Harry opened his letter to see what McGonagall could possibly want.
Dear Mr. Potter,
Hogwarts is in good repair and ready for students to return. You are welcome to come back to Hogwarts and finish you studies. If you so wish to finish your studies by owl correspondence you may. I hope is well with you and your family. I also hope to see you September 1st.
All surviving students who would have returned received their letter stating the same thing. For the new students, the standard letters containing the first year acceptances were sent out.
Harry re-read the letter to be sure that he had read it correctly and that it was real. He started thinking about what he had intended on telling the Weasley's, but now maybe he could stick it out a bit longer. It really wouldn't be that long until a trip to Diagon Alley to get new robes and supplies that would be needed for the year, then not much longer after that he would be at Hogwarts completing his schooling. Harry changed his mind about telling the Weasley's that he was leaving. He had also changed his mind about leaving, Diagon Alley and school was in the near future. That should be enough for him to keep his mind busy so that he wouldn't think about Ginny.
Hermione received her letter and read it several times. She really wanted to go back to Hogwarts to continue her studies, now that she had the option. It would be her final year! The benefits of returning to Hogwarts were that she would be able to see her friends more often, providing they went back as well, and of course moving the relationship along with Ron.
Hermione wasn't sure how her parents were going to react, so it made it difficult for her to bring it up. 'The worst they can say is "no" right?' she thought to herself, but that is exactly what terrified her!
That night after dinner, Hermione handed her parents the letter from McGonagall. Hermione could usually read her parents fairly well, enough to know if it was going to be good news or bad news, but this evening she couldn't and it was driving her up the wall. As her parents had a soft discussion between themselves, Hermione could not hear a thing, it made her nervous. Just when Hermione thought she would scream, her father looked up at her…
"Hermione, what do you want to do? Do you want to go back to Hogwarts to finish your studies or would you rather do the owl correspondence?"
"I want to go back to Hogwarts."
"And you are sure that this 'Dark Lord' is really dead this time?" asked a nervous Mrs. Granger.
"Yes! Positive, I was there and saw with my own eyes he is gone."
"So, dear daughter, why are you asking you mother and I if you can go back?"
"I know I am of age in the wizarding world, but not in the muggle world." Replied a sheepish Hermione.
Hermione's father smiled at her. He was so proud of his daughter.
"Your mother and I feel that this is your decision to make, and no matter what you decide we will support you."
Hermione hugged her parents and thanked them for being them, for trusting her and for letting herself be the one to decide on what to do about Hogwarts.
"So, Harry are you going back?" asked Ron.
"You bet Ron. Don't get me wrong I like being here with your family, but I need to get away from here for a while."
"Harry not to worry I get it. What do you think Hermione is going to do?"
"I don't know what Hermione is going to do. Are you going back?"
"Yes! Of course I'm going back. My mum's okay with me going back. I don't know if Ginny will be, with the way mum's been lately. You can't blame her though; look at how Ginny has been lately. Not coming down to eat with the family for any meal time, staying in her room all the time…"
"Ron can we please not talk about your sister?" Harry asked with a painful expression on his face.
Ron and Harry were informed that they could go to Diagon Alley to get robes and supplies by themselves. They immediately left before Mrs. Weasley could change her mind on the matter.
Harry and Ron wondered around Diagon Alley and noticing how many families were doing their shopping. The recognized quite a few people from previous years at Hogwarts and were able to pick out the ones that were first years. Everything was going on about business and shopping like there had never been any thing wrong, or caused people to be frightened. It was nice to see this after the last time that Harry and Ron had been to Diagon Alley.
Ron and Harry made their way to Madam Malkin's Robes for all Occasions to get fitted for new robes. After that they were going to stop at Florean Fortescune's and then get the supplies that they would need for the upcoming school year. Harry had an idea but he couldn't possibly pull it off with Ron there with him. Harry stayed back a little as Ron headed for the door to leave.
"Ron, there is something that I need to take care of. I'll meet you at Florean Fortescune's in a bit."
"Okay. See you latter then."
After Ron left, Harry went over to Madam Malkin and talked with her. He asked her if it would be possible to get new and not used robes for Ron with Harry paying the difference. Madam Malkin didn't see a problem with this since they were going to be paid for. Harry then asked if she would do the same for Ginerva "Ginny" Weasley should she show up to get fitted for new robes. Madam Malkin agreed to do this for Harry and to keep it between the two of them. Harry was satisfied with this idea of his and headed out for Florean Fortescune's to meet Ron.
Ron walked into Florean Fortescune's and found that it was packed and it didn't look like he would be able to find a table to sit at while waiting for Harry. As he scanned the room looking for anything open, he caught with the corner of his eye someone waving at him. Ron was a little scared to see who it was but he still looked over and to his relief it was Hermione. He was wondering if seeing her here meant that she was coming back to Hogwarts too. Ron then quickly walked over to where Hermione was sitting.
"Hermione, I didn't know that you were going to be here. We could have met somewhere and the three of us could have done our shopping together."
"I was hoping to see you here…and Harry too of course. My parents are okay with me deciding to return to Hogwarts. I take it you and Harry are going back as well. Speaking of Harry, where is he?"
"Yeah, we're both going back to Hogwarts. Harry is around here somewhere. He said that he had something to take care of and would meet me here."
"And is Ginny going back as well?"
"I don' know. Mum was fine with me going back. Ginny really hasn't been herself and my mum is worried about her and doesn't seem to think that it is a good idea for her to go."
