I am so very deeply, truly sorry for the layoff. This chapter has been a long time coming and thankfully, I have finally completed it (the chapter that is, not the story). All I have to say is that I am glad this particular chapter is done because it has unfortunately taken me a whole Summer to get it to where I wanted it to be. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading the chapter and that it ends up being worth the wait.
The room was perfectly still. There was no noise coming from outside, or from within. It was as if no sound could escape the room's walls, though, there was good reason for that. The only light present was coming from a bit of sun that was peeking through the window. Its brightness seemed to penetrate the darkness of the room and reflect off the walls, highlighting the posters of women flying on broomsticks.
A shirt lay discarded on the floor, next to a pair of women's shoes. A black sock remained hidden beneath the dressing table, along with a few more pieces of clothing that had been strewn throughout the room. The only disturbance in this quiet peacefulness was coming from the bed, whose occupants were just beginning to show signs of waking up.
Ginny stretched herself from beneath the duvet. She groaned in pleasure as she felt a few of her joints crack. Pulling her arm from beneath the pillow, she moved her hand to the spot next to her. Ginny opened her eyes when she felt nothing there. "Harry?"
A head popped out from beneath the covers, touching her hand, "Hmm?"
Ginny breathed a sigh of relief, 'It hadn't been a dream,' she thought. She grinned to herself as she handed Harry his glasses and watched him open his gorgeous green eyes to stare at her. "Hey," was all he said.
"Hey," Ginny responded, smiling in happiness.
Harry grinned back at her, "I told you I'd be here when you woke up," he chided, causing her to blush. "What happened, you couldn't find me? You know I've been here the whole time?"
"I know, I just got scared when I didn't see you. I thought . . . I thought for a second that last night hadn't happened. That it had only been a dream."
Harry passed his hand through her hair, "It wasn't a dream Ginny, it was the real thing," he said softly. "Well, for me it was."
Ginny's face brightened, "It was real for me too."
"Really? Each time?" he asked.
Ginny swatted his shoulder, "Yes, all of them." She giggled as he jokingly pumped his fist. "Someone's proud of himself."
Harry shrugged, hiding the smug look appearing on his face, "Maybe a bit."
Ginny smirked, "As well you should be." She moaned deeply as Harry pulled her closer, and they began to engage in an early morning snog. Unfortunately, just when things were about to escalate further, she decided to pull away.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
Ginny sighed to herself, "Harry, my parents could be up any minute. We really should be getting dressed now."
Harry groaned aloud. "Do we have to?"
Ginny rolled her eyes in amusement. "Harry, the last thing we need is for my parents to find you in my bed."
He groaned once more. "I suppose that would put a damper on the morning."
"Yes it would," Ginny agreed, reluctantly.
"Though, it is pretty early," he said, a cheeky grin on his face. "I highly doubt anyone's awake by now."
Ginny almost laughed. She really wanted to stay in bed for a while longer, despite knowing that she couldn't. She knew her mother always checked her room first, as it was closest. She stared up at Harry to tell him no one last time, and this time she did laugh.
His hair was sticking up even more than usual and he was looking at her with hopeful eyes that made it impossible to look away. In fact, the longer she stared at him, the more Ginny felt like it was well worth taking the risk. Somehow, all those thoughts of being caught began to fade and for some reason, Ginny found herself saying, "How early is it?"
Harry raised his eyebrows for a moment, but didn't hesitate in showing her his watch. Ginny glanced at the time. After taking a second to think it over, she said, "Go check if anyone's awake, then come back and lock the door."
It was a long while later when Harry and Ginny crept downstairs to the kitchen. After their early morning activities, they had worked up quite an appetite. Upon reaching the kitchen, it looked as if there was no one there, or so they thought.
The back door swung shut. George glanced up at them, a mischievous smile on his face. "Morning."
Ginny's eyes flashed but she smiled pleasantly, "Good morning George. Just getting here?"
"Nope. Actually, I never left."
"Really, then where are you coming from?"
"Oh, I was just saying good-bye to Lee when you two showed up. He spent the night on the sofa," George explained. He stared at them, looking curious, "What happened, did you two plan to wake up at the same time or something?"
"Yeah, something like that," said Ginny. "So, you slept on the other sofa then?" she asked.
George shook his head, "Nah, I was feeling nostalgic, so I slept in my old room."
Ginny gulped, "You slept where?"
"My old room . . ." George began, "Or should I call it your room Harry? You see I'm confused because the whole time I was there, I never saw you come in." He grinned at Harry and Ginny's identical expressions. "So anyways, I was just wondering, well actually I'd say curious to know, where you slept last night?"
Harry gulped again. All he could think was, 'He already knows.' Feeling Ginny's breath hitch next to him, he could only assume she had come to the same conclusion. Harry felt her grip tighten around his wrist. They exchanged a glance.
The firm look on Ginny's face was the only bit of confirmation Harry needed. Taking a deep breath, he turned back to George and boldly stated, "I think you know."
If George was surprised by his response, he didn't show it. Harry waited anxiously as George stared at him, a hard look in his eye. He and Ginny stared right back, examining his face for any sign of a reaction.
He turned away from them. "Can you give us a minute Harry? I'd like to talk to my sister alone."
