Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter universe. I am just an overly obsessive reader/fan who must try and control what happens to these fantastic characters during the next X amount of years before we get to see what Jo has in store for our beloved characters. And I am making no profit from this at all. ~Belle
Harry stopped when he saw the Burrow come into view. The sun was just coming up, and the roof glistened from the morning dew. He sighed, taking in the sight before him, and a feeling of comfort washed over him. This was one of the places Harry felt safe, where the trials of the outside world could not touch him.
Harry had Apparated to the outskirts of Ottery St. Catchpole. He was not sure what wards were guarding the Burrow or where they ended, so he magicked himself to a location he was fairly sure was safe. He cast a few Charms onto his trunk and it floated above the ground, following behind him like a lost puppy.
It was early in the morning, the day of Bill and Fleur's wedding. The wedding was to be later in the evening, and Harry was eager to see Ron and Hermione; he was even more eager to see Ginny.
Once he had his Apparation license, Harry had not disappeared from Coe's side as he had threatened to do. Instead, he had allowed Coe to treat him to a birthday dinner at the Leaky Cauldron: it had been nothing too spectacular. Harry had declined Coe's offer to stay at his house another night, and instead took a room at the Leaky Cauldron. The Leaky Cauldron had always held a special place in his heart: it was the first wizarding establishment Harry had ever set foot in, and it was where he had had his first bit of true freedom the summer before his third year. Harry didn't mind Tom, the barman. He told dry, lame jokes, mentioned at least ten times a day how tall Harry had become, how grown up Harry was, how Tom had never believed anything the Daily Prophet had written about him two summers ago, and how proud Tom was of all Harry had accomplished.
Tom's last comment pulled on a heart-string for Harry. It seemed incomprehensible that Tom, a man Harry didn't know all that well, could feel pride in Harry's accomplishments; that Harry, a student who Tom didn't know very well, could be touched by Tom's kindness. It amazed Harry that amidst the backdrop of war, there were still kind people worth fighting for.
Harry heard the kitchen door slam and saw Mrs. Weasley rushing towards him.
"Oh Harry!" she cried and threw her arms around his neck, which she had to stand on tip toe to do, since he was now taller than her. "We're so glad that you're all right. We've been so worried! We heard about the attack on your house, but there was no word about you! Tonks told us you were safe but it's so hard to believe anything these days until you see for yourself!"
"I'm fine, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said.
"Mum, he can't breathe," Ron said from behind his mother, and she let Harry go.
"Good to see you, mate," Harry said and clapped Ron on the back.
"Happy Birthday, Harry," Ron said. "Now you can do magic whenever you want! It's brilliant, it is!"
"But he's not going to do anything stupid, now is he?" Hermione's voice came from behind Ron, and the bushy-haired brunette also had to stand on her tip toes to hug Harry properly.
"Goodness, when did you get so tall?" she laughed. "You're much taller than me now!"
"I have been for some time, Hermione," Harry said. "Though I'm not as tall as Ron. You just haven't had a reason to hug me lately." Hermione looked sideways at Ron and they both blushed. Harry caught the exchange and laughed. "It's about ruddy time is all I have to say!"
"Come on, lets all get inside," Mrs. Weasley said, clapping her hands together. "I've just started some breakfast, Harry dear. Are you hungry?"
"Food sounds fantastic, Mrs. Weasley," Harry replied. Mrs. Weasley led the rest of the way up the drive, with Harry, Ron and Hermione close behind. Harry noticed when Hermione causally slipped her hand into Ron's as Ron was talking animatedly about a game of Quidditch they needed to have, and Harry suddenly realized what was missing.
Standing beside the door, still in her dressing gown, was Ginny Weasley. Harry's breath caught in his throat as he and Ginny locked eyes. The same burning look that she had given him all those months ago, when he first kissed her in the Gryffindor Common room, was now flaring in her eyes. Harry held her gaze for a moment before dropping his eyes to the ground.
"Hey Harry," Ginny said as they approached. "Glad to know you made it okay." Her tone was friendly enough, but Harry knew her smile wasn't reaching her eyes for a reason.
