Chapter 25 - Moving On
The Great Hall was abuzz as Hermione walked in for breakfast on the last day of N.E.W.T. exams. She had only two left: Transfiguration with Harry and Ron, and Ancient Runes, which she had been revising for alone in the library late into the night. The seventh years among the crowd were easy to pick out, as were the fifth years who were finishing up their O.W.L. exams; they had a harried, somewhat panicked look about them that betrayed their lack of sleep and inability to speak of anything but Charms Theories and Goblin Rebellions.
Scanning the Gryffindor table, she found Harry's messy head bent over his plate and made her way toward him. Taking the seat next to him, she opened her mouth to ask if he had any questions on his Transfiguration notes when she was stopped mid-sentence by the image of a shockingly different Ron Weasley sitting across from them.
"Right," Ron was saying to Harry with a tired sigh. "The three Ministry-approved methods of animal transformation are for household service, transportation, and... what, Hermione?" Ron asked, finally acknowledging her stare.
"You've cut your hair," she said, bewildered.
Ron sat up and began fidgeting with his breakfast. "Well, not me actually, but yeah. I did."
Hermione looked at him as though she couldn't decide whether to be annoyed or sad. "I liked it long," she said almost wistfully.
Ron glanced up at Harry, then back down to his bowl of cereal. "I know," he said, taking a bite of crunchy flakes and avoiding her gaze.
Frowning, Hermione changed the subject. "Where's Ginny?"
"Having a lie-in," Harry said, not looking up from his notes. "Sixth year classes are already finished."
A fluttering sound in the air announced the arrival of the owl post and the students looked up from their books and notes briefly before burying their noses again. A white owl with flecks of grey in its wings landed neatly in front of Hermione and held out its leg on which an envelope bearing an unfamiliar seal was attached. Ron and Harry watched, then exchanged curious looks as Hermione's face broke into an expression of excited surprise. She hastily opened the letter and scanned the contents, her face lighting up in an even wider smile as she covered her mouth in disbelief.
"What's that, then?" Ron asked, abandoning his notes for the moment.
"It's...oh my stars, with everything that's been happening and not hearing for so long, I thought for sure..." Hermione stumbled in delight.
"Well, thanks for clearing that up," Ron snorted.
"Here," Harry said, holding out his hand. "May I see it?"
Hermione handed over the parchment and fairly beamed. "It's a graduate studies program that I had applied for last term. Professor McGonagall suggested that I might be a good candidate for it if I wanted to continue learning more advanced magic after leaving Hogwarts… provided that my marks were high enough, of course."
Ron made an effort not to roll his eyes. "Yes, no telling how good your marks might be. They might only reach Outstanding instead of Bloody Spectacular. But I've never heard of a school of advanced magic in Britain. Where is it anyway?"
Harry, who had finished reading the letter, looked at Hermione in surprise. "You're going to Switzerland?"
Her mouth hung open for a moment before she replied breathlessly, "I suppose I am."
"But it says here you're to report for new student orientation on 21st July. That's only a month away," Harry said, sounding wounded.
"You're moving to another country and you never even told us?" Ron asked.
As she looked on the shocked faces of her two best friends, Hermione's demeanor faltered for the first time since the post owl had landed, and she became apologetic.
"Oh," she said fretfully, "I didn't tell you, and I'm sorry. At the time there was so much happening, and Ron and I had just... well, we weren't exactly on friendly terms," she said, remembering the strain they had both been under just before Christmas. "It just seemed so far away and really, I didn't even know if I'd be accepted or if I would go. I only did it to keep my options open, you know?"
"But now you want to go," Ron said, his voice oddly strained.
"Well," she hesitated, "yes, I think I do. I mean, what is there for me if I stay here? A desk job at the Ministry? I want to do more; I want to travel and see new things. And this program takes students from wizarding schools all over Europe, not just Hogwarts. It sounds exciting, don't you think?"
Harry watched Ron carefully, knowing that his friend didn't want to let on how upset he was by the thought of Hermione leaving them. "It does, it sounds great. I think you'd be perfect in a setting like that," he said encouragingly. "Don't you, Ron?"
