Harry stood in front of the full length mirror in nothing but his boxers. He had refused to go to St. Mungo's, and instead tried to heal the wound himself. He was peering closely at his face, where a thin line of red blood began to scab. He was still brooding about his blunder at Azkaban prison when there was a soft knock at the door.
"Yeah," he called out as he reached for the shirt draped over his dresser.
"Harry it's me, Hermione, are you all right?" Her voice was full of worry and Harry could picture her face full of panic.
He moved across the room and pulled the door open, smiling slightly. "Yeah I'm fine."
"I got here as soon as I heard," she replied smoothing back her wild hair. She had definitely rushed over as fast as she could. "I knew that it was a terrible idea for you to go out there."
Harry's left eyebrow rose, before he turned back into his room. Pulling out a pair of jeans from his dresser he shoved a leg into the pants and looked up at Hermione, who was watching him. "So what you're saying is that I shouldn't have gone, but it was okay for Ron to go?"
Hermione watched him as he hopped into the other leg and zipped up his pants. "That's not what I meant. I'm just saying that with all your history you were the worst person to go."
Harry passed Hermione on his way to the closet. Digging through the contents, he found a pair of matching sneakers. "Thanks for your concern Hermione, but I'm not a baby. I'm an Auror."
She made a noise of exasperation. "I know and you can take care of yourself," she stated bitingly. "You shouldn't be near those things and neither should Ron."
Harry flashed a shrewd smile at her as he sat down on the edge of his bed to tie his laces. "You know, Hermione, I don't need a mum when I have you."
She turned red with frustration. "Harry, I'm not joking with you!"
"I know," he chuckled. Getting up uneasily from the bed, he came over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You don't need to worry about me. I'll be fine."
Hermione looked up at him trying to be cross, but knew she couldn't. "Ron's waiting for you in the living room."
Harry walked into the living room to find Ron on the couch reading the Daily Prophet. Pushing the newspapers down, Harry beamed at Ron.
"I'm going out for a walk," he said.
Ron pulled the newspapers free and pressed them straight again. "Be careful."
"I will be back in an hour," Harry replied with a grin. Lowering his voice he asked, "Think that'll give you enough time alone?"
Ron's ears went pink. "Get out of here Harry!"
Harry shook his head and walked to the door. Grabbing his blue jacket off the hook, he left the couple alone. Walking down the stairs, he stopped to say hello to their neighbours. Maybe he'd stop over at Honeyduke's and pick up some more chocolate. He still didn't feel completely well.
After graduation, Harry and Ron had speculated getting a flat in Diagon Alley but costs were up in that neighbourhood. A new block of flats had just been constructed down the street from Madam Puddifoot's in Hogsmeade and the boys simply couldn't resist. It was a nice location in their favourite village and was up the road from Hogwarts. It really was the perfect place for them.
Taking up a leisurely stroll, Harry came to the main street and slowly passed Scrivenshaft's, Gladrags and Zonko's. He fought the temptation to go into the joke shop and buy some Dungbombs as he approached the vacant shop next to the post office that Ginny would be moving into soon. He crossed the street and stood outside the two story building. Crossing the street, Harry stood outside the two story building.
So this is where Ginny's going to be setting up shop, Harry mused.It was going to be very uncomfortable having Ginny no more than two blocks away from where he lived.
The garden was a deserted mess of vines and weeds. Ginny was going to have her work cut out for her. As Harry stepped away from the structure, he heard something crash from within. Pushing the gate open, Harry pulled his wand out ready to attack any burglars that might be about. Going around the side, he peered into a window and could see someone moving around. With a flick of his wand, he unlocked the back door and moved stealthily into the house, ignoring the throb in his side.
Another crash made Harry start, and he ran into the room ahead of him only to see a sight he didn't expect.
"Ginny?" His voice seemed to fail him and the surprise mixed with anxiety was audible.
The pretty young lady turned to him and smiled. "Hello, Harry, what are you doing here?"
