After an all-too-short night of sleep, Ron and Harry packed up their trunks for the last time. Harry never imagined that leaving Hogwarts for the last time as a student would be like this. He was engaged to the most beautiful and wonderful young woman in the entire Wizarding world (in his humble opinion), had made it through seven years at Hogwarts, and was now ready to enter the word, albeit under the ever present threat from the greatest dark wizard of the age.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny all made their way down to Hogsmeade in the school carriages accompanied by the Weasley family (sans Bill and Charlie, who had already left, and Percy). For the first time they wouldn't be going back to King's Cross with the rest of the Hogwarts students. Harry, now very much able to protect himself, would be obtaining a flat in Diagon Alley, as would Hermione. She would be going back to her parent's house for a short visit before returning with the rest of her things. Ron and Ginny would be temporarily moving in with the twins until they could get their living arrangements worked out. Mrs. Weasley thought it best that they not move in with their respective fiancÚs until after they were properly married, though Harry didn't think this would keep Ginny from visiting him often, nor Ron from visiting Hermione. In fact, Harry wouldn't be the least surprised if the two of them never quite got around to finding flats of their own before the wedding.
Diagon Alley made an ideal location for them to live, as they would all be working in London, and it held a special place in everyone's heart. Ron and Hermione would begin work at the Ministry of Magic. Hermione would be starting in the Department of International Magical Cooperation; there were many places in the Ministry she had to choose from, but several influential people at the Ministry had pointed to her particular abilities to take charge and to organize well, not to mention her wide knowledge of magic. Ron thought Hermione would make an excellent diplomat. Hermione was only concerned with the possibility of working with Percy, though he had shown signs lately of coming around. Harry secretly hoped Hermione could in some way help Percy come back into the Weasley fold.
Ron, on the other hand, would be working in the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Ron's extensive knowledge of Quidditch greatly impressed many at the Ministry, and he was a natural shoe-in for the position. Ron was beside himself with glee when he got the news he had been accepted. He would be working as a junior liaison between the Ministry and one or more Quidditch teams and, to his great surprise, was scheduled to begin his job working with his favorite team, the Chudley Cannons.
As they reached Hogsmeade, the four of them spent a lot of time saying goodbye to their friends and classmates. Harry took particular care to visit every member of the DA who was there, making sure each of them knew how to find him. He took a moment to mention to each student that he should need their help this summer, giving each the opportunity to respond as they would. To Harry's immense satisfaction, every one of them promised to do whatever they could to help.
Finally, everyone was aboard, and Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys waved to the train as it left for King's Cross. Hermione let a tear slip down her cheek. Ron put his arm around her to comfort her, and they all watched the train disappear into the distance.
"Feels odd not going home, doesn't it?" Hermione asked.
Harry thought about this a second. For the first time, he would not be returning to the Dursleys. One of his wishes was coming true; he would have his own place, be on his own, and forever be out from under the control of his Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia. No more would he have to put up with the relentless taunting of his cousin; he was finally free.
"Odd, yes. But in a very good way," Harry answered.
"Well, we best be off. Much to do today, everyone gather 'round," Mrs. Weasley said.
Everyone brought their trolleys around Mrs. Weasley, who produced a book from her bag.
"Dumbledore thought it best if we went by Portkey. That way we could all stay together."
"Still ahead of the game, that Dumbledore," Mr. Weasley mused.
"All right, everyone ready? On the count of three: One, two, three!"
Harry grabbed the book and felt the familiar tug of the portal spell. Before he knew it, he was standing in the special alley outside Gringotts next to the Floo fire Dumbledore had set up the summer before. They straightened out their trolleys and strolled out onto the main street.
Harry remembered the first time he visited Diagon Alley with Hagrid. He had marveled at its wonders, wishing he could just stand there and look at everything all day. Now he would be calling it home.
Everyone headed to the twins' shop, walking over to the special lift the twins had installed next to the building that took them to the upper floors where they lived. Harry and Hermione put their stuff in the front room, then helped Ron and Ginny settle in to the rooms the twins had prepared for them. The flat was quite large and had plenty of space for everyone. Fred had explained to Harry that the two extra rooms were originally intended for visitors (namely, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and whichever other Weasley happened to be in town). Ron spent a few minutes putting his clothes away, then took the better part of an hour hanging up his posters and souvenirs he had collected from the Quidditch teams he liked. Of course, most of this space was occupied with Canons memorabilia.
Once Ron was satisfied with his room, he and Harry joined the twins in the main room, where they all partook of several butterbeers while they waited for Ginny and Hermione to reappear. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had gone to inquire about flats for Harry and Hermione. Harry watched Ron embarrass George in a game of Wizard Chess. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley got back before Ginny and Hermione were done. Mr. Weasley was only half-way through his second butterbeer when they finally came out, giggling and talking. Ron rolled his eyes.