Ron seemed to snap back to the present and nodded. "Yeah. Perfect," he said, taking another bite of cereal. "Sounds really..." He paused and met Hermione's anxious gaze with a forced smile. "It sounds good. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Ron," she smiled, visibly relieved.
"We'll miss you," Harry said with a lopsided smile.
"Oh," Hermione breathed, her eyes threatening to well up. "I'll miss you, too. But," she said, shaking her head, "none of that right now. We haven't left Hogwarts yet and there are exams to be aced and house cups to be awarded. And I expect both of you to put in a respectable showing for Professor McGonagall today."
Harry smiled. He had no doubt that wherever Hermione ended up, she would always be able to command attention and accomplish exactly what she set out to do. "Yes, ma'am," he said, and the three of them gathered up their things and left the Great Hall together.
A few days later, Harry and Ginny sat under a tree by the lakeside enjoying their last day of being students together at Hogwarts. They had not talked very much about Harry not being at the school next year, not wanting to dwell on the fact that they would be forced apart just when they had finally found each other. But Ginny consoled herself with the knowledge that he would at least be spending the summer at the Burrow since he had no other home to go to. Not yet anyway.
"Do you think we'll ever sit here by the lake like this again?" Ginny asked, pulling Harry's arms around her as she sat nuzzled with her back against his chest.
"Not very likely, is it," he said, holding her close.
"No, I suppose not. Guess I'll have to find some other boy to come down here and sit with me next year," she sighed mockingly.
Harry grinned and tickled her, making her squirm in his arms. "Is that so? Will you take him to the storage room, too? And the alcove in the library? And into the forest?" He laughed as she squealed and writhed, begging him to stop. She turned to face him, breathless and flushed with laughter as he pulled her face toward him and looked into her eyes.
"Will you let him do this to you?" he said, bringing his lips to hers softly at first, then with growing intensity.
She fisted her hands in his robes and pulled him closer, climbing onto his lap. "Not a chance," she whispered. "This is only for you."
They continued to explore each other until Harry suddenly broke away. "Hey," he said in a throaty whisper. "I think we need to slow down a bit. Someone might see us."
"Sorry," Ginny grinned and quickly climbed off of him.
"Oh, don't be sorry," he said, taking her hand and bringing her fingers to his lips. "I'm all for it. Just not here."
Ginny sat beside him and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I'm just glad we'll have the summer together at least."
"Mmm," he hummed. "I've been thinking about that."
Ginny frowned at his tone. It sounded like he was about to deliver some bad news. "What about it?" she asked, sitting up.
"Well... you and me... living together... in your house. It's odd, isn't it? It seems odd."
Ginny shrugged. "I suppose it is a bit. But so what?"
"We'll never have a chance to just be with each other, that's what. Alone, without everyone watching. I mean, now that we're dating, won't your parents be very..."
"Obnoxiously nosy?" Ginny supplied.
"I was going to say overprotective."
"Yes, I'm sure they will," she said. "But we can work around it, Harry. And it's not as if you have another home to go to. I mean..." Ginny turned to him with an apprehensive look. "You don't, do you? You and Ron haven't decided to get a flat somewhere or anything, have you?"
"No, we haven't," Harry said. "We haven't actually made any plans at all. But that's just it, Gin. What am I going to do now? I can't just live at the Burrow for the rest of my life. I used to think I wanted to be an Auror. But ever since that night in the cave... I don't know," he said pensively. "I think I want to put dark wizard hunting behind me for a while. Did you know that Hermione's going to Switzerland? That might be interesting, to travel around and see new things."
"Well, there's no rush to figure it all out right now," Ginny said softly. "You've had your destiny mapped out for you your whole life. And now it's finally fulfilled. I think you deserve some time off." She took his hand in hers and gave him a plaintive look. "Please, Harry. It's only a two-month holiday and then I'll be back here and you can go off and do whatever it is you need to do. But for right now, just stay with me. Please?"
Harry didn't answer, and she could see the wheels still turning in his head, making her feel suddenly unsure. Perhaps she was being too pushy.
"Unless you think you'd be happier on your own," she conceded. "I suppose it is a bit much, asking you to put up with mum and dad when you could have your own place somewhere."