Harry was about to protest but Ginny put her hand on his shoulder. "It's alright Harry," she said softly.
Again, their eyes met, "You're sure?" he asked. She nodded in reply. "Okay, I'll be upstairs if you need me."
Ginny watched as Harry left the room before turning back to George. She had never seen him this way. He didn't look angry, but he definitely did not look amused either. "I know what you're going to say."
"No you don't Ginny, so just stop," George countered. "You couldn't possibly know what I'm going to say because right now even I don't even know. Just give me a moment to think, alright?"
"Okay," she said softly.
George stared at the ceiling. After some time, he sighed, "I just can't believe it Ginny." He began to shake his head. "I'm just so . . . disappointed." He stared right at her. "I mean really, Bill has got to be the worst chaperone ever."
It might have been the seriousness of the situation, or the fact that she was just so relieved. But somehow, Ginny couldn't help it. She burst into laughter. George at least managed to hold himself to a chuckle as Ginny nearly collapsed to the floor. Her brother watched in amusement as she managed to seat herself on the last step.
Ginny stared at him, "I'm shocked George. I thought for sure you were about to yell at me."
George smiled, "Now why would I do that?"
"Well, I thought you'd be upset."
George sat down beside her and shook his head, "Not at all. You're an adult Ginny. Or you might as well be so what kind of prat would I be if I judged you for doing what makes you happy." He paused, "You are happy, aren't you?"
"Yes George, I'm very happy," she told him, a large smile encompassing her face.
"That's gross Ginny–, I mean that's great," he remarked, making her snigger. "You know to be honest, I sort of expected this to happen."
"Yup, I knew it was only a matter of time before you seduced our noble hero."
Ginny rolled her eyes, "I didn't seduce him George."
"Oh I see, so it was a mutual seduction then?"
She giggled, "If you wanna call it that."
He grinned at her. "Who else knows about this?"
"Besides you? Hermione, Luna, and Neville," she answered.
George raised his eyebrows, "Really? Not Ron?"
Ginny shook her head, "He doesn't know."
"That's probably a good thing if you think about it," he pointed out.
"Maybe," she said, "I'm still not sure how he'd react."
George nodded, "I doubt it'll be the reaction you're looking for. But, then again, we can't all be as mature as me."
"No, we can't," Ginny said, grinning. She then leaned over and let George wrap his arm around her. "Thanks for being so understanding."
"You're welcome, Ginny. So, may I ask you something?"
Ginny stared at him, "I'm not sure, but go on."
"Am I your favourite brother now?" he asked.
Ginny smiled, before looking thoughtful. "I'd say you're at least in the top five."
"Top five!" George huffed. "Oh c'mon, I'm ahead of Percy though, aren't I? At least tell me that," he demanded, causing her to laugh again.
"Sure George," she said with a wink.
"Alright then, that's what I thought," he said smugly. He tapped her knee and stood up, "I have to go open the shop, so you can go call Harry now. Poor bloke's probably sweating it out upstairs."
"You're probably right," said Ginny. She said goodbye to George and was on her way to Harry's room when he called her back.
She came back down a few steps, "Yeah?"
"I almost forgot, make sure to go into Mum and Dad's room and wake them up."
She studied him, confused, "Why do I need to wake them up?"
"Don't worry about it," said George, stepping out the back door. "Bye!"
Ginny groaned. Quickly, she raced outside, before calling out to him. "George, what did you do?" she shouted.
He turned, an innocent look on his face, "Nothing."
"Alright, alright, calm down, it wasn't anything bad. I just slipped something in their drinks last night."
"It's perfectly safe, it only knocks them out for a bit. They'll be fine Ginny, they just need to be woken up is all. Oh don't look at me like that," he said hurriedly, backing away from her as she continued to advance on him. "I don't understand why you're so upset, you should be thanking me."
"Thanking you!" she yelled, finally stopping herself as they reached the fence.
"Well yeah. What if Mum and Dad had woken up early, hmm? They could have found you and our resident 'Saviour' in bed together. Isn't that right?"
She glared at him, "I suppose."
George smirked, "Then, I did you a favour."
"Really, a favour?" she asked, unconvinced.
"Yup, you can repay me anytime."
Ginny narrowed her eyes at him, "So this so-called 'favour' of yours, you did it all for what? Out of the goodness of your heart?" she inquired.
Ginny's eyes flashed, "Then why is it I smell a woman's perfume on you?" she demanded, poking him hard in the chest.
"Er–, what now?"
She smirked, "I thought it was just my imagination at first, but it's all over your shirt. I should've known. You spent the night with someone didn't you?"
George waved her off, "What are you talking about. I didn't spend the night with anyone."
"Yes you did. That's why Mum and Dad are still asleep. You needed time to sneak her out," she declared.
"Rubbish, why would you think that?"
"Because you're you."
George feigned a hurt look. "Ouch Ginny, that's a pretty messed up thing to say to your favourite brother," he said, fumbling with the latch on the gate. "You know, I think your night of debauchery has dirtied your mind."
Ginny's nostrils flared. "You better leave now George, before I'm forced to perform underage magic."
He chuckled. "Alright, I'm going," he said, quickly moving past the gate. "Can I just say one thing though?"
