Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Don't sue.

STOP if you have not read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: This fic contains definite spoilers from the sixth Harry Potter book. If you haven't read that book yet I would strongly advise you to turn back now and cover your eyes! I don't want any flames telling me how I ruined the plot for you (happened to me when OoTP came out). You have been warned!

Updates will be sporadic. No telling when a new one might pop up.

Emma

Chapter One

Hello Stranger

" – no the one with the wedding ring on her finger, but I like the way you're thinking!"

Ginny Weasley harrumphed in disgust as the men at her table burst into raucous laughter at the dirty joke.

She didn't want to be here. No, she didn't want to be here at all. She would much rather have preferred to be back home at the Burrow or her own flat, but, fate had had other plans.

As her luck would have it Ginny was in all actuality sitting squeezed between what seemed like a never-ending stream of robust businessmen in the center of a large group dinner table at one of the nicest restaurants in America. Not the ideal situation at all.

It didn't help that all of Ginny's traveling companions ranged in extreme levels of intoxication as muggle wine, it appeared, was much stronger than Madam Rosmerta's mead. Not that Ginny had ever really had a taste for either to begin with.

Ginny couldn't help but brood silently to herself about her predicament. She understood why she had been asked to come, certainly, but that still didn't mean she had to enjoy it.

"Would you like the check now?" A soft voice asked next to Ginny's ear. Startling slightly she turned her head around marginally to see a young woman holding a small black leather case.

"Yes. I'll pay up at the front." Ginny said. She waited a few moments before the waitress had strolled back up to the register before carefully slipping a credit card away from the man she had been sitting next to. The way she saw it, if she had to endure them for Merlin only knew how much longer, then they would have to at least foot the bills.

- - - - -

Again, Ginny wished she could be somewhere else. Preferably somewhere very far away from where she currently was, which happened to be a stuffy boardroom filled with the same group as the night before. Only this time they were very much hung over.

Ginny straightened herself when she heard the office door click open and tried her best to look reassuring to the small woman who had appeared before the long panel of people.

"Please take a seat." Ginny said, motioning for the woman to sit. The girl did as she was told. "Let me apologize in advance for my colleagues." Ginny snapped as she kicked a large blonde-haired man who had been falling asleep next to her sharply in the shin. "They had a rough night last night." The girl smiled understandingly.

"It's okay." She whispered almost inaudibly, staring down fixedly at her lap.

"Name." Ginny requested.

"Corrigan Maultie." Corrigan answered shyly.

"Excellent," Ginny said, clapping her hands together. She wasn't all that excited, but pretended for the sake of easing up the timid girl who sat before her presently. "I have your file right here, we can start with the questions." Ginny continued, pulling a file towards her and flipping it open to reveal the cover page. "Now, tell me what makes you qualified to take up the teaching post of Potions master at Hogwarts?"

After everything that had happened in Ginny's fifth year it was not surprising to find that the following years had been full of trials and tribulations. After finding out in the last weeks leading up to the end of the summer that Hogwarts would indeed re-open to students Ginny had set off for her sixth year. She had been glad to go, not only to get away from her mothers fits of hysteria and her fathers increasing strictness, but because she had not wanted to remain dormant at the Burrow when she had a life to live.

She needn't have worried about staying dormant, though, as she spent most of her free time worrying her head off of Harry, Ron and Hermione who she had been confided to, were running after Horcruxes and Death Eaters. She had even, on a few occasions, begged them to let her go on their missions as well, but had been given a firm 'no' from both Harry and Ron who seemed keen on playing one big brother built into two. Very annoying.

It had continued on through her seventh year, and when Ginny finally graduated it was to be met only a few months later with the final battle. Unsurprisingly to many who knew the fixation Harry had grown after Dumbledore's death, he conquered the dark lord along with Bellatrix Lestrange and Severus Snape. Not that many people really minded.

But, casualties to the light had been endured as well, as was unavoidable in a war like setting. Professor Slughorn had been hit with quite a few unforgivables landing him in a hospital bed adjacent from Gilderoy Lockhart's in the mental ward at Mungo's. Professor Trelawney had lost a leg after stumbling onto the battlefield clutching tightly to a bottle of cooking sherry and declaring that she had foreseen the coming of the ultimate battle on that very day, only to be hit by a nasty severing charm on her right thigh. A countless number of the order had perished, alongside many muggles and innocents who were not involved in the fighting. It had been quite the scene, dark and terrible as it had all been.

And, it seemed, as a result of actions held in Ginny's fifth year that now two job positions seemed to hold a rumor of being cursed in the general community. The positions of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor, and Potions Master, to be exact.

