Harry dusted himself off as he got up from in front of the fireplace at the Burrow and was shocked to not be greeted with a bone-crushing hug from Mrs. Weasley. Surprisingly, there was nary a red hair, freckle, or knitted sweater to be found in the vicinity. Glancing over at the family clock, Harry saw that the hands for the Weasleys staying at the Burrow were all currently pointed to ‘BED.’
It’s as late as all that, Harry thought as he poured a warm cup of cocoa from the enchanted pot on the stove and had a seat at the kitchen table, glad to have a chance to think about what had just transpired at the Ministry. He was now confident that the changes there were real and not cosmetic like before thanks to the emergence of a true leader in Kingsley Shacklebolt. Harry still marveled that they had been comrades in arms mere months before, and he silently prayed that their work would help prevent any future conflicts on the scale of those terrible and costly battles waged to defeat Voldemort.
As the last marshmallow in the cocoa dissolved in his mouth, Harry’s mind wandered over the day’s events. Kingsley approved his Quidditch plan and even considered him an Auror already. Take THAT, Umbridge! Ron would’ve gotten a kick out of Kingsley’s pyrotechnic tribute to the Chudley Cannons, the thought of which made Harry guffaw a bit louder in the quiet house than he liked.
Ah well, the git’s probably had plenty of time to study the charmed scoreboard and signs, what with the whiplash he must have gotten watching the Quaffle fly by him time and again when he was inserted at Keeper! But that’s the price of signing a ten-year contract with your childhood idols without even telling your girlfriend and best friend, right? At this thought, Harry scowled and remembered his promise to Hermione. “At least he’s got a few more months of getting pasted before I come to the rescue…” Harry muttered to himself.
“Coming to the rescue again, are we?” cooed a voice from the doorway. Before Harry could fire back with an innuendo-filled witticism, Ginny was on his lap whispering “Ooh, my hero! Save me from distress!” in a mocking tone while peppering him with kisses. The couple tried in vain to smother their giggles in between well-placed pecks and smooches. Amidst the reverie, Harry managed to form a semi-coherent sentence informing Ginny that he’d be starting the school year at Hogwarts. The giggles subsided as they looked into each other’s eyes. Harry and Ginny expressed their mutual delight with deep, meaningful, and hungry kisses that took their breaths away.
THIS is what I’ve been fighting for, they both thought as they held each other close, savoring every second because they knew how desperately they had longed for each moment together.
Harry and Ginny continued to hold each other as Harry told her the rest of his news. “Poor Hermione,” Ginny sighed. “I know you’re going to do your best to smack some sense into my bull-headed brother, but you’re competing against his ultimate dream of being part of the miracle turnaround of his precious Cannons. I’m sure not going to tell him until I have to that I have a standing offer from Gwenog Jones and the Holyhead Harpies to try out for them after I finish school. As much as I love the Harpies, I might have given the Cannons a try instead for Ron’s sake if it weren’t for that thug of an owner they have now.”
Harry thought back to the Daily Prophet’s front-page photo with Ron grinning in his team uniform and leather helmet (which ironically made him look like he was about to be shot out of a cannon rather than play for a team of that name) and vigorously shaking the hand of a lantern-jawed gent who appeared to be stealing glances over his left shoulder after each photo bulb burst. The headline screamed: ‘LUDO BAGS HIS MAN! Cannons Get New Hope & New “King” at Keeper.’
If Harry had been miffed and confused that Ron had signed his future away without a word to anyone else and to a man who had outright cheated Ron and the twins, Hermione was downright gobsmacked. In the midst of her fury and hurt, she managed to blurt out between expletives and sobs that she and Ron had promised time and again to discuss all future plans before acting on them, no matter how angry they got with each other.
Hermione had been particularly keen recently to discuss with Ron how and when he would make the transition away from helping at Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes and back to his educational training for what Hermione and Mrs. Weasley called a “proper job.” That didn’t hold much water for Ron as he watched the money pour into the business his free-wheeling brothers had started, and it was the latest source of argument between him and Hermione. Harry and Ginny couldn’t have helped overhearing one of these rows that had spilled into the kitchen as Ron was rushing off to the store with Hermione hot on his heels:
“…. Never will have a chance like this to complete your education rather than start from scratch, Ronald! George has already made it clear that he’s got more than enough help now, so it’s your chance to get back into the real world and make the most of yourself! Or would you rather stock Canary Creams and Puking Pastilles while life passes you by?”
Seething, Ron turned to faced Hermione and exclaimed: “It always has to be by the sodding book with you, doesn’t it? Well, I’m sick to death of having to fit everyone else’s expectations. Hell, I’d rather sweep George’s stock room for the next ten years because I’ll at least be doing my own thing and not living some hand-me-down life where everything’s been done and I’m always second-rate!”
Hermione’s face blanched at Ron’s bluntness. “That isn’t the case at all, and you know --”
“IT BLOODY WELL IS, HERMIONE! I think I’ve showed the last couple of years that I can bring something to the table no one else can, no matter how often you seem shocked by it! Maybe I want to make a name and a place for myself that isn’t in the shadow of my brothers or Harry or even you before I go back to bleeding Hogwarts and have to deal with the likes of Filch and curfew and all that rot after helping stop the evil bastards that almost killed every one of us. Now if you’ll excuse me… Diagon Alley!!!”
Hermione crumpled into a chair and wept as Ginny tried to console her. The next time any of them saw Ron was on the cover of the Daily Prophet.