Low waves broke gently on the beach. The sea was calm today. Yesterday it had been choppy. Maybe the day before it was also choppy, but Harry wasn’t sure; he didn’t think about things that long ago. When he went back in his mind to last week or last month, there was too much chaos and pain. Farther back was fear. He wanted the time of chaos, pain, and fear to be as distant as possible, so he had stopped keeping track of the days. They had all become the same, anyway: empty, except when people screamed or shouted angrily or wept. He preferred to think of nothing and stare at the water.
A loud pop interrupted those weary, sullen thoughts, and a moment later Hermione appeared around the corner of the cottage. She carried a small wicker basket and a large bouquet of flowers. Harry nodded to her. She set the basket on the grass and let herself down beside him. She leaned back against the wall, moving slightly to get comfortable against the shells embedded in the stucco.
“Hi, Harry. I brought you some breakfast,” she said, “porridge and bacon. Charlie thought you might like a break from cornflakes and doughnuts.” She gave him a smile and Harry briefly returned it.
“Charlie’s making breakfast for everyone?” he asked.
“Yeah. I also brought some flowers for Dobby. Shall I put them on the grave or would you like to do it? And… here’s one for you.” She picked out a yellow rose and handed it to him.
Harry gave her a questioning look, but took without a word the large bunch of roses, daffodils, lilies, and other blossoms he didn’t recognize, heaved himself up, and went into the garden. He stood over the small mound of earth — still looking fresh after three months — with the large, white stone resting on it, absentmindedly arranging the flowers in his hands and thinking of his friend lying in the hole at his feet. He tried not to think of all the others lying in their own scattered holes at Hogwarts, at The Burrow, here, there, and everywhere. Some, like Moody and Hedwig, didn’t have holes.
He put the bouquet on the grave and went back to where Hermione was taking covered dishes from the wicker basket and placing them on a small cloth. She paused and looked up as Harry sat. “How are you?” she said.
Harry only grunted. “How are you? How is Ron?” He took the yellow rose and gazed at it, twirling the stem between his fingers.
“We’re fine. Ron went into town yesterday and Kingsley took him around to a few departments. He wants to start working. He’s not really interested in going back to school.” She peered at him but Harry wouldn’t look up; he had dropped the rose and was sprinkling dark brown sugar over his bowl of porridge. He began slowly stirring it. Then he stopped; for several seconds he just sat without moving, staring at the bowl.
“Harry,” Hermione said, “why don’t you come over today? It’s no good, sitting here by yourself. People miss you. People want to see you.”
Harry didn’t look at her. “I can’t, Hermione,” he said softly. “The last time I was there, everyone was just… miserable. After two hours I felt like jumping out the attic window. I get that their son died, their brother died, but… enough already.” He took a spoonful of porridge and grinned at her. “It is better than cornflakes.”
Hermione took her cue from his remark. “Mrs. Weasley does cook every once in a while. Her meals are just as good as they ever were — better, maybe.”
Harry shook his head. “I can’t,” he repeated. “I have enough to deal with. Andromeda came over and she brought Teddy, and it all came back.” In his mind he saw two bodies laid out along the wall amidst the wreckage of the Great Hall, the last Marauder lying dead next to his bride, his final hope of happiness in a tormented life, now ended.
He pushed the bowl away; he had lost his appetite. “Besides,” he said, “I’m not here by myself. Bill is home every evening and Fleur is here a lot during the day.”
“And you go off by yourself all day. Bill told us. Harry, listen, when I said people want to see you, I also meant that there are people there who need you. You know who I’m talking about.”
“How is…” He stopped and sighed. “The last time I was there she didn’t want to see me, and I don’t blame her. When she came back to Hogwarts with everyone, I didn’t treat her very well, I shouldn’t have told her what to do. And she blames me for Fred, I know she does.”
“Harry, no!” Hermione cried. “How can you say that? It’s not true!”
Harry shook his head. “Hermione, I walked out on her twice. Ron was right; I ditched her and then I was too weak to stay away from her. It wasn’t right. You know what?” he asked, and stared at her.
“No, what?” Hermione replied, and wiped her face; she was trying not to cry, which visits to Harry often made her do.
“When she pulled me into her room last year, I would have tried to seduce her if I’d thought I could get away with it. I was that weak. Can you imagine what that would have done to her? What she would have been left with if I had been killed?”