"No, it's not. It's not at all." He reached out to caress her cheek. "I know we won't be able to see each other very much once you come back to school next year, so if you want to spend one last summer at the Burrow losing to me at Quidditch and dodging your family so we can find a quiet place to snog, then that's what I'll do."
Ginny grinned and threw her arms around his neck. "Thank you, Harry. I won't let them drive us mad, I promise."
"And the winners of the House Cup with 312 points..." Dumbledore paused at his podium for effect. "Ravenclaw!"
The Ravenclaws erupted in shouts and applause as the banners hanging from the ceiling of the Great Hall changed from Gryffindor red to Ravenclaw blue. The Gryffindors clapped politely, having taken second place.
"Well, at least we still hold the Quidditch Cup," Ron said over the noise.
"Yeah, thanks to Ginny's five goals against Hufflepuff last week," Harry said, putting his arm around Ginny's shoulder.
"And your ten-minute catch against Slytherin," Ginny returned, making Harry grin.
"And Ron's upside down save against Ravenclaw," Hermione reminded them, causing Ron to swell with pride.
"We were a pretty good team, weren't we," Harry said.
"Yep, we were," Ron said, casting a sideways glance at Hermione, who smiled back at him. "A pretty good team."
Harry looked over at the beaming Ravenclaw faces and found Ellie, chatting animatedly with her friends. After an awkward start to the term in Potions, Harry had eventually been able to let go of the pain she had put him through, and he was now able to remember the good times they'd had together. Their relationship had had an odd start, to be sure, but he was glad for it. If Ellie hadn't shown him what love could do to a person, he might never have been able to admit his feelings for Ginny at all.
He felt Ginny's warm breath on his ear, bringing him back to the present. "I love you," she whispered. He smiled and reached under the table to lace his fingers through hers as Dumbledore began to speak again.
He spoke of the future and hope for a better wizarding world, one without fear or oppression, and Harry saw more than one person wiping away tears. But the headmaster did not make any mention of Voldemort's defeat or the events that had transpired in the cave several weeks before. Harry had asked him privately not to call out him or Ginny as heroes. There had been enough hero worship to last him a lifetime, and he felt that if anything, they should be looking ahead and celebrating, not dwelling on the past. Dumbledore had agreed and told Harry once again how proud he was of the man he had become.
But now, the leaving feast was over, and even though Harry had no idea what he would do next, he felt that he would always have a home at Hogwarts. As the remaining dishes disappeared from the tables, Harry stood with his friends and looked around the Great Hall for the last time. Scanning the head table, he caught Dumbledore's eye. The headmaster smiled at him fondly and gave him a small nod. Harry nodded back, feeling a tightening in his chest, then reached for Ginny's hand and followed the crowd out of the hall.
The Hogwarts Express pulled into King's Cross Station just as the sun was beginning to sink in the sky. Hermione retrieved Crookshanks' cage and carried it while levitating her trunk down the corridor ahead of her. As her last duty as Head Girl, she had been charged with making sure all the compartments were empty before deboarding herself. Her task finished, she made her way to the end of the train car, looking keenly out the windows for Harry and Ron. She hoped they hadn't already left the station.
"Hey!" an angry voice called out ahead of her. Her trunk had crashed into another one that was in the process of floating out from one of the compartments. Draco Malfoy's white blonde head popped out of the door as he looked to see who had dented the leather on his custom made trunk. "Oh, it's you," he snapped.
"Sorry!" Hermione called, rushing forward. "I didn't see you. What a mess." She looked over the contents of their trunks, which had spilled together on the floor. Taking out her wand, she began sending things back to their proper places.
"Is your end of the train all clear?" Hermione asked, shifting Crookshanks to her other arm. He had spotted Malfoy's eagle owl in its cage and was now hissing at it rather angrily. "Crookshanks, quiet!"
"It would appear so, since I'm leaving," he said, gesturing to his trunk. "Or trying to anyway."
"Well, maybe if you'd help instead of standing there..." she pointed out, wrestling with the shaking cage in her hand. "Crookshanks!"
"Here," Draco said, holding out his hand. "Give him to me."
