Harry and Ron followed Hermione and Ginny through the village and back up the steep hill to Hogwarts. He hadn’t been there since May and for some reason he had expected it to look different. Perhaps it was because he was no longer a student or maybe it was because he thought it was wrong to carry on without noticing that something significant and tragic had happened there. Harry climbed the steps, his heart feeling heavier everything the sole of his shoe struck the ground. Filch was standing the entry hall counting the students who were returning, making sure there was no one missing. He glared at Harry and Ron as they entered the hall.
“You aren’t supposed to be coming back from Hogsmeade.” He said with a nasty grin. “This means punishment.”
“We don’t go to school here you limey prick.” Ron said. “You can’t punish us.”
“Not students.” Filch grinned even wider. “Even better, no one is supposed to be in the castle without the Headmistress’ permission.”
“They have my permission Mr. Filch.” Professor McGonagall appeared out of nowhere and was now standing by Mr. Filch looking at him with a strong sense of disapproval. “Potter, Weasley it’s nice to see you again.”
“Nice to see you too Professor.” Harry said. McGonagall nodded at the two of them briskly before walking away after one more disapproving glance at Mr. Filch. Harry and Ron grinned as they passed him. Never before has they been able to essentially tell one of the most hated men in Hogwarts to shove it.
“Maybe we could kick Mrs. Norris next.” Ron said gleefully.
“Boundaries mate.” Harry said. “Take it one step at a time.” The two of them sat down at the Gryffindor House table. Harry was overcome with a sense of longing. As much as he liked his life at the Ministry and with Teddy and Colin and his home in Godric’s Hollow, there was a feeling about Hogwarts that he just couldn’t shake. The hominess of it, the way the castle walls called to him, begged for him to return. Harry stared at the enchanted ceiling. Hogwarts would always be his first home, but he had, and he was sad to admit it, outgrown school. Hermione and Ginny sat down with the two of them
“Harry!” Harry turned his head and saw Nearly Headless Nick, the ghost of Gryffindor Tower, gliding toward them. “Ron. It’s good to the see two of you.”
“Good to see you to Nick.” Harry said. Ron waved by way of a greeting, the tables had been filled with food and Ron was in the midst of stuffing his face full of chicken legs. Nick looked down at him with an air of contempt before gliding away to talk to a prefect further on down the table. Harry looked at the head table. McGonagall was sitting in Dumbledore’s old chair, Professors Flitwick and Sprout on either side of her. Hagrid sat near the end of the table, drinking heartily out of a tankard. Harry excused himself from the table and carefully made his way up to the long table in the front of the room. Harry saw Heller staring at him with cold eyes. He ignored the whispers and excited chattered of the students below as he leaned against the table.
“Hi Hagrid.” Harry said quietly. Hagrid nearly spilled his drink down his front.
“Harry!” He cried, his eyes crinkling as he smiled. “Yer here.”
“Yeah.” Harry laughed. “Ron and I are visiting Ginny and Hermione. We’re just come back for the evening. We’re leaving tonight.”
“Goin’ back ter London?” Hagrid asked in a melancholy voice. “I heard yer an Auror now.”
“That’s right,” Harry said feeling rather proud of himself.” I am. Charlie said you wanted to quit teaching?
Hagrid took a long swig out if his tankard. Harry was certain it was full of something a little stronger than Pumpkin Juice. Hagrid wiped away the excess liquid on the back of one of his dinner-plate sized hands. Harry waited until Hagrid looked like he had swallowed; he started to speak but Hagrid waved him off by swatting one of his giant hands.
“I did.” Hagrid said. ‘Wi’ Dumbledore gone it didn’ feel right Bu-But Professor McGonagall said she can’ do it wit’ out me. She needed a Care o’ Magical Creatures teacher.” Big fat tears began to leak from Hagrid’s sparkling black eyes. Harry tried to steer the conversation away from anything that might make Hagrid cry in the middle of dinner.
“But you asked Charlie to do it?” Harry said.
