Harry had arrived at the Three Broomsticks a bit early and claimed a table for two near the door that gave a good view of High Street through the front window. The street had become clogged with black robed students as more of them made their way to the village. Harry kept watching, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ginny, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to see her in such a crowd.
He had been given plenty of time to reflect since the Quidditch match, and had come to one central conclusion: If he was going to get Ginny Weasley to fancy him again, he would have to win her over.
He hadn't been sure how to do that, really. He had gone out on a few dates while at Hogwarts, but usually the girl had asked him out and those relationships had never really developed. Seventh year he'd stopped going out entirely; the war had been keeping him too busy to give a girl the kind of time she deserved, and he knew that though Voldemort had left his casual dates alone, a serious girlfriend would have become a target.
In the end he'd swallowed his pride, and a Dudley-sized dose of embarrassment, and written to Hermione. Mercifully, she hadn't pressed him to tell her who the girl in question was and had given several pieces of typically sensible advice.
You don't need to show off like Malfoy - not that you would anyway - but give your appearance a little care had been one of the first. With that in mind, Harry had showered and done the best he could with his hair, even if that turned out to be just a little less messy than usual. He'd also dressed in a green jumper Ginny had complimented once and a pair of black trousers.
There was a flash of red hair outside and then the door opened. It was Ginny, and a pleasant nervousness spread through Harry on seeing her again. He had been an idiot about her, and he was resolved to begin making amends for that today. He stood, and after a moment Ginny caught sight of him and smiled.
Then she turned, and put a hand on the upper arm of the young wizard who'd entered after her. He was handsome in the wholesome way Cedric Diggory had been and Harry vaguely recognized him as a Hufflepuff in Ginny's year.
"I'll see you in a bit then," she said.
"Have a good time." The Hufflepuff leaned down, dropping a quick kiss near Ginny's mouth, then disappeared back out the door.
Harry felt ill, his stomach twisting painfully with jealousy. He should have expected that a witch like Ginny wouldn't be alone long, except by choice. Though it took an effort, Harry kept a neutral expression on his face as she approached.
He pulled out the second chair for her, and couldn't resist asking, "So, who is he?"
Ginny colored. "Jason Warren." She sat, scooting her chair under the table properly. "Please don't mention him to my brothers, you know how they react to any boy I go out with."
Harry would have liked nothing better than for the Weasley boys to run Jason off, but Ginny would never forgive him if he had a part in that. He retook his seat and assured her, "They won't hear about him from me, I promise."
She seemed to relax hearing that. "Thank you... I'd just like to see how Jason and I work out before dealing with my family."
"You haven't been together long, then?" he ventured.
"No, just two or three weeks."
Harry was glad to hear it.
Madam Rosmerta appeared beside their table, a friendly smile on her face. "What can I get you, dears?"
"A butterbeer for me," Ginny said.
"And I'll have the same."
Madam Rosmerta nodded, and winked at Harry. "They'll be ready in a trice," she said, then moved on to the next newly occupied table.
"Oh, I meant to ask earlier - how did your talk with Deborah go?" Ginny said, interestedly.
"I've spoken with her again a couple of times," he said, searching for a way to condense the experience into a few words. "We get along, but it seems like it takes a direct question to get her to open up."
"Imagine that," Ginny muttered. "Her Pensieve must give you some material though, right? Things to bring up?"
Harry had only used it twice. The first time, he'd seen his mother and Deborah practice Summoning Charms and the second they'd been saying goodbye before a Christmas holiday. "A bit. The memories I've seen so far haven't been very - eventful. It's sort of nice though, to just see an ordinary day for my mum and Deborah."
The conversation continued on from there, drifting in a comfortable way over Gryffindor's chances of winning the Quidditch Cup, friends, and just about any other subject that popped into their heads. It wasn't until they were finishing their third round of butterbeers that Harry realized how long they must have been talking. Only Ginny had the ability to make him lose track of time that way.
"It feels strange to be back at school. A few months ago I was fighting Death Eaters, and now I'm back to having to be in Gryffindor Tower by curfew lest I get a detention," Ginny said, giving a derisive snort. She seemed more puzzled than angry, however.
"That does sound odd," Harry agreed. He had no wish to return to the days of regular attacks and fearing for his friends, but life had become too quiet since he'd moved out of the Burrow.
Ginny took another sip of butterbeer, and glanced at her watch. "Oh! I was supposed to meet Jason half an hour ago."
