"I'm so glad Dumbledore finally agreed to let you come, Harry. It's good to see you again," Mrs. Weasley said, as she hugged Harry in a motherly fashion.
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley. It's good to be back," Harry agreed, letting Mrs. Weasley take her time.
"Well, let's have a look at you. Are you feeling okay? Are you hungry?" Mrs. Weasley asked, taking stock of Harry's condition.
"No, I'm okay. I just need some time to settle in."
"Right, let's get you inside then."
Mrs. Weasley led Harry though the house he had grown so found of and up the stairs, but instead of climbing up to Ron's room, she stopped on the second landing instead.
"You'll be staying in the twins' old room this time, Harry, dear. I hope you don't mind."
Harry walked in and was honestly surprised.
"Wow, it looks completely different than what I remembered," he said.
"Ginny thought the room needed to be cleaned up before you came. I was going to help but she insisted on doing all the redecorating herself," Mrs. Weasley explained.
"It's great," Harry said looking around. There was a single bed, but it was fairly large and, as Harry discovered as he tried it out, very comfortable. A dresser and mirror sat against one wall, and there was a wardrobe on the other wall. The carpet, bed coverings and curtains all matched, and the room's colors reminded Harry of his room at Hogwarts. Harry couldn't help but smile.
"I'll have to thank Ginny when I see her. This is incredible. Where is she?" Harry asked, putting his things down on his bed.
"She and Hermione are shopping in Diagon Alley. It seems they've been spending a lot of time there," Mrs. Weasley said.
"Is Hermione staying in Percy's old room then?" Harry asked.
Mrs. Weasley sighed involuntarily. "No, Percy's room is being kept empty in case we have visitors. You know, in case Charlie or Bill comes to visit, orů"
"Madam Bones?" Harry risked.
To Harry's surprised, Mrs. Weasley nodded. "Yes, her too. I take it Arthur saw fit to inform you of her intentions."
"I got a letter from him about a week after I got back to the Dursley's house," Harry said.
Mrs. Weasley nodded. "Normally, Harry, we wouldn't interfere in things, but we honestly think Ron would rather work things out with Hermione than be subjected to unwelcome advances from a matchmaker, no matter how well-intentioned they might be."
Harry sighed. "I can tell you this: Ron certainly notices when Hermione shows interest in other guys."
Mrs. Weasley smiled. "Well, we still have time, don't we? I'll let you get settled in. Dinner is at six."
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley, for everything," Harry said as she left.
Harry spent the next hour or so putting away all his things. He took his time hanging his clothes and putting away his books and other belongings. He put his family picture book on the little table next to the bed, and hung his Firebolt above his headboard. He took a step back, turning around slowly to admire the room again. He found himself wishing he could live in the room forever. Having nothing else to do, Harry pulled his broom back off the wall and headed outside. He wasted no time getting into the air and taking a few thrilling laps around the area.
Harry didn't want to stop, but it was getting a little chilly, so he headed back to the house. As he approached, he noticed two figures waving at him from outside the front door. He smiled as he realized it was Hermione and Ginny. He landed just a few feet away.
"Oh look, Ginny, he's smiling," Hermione said as they walked towards him.
"I would be too if I hadn't been on a broom for a few months," Ginny said, smiling.
Hermione walked up and gave Harry a hug. Harry hugged back.
"It's so good to see you smiling, Harry. Welcome back," Hermione said as she let go.
"It's really good to be back," Harry agreed.
To Harry's mild surprise, Ginny also stepped up and hugged him. Harry hugged her back just as he had Hermione. Harry couldn't remember if Ginny had ever really hugged him before, but he didn't think too much of it. Ginny had become a good friend, and he was glad she felt comfortable enough hugging him.
"We were afraid you'd still be depressed," Ginny admitted as she let go and stepped back. "It's nice to see you out enjoying yourself."
Harry nodded. "I can't tell you how much I've wanted to fly again. I'm think I'm finally starting to feel like myself again."
"Well, that's good," Ginny said. "With you back as Seeker and me as a Chaser, all we have to worry about is making sure Ron gets back into form. If we can do that, we'll be unstoppable next year."
Harry couldn't resist a smile. "Oh, you bet we will."
"Well, I'm going to go help Mum in the kitchen," Ginny said. "You two can wait in the family room. Mum has strictly forbidden either of you to help tonight, so just relax until dinner is ready, okay?"
"Okay," Harry said, and then quickly added, "Oh! Ginny, I wanted to thank you for decorating the twins' room. It looks incredible, and it's very comfortable. It made me feel even more at home."
