to Severus Tobias Snape (see separate article).

Order of Merlin, Second Class: Neville Frank Longbottom and Ginevra Molly Weasley.

Surviving Death Eaters who have been apprehended will stand trial for their crimes. Arrest warrants have been issued for those few still at large.

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Interim Minister for Magic”

The casualty list and the article about Professor Snape were indeed attached, and after a thorough read, the four friends found no complaint with the statement and sent their approval with the owl.

“Blimey! The Order of Merlin,” Ron breathed, awestruck.

“He must’ve worked awfully hard to make that happen this fast,” Hermione said with wide eyes and an equally awed tone.

“Reading about it…somehow, it doesn’t seem to be about us and what we’d been doing. ‘Upholding the finest values…’ I’d say we just tried to stay alive and did what was necessary,” Harry rationalised.

Does he have the slightest clue how irresistibly sexy he is when he downplays his heroics? “So hiding in a tent for a year is what it takes to win the Order of Merlin, First Class? Neville and I actually faced Death Eaters on a daily basis all year until you lot showed up, but we only get Second Class,” Ginny teased with a mischievous grin.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione laughed. “I expect there’s a political reason behind it,” Harry said.

“Yes, the new Ministry, led by Kingsley Shacklebolt, clearly states that it will have nothing to do with Death Eaters or the politics of the former administration. Warrants for the Death Eaters’ arrests and honouring us…yes,

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politics are definitely at work here,” Hermione concluded.

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“Hmff! That remains to be seen. However, I want to help Kingsley because I believe he’s the man to lead us into peace,” Harry said. “But I want to steer clear of their damned politics. I’ve had enough Ministry politics to last me a lifetime!”

The Weasleys gathered for dinner in the Great Hall, along with Harry and Hermione. Once work was finished for the day, people began to pluck up courage enough to make demands on Harry’s attention. They clamoured for his account of what he and his friends had been about during the past year and, of course, for his account of the battle. Harry wasn’t keen to discuss any of it, since it would be published in a release from the Ministry immediately following the ceremony. Sensing their surrogate brother’s frustration, the Weasley boys stood up for him so he could be left in peace.

The two eldest Weasley brothers proved more than adequate in that regard. Bill, with his battle scars and Charlie, rough-looking from his work with dragons, stayed close to Harry and did their best to look menacing enough to discourage anyone from challenging them. Ginny, of course, stayed close to Harry too. They chose to keep a low public profile, exchanging warm smiles and subtle expressions of love only they understood when they thought no one was watching.

For Harry, Ginny had been his lifeline, his every breath during all those lonely nights in the tent. Now, she was all that and more—a buffer between joy and despair—and with each passing moment, he found himself falling deeper and deeper in love with her. He had gladly surrendered his heart to her keeping, and it beat only for her.

Ron and Hermione go their share of attention as well, but they managed to avoid most of the questions. Neville had left Hogwarts for the time being, so as to be spared the onslaught. They supposed he would return for the ceremony, since Augusta Longbottom would never allow an honour bestowed upon her family to be snubbed.

Whilst Harry and Bill filled their plates with more food, Bill looked over at Harry looking a bit puzzled. “You’re literally shining, Harry…Ginny too. Are you aware of that?” Bill blinked in amusement at Harry’s blush and apparent discomfort. “Fear of Ginny’s notorious big brothers is it, then?” Bill chuckled and placed a big hand on Harry’s shoulder. He leaned in conspiratorially. “Hey, don’t worry, mate. I couldn’t be happier,” he assured the younger man in a hushed tone.

“Are we that obvious,” Harry asked with a smirk.

“Look, Harry. I’m married to a part-Veela after all. Charlie has definitely picked up on it, but don’t worry about him. If Ginny’s happy, he’s happy. Now Ron…” Bill paused and let Harry stew for a moment and then continued. “To be honest, I don’t think it’s quite registered with Mum yet since she’s so emotional about Fred, she’s dead chuffed about Ron and the rest of you lot winning the various Orders of Merlin, and she’s relieved that no one else in the family has been lost or injured—and that includes you. Dad’s busy looking out for all of us as the strong Head of the Family. I doubt anyone’s completely oblivious, but no one’s said anything either…”

Harry opened his mouth to speak, but Bill cut him off. “Ron has eyes only from Miss Granger, if I’m not mistaken, so…”

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“Ron knows all about Ginny and me. He and Hermione got together just yesterday.” Harry had always liked Bill. He was, for lack of a better word, cool.

Bill laughed out loud. “Yesterday? They weren’t busy enough fighting Death Eaters?”

“I guess that’s what it takes. You know Ron…he’s hopeless,” Harry said, chuckling.

“He’ll never hear the end of this. Harry, I want every living detail some time.” Bill patted his shoulder and then looked at him with raised eyebrows. “If I may ask—when did this thing start with you and Ginny anyway? Don’t tell me it was yesterday,” Bill asked with mock suspicion.

“Actually, I think I’ve always loved her from the moment I saw her, really…or at least since she opened her eyes in the Chamber of Secrets.” How could you have been so bloody blind? You’ve missed so much. Potter, you moronic ponce!

“That’s kind of a weird first date, but it seems to have done the trick,” Bill grinned wider.

Yeah, except I was too busy being a noble prat to really pay any attention to her. “Bill, can I ask you something —something I’m not comfortable asking Ron or Ginny?”

“Sure…go ahead,” Bill said as he shifted his eyes to the right.

“Uh…right, well. When should we tell Mrs Weasley,” Harry asked and then quickly added, “and Mr Weasley.”

“Hmm…right. Well, knowing my mum, I’d say as soon as possible. Again, I think she suspects, but hasn’t quite taken it in as yet,” Bill replied.

Only veterans of the battle and their close friends and family had been invited to the memorial ceremony, as per Kingsley’s orders. News of the ceremony had spread, so a handful of reporters and photographers arrived, along with a sizeable crowd of gate-crashers who also wanted to celebrate the defeat of Voldemort on the grounds outside Hogwarts…and perhaps get a glimpse of The Chosen One and his companions.

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Kingsley ascended a quickly-conjured stage with Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Neville in tow. Behind them followed Professor McGongall and Snape’s coffin, which was levitated by Professor Flitwick and Professors Sprout and Slughorn as honour guards. Each of the four professors as Heads of House, wore robes of their individual house colours. They turned and faced the crowd as Flitwick gently set the coffin down on a plinth at the front of the stage. The remaining members of Dumbledore’s Army, their families, and the families of their fallen comrades filled the front rows. Their faces were etched with lines betraying the aftershock of battle and loss.

Kingsley raised his arms to silence the crowd. He placed the tip of his wand to his throat and muttered, Sonorus, as he began to speak. “My friends, yesterday marked the end of the Second Wizarding War. May there never be

a third.” Murmurs of assent wafted through the crowd. “The bottom line is that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was

defeated and killed in a duel with Mr Harry Potter.” A cheer erupted from the crowd as Kingsley paused for effect. “This past year has been a dark one in our community, but there was one hope that shone through that darkness: that Harry Potter was The Chosen One.

Many defiant voices spoke of him, quietly uttering prayers of encouragement under cover of night and in the privacy of their homes, but a few brave young wizards and witches actually stepped up and fought to keep that hope alive right here on the Hogwarts grounds and inside the castle, under constant threat of cruel punishment under the Cruciatus curse, severe beatings, exposure, and starvation. Miss Ginevra Weasley and Mr Neville Longbottom led a paramilitary group known as Dumbeldore’s Army in the struggle for freedom and the lives of so many of their fellow students.

Miss Weasley is not yet of age, but on several occasions, she did all she could to resist the tyranny of the very core groups of Death Eaters closest to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named who had taken over the school. It is my pleasure, as a representative of the Wizarding community of Great Britain, to present you, Miss Weasley, with the Order of Merlin, Second Class for your courage in the face of unspeakable odds.”

A tremendous roar of cheers and applause greeted Ginny as she stepped forward to receive the prestigious

award. Harry, not usually fond of attention, positively beamed as the love of his life bent slightly so Kingsley

could slip the medal over her head. She’s the only award I need. How did I manage to win such a beauty?

Ginny returned to her seat next to Harry, who took her hand and locked her fingers with his. He leaned over ever so slightly as whispered into her ear. “Merlin, how I love you. You are amazing.” She smiled up at him with one of those private expressions only he could understand.

“Mr Longbottom led Dumbledore’s Army in a team effort alongside Miss Weasley. He demonstrated enormous courage and loyalty to our cause when he, at the risk of his own young life, attacked He-Who-Must-Not- Be-Named, killing his vile snake during yesterday’s battle. For his outstanding leadership and courage in the face of death, Mr Longbottom also receives the Order of Merlin, Second Class!

The thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd caused Neville Longbottom, the shy and forgetful boy who was almost a Squib, to blush crimson as he stepped confidently forward to receive it. Still somewhat bashful, he stole a look over the crowed and found his usually stern grandmother, who now clapped and cried and laughed for him, her face glowing with pride. Her grandson had finally proven he was every bit the fine wizard his father had been. Neville returned to his seat next to Ron as the applause dissipated.

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“Today we also remember Severus Snape.” Kingsley paused, again for effect, as the audience mumbled its dissent. “Headmaster Snape is the only man I have ever known to deceive He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and do so for a very…long…time. Severus Snape, with his cunning and talents in Legilimency and Occlumency, managed to maintain his charade before the Dark One, ever remaining loyal to Albus Dumbledore to the end.

For one year following the death of Albus Dumbledore, he worked to undermine the foundation of terror established by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, primarily within the walls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, at the same time, working tirelessly to protect the students in his charge the best he could from the savage brutality of Amycus and Alecto Carrow and their band of cutthroats.

On the night of the final battle, Severus Snape died while still trying to gather information that would lead to the downfall of the Dark One. With his last breath, he managed to pass on vital information to Mr Potter that would aid in his ultimate victory over that evil. To honour the memory of Severus Snape for his brave dedication to eradicating a terrible evil to our midst, even unto death, he posthumously receives the Order of Merlin, First Class.”

Silence hung over the stunned assembly as they took in and processed the tale the Minister for Magic wove for them. Neville shocked them all as he suddenly stood up, wand drawn, and barked, “DA! Salute!” The remnants of Dumbledore’s Army rose as one, drew their wands with their right hands. They raised them smartly in front of their faces and then dropped them to their sides in one precision movement as a final farewell to their former Potions Master, Headmaster, and Guardian.

Polite applause, scanty at first began to ripple through the crowd. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny stood and began to applaud, followed by the crowd. Finally, after so many years of loneliness and misunderstanding, Severus Snape received the send-off for the bravery and tenacity a hero so richly deserves.

When the assembly quieted once again and the DA had taken their seats, Kingsley continued his address. “For almost an entire year, we have all wondered: Where is the Chosen One? Except for Mr Potter himself, only two people knew—Mr Ronald Weasley and Miss Hermione Granger. These two remarkable teenagers stood steadfastly by Mr Potter’s side through thick and thin, in a seven-year struggle for victory. Mr Weasley had, on several occasions, saved his friends’ lives in various close calls and tight spots, and proved himself a fierce opponent on the field of battle, but more importantly, as a loyal friend. His tactical savvy, honed to razor sharpness on the chessboard, proved essential to the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I hereby present Ronald Weasley with the Order of Merlin, First Class.

A very self-conscious Ron rose to accept the award. If they only knew. The crowd demanded a speech, so Kingsley stepped away from the podium as Ron faced the crowd, blushing as red as his hair. He placed the end of his wand to his throat and whispered, Sonorus. His deep blue eyes scanned the crowd and rested on the proud faces of his parents and siblings. “Harry once told me that when someone talks about things, like what we did, it always sounds so much better than it actually was. I think he’s right. We tried to survive, hiking all over the country, living rough in a tent. I certainly didn’t think we’d make it, since we had every ruddy…sorry…Death Eater and Snatcher in Britain tailing us at every turn. We did what we had to do, though, in hopes that we would somehow get out of it alive and get on with our lives.”

The air exploded with enthusiastic cheers and applause for the ginger-haired hero who was instrumental in the Chosen One’s defeat of Lord Voldemort. He placed the end of his wand against his throat once again and whispered Finite. Ron returned to his seat between Neville and a now teary-eyed Hermione, who softly touched his face and murmured, “Have you any idea how much I love you?” He just looked into her beautiful brown eyes

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and shook his head no ever so slightly, giving her the crooked half-smile that could melt an iceberg.

Kingsley raised his arms once again in order to silence the crowd. “Miss Hermione Granger is described by many as the most gifted witch of her age. Her cool intellect and clever use of logic became essential to her survival and that of her friends. Miss Granger has shown courage on the battle lines and he willpower is as strong as her magic. She has saved her friends’ lives on countless occasions through her phenomenal use of that clever logic she is so well-known for. She was an influential force behind the organisation and training of Dumbledore’s Army, the most-disciplined unit that fought in this war. I proudly present Hermione Granger with the Order of Merlin, First Class for her abounding spirit and outstanding bravery in the face of deprivation and terror.

Hermione had already resolved herself to the fact that she would be required to speak to the assembly. Ron raised her hand and brushed his lips across it as she rose and stepped toward the podium. Sonorus, she muttered as she advanced, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “I can only wish that this war marks the end of the prejudices of blood purity, so that we may have a world where it’s what one knows and does with knowledge that matters, and not who one’s parents are. If that’s what this war finally teaches, then as a Muggleborn, I can say that it was all worth it and hope that one day, I can take pride in my part in it. One day, when we have mourned those who are no long with us.”

As a tear began to fall, she turned away from the crowd, whispered Finite, and took her seat between Ron and Ginny. Ron slipped his arm behind her, looked into her moist eyes and whispered, “Have you any idea how much I love you?” She gave him an almost inaudible giggle and stared into his bright blue eyes, slightly raising one eyebrow. Ron read that look and arranged his face into an expression that could only be described as pleasure-pain. He hoped no one else noticed.

Kingsley stepped forward again and the crowd fell silent. The air crackled with anticipation as he again began to speak. “Much can be said about our last honoured guest. This remarkable young man has faced the deepest depths of evil in the forms of dark magic and wizardkind alike. He has endured the loss of his parents and suffered under the vile neglect of those charged with his care in childhood. But still—the power of love ruled over any anger or resentment he may have harboured. That abiding power with which he is so richly imbued allowed him to secure victory over that evil for himself, yet he prefers to bestow the credit on his dedicated and loyal friends.” Kingsley gestured to those on the dais as well as those among Dumbledore’s Army.

“He has been known by many names, most notably among them: The-Boy-Who-Lived, The Chosen One, and the Famous Harry Potter, but to his friends and family, he’s just Harry.” The crowd went wild before Kingsley could present Harry with his award. He was just barely able to settle the crowd so he could continue. “It’s my great honour and privilege to present the Order of Merlin, First Class to Mr Harry Potter!” The crowd erupted again as a very nervous Harry stepped forward. Kingsley placed the medal around Harry’s neck and shook his hand firmly. He relinquished the podium to allow Harry to address the onlookers.

The crowd went instantly silent as their Man of the Hour drew his holly and phoenix-feather wand, placed it against his throat and whispered, Sonorus. “Ron, Hermione, and I set out on a mission, on Dumbledore’s orders, last year. You see, no wizard knew more about Voldemort than Professor Dumbledore.” There was a whisper in the crowd when Harry said the name without hesitation or fear.

“This victory is Professor Dumbledore’s. Many years ago, he visited an orphanage, where a boy named Tom Riddle lived, to invite him to Hogwarts. Tom’s mother was a witch and his father was a Muggle. This boy became Lord Voldemort. It was thanks to Professor Dumbledore’s knowledge of Tom Riddle that we were able to defeat

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him. Yes, we. No one of us could have completed this task on our own.

I stand here like this—today—maybe because I have some skill at dueling, certainly because of my friends who are here with me, but mainly because of those who are not here. I want you all to know that without the love of my parents, James and Lily Potter, the wisdom of my Godfather, Sirius Black, the spirit of a dear house-elf called Dobby, the abiding friendship of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, the brave toughness of Professor Snape, and the tutelage of Professor Dumbledore, I would have died.

Many of you may also feel as though you owe your life to someone who died as a result of this war. I felt bad about it at first, until my friend, George Weasley, having lost his twin brother, Fred, yesterday, reminded me this morning that the killing was Voldemort’s doing—we just put an end to it. If what we won here yesterday is less fear and more love for our world, then I could feel good about it, even though the cost weighs heavy on our hearts now. Like you, I mourn, but I like to think that those who died would rather we go on living instead of wallowing in guilt and remorse. Let the fear of Voldemort and his name die with him.”

With that, Harry placed the end of his wand against his throat and whispered Finite. He then conjured a single lily and placed it reverently on Snape’s coffin. “You truly were the bravest man I ever knew. Rest in peace, my friend. Well done,” Harry whispered almost silently, and then turned away as his eyes burned with tears.

“Good speech,” Kingsley whispered to him. Harry only nodded briefly as he passed. He returned to Ginny’s side before a deafening cacophony of applause and cheers. Ginny slipped her hand into his and gave it a reassuring squeeze. She didn’t have to utter a single word. Her eyes said it all.

Kingsley thanked the crowd for attending and dismissed them. Reporters crowded around Harry, hoping to get a story. “Mr Potter, how did you defend yourself against the killing curse?”

“The same way I did when I was a baby,” was all Harry would tell them as he led Ginny into the circle of ginger Weasleys, who stood around him with their arms folded defiantly across their chests. They glared at the jostling pack of photographers and journalists, defending their raven-haired “brother” against the media assault. Even Percy cut a somewhat menacing figure as he held fast alongside his larger, and certainly more intimidating, father and brothers. Keeping Harry and their little sister safely in their midst, the Weasleys made their way toward the gates. Once outside the Hogwarts grounds, they all turned as one and Apparated home to the Burrow.

Once the Weasley assemblage arrived at the Burrow, Molly set to making tea and sandwiches for supper. They day’s events had worn them all out, and escaping the media blitz following the ceremony had their nerves on edge. No one felt particularly up for a huge meal. There was only scant conversation around the table, mostly

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about the speeches (Harry related how he thought Kingsley had laid it on rather thick), but the group seated there seemed more interested in their teacups than anything else. The two young couples, though, still found enough energy to raise their weary heads and gaze into each other’s eyes, exchanging private expressions that reaffirmed their love for one another.

”Time for bed, dears,” Mrs Weasley announced, as she assigned her extended family to sleeping quarters. ”And finally, Hermione, you’ll sleep in Ginny’s room and Harry, you’ll bunk with Ron. Off you go, now,” she ordered, as she shepherded them all up the stairs. The couples parted at Ginny’s bedroom door with soft kisses and warm embraces. ”G’night,” was all they could muster as the girls disappeared behind the door and the boys dragged themselves up to the next landing to Ron’s room. Soon, the house laid peaceful and still, the silence broken only by the occasional squeak of bedsprings as someone rolled over in glorious, dreamless sleep.

