PART V: HAPPY TOGETHER

PART V: HAPPY TOGETHER

(Ron's POV)

A/N: This chapter changes POV midway. The second part is a bit repetitive, but I wanted to show both sides, and I couldn't figure out another way to do it. I couldn't give up Ginny.

Ron felt that he would be perfectly happy to stay in that alley for the rest of the afternoon. He hadn't grown tired of the kissing at all, and he wondered fleetingly why people didn't just spend all of their time doing it.

Finally they had to breathe, and Hermione glanced nervously back towards the street. People were walking by, but oblivious to their existence.

"Well," said Hermione wistfully, "I suppose we should go back out there. Ginny and Harry are probably already looking for us."

Ron nodded in agreement, scooped up some of Hermione's bags with his own, and together they sauntered back into the crowd of people moving around in Diagon Alley. They set off for Florean Fortescue's.

"Ron! Hermione!" They both smiled and walked a bit faster as they saw Ginny and Harry sitting at an outdoor table, feasting on ice cream. Ron threw his bags down next the rickety table and collapsed into a chair. Hermione placed her bags on the ground and hugged Ginny and Harry and sat down next to them.

They all quickly compared notes as to where they had been and what they had bought, and Harry and Ron immediately launched into dialogue about the Pereginus in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies. Ron hadn't had time to make it over there due to the - well, due to the activity in the alleyway.

Hermione and Ginny were speaking in sort of giggly whispers. Ron wondered why he had ever worried about feeling awkward at all. Everything was normal. He was here with his sister and his two best friends and everyone was enjoying themselves. No one felt awkward or strange.

~*~

"Well, well. If it isn't the three heroes and their baby! How adorable to see that you've all survived the summer." Everyone's head jerked up as they saw Draco Malfoy standing at the table behind Ron. His father was talking, or, rather, arguing with a shopkeeper across the street from Florean Fortescue's.

"Why don't you head back down Knockturn Alley where you belong, ferret-face?" snarled Ron, getting ready to jump to his feet.

"Oh, Father and I were just on our way there now, don't worry. If I were you Weasel, I'd watch out. Word has it that Fudge isn't particularly fond of your father's friendship with Dumbledore. There have been some serious questions over the summer about the running of the school."

Ron knew his face was red, but he was trying very hard to STAY IN CONTROL. He figured that Fred and George's advice might work in non-romantic situations as well. Unfortunately, Harry had not received any midsummer counseling from the twins, and he was on his feet in an instant.

"If some people are so concerned about the running of the school," Harry began with tight lips, "then why don't some people just not go to school? Why don't -" Harry's voice was getting louder, "all of the Slytherins just form their own school somewhere and leave us alone!"

Draco remained composed, although he stepped back an inch or two from Harry. Ron stood as well, poised to grab hold of his friend if he made any sudden violent movements towards Malfoy.

Ron glanced quickly over to Hermione. She was sitting upright, staring fixedly at Draco with an extremely furious look in her eyes. She caught Ron looking at her and smiled softly, as if to say, 'just ignore him and he'll go away. We know he's full of it.' Ron barely had time to reflect how wonderful it was to be able to share thoughts like this with Hermione, when Draco continued, "to be sure, I would prefer to go to a school that's Mudblood-free, but until then it's considered useful to have me stationed at Hogwarts."

'It's only a word,' thought Ron, 'it's only a word. It's only a word.' Hermione and Ginny now stood up as well. Malfoy, who had taken a few more steps back in anticipation of a punch from Ron, looked over at them and smiled maliciously. Then, he said, "my, my Weasel, that little sister of yours is growing up to be quite pretty. Too bad she's related to you, although she is a pureblood, which is more than can be said for some."

Draco finally had pushed too far. Both Ron and Harry sprung forward and Hermione and Ginny rushed over, screaming at them to stop. Ron pinned Malfoy to the ground, although not before Draco had managed to scratch his face, and Harry was ready to throw the first punch when Lucius Malfoy sauntered over from across the street.

"Don't. You. Dare." Lucius said, staring hard at Harry. People on the street were now standing around staring at them all. Harry drew in his fist but he did not rise from his position over Draco. Lucius grabbed for Ron's collar and pulled him up, releasing Draco who scrambled unsteadily to his feet.

