Author's note at the end. JKR's world!
"Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
The train rattled south along the track, heading ever nearer to King's Cross Station. The landscape beyond the window of their compartment shifted from the northerly wildness of purple moorland and heather, to a neatly trimmed patchwork quilt combining glorious shades of green and fertile earthy fields stitched together by dry stone walls. Sunlight and shadow danced across the scene through the whiteness of the billowing clouds sailing past overhead.
Pigwidgeon hooted noisily from his cage, drawing Harry's attention back inside the train. They'd been lucky this time and managed to get a whole compartment to themselves, so there was plenty of space. Ron was taking full advantage of this by sprawling out across as many seats as he could manage, and Crookshanks purred loudly at him as he slunk subtly onto Ron's chest, circled once and settled down, fixing him with a steady gaze from intelligent amber eyes.
"Gerroff," Ron muttered sleepily, pushing the ginger cat away.
Crookshanks stared unblinkingly at him and didn't move an inch.
"I said get off," Ron raised his voice angrily and sat up slightly. Eighteen sharp as needle claws dug in deeply causing Ron to leap to his feet yelling loudly.
"Don't be such a baby," Ginny laughed, looking up from her book of Muggle poems.
"That cat's never liked me!" he grumbled, massaging the injured area.
"Rubbish!" Hermione retorted. "You were just in his seat, that's all. See?"
Sure enough, when they looked, Crookshanks was curled up, apparently fast asleep in the chair, looking to all intents and purposes rather like a very fluffy orange cushion.
"Hmm," Ron glowered at the cat, and settled himself into a neighbouring seat.
"Are you OK, Harry?" Hermione asked suddenly. "You're really quiet."
"Yeah, I'm fine," he responded in what he hoped was a cheerful tone of voice.
This summer was one all the fifth years had been looking forward to. They had finished their O.W.L.s and there was little preparation to be done for next year, so they viewed it as a time for idleness and fun. Harry, however, was looking forward to going back to the Dursley's even less than usual, mainly because it would mean two long, interminable months apart from Ginny. Since their encounter with Voldemort he'd wanted to be around her as much as possible, and enjoy the time they had together. It was going to be so difficult to let her go. He knew she was in safe hands with her parents, and nothing would happen to her at home, but even so, he was not looking forward to saying goodbye. In fact, it was far worse than that. He was dreading it.
"It's only for a few weeks, Harry," Ginny said softly, smiling at him and reaching for his hand. He smiled back. He should have known he wouldn't have fooled her by pretending. "Dumbledore did say you could come through to The Burrow again for the last two weeks of the holidays."
"Yeah, but he's got six weeks with the Dursleys," Ron interjected, the disparaging tone in his voice showing exactly what he thought of that.
"Don't remind me," Harry said, feeling gloomier than ever.
"Come on, Harry," Hermione reassured him. "We'll write to you all the time, and send you sweets and things. You know, it might not be so bad this year. Surely they'll be pleased with you? I mean, you did really well in your O.W.L.s."
Harry gave a hollow laugh.
"They wouldn't care if my results were as good as yours, Hermione."
"Still can't believe I passed any of those exams," Ron said, pulling out the parchment informing him of his results. "I had to make up half the things in History of Magic again."
"Mum'll kill you if she finds that out!" Ginny was horrified.
"Well, you're going to find next year easy at any rate," Harry teased her, running his fingers gently through her hair.
"I must admit, the magic is a lot more fun as you get higher up the school," she laughed, transforming herself instantly and easily into a beach ball, which rolled around on the seat with the movement of the train.
"How does she do that?" Ron asked incredulously.
Harry grinned wickedly at her, and pointed his own wand carefully at the brightly coloured ball.
It flew straight into his hands, and she reappeared seconds later on his knee, looking rather pink and dishevelled. She gave a little nervous giggle.
"I must remember," she said, looking sideways at Harry and flushing furiously. "If I turn into something like that, you have absolutely no concept of where you're putting your hands."
Harry felt the warmth flood into his face, as ferociously as if he had been plunged into boiling water.
"I…I..." he stammered, not knowing where to look.
"Harry!" Ron exploded in outrage. "That's my little sister!"
"It's hardly his fault," Hermione said, with a twinkle in her eye. "Which bit of me did you think you were patting that time I was a clock in Transfiguration?"
Ron opened and closed his mouth, and gradually turned as red as Harry.
"I didn't…?" he gasped at last in horror.
Before she could answer, the compartment door slid open and Fred and George strolled in, looking particularly cheerful.