Harry had just awakened as bright sunlight stole through the window and assaulted his sleep-laden eyes. At first, he wasn’t sure where he was. He had only just realised when Errol, the ancient Weasley family owl, suddenly crashed through the window on Ron’s side of the room with the Daily Prophet in his talons, landing roughly on Ron’s stomach in a flurry of down and feathers. The bird lay exhausted and gasping for breath with his feet in the air as Ron moved the heaving mass of wings and beak onto the bed beside him.

"Ahhrrgh

awakening from what had been an otherwise restful night’s repose. Without a glance toward the shattered window, he waved his wand in the general direction and muttered, Reparo. The shards of glass littering the floor and the beds flew safely back into the frame, leaving no evidence that the window had ever been broken. Harry looked on amused. He was about to say something to Ron about Errol when the door burst open with a bang.

ugh!

Ruddy hopeless, sorry excuse for a bird," Ron grumbled, quite put out at such a rude

Ginny and Hermione, having been awake for about an hour already, heard the crash. The two girls nearly jumped out of their skins in alarm, grabbed their wands, threw open the bedroom door and sprinted up the few stairs to the boys’ room. They burst through the door, wands drawn, hair flying, and faces pale, ready to blast the intruder to oblivion.

”Hermione! Ginny! What’s the matter with you two,” Harry exclaimed.

”We heard a crash and gasps.

we

thought

we

thought,” Ginny stammered, heart pounding, her breaths coming in

”You thought we were under attack,” smirked Ron, ”in broad daylight

first

thing in the morning.”

Now Harry began to snicker as Hermione’s eyes narrowed.

”What’s so funny,” a winded Hermione demanded, ready to launch into one of her infamous tirades.

”Imagine. You running to save us,” mused Harry with a glint in his eye. ”How romantic,” he laughed. Then Ron joined him in raucous laughter. The girls were not amused.

”Then what the hell was that noise,” Ginny asked, trying not to laugh herself. She didn’t appreciate being made fun of, but at the same time she rather enjoyed Harry’s infectious laughter. I just can’t stay angry with him, especially now, since he hasn’t laughed—really laughed—in such a long time.

”Errol,” Harry answered.

”Oh. Enough said,” Ginny sighed as she made her way toward Harry’s bed.

”Aw c’mon, ’Mione,” begged Ron. ”Don’t be like that. I was just having a little fun with you. C’mon, Love. Give us a break.” He held out his arms to Hermione, flashing those baby blues and the patented half-smile that melted her anger away. She walked across the room, her own chocolate brown eyes never leaving his, and crawled onto his lap and into his arms.

”I don’t know why I put up with you, Ronald Weasley,” she sighed as he placed a kiss on her still-furrowed brow.

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”Because you can’t help yourself?” He chuckled as he tightened his embrace.

Hermione smiled to herself as she laid her head on his broad chest. He drives me mad, but I just can’t resist that Weasley charm.

On the other side of the room, Ginny had already sat down on the edge of Harry’s bed. She no sooner than touched his hand, when he pulled her down across his chest and buried his face in her flaming red tresses, wrapping her in his strong arms. She let out a squeal of surprise and delight.

”G’morning, my beauty,” he whispered huskily, breathing in her signature scent of wildflowers and strawberries. ”I missed you,” he mumbled into her neck as he ran his fingers through her thick hair.

”Mmm. Morning, my love,” she murmured as she began to kiss up his neck toward the side of his mouth, which drove him wild. ”I missed you too.” Harry realized that something else had woken up as well. Merlin, what she does to me!

Just then, Errol began to stir. It looked as though it took a Herculean effort for the battered old owl to right himself enough to take flight and escape the confines of Ron’s room so as to find sustenance in the Burrow’s kitchen. This interrupted a healthy snog between Ron and Hermione, drawing their attention toward Harry’s side of the room, just inside the door.

”Oi! A little dignity, all right,” Ron called across the room to his sister and his best friend.

Harry and Ginny had forgotten they were not the only people in the room, so lost were they in the own blissful snog. Blushing, they disengaged themselves from each other and glared over at Ron, who had opened up the newspaper. Hermione took pains to smooth it out so they could read it.

"Look," Hermione shouted, pointing at a line in an article. "It says here that Ginny is the youngest witch in history to receive the Order of Merlin."

Harry draped an arm across Ginny’s shoulders and declared, ”That’s my little warrior!” Ginny snuggled in closer, letting out a sound something like a cross between a giggle and a sigh.

Then Hermione smiled almost triumphantly. "Harry, it looks like your having mentioned Dobby in your speech started a debate about house elves."

"Imagine that," he replied rolling his eyes and grinning sarcastically. ”He saved our lives, you know.”

That morning’s Daily Prophet turned out to be a special edition, since the entire issue had been dedicated almost exclusively to the Battle of Hogwarts, as it was to be called now, the memorial/awards ceremony, and the recipients of those awards, including a small section devoted entirely to Severus Snape. One entire spread was dedicated to Harry, with commentary containing speculation as to how Harry had managed to survive the killing

curse yet again

to the others. As the paper passed to Ron for the third time, his countenance took on a dark demeanor and his face turned a deep crimson.

accompanied

by the perfunctory photographs. The four friends took turns reading aloud, each

”What,” Hermione asked.

”Look further down on the page,” Ron said in a lower-than-usual voice. He pointed to the article he was about to

launch into and looked sadly at Harry. ”Sorry mate, it's just too much. I honestly don't know if I should laugh or

cry

or

send the writer a howler, or better yet, a dungbomb. Probably the dungbomb.”

”G’on, mate. Read it. I can take it,” Harry said, steeling himself for the worst. Bloody hell!

Ron read:

Harry Potter's Girls Over the years, there have been numerous reports regarding Harry Potter's love life. During his fourth year at Hogwarts, Miss Hermione Granger had been his love interest, as revealed by my esteemed colleague, Rita Skeeter.”

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”Oh for the love of

he decided to let it go. They’d heard all of this before. Will they ever quit with this rubbish?

Harry started, knowing already where this was going. He heard Hermione sigh heavily, so

”Go on,” Harry sighed.

The details are shady, though, as Miss Granger dated the famous Bulgarian seeker, Viktor Krum, who escorted her to the Yule Ball during the Triwizard Tournament held at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that year. Miss Parvati Patil turned up on Mr Potter's arm that evening; however, there is no indication that there had been any romance between the two of them. Interestingly, Harry had been observed sitting down most of the night, presumably in protest, very likely over Miss Granger, dancing with Miss Patil only when tradition demanded, meaning the first dance. We suspect there had been a quarrel between Mr Potter and Miss Granger that must have been resolved soon after, as the two of them seemed to have made up and continued their relationship.” Sniff.

Ron stopped reading. He snapped his ginger head to Hermione, who sat cross-legged on his bed, handkerchief

in hand, dabbing at tears that threatened to escape down her cheeks. ”’Mione, what is it? What’s

He reached over and put his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him and giving her a reassuring squeeze. I was afraid of this. ”For what it’s worth, Hermione,” Harry said soothingly, ”there was a protest going on that night, but it wasn’t me doing the protesting.”

oh.” Damn!

Ginny cast a sidelong glance at her boyfriend. ”What do you mean?” she asked.

”What Harry means is that I was the one protesting, Ginny,” Ron admitted. ”I had been an insufferable prat because I didn’t ask Hermione to the ball myself when I had the chance. By the time I realised she was even a ”

girl

Krum

had beaten me to the punch. I wanted to shrivel up and die when I—when Krum

”Ron, don’t. It’s not important,” Hermione sobbed. He doesn’t need to keep beating himself up over this.

”It is important, ’Mione. I was horrible to you, accusing you of fraternizing with the enemy. I was so stupid.” Ron pulled her in even closer and put his other arm around her, nuzzling her. I swear, I will spend the rest of my life making that up to her.

”Uh, excuse me, but since when do we sit around blubbering like leaky hosepipes over anything written in the sodding Prophet, anyway,” Ginny said resolutely. ”You’re right, Hermione. It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just a load of rubbish!” Have these people nothing better or more important to write than gossip?

”I know. Thanks,” Hermione sniffed. A few moments later, she managed to pull herself together. ”Is more, Ron?”

is there

He nodded and read on, still holding her protectively to his side.

The following year, Mr Potter was seen dating Miss Cho Chang, a girl who shares Mr Potter's passion for Quidditch, and who also became a member of Dumbledore's Army. It is reasonable to believe that the beautiful Miss Chang snared Mr Potter's heart, leading to the end of his relationship with Miss Granger.

”Merlin’s pants! Where do they get this rot,” Harry exclaimed as he threw himself onto his back and drew his hand down over his face.

”Harry, shut it. We know it’s all rubbish, Love,” Ginny teased. ”What did we just say to Hermione?”

”Shut me up,” Harry replied with a wicked smile.

”Can we just get on with this,” Hermione snapped.

”Later, Love,” Ginny whispered conspiratorially.

Ron cleared his throat and continued:

Miss Chang won Mr Potter's affections and started a relationship with him. Exactly when and why Mr Potter and Miss Chang broke up we do not know.

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During Mr Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts, two girls are known to have been romantically involved with him. Miss Luna Lovegood did, according to a reliable source, go on at least one date with Mr Potter, but since we have no further details, we can only assume that they had kept their relationship a secret.”

”Poor Luna,” Ginny sighed, shaking her head slowly.

Ron paused only long enough to acknowledge his sister’s comment.

The other girl with whom Mr Potter has had a relationship is Miss Ginny Weasley. A fellow student at Hogwarts states the couple were officially together and dating.

Following his return from his heroic mission, Harry Potter has been unavailable for comment and his exact whereabouts are unknown. It is uncertain whether any of these girls are in a relationship with Mr Potter at this time, although he was last seen with the Weasley family only yesterday at a memorial/awards ceremony at Hogwarts. If there is anything we can report with any amount of certainty, it is that there are many young witches whose hearts hope that Mr Potter is still on the market, as he has been voted the Most Desirable Wizard In the Country, according to Witch Weekly.”

Ron smirked painfully and tried desperately to hold back the juggernaut of mirth that began in his belly and began to move into his chest. His body shook with suppressed laughter as his face changed from pale to pink to rose to crimson.

Harry looked tired. ”Ron, I can understand the urge to laugh. This is totally insane.”

Ron couldn’t stifle it any longer. He let go and soon the others joined in, holding their sides and falling all over each other. Except Ginny. She didn’t find the gossip funny at all, especially where Harry and her family and friends were concerned.

”Insane? Insane, he says,” Ginny cried angrily. ”And the best you can come up with is a dungbomb? Give me five minutes with this arse of a reporter and St Mungo's will have five years work to do.” Ginny huffed and folded her arms defiantly across her chest. The laughter died down as Harry reached over to stroke her hair in an attempt to calm her. She’s drop-dead gorgeous when she’s angry.

”And get yourself five years in Azkaban? Harry, don’t hate me for saying this,” Hermione said, ”but you’re

obviously considered the greatest hero on this planet. Every reporter like this one, most likely a member of Rita Skeeter's fan club, will probably indulge themselves in this kind of ’rot,’ as you put it. And that goes for all of

us

wizards after becoming one of the most famous witches in the country, myself.

and

Neville too. Oh look! Here's a nice piece about me, wondering how I’ll handle my desire for famous

Harry looked around at his friends and asked, ”Should I just tell the Prophet I'm with Ginny?”

Ginny looked at him thoughtfully. ”Well

you’re seen alone with Hermione, or any other girl, they’ll accuse you of cheating on me.”

it

will put an end to speculation about who your girlfriend is, but if

Ron and Harry glanced at one another, shaking their heads. ”Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, mate,” Ron said as he puffed his cheeks and blew out a long puff of air.

”She's right, you know. I read some of these Potter-Krum articles about me,” Hermione agreed. ”Some of them claimed I was Harry's girlfriend cheating with Krum, while others reported it the other way round. Oh, and let’s not forget those who claimed that I was a Muggleborn nobody who tried to snare famous wizards. It's crazy out there, Harry.”

”You’re not a nobody, ’Mione. If I ever hear anyone call you that, I’ll—”

”Thank you, Ronald. You’re very sweet,” she interjected, as she crawled behind him a draped her arms over his shoulders, giving him a piggy-back hug.

”So what do we do? I don't want any of you to be treated like this by the press. Certainly not Luna or Cho

either. Parvati is actually the only one they got right, more or less

and

Ginny.” Harry said.

”Too right! If you ask me, I say we ought to tell Mum and Dad right away. It’s better they hear about us from us,

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rather than have them come at us in a right state after reading this drivel,” Ginny said. ”Then, dear brother, I’ll take great pleasure helping you with that dungbomb,” she hissed with an evil grin.

”You’re on, Gin-Gin,” Ron smiled impishly. Harry and Hermione opted to just let it go.

A/N This story aims at following JKR canon. A couple of readers have complained about not awarding Luna, as she led the DA with Ginny and Neville. True, she did, during the first term. It was later on things turned really ugly. In this story Ginny is the one leading the DA until she leaves at Easter break. Nevilel carries on and also attacks the Dark Tosser himself, killing Nagini. Remember that the Order of Merlin is a highly prestigious award and not everyone who takes part in heroic actions are awarded. I decided that Luna's part, heroic as it is, isn't enough for the Order of Merlin. This is not meant to diminish what she did.

My thanks goes to siledubhghlase, beta and editor of this story.

I appreciate comments and thoughts in a review.

Chapter 2: Love and gossip [View Online] [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 2 – Love and Gossip

Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Percy and George had to leave early for work. They would be gone a few days, and then return for Fred's funeral. Bill would have a lot to do at Gringotts as customers returned to see how or even if their accounts survived the war. Charlie accepted temporary work with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, while Percy found himself inundated with a heavy workload stemming from the chaos following the fall of Tom Riddle’s regime. George wanted to keep busy and decided to check out the joke shop, or what was left of it after the war.

Molly had made a delicious breakfast for the ones still at the Burrow. Arthur and Molly looked up as Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny descended the stairs into the kitchen. ”Good morning, dears,” Molly said. ”Would you like a cup of tea?”

”Yes, please,” they replied.

”A cup would be nice, Molly,” Arthur said.

Soon, everyone had been served and Molly took her place at the table. Arthur noticed Ron held the Daily Prophet, and appeared to be crushing it in his considerable fist.

”Ah, I see Errol delivered the Prophet to your room this morning? I don't understand that owl. May I have it Ron,” Arthur asked, tugging at the paper still clenched in his son’s fist.

Harry and Ginny looked at each other, Hermione bit her lower lip, and Ron balked as he looked nervously at his father.

”Mr and Mrs Weasley, we—we'd like to tell you something first,” Harry said, feeling more nervous than he did facing Riddle.

”Yes dear,” Molly said with a warm smile.

Harry felt uncertain as to how to go about telling them, what with the shock of Fred having been killed only two

days ago coupled with the joy of the victory, raw emotions stirred the already tense air. ”I

Ginny,” he stammered. Molly looked at them and a bright smile began to steal across her worried features.

I'm in love

with

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Ginny took hold of Harry’s exposed hand. ”And I love Harry.” She said it confidently, but quickly, as if hoping to stave off an explosion.

No explosion came. Instead, Molly took their clasped hands in hers and said just above a whisper, “I was hoping that’s what I saw."

"We’ve noticed the stolen glances and dreamy eyes, the whispers, the chaste kisses, and the handholding these last couple of days at Hogwarts as well as here at the Burrow since last night. We don’t miss as much as you think we do,” Arthur said with a wink and a nod.

”Actually, Harry and I were together last year before he left for his mission with Ron and Hermione,” Ginny said. ”I guess we want you to know that we are serious about this. Harry is officially my boyfriend,” Ginny declared.

Molly had a moment when she seemed to have a hard time accepting the fact that her daughter had a boyfriend. Then she started to cry. For a second, Harry feared she didn't approve after all.

”Ginny

Harry

I'm so happy to hear this

”Congratulations,” Arthur said.

Molly said through her tears.

”We wanted to tell you, but the Prophet forced our hand before we could give what we wanted to say too much thought,” Harry said.

”Exactly. Some witch I'd like to curse in a very nasty way wrote a horrid piece full of lies about Harry's love life,” Ginny said as Ron handed the paper over to their parents and pointed out the offending article. ”We wanted to tell you ourselves rather than have you read it from that,” Ginny spat as she slapped it with her fingertips. Arthur and Molly bent their own red heads together to read the article.

”Most of it isn't true,” Ron said. ”Hermione and Luna are Harry's friends, although

one disastrous date with Cho, Harry

Ron paused,” you did go on

”Ron, please,” Harry said. ”You don't have to defend me. But I ask again: Should I let the press write whatever they want about me or should I tell them outright that Ginny and I are together? They all turned to Molly and Arthur for guidance, since they were all at a loss for ideas.

”Oh dear,” Molly said compassionately. "I keep forgetting you four are probably the most famous witches and wizards in the country.”

”I don't want any fame or glory. I never wanted any of it,” Harry said. ”I just want to get on with my life.” Harry stared into his teacup, his left hand shielding his eyes.

”I honestly don't think any of you can avoid it,” Arthur said resolutely. ”You are considered heroes and saviours of our world. At this point, all you can do is just deal with it the best you can. Of course, you have our full support, and I’m sure I can speak for the rest when I say the family is behind you and we’ll do all we can to help. Furthermore, I want both of you to know, Harry and Hermione, that you are welcome to stay here as long as you wish. As far as the Weasleys are concerned, you are as much members of this family as Ron and Ginny,” Arthur told them as he looked the two friends straight in the eye.

”Thanks, Mr and Mrs Weasley. That means a lot to me,” Harry said softly as he felt the sting of tears welling up in his emerald green eyes.

”Yes, thank you,” choked Hermione, stifling yet another sob as she pushed Ron with her shoulder, clearly encouraging him to tell his parents about their relationship as well, especially since his father had just all but adopted her into the family.

”Mum

Dad,”

Ron said with a tremble in his voice. "I

”What,” Mrs Weasley asked, looking sharply at him.

that

is, we

want

to tell you something too.”

”I want to tell you that

Hermione

wants to give you another piece of news.”

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Harry could hardly contain himself from laughing hysterically when he saw the murderous look on Hermione’s face. Heart of a lion, this one.

”Well, Ronald, let me just spell it all out then,” Hermione ground through clenched teeth. She turned to Mr and Mrs Weasley, squared her shoulders and said simply, "Ron is my boyfriend.”

Silence. Oh no! What have I done? Tears began to well up in her eyes and her heart fell into her stomach.

”Why in the name of Merlin's most outrageous underwear did you need Hermione to tell us that,” Molly asked her blushing youngest son.

”You’re not angry,” Ron asked, eyes wide and hopeful

”Angry,” Mrs Weasley yelled. ”Why would we be angry?”

”I

that his parents approved of his and Hermione’s relationship. Hermione lightly dropped her forehead onto his shoulder and shook it in frustration.

I

dunno, Mum. I was just afraid

Ron didn’t quite know what to say at that point. He was just so relieved

Harry and Ginny just stared at each other, snickering and shaking their own heads in awe of Ron’s clumsy awkwardness. Harry had since slipped his arm around her waist. ”Unbe-freakin-lievable,” Ginny laughed into Harry’s shoulder, her tone low enough for only him to hear.

