"Do I have to go back so soon?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Harry said, pulling Ginny closer to him.
They were standing on Platform 9 and 3/4, with their arms around each other, ignoring the hushed whispers that surrounded them. Ron and Hermione, having already said their goodbyes, stood slightly down the platform, tactfully looking elsewhere. Ginny made pouty face.
"You know, you actually had more time off than the others," Harry said, tapping her on the nose with his forefinger.
"I know, but it didn't seem that way, what with you being in St. Mungo's so long and me being mad at you after," Ginny replied, moving a hand down Harry's back. "We didn't get a chance for much alone time," she hissed in his ear, as her hand disappeared under the hem of his shirt.
Harry cleared his throat. "Uh, Gin? I don't think now's the best time," he said, trying to remove her hand, which had now moved to his stomach.
"Shh," she hushed, embracing him tighter. Just then, the train's whistle blew, and they both jumped.
"Alright, fine!" Ginny huffed, pulling away. "I just feel so strange at Hogwarts now. Sometimes, I even catch myself taking the secret routes I used to take to avoid the Carrows. And it's even harder being away from you."
"It's only a few more months. And I'll come to every quidditch match and every Hogsmeade weekend," Harry said, stroking her cheek. "Speaking of which, when is the next match?"
"At the end of the month. And the next Hogsmeade trip is Valentine's day weekend."
"At least we have that to look forward too," Harry said, winking. Ginny grinned back. The whistle blew again.
"Gotta go. Love you," Ginny rushed, kissing Harry quickly. Harry responded, by crushing her to him, deepening the kiss for a moment before releasing her.
"Goodbye," he murmured, as she hurried toward the train.
He walked to wave with his two best friends, as the train chugged along.
"Seems strange to watch it leave doesn't it?" a voice sounded behind him. He turned and saw Luna with the usual dreamy look about her standing inches from him. He did a double-take, looking from Luna to the departing train and then back to Luna again.
"Luna, why aren't you on the train?" Harry asked, as Ron and Hermione turned around.
"Oh, I've decided not to finish school. I just came by to see everyone off," Luna said simply, beaming as the two walked over.
"Not finish school? Why?" Hermione said, looking slightly appalled. Ron rolled his eyes, and Hermione elbowed him before turning her attentions back to Luna.
"I've realized that I don't exactly need these last few months for what I want to. I'd rather plan for it," Luna answered, swatting at what Harry assumed was a nargle.
"Well, what is it you want to do," Ron piped up.
"I want to travel the world and research all sorts of unidentified magical creatures. Maybe one day, I'll write a book about them," Luna said, excitedly.
"That's great, Luna! I hope you enjoy yourself," Harry said, genuinely.
"Yeah, good luck, Luna," Hermione said, forcing a smile. Now it was Ron's turn to elbow her.
"Thanks, you guys!" Luna said, beaming, oblivious to Ron and Hermione's interaction. "I will miss you, though"
"Well, when are you leaving?" Ron asked.
"The beginning of the summer. I want to spend a few months with dad, before I go. He misses me terribly when I leave," Luna said, as they began to walk towards the wall to platforms nine and ten.
"Well, why don't you spend some time with us, before you go too?" Harry asked. "You're always welcome at the Burrow."
"Are you free this Monday, Luna?" Hermione said. "You could drop by my office and we'll have lunch."
"Oh that would be nice, I'd like to, Hermione," Luna said, giving a wide smile.
"Stop by at around noon and ask the front desk where Rolf Scamander's office is. You'll find me in the adjoining room," Hermione said, smiling back.
"Oh, I will. I must go now, though. Daddy will be waiting for me. See you all soon!" Luna said, waving.
"Bye, Luna," they chorused, as she disappeared through the wall.
"That was nice of you," Ron said, turning to Hermione. "I never thought you liked her."
"Of course I like her, Ron," Hermione responded indignantly. "I just think crumple-horned snork-whatevers and nargles are a bunch of dragon dung."
Harry and Ron exchanged a look.
