On the fourth day following his recovery,
Harry was finally allowed to go home to the Burrow. He was supposed to
have been released the day before, but a group of Healers had stood
over his bed, examining him like some unfathomable specimen all
morning, and had balked at his release at the last minute.
"They're just worried because we still don't know what really happened
to you, so they want to keep you an extra day to make sure you're back
to your full health," Madam Gobshank assured him, patting his shoulder.
"No one wants to let you out into the world, only to have you pass out
and end up back here, comatose all over again."
Ginny had sat by his side during these conversations, clutching his hand in a vice-like grip.
Harry was glad for her show of support. He hadn't been to the Burrow
since the Quidditch World Cup, and he was eager to return to the
familiar setting and get on with his life. He was silently pleased to
know that Ginny was just as anxious to have him back in her family
home, where he belonged.
Now, as he ploughed through his
last hospital breakfast, he received a visitor he had been dreading for
days. He had to make a decision, an important and difficult decision,
and he had grappled with over the last few days. And it seemed the
moment had come when he would have to speak it aloud. As his stomach
churned, Harry realized it was going to be more difficult than he had
imagined. The last thing he wanted was to let such a staunch supporter
Professor McGonagall came bustling into his room, a
roll of parchment clasped tightly in her hand. After inquiring about
his health, while looking suspiciously misty-eyed, she quickly returned
to her brusque facade and launched into the reason for her visit.
"Potter, I've brought your application for the Auror program. I didn't
want to bother you while you were still in hospital, but I'm afraid you
really need to start working on it. The deadline has already passed,
but I have no doubt they will make an exception in your case. Even so,
training begins on September first, and we need to get this filed as
soon as possible."
As she started spreading out the
parchment on his beside table, Harry decided it was best to speak
before he lost his nerve. "Professor, I've decided I don't want to be
McGonagall froze as she stared at him. "You're not going to apply?"
Her lips went very thin. "May I ask why you have changed your mind?"
an Auror was a dream Harry had harboured since he was fourteen, and
giving it up was both frightening and hard, but he knew he had to let
it go. The very idea now felt terribly wrong. All of his instincts
screamed against it.
The last few nights, as he'd
entertained the possibility of having to fight for his own survival
again, he'd been overcome with a feeling of suffocating exhaustion.
Hadn't he just finished the greatest battle of his life? Did he really
want to put himself, voluntarily, back in that same horrible position
all over again? Even considering it completely killed the buzz of being
alive - which he was enjoying immensely - and wasn't ready to let go of
That, and he couldn't even imagine a scenario
where handing his life over to the Ministry would ever be acceptable to
him. The mere thought nearly had the power to make him feel physically
Now, as he looked at the application spread before him,
he realized he would rather spend the next month alone in St. Mungo's
than fill out that thing But he didn't know how to express that without
sounding overemotional, or perhaps a little paranoid, so instead he
said, "I'm not sure it's the right path for me, anymore."
McGonagall's expression softened as she regarded him. "Do you know what career you do wish to pursue?"
Harry shrugged. "No, Professor." He hadn't got that far, really.
Thoughtfully, McGonagall asked, "Have you ever considered teaching?"
Harry simply stared at her, speechless. Was she really offering what it sounded like?
The older woman graced him with one of her rare smiles. "Albus was
always very impressed with the work you did with your D.A. He mentioned
it to me a number of times. And, Potter, Hogwarts will always have a
place for you, should you want it."
Harry wanted to be certain he understood her correctly. "I could be a professor?"
"Not today," McGonagall amended. "But in time. I don't hold with hiring
someone quite so young, fresh out of school himself. Severus was the
youngest professor the school has seen during my tenure, but that was
something of a special circumstance. You should go out, live your life
a bit. Acquire a broader experience. Then, in a few years, perhaps you
might consider coming back."