“Charlie wanted ter stay wit the dragons. I can’t say I blame ‘im either.” Hagrid had always been fascinated with dragons, to the point where he once tried to raise one in this wooden cottage on the Hogwarts grounds. Hagrid hadn’t calmed down enough for Harry’s liking and so Harry took the tankard and pushed it very far down the table.
“What’d ye do that fer?” Hagrid yelled. Several students fell quiet and turned to look at the head table.
Hagrid didn’t wait for Harry to speak; instead he waved Harry away, stood up and stumbled out of the Great Hall.
“That went really well.” Ron sniggered as Harry sat down.
“He’s been really upset.” Hermione said. “I’ve been down there several times but he hasn’t wanted to talk at all. I think he misses you.”
“We’ve barely been gone.” Ron protested. “How can he miss us?”
“I suppose it makes a bit of sense when you think about it.” Harry said.
“What’d you mean?” Ron asked. Hermione rolled her eyes and huffed.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Hermione said. “Nearly every week for years you’ve visited him. You’ve been his only visitors and now you’re not here and he feels lonely.”
“How can he feel lonely?” Ron asked. “It’s a school. Full of people.”
“People who see him as a teacher. Or are scared of him.”
“But you’re here.” Harry said. “You don’t visit him?”
“Of course I visit him.” Hermione said irritably. “But you know as well as I do that you were always Hagrid’s favorite.” Hermione turned her shoulder to Harry and refused to speak with him until the end of dinner when the four of them stood and walked back to Gryffindor Tower. Hermione gave the Fat Lady the password to the tower and the small group walked inside. Harry and Ginny made a beeline for the large, squishy arm chairs in front of the fire. Harry watched as two third years sat against the wall paying wizards chess. There was a fifth year gently banging his head against the wall muttering incantations to himself.
“Sometimes I miss it her.” Harry said, his head lolling over to look at Ginny.
“Your talents are wasted her.” Ginny said. “Ron on the other hand…” Harry laughed.
“Where are Ron and Hermione anyway?” Harry asked, looking around the room. I don’t see them.
“Hermione’s got her own dorm. I suppose they’d be in there. I wouldn’t try and find out if I were you.” Ginny warned.
“Why’s Hermione got her own dorm?”
“Her old dorm is for the first years now. The needed a place to put her. She’s got a room just off of there.” Ginny pointed to one of the stairs cases. “It’s not very big. It used to be some sort of cupboard.”
“I’ve seen it on the map before.” Harry said. Ginny pulled her chair closer to his and the two of them grasped hands. Harry liked the way her hands felt, they were smaller than his and smooth. Ginny ran e=her fingers through Harry’s already messy hair. He placed his head in her lap and threw his legs over the arm of the chair. Ginny smiled down at him. Harry closed his eyes and relished in the way her fingers felt on his scalp. She stopped for a moment and Harry almost objected before he felt her fingers again, this time on his face, Ginny took his glasses off his face and Harry heard her place them on the small end table. Her hands found their way into his hair again she and began to hum softly. Harry, began to feel sleepy and just before he drifted off to sleep, he felt the ends’ of Ginny’s long red hair tickle his face.
“Go to sleep Potter.” She whispered, placing a light kiss on his lips. Then she resumed humming her song and stroking his hair. Harry was all too happy to oblige.
The next thing he knew, Harry was being unceremoniously dumped on the floor by Ron whose face was as white as a sheet.
“What are you doing?” Ginny asked, looking from her brother to Harry, who was lying down on his back on the floor.
“We need to go.” Ron said. “We shouldn’t be here.”
“McGonagall’s fine with it. Go to sleep.” Harry said rolling over on side die trying to get comfortable. Ron grabbed him by the front of his shirt/
“What are you doing?” Harry asked, struggling to free himself from Ron’s grasp.
“We need to go.” Ron said shaking Harry. “Ginny go to bed.”
“You can’t tell me what to do.” Ginny said angrily.
“Ginny please?” Harry asked. Ginny huffed and muttered a string of obscenities before stalking off to the girls dormitories.