Harry struggled to find words and managed to say, "I was taking a walk when I heard a noise." He could feel the heat rise into his face and ran his hand through his hair, just to distract himself from staring at her.
Ginny gestured to a box that had tipped over and spilled out numerous empty glass bottles. "I knocked that over," she admitted embarrassedly. "I was trying to find my Floo powder."
"What are you doing here so early Gin, Hermione said you weren't due back until this weekend," Harry asked.
Ginny pulled a broom from the nearest closet and began to sweep the shards of glass that littered the floor. "Well, I wanted to move in as soon as possible and I needed some time to myself before I went to see the family."
"Oh," Harry responded. Shaking his head he came over to her and pointed his wand at the mess on the floor and cleaned it all up.
She looked up at him gratefully. "Thanks."
"It's just something I learned at Hogwarts when we didn't bother to clean up the dorm after a few weeks." He shrugged.
Ginny smiled at him and pulled another box out of the pile and popped it open. "Would you mind helping me look for the Floo powder? If I don't contact mum, she'll think something is wrong."
Harry nodded and opened another box. After going through several boxes, they found the small container of powder. Taking the container from Harry Ginny moved over to the fireplace and threw in a pinch. She stuck her head inside as the flames flared bright green and called out, "The Burrow".
Harry watched as Ginny moved about with her head in the flames. Her hands flailed around, momentarily pestered. He could hear her arguing with her mother, but his eyes were glued to her petite figure. Several minutes went by before Ginny pulled her head from the flames. She bore a distinctly perturbed look.
"Everything go all right?" he asked.
"No, she's absolutely nutters," Ginny replied moodily. "She's trying to throw some kind of party and she told me to invite people. It's like I've come back from being away for years."
Harry quietly replied, "You have been away three years Ginny."
She paused in her unpacking and frowned. "I forget sometimes. Oh well, it's been forever Harry- how have you been?"
"Good, I guess," he answered stiffly. In truth, it wasn't all that good. Lucius Malfoy was out of prison and probably trying to kill him. Work was unpleasant and the gash over his ribcage was beginning to throb again. But all this he didn't say, because the last thing he wanted was to worry Ginny of all people.
Ginny glanced over at him and shrugged. "I bet you're pretty busy these days."
"Not really, work has slowed down since Voldemort's death," Harry answered.
"That's good then," she said as she reached up and pulled her hair up into a bun. Nodding, she began to pull more boxes open and magically arrange the contents in the room. Harry moved toward her uncertainly and placed a hand over a box.
"Do you need any help?" he asked sliding his hand over the box.
She looked over at him and smiled. "I'm not going to say no, but don't feel obligated to."
"Never." He grinned before pulling the box open.
Ginny moved to another box and opened it. Sighing, she reached inside and pulled out a picture frame. It was a picture of her and Harry at his graduation. Placing the frame back inside, she closed the box up. "This one goes upstairs. I'll be right back."
Lifting the box off the ground, she walked up the stairs to her new home. She'd be able to run her shop in the downstairs area and live comfortably on the floor above. Using her backside, she opened the door to the spacious bedroom. Dropping the box, she began to dig through the magical cushioning. Within a few minutes, she had successfully unpacked the box and wandered back down the stairs to find Harry staring inside a box in disgust.
"Is that really eye of newt and liver of dragon?" he asked reaching in and pulling out a large jar. Within it was a red bean shaped organ.
Ginny giggled as she took the jar from him. "Yes, it's actually hard to come by and worth seventeen sickles."
"I certainly hope the misfortunate beast wasn't killed for that alone," Harry muttered as he began to pull out more jars full of distasteful things.
"Of course he wasn't killed for just his liver. I took his heart, hide and horns, too." Ginny popped open another box and unpacked more ingredients.
Harry gave her a weary look as he closed the empty box and tossed it over by the other empty boxes. "I think we're done, you have the last box right there." He pointed over to the corner and Ginny looked over at it. Inside were things that would go upstairs.