Harry wasn't sure. He had
always thought of his professors as old. At least much, much older than
himself. It was hard to picture himself in such a position. Even so, it
was nice to hear an opening would be available to him, should he want
it. "Thank you, Professor," he said gratefully.
rolled up the offending parchment and stowed it away in her robes. "And
remember, Potter, my door is always open, should you need to discuss
these matters further."
Then, in a shockingly warm gesture, she squeezed his arm, before bidding him a good day and making her exit.
Pleasantly surprised by how well the conversation had gone, Harry got
out of bed. He wanted to make sure he was dressed and ready to go when
his friends arrived. Madam Gobshank had dropped off his release papers
and said her enthusiastic goodbyes when she had delivered his
breakfast. He was a free man, just as soon as he had a ride out of
there. Apparently the recently comatose weren't allowed to Floo or
He didn't have long to wait. As he was pulling his
shirt over his head, there was a huge commotion out in the hall. Harry
watched the door, a little apprehensive about what was happening and
who, exactly, was about to walk through.
He didn't need to
be nervous - a minute later, Ginny strolled in, a vision of calm
beauty. She was wearing a lovely white sundress, covered in tiny green
flowers. Her hair was flowing over her bare shoulders in soft fiery
waves. The pink gloss on her lips was a dead give-away that her
appearance was no accident. She had fixed herself up for him, and Harry
felt his heart swell in his chest. She adored him as much as he did
her. And she had come to fetch him home.
Of course, Ron was
ruining the idyllic picture a bit as he lectured his baby sister,
"Ginny, this isn't school. You can get into serious trouble for
attacking a person, right out in the open like that."
warm smile faded as she frowned at her annoying brother. "You've been
spending too much time with Hermione. I was protecting Harry, wasn't I?
With the way the Ministry has been acting, I suspect they might thank
me. Besides, the git is already in the hospital, isn't he?"
Just remembering the disturbance in the hall, Harry asked, "What happened?"
Still watching Ginny warily, Ron answered. "Some reporter was trying to
levitate a miniature camera through the crack at the bottom of your
Harry supposed he should be shocked - he was under full protection after all. "What happened to the Security Wizard?"
Ginny crossed her arms over her chest. "The blighter must have slipped
him something - he's snoring away and no one can wake him up."
"Anyway," Ron continued, "Ginny just hexed the guy and now he's on his knees, barfing up fur balls."
Harry smiled at his marvellous girlfriend. "Thanks."
Ginny blushed. "Anytime."
She started to move about the room, checking drawers to make sure he
wasn't leaving anything behind. "We saw McGonagall on the way in. What
was she here for?"
Harry grimaced. Apparently it was time to
start spreading the news, and he was worried it might come as a
disappointment. "She brought my Auror application."
nodded. "Oh." In the end, Ron hadn't received all the marks he needed
to proceed into the Auror Program, but he had always remained quietly
gracious about Harry's continued efforts.
Harry dropped the bomb. "And I told her I was no longer interested."
Ginny stopped what she was doing, looking stunned. She took a few
tentative steps towards him. "You're - you're not going to be an Auror?"
Harry shook his head. "No."
Ron appeared positively gobsmacked. "What are you going to do, then?"
Harry shrugged. "Don't know. McGonagall suggested I could be a professor if I wanted, in a few years."
Becoming a little uncomfortable with the way the two of them were still
staring at him, mouths hanging open, Harry decided to change the
subject. "Where's Hermione?"
Ron frowned. "She had to go to work."
"Work? Already?" Harry knew Hermione had been offered a job at the
Ministry. She had practically floated out of her chair when she'd told
him about it, but he was still surprised to hear she was starting so
Sounding a little awkward, Ron explained. "She told
them she could start today, you know, back when we thought you were
getting out of here yesterday."
Ginny appeared extremely
earnest as she added, "She feels pretty rotten about not being here,
actually, so don't give her a hard time to tease her. I'm not sure
she'll get the joke."
Harry was disappointed, but at the
same time he knew Hermione was nearly in a state of ecstasy over
starting her career. "It's all right, I guess. I know how happy she is."
