The month of June passed in a blur. After the perfect day he’d spent with Ginny, Harry had barely a moment to himself.
He, along with Ron and Hermione, spent what seemed like a solid week telling the tale of their year on the run to Hogwarts teachers, friends and family.
There was most of a day with Professor McGonagall, who treated Harry like an equal for the first and – he imagined – last time. The next day it was Neville, who was shocked by the true contents of the prophecy, and gratified that he’d killed not just a snake, but part of Voldemort’s soul. After that was Hagrid, whose howls – alternately in sympathy and in rage – shook the walls of his cabin and caused Fang to flee in terror. Finally, there was the remainder of the Weasley family. Harry had dreaded speaking to them most of all; he didn’t have any desire for Mrs. Weasley to hear all the awful details – she had more than enough to cope with as it was. But they deserved to know, and Ron deserved to see the pride in his parents’ eyes.
That was far from the end of it; there was an abridged version of the tale for the rest of the Hogwarts faculty, as well as all the Gryffindors, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs – and the handful of Slytherins who’d fought on the right side in the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione collectively decided that the less people knew about Horcruxes, the better, and Professor McGonagall agreed. It was a horrifying prospect that someone, having heard the story somewhere, might think that Voldemort’s plan of gaining immortality via Horcruxes was worth a try.
By that point, Harry had talked about Voldemort’s end so often that he was thoroughly sick of hearing his own voice and desperate for a free hour to spend with Ginny, but it was not to be.
He accepted Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s invitation to stay at The Burrow, hoping for some peace and quiet, but what he got instead was two weeks of seemingly endless debriefings with Ministry of Magic officials, interspersed with interminable interviews with the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly and several other publications he hadn’t heard of previously.
And as if that weren’t enough, there were requests to speak at memorial services and offers to appear at the re-openings of shops in Diagon Alley and other invitations of a hundred different sorts.
Harry felt obliged to go to the memorials; the people who’d lost their lives in the war deserved that. He had no interest in the rest; there was one re-opening that he would attend, though, when (he hoped “when” and not “if” was the correct word) it happened.
The days blended one into another; he would wake up, dress, try to steal a few moments with Ginny out of view of any other Weasleys, bolt down a plateful of Mrs. Weasley’s excellent food, and then go off to the Ministry with Mr. Weasley and Percy. There, in Kingsley Shacklebolt’s office, or the Auror Headquarters, or, occasionally, the Department of Mysteries, he’d spend several hours answering what seemed like the same questions over and over. If he was lucky, there would be a break for a snack or some fresh air; on some days he’d be accompanied by Ron or Hermione. The sky would be dark by the time he returned to The Burrow with Percy and Mr. Weasley. There would be dinner, and maybe a few more stolen moments with Ginny before he climbed up to bed so he could start the whole thing over the next day.
The routine finally broke after a particularly long day in Kingsley Shacklebolt’s office. The new Minister and several Aurors had Harry going over his visit to Malfoy Manor in agonizing detail. The Aurors finally left, but before Harry could follow them, Kingsley asked him to stay for a moment longer.
“I have a message for Miss Granger,” Kingsley told Harry. “I would deliver it myself, but I suspect that Molly doesn’t really need the Minister of Magic dropping in for a visit.”
Privately, Harry agreed, but he didn’t want to say so. He wondered what the message might be, however. Smiling, Kingsley handed Harry a sealed envelope. “It’s good news, Harry. The Ministry has tracked down her parents. They’re being brought back to London, to St. Mungo’s –”
Harry had a start. “St. Mungo’s? What’s…” But Kingsley laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
“There’s nothing wrong with them. We – well, I – decided that it would be best to have a Healer reverse Miss Granger’s memory modifications in a secure environment. That’s all. I don’t doubt that Miss Granger could do it herself, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Harry sighed. Hermione will be so relieved! “When will they arrive?”
Kingsley laughed. “It’s all in the letter, Harry. They should get to St. Mungo’s on Friday afternoon.”
Harry shook Kingsley’s hand. “Thank you. I’m glad you managed to find them so quickly.”
Kingsley accepted his thanks, and as Harry turned to leave, called after him, “You haven’t asked, Harry, but your aunt and uncle have returned home as well.”