"Well, it looks like Ron's been rubbing off on you as well, eh?" Harry teased, nudging her arm.
Harry and Ron laughed as Hermione blushed and stalked through the wall, before following her and disapparating.
"Boys! Hurry up, you're going to be late!" Mrs. Weasley called up the stairs. Silence. She waited.
"You won't have time for breakfast!" she called again. She was rewarded by the sounds of scrambling feet and 'Git! Find your own socks'. Mrs. Weasley smiled to herself and went back to the kitchen.
She was just putting two stacks of toast and kippers on the table when Harry and Ron stumbled into the room, pulling on robes and smoothing their hair.
"You've got ten minutes, eat," Mrs. Weasley commanded, summoning the coffee pot and two mugs. They immediately obeyed, sitting down and shoveling food into their mouths at a rapid pace.
"Hermione's already gone, then," Ron said, as he crammed another piece of toast into his already bulging mouth.
"Don't talk with you're mouth full, and yes, she left twenty minutes ago. She may actually have been on time," Mrs. Weasley said, looking at the clock on the wall and seeing Hermione's hand firmly on 'work'.
"We're ok, it's only..." Harry said, looking at his watch. "Crap, we gotta go, come on, mate," he said, dropping his toast and pulling Ron up by the elbow. Ron whined, but went to the door to slip his trainers on.
"Wait, I've made you both lunch," Mrs. Weasley said, rushing forward holding two bags out. Ron and Harry slowed their movements.
"You didn't have to do that," Harry said, toeing on his own shoes.
"Yeah, we could've got our own lunch," Ron said, flipping the collar of his robes.
Mrs. Weasley's smile faded and she lowered the bags. "Yes, well, I suppose you're right, you're perfectly capable...," she muttered, averting her eyes. Harry and Ron exchanged a look.
Then, Harry leaned forward, taking his bag and kissed Mrs. Weasley on the cheek. "Thanks, Molly, really," he said.
Ron took the other bag, kissed her other cheek and said," Yeah, thanks, mum. See you at supper."
And they stepped out the door and headed down the lawn to the apparation point. Mrs. Weasley stood there for a minute before rushing to the open door.
"Have a good day!" She called. They turned and waved. She stood there, watching their retreating backs, and sighed.
"Well, I guess it's just you and me now, huh, Errol?" She said, turning towards his perch. The old owl blinked at her before turning his head and falling alseep.
Harry and Ron exited the lift at level two, just in time to dodge a flock of interdepartmental memos, which flew into the lift just as the doors closed.
"Harry! Ron!," a voice boomed, and they turned to see Robards approaching them with a stack of scrolls under his arm. He walked over them an clapped his free hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Good to see you boys. Right on time, too" He said, eyeing the large clock above the lifts. Ron gave Harry an I-told-you-so look. Robards turned back to them.
"Why don't you get your things together, then I'll show you to your new office. I've just got to put these on my desk," he said, gesturing with the scrolls. Harry and Ron nodded and headed toward their soon-to-be-vacated cubicles.
"Seems strange, doesn't it?" Ron said as he swept everything off his desk into a box with one arm.
"What does?" Harry asked, taking down his Weasley family photo from a shelf. Ron looked around, then leaned in closer. Harry looked up.
"Getting promoted so soon," Ron said in hushed tones. "Do you suppose the others think we're getting special treatment?"
"Why don't you ask them yourself," Harry said, nodding towards Michaels. Ron leaned away as he approached.
"You guys moving today?" Michaels asked, eyeing the half-emptied desks.
"Yeah, Robards wants us to get used to the new set-up as soon as possible," Harry said, stacking scrolls in his box. Michaels nodded.
"Well, see you around, then?," Michaels said, leaned on the cubicle wall.
"See you over there," Harry said, nodding towards the auror offices, and picking up his, now full, box.
"Probably later, rather than sooner," Michaels muttered, looking down at his shoes.
"Nah mate, I reckon the opposite," Harry said, grinned at him as he as Ron headed out.