She groaned at him, "What is it?"
"It's not like Harry was using his bed anyway?"
Ginny was just reaching for her wand when her brother disapparated, a broad grin on his face. She scowled at the spot where he'd been before going back inside. After closing the door, she leaned against it. Unable to help herself any longer, Ginny burst into fits of laughter.
Holding her side, she collapsed to the floor. It was a good long while before her laughter died down. She just couldn't get over the fact that somehow, in his own dumb, foolish way, her brother had helped her get away with having sex for the first time.
After wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes and gasping for breath, Ginny tried to calm down. Once she did, she noticed there was a tapping sound coming from the window. Turning to it, she saw a post owl sitting on the windowsill, with a single letter attached to its leg. Going over to the window, she opened it and let the tiny screech-owl inside.
Ginny stared at the owl. "For me?" she asked. The owl simply held out its leg in reply. Untying the letter from its leg, Ginny immediately spied a familiar green ink sprawled across the envelope. It was the same green ink she was accustomed to seeing on letters from school. It had been a long journey, but her final Hogwarts letter had come at last.
After examining her letter, Ginny went to one of the cupboards. Unfortunately, the owl stretched its wings and before she was able to offer it some of Pigwigdeon's owl treats, it had flown off. Ginny stood at the window to watch its progress. Once she could no longer see it in the distance, she stared at the letter in her hand.
She decided to open it. Once she did, a silver badge slid smoothly into her hand, a large 'C' engraved into it. Ginny stared at it, a surprised look on her face. It was the same badge her brother Charlie had worn during his last year at Hogwarts, and the same one Harry had carried only two years prior.
Ginny smiled to herself. It seemed not only had McGonagall restored Quidditch this year, but she had also chosen her to be captain of Gryffindor. As she stared at the badge, she couldn't help thinking of how different this year was to her last. Ginny smiled wider, 'Maybe things were finally returning to normal,' she thought.
"I'd wondered what was keeping you."
Ginny gasped as she felt Harry's arms wrap around her waist. She looked up to see him grinning at her. "I'm so sorry Harry. I was coming to see you, but–"
"It's alright, I know," said Harry, interrupting her. "I kind of figured once I saw the letter. Have you opened it yet?"
"Yeah, just now," she said, holding up the opened envelope. She then showed him the badge in her other hand, "This came with it."
Harry stared at the badge. "Is that what I think it is?" he asked. Ginny nodded.
She squealed happily as Harry squeezed her tightly, picked her up and spun her around. He beamed at her, before placing her back down. "You're going to make a great captain Ginny. Much better than I was."
"I doubt that Harry. You were a great captain."
Harry smirked, "True, but you have to say that, you're biased."
She scoffed, "And you're not?"
"Oh, I'm terribly biased, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong about you being great," he stated firmly.
She blushed, "I still don't agree with you, but thanks for believing in me."
"Of course, why wouldn't I?"
Ginny grinned, "No reason I can think of," she stated. "So, what happened, was upstairs too lonely for you?"
Harry shrugged, "I got bored, and plus, you never came back up. Before I saw the owl treats on the table, I thought you'd forgotten me."
"I got distracted when my letter arrived," she explained. "I was coming to tell you about George though."
"I see. Let me guess, George doesn't mind in the least," Harry deduced. "Does he?"
Ginny's eyes narrowed, "No, he doesn't. How'd you know?"
"Lucky guess?" he claimed.
She frowned, "You could hear us talking outside, couldn't you?"
Harry smirked, "Yeah, my window was open and I overheard you two. I was going to close it, honest, but then–, I got curious. I'm sorry, I just wanted to be sure George wasn't planning on hexing my bits off," he told her.
Ginny giggled, "It's alright Harry, your bits are perfectly safe. I'll make sure of it."
"I feel safer already," he said, grinning.
Ginny shook her head in amusement. "So if you overheard us, I'm guessing you heard what George did to my parents?"
Harry chuckled, "Oh yeah, I heard. Did he really say you owe him a favour?"
She rolled her eyes, "I can't believe him sometimes. Really, who goes through all that, just to sneak out some random girl?"
"Just your brother apparently," supposed Harry. "I wonder who he was with."
"Me too. I wish I knew."
"I only wish I'd known about it sooner. That way we could've still been in bed," Harry said softly.
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "What about Ron?" she asked.
"He's passed out on his bed. I think he's hung-over from last night."
Her eyes flashed, "Well, George never said anything about waking them up right away. We could always wait awhile?"
Harry nodded, "Maybe have a late breakfast."
Ginny smirked. "Or just skip it altogether," she remarked.
Those last words hung in the air for a moment as the two of them continued to stare at each other. Then, in an instant, Ginny's hands found their way around Harry's neck. He responded in kind by pinning her to the wall and kissing her passionately, just as she wrapped her right leg around his torso. Her captain's badge clanged loudly onto the table while her Hogwarts letter dropped to the floor, landing underneath a chair where it lay forgotten.
"We should be heading upstairs," Ginny whispered in between kisses.
"What's wrong with right here?" asked Harry.
She chuckled against his lips, "Ron might be hung-over, but he could still come down here and find us."
