Disclaimer: I don't own anything but the plot to this story--not even the real plot behind it. Ugh. Depressing. ;) Just kidding...
Author's Notes: This is what I thought should have happened after Deathly Hallows. It is compliant with everything but the epilogue, so you've been warned.
Pairings this Chapter: Implied Ron/Hermione & Harry/Ginny.
Pairings Note: Ron/Hermione will pretty much be the only constant couple in the first few chapters, until it really develops. I don't want to reveal too many of the other pairings as I don't want that to influence whether or not you continue to read this story. If you really MUST know, leave it in a review, and I'll gladly reply and tell you. :)
Three days. It had been three whole days since he defeated Voldemort when the Ministry had rounded on him. They had given him three days to recover. Three days to cope. Three days to mourn…
"Three fucking days, Shacklebolt," Harry growled at the Auror, slamming his hands on the kitchen table at the Burrow. The conversations being held outside at the luncheon after Fred's funeral quieted; the Boy-Who-Lived was finally losing it.
"Do you? Do you really?!" Harry ran a frustrated hand through his hair, gripping the locks and pulling lightly. "I just sacrificed seven years of my life fighting a fight I didn't choose for myself. My parents, my godfather, his friends, my friends—my childhood is gone. It was gone the moment that prophecy was created," Harry's voice was dangerously quiet as he glowered at the newly appointed Minister of Magic. His gaze worsened when he saw the pity in Shacklebolt's eyes, and he raised his voice as he continued, "And when it's finally over—when I finally get a sense of bloody normalcy in my life—the Ministry gives me three bloody days before you drag me off into another fight that's not mine? Three days?"
"Harry… Listen, the Ministry needs--"
"Everyone," he enunciated the word, pounding his fists onto the table at each different syllable, "has needs. But have you ever given a bloody thought about mine?" Kingsley was silent, and that was all that Harry needed. He put a hand to his head, rubbing his left temple in an attempt to rid himself of the migraine he was suffering from. "Go away, Kingsley. The Ministry got along fine before Voldemort; it'll get along fine after him," he crossed his arms and walked outside stiffly. Almost immediately the conversation picked up as everyone tried to pretend not to have heard.
"Harry!" Kingsley called out the back door. "How can you be so selfish?" Harry stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to face him. His face was red with anger, and his green eyes flashed at the taller man.
"What did you say?"
"The Ministry needs a leader, Harry--"
"And they bloody have you!" Harry roared. "The last connection with my parents is gone! His wife went with him and my godson's an orphan! My best mate's older brother is dead and we watched him die! If there's anywhere I 'need' to be, Kingsley, it's here," he gestured about him wildly, his eyes softening as he looked from Weasley to Weasley solemnly. He slowly turned back to Kingsley and whispered, "with my family." He looked at Mrs. Weasley when he said it, but looked away quickly out of embarrassment. Perhaps they didn't consider him family, but…
"Harry, I understand that you need time," Kingsley said gently, and Harry visibly flinched at the amount of pity in his voice, "but time is the one thing the Ministry doesn't have. Everyone's scared, Harry," he said, turning to look from face to face, "but you… you are their hero—their savior. They look up to you, and they need you now to lead them out of this. Harry--"
"Kingsley," Mrs. Weasley warned, looking at Harry who seemed fit for bursting. Her voice quavered, slightly, as she continued. "Come back tomorrow. Harry will still be here, I'm sure, and you can discuss this then." It wasn't a request, nor a statement; it was her subtle plea. Kingsley set his jaw and nodded. With a crack he was gone. Mrs. Weasley nodded stiffly, "Sit, Harry."
He shook his head, looking back where Shacklebolt had just been standing and sighed. He moved towards the only empty seat at the far end of the table, directly across from George. He sat down next to Ron, who looked stricken from what had just been said. Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled sadly at Harry. Harry merely nodded in her direction, and looked at Ginny who was seated next to George. She avoided his eyes, staring at her empty plate instead.
"Tuck in, everyone!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, sniffing. Harry wasn't hungry; however, he helped himself to the food only so they wouldn't make a fuss. Conversation had picked up at the other end of the table. Percy and Charlie were taking turns filling in the family on what they plan to do after everything has settled down while Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were listening intently, and Fleur was attempting to console an oddly quiet Bill.
On Harry's end, however, it couldn't be any more awkward. George was staring off into space, and hadn't moved since Harry had joined them. Ron and Hermione seemed to be having a quiet argument over something, and Ginny was refusing to meet Harry's eye.
"Fine," Ron huffed to a triumphant Hermione, glowering at her before turning back to his lunch. Harry quirked a brow at his friends, but said nothing. "'Mione and me," Ron finally muttered in between bites, "are taking night classes at the Ministry so we can take our N.E.W.T.s in August…"
"Good idea," Harry muttered back, "but I'm not interested if that's where you were going with it."