”I guess congratulations are in order for you two too, then,” Mr Weasley beamed.

”So

together last year. What do you have to say for yourselves?”

just

when did this happen,” Molly asked Ron, who was still blushing. ”Those other lovebirds apparently got

”It was Hermione's fault,” Ron said.

That did it. Harry and Ginny fell all over each other in gales of unbridled laughter. Hermione slid her forehead from Ron’s shoulder onto the table, her arms dangling at her sides, while she shook herself limp from laughing so hard. Mr and Mrs Weasley literally howled. Ron, at first, couldn’t understand what was so funny, but then he realized what he’d said and began to laugh too.

Ron pulled himself together while the others worked to catch their collective breath. ”It was during the battle. I said something about not forcing House-elves to fight for us and the next thing I knew, Hermione kissed me. But I've wanted to kiss her for years,” Ron said earnestly.

Tears formed once again in Molly Weasley’s eyes as she took one of Hermione’s hands in one of her own and

then turning to Harry, took one of his into her other. ”Hermione

surrogate son and daughter into one of her famous bone-crushing hugs as tears of joy spilled down her care-worn face. After several moments, she released them. ”Ginny, I'm so happy for you and Harry,” she said, and then turned to Ron. ”And you should be happy, because Hermione must be completely in love with you.” More laughter rang through the Burrow. In the midst of the mirth, Mr Weasley swept his eyes around the table as his lovely wife, Molly, and his youngest son and daughter together with their sweethearts chatted away seemingly without a care in the world. Life is good. Life is GOOD!

Harry.

I

you

bloody

hell!” She drew her

As they finished breakfast, another owl arrived with a letter for Harry from Kingsley, asking for his own account of the events in the forest the night of the final battle, and how he managed to survive the killing curse for a second time. Kingsley also offered an official Ministry apology on behalf of the newspaper. He had been less than thrilled with the Prophet’s article about Harry’s private life, and suggested that perhaps the four of them might put their heads together and compose an official statement in hopes that the thing could be laid to rest once and for all. So, with Hermione as scribe, the four friends sequestered themselves in Ron’s room and hammered out a statement to send back with Kingsley’s owl for release the next day. "I realise the Wizarding world wants answers about the events leading up to the death of Tom Marvolo Riddle,

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alias ‘Lord Voldemort’ or ‘The Dark Lord,’ and you deserve at least that. The truth is that my mother, Lily Potter, sacrificed her life to save mine all those years ago. Circumstance and ancient magic created a protection that destroyed Tom Riddle without killing him outright. Upon capturing the Triwizard Cup at the end of the third task of the Triwizard Tournament three years ago, Cedric Diggory and I were transported to a graveyard where Voldemort would rise again as a result of a hideous ritual spell he created to regenerate his body. Unfortunately, Cedric was murdered that night for no other reason than he happened to be there.”

”Harry, are you sure you want to include Cedric in this,” Hermione asked doubtfully. ”I mean, what does Cedric’s death have to do with anything?”

”Hermione, Cedric Diggory is as much a casualty of this war as any of the others,” Harry shot back. ”And what’s ”

more, he wouldn’t even have been there if I hadn’t insisted we take the Cup together. He didn’t have to die Harry began to shake as the memory of that awful night in Little Hangleton flooded his memory.

Ginny could sense the turmoil rising in her boyfriend’s very soul. She took him in her arms and caressed his back. ”It’s not your fault, Harry. You didn’t kill Cedric; Wormtail did under orders from Voldemort. How could you have known that the Triwizard Cup was a Portkey? Nobody knew that—not even Dumbledore.” She gently reasoned with Harry, still passing her hand up and down his back, speaking softly, reminding him to let go of his guilt.

”She’s right, mate,” Ron agreed. ”You did what you had to do. We all did.”

Harry wiped a few rogue tears away, turned to stare deeply into Ginny’s eyes, and began to relax. I could drown in those eyes and die a happy man. I know I could never have survived all of that without the very thought of loving her to hold on to.

Ron and Hermione looked on in wonder. For the life of them, they couldn’t fathom how Ginny had so easily calmed one of Harry’s emotional storms so readily, when it had often taken hours for them to do the same thing.

”All right, then,” Harry announced, clapping his hands together, "let’s crack on, yeah?” The others nodded in agreement. Harry asked Hermione to read back what she had written in order to get his bearings so they could, in fact, crack on. ”Right, then,” he said and resumed dictation.

Part of that spell included the forceful taking of my blood in order to take my mother’s protection onto himself. As a result of this horrible ritual, Riddle made himself vulnerable to the very thing he perceived as protection. When he fired the killing curse at me, that element that my mother had placed into the blood that now flowed through his own veins caused that curse to backfire and finish him instead of me. As for the whereabouts and the activities of my friends and me for all those months, I will tell you this: We set out on a dangerous mission under orders of Albus Dumbledore to tell no one—not even our families—what we were doing. It was a matter of trust and security necessary to ensure our success and that we might bring about the destruction of Lord Voldemort’s terror and his ultimate and permanent demise.”

Harry suddenly felt compelled to look over at Ginny. Silent tears streamed down her face, for she knew about that mission. Harry had told her only two days before what that mission was all about and she truly appreciated the precarious position her boyfriend, brother, and best friend had been placed in. But to hear Harry tell that tale this way drove home just how lucky they all were to be alive and how truly thankful she was to whichever higher powers allowed him to return to her.

”Ginny, baby, what’s wrong,” Harry asked as he tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

”Oh

hungry, scared

and afraid she, herself, had been all that time, not knowing whether they were alive or dead. She threw herself into Harry’s arms and began to cry in earnest. ”Have you any idea how frightened we were for you? Day after day without any word as to where you lot were or if you were even alive, praying to any god who would listen to

please let you come home to us in one piece! I’m just so

couldn’t breathe! I’m so grateful you came home to me alive and still wanting to be with me!”

well

I

I

was just thinking about how horrible it must have been for you, constantly on the run, cold and

and

and

all

alone

like that.” Her voice trembled as she spoke. She remembered how lonely

so

Oh Harry, I was so lonely without you. I almost

Hermione crawled into Ron’s lap as tears of sympathy for Ginny flowed down her face, soaking Ron’s tee-shirt. He pulled her in closer, pressing soft kisses to the top of her bushy head.

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”I know, Gin, and I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that for me

He held her as close to himself as humanly possible while her body shook with sobs. ”I never meant for you to

suffer. Please believe me. But we weren’t exactly alone. We had each other to lean on.”

for

us,” Harry murmured into her hair.

”Yeah, Gin-Gin. It was no picnic, but it could have been worse. Hermione, here, thought of everything we might need to make that situation bearable,” Ron told his sister. And this brilliant beautiful witch is mine. Weasley, you may be a git, but you’re a lucky git.

”Oh, look at me, will you,” she said suddenly. “Weeping like a leaky hosepipe!” She made to wipe her face and blow her nose with her own handkerchief.

”We did our share of that, too, Ginny,” smiled Hermione. ”I can’t tell you how many rivers we cried, whether we cried together or in secret. There no shame in tears,” she said.

”I’m sorry I went off on such a soggy tangent. Let’s just finish this, shall we,” Ginny said.

”You’re sure you’re all right,” Harry asked.

”Yes, Love, I’m fine,” Ginny assured him as she took his hand and twined her fingers with his. Her eyes still glistened with unshed tears, but she beamed up at Harry anyway. I love you so much, Harry Potter.

Hermione again read back what they’d already written so Harry could gather his thoughts once again and continue. ”Ah, yes. The private life thing,” he said rolling his eyes. There has been an inordinate amount of speculation regarding events in my private life, both past and present. I humbly ask the Wizarding world, especially the media, to respect my privacy and leave off further rumor mongering. Most of that speculation seems to concern my love life, involving a few friends of mine and the careless bandying about of their names. I will say this one time only, with the hopes that there will be no more of it. I ask that the media please respect their privacy as well as my own. The absolute truth as to my relationship with the witches whose names appeared in this morning’s issue of the Daily Prophet is as follows:

Hermione Granger is like a sister to me, and I think that says it all. I love her dearly, but there never has been, nor will there ever be any romance between us. Parvati Patil is a friend and fellow Gryffindor in my year. While it is true that she attended the Yule Ball with me, she did so as a friend and nothing more. Cho Chang and I had a mutual crush on one another for a time. We did date and were briefly romantically involved, but nothing ever came of it. Cho remains a loyal friend who proved her honour when Dumbledore’s Army called its own to battle. She readily responded and fought furiously alongside our comrades. Luna Lovegood is one of my closest friends and, as such, she kindly agreed to be my date for one of Professor Slughorn's parties, since a date for the evening was required. There never has been, nor will there ever be any romance between Luna and me. Ginny Weasley is my cherished one, and I love her more than life itself. I ask the Wizarding world to please respect our wishes and allow us to live in peace. If and anything develops in our relationship that we might wish to make public, we shall do so. Until then, please allow us, our families, and our friends our well-earned and much-appreciated privacy. Harry J. Potter, OMFC

”By Merlin's beard, I could do without the fame.” Harry said. “I think it’s only right, though, that I should send ”

Patronuses to Parvati, Luna, and Cho

wouldn't publish this without letting them know in advance what I’ve written,” he said. Harry drew his wand and gazed lovingly over Ginny’s angelic face. He could think of no better way to fill his mind with happiness to produce his Patronus. Whether he actually thought Expecto Patronum or only thought of producing his Patronus, just looking at Ginny brought the great stag bounding forth from his wand. Then he leaned in and gave Ginny a tender kiss.

The other's looked at him, raising their eyebrows in question. ”What? I

”Harry!” Hermione shouted, her eyes filled with excitement, ”did you do that non-verbally?”

”I don't know, I guess so. All I really know is that I looked at Ginny and the Patronus appeared. I’ve done non-verbal magic loads of times. What’s the big deal,” he asked.

”A Patronus is very advanced magic, Harry. I'm not sure even Professor Dumbledore was able to that one non-verbally,” Hermione said.

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”I guess I really hadn’t thought about it. I just felt so natural, as though I’d been doing it all my life,” Harry admitted. ”Look, let me just get this message off to Parvati, Cho, and Luna,” Harry said and sent off a Patronus asking them to approve it or make whatever changes they deemed necessary.

He then asked them for their approval to publish it. Within an hour, Luna and Parvati had approved his statement, and by noon an owl delivered a note from Cho.

Harry, Thank you for standing up for us in your statement to the media. My parents had become very angry with me

when they read the lies about us in the Prophet. It seems they always believed in you

Patronus did half the job

freedom, but also because 'their daughter’ actually dated ’this country's most famous wizard.' (it was embarrassing to hear them say that). I really appreciate the way you stood up for not only your closest friends, like Hermione and Luna, but also for me and Parvati. I'm really happy for you and Ginny. Anyone who’s ever seen the two of you together knows that you’re truly meant for each other. Cho Chang”

well, sending your

and

they are now actually proud of me. They’re proud because I'd been fighting for

Later that afternoon, the Weasley clan had once again assembled around the family table. Arthur had called the meeting in order to allow Ginny to present Harry to the family as they had made their relationship official.

”Dear brothers,” Ginny said, ”I want to introduce Harry Potter. Harry, these are my brothers, Bill, that lovely lady next to him is his wife, Fleur, the stocky one there is Charlie, the bespectacled one next to him is Percy, the shifty one there is George, and you already know Ron, the tall one sitting with Hermione.” Ginny pointed to each one individually.

Harry just sat there staring at her in disbelief. What are they playing at?

”Yeah, like anyone wouldn't know who Harry is,” George said sarcastically. ”We know Harry. Hell, every wizard in the ruddy country knows Harry.”

”Harry is my boyfriend,” Ginny said with a wicked gleam in her eye. The kitchen went dead silent. Harry’s heart sank into his stomach, but Ginny took Harry's hand and glared at

her brothers defiantly, as if daring them to say or do something completely

hand was on her wand, poised to strike with a quick Bat-Bogey Hex if need be.

Weasley-ish.

Under the table, her

Charlie looked at them gravely and arose from the table. ”Harry, you must understand that we are very protective of our sister. I, personally, have been waiting for this day. In fact, as I waited, I concocted a plan to throw any bloke she might bring home to a dragon. If he got out of it alive, I would accept him.”

Harry blanched. This can’t be good. He stole a glance at Ginny, who simply squeezed his hand as Charlie continued.

”But you, Harry, have already passed that test. You fought and beat a vicious Hungarian Horntail in the Triwizard Tournament, so let me be the first of the Weasley brethren to accept you!” He shook Harry’s slightly trembling hand and slapped him on the back. Turning to Ginny, his smile softened. He stroked his sister’s hair with rough, scarred hands, hugged her briefly, and said gently, ”Ginny, I’m happy for you. It’s obvious you more than like him.” Charlie then took his seat.

Harry breathed a sigh of relief. One down, four to go. Five, if Fred

George stood up next. His stony face betrayed none of the friendly mischief George Weasley was famous for.

”Harry, like Charlie, I had a plans of my own for any bloke Ginny brought home. I imagined I would duel him.

Well, it seems like a pretty stupid idea now, since it’s you who taught me everything I know about dueling

I have little doubt that you know more spells and hexes than I’ll ever learn. You also handily kicked Voldy’s arse and I think it's safe to say he was a tougher opponent for you than I could ever be. Anyway, I think I shall avoid public embarrassment by skipping the challenge altogether. To be honest, Harry, I find it hard to imagine that Ginny would choose any man less than yourself.” With that, he gave Harry a friendly punch to the shoulder and

and

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sat down. Two down, three to go.

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Bill and Fleur stood next and paused, looking back and forth at Ginny and then Harry with expressions Harry couldn’t quite read. Bill folded his arms across his chest and settled his gaze on Harry. This won’t be too bad. Bill already told me he’s okay with this. Harry pretended to be nervous for Ginny’s sake, since she was not privy to the discussion he and Bill had in the Great Hall over lunch.

”Harry, as you know I work for Gringotts. I guess any challenge I might have imagined would involve locking the man in one of our more secure vaults. If he managed to escape with his life and his youth, I would deem him worthy of our Ginny. However, since you managed the impossible by breaking into and then out of the place, you’ve more than proven yourself worthy of her.” A wide grin replaced his stony expression. ”Besides, Harry, Fleur has had nothing but the highest praise for your character ever since she worked with you in the Triwizard

Tournament

a brotherly bear hug.

and

that’s something coming from a part-Veela,” he added with a chuckle. Bill caught Harry up in

When he released him, Fleur placed her hands on both Harry’s shoulders and gave him a peck on both cheeks, a custom so completely French. ”Welcome, ’Arry,” she whispered. Three down, two to go.

Percy didn’t bother to stand. He just looked up at Harry from across the table.”What can I say,” Percy asked. ”You broke into the Ministry and successfully escaped, with detainees, so there goes my challenge.” Everyone laughed as Percy shook Harry's hand. ”Be good to her,” he said, as he turned his head slightly and winked at his sister. Four down, one to go. Ron. His is the approval I need most of all.

For her part, Ginny stared back at her middle brother in mild surprise. To wink at anyone for any reason was completely uncharacteristic of Percy, who carried himself off as so stoic and proper. But then again, Percy’s demeanor had changed drastically since the battle. He’d been so kind to George over losing Fred, and then yesterday, he stood with his brothers to guard Harry against swarming press after the ceremony. There’s hope for him yet.

Ron stood and walked around the table and stood next to Harry, placing one of his large hands on Harry’s shoulder. ”Harry, you’re my best mate. I’ve never met anyone quite like you. You’re loyal, devoted, brave, and completely mental sometimes.” Ron began to choke up a little has the rest of the family snickered, not used to Ron’s sincerity. ”Believe me, you’ll need all of those qualities to put up with my sister.” Ron and Harry both smirked as another chuckle went around the table. ”I had a hard time accepting that the two of you are mad for each other until Hermione practically shoved her wand up my nose the other morning, forcing me to see reason.”

Hermione blushed scarlet. “Honestly, Ronald. You were being a complete prat about the whole thing,” she said in mock indignation. More laughter.

”I know, ’Mione,” he said, slightly abashed. ”This isn’t easy for me, okay? Anyway, Harry, Hermione made me step back and take a hard look at the thing that had begun to grow between you—that very deep love you two share. It’s phenomenal and I’m very happy for you.” Rare tears began to well up in Ron’s eyes as he surveyed his best mate’s face. ”Unlike my distinguished brothers, here, I never had a challenge for you. Nobody knows better than me that you’re worthy of Ginny. For Merlin’s sake, Harry, you fought off a basilisk for her, faced Voldemort, and even died for her! If that doesn’t prove you worthy, I can’t imagine anything that could!”

Harry stood and embraced his friend as he had never embraced anyone before. He simply couldn’t help himself. He had never known Ron to share his feelings, especially this way, so it really touched him. ”Thanks, mate,” he mumbled. ”I can’t tell you how important your opinion is to me. I wanted you to be pleased, most of all.”

Ginny and Hermione burst into tears as they each watched their significant others in their bonding moment. Unbeknownst to one another, the same thought echoed in their minds. Who is that man and what has he done with Ron?

The elder brothers looked curiously at the youngest, his revelation still ringing in their minds. Not knowing what to make of it, they refrained from questioning him as their father stood to address them.

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”Weasleys, what I’m about to say to you, I’ve already said to Harry. This fine young man sitting here at our table with us has done much for this family. He saved Ginny's life in the Chamber of Secrets, my own that night I was attacked at the Ministry, and Ron's last year at school when he was accidentally poisoned. The training Dumbledore's Army afforded George gave him the skills he needed to fight and survive the Battle of Hogwarts. We could say that indirectly, Harry saved another Weasley life. And who knows, Bill, if you would have survived Grayback’s attack at Hogwarts the night Dumbledore was killed had the DA not existed to join in that fight.” Arthur paused, allowing the magnitude of their situation sink in.

Molly rose and put her arm around her husband. ”For any mother, I guess it's both a great joy and a bit troubling to see her children all grown up. Even more so for me, since we’re talking about my only daughter, my baby. Harry, I have known you for years and I've considered you my own son for all that time—ever since you first appeared with Ron and the twins that morning they rescued you from your Aunt and Uncle in that ridiculous flying car. You have a capacity to love in a way few can imagine. It’s obvious and thrilling that that love extends to Ginny, and that you would do literally anything for her.” Molly had to pause for a moment to wipe away a tear. ”Now I also know you are strong enough to take care of and temper our Ginny, but I also know you’ll do so with tender loving care.”

Floods of emotion began to overwhelm Harry to the point that his body literally shook. Tears streamed down his face. There was so much to take in. He’d never felt so loved—so accepted—before. Except for Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, he never knew love like this and wonderful as it was, it broke his heart.

Ginny could sense that the proverbial dam was about to break again. She wanted to take him in her arms as she had done only yesterday and let him pour his heart out against her breast again. But that was such a private thing and she knew to do that now, in front of the entire clan, would be inappropriate at the very least. All she could do was hold his hand and stroke it comfortingly as they listened to their mother.