"Sorry I kept you..." Harry said, the sick feeling he'd had earlier returning full force at the mention of Jason's name.
She waved off his concern. "Don't be. I can see him any time."
It was painfully accurate. Ginny and Jason would have at least a few classes together, and even without that there were still evenings and weekends. They could meet on a whim, while Harry would have to wait for the next Hogsmeade weekend or Quidditch game just to see Ginny again. "All the same, you'd probably best be going," Harry said, voice sounding falsely cheery even to his own ears. "I'm sure he's wondering what's keeping you."
"True." Ginny let out a breath, and settled her scarf back around her neck in preparation for going outside. "Write to me more often, will you? It's been a long month," she said, standing and giving him a soft smile.
"Er, sure." He could feel his face heat, and hid it by looking down as he paid for their drinks. The blush under control he stood too and then walked Ginny to the door.
* * *
Harry Apparated into the Weasleys' living room, having been invited for Sunday dinner, and the first person he saw was Ron in an unusual pose. He was seated cross-legged in one of the chairs with what Harry presumed was a textbook open on his lap.
"'Afternoon, Harry," he said, closing the book. "How's Ginny doing?"
"Oh, all right. Busy." Harry didn't want to stay on that dangerous subject. "Where's Hermione? I thought I'd find you two snuggled up on the couch."
"She can't make it tonight. Something's come up with that case, so Mrs. Poole has her working to all hours," Ron said.
"Sounds like she's needed there... it is a big case."
"Yeah, I understand that, and it'll be great if they win. It just seems like we hardly get to see each other," Ron said, annoyed.
Harry could only say, sympathetically, "I'm sure you'll work something out."
"Oh, I will," Ron muttered.
"So, what were you studying?"
"Muggle physical therapy modalities. They're actually pretty effective, but some of them sound like torture." Ron shuddered. "Like x-rays..."
* * *
Mr. Weasley knew more about the goings-on at the Ministry than anyone else Harry knew, and his information was certainly more accurate than the Daily Prophet's, so when he began to talk about work over dinner, Harry paid attention.
"Orrick's retiring, Molly. He says it's time, now that things have settled down," said Mr. Weasley.
"Oh - but I'm not surprised, really, at his age. Do he and his wife have any particular plans?" Mrs. Weasley replied between bites of roast.
"He'd like to do some traveling, I think - he mentioned something about Rome." Here he turned to Harry. "Orrick is head of the Werewolf Support Office; they arrange secure locations at the full moon, that sort of thing."
Harry nodded, half surprised to hear such an office existed.
"Who'll be taking over? His assistant?" asked Mrs. Weasley.
Mr. Weasley shook his head. "This isn't to be made public, but she is a werewolf and therefore ineligible to head a Ministry office."
Ron frowned, his sense of fairness offended. "She's not allowed to head an office for werewolves... even though she is one?" He made a derisive noise. "Bloody hell."
It was a mark of Mrs. Weasley's agreement that she didn't scold him for his language.
Bet they think the werewolves might start making demands... as though a decent job is so much to ask Harry thought. His memory of his first sight of Remus, dressed in many times patched robes and far too thin, was still very clear.
"I don't like it either, but since she is registered there's no way to get around that regulation," Mr. Weasley said. "Orrick actually authorized me to offer you the job, Harry. You have the N.E.W.T.s, and you don't have the prejudices against werewolves most do."
"But I'm not even six months out of Hogwarts," Harry objected, a bit weakly.
"It's more important that you can be trusted." Mr. Weasley paused. "The office is small, not very well known. You'd be able to stay out of the public eye for the most part." He then gave Harry an expectant look, clearly wanting an answer.
Harry glanced at each of them, buying a few moments to think. He wasn't sure he wanted it as a career, but it was a worthwhile job and would allow him some privacy. "I'll do it... at least until someone else suitable comes along."
Mr. Weasley gave a nod. "Very sensible. I'll let Orrick know, and then the two of you can get the details worked out."
* * *
The next morning Harry spent an hour writing a letter to Ginny telling her about the job and a few small things he thought might amuse her, like Hedwig finally seeming to accept Macrina as part of the household - he'd caught the usually dignified owl teasing the puppy into a game of chase.
After sending the letter off, he was left to his own thoughts. Writing had left him unsettled, glad to have any kind of contact with Ginny but hating the fact he had to be less than honest about his feelings. The best thing, he decided, would be to keep himself occupied.