Despite her teary eyes, she rolled them, and Harry couldn’t help smiling at his friend’s mannerism. “Harry,” she said in a lecturing tone, “that’s almost as disrespectful as you imagine you were. I can’t say what her reaction would have been to a seduction attempt, but I guarantee you that if she had gone along with it, she would not have a single regret, no matter what happened to you.”
“Well…” Harry picked up a slice of bacon and took a bite. It was crisp and still warm and he glanced at it appreciatively. He finished eating it. “That doesn’t change anything. She was down by the grave, I think it was a couple of weeks ago, and I tried to talk to her but she ran away. And like I said, I understand.”
Hermione was silent, and Harry picked up the bowl of porridge again. “So Charlie cooks now,” he mused. “Tell him he makes good breakfasts.”
“Why don’t you tell him yourself?”
Harry let out an exasperated puff of breath. “I will, okay? Just not today.”
She reached her hand out and put it on his; he stopped eating. “Harry, come to The Burrow. Molly worries about you. Things are very hard for her, but they would be a little easier if she knew you were okay, and…” She hesitated; she seemed to have something to say, but was uncertain whether to say it.
“What?” Harry said. “Look, I’m sorry, I know I’m not helping anyone get over it, but I have to get over it, too.” He frowned, feeling irritation, even anger, rising inside. “Maybe I should walk around with a list of the people in my life who died, and hand it out to everyone who bitches about themselves. It would be a lot longer than anyone else’s.”
“Harry, that is so unfair.”
He put his arms on his knees and rested his forehead on them. “Yeah,” was all he said, looking at the ground.
Hermione stood. “Are you finished? I mean with breakfast, not your self–pity session.”
Despite himself, Harry smiled. “Yes, I’m done. I’ll shut up.”
“Harry,” Hermione said, squatting down in front of him, “you know, you do owe a lot to other people, particularly to the Weasley family. Don’t you think you could do something to try and cheer them up?”
“Hermione, you are a pest. Okay, I’ll go over later, but just for an hour. I guess I can avoid… certain people.”
She patted his hand. “Thanks.” She stood again and waved her wand. ”Pack!” she muttered, and the dishes, spoon, and cloth flew into the basket. “Will you come for dinner?”
“If Charlie cooks,” he grinned.
“I won’t tell Mrs. Weasley that.”
In a moment she was gone, and Harry looked around, pondering what to do today. Bill would be coming downstairs soon; he usually ate breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron where Tom’s chef had a knack for preparing undercooked yet tasty meat dishes. Fleur liked to sleep in, so Harry rarely saw her in the morning.
He sat where he was, leaning against the wall facing the sea. Hermione had made him feel uncomfortable, and he was certain that she had come in order to talk him into paying a visit to The Burrow, not to provide him with a little variety for breakfast. He probably would honor his word to go there, but the more he thought about it, the more he regretted giving it. And he knew exactly why. He didn’t want another upsetting scene at Fred’s grave, or at the kitchen table, or anywhere; he had witnessed or been part of too many. People — the Weasleys — were expecting him and Ginny to make up, to lift everyone’s spirits by being a young couple in love, holding hands, wandering around the countryside picking flowers and doing what young lovers did. Harry suspected that those expectations were part of Ginny’s disinclination to have anything to do with him, but he knew there was more to it than that. He had abandoned her; he had humiliated her in front of her family and friends in the Room of Requirement, and his actions and choices had led directly to Fred’s death. He had hurt her too much.
He stopped himself from going any further with those thoughts; they would only make him more depressed. She simply didn’t want him, and if that was the case, he might as well get on with his life. Maybe he would do something different today to take his mind off things, and instead of wandering around the countryside or the beach, like he had been doing for a month, he would go into Diagon Alley and try to find a job in some obscure cauldron shop or even in the Quidditch shop. He would start a new career, a new life. He would no longer be The Boy Who Lived, but The Boy Who Sold Broomsticks.
He got up and went inside the cottage as Bill was descending the stairs. But to Harry’s mild surprise, Fleur was right behind him. They both smiled when they saw Harry.
“’Morning,” Bill said cheerfully. “Looks like a nice day out, and the water’s calm. I decided to take a day off, so we’re going to walk up to the village and hire a sailboat for a couple of hours. Why don’t you come along?”
“Yes, ‘Arry,” Fleur joined in, smiling sweetly. “Why don’t you come? It will be a nice change for everyone.”
Since moving here from The Burrow, Harry had discovered that he was putty in the hands of the Veela. He had tried to resist her sparkling eyes, her laughing voice, her subtle body movements, her fetching smile. Somehow those attributes and the way Fleur used them were not seductive, but she was always able to get him to do what she wanted, to make him feel that he wanted the same thing, no matter how much he thought he didn’t. Only one other person had been able to manipulate him like that, but now she obviously did not care at all what he did or didn’t do.