"That's not for the shop, but I still haven't found my cauldron," she stated. "I must have left it with Nicholas."
"I can't believe he's still living," Harry mused as he eased himself into an empty chair by the window.
Ginny crossed the room and placed the last of the jars on a shelf. "He's got plenty elixir and should live for another twenty or so years. He's a brilliant man."
She looked around the room pleased. "Thank you for helping, Harry. It would have taken me the entire day to finish it all."
Standing up, Harry smiled at her. "It's no problem, but I should get going."
"Yes, well, stop by some time," she replied out of habit. Silently, she cursed herself for falling prey to old habits.
"Will do," he answered tensely. She led him out the front door and he passed through the withering garden. Silently, he cursed himself for not asking her out to dinner. He knew better than that though. He had hurt Ginny once before and that was more than enough. Besides, it still wasn't safe to start seeing anyone, let alone Ginny. Abandoning the thought of visiting Honeyduke's, Harry began to stride toward the flat.
Knocking twice on the door before entering, Harry was surprised to find the place empty. Ron and Hermione had probably left to eat. At the thought of food, Harry's stomach grumbled. Knowing it was a lost cause, Harry walked over to the refrigerator and peered inside. Besides some cheese and now four days old milk, there wasn't anything really edible. Closing the door, he began to think of what he should eat. Going into his bedroom, he knelt down on the floor and began knocking around. Finding a hollow spot, he moved the loose board and pulled out a small money box. Taking out some cash, he replaced the box and board, then pulled his cloak from the closet and left the flat.It was half past six and he worried whether the Three Broomsticks would be too crowded.
Just as he had suspected, the place was buzzing and there was a wait to be seated. He was about to turn and leave, when he heard someone call out his name.
Turning to the voice, he recognized Neville Longbottom. The round faced young man greeted Harry at the door and beckoned him to sit and have dinner with him.
"Harry, it's so good to see you," Neville beamed.
Harry smiled back at him. "Well, it's lucky to see you or I would have gone hungry tonight."
"Are you visiting Hogsmeade for the week?" Neville asked.
"Oh, no, I live in this area now," Harry answered.
After ordering their food, the conversation continued.
"You know, I've gotten a job at Hogwarts," Neville smiled proudly.
"That's great Neville, what are you teaching?"
Neville tried to suppress his laughter. "The only thing I was good at, naturally, Herbology."
Harry frowned at him and asked, "What happened to Mrs. Sprout?"
"She retired," he answered.
"That's really great, Neville. I wish I had gone into the teaching profession." Harry leaned back in his chair and went over the possibility in his head. "I could have done Defence Against the Dark Arts."
"You could have and you would have done it justice," Neville commented. "I'll never forget our fifth year, when you taught us defensive magic in that strange room."
Harry sighed unhappily. "Well, maybe in the future at least."
"Is being an Auror that bad?" Neville asked in concern. Neville's parents had both been Aurors and it had cost them their lives.
"Beside it being dangerous, it's not so bad," Harry answered truthfully. "But I've had enough fighting in my lifetime. Ron's really cut out for it though."
Neville brightened. "How is Ron? He and Hermione aren't married yet are they?"
Harry nearly spat out his butterbeer. "No, thank goodness. They're still young and besides you'll get an invitation to the ceremony."
"Did you know that Ginny Weasley is setting up a shop here in Hogsmeade? She's taking after her brothers in pursuing her own business. It'll come in dandy though, having an apothecary in town. I won't have to travel to Diagon Alley for certain things." Neville's eyes brightened when the food was placed down in front of him.
Thankful for the interruption, Harry happily ate his dinner. Picking up the conversation, he chose a safer topic.
"So how is teaching by the way?" he asked.
"Oh it's wonderful, Harry. The students actually listen to me and it's really great to pass on everything I know to them. I'm not really good at anything else in life, so this is really my passion."
Harry smiled at his companion. "Don't be so hard on yourself. You did some really good defensive magic in fifth year."