Lucius tried to hold on to Ron and turn him around, but he wrestled free and turned to face Lucius himself. The older man's voice was tinged with hatred. He pointed a finger at Ron and said very coldly, "You stay away from my son, Mr.Weasley. Your family is not exactly in my favor. I will warn you - the Malfoys are not to be trifled with."

In the back of his mind, Ron wanted to laugh. He wished his father could have witnessed this whole scene. Poor Lucius, having to protect his ridiculous son in such a manner. Ron managed, however, to keep a straight face, and pushed past Malfoy towards the table, pulling Harry with him. Lucius gave Harry an evil sort of glance, and then grabbed Draco's arm and pulled him off in the direction of Knockturn Alley.

Ron looked at Harry. They were both a bit disheveled and Ron's could feel the scratch on his cheek bleeding slightly. Ron raised his eyebrows at Harry and smirked. Harry looked back and smiled. Then they both burst into laughter. Ron felt that somehow, over the summer, they had both grown somehow. Harry seemed to understand, because he did a slight imitation of Draco's obnoxious sneer and they both bent over, shaking so hard that their stomachs hurt.

Ron heard Hermione gasp. He looked up. She was standing as she had been since the moment Lucius had walked over. She was very pale and one hand was still over her mouth. The other was clutching the table. She looked very shaken up. Ron stopped laughing and looked at her uncertainly. They had talked a little bit during his visit about Draco. Hermione was actually very worried that her family might be in some sort of danger because of Draco's dislike for her. Although Ron felt extreme rage at hearing Draco call Hermione names, it never really occurred to him to think how it must feel to be the one actually insulted. "It's okay Hermione," he said softly, "we're both okay."

Hermione walked over to him and said in a trembling voice, "you're bleeding."

Ron reached up and felt the scratch on his cheek. "It's not bad," he replied truthfully, "it doesn't hurt."

Hermione nodded slowly in acknowledgement, but continued to stare at the cut above Ron's cheekbone. All he wanted to do was make her feel better. He reached for both of her hands and linked them around his neck, and then put his arms around her waist and gave her a big hug. She relaxed a little bit until a cough brought both of them back into reality.

Harry and Ginny were staring at both of them with a mixture of concern and amusement. They quickly jumped apart and Harry laughed. "Don't worry about it," he said, sitting down and digging a spoon into his very melted ice cream, "we saw you snogging an hour ago in that alleyway."

Ginny giggled, Ron turned bright red, and Hermione cracked a smile. It would all take some getting use to, but Ron felt that everything would be alright in the end.

(Ginny's POV)

It seemed to Ginny, as she glanced over at her brother, that he had grown somewhat in the last two weeks. He seemed more confident, self-assured, and more wise-cracking than ever. He and Harry immediately launched into a discussion of the Pereginus on display at Quality Quidditch Supplies (Ron hadn't made it over there yet), which left Ginny and Hermione free to catch up without interruption.

Ginny gave Hermione a significant look, glanced at Ron, and raised her eyebrows. Hermione nodded and smiled, and then they both dissolved into a fit of giggles. 'It's so nice to be around another girl my own age,' thought Ginny happily. She was really dying to hear everything that had gone on at the Grangers that summer.

They had been trying to talk in disguised tones about the magazine article that Hermione had sent, and Ginny was dying to confide to Hermione about the letter, but they were interrupted by the unmistakable sneer of Draco Malfoy.

"Well, well. If it isn't the three heroes and their baby! How adorable to see that you've all survived the summer." Everyone's head jerked up as they saw Draco Malfoy standing at the table behind Ron. His father was talking, or, rather, arguing with a shopkeeper across the street from Florean Fortescues.

"Why don't you head back down Knockturn Alley where you belong, ferret-face?" snarled Ron, getting ready to jump to his feet.

"Oh, Father and I were just on our way there now, don't worry. If I were you Weasel, I'd watch out. Word has it that Fudge isn't particularly fond of your father's friendship with Dumbledore. There have been some serious questions over the summer about the running of the school."

Ginny stared straight ahead in fear. She knew that her brother was about to attack, but more frightening was the fact that Harry looked just as angry. To her surprise, it was Harry who spoke first.

