A/N: Whoo hoo! A new book, a new fanfic from yours truly. Hope you enjoy it; I won't keep you from it any longer. I just want to say a quick hi to Gabi. I miss you, beb!
Harry Potter walked slowly to the end of Privet Drive, his hand in his pocket, presumably to draw his wand at a moments notice, but in reality his fingers wandered from the slightly rough, but well-loved, wood of his wand to the metal of a large golden locket. The metal was warm from a mixture of the late June heat and the warmth of his body. Harry sank onto the curb at Magnolia Crescent, barely registering that this was the very place where, nearly four years before, he had summoned the Knight Bus after sighting Sirius. The thought of his godfather made Harry recognize even more the sense of loss he felt, and he put his head in his hands wishing that the empty pit in his stomach would close and that the voices in his head that were growing louder and louder with every minute would stop. But the voices did not stop. On the contrary, they ceased being indecipherable words, and he heard very clearly everything that was being said.
"Oh, honestly, Ron. Give me that, I'll do it."
"Hermione, I am perfectly capable of turning on this…um…this, well whatever it's called. If the Muggles can manage it, so can I."
"It's called a flashlight, Ron, and you don't seem to be managing to push a simple button. Now, I spent the first eleven years of my life as a Muggle. Give me the flashlight!"
Harry stood up then and faced his two best friends, frustrated, and wishing that would stop bickering. He said, with a bit more force than he had meant,
"You're both of age! Why are you bothering with that? Use your wands."
"You're right, Harry," said Ron, brightening, "What were we thinking?"
He pulled his wand from the pockets of his Muggle jeans and started to speak the incantation that would light it when Hermione put a firm hand on his wrist.
"What?" said Ron, innocently.
"Ron, you know we can't. We're in full view of Muggles. And shame on you Harry! You know the rules. Just because we're of age-"
"Yeah, yeah, we know Hermione," said Ron dejectedly, "Anyway, we have to be getting home. It's late and I reckon the less time we spend outside alone at night, the less upset Mum's gonna be when we show up early without warning.
Ronald Weasley, you should have held your tongue. How dare you cause a scene at Harry's aunt and uncle's house! Do you know how dangerous it was for you lot to be traveling without anyone knowing that you were? You could have been abducted or killed and we wouldn't know for days!"
Ron imitated his mother perfectly.
Despite the events of what must have been the longest day in Harry's memory, he had to smile. The day that had begun with Dumbledore's funeral had brought Harry and his best friends to this corner on this Muggle street. It had been a very long day indeed.
Harry's initial happiness at the thought of his friend's unwavering support in his ambitions to first return to the Dursley's then to go on to Godric's Hollow in search of clues about his parents and Voldermort ebbed a bit when he suddenly found himself standing alone under the beech tree by the lake. Hermione had hurried away to send an owl to her parents, telling them that they did not need to pick her up later that night from King's Cross. Apparently, they were not going to be given the option of granting her permission. Ron had walked towards his parents who were standing, Mr.Weasley's arm around his wife, near the castle itself, as if moving away from Dumbledore's tomb would make it somehow easier to accept his death. Harry could all but see the wheels turning in Ron's head.
What could Ron possibly say to make his mother agree to let him accompany Harry to his aunt and uncle's house? He doubted that Ron would even broach the topic of Godric's Hollow. One obstacle at a time. Harry eyes followed the landscape around, picking out his friends mulling solemnly about the schoolyard. Neville was listening raptly to Luna as she walked him slowly towards the Hogwarts entrance, her arm around his waist, supporting him. Harry knew that the train was to leave Hogsmeade station in an hour, more like three quarters of an hour by now, and that it would probably take that long for Neville to hobble there even with Luna's help. He saw Fleur support Bill as they headed towards the entrance as well, presumably to the point where they could safely Apparate home. Bill gave a wave and a nod to his parents. Mr.Weasley returned the nod, but Mrs. Weasley was much too busy shouting and gesturing hugely at Ron, whose back was turned to Harry, so that he could not tell who was winning the argument. His eyes then fell on Ginny.
She was standing at the very edge of the lake. She had a sort of lost look on her face, but there were no tears in her eyes. Harry felt a painful pang in his chest, and he started to turn away from Ginny just as Hermione emerged from the castle, making her way quickly towards Ginny. Harry thought she had probably just realized that he and Ginny had broken things off, and was rushing to do whatever it was that girls do when such tragedies strike. To Harry's amazement, Ginny waved Hermione away, but Hermione did not leave. She plopped down on the lawn next to Ginny and Ginny reluctantly followed suit. Harry committed himself to turning away from Ginny this time, noticing that Mrs. Weasley had stopped yelling and was hugging Ron. Harry headed toward them telling himself that he had really done the right thing breaking up with Ginny. Really, it was the smartest thing! He was right on this one. This was one person who was NOT going to die because of him.