Ron snorted miserably. "Yeah, don't know why she was so excited about
it, the way those bastards were approaching her right outside your
door. You weren't even awake yet."
Harry knew why. Hermione
had been offered any division she wanted, and she'd jumped at the
opportunity to work in the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures
Department. During one of her visits she had gone on and on about her
hopes to make changes from within. But still, he was a little pleased
at Ron's show of loyalty.
Harry took one last look around his room - he was so done with this place.
And apparently his feelings showed, as Ron produced Harry's
Invisibility Cloak from inside the bag he was carrying and held it out
to him. "Well, ready to go, then?"
Harry happily donned his disguise. "And waiting."
The Ministry had offered their services to protect Harry from prying
eyes while he was at the Weasleys' home, and Harry, grudgingly,
accepted. Any reporter, or anyone uninvited for that matter, caught
within a kilometre of the Burrow, would be disciplined. There were also
a few security measures in place, similar to what existed at Hogwarts -
no one would be able to Apparate directly onto the property, and that
sort of thing.
Harry understood the nature of the bargain -
he would have to make himself available at certain events. He didn't
know what those events were yet, and he felt a bit as though he were
waiting for the other trainer to drop - but so long as the Ministry
kept up their end, he didn't feel like thinking about it today.
Even so, Harry felt himself becoming a little distressed as Ron pulled
the car up next to the old garage. Looking out the windshield at the
crooked house, with its several chimneys and lopsided sign, Harry
asked, "Is anyone going to be here?"
"Nah, just Mum," Ron answered, putting the car in park. "Everyone else is at work."
Ginny turned around in her seat to face him. "We told Mum you might
want a bit of time to yourself, instead of walking into a mob."
Opening his door, Ron added, "But I should warn you now, she has a big dinner planned."
Harry swallowed. He supposed he could accept that, so long as he had a
few hours to adjust to being back in the real world. He suddenly didn't
think he could face a crowd, even a friendly crowd, just yet.
As he approached the gate and took in the familiar yard and the garden
he was so fond of, Harry became a little overwhelmed. His chest was
tight and the lump in his throat was almost excruciatingly painful. He
didn't remember ever crying in his entire life - but he was as close as
he had ever been in that moment.
He stopped walking in an
attempt to regain his composure, and, as he grasped the fence for
balance, he understood what was happening to him. This place
represented everything he had been fighting for, for the last several
years. The chance to come out of the darkness of war plans in The Most
Noble and Ancient House of Black, and back to the life he had only
recently discovered. A simple home, filled to the brim with a loving
family. A peaceful existence that was only ever interrupted by the
everyday chaos of friendly pranks and Quidditch and garden gnomes.
And it wasn't just for him. The Burrow was the kind of world he had been trying to save for everyone.
Ginny, realizing he had stopped, turned back to him. "You all right?"
Harry shook his head to clear it. "Yeah."
She smiled and extended her hand. "Come on, then."
With only a foot inside the door, Harry found himself enveloped in a
bone-crushing hug. He had expected that - Mrs. Weasley had made a
similar scene the first time she had visited him at the hospital.
Now, moments before he was about to suffocate, the plump witch pushed
him back and examined him. "Harry! Let me take a look at you."
Apparently deciding he was still in fine condition, she attempted to
brush his hair into place. Her eyes brimmed with tears, which Harry was
extremely grateful to see she managed to hold back. But she soon gave
up the facade of straightening his shirt, and hugged him again.
"Come on, Mum," Ron moaned. "Let him breathe. He didn't take down Voldemort only to have you hug him to death."
"Al lright, all right," Mrs. Weasley clucked, mercifully releasing him.
She wiped her hands on her apron and muttered, "Really, acting as
though it's something to be embarrassed about, being happy to have the
She made her way over to the other side of the kitchen, looked up and said, "Now shoo. All of you, out."