For their own part, Ron and Hermione could tell that Harry was struggling with holding himself together. How many times had they seen this while they were on the hunt for the Horcruxes? How many times had they comforted him—comforted each other—during moments like this? Across the table from him, all they could do was watch and allow Ginny to comfort him while they held to each other, willing positive energy to their friend.

Molly continued. ”And to you, my only daughter, when you were just four years old, you said you would marry Harry Potter some day. Hold on to him, and whatever you do, always be kind to him. He loves you so very much. Do this, Ginevra Molly Weasley, and that dream of yours may very well come true.”

Arthur rose again and raised a glass of pumpkin juice. ”A toast, Weasleys,” he announced, ”to our friend and brother, Harry Potter, whose courage and sacrifice has been vital to this family’s survival through some very dark times. His unwavering devotion to doing what’s right over what’s easy has given us all another chance at a bright future. Slaínte!” ”Slaínte,” they responded in stout unison, and drank.

This was just too much.”Thanks,” Harry croaked, staring at the hand that Ginny held on the table. He could say no more.

Everyone but George sat down after the toast. ”Now, is anyone going to tell us what all that Harry died for Ginny business is all about, because Harry doesn't look very dead to me.” Despite having been so taken over in strong emotions moments before, Harry let out a bit of a snicker. Trust George to break a moment with some kind of wisecrack. Good man, George.

Ron took the initiative to answer, although he knew Harry would much rather avoid the discussion altogether. ” There will be a lot written in the Prophet tomorrow about the battle. As requested, we gave Kingsley our account to release to the public,” he said glancing up at Harry and Hermione. ”The Daily Prophet is going to report that a prophecy said that Harry and Voldemort had to kill each other. You’ll read that Harry's mother's sacrifice lived in Voldemort's blood—blood he’d stolen from Harry—and that it ended up saving Harry's life.

Harry walked into that forest with his head held high to give himself up and let Voldemort kill him. Voldemort hit

him square in the chest with the killing curse. But

she could have a good life, free from fear of Voldemort. Hers was the last image he saw before the curse hit him.

what

won't be written is that he went to die for Ginny, so

The family sat in stunned silence until Bill, shaking his head in utter wonderment, broke it. ”By Merlin's

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star-spangled headgear! Just about every bloke says he would die for his girl, but Harry, you actually did it!”

Harry shook his head. ”Please, it may sound very romantic the way Ron put it, but believe me, knowing I was about to die taking a killing curse is not what I’d call the most romantic highlight in my life. I mean, my thoughts about Ginny at that moment were certainly romantic,” he said, placing his free arm around her waist, ”but if I’m honest, I was scared as hell. But I felt like there was no other way. I had no choice. It had to be that way if she—if you or anybody—was to have a chance at a decent life.”

There wasn’t a dry eye around the table when Harry finished. Hermione sobbed softly into Ron’s chest as his own tears soaked her bushy brown hair. Bill held Fleur close, rubbing his hand up and down her arm. Molly sobbed into Arthur’s shoulder, while Percy, George, and Charlie stared at fumbling hands, saying nothing.

No one but Hermione seemed to notice that Harry and Ginny had gotten up and headed for the stairs. She nudged Ron and cocked her head their direction. Ron nodded, took her hand, and led her after them. They found Harry and Ginny on Ginny’s bed holding each other. Ron and Hermione joined them, and soon they huddled in a group hug and cried together for their brother, Fred, and all the friends and fellow combatants lost in the war.

They kept to themselves for most of the rest of the day until Molly called them down to supper. Even she understood that the four of them needed time to sort out everything that had been said that afternoon, so she left them to it, not even bothering them until it was time for the evening meal. ”Supper, dears,” she called up the stairs. ”Come now, after all that emotion, you must be famished,” she said to them as they trooped down the stairs to the table. They had to admit that they were hungry, but they also felt much better having purged a few demons with their tears.

Following a sumptuous meal of roast pork, carrots, and potatoes, with a raspberry trifle for dessert, Ron and Hermione wandered off to who-knew-where to engage in who-knew-what, while Harry and Ginny were content to sit in the garden, cuddled up together listening to the sounds coming from the surrounding trees, and stealing occasional kisses in the twilight. Molly and Arthur watched them through the window. ”They are very much in love, Arthur.”

”Indeed they are, Molly. It almost makes me forget how young they are,” he replied.

”They have been forced to mature. They were in love last year. It amazes me how their love survived all that time without seeing or hearing from one another. In that extended absence, that love appears to have grown.”

”You’re right, Mollywobbles. I think it's safe to say this is more than a simple teenage crush,” Arthur guessed.

”Think about how Harry told us, Arty. A bit nervous, of course, but who wouldn't be nervous telling his girlfriend's parents about their relationship? He declared his love for her straightaway,” Molly said and looked at her husband. ”That impressed me.”

”Hmmm, yes. You know, I have a feeling about Harry and Ginny—the same feeling I had about us when we got together,” Arthur said.

”I know, and I think you’re right. There is something uniquely special about them. I know I'm having a hard time accepting that she's growing up—that she has grown up—but I think we need to encourage their relationship. Within reason, of course,” Molly added with a sly smile.

They continued to watch Harry and Ginny who sat wrapped tightly together. ”Yes, my dear. Somehow they seem to spread happiness all around them,” Arthur mused. ”C’mon, Love. Let’s not spy on them any further.” Arthur and Molly walked away from the window arm in arm and made their way to the stairs.

Harry’s statement concerning his private life appeared in the next morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet, although it didn’t appear as a headline. Surprisingly, an editorial apology to Harry and his friends appeared on the front page.

”I love her more than life itself.” Those are Harry Potter's exact words about his girlfriend. As a result of

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published speculation about his love life, Mr Potter announced yesterday in an official statement that his girlfriend is, in fact, Miss Ginevra (Ginny) Weasley. The Daily Prophet wishes to congratulate the couple and apologise for its blatant disregard for their and their friends’ privacy. In his statement, Mr Potter expressed a very deep love for Miss Weasley, which leads us to believe that it is safe to say that Mr Potter is ’off the market.’ Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry together for five years. She held the position of Chaser on Mr Potter's winning Quidditch team, playing under the Gryffindor House colors. Mr Potter has been close to the Weasley family for years, as Mr Ronald Weasley is one of Mr Potter's closest friends. Miss Weasley, as previously reported, led Dumbledore's Army alongside Neville Longbottom, another of Mr Potter’s close friends, during the last year of the war. As a result, she became the youngest witch in history to receive the Order of Merlin for her bravery. (See next page for Mr Potter's statement in which he also comments on the other girls believed to have been involved in relationships with him.)”

The gossip column shifted its focus to a professional Quidditch player known to be a bachelor. ”Poor sod,” Harry chuckled.

Kingsley sent them an owl saying that any more speculation about Harry's personal life should be hard to publish now. Anyone violating Harry's publically-expressed wish with respect to his privacy would be abjectly frowned upon. He also told them that the Ministry had been flooded with owls to themselves and Neville. Kingsley had expected as much, so he had arranged ahead of time for every message from heartbroken witches to good luck greetings addressed to Harry to be delivered to the Ministry, since Harry had no known address in the Wizarding world and he, Kingsley, intended to keep it that way.

Kingsley had also set up similar arrangements for the others, essentially making their official address the Ministry of Magic. Any message to any of the five of them would come there, but for friends and family, there was a list that allowed the owls to deliver their letters and parcels directly to their homes. However, in a day, the Ministry owlery lay in chaos.

Kingsley invited the five of them to meet with him at the Ministry that evening to discuss the action he had taken on their behalf, and to show them the over-crowded owlery. ”Look at this. I hope you don't blame me for taking action, but through my power as Minister for Magic, I knew I had the authority to take these steps to spare you this mess.” Kingsley told them. None of them had seen so many owls at one time. They looked at one another in disbelief. ”They seem to come in faster than we can send them back,” Kingsley continued, as he told them how he had made the Ministry of Magic their official address. ”I realised what would happen today when I read your statement in the Prophet this morning. I hope you're not angry.”

”No, no, not at all. Thank you Kingsley,” Harry said. The others nodded earnestly in agreement. ”What do you think we should do with all of this?”

”I’ve assigned a few members of the secretarial pool to sort it all out, but I believe I’ll need to bring in more people full-time to keep up with it. I was thinking about hiring teams to sort each type of correspondence, including ones whose express purpose is to screen each letter and parcel for booby traps and other harmful contraband.”

”What do you mean by contraband, Minister,” Hermione asked, thoroughly intrigued.

”Kingsley, please. Oh, the usual nonsense. Dungbombs, Bubotuber pus, that sort of thing,” he replied.

”People are actually doing that through them mail? That’s crazy,” Ginny said angrily. ”Have they nothing better to do,” she asked with a slightly raised voice.

”It makes one wonder, Ginny, but mostly, the mail consists of congratulations to you and Harry, thanks yous to all of you for your efforts in bringing down Voldemort and winning the war, love letters to all of you, requests for special appearances at specific events, job offers, commercial endorsements, requests for autographed

photos

the

list goes on,” he said, ticking each item off on his long fingers.

”This is mental,” Ron declared. ”If this keeps up, the owlery will be nothing but a mountain of letters and owl droppings in less than a week!”

”I hope you understand that I did this in order to maintain your privacy,” Kingsley said. ”My plan is that a team of secretaries would handle the letters as you instruct them. Basically, they will be your press secretaries, but officially, secretaries of the Ministry owlery. I have a list of former Hogwarts students who have expressed their

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wish to work for the Ministry. I shall leave it up to you to chose one each to handle your individual mail.”

”Kingsley, is it really right to hire five secretaries on the Ministry payroll to handle mail addressed to the five of us,” Hermione asked. ”I mean, I’m not complaining by any means, but is this really the Ministry’s your responsibility?”

”There are ways to justify it. Hermione, your address is your parents’ home, but since they didn't sell it before moving to Australia, and because it's rented to another Muggle couple, it would take too many Ministry resources to keep the Muggles living there confunded on a permanent basis, not to mention the damage it might do to their minds.”

”That makes sense, I guess,” Hermione said thoughtfully. ”I hadn’t thought about that.”

”Indeed,” Kingsley agreed. ”Now, even though Harry lives at the Burrow for the time being, he doesn't really have a permanent address. Grimmauld Place belongs to him, certainly, but it’s still protected under the Fidelius charm, so no one knows it even exists, let alone that Harry might live there. Furthermore, we can't have owls flying all over the country, day in and day out, making multiple daily deliveries to Hogwarts, Godric's Hollow, or perhaps even the Burrow. It would raise suspicion in the Muggle world and become a threat to the secrecy of our world.”

”But Minister

Neville started.

”Please, Neville, call me Kingsley,” he admonished.

”Okay

something so wonderful, wouldn’t it stand to reason that we’d be likely to receive loads of fan mail,” Neville asked.

erm

Kingsley

What’s

the harm in receiving a load of mail? I mean, since people think we’ve done

”One would think so, Neville, but since you, Ron, and Ginny live in Wizarding families, we can claim concern for your health, since we have already found cursed letters addressed to all of you. It’s also easier to keep owls flying in and out of the Ministry a secret easier than having them flying all over England looking for the five of you.”

”Well

snickering quietly to himself.

I

suppose so, but I’m sure my gran’s going to have plenty to say about it,” he said shaking his head,

Kingsley chuckled at Neville’s simple, if not astute, observation. ”I have no doubt that Augusta Longbottom might be quite vocal about all this fuss we’re making over you,” he said, eyes twinkling. ”Nevertheless, it’s our hope that we can get you through all the initial fuss so you can get on with your lives. Now,” he said rubbing his hands together, ”please carefully look over this list of potential candidates, choose one each to act as your ’press secretary,’ and then jot down instructions as to which types of letters you’d each like to receive personally, and which ones you’d rather your secretary should address, along with your wishes as to how he or she should address them.”

Kingsley left them to their task in a small conference room, supplied with a bottomless pitcher pumpkin juice, sandwiches and crisps, for which the five friends were grateful. This job could take a while and they would need sustenance. ”Good thing he left all this food here, really,” said Ron rubbing his growling stomach. ”I’m starved!”

”Newsflash! Ronald Weasley is starved,” quipped Hermione as she planted a quick kiss on his cheek. ”We’ll alert the media.” The five friends broke into gales of laughter, holding their sides and wiping mirthful tears from their eyes.

”Very witty, Hermione,” smiled Ron as he reached for the pitcher to pour himself a glass. ”Pumpkin juice, anyone?” How is it that I never noticed how funny she can be before? Oh yeah. I was too busy being a prat.

Ron proceeded to pour juice into glasses for his companions as they all set to work. Following some mild debate, they chose Lee Jordan as head of their press relations team. The Patil twins and two Hufflepuff students Neville vouched for rounded out the group.

Hermione called Kingsley back into the room to let him know they were finished. ”I’ll draw up some binding magical contracts for them to sign. They’ll be similar to the one they signed when they joined Dumbledore's

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Army. That should keep them honest.”

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”Fine. I will put them to work as soon as possible,” Kingsley told them. ”If you’re finished here, you’re free to go. Thank you for your cooperation,” he said as he shook each of their hands. ”Harry, Ron, take care of these little ladies. They’re something special,” he said with a wink. ”Goodnight then.” He turned to leave.”

”Blimey. You and Ginny have been headlines, Harry, but I didn’t think anyone noticed Hermione and me,” said a blushing Ron. He had wrapped his arm tightly around Hermione’s waist.

”Not notice you and Hermione,” exclaimed Neville. ”Everyone’s known for ages how mad you are for each other! We all wondered what the bloody hell took you so long!” They were still laughing as they boarded the lifts that would take them to the atrium, where they Apparated to their respective homes.

Upon arrival at the Burrow, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny gave Mr and Mrs Weasley a full report of the evening’s events before they all retired for the night. Harry and Ron left Ginny and Hermione at the door to their room with kisses and lingering embraces before they bade each other ”Sweet Dreams” and parted.

The first of many funerals were coming up in the next few days. While no one looked forward to any of them, Harry dreaded them the most. He still couldn’t shake the guilt he’d harboured for those lost in the war. He and Ginny had sat down to a game of Wizard’s Chess, but he just couldn’t concentrate. The faces of those killed flashed through his mind like a slideshow. The photo of his parents’ wedding day. Sirius. Moody. Hedwig. Dobby. Remus. Tonks. Fred. Colin. Over and over it played.

Ginny knew something was wrong. Harry’s mind was definitely not on the game. His erratic moves garnered him the wrath of the men on the board to the point that they wouldn’t obey him at all anymore. His eyes, usually a sparkling emerald green, had gone dark and his brow furrowed a little. ”Harry, Love, what is it? Is it the funerals,” she asked.

”Yeah, I suppose so,” he replied sadly. ”I mean, you’ve all told me time and again that it’s not my fault, but I just can’t help but think there was something I could have done differently that would have saved them from Harry cut himself off. He really didn’t want to go there again.

Ginny took him by the hand and pulled him to a standing position. ”Let’s take a walk out to our spot by the pond,” she said. ”The fresh air will do you good and we can talk there. Okay,” she prodded as she sought his downcast eyes.

”Yeah, okay. Couldn’t hurt, I guess,” he said, allowing her to lead him towards the door.

”Ron, if anyone asks, we’re out taking a walk. We’ll be back in a bit,” Ginny called as they headed out the door. He looked up from the parchment on the table in front of him and nodded.

The day after Harry and Ginny had made their relationship public, Ron and Hermione thought it might be a good idea to release a statement of their own, at least for Hermione’s sake. They wrote a short statement and sent it to Lee Jordan at the Ministry for release the next day. They both wanted their relationship to be official for the funerals, as they needed each other so desperately, but they also wanted to ensure that Hermione’s honour would never be publically called into question again.

”Do you think it’s good enough, ’Mione,” Ron asked placing a palm against her smooth face. As she leaned into it, he continued. ”I mean, I don’t want any of those vultures reading more into this than what’s actually there. I ”

don’t want to have to break any journalistic bones

”Ron, it’s fine,” she assured him as she turned her face to kiss his palm. ”If the vultures can glean anything sinister out of that, feel free to break all the bones your heart desires and I’ll be there to cheer you on. I’m sure Harry would love to sell tickets,” she said with a toothy grin.

”You’ve been hanging around George too, long, Love,” Ron laughed. ”Merlin, how I love you, Hermione. You’ve bewitched me.”

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”I love you too, you big loveable lug.” Hermione threw her arms around his neck and initiated a fine snog right there at the kitchen table.

”Shall we retire to the upper regions, Love,” Ron asked her as he waggled his eyebrows.

”Lead on,” she said in a low voice.

”Lead on, nothing,” he said as he scooped her up and carried her to his room giggling, and closed the door.

Lee proved to be the perfect man to handle their public relations nightmares. He had already started to organize the large bags of letters, asked for official answers to frequently asked questions, and for specific guidelines as to how to handle various offers and which letters to send on to the five of them. We, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, wish to announce to the Wizarding community that we are in a serious relationship. We do this in order to avoid any speculation and wish that our privacy be respected. To contact either of us, Harry, Ginny, or Neville Longbottom, please send an owl to Lee Jordan's office at the Ministry of Magic. He handles all of our public relations. Ronald B. Weasley, OMFC Hermione J. Granger, OMFC

Hand in hand, Harry and Ginny walked toward the pond without speaking. They stood and gazed out at the water for a few minutes until Harry sat down against a tree and pulled Ginny down with him. She settled into his lap and laid her head on his chest, taking comfort in the steady beating of his heart. ”I know you’re hurting, Harry, but please know I’m here for you. We can talk or not talk, but I’m here,” she assured him as she traced circles on his chest.

”Gin, I wish I could shake this infernal guilt. It’s driving me mad,” he said in frustration.

”Well, perhaps I can help you with that,” she said with a wicked smile playing at the edges of her mouth.

Cottoning on to her meaning, he decided to play along. ”Oh, and how’s that,” he asked with eyebrows raised.

”Like this,” she said softly as she gently pushed him back onto the lush green grass, climbed aboard, and captured his lips with her own. She ran her hands through his messy raven locks as he returned her kiss.

”Merlin, Gin,” Harry moaned as her lips traveled along his jawbone to the pulse point at his collarbone. ”You know just the right thing to say or do to bring me out of a right funk, did you know that?” He rolled her over onto her back and leaned over her on his elbow. He lowered his head and placed tiny kisses down her neck and across her shoulder. That feels wonderful. ”Mmmm, I try,” she purred as she pulled his mouth back to hers for another mind-blowing kiss. She slid her hands up Harry’s shirt to run them over his bare back. He moaned again and ran his tongue along her bottom lip. Her lips parted and their tongues danced together in a fury. Hot flames shot through both of their bodies as the kiss intensified.

Harry couldn’t get enough of her. He lost himself in the scent of her hair, her touch, her kiss—everything about her captured his imagination. He’d promised this beautiful creature he now held in his arms that he would never leave her again and he vowed to himself that he’d never would. He felt his own hands travel under the hem of her blouse to run across the silkiness of her back.

”Oh Harry,” Ginny cried, as she arched in to him. ”I love you so much,” she whispered into his mouth.