Ginny smiled, and Harry thought she might have blushed a little. "You're welcome, Harry," she said as she turned and went back inside the house.
"Your new room reminds me a lot of your dormitory room at Hogwarts," Hermione said.
"I guess Ginny thought having a reminder of Hogwarts would help cheer me up. She was right," Harry admitted.
Hermione motioned Harry towards the house; Harry held out a hand for Hermione to go first. They walked to the family room and made themselves comfortable.
"I'm going to ask you this question, Harry, and I want you to answer it as honestly as you can. What did you think of Cho before she kissed you that one day after D.A. practice?" Hermione asked without warning.
Harry didn't think Hermione would bring up the subject so soon but decided the sooner he could get past the subject the better. He looked around to be sure Ginny and Mrs. Weasley were out of earshot before answering.
"I had only talked to her a couple of times before, and it really wasn't talking. I didn't know her at all, but I thought she was really pretty. Well, she still is very pretty, but she wasn't at all what I expected. I don't think any of the other students at Hogwarts understand what I've gone through like you and Ron and Ginny do. Come to think of it, it wasn't like we had decided to be boyfriend and girlfriend or anything, and there she was, getting jealous of you on Valentine's Day, even though she wasn't my girlfriend and you were there to help me with the Quibbler thing. She didn't even ask what was going on; she just got jealous. I guess she expected it to be a romantic Valentine's date, and I really had no expectations at all. Now that I know she has these issues, I'm not sure I'd want to go out with her at all, given the same chance. She's nice enough, but we just seem to be too different to get along well."
Hermione was giving Harry her full attention. "So you're not upset that Cho is dating Michael?"
"Not at all," Harry said. "I hope she and Michael can get along. She obviously still has some things to work out when it comes to Cedric. I hope Michael can deal with it better than I did."
"Do you think you'd still be with her if you had done things differently?" Hermione asked.
"I don't think so. In the end we couldn't agree on Marietta. Cho stood by her, and I can respect that, but what Marietta did was wrong. Cho chose her over me, really."
Hermione studied Harry for a moment before asking, "Did you ever feel you were betraying Cedric's memory by being with Cho? I mean, because you were the one who was with him when he died?"
Harry was caught off guard. "I never thought of that, so I'd have to say no. The whole thing did feel a bit awkward, truthfully, but I never thought I was betraying him."
Hermione nodded. "Well, I'm glad you're not lingering on it. Cedric was a nice guy, and Cho is doing her best to cope with it. It's unfortunate that you were dragged into the whole mess."
"Well, honestly, I wasn't complaining too much, if you remember correctly," Harry admitted.
"Just remember, Harry; there are a whole bunch of people here who care a lot about you. We're here for you if you need us."
Just then, Mr. Weasley walked into the house, saying, "Family, I'm home!"
Harry heard a "Hello, dear" and a "Hi, Dad" from the kitchen before Mr. Weasley turned and saw him and Hermione in the living room.
"Ah, you made it in. How are you, Harry?" Mr. Weasley said, extending his hand to Harry.
Harry stood and shook Mr. Weasley's hand. "I'm a lot better, now that I'm here."
"I am very please to hear that. I trust you found your accommodations satisfactory?" Mr. Weasley asked.
Harry thought he detected a slightly less-than-innocent undertone in Mr. Weasley's question, but he didn't bring it up. "Oh yes, the room is great, thanks."
"All right, you lot, dinner is ready," Mrs. Weasley called from the dinner table.
Harry followed Mr. Weasley and Hermione to the table. As he approached, he noticed Ginny pulling out a chair and waving him over. She sat down in the chair next to him before he could return the gesture.
After dinner, Ginny and Hermione joined Harry in his new room.
"I hesitate to ask this," Harry started, "but have either of you heard anything about Voldemort?"
Both Ginny and Hermione shook their heads. "No, it's been very quiet. The only thing we know of Dumbledore is that you were allowed to come here," Hermione said.
"Mum and Dad have been here all summer, and neither of them has said anything. Dad even sent Ron to Romania," Ginny added.
"I haven't had any visions either," Harry said. "Not that I'm complaining, but it's almost like it's too quiet, you know?"
"I wouldn't worry," Hermione said dismissingly. "If there was anything going on, I'm sure Dumbledore would let us know."
Against his will, Harry's thoughts returned to his conversation with Dumbledore at the end of the year. He had no doubts that Dumbledore would indeed let him know if anything was happening. He allowed this thought to calm his nerves.