"But I thought you wanted to be an Auror--"
"I do, and I got enough O.W.L.s to get into training," Harry reasoned. He offered Ron a small smile, "I just want a break, Ron… don't get on my case, too."
"All right, all right," Ron sighed, turning to Hermione with a shrug. Harry rolled his eyes and turned towards Ginny who finally looked at him. His smile grew, but she shook her head and looked back down at her plate. Harry turned to George, who still looked lost.
"You all right, George?" Harry asked tentatively. A rather unfeminine snort resounded from beside him, and he turned to see Ginny staring at him incredulously.
"Did you really just ask him that?" Ginny said, her voice mirroring her disbelief. "How do you think he feels? Honestly--"
George held up a hand to silence her before offering Harry a shrug. "He's just--" He paused for a long moment before his eyes welled up. He hung his head, "trying to make conversation." His voice broke, as—for the first time in his entire life—he had to finish his own sentence.
"Still," Ginny insisted, "there are other things to talk about."
"Gin," Ron warned, looking at her closely. She turned away from all of them, and moved to start a conversation with Bill who had been oblivious to the previous proceedings. Ron turned to Harry and quirked a brow in an obvious question of 'What did you do', but Harry didn't answer him immediately. He rolled his eyes and turned to his untouched food. "What did you do?" Ron hissed at him moments later, impatience setting in.
"Nothing, drop it."
"Talk to her," Ron said in, what Harry assumed, was his 'authoritative' tone.
"I was going to anyways, so sod off," Harry muttered, and Ron seemed to appreciate that answer because he let it drop. He turned to Hermione.
"So, we'll go tomorrow, then?" He resumed their previous private conversation. "Be back on Sunday for class?"
"Go where?" Harry asked curiously.
"Australia… to get my parents," Hermione said softly, an apologetic look on her face. "Ron wasn't even supposed to come; he sort of forced his way into the situation."
"Don't worry," Harry offered a small, fake smile. "I'll be here when you come back." Ron and Hermione smiled.
"Where would you go?" Ron joked, and Harry awkwardly laughed.
The rest of the luncheon went off without a hitch, yet Ginny still refused to look or talk to Harry. Ron and Hermione went to bed early; they had to fly to Australia due to the distance, and their flight was rather early. Mr. Weasley also went to bed early. George holed himself up in his room directly after excusing himself from the table. Charlie, Bill and Percy talked over firewhiskey in the kitchen, and after turning down their offer to join them; Harry found Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, and Fleur talking in the living room.
"Gin," he whispered to her, breaking up the conversation. "I'm going for a walk."
"Are you asking permission?" She asked smartly with a smirk.
"No," Harry glowered. "I'm asking for company." Her smirk persisted, but she excused herself from her mother and sister-in-law anyway. They walked in silence out the back door and into the garden. They reached the pond and sat in an awkward silence for what felt like an eternity. Finally, he broke it, "Ron and Hermione are leaving tomorrow…"
"I know," she said just as quietly. "Hermione told me."
"Ah…" Harry made no move to continue the conversation, but when she didn't either he took a deep breath and began. "Ginny--"
"Harry, look," she didn't seem able to hold it back anymore. "I understand what you did and why you did it," she said sympathetically. "And I know that the world still needs you--"
"And I'm turning them down!" Harry pleaded, exasperated.
"And it's inevitable that you will help them," she said softly; she reached up and affectionately touched his hair, "it's your nature." Her voice was so soft, now, that he was straining to hear her; her eyes were firmly looking over his shoulder, yet he persisted in trying to get her to look at him. She sighed and continued, moving her eyes to stare at her shoes, "And those days… weeks… months that you deny them will be amazing. Bust as soon as you go, I'll be waiting all over again. The world will never be rid of evil, Harry," she whispered, finally looking at him. "And I don't want to spend the rest of my life waiting."
"What are you saying?" He asked stupidly, dumbstruck by this revelation. She shook her head and smiled, leaning up to kiss him softly. She broke away before he could deepen it, and she finally looked him in the eye.
"G'bye, Harry," she said quietly, moving away quickly. She went back into the house, leaving him alone and confused. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, wishing more than ever that he never wanted to be the hero ever again.
He sat down on the edge of the small dock, his feet dangling over the side. His trainers were barely grazing the water and he stared down at them. He bit his lip—could it really be over… just like that? No warning or anything—just one of the best things to ever happen to Harry over. It finally hit him like being woken up by a bucket of freezing cold water. He stood up abruptly, turning around to go back inside when he came face to face with Luna Lovegood. He started, slightly, and if it hadn't been for the fact that she caught his arm, he would've falled into the small pond. He stabilized himself on the dock, all the while staring at her. "Hello, Harry," she said brightly.
"What're you doing here?" He asked, catching his breath from his little scare. She smiled.
"Saying good-bye," she said quietly, her blue eyes sparkling in the moonlight.
"You're leaving, too?" He was getting frustrated; what was the point in him staying if no one else was?