Harry was relieved to see Mrs. Weasley back to herself, but was shocked
all the same. They were being dismissed so soon? What about lunch?
As though reading his expressing, Mrs. Weasley tutted, "I know you only
just arrived, Harry, but really, I need all of you out of the house. I
have so much to do before tonight. Here, I've made a picnic for you to
take down to the pond." She waved her wand and an enormous basket
hurtled across the room, nearly knocking Harry over with its weight.
Actually, an afternoon by the pond sounded brilliant. There was just one thing.
Ron coughed. "Ah, you two go on without me. I need to see a guy, about, ah, about a thing."
If it had been Fred or George, Harry would have taken the phrasing to
mean they were smuggling in some new, slightly illegal ingredient for
their shop. As it was, Harry assumed Ron was merely awkwardly allowing
him some time alone with Ginny.
Harry turned back to Ginny. "Shall we?"
The dangerous smile that lit her features made a direct hit and ricocheted through his entire body.
The walk across the paddock to the small pond on the other side was
extraordinary. It was a lovely, warm, sunny afternoon. And all the
familiar sights, smells and sounds filled his senses - bringing back
memories of two wonderfully carefree summers, and confirming in his
mind, again, that this was the life he wanted for his future.
They reached their destination and Ginny spread a blanket out under an
old willow, fortunately not of the Whomping variety, for the shade. It
was a perfect secluded spot, where they could still watch the water
lapping at the muddy edge of the pond in the breeze.
slipped off his shoes and socks and wriggled his toes in the grass as
Ginny unpacked their lunch. Mrs. Weasley had squeezed in sandwiches,
cheese, pasta salad, fruit, biscuits and pumpkin juice, and it made
quite the display as Ginny brought out item after item.
they ate, they talked about Ginny's upcoming year at school. She would
play Quidditch - but she had no idea if she wanted to be Captain and
she wasn't sure if she would have to switch back to Seeker again or
not. Harry found it hard to believe - they had only just come home and
she would be leaving him again in two short weeks.
he didn't really want to ponder that thought too heavily, Harry put his
apple aside and lay down on his back, staring up into the tree's
Ginny puttered about, tidying up, then lay down beside him. For a few minutes, they just enjoyed the silence.
Harry turned to his side and propped himself up on his elbow, gazing down at her sweet face.
Ginny cupped his cheek with her hand. "Hmmm, Professor Potter. I think you would make a wonderful teacher, Harry."
Harry frowned. "You do?"
She nodded, as though it made absolute sense. "You had a very
comfortable classroom. I felt safe to try things - rather than worried
about not doing something perfectly the first time. And you were always
helpful and gently encouraging - never condescending. I never felt
embarrassed about getting something wrong, I just wanted to learn."
Harry still wasn't entirely convinced. "It might have helped that I was really a student."
"I suppose," Ginny agreed. "We thought of you as one of us. But I'm
sure you could manage the same atmosphere with anyone." There was a
slight pause before she asked, "Do you want to be a teacher?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know, honestly. I've never considered it. But
it's not like I have to decide now anyway." He fiddled absently with a
lock of her hair. "If, in a few years, I decide I want to settle down
and share my infinite wisdom with the next generation of wizards, I can
give it go."
She smiled at him impishly. "And you know, I always loved the way you used to walk around and watch us."
That was a bit of a surprise. "You did?"
"Mmmhmm. Very authoritative and sexy."
"Oh, really." Harry attempted to waggle his eyebrows at her.
Ginny laughed at him hysterically. "Don't! Those things are massive. You could hurt someb..."
Harry stopped her with a kiss.
Though it started chaste, it soon turned to heat, as mouths quickly
opened and tongues sought each other out. Her hands ran through his
hair and clutched at his sides. It felt as though he had been dying to
have her alone for ages and he was starving for her. And God, he wanted
all of her.