"Are you okay, Harry? You got quiet all of a sudden," Ginny observed.
"Yeah, sorry, my mind went off into space for a minute."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Hermione asked.
"It's just something Dumbledore told me at the end of last year. I'm not supposed to talk about it."
"Oh," Hermione said. "Well, now that you're away from your aunt and uncle is there anything you'd like to do?"
Harry thought for a moment. "Not really. I'll just be good to be away from them. Being there reminds me too much of last summer. Being here always makes me feel so much better. Wait, now that I think of it, I would like to see the twins' shop in Diagon Alley, and maybe get a Butterbeer or something. You know, just to get out and about."
"Wait until you see it, Harry," Ginny said excitedly. "They've got all the stuff they had before, you know, the stuff Mum made them throw out. They've made enough to start investing with Gringotts; you saw those robes they were wearing."
"Yeah, those were pretty nice," Harry agreed.
"Well, Mum and Dad have stepped back a bit now that they've seen what Fred and George can really do. Mum even admitted to me that she thinks they have a real business going, can you believe that?"
"Knowing your mum, that is pretty incredible," Harry said.
"Well, it's about time Ginny and I settled in for the night. It's good to have you back, Harry, really it is," Hermione said, standing up and pulling Ginny towards the door.
"Alright. I'm going to do some reading and go to bed. I just want to relax and enjoy being here. Good night, I'll see you in the morning."
"Good night, Harry," Ginny said as she left with Hermione.
Hermione turned towards Ginny's room, but Ginny headed for the kitchen.
"Where are you going?" Hermione whispered as loud as she dared. Ginny didn't answer but motioned for Hermione to follow.
Once they were in the kitchen, Ginny said, "I just wanted to take Harry some milk and cookies, you know?"
Hermione leaned against the wall and crossed her arms. "We're making an awful fuss over Harry, aren't we?"
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked, not taking her attention away from her task.
"I thought we agreed you weren't going to overdo this," Hermione stated.
"I know, but this is just for his first day back. I don't want him having nightmares or anything his first night and all, and I thought if I made him comfortable it would help him relax and forget things."
Having poured the milk and gathered the cookies, Ginny headed back up the stairs to Harry's room, Hermione in tow. She entered Harry's room and set the milk and cookies on Harry's dresser.
"Oh, thanks, Ginny, but you didn't have to do that," Harry said when he realized she was there.
"It's no trouble at all, really. I just wanted you to enjoy your first day back."
Harry smiled, and Ginny's heart fluttered.
"I already have, and you were a big part of it. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Harry," Ginny said. She waved him good night and forced herself to leave his room. Hermione was waiting for her in her own room.
"Well, how did I do?" Ginny asked as she dressed for bed.
"You might have gone a little over the top on that last bit, but overall you did very well, I must say. You'll have to tone it down a little from now on, but I think you can manage."
Ginny sighed. "I know I shouldn't get my hopes up, but I really hope this does have some effect."
"Ginny, Harry is your friend and it's obvious he's very thankful for what you've done for him already. You have the inside track, so relax. The only mistake you can make now is smothering him. You'll see."
"You're probably right," Ginny said, sitting on her bed. "I guess I really should be worrying about what Ron will do about Madam Bones."
"What are you worried about?" Hermione said, suddenly very interested.
"In case you haven't noticed, Ms. Know-It-All, Ron has a bit of an inferiority complex. I'm just hoping he has enough self respect that he doesn't think this might be his only chance to get together with a girl. It seems like the kind of mistake Ron would make."
"That's ridiculous," Hermione rebutted. "If anything this should just give him more confidence. He must be doing something right if Madam Bones put him at the top of her list."
Ginny looked straight at Hermione. "Look me in the eye and tell me you're completely sure Ron won't go along with the whole thing."
Hermione didn't look at Ginny. "Fine, you win."
Satisfied, Ginny let Hermione get back to her book.
"Is it true that the only really new things Ron has been given are his wand and his broomstick?" Hermione asked.
Ginny thought for a moment, then sighed. "Yeah, I think that's about it." When Hermione didn't say anything else, Ginny added, "What are you thinking?"
Hermione closed her book and got into bed. "Oh, just considering buying him something, you know, as a friend. It's got to be something he needs, and it can't make him think it's anything more than a friendly gift."
"Well, that's very nice of you," Ginny said a little too suggestively.
"Oh hush," Hermione said, laughing. Ginny turned out the light, and they both slept soundly.