"Yes," her smile widened. "I'm going in searching of the hugging haliglows." She looked at Harry excitedly, "They hug their victims into suffucation, but their crushed bones are essential in most heart calming potions."
"Gave up on the Crumple-Horned Snorckacks?" Harry lightly teased as they walked to the Burrow together.
"My father was a very smart man, Harry, but not a very wise one," she told him simply as she walked inside the kitchen. Frowning, he followed her. Ginny was sitting at the kitchen table, reading over some summer work while she sipped a cup of tea. She looked up as Luna came in and raised a brow at Harry's appearance afterwards. "Good bye, Gin!" Luna said cheerfully.
"Don't you mean hello?" Ginny asked with a friendly smile, her eyes still on Harry however. He shrugged and motioned for her to look at Luna. She regarded the laughing Ravenclaw a bit reproachfully.
"No—it's just like what I was telling Harry," she said, smiling warmly, "I'm leaving tomorrow, and I've come to say good-bye."
"Oh, well, I'll see you at school, then!" She smiled, but it wavered when Luna laughed again.
"I'm not going back, silly!" She smiled warmly, "I'm taking over the Quibbler! Father's deciding to retire, as he's always wanted to, and he's passing it on to me… You know, it must've been hard for him to continue on after… well, me being… well, anyway… I'm taking over the Quibbler," she finished simply, sitting in a chair across from Ginny.
"Oh, I see." Ginny seemed rather upset by this news, but attempted to put on a bright exterior, however. "Maybe you could visit me at Hogsmeade."
Luna shrugged, "I could try, but I suspect I will be rather busy." She leaned in and lowered her voice to a whisper, "There have been numerous spottings of the elusive Nessilive Sea Monster."
Both Harry and Ginny humored her with a smile, but Luna was oblivious, glancing around the room as if looking for something. "Where's Ron and Hermione?" She finally asked.
"Sleeping," Ginny smiled. "They're leaving tomorrow, too."
"Oh. Well… maybe I could owl them," Luna smiled, turning back. "Well, I got to go… I still need to pack my Nargle nets."
"Do you want to use our floor?"
"Oh, no, I quite prefer walking. Who knows—perhaps I'll see a Star-light stank," Luna smiled, waving cheerfully. "Good-bye!"
Ginny sent Harry a look, and he rolled his eyes.
"Let me walk you home, Luna."
"Oh, you don't have to," Luna said as she opened the kitchen door. Harry stood up and smiled.
"No—I'll walk you home and apparate back."
"Well, if you insist," she shrugged, waving at Ginny again. He held the door open for her, and she walked out. He sighed and followed her into the garden. She was watching him curiously as she waited by the gate. He caught up with her, and he noticed her stare. He felt suddenly self-conscious, and it worsened once she verbalized her thoughts, "You and Ginny aren't dating anymore."
It wasn't a question, simply a statement. Harry blushed, slightly, raising a perplexed brow. "How'd you--"
"Ron and Hermione are leaving—without you," another blunt statement. "So… what are you doing?"
He walked out the gate, and she followed, falling into step with him as he avoided the question. "What do you mean?"
She didn't say anything for a while, and they were engulfed in an awkward silence. Just as he was about to reiterate his question, she answered. "Everyone is moving on. What are you doing?"
"I still don't--"
"The Ministry needs you, no doubt," she eyed him up quietly. "But you've turned them down… yes, you'd be there if they had convinced you." He didn't say anything, so she continued, assuming that she must've been right. "No doubtedly, you turned them down to spend time with the Weasleys," she said simply, brilliant blue eyes scanning the landscape around them, "but they all seem devoted to spending time without you," she smiled cheerfully at him. "So…"
"So," she giggled, as if it was obvious, "what are you going to do?"
He was quiet for a moment, pondering all she had just said. "How—how did you know all that?" She looked at him seriously.
"It's easy to listen when people pretend you aren't there," she shrugged. "And when you are always listening, you pick up some things."
"Oh, well," she looked around happily, "like when you," she looked at him pointedly, "don't want to answer a question, you ask another and hope I simply," she threw her hands into the air with a laugh. "Forget!"
Harry blushed, but didn't answer her. She smiled knowingly, "You can't stay because the Ministry will hound you… but you have no where to go…" She let it hang in the air as she glanced around their surroundings again. He was about to venomously reply that not only could he handle the ministry, but that he had plenty of places to go before he deemed it useless; Luna could and would see right through it. He sighed.
"Any suggestions?" He muttered quietly as they came upon her house. She walked through the gate, and turned to him with a smile.
"Come with me."
"Er--?" His jaw dropped slightly and he stared at her incredulously. Her smile persisted.
"It's very laid back, you see, and far away from here," her smile grew. "And it shouldn't be long; like I said, there have been many sea monster sightings recently."
"Luna--" Harry began to protest, but she caught him off guard when she laughed.
"C'mon, Harry… what else are you going to do?"
There you go!
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