Michaels grinned, and turned to make his way back to his desk. Just then, Robards billowed out of his office and scanned the room for the newly-minted Aurors.
"Ah, there you are! Excellent!," he said rather loudly, having spotted them. "If you'll just follow me."
And they followed Robards down a hallway off of the Auror-training wing. The hallway was long and narrow, and it stuck Harry as odd that he hadn't noticed it before. He glanced at the portraits on the walls to discover that they were all of former aurors. Near the end of the hallway, he was surprised to come face to face with a portrait each of Mad-eye Moody and Tonks, side by side, and grinning identically at him. Before he could even register, Robards had tossed an arm each around he and Ron, who had noticed nothing, and ushered them through a doorway.
"Well, here it is!," Robards announced proudly, gesturing widely with both arms. "I went ahead and made you two partners. Thought it only made sense, seeing as you two have already been so much together. You've each got a desk, complete with file cabinet and safe, for top secret documents. Office chairs, feel free to transfigure them to your own comfort, a generous supply of ink and quills, and our special interdepartmental memo pad, personalized, of course," he finished laying a hand on a stack of purple papers, emblazoned with the words 'Ministry of Magic' on the top.
Harry looked around. The office was small, but then, he was surprised to be receiving an office at all. He leaned over the memo pad that Robards had just patted and picked it up. In smaller letters, underneath the Ministry's seal, were the words 'From the desk of Harry James Potter, Auror Offices, Department of Magical Law Enforcement'. He looked up at Robards.
"It's wonderful," he said, smiling. Robards clapped him on the shoulder.
"I'm glad you like it," he replied, before glancing at the door, where a man in a long black ponytail had appeared "Ah! Perfect! Harry, Ron, I'd like to introduce you to Williamson. As level one Aurors, you'll be reporting to him."
Williamson walked in and smiled, extending his hand.
"Welcome to the department, it's an honor to work with both of you," Williamson said with bright eyes, as he shook their hands. "I say, it's been quite a long time since a pair of wizards so young have impressed me so much. It's a pleasure."
Harry grinned, as he saw Ron's ear go red in his peripheral vision.
"The pleasure's ours, sir," Ron stammered. Harry laughed internally. Despite the amount of publicity that he, Ron and Hermione had received since the battle in May, it still surprised Ron that he was included in the praise. Harry glanced back at Williamson and squinted. There was something familiar about him, that he just couldn't place.
"Pardon me, sir, but have we met?" Harry asked, furiously trying to recall where he had seen that ponytail before. Williamson's smile faded.
"Not exactly, Harry," Williamson began, casting his eyes down, as if he was revealing an embarrassing secret. "I doubt you remember, but I was there that night when You-Know-Who infiltrated the Department of Mysteries, years ago."
The clouds parted in Harry's mind as a memory resurfaced, of a man in scarlet robes, pointing at the place from which Voldemort had disapparated, shouting "He was there! I saw him, Mr. Fudge, I swear..."
"I do remember. You were with Fudge, weren't you?" Harry asked.
"Yes, I was. And I'm terribly sorry, Harry," Williamson said, casting his eyes away again.
"Sorry? Sorry for what?" Harry said. Williamson's sudden shame confused him.
"For being with Fudge, for taking his side," Williamson rushed, quite embarrassed now. "You see, I had just had a daughter. And I just couldn't face the fact that I had brought a child into such a dangerous place. I took the wrong side and I'm sorry. Perhaps if measures had been taken against him sooner..."
"Voldemort would have caused the same amount of destruction and chaos, whether the Ministry had believed me or not," Harry said, looking Williamson in the face. "I don't blame those who followed Fudge, I blame Fudge. Because he was there when it happened, he saw my face, he knew I wasn't lying. He was just trying to protect his career. Those who followed him, had nothing to do with it. It's only natural to believe what's in the papers, what your leader is telling you. Especially, if not believing it means facing war after 15 years of peace."
Williamson looked up. He laughed weakly.
"Wise words, maybe I should be reporting to you," Williamson, said with a smile. Harry blushed.
