Ginny stared at the envelope, which she had gently placed on the dinner table. She had heard movement from the living room, and knew that her mum and George would be grieving together for a short time, maybe longer. Harry was out with Ron. She looked at the family clock, and saw that he was traveling.
Ginny smiled to herself. She remembered the day that her mother added Harry to the family clock. Harry had been so overcome with emotion that Ginny had just wanted to run to him and wrap her arms around him. But that was before they had really found their way back to each other. The memory of it all was strong: Harry had looked at Ginny with a questioning look on his face, as if to say is this all right with you? Ginny recalled that she had just smiled at him. Harry gave Molly a tremendous hug at that point. Molly had explained that they had considered him a member of the family for seven years already, and this just made it official. A flash of concern had crossed Ginny's face at that point but, she remembered, her mum smiled at her with a twinkle in her eye.
And what had Ginny been concerned about that day? If she really thought about it, she supposed she was afraid that if Harry was an official member of the family before they were really back together, perhaps everyone would think it strange if they did get together. But that had proven to be an unnecessary concern as, in the days that followed, she and Harry began spending more and more time together, getting reacquainted and having fun. All the Weasleys seemed to be leaving them alone to do their own thing, and they all had smiles on their faces watching the two of them – even George.
Ginny was stirred from her reverie when Harry walked through the door. Ginny looked up at him, trying to keep her face free of any sort of expression, and Harry asked, "Ginny, is something wrong?" while stepping over to give her a hug and a quick kiss.
Ginny looked quickly to the envelope on the table, and back at Harry. Following her gaze, he reached for the letter, but Ginny snatched it out of his grasp, with a loud, "No!" Harry was a bit startled.
"Whatever is the matter?" he asked.
"Harry," she began, "I need to tell you something."
"All right. You know whatever it is I will be – "
"Let me just get this out." She glanced at him and sighed. "After you took the job at the Ministry with Kingsley, I was at a loss. I had decided not to go back to school, and I was feeling rather useless." Harry started to interrupt at this point, but Ginny held up a hand to stop him. "I went to a try-out for the Holyhead Harpies."
Harry looked stunned. Stunned, but he was beaming. "Is that – ?"
"This," Ginny replied, holding up the envelope, "is the result of my try-out."
"What?" Harry exclaimed. "What are you waiting for? Why haven't you opened it?"
"You mean, you're not upset? You're not angry that I didn't tell you?"
"Heavens, no!" Harry shouted. "Open it already."
Footsteps could be heard coming from the living room. "What's all the shouting?" Molly asked, curiously. George trailed behind her, eyes red, but dry.
"This is it, Ginny," Harry said. "Let's see what your future holds."
Everyone watched as Ginny opened the envelope. Her eyes raced over the parchment and she sat down in shock.
* * *
Ron stood waiting on the platform, shuffling his feet restlessly and feeling out of place amongst so many parents and excited young children. The Hogwarts Express was due to arrive at any moment. He was very keen to greet Hermione and speed them both home to the party that was in preparation at the Burrow.
But his mind was elsewhere. They had been talking about a trip to the United States to visit Salem, in the state of Massachusetts, and he was planning to surprise her with the trip as a present for finishing school. Part of the appeal of Salem for Hermione, he knew, was the total integration of Muggles and wizards in the city. The rest of the appeal was the opportunity for typical Hermione-esque study. The city was rich with history, starting with the Witch Burnings in 1692, and all of the American history in the area. He knew Hermione was sure to love the idea of the trip.
The train arrived and Ron waited impatiently for the passengers to disembark. Finally, peering through the steam, he saw her walking towards him. "Oh, Ron," she said. "Can you believe it's over?"
"We all knew you would finish top of the school, Hermione."
"Yes," she said with an edge. "And you and Harry and Ginny could have finished with me."
"Can we please not start that again? You know how difficult a year this has been."
"I'm sorry." Hermione shook her head. "And I know you and Harry got good jobs with the Ministry. But, I just think that – oh, never mind."
Ron sighed and let it go. Every conversation they'd shared in the last few months had been strained. He was having such a hard time helping his family deal with Fred's death, and having Hermione away at Hogwarts all year had made it worse. He could not even count how many times he found himself on the verge of tears, and there was no one to reach for. But he was not going to ruin this day for Hermione. She had passed an important milestone, completing her Hogwarts education, just like Bill and Charlie and Percy, and coming top of her year, and he was very proud of her.