Knowing he wouldn't have a lot of time to examine the memories in Deborah's Pensieve once he started working, Harry retrieved the box from a locked drawer in his wardrobe and set it on the coffee table in front of him. He spent several moments opening the box and unstopping the flask, and then he was ready.
He touched the liquid's surface, and found himself in a rather old-fashioned family room. His eyes went first to two girls standing with an arm over the other's shoulder, neither more than twelve. After a moment, he recognized the red-haired one as his mother. The other girl, with dark brown hair and almost colorless blue eyes, was Deborah. Even at this young age, her features were a touch too strong to be called pretty.
"Mum, Dad, this is Deborah," Lily said, grinning at the two adults present.
My grandparents. Mr. Evans had, apparently, given Lily her red hair but her green eyes had come from her mother. Harry liked them immediately.
Mrs. Evans smiled. "I hope you enjoy your visit. Lily's told us a lot about you."
"Rose, why don't I get Deborah's trunk up to Lily's room, and then we can have tea and get acquainted," Mr. Evans said, setting a hand on his wife's waist.
"Excellent." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Girls, come help with the tea things."
The scene shifted to what Harry supposed was later that day, as Lily and Deborah were in the same clothing and in a Muggle girl's bedroom. They were seated on what Harry presumed was Lily's bed, talking in that confidential way he'd only seen in girls.
"...was really surprised. He thought he'd be in Slytherin," Deborah said, the door opening partway through.
Lily, Deborah, and Harry all turned toward it. Petunia stood in the doorway. Harry guessed she was about fourteen, and not so hard-looking as the woman he knew.
Lily and Deborah glanced at each other, and apparently agreed Lily would be the one to answer. "It's one of the houses at my school. It has kind of a bad reputation."
"'Kind of'? You're being too nice about it," Deborah interjected.
Lily ignored the interruption, and continued explaining. "There's a rivalry between the Slytherins and Gryffindors. I don't know much about how it all started, but it goes back to when Hogwarts was founded. Mostly the boys play pranks on each other."
"But not always," Deborah continued. "Didn't some second-year girl hit Mary with a Jelly-Leg Jinx the last day of term?"
Neither girl seemed to have noticed that Petunia looked entirely lost, but Harry had. She shifted her weight to her other leg and said, "Mum actually sent me up to tell you to come down for dinner."
"Thanks," Lily said. She scooted off the bed, and was followed a few moments later by Deborah. "I'm not going to say what it is yet, but you're going to love the dessert - Mum's famous for it."
Petunia nodded, and did her best to stay part of the conversation. "It's true. Let's go, we don't want to let things get cold." The girls trooped out of the room and into the hallway.
When Harry tried to follow, his vision swam again and he found himself slumped back on his own couch. He pushed himself up into a more comfortable position.
In the memory, his mother and her sister had already started to grow apart despite Petunia's attempts to learn about the wizarding world. Just another two or three years later, they probably hadn't had much in common aside from having been raised in the same house.
That didn't explain Petunia's attitude toward her sister and magic - distance alone wouldn't do all that - but it was a beginning.
* * *
After classes Ginny found Jason in the library, one of the few places available at Hogwarts for inter-House socializing. He had a book out and open on the table, but didn't seem to be deep into revising.
He caught sight of her and smiled. "You look like you're in a good mood."
Ginny smiled back, and took the nearest seat. "I am... lessons went well." Harry's letter, which she'd received that morning, had also had good news.
"You had to have already known how to do that Protean Charm," Jason said, referring to the lesson they'd had earlier that day where Professor Flitwick had asked her to demonstrate it.
"Hermione had me work on it in the DA," Ginny said.
He nodded. "All of you who were in it seem to be a bit ahead."
"We had to be," Ginny said. Voldemort's followers had been fully trained witches and wizards, most a few decades out of Hogwarts, and they certainly hadn't gone any lighter on her and her friends because they happened to be underage.
Jason, whose parents were both Muggles, had gone along with their wish that he not get involved with the war while still at school. His family had come through it untouched and he had never seen battle. As a result, he had a lightness few of her classmates did. She usually found that refreshing, an invitation to forget about the darkness in her own mind and just be an ordinary young witch, but there were times when he romanticized the war, or didn't understand the closeness she had with those she'd fought beside, and that nettled her.
Well, no relationship is perfect she reminded herself, and there was probably an aspect or two of her own personality that didn't quite suit him. It was how those differences were worked out that mattered, right?
Ginny set her hand on Jason's, and gave it a small squeeze. "So, how did Arithmancy go?"