That was why Ginny found herself here listening to Corrigan Maultie's life history surrounding both children and potions at the moment. It was her job, as an appointed representative of Hogwarts teaching staff, along with the schools board of directors to recruit new applicants. However, their search in Britain had not gone as planned as it seemed that there was no witch or wizard who dared take the task upon themselves anymore. So, they had been forced to look for options outside of the country. Yet, it had been even harder to find foreign wizards who cleared all preliminary security tests and seemed like they would be able to handle a class room as they had nothing to judge these individuals on but a resume and a muggle Polaroid photograph.

"Thank you." Ginny smiled politely as she ran out of questions and Corrigan stopped mumbling. "You certainly seem qualified, but we'll have to discuss it formally. We'll contact you."

Corrigan left the office looking much more confident than when she had entered.

"I say we hire her and get back across the pond." Grunted a man who had just snapped back into reality from his daydream. He most likely had not even been paying attention to the interview.

"Absolutely not." Ginny said sternly. "She's qualified, yes, and there's nothing in her background that may suggest – "

"Then why not hire her!" A beefy man said, interrupting her.

"Because she's as meek as a mouse and there would be no way in the world that she could handle a group of kids who would rather think about who they're going to snog next Hogsmeade trip than the subjects they're studying." Ginny said loudly, glaring at the man defiantly.

"Fine!" He said, throwing his arms up in defeat. "But you can be the one to tell the parents why they don't have any professors next term. At the rate you're going we'll never get enough people crazy enough to take the posts!"

"I'd rather have no one teaching a post than someone who isn't suited to teach." Ginny snapped back hotly.

"This is why I don't think women should be involved in these matters." The man continued on, completely oblivious to the warning signs some of his colleagues were sending him. "Women just can't take the options they've got in front of them. Always pining for more, that's all they do!"

"Excuse me?" Ginny said, her voice dangerously quiet.

"I think you heard me just fine. You're young enough not to have hearing problems. Or, do you just want to complain more? I bet that's it, isn't it! I knew – " But before the man could say what he knew his face was being attacked by an impressive collection of bat bogies and Ginny was already storming to the door.

"Where are you going?" One of the more reasonable men in the group asked.

"Out." Ginny replied coolly.

"You can't do that, we've got more interviews to do!" The man said in outrage.

"I don't really care." Ginny said, "I'm tired of doing all the work, it's about time some of you big, strong men," She took a moment to glare heatedly at every person in turn, "carried some of your own weight. Lord knows you're all too fat for me to handle."

She left the men gaping behind her, feeling no remorse at all that she was walking out on a day planned with meetings and appointments. Those dunderheads had it coming.

Raising her head just a little higher in the air she stormed to the first building she saw once she had reached the outside; a coffee shop. Not stopping to read any of the signs or advertisements in the windows she pushed her way bodily through the glass door, ignored the quiet glances of the other customers, and planted herself firmly at the end of the line.

She was quite pleased (once she had calmed down enough to gaze around the small shop) to notice that the shop had a nice assortment of tea. Ginny had never fancied coffee much.

Finally, after what seemed forever as the middle-aged woman who had stood in front of Ginny had kept changing her mind and muttering things around the lines of 'triple grand chocolate' 'wet cappuccino' 'frothy, but not foamy', it was time to order.

"I'll have your largest cup of chamomile tea." Ginny said once she had reached the counter, thankful that she had thought ahead to transfer some of her galleons into muggle money.

"Right." An annoying girl who kept snapping a piece of gum and jabbing buttons on the register said distractedly.

Ginny watched with interest as a team of around four people took turns marking a cup filling it with water, and – "We're out of chamomile!" One of the people called into a back room. "Bring out another case."

No longer very interested Ginny took to glaring at her clenched hands and wished that they were wrapped tightly around one of her associates necks. Perfectly normal thoughts, really.

So, she did not notice the man's voice that called back out of the storeroom, nor did she notice a mop of untidy black hair as it bobbed through the already teeming sea of employees, and she definitely didn't take the time to glance at whoever had finally handed her the drink. She was just glad to be away from that boardroom.

"Ginny?" A familiar voice asked in astonishment. Looking up quickly her face split into a grin.

"Harry!" She squealed louder than she probably have should have as a handful of people looked up to glare at her for the second time only to mutter on about rude people.

"I didn't know you were coming out here." He said, hopping across the counter.

"Yeah, well I didn't know you lived here." Ginny retorted, but the smile on her face overshadowed any harshness of her tones.