"So, I can take him."
She sniggered, "Harry."
"I know, I know. So, your room or mine?" he asked, breathless.
"Mine," she responded as the two of them began to fumble their way toward the staircase. "It's closer and plus, you still have to change your sheets."
Harry nodded, trying desperately not to think of George occupying his bed last night and just keep his focus on Ginny. "Good call. Your room it is then," he replied.
The Leaky Cauldron was empty. Tom, the barman, stared out into the dimly lit room, wondering where all of his customers had gone. There had certainly been plenty of foot traffic that day. Earlier, Tom had learned that today was the day Hogwarts letters had gone out, which meant there would be an even larger crowd coming through his pub to get to Diagon Alley.
Only an hour before, his place had been full to the brim with witches and wizards. Most had remained in order to fill up on a good meal before a long day of supply shopping. However, as quickly as they had arrived, the crowd had died down. In actuality, there were still a few people left in the pub, besides himself that is. Though, one person stood out in particular.
Hermione Granger was currently sitting at a table towards the back of the room. She was reading a book, and appeared to be waiting for someone because she kept glancing towards the fireplace. Now normally, this would have caused a stir. She was a very famous witch, after all. However, as she was a regular at the pub, no one paid that much attention to her.
For the past month and a half, Hermione and Ginny had been coming into The Leaky Cauldron every week. Hermione always looked forward to these lunches. She enjoyed spending time with her friend, and it also gave her an excuse to get out of her parents dental office.
Hermione was especially excited about today. Not only had gotten the news she'd been made Head Girl, but this would be the first time Ron and Harry were joining them for lunch. Previously, they had been too busy to accompany them, but with their training schedules winding down, they would have Saturdays off from now on, much to everyone's delight.
After finishing her book, Hermione closed it up and put it away. She glanced at the fireplace as it roared to life, hoping to see her friends coming out of the Floo. Unfortunately, it wasn't them, just another witch who was passing through the pub to get to the alley. Hermione sighed to herself before pulling out another book.
"Pardon me Ms. Granger."
Hermione looked up, surprised to see Tom standing next to her. "Yes?"
He smiled, "Didn't mean to startle you Ms. Granger."
"Oh, no it's okay. I just didn't see you there."
He nodded. "Would you like a drink while you wait?"
"Um, sure," she said, looking thoughtful. "Could I get some tea please?"
"Of course, I'll bring a cup for Ms. Weasley as well."
"Oh, actually Tom, we're going to need four cups."
He grinned, "Certainly, I'll be back in a moment with your tea, along with some menus."
Hermione smiled in thanks as he departed. She was about to open her book when she heard the fireplace come back to life. There was a flash of green flames, and Ginny stepped out of the fire and into the pub. She looked around for a moment, before spotting Hermione waving at her.
"Hey Ginny, where are the boys?"
Ginny gave her a look of sympathy. "I'm sorry Hermione, but they can't make it to lunch today. They got called into the Ministry for an emergency."
"An emergency? Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, Harry said they were probably just called in to help transport a prisoner from Azkaban. If that's what it is, it shouldn't take very long. So, hopefully they'll be able to meet us later."
Hermione looked crestfallen. "Hopefully," she whispered with disdain.
Hermione sat back in her chair and sighed to herself. She had been desperately looking forward to spending the day with Ron. When they had talked on the Floo earlier, she had informed him of her happy news. He had been so excited for her. They had even planned on going to dinner with her parents later to celebrate. Yet now, here she was trying to wish away the gloominess that had crept into her mind. Unfortunately, it didn't work. And the day had started out so well, she thought.
"Shall I grab us some drinks?" Ginny asked, breaking Hermione out of her absorption.
"Yeah, I had ordered us some tea, but I think I might be needing something stronger now."
Ginny nodded, "Okay, what would you like?"
"Firewhiskey," Hermione muttered under her breath.
Ginny stared at her, "Firewhiskey? I'm not even sure they have it here. Did you want Butterbeer instead?"
Hermione shrugged, "Fine."
"Butterbeer it is then. Do you want it hot or cold?"
"I don't care, it doesn't matter," she said irritably.
Ginny raised her eyebrows, "Okay, be back in a sec." She quickly went over to the bar to change their order. The way Hermione was acting, Ginny knew it wasn't the best idea to leave her alone for too long. She returned moments later, placing a hot, foamy mug of Butterbeer in front of Hermione before sitting across from her.
"I told Tom to hold off on our usual order. I figured you weren't hungry yet. Is that alright?"
Hermione didn't answer. She just sat there, unmoving, staring at the table. Ginny waited for some time, her drink remaining untouched. Finally, she shook her head, "Hermione?"
Hermione glanced up at her, a blank look on her face, "Hmm, what?"
"You're really out of it, Hermione. Take a drink, you'll feel better."
Hermione absent-mindedly looked down at the mug in front of her. She hadn't even noticed it was there. Picking it up, she put the frothy substance to her lips. After gulping down a taste of the hot, delectable drink, she felt a warm sensation go through her. Her spirits were lifted almost immediately.
"Better," said Hermione, a foam moustache visible on her upper lip. "Thanks Ginny. You're such a good friend."