Neville blushed deeply. "Thanks, Harry, but I'm afraid you're just being nice."
"Well, anyway, I wish I were half as brilliant as you are with plants. I've got a black thumb." Harry couldn't help but build Neville up. Over the years, Neville had really been overlooked. He wasn't anything too special; nice, but nothing spectacular. Harry would never forget the fact that it could have been Neville, but Voldemort chose Harry the half blood wizard. Sometimes, Harry wished he could have been plain and simple and nothing grand.
"You should come up to Hogwarts some time and say hello to everyone. I'm sure Dumbledore would love to see you." Neville insisted.
Harry nodded absently. "Yes, I think I'll do that soon."
"Good, well, I ought to get back before it's too late. It was good seeing you Harry." Neville took Harry's hand in his and shook it firmly. "You be careful and I hope one day we'll be co-workers." Neville winked at him, before dropping some money on the table for the food.
"Oh, Neville let me pay," Harry stated.
Neville shook his round face adamantly. "Don't you dare Harry, it's my treat."
"Thanks, Neville," Harry grinned sheepishly. "I'll see you soon."
Harry ran his hand through his hair aimlessly. That had been more pleasant than he had planned. It was really good to see Neville. Harry hadn't seen any other schoolmates since graduation. Well, for the exception of Lee Jordon. He was a commentator for big Quidditch matches, no surprise there. Harry and Ron had come across him at a Chudley Cannons match.
Walking down the long main street of the quaint village, Harry began to think back on his Hogwarts days. Some of his happiest moments were spent on the Quidditch pitch. He could have gone pro and probably could still. It would only take contacting Oliver Wood, captain of the Cannons. Quidditch sounded more intriguing than teaching. Maybe he'd go into teaching after retiring from Quidditch. Harry shook his head and thoroughly scolded himself for making plans for the future which wouldn't come true. It wasn't good to dream of things that wouldn't happen. It would only disappoint him later.
Pausing outside the gate of Ginny's new abode, Harry glanced up at the lit window. Smiling, he continued to walk. The thought of Ginny just a moment away from him sent shivers down his spine.
Back at home, Harry hung his cloak in his closet, pulled his shirt and pants off and throwing back the covers, rolled into his bed. He placed his glasses on his bedside table and then darkened the room with a flick of his wand. Moments later, Harry let himself fall asleep to fresh thoughts of Ginny floating through his tired mind.
Ginny wasn't sure what to make of her visit from Harry. At first it had seemed strange and awkward, but after a while they were back to normal. It was as if nothing had ever happened between them and things were simple. She laughed at herself, remembering how she'd run down the stairs during the summers and just be happy to see that Harry was there and they were friends. Well, maybe they could be friends again.
Looking herself over in the mirror, she sighed. Did her face really have to have that many freckles? Raising her wand, she tried to lessen their number with a spell Hermione had taught her. She hated parties because there was this underlying feeling to look nice and Ginny wasn't the type to freely dress up. Harry would be there and that made her feel a greater need to look nice. Scolding herself soundly, she urged herself to only think of Harry as a friend. They had gone there once, and she was the one who ended up broken-hearted.
Finally ready, she made her way to the fireplace. Stepping inside, she threw down the Floo powder and recited the Burrow's address. In a matter of seconds she was standing inside the living room of the place she'd grown up at.
"Ginny is that you dear?" Her mother called out from the kitchen.
Walking around the corner toward her mother's voice, Ginny replied, "Yes, it's me."
Molly was standing at the counter icing a cake. She turned to Ginny and hugged her before returning to her task. "Everyone's outside waiting for you."
"Mom, I told you not to make this a big deal," Ginny groaned. "I'm not a fan of parties."
"Oh, rubbish, Ginevra Weasley! Now, go outside and say hello to your guests. I'll be out with the food in just a minute."
Ginny pouted as she exited the front door and walked over to the garden, where everyone was chatting away. The first person to see her was Hermione and she rushed over to hug her.