"Here we are, engaged to be married, graduated from Hogwarts, and they're STILL doing that," Ron whispered to Harry.
Ginny and Hermione grabbed the last two butterbeers and joined everyone in the main room. Predictably, Hermione sat by Ron and Ginny sat by Harry, then seemed to reconsider before sitting in Harry's lap.
"So Mum, Dad, did you find any flats for Harry and Hermione?" Ginny asked.
"Actually, we did," Mr. Weasley answered. "There were several to choose from, but we narrowed it down to two. Harry, Mr. Ollivander has a flat above his store. It's very roomy, and speaking with Mr. Ollivander in confidence, he said he'd be delighted to have you rent it." He then turned to Hermione and continued, "Hermione, for you, we found one above Flourish and Blotts. We thought you'd like to have the one above the bookstore and by the stationary shop. It's quite nice."
Hermione look quite pleased at the idea of living above the bookstore. Harry imagined what it was going to be like having his own place. He'd have his own main room to arrange as he pleased. He wouldn't have to share a bathroom with anyone. He could invite over whomever he pleased whenever he wanted. There'd be nobody to tell him what to do, no cousins to disturb him…
And nobody around to help him cook.
Harry had never considered cooking before. He didn't even know any cooking spells, and had limited cooking experience (breakfast mostly). He imagined that he'd have to eat out a lot. While this thought didn't bother him that much, he very much enjoyed Mrs. Weasley's cooking. Harry secretly wondered if Ginny could cook, and whether he could convince her to cook for him after they got married. Harry swore to himself that he would be willing to de-gnome the garden of any house he and Ginny owned and wash dishes alone after every meal if Ginny would only cook for him.
"I'd really like to go have a look at the flat, Mr. Weasley, if I may?" Hermione said.
"Splendid idea, Hermione. I suggest you take Molly with you, and I'll take Harry to see his new flat," Mr. Weasley responded.
Hermione stood up and turned to Ron. "Coming along?" she asked him.
"Right on that," Ron replied.
Ginny didn't have to ask. She turned to Harry, and Harry just gave her a wink. The six of them went down the stairs together before splitting up to go to their respective flats. Harry smiled as he realized his new flat would be very close to Gambol & Japes. The twins had a friendly sort of competition going with this shop, though each had their niche. Mr. Ollivander must have known they were coming, as he exited the shop just as they arrived.
"There you are, Arthur, I thought you might be headed back this way. Mr. Potter, so good to see you again. And yes, Miss Weasley, charmed as always, though I think soon we should be referring to you as Mrs. Potter, I hear?" Ginny blushed and nodded.
"Harry would like to view the flat you offered, Mr. Ollivander." Mr. Weasley explained.
"Yes, yes, I thought he might. Well, shall we get to it, then?"
Mr. Ollivander motioned to a door to the side of his shop. Harry followed Mr. Ollivander through the door and up the stairs to the main room of the flat. The room was not as large as the twins, but not small, either. To Harry's relief, the apartment had already been furnished. The furnishings weren't expensive-looking, but that didn't bother Harry. He thought they looked very homey and quite comfortable. The floor looked like old oak, and a stone fireplace sat in one corner. The room was incredibly clean and well-kept, unlike the dustiness of the wand shop. Harry followed Mr. Ollivander around, touring the kitchen, the guest room and attached lavatory and finally the master bedroom and bath. Harry's favorite, though, was the study. It had a window that faced out in one corner onto Diagon Alley. Harry could see much of the way down the street, and the small deck outside the window included an owl perch for Hedwig. The room was furnished with an old oak desk and many bookshelves. Harry performed some quick mental measuring and thought that all his Auror gear might just fit in this room. Grasping on that thought, he took his pocket sneakoscope out and checked every corner of the room. After he finished his examination, Harry returned to the main room.
"It's perfect, Mr. Ollivander. I'd like to take it, if you're willing."
Mr. Ollivander looked pleased. "Excellent, Harry. You may move in immediately."
"I'll see to it that Harry gets the necessary monthly transfer arranged at Gringotts, Mr. Ollivander," Arthur advised.
Mr. Ollivander nodded to Mr. Weasley, then handed the keys to the flat to Harry. Harry just stared at them for a few moments, taking in the full meaning of what they represented. After a few moments, Ginny gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek.
"Come on, young man. I'll help you move your things," she said playfully.