Harry worked the buttons down the front of her
dress and slipped his hand inside, over the soft skin of her stomach
and up to the cotton barrier he had grown so fond of over the last
year. Idly he wondered what colour it would be today, and found himself
getting thirsty as an image of what would be happening in the next few
minutes filled his head. Seeing himself sliding one strap down as his
tongue slowly slid along the curve...
"Harry, wait." Harry
was instantly dragged back to a harsh reality, where they weren't even
kissing anymore, as Ginny tugged at his wrist.
Ginny sat up abruptly and pulled her knees to her chest. "I just wanted
to tell you, in case you were thinking... That - that I don't think we
should go all the way today."
Worried by how uncertain she
seemed, and wanting to put her at ease, Harry immediately responded, "I
wasn't counting on anything." Ginny narrowed her eyes at him. "Alright,
maybe I was hoping, a little." But Voldemort was gone. They were
finally free. They were back at the Burrow for the first time in three
years. And this was a bloody perfect day.
tried for a joke. "Don't girls always want the first time to be
special? This -" he gestured at their glorious surroundings. "You have
to admit this is special."
Ginny smiled a little. "It is
special." She appeared a little sad as her gaze moved over the pond.
"It's just a little soon for me after... With everything that has
happened, it would be too much right now."
While Harry could
understand the courteous nature of what Ginny had done, by telling him
right away, it was still weird for her to balk at such an early stage.
He had seen her breasts before. Many times before. As often as he had
been able to manage, actually. Besides, they had always asked each
other before they tried something new, and had seemed to be somewhat
naturally aware of the other person's comfort level and limits. "I
would have asked first, you know."
Her eyes came back to him. "I know." She took his hand. "I just didn't want you to be disappointed later."
Suddenly Ginny's mood seemed to shift, and she was back to her
mischievous self, as she moved up to her knees and announced, "We can
still do other stuff though."
"Oh really," Harry grinned.
"Mmhmm." She pushed on his chest playfully and ordered, "Lie down."
Their sexual progress to date had been rather slow. For one thing, life
at Hogwarts was sadly lacking in anything even distantly related to
privacy. Sure, Harry spent many an hour thinking about the Room of
Requirement in various fantasy scenarios, but so many people knew about
it thanks to the D.A. that there was absolutely no guarantee someone
wouldn't walk in on them. It was more as if they would be asking for
it, really. And Harry was positively horrified of being caught with his
pants down. Or Ginny's skirt up, for that matter. The mere thought had
the power to completely nullify the need for a cold shower. Or a long
Still they had put a shocking amount of effort
into finding secluded spots where they could have a few reckless
minutes alone. Again though, all clothing remained at least loosely in
place. But they were getting really, really good at snogging. And
Ginny, it seemed, always walked away from these encounters blissfully
satisfied. Harry kind of loved that she had no problem unabashedly
wrapping her legs around him to get what she wanted. And she always
tried to return the favour. Sometimes it worked, but, well, the truth
of the matter was, it was hard to have too much fun when he was trapped
inside a pair of trousers. Not to mention the potential horrors of a
zippered fly. Harry was starting to think perhaps women were
exaggerating about their lot in life due to the whole pain of
perpetuating the human species thing, because this was at least one
instance when it must be way better to be a girl.
The serious experimenting had always taken place during breaks from school.
The weeks following Percy's death had been very quiet and strange.
Ginny had mentioned him every once in a while, but she hadn't really
wanted to talk about it much. Harry completely understood. He was
simply grateful she hadn't decided to lock herself away the same way he
had after losing Sirius. He still wasn't sure he would have known how
to handle it.
It had been a rather frightening time for both
of them. Ginny had lost her brother. Harry had felt his destiny rushing
towards him. And they had both effectively lost the support system of
They had taken to finding forgotten rooms upstairs and silently comforting each other the one way they knew how.
These were memories that were never far from Harry's mind.
He would never forget the first time she guided his hand, silently
asking him to touch her intimately. He was so nervous he could feel his
whole arm shaking and his throat was so dry he was a little afraid he
might be sick, but there was no way in hell he was going to chicken
out. This was third base! Or something. He had never really been
certain of all the details in the base system.