Hermione handed over the cage, grateful to have the animal out of the way for the moment until she saw Draco point his wand into the cage and mutter a spell, causing it to go very still.
Hermione stared in shock for a moment before launching herself over the trunks at him. "What did you do?" she yelled.
"I just put a sleeping charm on him for Merlin's sake," Draco said, taken aback. "You should have done it hours ago. Kneazles hate being cooped up, you know. Everyone knows they should be charmed to sleep while they travel." He looked into her flushed face and registered her look of surprise at this news. "You... you thought I'd killed him!"
"No, I didn't," she said, regaining her composure. "Don't be ridiculous."
Draco shook his head. "I have a feeling that you will never cease to amaze me, Granger. And not in a good way."
"It just surprised me, that's all," she scowled and turned away to finish clearing up their trunks.
Once they were set to rights, Hermione took Crookshanks back and bumped along towards the platform with Draco close behind her. They set their trunks and cages on separate trolleys and stood together for a moment, looking around for familiar faces among the crowd jostling their way toward the barrier into Muggle London.
"Well, Malfoy, we made it," Hermione said, taking a deep breath. "A whole year of working together and we're still alive to tell about it."
Draco smirked. "I'd have never believed it was possible. You know, Dumbledore told me you'd be a real challenge, and he was right. I feel sorry for the next bloke who tries to cross your path. He won't know what hit him."
As he spoke, his expression softened into something that might have been mistaken for admiration, and Hermione thought that, for good or bad, she had never met anyone quite like Draco Malfoy, and probably never would again. She returned his thoughtful gaze.
"Take care of yourself, Granger," he said, and with a hint of a smile, he turned and disappeared into the crowd.
"There you are!"
Hermione heard a shout behind her and turned to see Ron, Harry and Ginny making their way toward her.
"Oh, I'm so glad you haven't left!" she exclaimed. "I was just finishing up on the train."
"Of course we wouldn't leave without saying goodbye," Harry said. "But the Weasleys are waiting for us, so we'll have to make it quick." He reached out and drew her into a tight hug. "Have a great time at your new school, I know you'll knock 'em dead."
"Oh Harry," she breathed. "I can't believe this is it."
"Shh, this isn't it," he replied softly. "I'll talk to you soon. Maybe I'll even come visit you in Switzerland, yeah?"
Hermione nodded. "I'd love that."
Harry let go of her and Ginny stepped in for a quick hug. "Take care of him," Hermione said.
"I will," Ginny smiled.
"And if they don't make you Head Girl next year, I'm going to write to Dumbledore myself!"
Ginny laughed. "Goodbye, Hermione. Take care."
Hermione watched as they walked away, hand in hand, then turned at last to Ron. He smiled warmly at her, and she threw her arms around his neck. He held onto her, pressing her tightly to him so that he would never forget what she felt like.
"Oh, Ron," she whispered. "We'll see each other soon. And I'll write, I promise I will, and tell you everything that's happening in Switzerland and…" She stopped and he could tell she was crying.
"Goodbye, Hermione," he whispered into her ear, not daring to say any more. He released her and she stood looking up at him with a watery smile.
"Goodbye," she said. He leaned down and kissed her cheek, then hurried away toward the barrier where his parents were waiting.
"Ginny!" Harry whispered loudly from his room at the Burrow, looking down the stairs toward her bedroom door.
Ginny stuck her head into the hallway. They had only just gotten home and she was still unpacking her trunk.
"What?" she called back. Harry gestured for her to come upstairs and she quickly obliged. "What is it?" she asked.
"Come flying with me," he said with a silly, expectant grin on his face.
"Harry, I haven't even unpacked yet and anyway, it's dark outside!"
"I know, but please come with me. There's something I've been waiting to do. C'mon, there's a moon out. We'll be fine."
Ginny crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. "Something you've been waiting to do."
"And it can't wait until morning."
"No. Well, alright, it could, but... No, I definitely want to do it now."
"Am I still going to respect myself in the morning?" she asked with a suggestive look.
"Stop it," Harry grinned. "It's nothing like that. I promise."