"Maybe someday," Robards joked, putting a hand on Williamson's shoulder. "Let's let these boys get settled in."
"Of course," Williamson said, clearing his throat. "There's a meeting in the conference room at one. It'll bring you up to speed on our latest project. See you there?"
"Definitely," Ron said, looking from Williamson to Harry
"We'll be there," Harry agreed.
"Execllent," Williamson said, turning to leave. "Oh, I almost forgot," He said, and he tapped the door with his wand and gold lettering appeared that read 'Harry James Potter and Ronald Bilius Weasley, Aurors, Level One'. Then Ron and Harry were alone.
"Whew, you handled that well," Ron said, putting his cardboard box on his desk. "I felt like I was watching a confession, and you were about to absolve him of his sins."
"It wasn't the first apology I've gotten, "Harry said. A series of strangers had approached him over the last seven months, begging forgiveness for their actions during the war. He had told all of them that they were not in the wrong.
"Yeah, I suppose not," Ron said, sitting in his chair, and putting his feet up on his desk. "You know, I could get used to this private office stuff."
"Yeah," Harry said, but he had not heard Ron. He was thinking instead, of this one woman who had confessed to him that she had told snatchers that her neighbors were muggle-born, just so she could create a sufficient diversion for her to escape with her half-blood children. The look of horror on her face at her own actions hadn't bothered Harry in months, until now.
"Hello!," Hemione heard a bright voice say, and she looked up from her desk, to see Luna beaming in the doorway.
"Hey Luna! How are you?"
"I'm well, and you?" Luna said, looking around Hermione's small work area.
I'm alright," Hermione said, smiling and getting up. "I'm afraid Harry and Ron can't come today, they've got a meeting in an hour."
"That's too bad," Luna said slightly absently.
"We can stop by and say hi to them before we leave though, it's only two floors down," Hermione continued, gathering the papers she was working on.
Just then, the door to Rolf Scamander's office opened, and a head poked out.
"Hermione, did you finish filing those reassignments, I asked for?" Rolf asked.
"They're right here, Mr. Scamander," Hermione said, handing him the papers she just finished gathering.
"Excellent!" he said, taking them from her and surveying them over his purple rimmed spectacles. He glanced up to see Luna. "Who's this?"
"Oh, pardon me," Hermione said, instantly getting flustered. "Mr. Scamander, this is my friend, Luna. Luna, this is Mr. Scamander, the head of the Office of House-Elf Relocation."
"Please, Hermione, not so formal. You can call me Rolf," he said extending his hand to Luna.
"Hello Rolf, that's a great name," Luna said, smiling.
"As is Luna," Rolf smiled back. Then he gestured to her usual radish earrings. "Having a nargle problem?"
Hermione's jaw dropped.
"Oh, no, but you can never be too careful," Luna replied, without batting an eye. "I'm gonna need them a lot in the near future, though."
"Oh yeah? Why's that?" Rolf asked.
"I'm going to be a traveling magizoologist," Luna said, excitedly.
"Really? You know I've always wanted to do that, but I got pressured into doing this by my grandfather," Rolf said, becoming slightly dreamy-eyed. Hermione's wide eyes darted between him and Luna.
"You should do it, someday," Luna said, smiling. "What's stopping you?"
"At the moment, I'm not sure," Rolf said softly, staring intently at Luna.
Hermione cleared her throat. "Well, Luna, I suppose we should get going," she said, glancing between them.
"Hmm?" Luna said, turing to her. "Oh yes, well, it was nice meeting you Rolf."
"And you, Luna," Rolf said, as he watched them go.
As they approached the lifts, Hermione glanced sideways at Luna. She pressed the button and they stepped on.
"He's nice," Luna said, dreamily, as the doors closed
I'm back! As you can probably tell, my writing has taken a back burner for a while, and I'm sorry. I'm not going to promise something I can't keep, so I'll just say that I hope to post another chapter in the near future. I have the next chapter planned though, it's just a matter of getting it down. Anyway, thanks to those who have stuck around, I hope you liked the chapter. Please review! Thank you.