Harry was certain that Fleur was using Veela magic on him, but whenever he considered it, he didn’t really care. She never tried to get him to do something he really didn’t want to do, but only things like sitting and talking, or having a meal with her and Bill, to keep him from sinking into a deeper funk. Besides, what was so unpleasant about a Veela being interested in your life?
“Okay,” he said, not at all reluctantly. “I already ate breakfast. Hermione brought some from The Burrow.”
“That is okay,” Fleur said with a twinkle in her eye. “I think you do not like undercooked sausage, anyway.”
“No, I don’t,” Harry said, smiling. He didn’t’ know why he smiled; the thought of eating raw sausage made him slightly queasy. But Fleur could make anything sound appealing. “I’ll be down on the beach, whenever you’re ready.”
He left them inside and walked a few hundred yards along the cliff until he came to a path that led down to the beach. He sat on a boulder, watching the waves break on the sand. The morning sun was warm on his uplifted face, and he closed his eyes and let his mind wander. He did enjoy their sailing trips, although there was often more magic than wind involved in the boat’s propulsion. It felt good to be out on the water, away from his life on land, where everything was unsettled, uncertain, sour. The Burrow, especially, had become a place where Harry no longer felt welcome. He was uncomfortable there, not knowing how to behave, how to respond to the Weasleys’ irrational and emotional behavior. Molly was always teary, and you never knew when she would break down into a fit of hysterical sobbing. She could be doing anything — cooking, knitting, reading — and suddenly she would start crying and moaning about her lost son. And once she had hexed poor Ron when he made a crack about Bellatrix. They had to go get Bill to break the Curse, and for two days Ron wouldn’t come downstairs.
And then there was George. He had not left his room for days after the funeral, and when he finally emerged, Harry had wished that he would go back inside. He was foul–tempered and abusive to everyone, including his sister, who had fled from the house, crying hysterically; Harry had followed her into the woods behind the garden, wanting to give and receive comfort, but she told him to leave her alone. Harry had retreated in confusion, and then he had lost his temper to both Ron and Hermione when they had tried to talk to him.
The final straw came when George started waking up in the middle of the night, screaming uncontrollably and beating his fists into the walls in a futile rage against Fred’s death. Of course he also woke up the rest of the house, including his mother who now had more anguish — if that was possible — added to her burden. Those outbursts had been too much for Harry. The morning after the third episode, he Apparated to Shell Cottage and asked Fleur if he could stay there. Bill had hurried to The Burrow; when he returned later in the day, his scarred face was grim and he would not talk to Harry about it, except to say that he understood why Harry did not want to stay there. The Burrow, once a refuge, had become an insane asylum.
Harry looked up when he heard voices, and Bill and Fleur appeared, coming down the path. The three walked along the beach for half an hour until they reached a small fishing village perched on a bluff above the water. Just past it, in a small cove sheltered by high cliffs, were the village’s docks. Bill went into a tiny cottage with a sign over the door that read Boat To Hire Daily And Weekly; Harry had thought about magically correcting the sign’s grammar since there were half–a–dozen sailboats tied up to the shop’s dock. But the Weasleys were old customers, so he left it alone. Bill went in, and he and the proprietor came out five minutes later. In ten minutes they were tacking out to sea in a small dinghy; Bill was at the tiller and Fleur sat in the bow. Her silver hair swirled around her face and she leaned forward, reminding Harry of pictures of old sailing ships with carved figures of women on the prow. He sat next to Bill and ducked whenever the helmsman swung the sail as they came about on a new tack. The sea–breeze was light, and soon Bill’s wand was out and their speed picked up; they moved south along the coast about a quarter of a mile offshore, back toward Shell Cottage.
Fleur sat on the thwart and she and Bill talked as they sailed. Harry didn’t speak, but looked toward the shore and watched seagulls floating in the air, their wings outstretched and motionless; it looked like magic was holding them up. The morning at sea was sunny and warm and very peaceful, and he felt some of his melancholy abate. It was hard to be gloomy on a day like this, especially around Fleur. She chattered away about yesterday’s dinner, today’s breakfast, and the news from her mother that Uncle Chadwick was leaving Beauxbatons. There didn’t seem to be any particular connection between any of it. Harry enjoyed her voice, and so, apparently, did Bill because he stopped talking and just listened. Her voice was a merry brook rushing over sun–dappled stones. Harry leaned back against the gunwale and felt really content for the first time in weeks.