"Do you want me to tell you about your present now, or do you want to wait until we get home?"
"Oh, Ron. You didn't have to get me a present."
"Hermione, I've been working all year and I've saved. Can I tell you now or should I wait?"
Ron could tell by the twinkle in Hermione's eyes that she was debating with herself. Before she could decide he blurted, "Oh, all right, I'm just going to tell you.
"I'm taking you on a trip. I've already checked with your parents, and mine, and we leave in a week."
"Really?" Hermione was excited. "Where are we going?"
"You and I are going to spend three weeks in," Ron paused for dramatic effect, "Salem, Massachusetts."
Hermione shrieked. "Oh Ron! Really? Oh dear. I don't have any clothes to take. I have to go shopping. What's the weather like in the States this time of year? Where are we staying? I'm so excited. I can't believe it." She wrapped her arms around him, and smothered him with kisses. "Ron, you are amazing!"
Ron felt himself turning bright red, as the few remaining students and their families on the platform looked on with smiles. "Let's get out of here, ok?"
* * *
Harry took the parchment from Ginny, and a huge grin slowly spread across his face.
"Will someone please tell me what's going on?" Molly begged. "You're all going to give this poor woman heart failure."
"Your daughter," Harry said looking at Ginny, "has taken it upon herself to get a job, and this – " he said, waving the parchment, "– is the job offer."
"Oh for goodness sake," cried Ginny, grabbing the letter. "You take too long, Potter."
Then turning to her brother and mother, "I've been offered a position as a Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies!"
The red-eyed George let out a huge whoop! and picked up his sister. Molly hugged them both together. "It's about time this family had something to cheer about."
Ginny squirmed her way out of George's arms, and turned to Harry. He was beaming at her, and couldn't get over the idea that his girlfriend, HIS GINNY, was now a Holyhead Harpy. Ginny dropped the letter on the table, and George quickly snatched it up to read it. She turned to Harry and questioned, "Is this ok? I mean, I'll have to move to Holyhead. It's not exactly just over the hill."
"Are you serious?" Harry was over the moon that Ginny was a professional Quidditch player. "They do have Apparition points there. I can't imagine it's like school, where I won't be able to come and visit. I'll be there all the time." And then, looking at Molly he added with a sheepish smile, "Well, not all the time."
"Ginny?" George questioned her. "Did you see what they're going to pay you?"
Ginny shook her head.
"Loads of Galleons! And that's just to be a reserve!"
Molly looked up at the clock and realized that Ron was traveling. "Oh dear. They're on their way. Let's get this place cleaned up. Can't have a party without a tidy place and some tasty treats now, can we?"
* * *
With the party in full swing, Hermione was feeling irritable. She could not believe the gift Ron was giving her. A trip to Salem in the States was an incredibly generous offering. But something just didn't feel right, and she couldn't quite place it. The past year had been difficult, especially since she had hardly ever seen Ron during the school term. Professor McGonagall was certainly nice enough, and occasionally allowed her an unsanctioned Hogsmeade trip to meet up with him. But those had been few and far between, and Ron was never on time.
She watched as her parents were joking with Ron and Harry. The Weasleys were all feeling extremely proud tonight as Ginny had received her job offer from the Holyhead Harpies. And her own parents were so happy to be here, proud of Hermione's success and enjoying the rare opportunity to mix with wizards, that Hermione couldn't help but smile. Mr. Weasley and her mum and dad were getting along famously, since they loved hearing about the Wizarding world, and Mr. Weasley thirsted for more knowledge about all things Muggle. She walked over to the small group and pulled Ron away.
"Let's walk, shall we?"
Ron held onto Hermione's hand, and followed her through the garden. As soon as they were a reasonable distance from the party, Hermione felt Ron pull her to him. She was captured in an affectionate embrace, and felt his lips find hers. It was a soft kiss, but it didn't last long. Ron pulled away gently, asking, "Hermione, what's wrong?"
"Wrong? Nothing's wrong."
"Something seems wrong with …" he paused, "… with us."
"Ron, I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about." The trouble was, she did know what he was talking about. They just seemed to be out of sync. But she forced a smile and a playful touch to Ron's arm. "I love you," she laughed. "Let's go look at the stars. I'll race you to the top of the hill." And with that, she was off.
A/N: As always, thanks to Ladybug - without her, I would simply be putting words on a screen ... with her, they make sense! Please read and review!