”I love you, too, Gin. I can’t begin to tell you how much,” he murmured into her ear. Their snogging session began to progress to another level as Harry’s hand stole its way across a breast. Ginny moaned deeply and arched again. Harry could feel an awakening that got more and more difficult to control with each passing moment. Suddenly Harry rolled off her and sat up. ”Ginny, we have to stop,” he said running his hands through his hair.

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”Why,” she asked, slightly annoyed. ”What’s wrong?”

”Nothing’s wrong, Gin. What could possibly be wrong? You

this—it’s fantastic!”

”So what’s the problem,” she asked as she reached for him again.

”It’s just that

well

I

we

if

we’d gone on much further and longer, I wouldn’t be able to stop and well

I

just

don’t think either of us is ready for that yet,” he said, as he took her hand and helped her to sit up. ”What we have is so precious to me, so unbelievably right and good, that I don’t want anything screwing that up. Can we just slow it down, if only a bit?”

”Didn’t you like it,” she asked as her bottom lip began to tremble.

”Of course I liked it,” he assured her as he placed a palm against her cheek. ”I loved it. I love you. You

amazing! I can’t say it enough,” he said as he drew her into a warm embrace. ”I just have too much respect for you to rush you into something that would be wonderful in the moment, but that we’d regret later on.

Ginny

Harry told her as he held her close.

you’re

baby

we’re

just not ready for that. We’ve only been back together for a few days. We both need time,”

”You’re right, Harry. Perhaps we do need a bit more time. We still have so much we need to talk about, and

we’ve got all these funerals to get through, especially Fred’s me, Harry, and I know you’d never do anything to hurt me.”

Her voice began to break. ”I know you respect

Harry raised both of her hands to his lips and lightly brushed across them. ”You’re everything to me, Gin. I wouldn’t want to live if I lost you,” he said gazing into her brown eyes, watching the flecks of gold dance in the waning light. ”Are we okay,” he asked tentatively.

”Harry, my love, you’ll never lose me. I’m yours for as long as you’ll have me,” she said as she returned his gaze. Those eyes. Those gorgeous green eyes. ”And of course we’re okay, Harry. But maybe we’d better head inside before Mum sends a search party after us.”

They both laughed as they pulled themselves up off the ground and turned back toward the house. Halfway there, they stopped for one last deep kiss before they went inside. ”That was nice,” Harry said as he gave her a final squeeze.”We’ll have to do that again sometime, yeah?”

”Oh yeah. We’ll just have to try and remember to tone it down a bit though,” she replied with a smirk as they stepped to the door.

The next couple of weeks were difficult what with all the funerals and memorials they’d been invited to, but it was necessary that they obliged. Harry attended many of the funerals and memorials for those who died in the

battle. The hardest ones to endure were Remus' and Tonks' and now

Fred's.

Fred would be laid to rest at the Burrow. The night before, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Percy and George returned. The entire Weasley assemblage, including Harry and Hermione, once again gathered around the scrubbed kitchen table to talk about the publicity.

”I think we must accept the fact that we are perhaps the most famous family in Wizarding Britain,” Bill claimed, ”especially after announcements that Harry and Hermione are now a part of it.”

”I agree.” Charlie gave his brother full support. ”Even as far away as Romania, I get loads of questions from my friends. Of course, Harry is the one they ask about mostly, but they ask a lot about Ron and Hermione too, you know? It’s all about the Golden Trio or the Merlin Teens, and every other collective title they can come up with for the three of you. There's a big interest in Harry and Ginny as a couple, too.”

Harry sighed resignedly. Has this insanity no bounds?

”I’ve been working to re-open the shop in Diagon Alley,” George said ”Everything you said is true Charlie, but

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Mum and Dad, you’re celebrities too. Did you know that? Mum defeated Bellatrix Lestrange and both of you are members of the Order of the Phoenix.”

”Fleur is recognized in the press since her participation in the Triwizard Tournament, George has made himself a name through the joke shop, and Percy has been seen around the Ministry,” Charlie explained. ”I guess I'm the least famous in the family.” Thank Merlin.

”Well then, we need to make some adjustments to our collective public image. We can't keep rogue reporters like Rita Skeeter from publishing their rubbish, but we can stick together,” Arthur said. ”We’ll always check with each other before reacting to anything they write about us, so as not to give people like Rita Skeeter anything to feed upon.”

Ginny blushed, which got her father’s attention. ”Ginny?”

”Well, it's just that Ron talked about sending that last git of a reporter a dungbomb. And

further than talking. I sent one,” she admitted as she wrapped her arms around Harry’s arm. No one writes those kinds of things about Harry and goes unpunished. So much for behaving,” she said with an embarrassed

sigh.

well

I took it

Everyone remained silent for a second before George broke into laughter. ”Brilliant Ginny! That's my sister!”

After a while, everyone managed to pull themselves together. Arthur looked around the table at his family. ”I did hear a rumour that the Daily Prophet received dozens of dungbombs after publishing that article. I guess we're not the only ones who found it offensive.” Ginny breathed a great sigh of relief at that news.

”Lee and his team have worked our public relations organisation into a well-oiled machine. They go through the owls and send us a pack of letters he thinks we might be interested in reading, according to our guidelines,” Harry said.

”Yeah, he's doing a great job. I hope we all can agree to let any official statement be sent through him,” said Ron. They all nodded.

The Weasleys chose to keep Fred’s burial private, inviting only family and close friends, among them Harry and Hermione, who were already practically family, Lee Jordan, the old Gryffindor Quidditch Team, and of course, Aunt Muriel. George took his twin’s death hard and still couldn’t quite accept that he was gone, but he did his level best to keep his spirits up as he delivered a short speech before they lowered Fred’s coffin into the grave.

”Fred and I were always considered pranksters and troublemakers. Those who knew Fred knew that to be true, but more than that, those who really knew Fred knew he was loyal friend, always doing whatever he could to raise his friends’ spirits when they were feeling down. After Voldemort's return, we talked one time about the possibility that one or both of us might be killed. We actually told each other what we wanted the other to say at our funerals. These are Fred's own words:

'Okay Weasleys. I hope you are crying today, otherwise I will have to become a ghost an haunt each one of you for the rest of your days. I'll check back in a week or so, but if you're still crying then, though, I'll come back and haunt you for that. It's all right to cry at my funeral, but afterwards, you make sure to LIVE. I’m hoping I died so that the rest of you could go on, so don't disappoint me.'

That's Fred, but you get the message: Mourn today, live tomorrow.”

Though thoroughly devastated Arthur and Molly, found that they felt a little better after hearing the words of their dead son through his surviving twin. The family gathered around them in a small circle, with Charlie and Percy supporting a severely trembling George between them, Bill and Fleur holding each other closely as Fleur cried softly into his shoulder. Ron and Hermione stood together, sobbing, clutched tightly in each other’s arms, as did Harry and Ginny next to them. Arthur placed his arm around Molly’s shoulders and held her close as he began to speak.

No parent should ever have to bury their child,” he said. ”It isn’t natural and it isn’t right. However, we’ve been

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forced to do that here today. There is no magic to banish grief; only time can do that.” Arthur paused to give his family a chance to recover a bit and then he continued.

”While I mourn Fred’s passing, I look around and find the rest of my family around me, safe and whole. I won't dwell on Fred's death because I have all of you to live for and make memories with.” A small sob escaped the Weasley Patriarch’s lips. A few deep breaths later, he spoke again as his family wiped moist eyes and listened.

”I told Harry back at Hogwarts that without him, Ginny, myself, Ron and maybe Bill might have been lost, too. That doesn't mean I take Fred’s loss lightly. No, not at all. It only means there is still so much to live for, and I must agree with George. Fred would like us to live, for when we do choose to live, Fred lives on, too, in each and every one of us.” While Arthur’s words did little to assuage the grief, they did offer the necessary closure so that life could go on for the Weasleys.

As per usual, Molly had prepared a feast. Keeping busy had kept her going during those very difficult days before the burial. George's speech sank right into the hearts of all of them. Fred would have wanted them to live good lives and have a little—no, a lot—of fun along the way. The magnificent feast lifted everyone's spirits, and halfway through, it felt like a family reunion as they celebrated Fred’s life and legacy.

Great-aunt Muriel caught Harry and Ginny holding hands by themselves, just about to engage in a long-overdue kiss.”So you’re that Potter boy they write so much about, are you? And you’re marrying our Ginevra, is that right,” Aunt Muriel asked in an inquisitorial tone.

Harry blushed. ”One day, hopefully,” Harry replied, trying to sound as respectful as he could. He’d been forewarned about Aunt Muriel by both Ginny and Ron.

She’s a bloody nightmare,” Ron told him. ”She’s always bossing people around, telling them what to do. Everyone’s afraid of her.”

Oh please, Ron,” Ginny retorted. ”She’s just a dotty old bat looking for attention,” she laughed.

Yeah, well, don’t get in wrong with her,” Ron warned. ”She’s always threatening to disinherit this one or that one over something really stupid. Besides, Ginny, it’s easy for you to talk. You’re her favorite,” he said with a smirk.

Yeah, right. Anyway, you two,” she said pointing at Harry and Hermione, ”don’t let her get under your skin. She’s harmless, really.” Ron snorted in disgust and they all fell over themselves laughing as Ron and Ginny told more stories about Crazy Aunt Muriel.

”Rubbish, Potter,” she said. ”At my age you see things. I expect an invitation to your wedding, of course.”

Harry opened his mouth as if to answer her, but thought better of it and closed it again.

”Aunt Muriel” Ginny said, as red as Harry. ”Wouldn't it be best if Harry actually proposed to me before we talk ”

about a wedding? And I'm not even of age yet

”Poppycock, Ginevra. Tell him to get on with it. I'm not getting any younger.”

Harry chuckled. He simply couldn’t help himself.

Arthur had heard it all and came to their rescue. ”Dearest aunt,” he said. ”I know that Ronald has some news he wishes to tell you in person.”

”Oh really? I see him over there with that Granger girl. Yes, I suppose I’d better get over there.”

Aunt Muriel left them and headed for Ron and Hermione and Ginny mouthed a 'thank you' to her dad. As soon as aunt Muriel had waddled away to corner Ron and Hermione, Arthur looked back at them. ”Well, what are you

waiting for? We can't miss this,” Arthur said. Ginny gave him an odd look. ”Oh, I’ll rescue Ron too, after a

while

but

don't tell Molly.”

Harry and Ginny nodded enthusiastically and hurried after Arthur to watch the show. They drew closer to Ron

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and Hermione so they could hear what Aunt Muriel might say that would most assuredly embarrass them. ”Ronald, I hear you have some news. Some mischief I presume,” Aunt Muriel said looking inquisitorially at him and Hermione.

Ron immediately blushed and looked at Hermione, his blue eyes begging her for help.

”Yes, Ronald, please tell Aunt Muriel our news,” Hermione grinned, clearly enjoying putting her man on the spot. Turnabout is fair play isn’t it, my love?

”Aunt Muriel. May I introduce

Ron said and put his arm around Hermione.

” yes, yes I know. She’s that Granger girl the new Minister declared a genius.”

”Yes, and this Granger girl is in fact my girl. We wrote a statement for the Prophet just the other day,” Ron said confidently, surprising even himself.

”Well, the Prophet is full of lies. But she's your girl, you say? And they said she was smart. Did you knock her up, Ronald,” she asked pointedly, turning to Hermione, who face filled with horror. ”Oh, no offense, dear. It's only an old witch's bad joke. You seem to be a nice young lady. You know,” she said, pulling Hermione closer, ”I just learned that Ginevra will marry that Potter boy. Now, Ronald is a sweet boy, but be warned. The Weasleys breed like rabbits, so you’d better learn those special charms for women. Shouldn't be a problem if you are only half as smart as the Minister says, but when was the last time the Ministry was right about anything?”

Hermione giggled as Aunt Muriel gave Hermione’s arm a maternal pat as she wandered off looking for someone else to embarrass. Ron's face was so red, his hair seemed almost blond. While he spluttered and coughed, Hermione stood there and laughed in silence, her body shaking as she worked to hold it all in.

Arthur looked at Ginny and Harry, who were both in tears for laughing so hard. Aunt Muriel seemed completely oblivious to the fact that they were laughing at her diatribe. ”I guess I should have gone to the rescue a bit sooner, but then we would have missed all the fun.” Arthur was nearly howling with laughter and he walked off in search of Molly.

Harry snickered at his retreating back. ”Your dad, sending her on Ron like that he?”

he

really enjoyed that, didn’t

”Where do you think Fred and George got it all,” Ginny smiled impishly.

”You know, Ginny, she may be dotty, but she’s certainly

entertaining,” Harry laughed.

”Oh yes. And if you still want me now that you’ve had the Aunt Muriel Experience, I'm yours forever.”

”I want you forever and longer. You own me, heart and soul. My Ginny,” Harry whispered, as he leaned in for the kiss that had been previously interrupted.

”My Harry, my only love. The feeling’s mutual

They lingered in the kiss for as long as they could before they had to come up for air. They broke apart, realising

that people had begun to stare. Ginny took Harry’s hand with a giggle. ”Come on, Ron appears to have regained his normal colour.”

forever,”

she breathed into his lips as they pressed against hers.

They joined Ron and Hermione. ”So Ron, surviving Aunt Muriel, is that some kind of NEWT for becoming a true part of the Weasley family,” Harry asked with a chuckle.

”Actually she's a Prewett, but something like a NEWT, I guess. Except for me, I was born into it.”

”Well I’m apparently pregnant and the two of you are getting married. She’s certainly got it all worked out, hasn’t she,” Hermione grinned.

”She sure thinks she does. Hey, I noticed George spent a lot of time with Katie Bell today,” Ginny reported.

”That’s a good sign,” Ron said. ”He’s taking Fred’s advice and moving on.”

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The sun began to sink low over the horizon as the party broke up and the guests took their leave. Once they finally bid farewell to the last of the visitors, the Weasley assemblage cleared away and then sat down to the scrubbed table for a last cuppa before bed. Having herded the youngsters up the stairs to their rooms, Arthur and Molly retired to their own bed. ”It’s been a long day, Molly dear, but we got through it.”

”It has, and I’m glad it over,” she replied.

”I love you, Mollywobbles,” Arthur said as he kissed her forehead and slid an arm under her pillow.

”I love you too, Arty. Sleep well, dear,” she said as she snuggled into the crook of his arm and drifted off to sleep.

Over the next several days, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione really began to take note of the celebrity status they had risen to in the Wizarding World. There were almost daily reports in the Daily Prophet about their involvement in fall of Lord Voldemort and its aftermath. There were regular reports regarding the drastic changes taking place at the Ministry under Kingsley Shacklebolt and the trials of numerous Death Eaters already in custody. There were photos of Death Eaters still at large, punctuated with copies of their respective arrest warrants. A schedule of funerals for the prominent dead appeared on the Obituary page, include those of Fred and Remus and Tonks.

The four of them tried to live as normally as possible. Hermione had improved the protective charms around the Burrow to afford them and the Weasleys a little peace and quiet. The lack of speculative journalism that had plagued Harry for the past three years had seemed to disappear. Whether that happy circumstance could be attributed to Lee’s fine work at the Ministry or the media’s actual compliance with his wishes, Harry couldn’t be certain. What he could be certain of, though, is that he appreciated it. There were a few incidents at funerals or memorials where a few inconsiderate members of the press plied them with questions, some of them personal, which they all declined to answer, directing them to submit their inquiries to Mr Lee Jordan at the Ministry.

On several occasions, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione would meet up with Neville, who suffered the same kind of journalistic frustration. Rumours had begun to float around, in and out of the press, that he had been often seen with Hannah Abbott. At one particular reception, Ron and Harry managed to corner him.

"Hey, Neville," Ron said as Harry cast the Muffliato charm. "What is it we read about you and Hannah? I thought you and Luna had something going."

Neville blushed and tried to hide a smile.

"So it's true then," Harry asked.

"Hannah and me

for a while, but then I met Hannah, well, we've known each other for years of course. You get it, right,” he

explained.

we're

dating, yeah," he said happily. ”Luna and I are very good friends. I had a thing for her

"Congrats Neville, but where is she," Ron wondered.

"Well, I haven't told my gran yet, so it's not really official. You know the old drill," Neville replied.

Dawn broke over Harry’s horizon. So that’s what that family meeting was about last week

"You’d better, and soon. Hannah’s a nice girl and I think your gran will be proud of you,” Ron teased.

Neville leaned over toward Ron’s ear. "Ron, I need to talk to Harry in private. Do you mind," he asked Ron bashfully.

"Not at all, mate. See you in a few," Ron said and strode over behind Hermione and wrapped his long arms around her middle.

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Harry looked questioningly at Neville. ”So what can I do for you, Nev?”

"About Hannah

weird? I mean, you've seen them. They don't even know I'm their son."

Gran

knows. It's just that I want her to meet my parents before it's officially official. Is that

Harry thought for a moment. "I don't think it's weird, Neville. Look, I’ve never told anyone this, but ever since I got back together with Ginny, I've wanted to take her to my parent's graves in Godric's Hollow."

”You and Ginny are meant to be together, Harry. It’s obvious even to me. I sure won't tell anyone,” Neville promised.

”Thanks, mate. Listen, Neville. If Hannah loves you, and I’m sure she does, she’ll understand. Just trust enough to tell her what happened to them so she’s prepared when you take her to visit them. I’m sure she’ll be grateful that you thought enough of her to put that much faith in her,” Harry advised.

”Thanks, Harry. I knew you’d be able to help.” Neville offered his hand and the two friends shared a firm handshake.

”Good luck, old man,” Harry called as Neville walked away. I have got to remember to thank him for looking after Ginny last year at Hogwarts.

A couple of days later, Harry decided it was high time he paid a visit to Andromeda Tonks and his godson, Teddy. ”Do you want to come,” Harry asked Ginny.

”Yes, of course.”

”We’re off, then.” Harry Apparated them to Andromeda's house. She held a blanketed bundle containing baby Teddy in her arms as she ushered them in.

”Welcome, both of you,” Andromeda said with a warm grin. She invited them for tea in the garden.

”Would you like to hold him,” Andromeda asked Harry.

”Yes, please,” Harry replied happily, receiving the baby carefully. ”Hey, little mate. I’m your Godfather, Harry,” he whispered to the child as he tickled his little chin with a crooked finger. ”Your mum and dad were really good friends of mine and you and I are going to have loads of fun together. I’m going to tell you all about them and how much they loved you. I promise you’ll never want for anything and you’ll never be alone. Your gran and Ginny and I are always going to be here for you,” Harry murmured has the little boy wrapped his tiny fingers around Harry’s thumb.

He gazed in wonder into the tiny face of his godson. He blinked back tears burning in his eyes as he thought about his own Godfather, Sirius Black. He thought about Remus and Tonks and how thrilled they were to have this little bundle of joy. He thought about how he and Remus had rowed at Grimmauld place when Harry lambasted him for contemplating abandoning his wife and unborn baby because of Voldemort. Nice one, Potter. You shouted at Remus Lupin for doing the very thing you’d done to Ginny, only in your case, there was no baby involved.