When they saw Shell Cottage perched atop the cliff, they turned back. They were back in port an hour later, and they decided to eat lunch at a restaurant in the little village. By the time they got home, Harry realized that he had just experienced the best day of his summer, maybe of the year. He suspected that his host and hostess had seen how badly he had been feeling for the past few days and had taken him out on purpose to shake his mood. It had worked. He no longer felt like moping around Diagon Alley feeling sorry for himself. He even thought he might enjoy dinner at The Burrow this evening. Maybe Ginny would talk to him.
He decided to speak to Bill about the situation. He felt comfortable with the eldest Weasley brother. It was not like it had been with Sirius, who was, for a very short time, truly like a father. Maybe Remus would have come to fill that need, but he was gone. Bill could never be like a father — he was only ten years older than Ron, after all — but he seemed much older than that to Harry. And Harry knew that he was very concerned about his sister.
He found Bill alone in the kitchen; Fleur had gone upstairs. “Thanks for taking me along today,” Harry said as he sat at the small table that took up most of the room. “It was fun.”
“Glad you liked it. I think we all needed a break.” Bill was writing in a small notebook and closed it. “Gringotts stuff,” he explained. “Did you know that you lost a bunch of money for a lot of goblins by killing Voldemort? They made quite a few investments assuming that he would last a while. You upset a lot of applecarts.”
“Too bad for them,” Harry replied curtly. “What am I supposed to do, write them a check?”
“Hardly,” Bill laughed. “I’m actually enjoying it. They know, of course, that my brother helped you break into their vaults, and they’re upset at me because of that. But they also know that I’m close to Kingsley, so they have to be careful around me. They’re finding it very confusing.” He chuckled.
“They’ll get over it, I’m thinking.” Harry paused, trying to find a way to broach the subject he was really interested in. He decided to just say it. “Can I ask you something about your — um — your family?”
“Sure, anything.” Bill had a look on his face that told Harry he knew what was coming.
“Well…” Now he hesitated; he suddenly felt a little flustered and inhibited. “Well… this is kind of hard for me to say, but… have you been over there lately? I mean, The Burrow.”
“Yes, and I know how bad things are. Harry, don’t take any of it personally. It’s going to take people a lot of time, and I don’t know if my parents or George will ever get completely over it.” He shook his head. “I can’t imagine losing either a child or a twin. George and Fred were almost like one person. It must be a little like losing your own life.”
“So… so you think that aside from your parents and George, the rest of them, I mean, the others, might get over it, I mean, eventually?”
A sympathetic and knowing smile appeared on Bill’s face. “There is no doubt in my mind that Ginny will be fine. But you also have to keep in mind what she went through while you were gone. She missed you terribly, and she was in danger the whole time. I still don’t know why they didn’t arrest her while she was at school. They tried to use Luna Lovegood to get to her father, and he was small change compared to you. When I first took her to Muriel’s I thought she wouldn’t stop crying; it was very unlike her. She had been in constant fear that they would use her to force you to surrender, and then they would kill you. So when she was safe, all of a sudden there was hope. But then the Battle came, and Fred was killed. It was too much: despair, hope, and despair again.” His voice dropped and he looked down at the table. “She’s so young…”
Harry had thought all those thoughts himself. He didn’t know what to do, though; he didn’t know how to break through her despair. He sat silently.
Bill finally spoke after a few minutes. “I know it’s hard, but try to remember how you felt when your godfather was killed. You were so distraught that you committed a crime, right? She’s just as distraught. However, I do think it would help if she knew that you were there.”
“She doesn’t act that way,” Harry murmured. “She runs away from me, and I can’t say that I blame her. I haven’t treated her very well.”
“You did what you had to do. Don’t dwell on it, Harry. That won’t do you or anyone else any good.”
Harry heard Fleur coming down the stairs and stood up. “I’ll try to remember that,” he said. “Thanks for listening.”
The door opened and Fleur bounced in. She had changed into a pair of white shorts and a halter–top. Harry had to snap his mouth shut to keep from appearing totally mesmerized, but Bill just gazed at her with a besotted grin on his face. “Ave ze men been chatting?” she asked. “I don’t want to interrupt anyt’ing.”
“I was just leaving,” said Harry. “I think I’ll have dinner at The Burrow.”
“Good!” Bill and Fleur both said at the same time; they looked at each other and laughed. As Fleur bent down to kiss her husband, Harry left the room and closed the door behind him.