He would also
never forget how he nearly botched the whole thing up. He tried to be
gentle and knew better than to poke at her randomly, but he clearly
pushed too hard in the wrong place a couple of times, because she
sucked in her breath in a way that was undoubtedly out of pain rather
than pleasure, before he had even got anywhere. He silently berated
himself and muttered apologies, but she simply nodded and let him
continue. He figured it would probably be easier if he could see what
he was doing, but he was barely holding himself together as it was and
he could tell Ginny was feeling a little shy about the whole thing, so
he decided neither of them were really ready for that yet. He kept his
face level with hers and hoped for the best.
found what he was looking for, and figured out all the angles, and slid
home. The tactile sensation was strange, not at all what he had
anticipated; yet the knowledge of exactly what he was doing sent him
into a nearly overwhelming state of arousal. Ginny must have liked it
an awful lot as well, because after a few minutes she grabbed his wrist
and held him in place almost painfully until she was finished.
Then of course, there was the first time she had touched him.
She asked to see him and he, without a moment's hesitation, obliged. He
lay there, exposed to the world, waiting for what seemed like eternity.
The look on her face, he might not be able to accurately call it
terror, but it certainly wasn't awe. Or admiration, or wonder, or any
of the other expressions he had hoped for. It wasn't even affection.
Shock. Shock would be a good word, and not a good shock either.
Needless to say, of all the ways he had imagined this particular
momentous occasion, this horror wasn't anywhere close. This was
abominable. "What's wrong?" he choked out, pushing himself up on his
"It's not," she stuttered, "it's not what I expected."
He was trying, really hard, not to get defensive. And was failing
miserably. "What? Haven't you ever seen one before?" he demanded. With
her family, she must have at some point.
"Of course I have!"
Ginny sputtered. "But not in a long time and they were never, you know,
like that." Well, no problem there, because it wasn't going to be "like
that" much longer if she kept looking at him that way. "It's just," she
blushed and looked away, "it doesn't look how I thought it would, and
besides I don't see how that's going work."
Great. Bloody brilliant. His girlfriend was afraid of his penis. Harry flopped back down on his back feeling utterly miserable.
Then she spoke the words that changed his life forever. "Can I touch
it?" she asked, already running a tantalizing finger along his length.
The next few minutes were some of the best of his entire life to that
point. And the curious abandon with which she took on the project more
than made up for any earlier disappointment.
Now, as she eagerly tugged his pants down his legs in the warm August afternoon, he was reminded of that raw enthusiasm.
A trail of deliberate wet kisses down his stomach told him of her
intent, and left him shivering in anticipation. There was no way in
hell that he would dream of stopping her, but as the breeze tickled his
bare skin, he hoped that no one decided to take a swim. Then she placed
an endearingly chaste kiss at his tip, and all concerns faded away.
She had tried this once before, last Christmas, and that had been
amazing. But as her tongue lightly teased him, he could tell already
that this time would be different. She felt more confident somehow.
Whereas before he could feel that she was finding her way, now it
seemed like she had more of a developed plan in mind.
Instantly, he knew that she had been utilizing the girls' dormitory
research exchange again. Harry could never make up his mind how he felt
about that particular female institution. He hated the idea that she
might talk about him, but at the same time, he had also experienced the
benefits. He also tried to cling to the hope that Hermione didn't
participate - but he knew that was in vain. Ginny and Hermione were
close, had been for several years, there was no way he could kid
himself that they weren't sharing knowledge. And considering that Harry
still turned to Hermione whenever he had a problem with Ginny, the
amount of information that she probably had on him was deeply
Slowly, as he was drawn into delicious,
familiar warmth, Ginny started making little humming noises. The slight
vibrations pulsated to his core and filled him with pleasure that he
would never be able to describe.
Forget it, she could talk to whomever she wanted.