Harry, Ginny and Mr. Weasley had returned to the twins' flat and had gathered most of Harry's things before Hermione, Ron and Mrs. Weasley returned. Harry and Hermione took turns describing their flats as Mrs. Weasley handed out sandwiches and tea for lunch. Once they had their fill they split off as before. Harry practiced levitation charms to move his things, and soon he had all of his belongings in his new flat. He sped through his room and lavatory, quickly putting things away. He placed a few belongings here and there in the main room just as quickly before turning his attention to the study. He carefully placed Hedwig's cage next to the window where she could survey the street below. He then took great pains to place all his Auror stuff around, while Ginny helped him judge choose the particular positions. He put all his books away on the shelves, leaving the picture book Hagrid gave him on the desk with his important things right next to his pensive. He covered the walls of his study with various charts and graphs, all laid out in logical order. Once he was done, he looked around his study. He knew he would spend most of his time in here. Still…
"Something is missing," Harry noted out loud.
"I agree," Ginny said, handing something to Harry. It was a desktop picture frame with a picture of himself and Ginny. Hermione must have taken the picture during Ginny's birthday celebration. Harry recognized the outfits they were wearing. Harry put it on the desk where it would be right in his field of vision.
"There. NOW it's perfect," he said, satisfied.
"Um hum…" Ginny agreed, pushing him into his chair and sitting on his lap. She gave him a good snogging right then and there.
"You know, Harry, your main room looks a little, erm, bare," Mr. Weasley called from the main room. Ginny finished her snogging a little bit after this, letting Harry answer him.
"Oh? How so?" he called back.
"The walls. There's nothing on them."
Ginny stood up and let Harry do the same. They joined Mr. Weasley in the main room. Mr. Weasley was right. The walls were bare, and the room seemed a bit depressing.
Harry sighed. "Well, I would fix that, but I have nothing to put up."
"Nothing? Well, we can't have that…" Mr. Weasley retorted. Just then, Mrs. Weasley appeared with a stack of wall-hangings in tow. Among them were various pictures of Harry and his friends at various times during his years at Hogwarts. There were many pictures of Ron and Harry, Hermione and Harry, Ron and Hermione and Harry, Harry playing Quidditch, then many of Ginny and Harry; the most prominent being the one right after Harry had proposed to her on her birthday. Ginny's parents had stayed the night at Hogwarts and just happened to be around to hear the news the day after. They had snapped a very nice photograph of them in their school robes.
Harry, Ginny, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley took their time placing the photos around. Harry was so pleased at having something to put on the walls. He took some time at each picture to remember his years at Hogwarts, running around, saving the day, and getting into trouble. Finally, he took the engagement photo and went to center it above the mantle of his fireplace.
"One moment, Harry, you might want to move that one over a bit. We have one more here you might want to hang with it," Mr. Weasley suggested.
Harry looked over to find Mrs. Weasley holding one final framed picture. The picture was of his parents holding Harry as a baby. Harry thought they must have had the one in his album enlarged. He was taken somewhat aback.
"You two really didn't have to go through all this trouble. This is wonderful!" Harry praised.
"We know, dear, but we thought you needed it. All of us did," Mrs. Weasley explained, looking over to Ginny.
Harry motioned to Ginny, and the two of them hung the last two photographs together. Harry then led Ginny back to the couch and the two of them sat down, admiring the room.
"Wow, much better. I don't know how to thank you," he said to the three of them.
"You're welcome, Harry," Ginny said, hugging him. "Now, I simply must go and visit Hermione. I still haven't seen her flat!"
"Oh, too right. Send Ron this way, would you?" Harry said.
"Sure thing, love," Ginny replied. She gave him a goodbye kiss and left with her parents.
Harry took a short stroll through his flat again, letting it sink in that it was his. Other than his room at the Order headquarters, he had never really had a place of his own. Even at the Dursley's, it was always 'Dudley's second bedroom'. Now it was all his. He entered the kitchen just as his thoughts returned. He realized he had no kitchenware whatsoever. Right on cue, Ron arrived with provisions.
"All right there, Harry?" Ron said cheerfully.
"All right. What'cha got there?"
"Oh, just a few things from the candy store. Butterbeer?"
Harry and Ron enjoyed their treats as Harry gave Ron the grand tour. Ron brought over some of his extra posters which Harry gleefully hung in his room. Ron snickered at Harry's empty kitchen, but marveled at his study.
"This is great, mate! You really have a nice flat."
"Thanks. I'm pretty happy with it."
"Well, there's only one more thing you need." Ron stepped outside and brought in the item he had left hidden there: a new chessboard. Harry placed it prominently on his center table and proceeded to lose a close game with Ron.