"Don't mention it," said Ginny, smiling in relief. "So that was some party last night, huh?" she asked, finally taking a drink herself.
Hermione smiled back at her, "You don't have to distract me you know."
"Distract you?" Ginny replied.
"I know what you're doing, being so nice, trying to make me feel better. You're trying to make me forget Ron's not here."
Ginny grinned slyly, "Is that what I'm doing? Funny, I didn't even notice."
Hermione grinned as well, "I appreciate the gesture, but I can handle it."
Ginny nodded, "Are you worried about him?" she asked. "Because I told you, it's probably nothing."
"I am worried about him, but that's not why," Hermione answered. "It's just . . . never mind."
"Tell me, it must be important if you're this stressed over it."
Hermione heaved a sigh. "I just wish Ron was here, that's all. I really wanted him to be here today, but . . . it doesn't matter now."
Ginny nodded in understanding. "I wish he was here too. I wish the both of them were here. If we lived in a perfect world, they'd be sitting here right now, having lunch with us. But we both know better," she pointed out. "They're Aurors now Hermione, which means there's going to be a lot more days like this to look forward to. We're just gonna have to get used to it."
Hermione sighed once more. "I know, it's just hard to go from seeing him every day to seeing him one day a week, if I'm lucky," she commented, a downcast look on her face. "When my letter arrived this morning, at first I was so excited. But now, I'm just reminded of how little time we have before school starts. Do you realise there's only a month left until we go back to Hogwarts?"
Ginny casually nodded, "Yeah."
"That doesn't bother you at all?"
She shrugged, setting her drink down. "Of course it does, but I try not to worry about it. I mean, just look at where we are now, compared to last year."
Hermione sat back in her chair. Looking back, she had to admit Ginny was right. At this time last year, people were being hunted and killed in their homes. The Ministry was being taken over, and she, Harry and Ron were forced to go on the run. Not a single person knew what they were doing or if they would ever see them again, and all the while, her parents didn't have a single clue she existed.
Hermione let out a breath. "We've come a long way since then, haven't we?"
"Yes we have. Did you know that today's the day the three of you went into hiding?"
Hermione's eyes went wide. "Has it really been a whole year?" she thought aloud.
Ginny nodded, "It's Bill and Fleur's anniversary today."
"That's right," said Hermione, realisation dawning on her. "Wow, it all seems like a lifetime ago."
"That's because it was. Just look at us, Hermione. Here we are . . . sitting around, talking about school and complaining about how we don't get enough time with our boyfriends."
"Seems pretty trivial in comparison, doesn't it?"
"Maybe, but that's the world we live in now," said Ginny.
Hermione grinned a bit, "One where we get to complain about not seeing our boyfriends?"
Ginny grinned as well, "Exactly."
"I like it, it sounds liberating."
Ginny smirked, "It does, doesn't it? Though, instead of complaining about how little time we have left, I'd suggest we focus on taking advantage of these last four weeks together. What do you say?"
Hermione looked thoughtful. She stared at her mug, allowing those words to sink in before taking another drink. "Well, its sounds better than my plan of drowning my sorrows and wallowing in self-pity, so I'd have to say yes."
Hermione giggled, "So . . . this philosophy of yours. Is it what you use in your relationship with Harry?" she asked.
"I wouldn't call it my philosophy, but yeah. Why do you ask?"
Hermione shrugged, "Just curious. I was wondering if this is the reason you and Harry are so happy all the time."
Ginny stared at her. "We are not happy all the time," she retorted.
Hermione scoffed, "Yes you are. The two of you never argue. You're always too busy snogging."
Ginny snorted, spilling some Butterbeer in the process. "We are not!" she pronounced, trying not to blush. "And we've argued before. We may not be professionals at it like you and Ron, but we've argued."
Hermione had a smug look about her, "Is that so? When was the last time you argued?"
"I don't know, it's not like I count them."
"Because there'd be nothing to count," Hermione speculated.
Ginny groaned. Finally, she said, "Alright then, I didn't want to say anything, but we actually had an argument just yesterday."
"Oh really?" alleged Hermione, the disbelief evident in her voice.
Ginny smiled, waiting for Hermione to pick up her mug. "Yeah, it was last night. Harry and I were having sex, and he wanted to be on top, you see, so then I–,"
Hermione slopped Butterbeer all over herself. "Ginny!" she exclaimed, her cheeks becoming red.
"What?" she asked, a Cheshire grin encircling her face.
Hermione glared at her as she pulled out her wand to clean herself. "You did that on purpose," she claimed.
"What, you asked the question. I can't help it if you couldn't handle the answer."
Hermione frowned before pointing her wand at her mug. It immediately refilled itself with Butterbeer. She took a drink, carefully this time, as Ginny tried not to laugh.
"Could I trouble you for a refill as well," Ginny asked, extending her mug. She laughed as Hermione's eyes narrowed. "Shall I ask Tom instead?" she said, noticing him nearby.
"No, I'll do it," said Hermione, reluctantly refilling Ginny's mug. After staring at her for a while, she leaned closer to the table and dropped her voice to a whisper. "So . . ." she began, "You and Harry actually–, you know?" she asked tentatively.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Yes," she happily confirmed. "You saw us go up to my room. What did you think was going to happen?"