“What is wrong with you?” Harry hissed, clambering to his feet and shaking Ron off. “You were bang out of order mate.”
“We need to go.” Ron insisted again. “Somethings wrong. We shouldn’t be here. “
“Why?” Harry asked. Ron had never acted like this before and he had been in some of the most dangerous situations an eighteen year old could have been in. Harry followed Ron to the portrait hole. Ron was sprinting through the halls; harry didn’t even know that Ron could move that fast and he was surprised to find that he was having trouble keeping up with him. They were almost at the entrance hall when a shadowy figure stood in their way.
“Where are the two you going?” asked the figure. Harry stared hard trying to make out the face. The figure stepped into the hard silvery moonlight and it became clear to Harry that the figure was none other than Professor Heller.
“We were just leaving.” Harry said his voice still thick with sleep. “We dozed off. Ron just remembered we’re supposed to be at the Ministry in a few hours’ time.”
“Surely you can stay until morning?” Heller said.
“’Fraid not.” Ron replied. He grabbed Harry by the arm. “We really need to leave.” Ron pushed past Heller with Harry in tow. The two junior Aurors practically ran to the outside of Hogwarts grounds. Ron, who still hadn’t let go of Harry’s arm turned on the spot. Harry caught on to what he was doing such before the view of Hogsmeade had disappeared.
“You could’ve splinched me.” Harry said when they reappeared in Ron’s bedroom. The violent orange color was shocking to Harry’s eyes after the darkness of the night. “What the hell is going on?”
“I saw something.” Ron said. He was pacing around the perimeter of the small room. “Something bad.”
“What was it?” Harry asked. “What happened?”
“It was Williamson. “ Ron said at last. “He was by the tree-the Whomping Willow.”
“What was he doing at Hogwarts?” Harry asked. “He had no business being there.”
“I know that.” Ron spat. After a long silence he said, quieter than before. “I think he’s after you.”
“After me?” Harry said. “What could he possibly want with me?”
“If he’s on You-Know-Who’s side…”
“Voldemort doesn’t have a side anymore. He has pathetic supporters that can’t accept the fact that he is dead.” Harry’s hands had formed fists at his sides. He could feel himself shaking. There was no more Voldemort. There was no one who wanted him dead. If Williamson was trying to start something…Harry didn’t want to be in the center of it all. Not again.
“He’s plotting something.” Ron said.
“Well he’s not here now.” Harry said. “Can we go to sleep?” Ron shrugged and Harry curled up on the floor and drifted back to sleep.
He was woken, once again by Ron who informed him that Mrs. Weasley made breakfast and she was waiting from him to come downstairs; she had already piled his plate full of food according to Ron. Harry stood up and began stretching out his sore muscles. He looked down at his wrinkled jeans and t-shirt and prepared himself to be berated by his fellow Aurors. Ron shoved a set of dark brown Auror robes into Harry’s arms.
“But you’re taller than me.” Harry said. Ron rolled his eyes.
“That’s why those are yours you idiot.” Ron said. “I stopped by your place, hope you don’t mind.”
“I guess I don’t.” Harry said pulling on the robes. He followed Ron down the stairs and ate the breakfast of toast and eggs with the four Weasley’s who still lived in the Burrow. Harry and Ron stood up from the table and said their goodbyes to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley before Apperating to one of the Ministry’s many entrances.
“Are you starting that case with Erlanger today?” Ron asked as the two of them walked through Level Two.
“I hope it’s the shortest case I ever have to work.” Harry said seriously. “I can’t stand him.”
“Can’t be worse than Lockhart can he?” Ron said trying to cheer Harry up.
“Oh we’ll just see about that.” Harry muttered as Erlanger approached the pair.
“Morning Weasley.” Erlanger said brightly. “Are you ready Potter?”
“I suppose so.” Harry shrugged.
“Let’s go then!”
“I’ll see you later.” Harry said to Ron.
Ron was too busy hiding his laughter to respond.