"I like to keep it that way." Harry said with a wink.

"That you do." Ginny agreed.

"Let's go take a seat, unless of course, you mind." He said, trailing off into a slightly apprehensive voice.

"Since when have I minded?" Asked Ginny.

Harry smiled and led Ginny to a quiet corner table.

"So, if you don't mind me asking, why are you here?" Harry asked once they were comfortable.

"Hogwarts business." Ginny answered. "It's a long story that involves cursed job openings, world travel, and a slew of thick headed men."

"Just the usual, eh?" Harry said lightly. "What are you doing at Hogwarts?"

"I – well, I took Flitwick's position." Ginny said carefully.

"You teach charms?" Harry asked, a hint of shock evident. Ginny nodded. "At Hogwarts?" Ginny answered with another nod. "Aren't you a bit young?"

"After everything – they just needed people to fill the spots." Ginny said quietly, fiddling with her napkin.

"I see." Harry said pensively.

"But – how are you doing?" Ginny said, hoping to change the subject onto better things.

"Oh, well I'm working here," He waved at the coffee shop, "Obviously. And I'm taking classes at the University."

"Oh? What type of classes?"

"Psychology." Harry answered quickly, and with passion. "Its really interesting stuff. It talks about why people do things. Not just the how, but the why."

"That would be interesting." Ginny said, letting her mind drift slowly back over the times she had wished she had known why people did what they did.

"Yeah." Harry said, his voice holding a wistful note. He leant back in his chair, a content smile attached to his face and studied Ginny speculatively.

"What?" Ginny asked, somewhat warily.

"Ask me why somebody does something and I'll tell you." Harry said, with an extra sparkle to his smile.

"Okay." Ginny said thoughtfully, "Why do – some men think they're better than women?"

"Because they fear weakness, they try to hide powerlessness, and they have a need to win."

"You sound like you copied that out of a text book." Ginny said, taking a sip of her tea.

"So what if I did?" Harry asked.

"People aren't textbooks." Ginny said, meeting Harry's gaze steadily. "Everyone's different."

"Of course." Harry said, his mood definitely seeming to darken. "But that's a generic case."

They fell into a slightly uneasy silence after that, both taking turns to look at each other when they were positive the other one's mind was on something else.

"Please don't tell them I'm here." Harry said, finally breaking the silence.

"Why shouldn't they know?"

"I just want things to stay the same." Harry answered simply. "I don't want to have to face them."

"There's no reason not to face them." Ginny said, looking at Harry defiantly. "You didn't do anything terrible or horrible. You didn't say or do something stupid. There's no reason to exile yourself like this."

"I haven't exiled myself." Harry countered.

"What do you call running off to America and refusing to tell anyone where you are?" Ginny argued.

"I still keep contact with everyone." Harry continued, "I still send letters and come up for visits every now and then."

"You haven't visited for at least four years now." Ginny pointed out.

"Things, things – they came up, okay?" Harry said, his voice sounding desperate. "Some stuff out of my control happened and I've been dealing with it for those four years. It's not that I didn't want to go and see everyone."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I had things to keep me busy."

"What type of things?"

"Things!" Harry exclaimed.

"Fine, don't tell me." Ginny said, crossing her hands across her chest in a challenge.

"I won't then." Harry sputtered.

"Well, if you're going to be anti-social I think it would be better if I just let you be. Seeing as how you obviously have things to deal with!"

"Yeah, maybe I do."

"See you in another four years." Ginny said, her voice resigned before she pushed her chair back away from the table and stood up abruptly. She didn't turn around or pause to look at Harry's reaction, nor did she care to.

If he was going to be pig-headed and stubborn then he could just be that way by himself.

Men were just so stupid. That was the thought that kept running through Ginny's head as she stomped around on the curb between the humble coffee shop and the large business office trying to think of who was worse. Her chauvinistic male counterparts or Harry. What did it matter anyway? It all just boiled down to how stupid they all were.

"Yeah, Harry." Ginny mumbled to herself through clenched teeth as she opted to head back to the boardroom. "Why don't you analyze this for me?" She kicked the door hard before yanking it open and barreling inside. Stupid men.

-- - - - --- --

AN: I just finished reading HBP and pounded out this first chapter as fast I could, for I was teeming with ideas you see! Was it just me or was anybody disappointed by the length of the new book?

Anywho….HARRY AND GINNY PREVAILED! (sort of…but we allknow it will turn out okay in the end. Right? Right?

Anyways, this first chapter is short, can't think of what much else to say in it, the little it contained just had to be said. They'll get longer from here on out. I pinky promise.