"I know, I just didn't want to assume anything," Hermione said sensibly.
Ginny smiled, "How noble of you Hermione. But, had you stuck around last night I could have let you know. Why did you leave early by the way?"
"I had to deal with my parents," Hermione explained. "George kept handing them drinks and getting them sloshed."
Ginny groaned, "Of course he did. He did the same thing to a few people last night, my parents included."
"He got your parents drunk too?"
"No, but he did spike their drinks so they'd be knocked out all morning," Ginny told her.
"What? Why in Merlin's name would he do that?"
"Because he's an idiot," Ginny remarked. "Though, the real reason was so he could sneak out some girl he slept with from last night," she added lowly.
Ginny laughed at her reaction, "That's what I said. And to make matters worse, they spent the night in Harry's room. And since he never came in last night–"
Hermione gasped, "George knows about you two?"
Her eyes went wide, "That must've come as a shock. How did he react?"
"Actually, he was surprisingly mature about the whole thing," said Ginny. She watched as Hermione nearly choked on her Butterbeer. "Are you alright?"
Hermione nodded lightly. "I'm okay," she managed to cough out.
"Oh good," said Ginny. "Believe me, that time was not on purpose."
"I know, that one was more my fault," Hermione admitted. "Anyways, so George really acted . . . mature? I'm shocked."
Ginny sniggered, "I was too, but he didn't have a problem with it. I think he'd been expecting it for a while, or at least, he told me as much when we talked."
Hermione stared at her in surprise, "Really, so you two talked about it?"
"Not much, but yeah," responded Ginny. "It was strange. I had hoped George would be okay with everything, but I never thought I would be able to talk with him about any of it. Is it weird that I'm now hoping the rest of my family will be as grown-up about this as George?"
"Yes, it's very weird actually," said Hermione, amused. "Do you plan on telling any of them?"
"I hadn't even planned on telling George. Things may have worked out well with him but I'm not so sure about everyone else."
"I know what you mean. I was just curious to hear what you thought about telling Ron."
"I wish we could," Ginny said with a sigh. "Things would be so much easier if he knew. But I have no idea how he'd react. Do you?"
Hermione sighed as well. "No, I don't, sorry."
"That's exactly why we can't tell him. I know he said he'd stay out of my personal life, and he has. But honestly, do you really think he'd stay out of it after finding out his sister and best mate are shagging each other?"
"I doubt it," said Hermione, frowning. She knew what was coming. "So, we're keeping this from Ron?"
"Yes, at least for a while. It'll just make things awkward for everyone involved if he knew, especially him and Harry," Ginny stated. Staring at her friend, she had a look of deep sympathy on her face, "Are you okay with this?"
Hermione knew she wasn't. She hated lying to anyone, especially Ron. However, she knew Ginny was right. This was for the best.
"Yeah, I won't say anything."
"You know that's not why I asked," said Ginny.
Hermione hid her smile. Her friend knew her too well. "It's fine, don't worry about me."
"Alright then. Thank you Hermione, I owe you one."
"No you don't. That's what friends are for. Besides, knowing George, I only have to hold out for another week or so before everyone knows."
Ginny giggled, "You're probably right," she said, noticing Tom collecting the bill from the table next to theirs. She gestured to him and he smiled at them as he came over.
"Hello ladies, are you ready to order?"
Ginny looked across the table, "I am, how about you Hermione. Are you hungry yet?"
Hermione turned to her friend and smiled, "I'm famished."
"You said that," said Harry, peering into Flourish and Blotts. He frowned, "I don't see them."
"Now can we head back to George's shop?"
"Alright fine, but keep checking."
For the second time, they made their way back through the alley, with Ron eyeing all the food stands as they passed them by. "Couldn't we just–"
"Not yet Ron, we have to find Ginny and Hermione first. Besides, you agreed that we should surprise them."
"I know, but that was before George said they'd eaten already," Ron argued, his stomach rumbling. "Oh c'mon, that's gotta be the third time we've passed that vendor!"
"Fourth actually," Harry said, grinning. Ron threw him a dirty look. Harry ignored this and quickly pointed ahead of them. "Hey, look!"
Ron looked up, hope in his eyes, "Is it them?"
"No, its Luna and her dad," Harry pronounced as he saw them coming out of Slug & Jiggers Apothecary.
"I'm surprised to see him here. He must be doing better now," noted Ron.
"He should be if he's here. I haven't even seen him since last year when–, when we came to visit."
Ron nodded as he stared at the man, "I remember."
After transporting a prisoner from Azkaban that morning, Ron and Harry had finally been able to see how depressing it was. The place seemed to suck all the life out of anything and everything that came into it, and that was without the Dementors guarding it. Ron immediately felt a newfound respect for Luna's father. He couldn't imagine how someone could survive even a few days with those things around, let alone several months.
"Ron? Did you hear me?" asked Harry.
Ron shuddered as he cleared his thoughts, "Sorry, what?"
"I was saying we should ask Luna if she's seen Ginny or Hermione."
Ron shrugged, "It's worth a shot. Oi, Luna!" he called out.
Upon hearing her name, Luna looked up and spotted the two of them. She smiled brightly and dragged her father through the crowd, her blonde hair swishing back and forth as she skipped over to them.