“I reckon I ought to go and visit them,” Harry said automatically. It was nearly impossible to argue with that deep, calming voice. It would be polite to make the effort to see them one more time, he supposed. And Dudley had been decent – almost human, really – when he’d left them a year ago; it would be interesting to see if he’d continued to evolve. “I’ll make the time for a visit,” he repeated, finally taking his leave of the Minister of Magic.
The good news caused a celebration at The Burrow. Hermione and Ron were waiting in the kitchen for Harry, and he handed her the letter without a word. After Hermione had read it aloud, and then read it twice more to be sure she didn’t miss a word, she hugged Harry so tightly that he thought he might break a rib.
“Oi, Potter! Hands off my girl!” Ron exclaimed, causing Hermione to abandon Harry and embrace him just as tightly. “Can’t… can’t breathe!”
“Oh, stop it, Ron,” she said, pushing him away. “This is the most wonderful news! I knew the Minister was working on it, but I never thought they’d be home so soon!” Hermione gushed. “I m-missed them! I m-m-missed them so much! I-I was so worried!” she went on, the tears suddenly flowing.
Faces peeked into the kitchen: Ginny and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. “Oh, Hermione, dear, what’s wrong?” Mrs. Weasley asked.
“M-my parents! They’re coming home,” she sobbed, and Mrs. Weasley and Ginny enfolded her in a hug. Harry thought he saw the hint of a tear from Mr. Weasley, and then a gleam in his eye.
“We’ll have a party for them!” Mr. Weasley said. “A homecoming. Wouldn’t they enjoy that, Hermione?”
“I-I think so, Mr. Weasley,” Hermione choked out. “That’s so… so generous of you!”
“Nonsense,” Mrs. Weasley scoffed. “Arthur has an ulterior motive. He wants them here where they can’t get away so he can ask them all about Muggle life. Still,” she considered, “I think a party for them would be a wonderful idea, as long as Arthur promises to behave himself.”
Mr. Weasley gave his wife a wounded look. “That is not true, Molly. I think we ought to celebrate their return. If they happen to want to talk about eckeltricity or fellytones, I don’t think there’s any harm in a little conversation.”
“I think,” Ginny said firmly, “they’ll want to talk about how brave and heroic their daughter is. And they might want to meet –” she grinned evilly “– her boyfriend.”
Everyone in the room knew about Ron and Hermione, of course, but the word “boyfriend” hung in the air nonetheless, shocking them all into silence for a moment. All eyes were on Ron.
Mr. Weasley was the first to recover. “Well, it’s about time you saw what was right in front of you all the while. How you could be so blind for so long, I’ll never know.”
Before anyone could answer him, everyone was distracted by the loud pop of someone Apparating into the kitchen. “Give him a little credit, Dad,” George Weasley said, causing every head in the room to turn. “He didn’t take as long as you did to notice Mum,” he said.
There was another stunned silence; looking at Mrs. Weasley, Harry wasn’t sure whether she wanted to hug her son or hex him. Both, probably, he decided. But I wouldn’t want to guess in what order.
It was then that Harry saw the quick, sudden swish-and-flick of a wand – he couldn’t tell whose – and a gooseberry pie that had been sitting on the stove went flying straight into George’s face…
“Do you know, I think that’s the first time George has laughed since…well, since…” Ginny said, as she and Harry sat on her bed.
“You’re right,” Harry agreed.
“Not that we’ve seen any of him, but I doubt he’s been doing much laughing sitting in that dingy flat in Diagon Alley.”
“How do you know it’s dingy?” Harry asked.
Ginny laughed. “You’ve stayed in their room before, now imagine it without Mum to do the laundry and the cleaning.”
Harry grimaced at the thought. “I see your point. So why d’you think he came over tonight?”
Ginny shrugged. “Mum’s been owling him every day, begging. I have, too. And Dad’s been going by the shop. George is there every day, doing Merlin only knows what.” She sighed. Harry put an arm around her, and she went on. “Dad says the windows are all boarded up, but you can hear him banging around in there. He won’t answer the door, though, so nobody knows anything.”
“I sent him a couple of owls too,” Harry said, squeezing Ginny closer to him. “Didn’t hear a thing back.”