As Harry drew level with the Weasleys, Mrs. Weasley let go of Ron and turned to him.
"Harry, dear, Ron's just told us that he and Hermione want to come with you to your aunt and uncle's. Now, every bit of me is telling me that this is a bad idea. I don't think that you should show up at King's Cross with two extra people for your family to have to deal with-"
Harry cut her off, "Mrs. Weasley, my aunt and uncle won't mind," he was lying through his teeth, but so what? "Really, and we'll only be there a couple of days. I just need to stop by so that the protection-"
"Harry-" Mr. Weasley cut in.
But Harry was already fully committed to his argument, "No, seriously. Mr.Weasley, we'll really be alright. Isn't it better anyway that we're not alone. Isn't three better than one? Just think about-"
"Harry!" Said Mrs. Weasley sharply "We are going to allow Ron and Hermione to go with you, but there are a few conditions. Hold on, dear. We might as well get Hermione over here so that I only have to say this once. And Ginny as well."
"No!" said Harry quickly.
Ron, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley stared at Harry. He recovered quickly,
"I only meant, no, she's not coming with us is she? Because…um….I thought she'd be going back with you, and I was just…it threw me off for a minute," he finished lamely.
The three of them looked at Harry as though he were ill.
"Well, of course she's coming home with us, dear, that's why I need her over here."
Mrs. Weasley caught Hermione's eye and beckoned her and Ginny over. Hermione and Ginny reached the group and Harry and Ginny avoided each other's gazes. Mrs. Weasley's sharp eyes didn't miss this, but she looked at the girls and addressed them as though she hadn't noticed the exchange between Harry and her daughter, or lack of exchange thereof.
"Hermione, I've just finished telling Ron and Harry that I'm going to allow you and Ron to accompany Harry to his aunt and uncle's. There are conditions to this," she said as Hermione brightened, "As you know, Bill's wedding is in two weeks. As I want all my children at that wedding, you will spend a total of three days at the Dursley's. On Sunday you will catch the Knight Bus to The Burrow. We'll expect you at around nine in the morning; catch the eight-thirty bus."
All three of them nodded and gave their consents to her conditions. Mrs. Weasley's eyes suddenly filled with tears. She pulled Hermione to her in a hug then reached for Harry and Ron in turn.
"When I say I want all my children at the wedding, I hope you know that you two are included in that grouping," Mrs. Weasley said to Harry and Hermione, "Hermione, you are every bit my daughter as Ginny is, and Harry you're as much my son as Ron."
"You're more her son than that prat of a son, Percy," Ron said under his breath as his mother turned away from them to talk to Ginny.
Harry was unbelievably touched by Mrs. Weasley's words, and Hermione was too, judging by the tears in her eyes. The three of them turned to listen to what Mrs. Weasley was saying to Ginny. Harry only turned halfway, so that he could hear, but so that he didn't have to look at Ginny. Hermione scowled at him as though she knew exactly what he was doing. Ron didn't notice anything and they heard Mrs. Weasley say,
"Ginny, there's no reason for you to get on the train if Ron's not going. You can just Apparate along-side your father. So go and say good-bye to all your friends, dear, and bring your school things. We'll send them ahead of us."
Ginny nodded a silent assent and left wordlessly. Mrs. Weasley looked very concerned and wished Harry, Ron, and Hermione farewell. She went to help her daughter.
"Take care Harry, Ron, Hermione," Mr. Weasley said to them. He shook Harry and Ron's hands in a fatherly fashion, but when he reached Hermione she threw her arms around him in a hug.
"We'll be alright, Mr. Weasley. We won't use any magic around the Muggles."
"Yes, well," said Mr. Weasley, looking shocked, but returning the hug, "I imagine you'll keep those two in line should the need arise, then?"
Hermione released Mr. Weasley and nodded fiercely. Mr. Weasley looked as though a great weight had been taken off his shoulders and he too headed off.
"Well," said Harry, "I suppose we should get our things and head toward the station. The train should be leaving soon."
The three headed up towards the castle, Hermione glaring at Harry the whole way. Harry knew why, and hoped that she would not question him about Ginny right now. It was taking all of Harry's restraint to stop himself from going to Ginny, telling her that he'd made a horrible mistake, and he wanted to get back together. Luckily as they headed quickly up the marble staircase, Peeves squirted ink on the step Hermione had just put her foot on. She slipped backward and Ron caught her. Their faces were inches apart and Harry felt immeasurably uncomfortable. He turned away, wondering if he should somehow wake his friends from this reverie they seemed to be in. He made a noise as though he had something caught in his throat, and they sprang apart as though burned by something very hot. Hermione turned nervously around and began climbing the steps again. Ron looked angrily up at Peeves and began cursing him.