Ginny stared at him for a moment, wondering what was up his sleeve, before giving in. "Oh, alright. I'll get my broom."
"No, let's take mine. We can fly together," Harry said, fishing his Firebolt out of his trunk.
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Oh, that kind of flying."
She waited until Harry was hovering just outside his window and climbed onto the ledge, swinging one leg over his broom and hanging onto his shoulders as she jumped on. Harry sped away into the night, flying through the warm summer breeze as Ginny tightened her arms around his waist. She looked around at the landscape below, wondering where he might be taking her, when the large oak tree at the edge of the field of flowers loomed into view. Harry began a descent toward it, landing softly at its base.
"The oak tree?" Ginny asked, climbing off the broom and looking up at the moonlight filtering through its tall branches. "Why here?"
"Well," Harry said, leaning the Firebolt against its gnarled trunk, "I was thinking that we've had quite a lot of ups and downs in our relationship."
"We certainly have," she agreed.
"But this tree in particular seems to have gotten more than its share of bad moments." He took her in his arms and held her loosely, the way he had on the day when she had first tried to kiss him here, and he gazed at the moonlight shining on her face the way it had when he had kissed her for the first time, just before she had told him about her struggle with Tom Riddle.
"Has it?" she asked curiously. "But I love this tree. I always think of it as 'ours' somehow."
"I do, too," he smiled. "Which is why I think it deserves a good moment. So," he said softly, pulling her closer, "I'm going to kiss you and you're not going to tell me to stop or jump up and run away. And you're going to kiss me and I'm not going to act like a complete prat and deny how I feel about you. Ready?"
Ginny stared at him, open-mouthed. "You've really planned this all out, haven't you?"
"Yes. Now, are you ready?"
Ginny grinned. "Yes, you silly boy."
He lowered his head and planted his lips firmly on hers, snaking one hand through her hair and the other around her waist. She sighed as he held her tighter, and he felt her hands pressing against his back, sending a delicious warmth through him.
He thought of their past, of all the circumstances that had kept them apart and then driven them together. He thought of their future and hoped that no matter what roads they took, they would follow them together. And then he thought of nothing else but this moment and how she felt in his arms.
Finally, he broke the kiss and looked into her half-lidded eyes. "How was that?" he asked.
"That was..." she said, catching her breath. "That was a good moment."
Harry smiled and kissed her again, for a very long time.
"Happy Birthday, Princess," Harry said, leaning over Ginny as she sat at her desk on a warm August day, writing a letter to Maura to discuss some plans for their upcoming seventh year.
She looked up from her parchment and rolled her eyes. "You're going to call me that every year for the rest of my life now, aren't you."
Harry shrugged. "If you're lucky."
She laughed and swatted at him. "Prat."
"Oh," he said, waiving a rectangular package wrapped in brown paper in front of her. "You must not want this birthday present after all."
Ginny squeaked in surprise. "Present? But my party's not 'til tonight."
"You're right, I'll just wait 'til then," he said, backing toward the door. "No problem, just go back to your writing."
"Harry James, you bring that right back," she said.
"Come and get it," he said devilishly.
Ginny picked her wand up off the desk and pointed it at him. "Accio present!" It flew out of Harry's hands and neatly into hers.
"Or... you could do it that way," he muttered.
She grinned and moved to sit on the edge of her bed, shaking the parcel and holding it up to her ear. "Can I?" she asked.
"Of course you can," he smiled, sitting down next to her.
She tore off the paper unceremoniously to reveal a deep picture frame. It was edged in carved wood and covered with glass, but rather than a picture inside, it held a bunch of what looked like fresh herbs tied together with a red ribbon.
"It's... lovely, but…" She turned to him with a perplexed look. "What is it?"
He suppressed a grin at the look on her face. She was doing a very good job of pretending to be pleased when it was clear that she thought her boyfriend had just given her a bunch of weeds under glass for her seventeenth birthday.
"Look closer," he said.
Ginny squinted at the frame. "Well, that's parsley," she said, pointing to the far left of the frame. "Sage leaves next, that's obvious. And is that..." The answer finally dawned on her as she identified the pointed spikes of the rosemary plant, and she fell speechless. She looked up and saw Harry looking back at her with such love in his eyes, her heart caught in her throat. He took the frame from her and smiled.