"Morning, Ginny," he replied, trying to sound cheerful. He let Mrs. Weasley, Ron and Hermione enter the house while he stood looking at Ginny.
He had thought a lot about Ginny Weasley since he had left the Hogwarts Express six weeks earlier. He knew he cared a lot about her, that he would be devastated if anything happened to her, and that he didn't feel whole when she wasn't around. She looked fantastic, even with her dressing gown wrapped around her, shielding her from the crisp morning air; even with her hair still a bit tousled from sleep, but pulled out of her face in an attempt at decency. He wanted more than anything to take her in his arms and just smell the flowery scent of her hair.
You should continue to date Ginny Weasley, Coe's words echoed in Harry's ears. Was she safe? Could she ever be safe around him?
"Harry?" Ginny asked and he snapped out of his thoughts, aware that his eyes might have gone slightly out of focus. "You all right?"
"I'm fine, Ginny," Harry replied. "Just ... just thinking."
"Oh," she replied. "Well, you might want to think inside, it's much warmer."
"Good idea," Harry said and moved the last few steps to the Burrow, closing the distance between them. He bent and kissed her cheek and whispered, "It really is great to see you again, Gin."
She made a small sound, and Harry turned and made his way into the Burrow, leaving Ginny on the doorstep, her eyes closed, one hand softly touching the cheek he had just kissed.
As Harry helped himself to a second plate of eggs, he realized Hermione had not eaten a thing off her plate.
"You all right, Hermione?" Harry asked.
She nodded eagerly and looked towards the window.
"She's been like since she got here," Ron said, working on his third plate of eggs. "She doesn't eat a thing at breakfast, and just stares out of the window through the entire meal."
"How long have you been here?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Two days," she replied. "And I have not been as bad as Ron makes me out to be. I'm just wondering what's taking them so long."
"What?" Harry asked.
"Hogwarts letters," Ginny supplied for Hermione, whose face had just gone white.
Harry and Ginny quickly turned in their seats to see four barn owls on the horizon. They were mere specks in the sky, but they couldn't be mistaken for anything else.
"Eeeeeee!!!" Hermione squealed.
"What's that?" Ron asked and followed Hermione's finger pointing out the window. "Oh. 'Bout time."
The four sat and watched the owls for a few more moments. Harry had never watched an owl approach from so far away, and after deciding the owls weren't going to get there any faster if he was staring at them, he turned back to his eggs.
"I can't believe you're eating!" Hermione cried at him.
"Why?" he asked, through a mouthful of eggs, and then swallowed before continuing. "It's not like watching those owls is very productive. I might as well finish my breakfast before it gets cold."
Hermione glared at him before turning back to her owl watching.
A few more minutes, and three more forks full of eggs later, four official looking owls came through the window, dropped their letters onto their recipients' laps and flew out without a backward glance. Hermione stared at her lap in amazement. Ron and Harry looked from each other to Hermione and then to Ginny.
"Ginny goes first," they said in unison.
"What?" Ginny cried. "Mine is just my O.W.L. results!"
"You took your O.W.L.'s?" Harry asked. "I thought they cancelled them."
Ginny shook her head. "Just postponed them. Once I got home off the train, I had a letter waiting, explaining how they were using a secure location at the Ministry. I was home for barely a day before I was I was whisked off to take them. Each day for about ten days I had to go in and sit an exam, and Dad had to escort me."
"Oh," Harry replied. "Go ahead and open your letter first then." Ginny sighed and complied.
"Nine," she said, trying hard not to appear too excited, but the broad smile across her face gave her away.
"Nine?" Hermione asked and looked up. Apparently the mention of marks did wonders for Hermione. "Oh, congratulations Ginny! That's fantastic!"
"Now you lot," Ginny said, pointing at the three of them with her letter.
Harry held his envelope, knowing it contained his Head Boy badge, but not wanting anyone else to know. "Hermione first."
Hermione didn't argue. As quickly and neatly as she could, she tore into her letter and a shiny badge fell onto her palm, its "HG" sparkling back at her.