"Peeves, don't you have any respect? You can't even stop playing pranks, today of all days? Besides that, she could have broken her neck! What if you had pulled that when we weren't around. You'd better watch yourself Peeves, or the new headmistress might just boot you out on your transparent arse!" Ron's face and ears were red with anger.
"Oooh! Weezy's angry. Look his ears is turning red!
Old Professorhead would have wanted Peevsie to play pranks, Weezy.
And Weezy's soooo concerned about Granger! What's this about, Weezy?"
Ron looked down at his feet and followed Hermione up the steps. Harry sighed. Well, at least Hermione had forgotten to scold him about Ginny, for now. He knew eventually he would have to tell a most certainly clueless Ron that he, Harry, had broken up with Ron's sister. But later would be better. He had enough to deal with.
They reached Gryffindor tower, and Ron started up the spiral staircase towards the dormitory. Hermione was no where in sight; she had probably already made her way to the girl's dormitories. Harry started up the stairs after Ron. When they reached their dormitories, they discovered that everyone else had already collected their things, or sent them ahead to the station. Harry plopped onto his four poster bed and stared about.
"What is it, Harry?" Ron asked, looking worried, "I mean, are you okay, mate? I know it's been a really rough day."
"That's not it," Harry said quietly, "I was just thinking, what if this is the last time we're ever in this castle? Hogwarts may be closing; I'm not coming back at any rate, but this may be the last time we're ever here."
Ron sat down on his bed as well. He looked thoughtful,
"I'm going to miss it. Lots of good memories. Lots of bad ones, too, though."
"Yeah," Harry said, thinking of all of the horrible things that had happened over the lat six years at Hogwarts. Umbridge, Snape, Voldermort, Wormtail, Dumbledore's death…the list went on an on. Strangely, though, the school still felt like home to Harry. He felt like he was leaving a home he could never return to. He shook the feeling of gloom that had settled over the many other layers of grief and despair.
"We'd better get going," Harry said, resolutely, "Hermione's probably waiting."
So, Harry and Ron lifted their trunks, Hedwig and Pig settled on top of them, and carried them down the steps. Hermione was standing by the portrait hole, hugging Ginny good-bye. Ginny took one glance at Harry and, saying a last word to Hermione, rushed through the portrait hole. Fortunately, Ron's trunk was blocking his view, and he missed the fact that Ginny had not said good-bye to Harry. Hermione, however, was standing there with her arms crossed, scoffing at Harry.
"What's that look about, Hermione? What could we possibly have done in the last ten minutes?" Ron asked.
Hermione opened her mouth, glaring at Harry. He sent her a pleading look, and though she rolled her eyes, she did not mention Ginny. Instead she said,
"Six years of magical education, and you two are carrying your trunks."
With that she waved her wand at the trunks and owl cages said, "Locomotor."
The trunks and cages left their arms and floated above the ground. Hermione nodded towards the portrait hole.
"Should we go, then?"
"Yeah, alright," said Ron starting through the portrait hole.
Harry glanced at the overstuffed armchairs by the fire and thought of all the times he had spent there.
"I know," Hermione said softly, putting her hand on Harry's shoulder, "I'm going to miss it too. But we'll be back. At some time or other, we'll be back."
Harry smiled weakly at her, and turned to follow her through the portrait hole.
As they boarded the train, Harry thought he was ready to face his aunt and uncle. He knew he could convince them to let Ron and Hermione come and stay. He just didn't know how yet. He pondered this as Ron fell asleep with his mouth hanging wide open and Hermione buried herself in her book, looking up periodically as though she needed to assure herself that Harry was still sitting there across from her. The train ride passed slowly and in silence. There was no usual banter and Harry couldn't help but feel that he had never been more depressed. As soon as this thought crossed his mind, the train stopped at the station, and he thought that the forthcoming meeting with his aunt and uncle might just sink him to the nadir of his misery. With a sigh, he stood up. Hermione was shaking Ron's shoulder gently to wake him.
"Alright, Mum, geroff! I'm up."
Hermione chuckled as Ron came around.
"Oh, sorry, Hermione. Can't believe I fell asleep."
"Harry, do you think your aunt and uncle will mind us coming with you?" Hermione asked timidly.
"They won't be given a choice," Harry said confidently.
And the three of them got off the train to face the Muggle world, and Harry's uptight relatives.
A/N: So, that was the first chapter. Sry it was a bit long and dull. I had to set up the scenario. But the second chapter I better, I promise! Please, please review! I crave the reviews! I need them to survive. J/K! But they would be greatly appreciated.