"Well, that's it, then, your flat is all broken in. We should get back to the twins', mum's making dinner."
Harry locked up his flat and walked with Ron back to the twins' flat. Mrs. Weasley was already making dinner, but refused to let Harry help. Harry joined the twins in a game of exploding snap while Ron helped in the kitchen. Soon, Hermione and Ginny returned along with Mr. Weasley. Ginny gave Harry a 'good to see you again even thought it's only been an hour' peck on the cheek before going to help Mrs. Weasley finish dinner. Before long, everyone was having their fill of Mrs. Weasley's fine cooking.
Once everyone had finished and the dishes were clean, they lounged in the main room, where Ron was giving Fred a royal walloping playing Wizard Chess.
"So, Ron, excited about working for the Ministry?" George asked.
"Am I ever! I can't wait to meet with the Canons! I get to help plan their schedule and everything!"
As Ron chatted with everyone who would listen, Harry quickly brought out his sneakoscope. It checked out as normal, so he put it back into his pocket.
"A little twitchy there, eh, Harry?" Mr. Weasley whispered to him.
"Can't be too careful," Harry whispered back.
Mr. Weasley smiled. "Keep that up, and you'll be as bad as Moody."
Harry laughed softly. With Voldemort on the loose, he didn't see being like Moody as a bad thing, really. Hermione was talking about her position as Harry returned his thoughts to the conversation.
"I'll be working as a junior assistant to the ambassadors of the other Wizarding countries. Dumbledore also wants to keep an ear out for strange things which might be happening in other countries, you know, in case You-Know-Who is hiding there."
"So Harry, what do you think working with the Aurors will be like?" George asked.
Harry shrugged. "No idea, but I'll tell you this: I hope we can draw out Voldemort before the wedding. I certainly don't want to be late for my own honeymoon." Everyone laughed at that.
Soon the yawning started. Harry and Hermione said their goodbyes, gave hugs and kisses to their significant others, and headed down the lift to make for their flats. Outside the shop, they stopped for a moment.
"You're flat's all right, then?" Harry asked.
"It's wonderful! I'll never be short on books to read, and I'm right across from the ice cream shop. I have all the room I need, and it's nice and quiet at night, I'm told. How about yours?"
"It's great. The Weasley's brought me some pictures to put up. My study is wonderful. Hedwig has her own area, and I can see most of Diagon Alley from the window. It's very cozy."
They stood there for a few moments, not saying anything.
"I've never been on my own like this," Hermione said finally.
"That makes two of us. Well, I was practically on my own at the Dursley's, but even then I had someone to bug me every once in a while."
"Do you think Ron will have the wherewithal to stay with the twins tonight?" Hermione joked.
"Do you thing Ginny will, either?" Harry responded. They both blushed.
"Not a chance," they said together. They blushed even redder and laughed
"I'm heading out to get the last of my things tomorrow. I'll spend the night with my parents. Ron's coming, too. My parents want to give him a proper talking-to about the whole marriage thing. They didn't get a good chance to after Ron proposed."
"I bet Ron's a bit nervous." Harry said.
Hermione nodded. "A little. My parents seem quite taken with him, actually. Ron's always been a complete gentleman around them. They were really impressed when they learned he had gotten a position at the Ministry."
Harry nodded. "Have a good time, then. I need to do some shopping tomorrow. I've discovered I don't really have any kitchen stuff, so I imagine I'll be asking Mrs. Weasley to help."
Hermione giggled. "I didn't know you could cook, Harry."
Harry blushed. "I can't!" They both laughed. "I figure Ginny and Mrs. Weasley can teach me."
"I can see it now," Hermione joked. "Famous Harry Potter: Bane of Voldemort and kitchenware everywhere!" Harry couldn't help but laugh. There was another silence.
"Thanks again for all your help, Hermione. I don't know how I would have gotten this far without you, Ron, and Ginny."
"No thanks necessary, Harry. We all helped each other. It's what friends do." She gave him a sturdy hug before turning to leave. "Sweet dreams, Harry."
"You too, Hermione," Harry said as he watched her leave for her flat. He turned and headed for his own, going straight to his bedroom and changing into his nightclothes. He had just finished brushing his teeth when he heard a noise from his bedroom. The noise was coming from his pants. He quickly rummaged through them only to discover his sneakoscope humming. He barely had time to grab his wand before he heard a soft crack!
Ginny opened her eyes as Harry put his wand down on his nightstand.
"You scared me half to death, Ginny!"
Ginny smiled slyly. "I still got it, Harry."
"That you do, my love. That you do."
Harry walked over to her and kissed her lovingly. They slid into bed, and Harry turned out the light. It wasn't long before they were both fast asleep.