"Parsley to take away bitterness, sage for strength, rosemary for faithfulness, and thyme for courage," he said.
"Oh!" her voice hitched. "You remembered."
"I was out in the garden the other day and saw them all growing together. It reminded me of that day when we went boating on the lake and you sang that song to me. And I thought maybe you could take it to Hogwarts with you and when you look at it, you could think of me, of us."
She kissed him on the cheek. "I will. I love it," she said. "But what will you take to remember me by?"
"I don't need any help to remember you," he said, nuzzling her neck. "I'll remember every bit of you."
She chuckled and pushed him away. "Oh, no, Potter. While I'm stuck up at Hogwarts and you're off traveling all over the country, I want you to remember that you're mine while you're fighting off all those women."
"Ginny, please," he groaned. "I'm not going to be fighting off any women."
"Oh, that's right. No one will be interested in the Chosen One wearing tight-fitting Quidditch robes."
It had only been a week since Harry had been offered a position as Seeker for the Falmouth Falcons. He'd agreed to try it out for one season as a temporary job until he could work out what he wanted to do with his life. That and the fact that Ron had threatened to disown him if he gave up the chance to play Quidditch professionally. Ron had secured an entry-level job in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, with the help of his father, and couldn't wait to share all the ins-and-outs of working at the Quidditch League with Harry.
But despite Harry telling her repeatedly that he would be spending the majority of his time at grueling practices and having an occasional pint at the Leaky Cauldron with Ron, Ginny had gotten it into her head that he would be besieged by crazy fans everywhere he went. He certainly hoped that wouldn't be the case.
Ginny searched through her room, pulling out drawers haphazardly. "There's got to be something in here I could give you," she mumbled, getting down on her hands and knees to look under her bed.
"Aren't you being a bit silly?" Harry asked, peering at the lower half of her body which was sticking out from under the bed.
"Aha!" came a muffled call. Ginny reappeared, her hair askew and her fist closed tightly around something.
"Aha what?" Harry asked.
She opened her hand to reveal a crumpled red hair ribbon. "There," she said, smoothing it out. "It's a little sappy, but it'll do in a pinch." She held the ribbon out to him.
"What am I supposed to do with this?" he asked, giving her an uncertain look.
"I don't know," she said. "Aren't you supposed to carry it around with you or tie it to the hilt of your sword or something? That's what the knights used to do with them anyway, carry little things from their ladies as they went into battle."
Harry stared at her. "First of all, the knights didn't tie ribbons around their swords. That's just stupid. And second, since when have you ever sent me into battle alone? I seem to recall you battling right alongside me on more than one occasion."
"Oh, just put it in your pocket. It will make me feel better," she said dismissively.
Harry shook his head and shoved the ribbon deep into the pocket of his jeans. "You're mental sometimes."
"I know," she grinned, flopping onto the bed beside him. "But that's why you love me."
I can't believe it's over! I started writing this story in December of 2004, took a year and a half to finish it, and 6 months to post it. It's been a life-changing experience for me in more ways than one, and I'm so glad you could share it with me.
So, Harry and Ginny are finally happy. But as you can see, I've left several of the storylines open for sequels, especially in regards to Hermione, Draco, Ron, and Maura. I don't have any immediate plans to write any sequels, but if the inspiration strikes me in the future, I may just have to revisit them.
Thank you to my faithful reviewers, whether you reviewed every chapter or only popped in once to tell me your thoughts. I read every word.
I mentioned a while back that I would list some songs I used for inspiration. Think of it as the "For Your Love" soundtrack:
Title Song: "For Your Love" by The Yardbirds
Harry & Ginny's theme: "You and Me" by Lifehouse
Harry & Ellie's theme: "You Learn" by Alanis Morissette
Ginny & Colin's theme: "Everything You Want" by Vertical Horizon
Ron & Hermione's theme: "The Promise" by When in Rome
Chapter 6 lyrics: "Scarborough Fair", traditional English ballad
Chapter 12 title: "Hey Jealousy" by Gin Blossoms
Love and Peace to you all,