He’d never forget that night at Shell Cottage, not too long after the escape from Malfoy Manor, when Remus Lupin arrived in a flurry of excitement announcing that Teddy had been born and asking Harry to be his new son’s godfather.

Ginny, who had been carrying on a conversation with Andromeda about the many plants and flowers that graced the garden, looked over at them and smiled. She felt a strong surge of joy as Harry looked up at her with a smile as big as all outdoors.

”You look so cute,” Ginny said as Teddy changed his hair to match Harry's. ”Oh! Look at that! He looks just like you, Harry,” she cried.

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”Dora did that a lot too when she was a baby. He likes you, Harry,” Andromeda sighed. ”She loved imitating anyone who held her. Teddy seems to enjoy it as well.”

”Andromeda, I don't know what you think, but I want you to know that as Teddy's godfather I want to be a part of his life,” Harry said.

”Of course. When you contacted me, I had already thought of writing to you. As godfather, you have sole ”

responsibility for Teddy. Technically, you are his legal guardian now that Dora and Remus trailed off as a tear rolled down her cheek.

Andromeda’s voice

”Andromeda, is it your wish that Teddy should live here with you

at

least until he’s older?”

”I would like that. I'm alone now. Well, my sister Narcissa Malfoy is alive, but we're not exactly close. Caring for Teddy means a lot to me. He makes me want to press on with life,” she admitted.

”In all honesty, I don't really have a home for him and I don't know about my future as yet. I haven’t made any real plans, so I think he's better off here with you,” Harry smiled, ”but I hope we’re welcome to visit.”

”Of course, Harry. Any time.”

Harry gazed back at Teddy and bounced him lightly in his arms. ”I also lost my parents when I was very young. I ”

at Ginny. ”

that right, little buddy?”

can't replace Dora or Remus, but I will do my best to be a good godfather. In the future when I

Harry looked

hopefully when we, have a home, Teddy will be welcome there and treated as our own son. Isn’t

They spent the entire afternoon with Teddy, and as they returned home, both Harry and Ginny thought about having a family of their own one day.

A/N As you probably have noticed by now, this is not a story focusing on the post war trauma. This is a Adventure/Romance/Fluff story. There are hints here and there to clarify that they indeed are affected by the war, but if it's post war trauma you want you'll have to find it in another story. That said, I hope you'll keep enjoying this story.

Chapter 3: Heritage [View Online] [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 3 - Heritage

”Ginny. Gin?” A warm hand caressed her shoulder and a kind voice invaded the mists of her dream. ”Hey, Gin. Wake up. It’s past ten. We’re going to Diagon Alley today, remember?” A sweet sensation spread from her shoulder to her neck and she began to stir.

”Wha

sleeping,”

she mumbled.

”Gin, c’mon, love. We have lots to do,” the voice said urgently. The warm touch became insistent as it rolled her onto her back. ”C’mon, sleepyhead.” Her eyelids fluttered and opened ever so slowly and blinked, adjusting to the light. ”Ah, there she is. The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” said the kind voice. ”I think I’m in love.”

”Harry? Harry,” she yawned sleepily as the warm hands caressed a freckled cheek. ”Ah, yes. The handsomest man I’ve ever seen,” she smiled, stretching. ”I am in love.” Handsomest. Is that even a word?

Harry leaned down and kissed her gently. ”Your mum’s got breakfast ready,” he whispered into her neck, "and then we’re off.”

Ginny rose from the bed and threw her arms over her head, stretching and groaning. She opened her dresser to

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retrieve fresh clothes, then made for the loo for a shower before heading down the stairs for a quick bite

and

Harry.

”We’re off, then.” Harry took her hand and led her toward the door.

”Don’t be long, now. And Harry, don’t let those Gringotts Goblins push you around,” Molly called.

”I won’t, Mrs Weasley. We won’t be long,” Harry assured her. I hope.”C’mon, Gin. We’re running late,” he said, glancing at the clock.

They hurried to the edge of the yard past the new protective wards that Bill, Charlie, and Mr Weasley had raised

around the Burrow. Harry took Ginny into his arms, held her close, turned down, and

pop!

They Disapparated.

The first thing Harry noticed upon arrival in Diagon Alley was that it looked so much brighter than it had only days before. Shops had reopened, some of them new to Diagon Alley, and laughter filled the air as people greeted one another with hugs and handshakes as they became reacquainted. The pall that hung over the place had evaporated and the excitement Harry had so associated with the wonder of Diagon Alley had returned once again.

Harry and Ginny hadn’t given it much thought, but today was the first time they’d ventured out in public since the battle, with the exception of a few funerals and memorials. By now, Harry was used to being stared at, but he tended to shy away from hero worship. He was uncomfortable with the comments about his being the Saviour-of-the-Wizarding-World. This was all uncharted territory for Ginny, so he twined his fingers with hers, almost painfully, to keep her close. They politely returned simple greetings and acknowledged praise for having destroyed the Dark Lord. By the time they arrived at the steps of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, quite a crowd of well-wishers had gathered around them. Ginny seemed to be taking it all in stride, but Harry became increasingly nervous. He felt gratified that any trace of the destruction left by their exodus on the dragon’s back had been cleared away and repairs made to the building and the street outside. Harry excused them through the crowd to the great doors.

”Well, here we are,” he sighed, trying to work up his nerve.

”Yes. Here we are. Are you ready for this,” she asked with a determined look in her eyes.

”I guess there’s just nothing for it. Let’s go,” he said resignedly and pulled the door open.

Unlike the people in Diagon Alley, the Goblins at Gringotts were less than pleased to see Harry. He intended to go to his vault but realised he needed to make peace with the Goblins, first. He asked for a supervisor, who appeared almost instantly and led them to a side office.

”I’ll just wait here, shall I,” Ginny whispered to Harry as she made to break his grip on her hand.

”No. Please. Come in with me. This concerns you as much as it concerns me,” he said, pulling her back to his side.

”But Harry—” she stammered as she look at the emotionless face of the Goblin.

”Please stay with me,” he insisted.

Ginny searched the Goblin’s face for any sign of protest. Seeing none, she agreed. The Goblin ushered them into the office and bade them sit. I just can’t resist those eyes of his.

"You are not welcome here," the Goblin said, perching himself on a high chair behind a desk.

Refusing to be intimidated, Harry drew himself up confidently and looked straight at the Goblin. ”Let me ask you

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something. What would the Wizarding world think if I closed my account here and gave a statement about it to every Wizarding publication in the country?"

The Goblin peered suspiciously at Harry. ”I'm listening, Mr Potter

"

"I have no wish to use my fame to harm Gringotts’ reputation, but I’m sure we can agree that I would be able to."

"True

"

"Can we agree, then, that it is in our mutual interest that I remain a customer at Gringotts?"

The Goblin considered his answer for a moment. "We have an agreement. Allow me, on behalf of Gringotts, to apologize for the behavior of our staff when you came in, Mr Potter. Are you here for your vaults?”

”Vaults,” Harry asked, a bit puzzled. ”I know of only one that’s mine.” ”I see. Well, Mr Potter, the vault you have had access to thus far contains that which your parents left for you to use for school and other needs prior to your coming of age. Now that you are of age, you have access to the Potter vault. In addition to a considerable amount of gold, it contains heirloom jewelry, real estate deeds, including the one in Godric’s Hollow, and several books.” There’s loads of gold in that vault and now they tell me that there’s an additional Potter vault that’s mine, too? Harry looked over at Ginny, who only blinked back at him.

”And coming of age also gives you access to the Black family vault, according to the will of Sirius Black.”

”There are a few documents that you must sign to take possession of the vaults and another one that affirms that you have received any and all information concerning them. Then, if you wish, I shall take you to visit them,” the Goblin said in a very business-like manner.

Harry read through and signed the necessary parchments. He and Ginny rose to board a rail car that would take them on a wild ride through the labyrinth of tunnels leading to his vaults.

”I have no idea what’s in those vaults,” Harry told Ginny. ”I’ll be just as surprised as you, won’t I,” he smiled.

The rail car clattered and careened along the rickety track that led to the vaults below Gringotts. It finally slowed as it approached Harry’s personal vault and stopped directly in front of it.

”All of this is yours,” Ginny asked with a tremor in her voice.

” I guess my parents wanted to make sure I would afford school even if costs went up.”

”Even after Dad's promotion, this is a lot more than our entire family has,” she confessed.

Harry’s stomach flipped over. She’s shaking like a leaf. This has got to be quite a shock for her. He knew how tough life was for the Weasleys, financially speaking, and he always felt bad about it. Through the years, he’d often thought how he’d gladly share every last Knut with them, knowing they’d never take it. ”Actually, I'd rather think of it as ours,” Harry whispered, gazing into her eyes.

”Harry

I

couldn’t,” she protested weakly.

”Ginny, I love you. This

Gin. Please let me share this with you, because you are all I’ll ever need.” He drew her into a tight embrace and

held her, caressing her back until her trembling quieted.

this

means nothing without someone to share it with, and for me, that someone is you,

”Harry this is all just so

”I know. C’mon! Let’s have a look, shall we?” He bit his lower lip and nodded encouragement. Ginny returned his nod, took his hand and they entered the vault.

Harry stuffed a couple of handfuls of Galleons into a pouch and tucked it away in his robes. Then he looked around for what he had actually come for, something he had spied during a previous visit but never touched.

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His eyes rested on a tiny box sitting in a far corner. There it is! Someone must have placed it there early on after his parents’ death to make sure Harry could find it.

Making sure Ginny was completely distracted, he opened a small black-velvet-covered box, revealing his mother’s engagement ring—a square-cut emerald set in fine gold. His father must have wanted a stone that matched his mother’s eyes. Harry smiled to himself, placed the ring back into the box, and slipped it into his pocket.

As soon as they stepped back onto the step, the Goblin sealed the vault. They all climbed back into the car and rattled off to the Potter family vault. The Goblin ran his hand over the door to open the door. Harry made sure Ginny could enter it with him before he took her hand to pull her inside. ”I'm not sure I could get through this without you,” Harry said.

”I'm here, Harry, right by your side, the only place I ever want to be.”

This vault was huge. Inside, they found yet more gold, but also other valuables and family heirlooms.

”Blimey,” was all Harry could say. ”What am I going to do with all of this? There’s gold enough here for three or four lifetimes!”

”Harry, did you have any idea your family was this wealthy,” she asked him, awestruck.

”Not a clue, Gin. Seriously, I didn’t even know about my personal vault until Hagrid brought me here before first year, so learning about this one comes as a complete surprise to me,” he confessed looking around. All at once, something caught his eye. A small book lay on top of a wooden box all by itself. He released Ginny, walked over to it, and picked it up. He felt an overpowering compulsion to open it. Lily Evans’ Diary. He fanned the pages until a letter fell out.

Apparently, the diary had been his mother's from her seventh year at Hogwarts, and it contained entries dating from then until her death about four years later. The envelope said, To Harry. He tucked the letter back into the diary and shoved it into his robes with the ring. He took Ginny’s hand and they left the vault to return to the rail car that would take them to their last destination.

At last, they arrived at the Black family vault. This one dwarfed the other two, both in size and in wealth. There was a vast collection of books that would drop Hermione firmly on Cloud Nine, jewels, rare paintings, and piles upon gargantuan piles of Galleons. This was entirely too much for them. Harry couldn’t breathe and Ginny began to shake again. Rather than have a medical emergency right there under Gringotts, Harry exited the vault and took a couple of deep breaths. He helped Ginny back into the cart and then looked at the grinning Goblin.

”Is there a summary of what I own?”

The Goblin gave him a parchment. Harry and Ginny read it. Harry blushed when as the document revealed that his fortune in Galleons totaled approximately 20 million, with perhaps another 10 million in property and estates. ”You do own the vaults of two old Wizarding families, Mr Potter. Don't look so surprised,” the Goblin told him.

Harry looked at Ginny. ”I didn't know. I swear I didn’t,” Harry said and blushed.

”Harry, don't be embarrassed. You haven't done anything wrong,” she assured him as she took his hand and stroked it.

”It's just that I didn't earn this. It was just given to me.”

”I think I want to go back home and go through all of this with Bill some day. Just seeing it is enough for now. I need time to take it all in and process it,” Harry said.

”I think that’s a very good idea, love. Bill can help you sort it all out,” she agreed.

Harry took a few deep breaths and turned to the Goblin. ”I wish the gold in my old vault to be transferred to my godson, Teddy Lupin. Until he is of age it is to be governed by me, Ginny, and Andromeda Tonks.” He looked at

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Ginny. ”Unless you don't want to.”

”That would be very kind, Harry.”

”Teddy has lost his parents. The least I can do with all of this

summary of his fortune. ” intend to keep that promise.”

” Harry said pointing at the parchment with the

is make sure there are Galleons enough to raise him. I promised Andromeda that I

The Goblin nodded and assured Harry that the proper documents would be prepared and sent by owl for his signature within the next few business days. I’ll definitely need Bill for this one.

With Harry’s financial affairs set in order, he and Ginny left the building and stepped out into the afternoon sun. The crowd that had followed them had long-since dissipated, so they clasped hands and headed back toward the Leaky Cauldron. Harry didn’t speak and Ginny didn’t try to persuade him to. She just held his hand as they walked. Harry stopped, took Ginny in his arms, turned and they were gone.

”Harry, dear, what’s troubling you,” Molly asked, placing a cup of tea in front of him.

”Is it the vaults, still,” Ginny asked, standing behind him to massage the tense muscles in his shoulders.

”Yes and no. It’s this letter I found in my mum’s diary. I want to read it, but

Harry shook his head.

”Do you want me to read it to you,” Molly asked, her face full of concern.

”You are the closest I ever had to a mother, Mrs Weasley. Yes, please read the letter.”

Ginny ceased massaging Harry’s shoulders and took a seat next to him, cuddling up close. Across the table,

Molly opened the letter and began to read:

”Dear Harry, I find it difficult to write this letter. I know you are of age since you’re reading it. I am Sirius Black and I am your godfather, in case no one has told you about me. At the time of this writing, your parents, my closest friends, have just been murdered. I came across your mother's diary, and as your godfather, the Goblins have allowed me to place it here in your family vault. I wanted to make sure you got it. My wish, as I write this, is that I will be able to raise you as my own son, or at least be a part of your life. However, if you’re reading this letter without me, my wish that we might enter this vault together hasn't come true. In fact, I fear that if you’re reading this letter without me, I am dead. I only hope that we got to know each other, and that we got to know each other well.

Your dad and I are

protecting you. There's so much I would like to write, but I’m hoping that there will be time to tell you everything

in person.

Your godfather,

Sirius Black”

were

best

friends and your mother were dear to me. They loved you very much and died

Harry clung to every word Sirius wrote, and cried into Ginny’s neck when Molly finished reading it. Ginny held him close and pressed small kisses all along his forehead and into his unruly raven locks.

”Harry, love. Are you okay,” Ginny asked in a placating tone.

Harry nodded. ”I'm fine now,” he said wiping his face with a napkin Molly had passed him. He picked up the diary and made to leave the table. ”Thanks, Mrs Weasley.” She nodded and handed the letter back to him.

”Want to read with me,” Harry asked.

”Let’s go up to my room where it’s

quiet,”

she suggested, shifting her eyes toward the kitchen.

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”Mum, we’re going upstairs to read,” Ginny called to Molly.

”Leave the door open,” Molly warned.

Ginny sighed in mild frustration. ”Yes, Mum.”

Ginny led Harry up the stairs to her room, where they crawled onto the bed and stretched out, leans against the head board. Ginny rested her head on Harry’s shoulder as he opened his mother’s diary to the first entry:

“1 September 1977 First day of my final year at Hogwarts. I don't know how I feel about being back. I love Hogwarts and I am very

proud to be Head Girl. However

how can that mischievous prankster be Head Boy? He wasn’t even a Prefect! As far as I know, Potter has two talents—Quidditch and mischief. And what’s more, all last year he bugged me all the time asking for a date. Now I’ll have to work with him! Well then, he must take responsibility. I have to wonder if he even knows the meaning of the word! If you ask me, Remus Lupin would have been the better choice! At least he tries to be decent. Why he hangs around with Potter and Sirius Black is a mystery to me. I will never understand why the other girls are so in awe that I will have to spend time with him. They think he's funny and cute; I think he’s an arrogant toe rag. Okay, maybe not a toe rag, but he is obnoxious! I suppose if

there’s one good thing to say about James Potter, I must admit that he is sort of

guess

who's been made Head Boy? James blessed Potter. By Merlin's beard,

cute

”Obnoxious and cute,” Harry snickered. ”Am I obnoxious,” he asked Ginny with a sly smile.

”And cute

but

never arrogant. Keep reading,” she giggled giving him a peck on the cheek.

”You humble servant, milady,” Harry intoned majestically, and then continued to read aloud:

2 September 1977 Merlin’s pants! I'm so frustrated, I’d like to curse something, or rather, someone. A certain Mr James Potter to be exact. Only the second day of school and he’s at it already! He asked me for a date. 'Not a snowball's chance in a dragon's cave,' I told him, and added that I'd rather date a werewolf. He just smiled. (His smile makes him annoyingly cute.) He said that he could indeed arrange a date with a werewolf for me, but cautioned that there would be an express lack of romance during a walk in the moonlight. Git! He admitted that he had been somewhat persistent last year, but if I agreed to go on one date with him, he would leave it up to me to ask him for a second. I was that close to cursing him on the spot. I admit he has charm and he's aware of it. I wanted to tell him ’no,’ but heard myself say ’yes.’ Can you believe it? I agreed to go on a date with James Potter! Well I guess I will have to get it over with. And if he even thinks of asking me ”

again I’ll curse him. It would even be worth a detention. I’m doomed

”That is so sweet,” Ginny said dreamily. “She’s so in love with him.”

Harry looked at Ginny incredulously. ”In love with him! She wanted to curse him! I hope you never love me that much,” Harry argued, trying to stifle a laugh.

”She didn't want to admit it,” Ginny explained. ”But she was crazy about him.”

”I guess there are things about girls I don't understand,” Harry admitted. ”But still mother's words.”

it’s

incredible to read my

”Well, it took you six years to figure out about me,” Ginny smiled and kissed him.

”What can I say? I was a first-class toe rag,” Harry joked. ”No, you were a first-class prat. Read,” she directed.

”As you wish,” he said softly and kissed her hand.

They skipped ahead until they found the Lily’s account of her first date with James. ”October 1st, Hogsmeade weekend. I had never dreaded a Hogsmeade weekend more. This was the day of my date with James. My roommates encouraged me, telling me what to wear, offering me perfume spiked with love potion chose school robes and left for the Entrance Hall. There he was. My heart actually skipped a beat. He seemed more vulnerable without Sirius, Remus and Peter around him. He gave me one of those charming smiles of his as I came down the stairs toward him. I was actually nervous! He offered his arm, I took it, and we left.