"If some people are so concerned about the running of the school," Harry began with tight lips, "then why don't some people just not go to school? Why don't -" Harry's voice was getting louder, "all of the Slytherins just form their own school somewhere and leave us alone!"

Ginny had been wondering the same thing, and noted with pleasure that Draco took a few steps back from Harry at this point. Ron was holding onto the back of Harry's robes and Ginny saw his eyes flash towards Hermione, who smiled at him briefly, although one hand was clutching the table tightly.

Draco continued, "to be sure, I would prefer to go to a school that's Mudblood-free, but until then it's considered useful to have me stationed at Hogwarts."

Ginny gasped and both she and Hermione jumped out of their chairs. Ginny's fell over in the haste. Malfoy, who had taken a few more steps back in anticipation of a punch from Ron, looked over at them and smiled maliciously. Then, he said, "my, my Weasel, that little sister of yours is growing up to be quite pretty. Too bad she's related to you, although she is a pureblood, which is more than can be said for some."

Ginny felt her face grow crimson, and tried to restrain herself from lunging towards Malfoy herself. She saw that Hermione was now very pale and had one hand clamped over her mouth.

Draco finally had pushed too far. Both Ron and Harry sprung forward and Hermione and Ginny rushed over, screaming at them to stop. Ron pinned Malfoy to the ground, although not before Draco had managed to scratch his face, and Harry was ready to throw the first punch when Lucius Malfoy sauntered over from across the street.

Ginny shivered. She had been frightened of Lucius Malfoy ever since her first year in Hogwarts when he had started a fight with her father in Flourish and Blotts. Sometimes she even had nightmares about him. She reached down and picked up her fallen chair, which she used for support as Lucius began to speak to Harry.

"Don't. You. Dare." Lucius said, staring hard at Harry. People on the street were now standing around staring at them all. Harry drew in his fist but he did not rise from his position over Draco. Lucius grabbed for Ron's collar and pulled him up, releasing Draco who scrambled unsteadily to his feet.

Lucius tried to hold on to Ron and turn him around, but he wrestled free and turned to face Lucius himself. The older man's voice was tinged with hatred. He pointed a finger at Ron and said very coldly, "You stay away from my son, Mr.Weasley. Your family is not exactly in my favor. I will warn you - the Malfoys are not to be trifled with."

Ron pushed past Malfoy towards the table, pulling Harry with him. Lucius gave Harry an evil sort of glance, and then grabbed Draco's arm and pulled him off in the direction of Knockturn Alley.

Suddenly, they whole situation struck Ginny as a bit ridiculous and she actually felt like laughing. Ron and Harry must have had the same idea. They both looked terrible. A thin line of blood was traveling down Ron's cheek from where Malfoy had scratched him. Ginny reflected that Draco must have had extremely long nails to do that. Harry's hair was even more messed up than usual, and his face was still flushed. The two of them seemed to exchange a glance and then they both burst into laughter.

Ginny heard Hermione gasp. She was standing as she had been since the moment Lucius had walked over. Ginny was about to go to her friend and comfort her, but she noticed that Ron had stopped laughing and was now looking at Hermione with concern. "It's okay Hermione," he said softly, "we're both okay."

Hermione walked over to him and said in a trembling voice, "you're bleeding."

Ron reached up and felt the scratch on his cheek. "It's not bad," he replied truthfully, "it doesn't hurt."

Hermione nodded slowly in acknowledgement, but continued to stare at the cut above Ron's cheekbone. Ginny watched in amazement as her brother put his arms around Hermione and hugged her. She wondered why the whole incident with Draco had upset Hermione so much more than usual and she frowned slightly and bit her lip.

Ginny's eyes flew towards Harry, who was watching them with a very amused expression on his face. He looked over at Ginny, rolled his eyes as if to say, 'can you believe this?' then coughed very loudly.

They quickly jumped apart and Harry laughed. "Don't worry about it," he said, sitting down and digging a spoon into his very melted ice cream, "we saw you snogging an hour ago in that alleyway."

Ron turned bright red and Hermione cracked a smile. Ginny giggled a bit as Harry raised his eyebrow at her. Everything was going to be alright.