"Hello Harry, Ron, I'm surprised to see you two here," she said dreamily.
"Us too," Harry replied. He glanced at her father, and felt a lump go into his throat. He and Ron hadn't noticed it before, as they had been too far apart. However, now that they were up close, they could see that Luna's dad looked as if he'd aged ten years.
"Hello Mr. Lovegood," said Harry, greeting him amicably. "It's nice to see you out and about. I hope that means your recovery is going well."
Xenophilius gaped at him, looking quite surprised. Harry didn't know if it was because Mr. Lovegood hadn't expected to see him, or whether he was just shocked to hear he cared about the man's recovery from Azkaban.
"Oh yes, Daddy's been taking the Gurdyroot Infusion everyday. It's done wonders and he's doing much better now," Luna answered for him. "Aren't you Daddy?"
He still seemed nervous, but Mr. Lovegood was still able to achieve a small smile. "Yes Luna, thanks to you."
Luna beamed at her father, before turning back to Harry and Ron. "So, are Ginny and Hermione here as well?"
Ron nodded, trying not to think about how awful it would be to take Gurdyroot Infusion everyday, "Yes they are, but we're actually trying to surprise them. You haven't seen them today, have you?"
Luna looked thoughtful, "Today? Oh yes, I've seen them today," she spoke.
"Really, where at?" he asked.
She stared at him, "At the party, of course. I'm surprised you don't remember Ron, you were there after all," she asserted, apparently not noticing the frown forming on his face. "Though, I guess you did have a lot to drink, so maybe n–"
"Uh, Luna," Harry interrupted, speaking as politely as he could. He was doing his best not to laugh at his best mate, whose ears had turned bright red. "I think he means have you seen them since the party? Maybe around the Alley somewhere?"
Luna nodded in understanding, "Oh I see. I'm sorry Ron. No, I haven't seen them."
Ron grunted, "Thanks. Guess we'll just have to keep looking."
Luna looked disappointed, "I wish I could help you, but Daddy and I were just leaving when you called us."
"That's alright," Harry told her, before bidding her good-bye. "See you Luna. Good day Mr. Lovegood."
Xenophilius nodded, "Good day."
Luna waved rapidly at them, causing a few people to stare, "Bye Harry, bye Ron. Good luck."
After they'd gone, the Lovegood's started towards the Leaky Cauldron to Floo home. As they walked, Luna turned to ask her father a question before noticing that he was deep in thought. She met his eyes. "What is it Daddy?"
He hesitated, before saying, "Luna, what am I always telling you?"
"That the Gabbering Heredies are the cause of our dreams, and unless we are nice to them they'll give us nightmares."
"Of course Luna, but besides that."
She blinked at him, "To always be on the lookout for new discoveries?"
Her father stopped walking, "Precisely, we must constantly take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves to us. So, I must ask, why then would you pass up on such an opportunity by not staying with your friends?"
"I, I don't know? Was I supposed to?" she asked.
Xenophilius looked thoughtful, "I believe so."
"But then, what about you?"
Mr. Lovegood smiled fondly at his daughter, "I'll be alright my Luna, don't you worry about me."
Luna still seemed a bit reluctant. "Are you sure Daddy?"
He grinned at her, "Yes Luna, I'm sure. Here, hand me your things, quickly."
"Alright," she said, handing him her bags. "But when I come home, I'm making you some Plimpy soup."
Xenophilius grinned, "Thank you Luna, that sounds wonderful. Now go, follow your friends before it's too late."
"I will Daddy," Luna called, streaking off in opposite direction. She cut through the alley, moving past Gringotts and caught up with Harry and Ron a few shops away from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
"Luna, what are you doing here? I thought you were heading home," Harry said curiously.
She smiled serenely, "I was, but now I've come to help you."
"Oh, okay. Thank you Luna, we could really use the he–"
"Oh look, there they are," she said loudly.
Harry and Ron turned and looked around. "You have got to be kidding me," Ron moaned, as they were just able to catch sight of Ginny's hair before she entered George's shop.
"That was fun," Luna said happily. "I'll be back. I need to stop by and see Mr. Ollivander. He gets lonely sometimes," she told them.
Harry and Ron stared at each other as they watched her go. "Did that really just happen?"
"Yup," Harry told him. "C'mon, let's go before George tells them we're here."
They stepped inside the shop. There were so many people inside that they didn't even bother trying to hide themselves. Harry gestured to Ron and they split up. Harry immediately dodged a Fanged Frisbee that went whizzing over his head before moving toward the left side of the massive shop.
After swiftly hiding from a few girls, one of them Romilda Vane, he pushed his way through the aisles, keeping up his search for Ginny. Somehow, after five minutes, he still hadn't found her. 'Where was Luna when you needed her,' he thought.
Finally, Harry caught a break when he sighted George, who looked to be reprimanding the little boy who'd been throwing the Frisbee. George winked at him knowingly and motioned to his left. Harry smiled in thanks and moved that way, noticing as he left that George was not reprimanding the boy, but rather showing him the proper throwing technique.