He decided to put on a clean pair of jeans and a shirt with a collar, and when he came back downstairs the kitchen door was still closed. He went outside and Disapparated to the front gate of The Burrow. All was quiet, at least on the outside. He went in and found Molly in the kitchen; it was filled with the tantalizing smell of something baking in the oven.
“Hi, Mrs. Weasley,” he said tentatively when she didn’t notice him at first.
She turned and smiled. “Oh, Harry!” she exclaimed, wiping her hands on her apron. “I’m so glad you came. Hermione said you might. Now, you’re not allowed to stay in here. Ron’s in his room, why don’t you go see him?”
Harry dutifully left and climbed the stairs to the attic; he could tell that Mrs. Weasley was watching him. He slowed on the first–floor landing, but the door was closed and no sounds came from behind it. On the second landing, the door to George’s room was also closed, but he heard a loud voice from inside. He hurried past; he didn’t want the door to burst open and find George confronting him with his wild eyes, unkempt hair, and maybe his wand in hand. The door to the attic room was open, but Harry knocked anyway; he had already busted in on Ron and Hermione once.
“Come!” called Ron. He sprang up from his bed when he saw Harry; Hermione was seated at his desk reading the Prophet and she turned with a smile on her face.
“Hey, mate,” Ron said. “What brings you here? I thought you were staying away from the nut house for a while.”
“I asked him to come,” Hermione scowled. “Your mother wanted to — well, she wanted to see him.”
“And here he is. Did she see you?” he said, turning to Harry.
“She was in the kitchen. She sent me up here. How — how are things? Is George any better?” He left unspoken the question he really wanted to ask.
Ron didn’t catch on, although Harry thought that Hermione did. “Don’t go near him,” Ron said darkly. “He’s worse, if you ask me. The other day he —”
A loud bang from downstairs interrupted him. It was followed by shouts and doors slamming. Ron went quickly past Harry and onto the landing; Harry followed. Ron leaned over the railing and listened. Soon there was a shriek and another door banged open. Ginny’s voice yelled angrily, “George Weasley, where the hell are you?! If I find you, I’ll kill you!” Footsteps clattered down the stairs and they heard a door open and slam shut. For a moment the house was still, but then they heard weeping and heavier footsteps come up the stairs. Another door opened and closed.
The two went back into the attic room where Hermione was standing, twisting her fingers and looking like she was about to cry. “Harry,” she said plaintively, “please don’t—”
He cut her off with a wave. “Relax, Hermione,” he said. “I just got here. I told Bill and Fleur I’d stay for dinner. That is,” he looked at Ron, “if there is a dinner.”
“Don’t ask me,” his friend replied, a little churlishly. “When Ginny gets like that I stay out of her way and keep my head down. She’ll give you the Bat-Bogey if you look at her cross-eyed.”
“Wasn’t that your mum who was crying?”
Ron sighed and sat heavily on his bed; Hermione sat next to him. “Yeah,” he said. “But Dad will take care of her when he gets home. She’ll be okay, I think.”
“I’m sure she will,” Hermione said, taking his hand. “She’s always better when she has something to do, like someone to cook for.” She gave Harry a look, but he only shook his head. He walked to a window and looked out. Suddenly he turned and shot out of the room, leaving a startled Ron and Hermione staring after him.
Ron went to the window where Harry had been. “She’s down by the grave,” he said. “And there he goes.” Hermione came to the window and they watched as Harry trotted across the lawn, past the garden, and across a field to a tall oak at the edge of the woods. Under the tree was a grave with a gray headstone, and next to the grave stood a small, slender figure with long, red hair. Ginny’s head was bowed, but she looked up as Harry approached. They stood a few feet apart and talked; even from a distance the two watchers could tell that Ginny was crying. She gestured toward the grave and Harry looked at it. He abruptly turned and strode quickly away, back to the house. Ginny watched him, but then she also looked at the grave, standing motionless for several moments. When she finally began walking toward the house, her head was high and as she came closer, Ron and Hermione could see the resolution on her face.
“Damn!” Ron muttered.
Hermione put her hand on his shoulder. “Do you think Harry knows what today is?” she asked. “I don’t think he does.”
“That wouldn’t surprise me,” Ron snorted. “He’s been in his own little world for three months.”
“Everyone has,” Hermione murmured.
In a few minutes Harry was back upstairs. His two friends watched him, but didn’t say anything. He flopped down on the camp bed where he slept when he stayed there. “What?” he asked belligerently when they still didn’t speak.