"Ginny, it's so good to have you back," she gushed.
"Thanks, Hermione," Ginny replied. She looked over at everyone and noticed that even Charlie and Bill had come home to see her. She went over and hugged her two older brothers. As they returned her greeting, she noticed that Fred and George were craftily sneaking up behind her.
"I swear if you two try to pull anything," she warned them without even so much of a glance over her shoulder.
Fred's shoulders slumped. "I knew she saw us coming."
"Oh well, it will have to wait until later then," George replied in disappointment.
Ginny turned to the twins smiling. "How are my favourite trouble makers?"
"We're fine, business is up as usual," Fred answered.
"I hear you're settling down by us," George observed.
Nodding her head she warned, "Yes, but that doesn't mean you can come in and show me all your latest gags. I've got loads of expensive ingredients in there. The last thing I need is for you two to come over and test out something that explodes." As she said this she looked over George's shoulder and noticed a mousy-haired young man standing a short distance away. Squealing, she pushed through the twins and rushed over to him. "Bloody hell, Colin, I've missed you!" The two embraced and Colin lifted her off her feet, spinning her around.
"So how's my little fireball?" he asked, playfully tugging at her red locks.
Swatting his hands away, she giggled at him. "I'm great. Whoa Colin, you've really grown up."
"Well, three years will do that to some people. But I see you haven't changed a bit." He looked her over and took in every feature. "Fewer freckles though," he whispered as he tapped her small nose.
She snapped her teeth at his finger and smiled up at him. "I've seen some of your work in the Daily Prophet. Are you still working there, because I haven't seen another picture since I've come home?"
"Well, at the moment I'm not working there. I've got this new side project. A few other wizards and I are putting together something fashioned after a Muggle dictionary, but full of magical things. I've been all over the country taking pictures for it. Maybe I'll come by and show you some of the things."
"I would love that," she stated. Giving him another quick hug, she whispered, "Oh Colin, I've really missed you and that camera."
He chuckled at her and patted her head. "I think you should say hello to the other guests now. They're looking at me with a bit of jealousy."
Slowly, Ginny let go of him and winked. "Well, they've plenty to be jealous of." Moving away from Colin, Ginny approached an old Ravenclaw friend. "Hello Terry," she greeted. The two girls hugged briefly and Ginny filled her in on her plans for the shop in Hogsmeade.
Hedging her way through the crowd, Ginny came across Harry. "Hello, Harry," she greeted.
"This is quite the gathering. You're very popular Ginny." Harry smiled over at her with a cup full of punch in his left hand.
She blushed slightly. "I can't believe all these people showed up."
Neville hustled over, interrupting their conversation. "Ginny, it's been forever!"
"Two days, Neville, is not forever," she laughed at him. '"Oh," she breathed in delight, noticing the plant in his hands. "Is this the monkshood I asked you for?"'
"Yes, you can have it. I've got a few others growing in Greenhouse number five." He beamed at her as he gave her the potted plant.
"Great, thanks so much Neville. This is going to come in handy." She held the heavy plant in her arms unsteadily.
"What's it for?" Harry asked as he looked it over.
Ginny lowered her voice a notch. "I'm brewing Remus Lupin's Wolfsbane for him. The place he's been going to charges a fortune." Ginny looked around at the other guests. "It's a pity he can't be here tonight." Shifting the weight of the pot in her hands, she declared, "I'm going to put this in the house."
Pushing the front door open, Ginny placed the pot down on the nearest table. "Mum is everything all right in the kitchen?" she called out.
"Yes dear, would you help me bring out these plates?" Molly replied.
Gasping, Ginny was taken back by the amount of food her mother had prepared. Most of the dishes were floating in the air, waiting to be served. Ginny levitated the remaining ones and followed her mother out to the garden. They arranged the table and then called everyone over to eat. The food and conversation reminded Ginny of when she was younger: suddenly, Ginny felt like she was really at home.