I

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I must say, he can behave himself when he has to. He acted the perfect gentleman. It was a beautiful day. By

noon, I found myself forgetting that it was James Potter I was on a date with. Who was this kind, thoughtful,

empathic and

to admit it, but he showed me a wonderful time. Returning to school, I began worry about how this date would end. Normally, a girl just leaves it up to the boy to ask for another date, but James had already promised he would leave it up to me. I should be glad I survived the day, and even having had a good time, I’d never have to worry about James Potter again. But as we walked toward the castle gates, I decided I really wanted to have another day like this one. But that means I have to actually ask—yes, that’s right—ask James Potter for a second date. That urge to curse him felt very appealing again. At the gates, we faced each other and I found myself under the gaze of my perfect date. I must have been confunded or something because the next thing I did was step closer to him and pout my mouth. I actually wanted him to kiss me! He hesitated, as if he wanted to make sure it was all right. I could have—I should have—walked away, but in that moment, I just wanted my most perfect date to end in the most perfect way.

Yes, I was sure. I wanted this wonderful gentleman to kiss me. And he did. He took me into his arms ever so gently and I immediately melted like butter in a hot skillet. I don't know how long it lasted, but it was the perfect

kiss

other way to describe it.

I held onto his arm all the way back to the castle. He pushed that monstrous door open for me and ushered me

inside with his hand on the small of my back. It gave me chills! He escorted me safely to Gryffindor Tower. Once inside, he kissed me again, but ever so softly. We broke apart and we said good night at the foot of the stairs

leading to my dormitory. Now I have to figure out how to face him next time I see him roommates.”

yes, cute

wizard by my side and what had he done with that childish git, James Potter? I hate

and

it left me wanting more. I know

I’ve

written 'perfect' too many times today, but there’s simply no

and how to face my

”That’s so romantic.” Ginny sighed.

”Yeah, my dad was pretty smooth, wasn’t he,” Harry said with a wisp of a smile.

”Well, now I know where you got it,” she replied as she snuggled closer to him. ”Let's see what happened next, shall we?” ”3 October 1977

I couldn’t write anything yesterday. I can't get that date out of my head

lingering there. Then I think of who gave it to me. I couldn’t focus on today's lesson in Potions. I couldn’t concentrate! I made a horrible mess when I didn't pay attention to my cauldron. They say Potions class has been moved to another classroom temporarily, as they try to remove the stench. Professor Slughorn, bless him, decided against detention, nor did he deduct house points. Sirius asked me how I had managed that ’brilliant’ potion. He said I had created something that far outstripped the dung bomb and was

impressed that I got away with a stunt like that in class. Sirius Black finds humour in practically everything. The girls in the dorm giggled when I walked in. They all joined in a sing-song chorus, 'Lily’s in love with James'. I threw a pillow at them. In love? Hardly! Yes, I enjoyed the date, yes, he was a gentleman. And then that

was something, but love? What shall I do? For two days I haven’t been able to get that date out of my

kiss

head. I can't get that kiss out of my head. I can't get him out of my head. Am I obsessing?

I must admit, I’ve never felt like this. I have to find him and either curse him or kiss him again. To make

absolutely sure I can't be in love with him, I should definitely hesitate to kiss him with no second thoughts about cursing him. I think they practice Quidditch for another hour before they get back here. I just can't hold off until tomorrow. More later. Now I’ve done it! I may never be able to show my face in public again! I left for the common room so I could be there when the team came in from Quidditch practice. This would be the first time I saw him since Saturday, except for class. They came in all muddy and sweaty from practice and there he was (what a body!) Our eyes met almost instantly. I immediately felt the same way I did right before he kissed me the other night. I had to restrain myself from running straight across the common room and throwing myself at his head. That's when it hit me. I am in love with James Potter! That's why I can’t stop thinking about him!

I've had some crushes, but this is different. 'I'm in love

exploded inside me and the strong urge to kiss him took over again. I had to say or do something! Anyway, as the boys were about to leave for their dorm, I asked if I could have a word with the Head Boy. The others left for their dorm, leaving just the two of us in the common room—alone! My heart beat faster as I thanked him for a wonderful date. He smiled in that charming way of his and said it had been his pleasure. Then I buried my ego and thanked him for the most wonderful kiss I'd ever got. That's when I found my arms sliding across his muscular chest working their way around his neck. I asked him for another date. He didn't gloat, he didn't say 'I told you so,' or anything one might have expected from ’Arrogant James Potter.’

He just looked into my eyes and told me he would love to go on another date

or

that kiss. I can almost feel it

that

' so far so good '

with James Potter.' Excitement

and

suddenly seemed uncertain

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as to what to do next. An all-time first. James Potter unsure of himself. I stood up on my tiptoes, looked him straight in those dark pools of his and kissed him. It took a moment, but he responded enthusiastically. If our

first kiss was good, this one was fantastic! I’d never done French kissing before! I used to think it was disgusting, but this was bloody amazing! I felt faint and James gallantly reached out to steady me when we broke the kiss.

I heard myself saying what that kiss told me to be true. 'I love you James. I don't know how you did it to me, but

I love you.' Still no gloating, but instead he said the most beautiful words I’d ever hear, 'Lily, I’ve always loved

you'. He took me in his arms and held me there in against his muddy Quidditch uniform. I felt so safe, so

don’t know what, but I could have stood there like that forever. But it was getting late, so we kissed goodnight (neither of us wanting to part, of course) and feeling pleasantly confused, I returned to my dorm happier than I ever have been. Crap! Severus will hate me, my roommates will remind me of every reason I ever came up with to turn James

down for dates, and I don’t want to know how badly Sirius will take the mickey out of me

Of course, Remus

doesn’t say much and Peter goes along with whatever James and Sirius do, so day as James Potter's girlfriend! By Merlin, it’s brilliant!”

I

us.

Tomorrow will be my first full

Harry had tears in his eyes reading about how his mother and father came to be.

Ginny resisted a strong urge to take a leaf out of Lily Evans’ book and pull her son down into a kiss like that. Instead, she held back, not wanting to come on too strong. ”Are you okay to continue,” she asked biting her bottom lip. She’s so beautiful when she does that. ”Yes, I’m okay. Let's see what happened tomorrow.” “4 October By noon it was all over the school. The Head Boy and Head Girl are an item. Lessons went much better today, but I find myself daydreaming a lot. At least there’ve been no explosions and no stench. After classes, I wanted to be with James. I caught up with him on the stairs heading back to the common room. He was, of course, with the Marauders, as they call themselves. I called after him and the four of them stopped and turned around. He approached me while other three waited up the stairs. He said he hadn’t told anyone about us. I told him that I loved him and I didn't care that the entire school knew. If they knew, it would be so much easier to snog. Then I kissed him right and proper in front of them all and I didn’t give a hang what any of them thought. We headed for the common room, the infamous Marauders and me. Sirius reminded me that he still wanted to know how to do that potion. I told him he had to go on a date with James, let him kiss the lips off him, and then try to brew a standard healing potion. That shut him up! I’m in! The most interesting part of the day was when I happily entered the Great Hall for dinner, hand in hand with James, and Severus saw us. Of course he must have heard the rumour, but I could tell he was hurt. I must tell him I'm still his friend, but nothing can change my feelings for James Potter.”

Harry closed the diary. He didn't say anything for a long time. He considered his mother’s words, turning them over and over in his mind. He only hoped Ginny loved him, like that.

”Gin?

”Yes.”

”Was it like that for you

I

mean when we kissed that first time in the common room last year,” he asked.

”In the common room, and each and every time since then,” she replied, smoothing a lock of raven unruliness.

”I’ve only just realised over the past week that I’ve loved you since the whole Chamber of Secrets thing,” Harry

admitted. ”When I saw you lying on that cold stone floor with that damned book in your hands ”

ice, Gin. I begged you to please not be dead. I couldn’t bear

you were like

I

didn’t know

Harry broke.

”Shhh. It’s over now. We’re here, together, and we’re safe,” Ginny whispered as she took his tear-streaked face in her hands and kissed him kindly and gently. Harry responded in kind. He ran his tongue along her bottom lip and she parted her lips to allow him access. He pulled her into his lap and enveloped her in the strength of his arms. Ginny threw her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss, pouring all of her love and passion into it.

”Ginny,” Harry moaned as he ran his hands under the hem of her shirt and touched the bare skin of her back.

Shockwaves shot through her body as his hands traveled from her back to her stomach. She arched her hips forward as she moaned his name into his mouth. In a trice, she twisted and pulled him down on top of her

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across the bed and slid her hands up under his shirt. She dragged her fingernails lightly up and down the skin of his back as he caressed her bare stomach.

Harry trailed kisses from her mouth, down her neck, and over her throat as she moaned in agonised pleasure. Her hands left his back and slid down just inside the waistband of his jeans. She was about to reach forward when Harry broke away suddenly and rolled off her. ”We can’t do this, Gin. We’ve almost gone too far again. It’s not right,” he panted.

”I know, Harry, but you feel so good,” she half-whined between breaths.

”You do too, Love, but I won’t take advantage of you under your parents’ roof,” he insisted.

”You can’t take advantage of me since I’m a willing participant, but I know what you mean,” she replied.

”I suppose we’d better head down, don’t you? I’m sure supper’s about ready and we’ve been up here a long time,” Harry said as he stood and straightened his clothes.

Ginny righted her clothes and tied back her hair so it didn’t look quite so mussed. ”After you,” she said as they stepped out onto the landing.

Ron had thrown himself wholeheartedly into helping George ready the shop in Diagon Alley for business. He had to do something with himself and busy work was just the therapy he needed. Hermione had gone off to Australia to locate her parents and bring them home, promising to be back in two weeks at the latest.

The first few days without her had found him moping around the house in a fog as if he’d lost his best friend. He missed Hermione terribly, becoming sullen and edgy. ”He misses Hermione, doesn’t he,” Arthur observed.

”I think so. He wanted to go to Australia with her, but she told him she needed to do this by herself,” Molly said.

”There was a bit of a row.” Bright green flame belched out of the fireplace.

Molly rose from the table to embrace her son. ”George! Have you eaten yet,” she asked checking him over.

”I could do with a bite,” he answered, kissing her on the cheek. He sat down at the table with his parents.

”What’s going on,” he asked taking his place at the table. ”Ron. We’re worried,” Molly said. ”Don’t tell me. Ickle Ronnikins is pining, is he?” ”Stop calling me Ickle Ronnikins!” ”Ron, good morning, dear. Breakfast,” his mother offered, ushering him to the table. ”Just coffee, thanks,” he sighed and plopped down next to his brother. ”Hmm, gone off his feed, too. Serious business, I’d say,” quipped George.

”Shut it, you,” Ron growled. ”Sounds to me like you could do with a distraction, little bro, and I know just the thing,” George smiled. ”Oh and what’s that,” Ron asked sardonically, pouring a bit of milk into his cup.

”Well

end of July.” Ron considered the option for a few minutes. His mother watched him expectantly as his father returned to his paper. ”All right, I’ll do it,” Ron decided. ”When do you need me?”

”Pack a kit and you can go back with me this morning if you like. You can kip with me in the upstairs flat,” George answered. ”Well then, that’s settled,” Molly said brightly. ”More tea, George,” she asked lifting the pot. ”None for me, Mum,” he replied. ”Ron and I have loads to do.”

A few minutes later, Ron bounded down the stairs with his rucksack over his shoulder. He had an air of purpose

about him and the emptiness in his eyes seemed to have diminished. ”Ready when you are, George,” he said as he leaned over and kissed his mother. ”Bye, Mum. Bye, Dad,” he said. George and Ron strode over to the fireplace, took a handful of Floo powder, tossed it into the flames and said, ‘Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes,’ and disappeared with a whoosh!

I could use an extra pair of hands at the shop tidying and restocking. I’d like to be able to open by the

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Hermione returned ten days later, within two weeks, as promised. Molly greeted her with one of her signature bone-crushing hugs and the perfunctory inspection of her overall well-being. She flew into Harry’s arms and he picked her up and spun her around.

”Welcome home, Hermione,” he grinned, setting her down and placing a brotherly kiss on her flushed cheek. ”We’ve missed you,” he said.

”Ginny,” Hermione cried and hugged her friend. ”Harry’s been treating you right, yeah,” she asked with a wicked smile.

”Oh yeah,” Ginny replied with an equally wicked smile.

The two girls giggled conspiratorially as Hermione looked around. Her face fell a little, not finding Ron there. ”W-where’s Ron,” she asked no one in particular.

”He’s in Diagon Alley helping George get the shop ready, dear,” Molly replied. ”Perhaps you might want to send an owl,” she smiled.

”You could always send your otter, you know,” suggested Harry. ”It’d be quicker.”

Hermione had no sooner sent her message to Ron, when he stepped out of the fireplace with a Cheshire grin. Hermione ran to him, beaming as he took his characteristic long strides toward her and scooped her up in his arms.

”Welcome home, ’Mione,” he said as he buried his face in her hair. He kissed her longingly, taking her breath away. Suddenly, the rest of the world just melted away. ”I missed you so much,” he confessed, as he caressed her face and hair. He then pulled her into a tight embrace.

”Mmmm, maybe I should go away and come back again,” she joked, ”if I’m to receive welcomes such as this one,” she smiled dizzily as she raised her face for another kiss. Ron gladly obliged.

Ahem. Red-faced and grinning, Ron and Hermione broke apart. ”Sorry,” they said together. Everyone had a good laugh as they sat down to the lunch Molly had been preparing when Hermione arrived.

”Tuck in, dears. I’m so glad we’re all together again,” Molly said with eyes twinkling.

Between bites, Hermione talked about the Australia, its people, the odd animals, and overall laid-back atmosphere that permeate that continent.

”They think we English are rather uptight,” she explained. ”I mean, their Wizarding community keep our secrets and all, but they’re just less paranoid about it. They interact with the Muggle community rather nicely, actually.”

”How so,” Molly asked.

”Well, they live in the same neighborhoods, for the most part, and they share the same beaches and many of them work together at their jobs. Of course, they have specialized Wizarding professions, such as Aurors and Healers, but otherwise, they’re pretty copacetic on the whole,” Hermione said brightly.

”We could take a leaf out of their book,” Ginny said thoughtfully. ”And they’re right. We are rather uptight, aren’t we,” she snickered.

”Ginny, we really don’t have much choice,” Harry countered. ”There are more of us in a smaller area in Britain than a larger country like Australia. After all, Australia is technically an entire continent,” he reminded her.

”I suppose, but still

it

would be nice to not have to be so careful all the time.”

”I don’t know,” Harry smiled. ”I kind of like having you mostly to myself,” Harry said as he wrapped an arm around her waist and kissed her temple.

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”Enough, you two,” Molly scolded. ”So you found them all right then, your parents,” she asked Hermione.

”Oh yes. It took several days, but I finally found them and put them right. They were a bit confused at first, but they’re fine now. They’re going to stay on a month or so longer to put their affairs in order, but then they’ll return to England,” she sighed. ”I had to drop by the house to confund the Muggle family there into deciding to move closer to a relative,” she confessed, a little embarrassed.

When they finished eating, Ron Flooed George to tell him he wouldn’t be back for the rest of the day due to Hermione’s return, and that he would spend that night at the Burrow to catch up.

”Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” George chuckled.

”I don’t think I’d want to do anything you’d do,” Ron replied with a scowl. ”Mum, we’ll be out in the back garden,” he called as the four friends made for the door.

”All right, dears,” Molly called. ”Have fun!”

”Thanks, Mum,” Ron said as he placed his hand on Hermione’s back and guided her out the door behind Harry and Ginny.

”The pond,” Ginny asked, cocking her head.

”The pond,” the others agreed in unison.

Harry conjured a rather large quilt that they spread out on the grass under the big willow tree. They all settled down and made themselves comfortable.

Harry leaned back and drew his knees up so Ginny could tuck herself between them. He nuzzled her neck and clasped his hands around her middle. ”All right, Gin,” he mumbled into her hair.

”Mm hmm,” she said, leaning her head into his chest.

Ron sat cross-legged with Hermione’s bushy head in his lap. He took one of her hands and brought it to his lips. ”Nice tan, ’Mione,” he complimented her. Want to show me your tan lines?

”It’s very sunny in Australia. Just about everyone is tanned,” she said smiling up at him, ”except redheads. Ginger Muggles slather themselves with sun block until the entire beach smells of aloe and cocoa butter,” she laughed nervously.

There was a few moments’ silence. ”Hermione, how did it really go,” Harry asked suspiciously. He knew her well enough to know when her laughter and attempts and lighthearted conversation sounded forced.

Hermione paused for a few moments and sighed. "We have some issues to work out. I mean, they understand why I did it, but it still took its toll," she said.

"Do you want to talk about it," Ron asked gently as his thumb traced circles in the palm of the hand he held in his. Hermione glanced up at Ron as tears began to well up in her eyes. Seeing this, Harry nudged Ginny in a manner of making to leave.

"Yes, but Harry

rising. Harry had already stood up. ”Harry, would you mind casting a Muffliato don’t want this to go any further.”

I want you and Ginny to stay," she said as she took hold of Ginny’s arm to keep her from

just in case,” she asked. ”I

Harry rose and stepped off a light ward and then cast the charm. When he returned to his place against the tree, Ginny settled back in and Hermione told them what happened in Australia.

"I had no problem finding where they lived, but it was very strange knocking on their door, knowing my own parents wouldn’t recognise me. I’ve missed them so much that I had to restrain myself from jumping into my father’s arms when he answered the door.” Hermione wiped away the tears that had begun to fall from the corners of her eyes with her free hand.

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”I had to come up with a valid reason for my being there, so I told him I had important news for him and his wife. At first, I didn’t think they’d go for it, but after only a moment’s hesitation, Dad invited me in. Once we sat down in the lounge, I reversed their altered memories.” Hermione’s voice broke with a sob causing her to stop and compose herself. The others stole concerned looks at one another and tried to will their support to her.

”The first thing my dad asked me was where they were and how long they’d been there. I told them about our quest last year and my decision to alter their memories to protect them. They were furious that I had done it without asking their permission. They accused you, Ron and Harry, of having had a bad influence on me! They even accused your brothers, Ron!” Hermione burst into tears and buried her face in the crook of Ron’s knee, wrapping her arms around his leg.

”It’s okay, ’Mione. Don’t cry,” Ron soothed. Help me, he mouthed to Harry.

Harry decided to go for a bit of humour in hopes of coaxing a smile from Hermione so she could pull herself together. ”Well Ron, you said yourself in first year that we’d had a bad influence on her when she set out on a search for Nicolas Flamel,” he remembered, scratching the back of his head. ”I believe she encouraged us to visit the restricted section of the library over Christmas break.”

”A search for Nicolas Flamel? What’s there to search? He’s been all over the Chocolate Frog cards for years,” Ginny reminded them as if they’d lost their minds.

”We know that now, Ginny, but we disheveled raven head.

oh never mind. I’ll tell you about it later,” Harry said, shaking his

Hermione had managed to compose herself and continued her tale. ”By now I was crying hysterically, trying to make them understand just how ruthless Voldemort was and that they wouldn't have stood a chance against him if he’d decided to come after them. My dad went mental, saying he was quite capable of defending his home. I told him to try to defend himself against me and drew my wand."