“We saw you talking to her,” Hermione said hesitantly.
Harry sat up. “You were spying on me?”
“Mate, we were just looking out the window,” Ron tried to placate him. “What happened?”
Harry felt his irritation rising; it seemed to do that a lot these day. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “She was talking to Fred. She said she had something to tell him. I’m not going to compete with a dead man.”
“Well, screw you!” Ron exploded. “A dead man? You’re becoming a real load, mate! How many times are you going to walk away from her? Can’t you see what she’s going through? You lost your parents, okay, fine. But you didn’t know them. She lost a brother who she’s known all her life!” Ron advanced on Harry as he shouted. Hermione was right beside him, her face as angry as Ron’s. “Why did you come here today?” he yelled. “You’re only making it worse!”
They were face–to–face, but Harry backed off. “Fine,” he said, glaring at Ron. “I’ll go. Everyone here is mental.”
“Harry!” Hermione shouted, and stepped in front of him, pinning him against the wall. “What in Merlin’s name has got into you? All you do is wallow in self–pity and don’t talk to anyone. People here may be mental, but at least they talk to each other. Maybe they’re screaming, but they know that everyone else is going through the same thing, that they are all in pain. Do you not understand that you are not the only one who’s upset, scared, terrified? Don’t you know why everyone wanted you to be here today? Why Bill and Fleur took you out in their sailboat? Why I gave you a flower?”
Harry stared at her blankly. Hermione snorted. “Obviously not. Harry, it’s your birthday.”
His mouth fell open. “What?” he said.
Hermione shook her head. “Well said, Harry. I knew you had lost track of the days, but…”
He turned his head to Ron. “So… so your mum is baking…?”
“A cake for you,” Ron said.
“Why is she doing that?”
“Geez, I guess she likes you. Who knows why, though.”
Harry stood there. How could he have forgotten his own birthday? He felt like an idiot. “I’ll go thank her,” he mumbled, and turned to leave.
“She might still be in her room,” Ron said.
“But I’m sure she’ll be glad to see you,” Hermione added.
Harry left and descended the staircase. He knocked softly on the door to the Weasley parents’ bedroom, but there was no answer. “Mrs. Weasley,” he called softly, “it’s Harry.” He still heard nothing. He looked back up to the attic, but decided to try the kitchen; he really didn’t feel like risking another lecture from Hermione — well–deserved as it might be. He went down, tiptoeing once again past George’s room, which was now silent. On the first landing he paused and looked at Ginny’s door. He remembered what had happened in there a year ago, and how good her kiss — their last kiss — had been; he could almost taste her lips, feel her body against his. He had wanted her so badly then, and also now.
But did she want him? He wasn’t sure; there was too much grief and confusion in the way. He didn’t even know if she was inside. He turned away, but as he put his foot on the first step, the door opened and a voice stopped him in his tracks.
“Harry, will you come in here a moment?”
He stared at Ginny; her eyes were ablaze, riveting him. Without a word, almost before he realized what he was doing, he stepped inside and she slammed the door shut behind him. She pulled him into the middle of the small room, and Harry noticed for the first time that she was holding her wand. He took a step back, but she pointed it at the door and said, “Colloportus!” A squelching noise signaled that the door was sealed. She stepped toward him
“Hey!” Harry exclaimed. “You shouldn’t do magic. You’ll get into trouble, your birthday isn’t ‘til next month.”
“But today is yours.” And she pulled his head down and kissed him.
It was better than Harry remembered it from a year ago. She was in his arms, his one hand pressing against her back and the other in her long, sweet–smelling hair. Her arms went around his neck, pulling his mouth to hers. The kiss lasted for a very long time. When their lips broke apart, Harry kept his face down, inches from hers. Her brown eyes blinked up at him. Everything bad had vanished, melted away in the flowery scent that filled the room.
“I’m sorry, Harry,” she whispered. “I know it’s hard to understand, but I needed to wait until Fred was okay. He’s been inside me all this time, but when I told him it was your birthday, he knew that I was ready, that it was time. Please forgive me, and please don’t leave me.”
He kissed her softly and whispered back, “I never will.”
“No,” she giggled. “I mean, don’t leave me right now. I think no one will notice the door for a while.”
“Yes,” she giggled again, “that’s exactly what I was thinking.” They kissed. “Harry.” Her voice had dropped to an even lower murmur; he could barely hear her. “I can’t help it, I love you.”
He put his arms around her and closed his eyes, holding her tightly. The world was now filled with glorious sunshine. “I love you too,” he whispered.