"How does it feel to be finished Hogwarts?" Harry asked, recovering some of his composure. Ginny beamed at him, and wriggled closer so her head was nestled into his shoulder, enjoying these final moments together as the train sped relentlessly onwards into the very heart of the city. He slid his arm nervously around her, taking very great care to keep his hand on her waist.
"Brilliant!" Fred said exuberantly.
"Couldn't be better!" George echoed. "You'll never guess what we're doing over the summer, Harry."
"Annoying us?" Ron suggested, still looking warily at Hermione, who was smiling back at him very enigmatically.
"Yeah, but apart from that," Fred laughed.
"We've got a lease on a shop in Diagon Alley," George burst out, unable to contain the news any longer. "We can actually get this joke shop idea off the ground."
"It's really going to happen," Fred said, eyes glowing with enthusiasm. "We get the place at the beginning of August. You've got to come through for the opening, Harry!"
"I'll try to," Harry said, suddenly feeling a little happier. "Any excuse to get away from the Dursleys for a bit."
"Where are you getting the money for all this from?" Ron asked suddenly, frowning suspiciously at Fred and George.
"Oh, it's an investment," George said airily, with a sly grin at Harry.
"We're here!" Fred exclaimed, sticking his head out of the window and changing the subject before Ron had a chance to interrogate them further. The screeching squeal of the train braking confirmed their imminent arrival at Platform Nine and Three Quarters. "We'll get Ginny's trunk," Fred said, grabbing one end of it and hoisting it to the door as the train lurched to a standstill. "Are you OK getting her back through the barrier, Harry?"
"No problem," Harry laughed at Ginny's outraged expression. He hugged her before she clambered off his knee to collect the remainder of her things together.
The platform was a turbulent sea of Hogwarts students, baggage and animals. Hedwig awoke from the slumber of the journey and looked disapprovingly at the scene from her cage, which was balanced on top of Harry's trunk. The queue was already forming for the barrier, where the wizened old guard was permitting them through in small groups so as not to alarm the Muggles on the other side.
"We'll catch you up," Harry said suddenly to Ron and Hermione, stopping dead in his tracks. He blushed again, as they both gave him knowing smiles. "Well," he protested, chuckling slightly. "Uncle Vernon's hardly going to give me a chance to say goodbye, is he?"
"Fair enough," Ron grinned. "But I'll be timing you!"
Harry watched their retreating backs, and turned swiftly to face Ginny, hardly knowing what to say to her.
"It'll soon be August," she said softly, reaching a hand up to his cheek. "I'll write to you, I promise. I'll even pinch Hermes if I have to!"
"Percy'll love that," Harry smiled, knowing exactly what her brother's reaction would be to find that his owl had suddenly disappeared.
"Let's just make this a quick goodbye," she said, chewing her lip. "It might hurt less."
He made an incoherent noise and wrapped his arms around her in a warm embrace, feeling her clinging to him equally tightly. The scent of her hair, the tickling sensation when it brushed against his nose, made him smile. Their lips met in a curiously tender way, so gentle, yet filled with so much love.
They finally broke apart, and after a few moments silence Harry squeezed her hand.
"Come on, then," he said quietly, knowing this had to be done. Pushing the trolley before them, they headed towards the barrier, stepping quickly through it, without a backwards glance, into the heady summer of Muggle London.
Author's note: Well, this is it! 'Carpe Diem' is officially finished, and I really hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
Thank you to everyone who's been reviewing and keeping me going with such fantastic encouragement, and a special thank you to Firebolt909 (who has forcibly stopped me editing out some of the better bits in a fit of panic that I was being completely useless) Thanks also to those of you who've put this on their favourites - I am still stunned by such a positive response from everyone, and I really appreciate it. If anyone has the stamina to go back and re-read the whole thing, I would be fascinated to know what you make of it as a whole story now that it's finished.
Needless to say, the characters, the world, and an awful lot of the other stuff belongs to J.K.Rowling. The poem contained in Chapter 19 is "To Anthea, Who May Command Him Anything" by Robert Herrick, and if you want the full text try /101/266.html Other quotations, I hope are suitably labelled at the beginning of chapters.
Finally, there are a few new bits on the way from me: "Riverside Reflections" should be with you almost at once (a three chapter piece from the summer straight after this story), "Alpha and Omega" is the one that'll probably interest you most. It'll be a 'Carpe Diem' sequel, but set in the seventh year. I'm starting to write that one now! "Fragments" as the name suggests will be appearing as and when I get time (Isolated incidents between the first and seventh years when Harry and Ginny come across each other – will be in the form of diaries, letters… really fragmented stuff but from one point of view or the other)