"What," Ron asked her in alarm.

"It wasn't pretty. While Mum tried to calm us down, Dad kept yelling really horrible things. I had about reached the end of my tether when I told him point blank to do his best against me. Then I transfigured him to a mouse "

and pretty much did what Moody—er—Crouch Jr did to Malfoy that day in fourth year. And then stopped, ashamed of herself.

Hermione

”Hermione, what did you do,” Ron demanded.

"Well, I cast the Imperius curse at him and had him dancing on the table." She couldn’t help but smile a little.

"Your own dad," Harry asked, trying to stifle a smirk.

”I was so angry, but I had to make him understand

him right, he stared at me. He looked so afraid, so I told him I loved him far too much to be able to really hurt him. But I also wanted to impress upon him—upon both of them—that my little demonstration was nothing compared to what Voldemort would have done to them, assuring him that Voldemort would have gleefully driven him and Mum insane.

and technically he was a still a mouse, so

After I put

They ultimately came to understand that it was the only way I could protect them, but still they’re still unhappy that I didn't explain and get their permission first. The next day I told them that I had a boyfriend and who that boyfriend is. They took it surprisingly well, especially after Dad’s tirade against you," she said, finally smiling again. Hermione took Ron’s hand and squeezed it. And nothing will ever come between us.

"Considering that boyfriend turned out to be that bad-influence Weasley boy," Ginny smiled. They all had a tension-breaking laugh.

Hermione sighed again, though not sadly and said, "There’s still a lot of healing to go, but they now understand that they should be happy we’re all still alive and they are. I reminded them how Harry lost his parents in the first war and how Teddy lost his in this one. I also told them about Fred, Ron. They send their condolences,” she said, kissing his hand.

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In a distant cottage, an evil-looking woman sat impatiently waiting for a report. There was a knock at the door and a man entered.

”Let's hear it,” she said coldly.

”Harry Potter is well-protected. There is little or no chance of getting to him,” the man said nervously.

”I don't want to kill Potter, you idiot, but I do want him to suffer,” the woman snapped. ”He destroyed our world, so we shall destroy his.”

”Splendid. Are we going after his woman, then?”

The witch sighed and rolled her eyes. ”No, we are not going after Potter's woman. She's as protected as he is and a powerful witch in her own right. You know, she duelled Bellatrix. All we would accomplish doing that would be to win ourselves an extended stay at Hotel Azkaban. The Dark Lord was a glorious wizard who was defeated by his own arrogance. Why else would he do something so stupid as to challenge the Ministry, Dumbledore's Order, and Potter all at once,” she snapped.

”What is your plan,” the wizard asked.

”Harry Potter destroyed our world when he defeated the Dark Lord. His puppet, Kingsley Shacklebolt, controls the Ministry and he, himself, courts the unthinkable. Do you remember that dear house elf he mentioned? Soon he will plead for house elves to hold seats on the Wizengamot! No, we must destroy this proposed new world of his.”

”And how do we do that?”

”I’m glad you asked. We strike at the weakest point, of course. So much the safer for us.”

”Which is

?”

”The filthy Muggles of course! We kill one or two. They are defenseless against us,” she said giggling maniacally. ”Isn't it brilliant?”

”I don't follow.” And I’m not so sure I want to.

”Of course not, because you're not the visionary that I am. I'm not talking about some lowlife from the Muggle

gutters. Oh no. I’m talking one of their precious celebrities. We Apparate into one of those poor Muggle excuses

for a Quidditch pitch—a football stadium, I think it’s called. Muggle Studies wasn't my best subject

Muggle celebrity in front of thousands of other Muggles, using spectacular magic. And what do you think would happen then?”

We kill the

The wizard looked at the woman and he began to understand. ”The Wizarding world would be exposed! There'd be no way to contain that many Muggles and alter their memories! We would shock them right back into the Dark Ages with a terrifying fear of wizards! Brilliant!”

”Of course it is. Harry Potter will live to see all he fought for crumble around him. He can have his life and his woman all he wants, but he will have to watch his friends suffer, you'll see. From all I’ve read and heard, nothing tortures Potter more than the thought of anyone he loves in torment.”

”Where and when do we start?”

”When the time is right. Patience. We may only have one chance to succeed and avoid capture.”

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As June melted into July, life seemed to slow down for the Weasleys, most notably, Harry and Ginny. They made several visits to Grimmauld Place to confer with Kreacher about remodeling it and turning it into a home. Harry wasn’t exactly sure what that might entail, but Kreacher was keen to help refit it however his master wished. He even offered to remove Mrs Black’s portrait from the wall in the entryway.

Harry and Ginny also made it a point to spend as much time with Teddy as they could. Andromeda often scolded them for doing too much, but Harry would hear none of it.

”I promised you that I would be here for him in every sense, including financially,” he said, pressing the key to the vault he’d set up for Teddy back into her hand. ”I want him to have all the advantages I’d been denied,” he said, remembering the unnecessary deprivation in which he lived with the Dursleys.

”You didn't have to,” Andromeda said, staring at the figures recorded on the accounting parchment Gringotts had sent by owl along with the key.

”He's my godson. He's an orphan like me, and the son of one of my father's best friends. I love little Teddy and I am taking proper responsibility for raising him, and that means more than just spending time with him,” Harry insisted.

Harry and Ginny thoroughly enjoyed just walking around anonymously through the Muggle parks around London, pushing Teddy along in a pram. Ginny treasured these moments with Harry and Teddy. How I desperately love this sweet, sweet man and this darling little boy. Harry couldn’t keep his eyes off Ginny,

especially when she held or played with Teddy. This is so normal and so walking next to me pushing this pram.

right

to

have this gorgeous angel

Usually, they let the Muggles who stopped and spoke to them believe Teddy was their child, for in a way he was. Many of them complimented Harry and Ginny about how they displayed a maturity far beyond their years. One such encounter, though, was almost disastrous. Harry had to confund a Muggle lady who’d stopped to admire Teddy when he changed his hair colour. Harry noticed that casting the spell felt easier than ever before, though he hadn't practiced much magic except for Apparation lately. But he worried a little about the strength of the spell. The poor woman would be fine, but as they left, she wished them a Happy Christmas—a clear indication of a too-strong Confundus charm.

One rare evening that Harry and Ginny found themselves alone together at the Burrow, they were sitting together on the sofa when Harry went quiet. His usually sparkling eyes had turned dark, his countenance introspective. Ginny recognised that as a signal that Harry was brooding about something.

”Harry, love, what is it,” she asked as she got up to massage his shoulders.

”Come. Sit down,” he said just above a whisper. He reached inside his jacket and withdrew the Elder Wand. He turned it over and over again in his fingers, contemplating it.

”Is that

”The Deathstick, the Wand of Destiny, the Elder Wand. Whichever you prefer, yes,” he answered. ”I had planned to put this back with Professor Dumbledore. I’m beginning to wonder if this thing has had something to do with the surge in my magic,” he said and looked at her slightly apprehensive.

”But you’ve been using your Holly wand, Harry,” she said, still staring at the Elder Wand.

”I know. I don't understand it, but that simple Confundus charm I cast at that Muggle lady in the park the other day nearly landed her in St Mungo's,” Harry said regretfully.

”Harry, if you’re that concerned about it, perhaps you might have a talk with Dad. He might have some thoughts for you,” she suggested. ”I mean, I know you don’t want to tell anyone else you have it, so just speak generally,” she said.

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”You think so,” Harry asked her thoughtfully.

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”Yeah, I mean it’s worth a try,” she said, kissing his cheek. ”Now, Mr Potter. We have the house to ourselves and I say we should take advantage of it while we have the chance,” she giggled.

”So we do. I believe, Miss Weasley,” he said with a twinkle in his once-again bright green eyes, ”that you owe me a shutting up.” She works on me like a Cheering charm.

”All right then,” she said, pulling herself firmly onto his lap, ”shut up and kiss me, you fool.” She giggled again as he took her in his arms, leaned her into a cradle position, and lowered his face to hers in a gentle but firm kiss.

Ginny held his face with her free hand. She ran her tongue along Harry’s bottom lip, teasing. As the kiss deepened, their blood turned to molten lava in their veins. Hands began to roam as tongues danced a passionate waltz. Pulses quickened and hearts pounded as their hands explored one another’s bodies. Harry’s lips left Ginny’s mouth, traveling along her neck to her shoulders. She hitched in a breath and slid her hands under Harry’s shirt to caress the muscles of his chest.

”Ginny,” he moaned. ”My sweet Ginny.” He lifted her jumper up just enough to expose her belly. He caressed it then moved his hand down to capture her hip. She arched in to him.

”Harry,” she sighed.

Just then, they heard a pop from somewhere near the kitchen, causing Ginny to launch herself off Harry’s lap. They were able to arrange themselves just as her parents appeared in the lounge.

”Mum! Dad,” Ginny said as innocently as she could. ”Where’ve you been?”

”Your mother met me at the Ministry and we had dinner together,” Arthur replied, slipping an arm around his wife.’’

”The first date we’ve had in years,” Molly said. ”It was quite fun. Have you two eaten,” she asked.

”Uh

no,

actually. We were just

Harry stammered.

Ginny cut across him. ”I was just about to fix us a couple of sandwiches and some pumpkin juice. I saw some leftover roast in the cooler earlier.” She stole a guilty look at Harry and winked. ”I’ll go do that, shall I,” she said airily, walking past her parents toward the kitchen.

”Erm

don’t mind, sir,” he added.

Weasley, could I

Mr

er

have a word,” Harry asked his surrogate father. ”It’s rather important, if you

”Of course, Harry,” he replied. ”Is everything all right?”

”Oh

yeah.

It’s just important, that’s all.”

”Why don’t I just go and give Ginny a hand, then,” Molly said and walked back toward the kitchen.

”So what can I do for you, Harry,” Arthur asked.

”Well, sir, it’s about something that happened when Ginny and I were in the park with Teddy the other day,” Harry said nervously.

”Go on

Arthur said.

”Yes sir. Well, it’s just that Teddy morphed in front of a Muggle lady and I had to confund her. The trouble is that I nearly put her in St. Mungo’s with it,” Harry said regretfully.

”Well, Harry, I really don’t know what to tell you other than to say you’ve had a sort of ’power surge,’” Arthur surmised.

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”What should I do,” Harry asked.

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”I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Harry. It happens sometimes when we’re emotional or when we’ve been

under a load of stress, and Merlin knows you’ve had your share of stress over these past couple of years,”

Arthur counseled him.

”Yes, sir, that’s true. So nothing to worry about then,” Harry asked hopefully.

”Nothing to worry about,” Arthur assured him.

”Thank you, sir. I appreciate it,” Harry said, shaking Arthur’s hand.

”Anytime, my boy. Anytime.”

”Harry! Come on and eat,” Ginny called from the kitchen.

”Coming, love,” he called back and strode toward the kitchen. He sat down next to her and ate while Molly joined her husband on the sofa in front of the big fireplace.

”So did you talk to Dad,” Ginny asked, taking a sip of pumpkin juice.

”I did, and he says it’s nothing to worry about. That it happens sometimes when magical people are stressed or

emotional,” he replied.

”That makes sense. So

”I’m not going to worry about it,” he said resolutely.

A few days later, a Hogwarts owl appeared and delivered four letters. Ginny’s contained the standard seventh

year information and instructions along with the announcement that she had been chosen to captain the Gryffindor Quidditch Team.

”Good one, Gin,” Harry said, giving her a kiss on the cheek. ”You’ll be brilliant!”

”You’re just saying that because you know it’s true,” she said mockingly.

”Congratulations, Ginny,” said Hermione.

”Yeah, you’ll be great,” said Ron distractedly.

Harry’s, Ron’s, and Hermione’s letters came from Professor McGonagall personally, inviting them to return to Hogwarts to attend their seventh year and sit their N.E.W.T.s if they so desired, since the war had precluded them from attending the previous year. They hadn’t given their futures much thought since Kingsley made them his offer several weeks before.

"Well, I’m going back to school," Hermione said.

"As if there were any doubt," Ron sighed. "But I’m not.”

"You’ve got plans, mate," Harry asked.

"I’m going to stay on with George at the joke shop. We’ve been very busy and we’re getting on famously. I’m happy with that for now. What about you, Harry?"

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"Ginny and I have talked about it, and I’m going to see Kingsley before making a final decision."

The day after the Hogwarts letters arrived, Molly inadvertently walked in on Ginny and Harry in the throes of a magnificent snog. She set her basket of clean laundry down and left without a word.

"Are we in trouble," Harry asked looking at a blushing Ginny.

"Probably. We’d better go and talk to her."

"Can I do the talking," Harry asked.

”That’s a good idea. She’s less likely to go spare on you,” Ginny nodded thankfully. ”This is not exactly something I want to discuss with my mother.”

Squaring their shoulders and putting on brave faces, they joined hands and descended the stairs, where they found Molly checking up on her knitting.

"Mrs Weasley, can you sit please," Harry asked, feeling rather awkward. Molly sat looking at them with pursed lips. "Is Mr Weasley here too?"

"I'm here, Harry," he heard Arthur's voice from the kitchen as he entered the room to join them. He took note of a strained look on his wife’s face. "What’s going on?" Steady, Harry. You can do this. Harry explained to Arthur that Molly had walked in on him and Ginny snogging. "I don't know if you understand how deeply I love Ginny."

"Enlighten us," Arthur said with an unreadable expression.

"I guess I’ll start from the beginning. When I got to know all of you, Ginny was Ron's little sister and I liked her as I liked all of you. You all made me feel as though I was a part of your family. But I guess things started to change with Ginny after the Chamber of Secrets.” Harry paused and took a deep breath.

”Go on,” Arthur said.

”I had been bitten by the Basilisk when I plunged the sword into its mouth and through the top of its head. As I destroyed the diary, I was dying from the Basilisk's venom. I don't know if you were aware of that." Harry waited for them to answer.

Ginny's parents shook their heads. All they’d been told at the time was that Harry had saved Ginny's life. Ron had told them a few weeks ago about the Basilisk. The precise details about Harry fighting off and killing the Basilisk at the age of twelve to save Ginny was news to them.

"She opened her eyes and in that moment I felt something like exaggerated relief, knowing she’d live. And then Fawkes flew down to me and healed the wound with his tears, and saved my life." Molly's usual warm smile returned and Arthur seemed eager to hear more.

"Over the following years, my feelings for Ginny grew. Since she is Ron's sister, it took me a while to understand

what I felt for her, but during my sixth year we actually dated and started a relationship. At Dumbledore’s funeral, I decided I had to break it off with her. It was the hardest, most painful thing I ever had to do in my life.

I loved her so much even then, that I couldn’t bear the thought of Tom Riddle targeting and hurting or killing

her to get to me. I couldn’t allow Ginny to be hurt, so I

I let her go.”

Harry began to shake again, so Ginny took his hand to help steady him. There were tears in Molly's eyes and Arthur looked deeply touched.

"And during our mission to destroy

I missed her terribly. I haven't told you this, Ginny, but I stared at the Marauder's Map almost every night just to stare at your dot showing you in your bed, usually while I had the watch at night.”

"

Harry almost said the Horcruxes, but caught himself. "

to

destroy Riddle,

Tears rolled down Ginny’s face as she listened to Harry’s further testimony of his love for her. She leaned over against him and buried her face into his shoulder. He put his arm around her protectively to comfort her.

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”As you already know, I walked into the Forbidden Forest to face Tom Riddle, knowing he would kill me. It was my feelings for Ginny that gave me the strength to do it. When his killing curse hit me, my last thoughts were of Ginny and her image was the last thing I saw. But, as it turned out, my mum's love kept me safe from death yet again.” Molly had moved around the table next to her daughter. She took the girl in her arms and they sobbed together as Harry continued his explanation for his and Ginny’s behavior.

”Dumbledore often spoke of love, and he was right. It was love that defeated Tom Riddle, and if it weren't for the deep love I have for Ginny I don't think I'd ever been able to beat him. But I feel more than love for her. She is like a part of me, and without her I'm incomplete."

Molly looked up at her husband, tears running down her face in torrents. ”I didn't know," she said softly. ”I had no idea.”

”Astounding,” was all Arthur could say.

Ginny gazed at Harry with her own tears still coursing down her face. Her face seemed to shine. "Harry, that is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard," she said. Then, turning to her parents she spoke confidently, but

kindly. "Mum, I know you still think of me as the baby, but I’m not a baby anymore. I love Harry with all of my heart and he loves me. We show our love to one another by snogging sometimes. But we also respect you and

Dad, and we wouldn't

couldn't actually say it out loud to her parents, but she wanted them to know she was fully committed to Harry.

you know

at

least until I'm of age." Ginny looked hopefully into her parents’ faces. She

"I wouldn't ever want to hurt either of you," Harry said to Arthur and Molly. "I couldn’t. You’re the closest thing

I’ve ever had to real parents."

There was a brief uncomfortable silence as Molly and Arthur silently came to a mutual conclusion. It was only

broken when Arthur spoke. “I’m

hands in the garden, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. Oh yes, we’ve watched, fascinated, as the two of you to exude love everywhere you go and in everything you do. We understood that you had strong feelings for one another, but we had no idea how deep those feelings ran,” Arthur explained.

we’re

at a loss for words. We’ve watched countless times as you’ve sat holding

”We’d always hoped that there might be something deep and abiding between the two of you,” Molly continued, ”and we’re thrilled to know now that that is indeed the case. It’s just that it was a shock for me to find

you

daughter—her youngest child—is concerned,” Molly confessed.

way. It was just something a mother is never quite prepared for, especially where her only

that

”Harry, Ginny, believe it or not, we were young once too, and deeply in love. We made a few choices some might call unwise, and perhaps they were. We haven’t any regrets, but we had to change a lot of our plans. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that we don’t want to see you make the same type of potentially unwise choices.”

Harry went scarlet.

"I've said it before and I’ll say it again and again. Harry, the day Ron boarded that train and shared a compartment with you was a very lucky day for our family."

”And now, dears,” Molly began. ”We hear the tell-tale pops during the night and know that you, Harry, and Hermione have been switching rooms. However, if Harry will respect a not-until-You’re-of-age rule, you may share a room and a bed. And furthermore, Harry, there will be no more of this formal Mr and Mrs Weasley nonsense. You’re family. You will call us Arthur and Molly from now on, no arguments. It’s our wish.”

A shocked Harry and Ginny retreated to their room. They expected a furious tirade, possibly a lecture, but never

this! They would be allowed to share a room

be no sex until Ginny reached the Wizarding age of majority.

and

a bed! They had promised Arthur and Molly that there would

Following the talk with Molly and Arthur there was a relaxation at the Burrow. They seemed to enjoy the happiness that beamed from Harry and Ginny. They noticed the way the two of them always kept one another happy and secure in just about everything they said or did. Molly and Arthur wondered whether that Whatever It Is was instinctive or just that the two of them were plain crazy in love.

It had become routine that each night, Harry and Ginny would cuddle up together in bed, and read from Lily's

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diary, learning more about how the relationship between Harry’s parents developed and deepened into the abiding love Molly and Arthur talked about. According to her record, it seemed no