This was going to have to be the day that he swallowed his nerve and
tried to return the favour. He was worried he might be absolute rubbish
at it, but he was starting to understand that it didn't matter - they
would figure it out together. And maybe he could actually be so bold as
to simply ask her...
"Is that good?" Ginny's quiet voice, echoing his thoughts, startled him a little.
"God, yes," he breathed.
Then all he could do was feel. Silky hair, threading through his
fingers, one of her hands softly stroking his side, and her mouth, oh God, her mouth. Fragments of thought pounded through his brain. So good. Please. Keep going. Never, ever, ever stop. Until the moment came when she pulled him, relentlessly, over the edge into delirious heaven.
A few hours later, Harry woke to a curious sound. Rain. They were still
under the canopy of the tree, so they weren't wet just yet, but all the
same, they should probably head back. Ginny was curled up at his side.
He reached down and stroked her cheek. "Gin, it's raining."
She slowly blinked at him with a lazy smile. "Hmmmm." Then, taking note
of their surroundings, she sat bold upright. "Harry, what time is it?"
"Don't know," he shrugged.
Ginny looked at her watch. "It's after four! We need to go."
Quickly gathering their things, they headed out into the storm.
They only made it a couple of meters before Ginny shouted, "Harry, wait!"
He turned to find Ginny grinning at him ridiculously, hair already
plastered to her face. She ran the few steps forward, wrapped her arms
up around his neck and pulled him down for a long kiss. "I just wanted
you to know - that was amazing. Really. I had no idea anything could
feel so, well, lovely."
Harry felt his chest puff with pride. "Well, it helped to have you moaning instructions at me the entire time."
Ginny's blush was nearly as fiery as her hair. She shoved him awkwardly, and then broke into a run for the house.
Harry caught her around the waist as they reached the gate. They were
both soaked through and quite dishevelled. Together they tumbled
through the kitchen door, a laughing, wet mess.
Right into a cheering crowd of Weasleys, members of the Order and their closest friends.
Harry found himself swept up into the swarm and passed around. He shook
hands with Bill, Charlie, Mundungus Fletcher, Lupin, Moody, and Tonks.
Everyone was there and they were all thrilled to see him. He was
becoming quite dizzy as face after face swam before him, offering
congratulations, hugs, and pats on the back.
reached the other end of the room by the fireplace and was deposited in
front of Hermione. She was biting her lip. "I am so sorry I couldn't be
there to pick you up today," she immediately apologized.
"It's all right," Harry assured her. He was simply grateful to have
been released from the throng, into the comfortable presence of one of
his oldest friends. He might have forgiven her anything. "Where's Ron?"
Hermione glanced around the room, seeming a little worried. "I don't
know. He said he had to see someone, but he should be back by now."
As soon as she had uttered the words, the fire roared and Ron came
shooting out, covered in soot. He dusted himself off and then glanced
around the room. He was quite pale and looked a little stunned, and it
seemed he didn't even notice the large group before him. Which was just
as well: the party was in full swing and it didn't appear that anyone
other than Harry and Hermione had noticed Ron's arrival.
Hermione instantly reacted in alarm, rushing towards him. "Ron, what is it? What's wrong?"
"N-nothing," he stuttered. "Nothing's wrong. I, ah, I got a job."
Still in a daze, he continued. "It's an Assistant Coaching position
with the Cannons. They sent me an owl last week. Said they'd seen a few
games at Hogwarts and wanted to talk to me. I didn't say anything
because, well, you know, I didn't want to jinx it."
squealed and threw her arms around him and Ron came back to himself a
bit. He looked at Harry over her shoulder. "Don't worry, mate. I won't
tell Mum till after. I won't spoil your big night."
those words, as his party continued to roar in his ears and Harry
watched his two grown-up, fully employed best friends celebrate their
own successes, a completely unexpected dark thought entered his brain -
here he was, Harry Potter, saviour of the wizarding world for the
second time, his whole long life stretching out before him, and he had
absolutely no idea what to do with himself.