Harry exited the main room of the shop, and soon found Ginny and Hermione talking in the row adjacent to his own. Quickly, he pulled on his invisibility cloak and entered their row. He covered his mouth to stop from laughing when he saw Ginny, who was looking quite strange with half of her head sticking out of a Headless Hat.
"Hermione, come here and look at this," called Ginny.
Hermione covered her face, "No Ginny, it's freaking me out. Could you please take that hat off," she begged.
Ginny turned the hat to cover half her face instead. "Oh c'mon, it doesn't look that bad."
"Ugh, you made it worse somehow. I'm going to the front to pay, alright? Are you coming?"
"I'll be right there," she said, staring at herself in the mirror one last time. She chuckled, before placing the hat back on the shelf and following Hermione. Ginny hastily rounded the corner and ran straight into Harry, who was too slow to move out the way.
Ginny groaned aloud as she sat up. "I'm so sorry, I didn't see you there."
Harry grunted, "That's alright, I should be used to you tackling me by now."
"What? Harry, is that you?" asked Ginny, her vision still blurry.
Harry pulled off his invisibility cloak, "Yeah, it's me."
She gasped when she saw him, "What are you doing here?"
"Ron and I got off early," he answered.
Ginny frowned as she sat up, "Why didn't you tell us? You could've sent a Patronus telling us to meet you."
"We wanted to surprise you," he said sheepishly. "Surprise?"
She sighed, "Really Harry, what am I going to do with you?"
"Well, for starters, could you help me up?"
Ginny rolled her eyes in amusement, "Alright," she said, pulling him up. However, she immediately dropped him when she heard Hermione scream from a several rows over. "Oh, I'm sorry Harry."
"I'm okay," he said, deciding to stand up on his own this time. "I'm betting Ron finally found Hermione."
Ginny nodded, "Seems that way. Though, we should still see what happened."
Harry collected his cloak and they both raced to where they'd heard Hermione call out. Once they reached the spot, they found her being fussed over by Ron and George, along with Luna, who was off to the side, observing everything with great curiosity.
Luna saw them first and smiled brightly. "Hey Ginny, did you know you're glowing?"
Ginny stared at her, "Uh, no." She turned to her brothers, "What happened?"
Her brothers faced her, revealing Hermione's black eye. "I tried to surprise Hermione," said Ron, "And then this happened."
Ginny gasped and Harry stared at him in shock. "How does you trying to surprise Hermione end up with her having a black eye?"
"It's that stupid punching telescopes fault," said Hermione, speaking for the first time. "I found one on the floor and I was putting it back when Ron startled me," she told them. "It went off and punched Ron, but somehow, I ended up with the black eye . . . again."
"That's because I was wearing these Shield Gloves at the time," Ron explained, holding up his hands. He turned to George, "These things really work."
George scoffed, "Of course they do. There's also hats, cloaks and I'm even working on some slacks that'll protect your–"
"Boys! I doubt this is the time to be boasting about your toys," Ginny stated flatly. "George, do you have that stuff to put on Hermione's eye."
He nodded, pulling it out of his pocket, "C'mon Hermione, we'll use the employee bathroom in the back." He and Ron helped her to stand, and the three of them disappeared through the mass of shelves.
Ginny watched them go. She exchanged an irritated glance with Harry before staring back at her friend. "So Luna, when did you get here?"
Luna beamed, "Just now," she said. "Harry and Ron were looking for you and I was helping them."
Ginny smiled at Harry, "I see. Um, what was it you were saying earlier?"
"Oh that. I just asked if you knew you were glowing."
Ginny raised her eyebrows, "Why would you say that?"
"Because . . . you are, and so is Harry. Is it because you two had sex last night?" she inquired.
Ginny coughed loudly, her face turning a deep red, "What, no?"
"Are you sure, because I think having sex would explain–"
"Shh, Luna, you can't say anything. No one is supposed to know about that yet," she said lowly, glancing around to make sure no one could overhear them.
"Why not?" Luna asked, dropping her already soft voice to a whisper.
"I–, I don't . . . It's complicated, okay?"
"Oh, okay. I still don't understand, but okay," said Luna, once again at a whisper.
Ginny smiled lightly, "C'mon, let's go in here," she said, gesturing toward the Muggle objects room at the back of the shop. "Can you give us a moment Harry?"
Harry nodded, slightly amused, "Alright."
Luna smiled at him, "See you Harry, we're going to go talk about you now."
"Luna! Get in here!"
Harry snorted as Ginny led Luna into the room, leaving him there by himself. He figured they would be a while so he decided to take advantage of this opportunity. Ginny's birthday was coming up and there would only be a few more chances to do what he wanted to do.
Harry quickly exited Weasley' Wizard Wheezes and sped through the Alley. Soon enough, he found himself standing in front of a new shop that he'd passed during his search for Ginny and Hermione. On the front, there was a large gold sign that read, Jensen's Famous Jewelers."
Harry stared through the windows of the shop. Their displays held all kinds of different jewelry, including necklaces, earrings, watches, bracelets, and rings. Though, none of those were the reason the place had caught his attention. One piece in particular stood out to him. Being alone, Harry's Auror training kicked in and he checked to make sure no one had followed him. Finally, once he was sure there was no one around, he smiled to himself, and stepped inside.