"Oh my goodness!" she cried and covered her mouth with her hand. She repeated herself over and over, but the words were muffled behind her hand.
"Congratulations, Hermione!" Ron cried and kissed her on the cheek.
"Ohmahguhdneff!" Hermione cried again.
"Now you, Ron," Harry said, and Ron opened his envelope.
He read through his letter, smiling and nodding occasionally. "Well, I've been asked to come back as a Gryffindor Prefect, and I need to take the Hogwarts Express from Platform Nine and Three Quarters on September the First."
Ginny snorted into her eggs and Harry grinned.
"Hermione, do you think we'll be on the same train?" Ron asked.
"Ohmahguhdneff!" Hermione cried again.
"I suppose I'm last," Harry said.
"Harry wait," Ron said. "There's something you have to know before you open that. Last term, after everything happened, I went to Professor McGonagall and told her that you should be Head Boy. I told her that if they offered it to me, I'd turn it down. You deserve it, mate, for everything that you've done for the school, for this family, for the wizarding world, and everything that you will do. I wanted to be Head Boy, not for myself, but because I thought it would make my mother proud and make me stand out from all my brothers. But knowing you and being your friend has done that for me anyway. Being included in your adventures and surviving all that we've done, especially the stupid stuff, makes me proud to be just who I am. And you, well, you're ruddy Harry Potter. You have a power over everyone that I could never have. Somehow, people listen to you and believe in you. And I know that if I were Head Boy, I wouldn't be able to help you find those Horcruxes and I wouldn't be able to help you destroy You-Know-Who. But if you're Head Boy, then you're going to need all the help you can get. And you know you can count on me, mate."
A very stunned silence filled the Weasleys' kitchen as Harry and Ron stared at each other.
"Thanks, Ron," Harry finally managed to say, his voice sounding a bit hoarse.
"Don't thank me yet," Ron replied. "They could have made Ernie Macmillan or Neville Head Boy for all we know. Now open that bloody envelope!"
Harry laughed and swiftly slid his finger into the envelope and across the top, tearing the paper. He turned it upside down and his shiny Head Boy badge fell onto the table.
"I knew it!" Ron cried, pumping his fist in the air.
"HAAAARRRRREEEEE!!!!!!!" Hermione cried and threw her arms around him.
Ginny squealed something indecipherable and soon she was hugging Harry as well.
"What's going on in here?" Mrs. Weasley asked, coming into the kitchen with her hands on her hips.
"Harry and Hermione have just been made Head Boy and Girl, Mum," explained Ron, who was the only one who could talk, as Hermione and Ginny were crushing Harry and jumping up and down, which resulted in Harry being unable to breathe and being forced to jump up and down with them.
"Harry, Hermione! That's wonderful!" Mrs. Weasley cried, and threw her arms around Hermione and Ginny, and Harry, though through the many arms around him, he could barley be seen.
"Mum, Ginny, let him breathe," Ron said, pulling his sister and mother off his best mate. "Hermione, that's enough, let him finish his breakfast."
"Oh Harry, this is fantastic!" Hermione cried and sat down again.
"It's quite a surprise," Harry said, and glanced at Ginny, who had her eyes on him. She smiled and then looked back at her breakfast.
"Well, great news is a great way to start a wedding day!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, but she quickly sobered when she looked at the clock. "But we still have so much to do today. Ginny dear, Fleur and Gabrielle and their mother will be here at noon. We need to get started on the cooking as soon as you've finished with your breakfast. We're going to use your room as the dressing room for the bride and Bill's as the dressing room for the groom. Harry and Ron, I need you to make sure none of those gnomes have wandered back into the garden since yesterday. Hermione, you remember the designs and Charms we worked on yesterday? Could you start casting them on the gardens outside? Oh, we do have so much to do ..." Mrs. Weasley muttered to herself as she left the room, having received nods from each as they were assigned a task.
It was just past seven and even though Harry had spent most of the previous night awake and thinking about Ginny and everything else in his life, he felt wide awake and ready for a day of work, and a night celebrating the greatest magic of all: love.