Harry walked into Florean Fortescune's and to his surprise it was packed. He tried to look over people's heads looking for where Ron might be sitting at. He then spotted the red hair and he wasn't alone. As he got closer he recognized the bushy brown hair of Hermione's. Once Harry was close enough to see what was going on he smiled to him self, one reason was because of the robes and the other was because Ron and Hermione were snogging. Harry couldn't help him self, he cleared his throat causing the two to split apart both slightly blushing. He had to stifle a laugh.
"So, Hermione I take it that you are going back to Hogwarts?" Harry asked still smiling at both of them.
"Uhm…. yeah." Was all she could muster to say.
"You get all of you shopping done?"
"I'm all done. How about you?"
"No. Ron and I just got started."
Hermione tagged along with Ron and Harry while they finished up their shopping. Just before leaving Diagon Alley they stopped by Madam Malkin's to get their robes. Harry just smiled as they picked up their packages and could hardly wait until Ron saw that his robes were brand new. It wouldn't even matter to Harry if Ron never suspected him and instead thought that his parents decided to splurge with it being his last year at Hogwarts.
"Mum, why can't I go back to Hogwarts? Ron gets to go." Ginny whined.
"Ginny, dear I don't think that is a good idea for you to go back this year." Replied Molly
"This is so not fair. Why can't I go back this year? I don't want to do my studies by owl correspondence."
"With everything that has happened and you hiding in your room all the time."
"Mum please." Begged Ginny.
"I don't know Ginny."
"It's okay for me to go back. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is gone for good this time. I want to go back to Hogwarts. Look I've been dealing with things in my own way I'm just fine. Mum please let me go back." Ginny explained and pleaded with her mom one last time and hoped that it worked.
"Okay, fine Ginerva you can go back this year. I guess we should go to Diagon Alley then and get everything that you will need this year."
"Mum, thank you, thank you." Ginny than ran up to her room and changed before leaving for Diagon Alley.
It really felt good to be back on the Hogwarts Express. Harry ignored the looks, stares and whispers he got. It usually bothered him to no end but this time he really didn't care. As usual Harry, Ron and Hermione were in the same compartment. They just sat in silence. Harry couldn't help but notice that Hermione and Ron were holding hands. It was hard not notice since they had been doing this since Harry caught them snogging at Florean Fortescune's. Harry was having a difficult time with it, he was happy that Ron and Hermione were finally working out their relationship but it also made him sad. He felt like the third wheel. Seeing them together made him think about what it would be like if he and Ginny got back together. He had to stop thinking about Ginny; it was making him depressed again.
"I'll be right back. Need to stretch my legs." Harry suddenly announce as he left the compartment.
After Harry left Hermione looked at Ron, "Maybe we shouldn't…." Hermione said as she looked down at their hands. "At least not in front Harry so much. He is really hurting and he won't be honest with anyone about it. I wish you sister would get over whatever it is that has her ignoring Harry. After the war was over I expected that they would have gotten back together right away. Especially with the loss of Fred."
"Hermione I agree with you."
"All of it. Uhm, Hermione…"
"Harry isn't here right now." Ron said while smiling at Hermione.
Hermione smiled back at Ron knowing what he was thinking since she was thinking about the same thing.
As Harry headed back to the compartment he saw Ginny, to him it seemed as though she was looking at him or even watching him. Suddenly Harry saw Ginny turn away putting her back towards him. That hurt more than the silent treatment from her. He was feeling really depressed now and wished he hadn't of left the compartment.
Harry opened the door to the compartment and paused as he saw Ron and Hermione snogging once again. He was about to back out, close the door and find somewhere else to sit until they reached Hogsmeade Station when the two quickly split apart.
"Hey, you two don't need to stop on my account. I can always find somewhere else to be until we reach Hosgmeade Station."
"Harry. No. That would be silly. It's okay, really it is." Hermione stammered and tried to reassure Harry.
Harry made his way into the compartment and sat back down and leaned his head against the window trying desperately not to replay Ginny turning so that her back was to Harry. He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Harry was dreaming about Ginny, remembering their first kiss, and everything that they had shared and done before the war, and what it could have been after once the war was over. Harry was waking up to loud noises and realized that he had been dreaming. He became really depressed again it had seemed so real. Harry opened his eyes and jumped when he saw Neville's head leaning inside the door.
"You three really need to get changed. We're almost at Hogsmeade Station."
The three of them changed as quickly as they could. Ron noticed that his robes were brand new and was trying to figure out how his parents were able to buy them. He then concluded that maybe they did this for his last year. Ron was not going to ask his parents about it. When Harry saw the expression on Ron's face he just smiled. When Ron didn't ask Harry he knew that Ron had no clue as to the real reason why the robes were brand new. Although that could change once Ron saw that Ginny also had brand new robes.
The train came to a stop at Hogsmeade Station. Everyone got their things and headed off the Express. The usual call for the first years rang out in the familiar voice of Rubius Hagrid. Harry waved to Hagrid as he followed Ron and Hermione to the carriages that would take them to Hogwarts.
Ron, Hermione and Harry climbed into a carriage to find Neville and Luna already there. They greeted each other, caught up on what had happened since the war. No one brought up Ginny to Harry's relief; he didn't want too many people feeling sorry for him. Ron and Hermione already did feel sorry for him and that was more than enough for him. The rest of the ride to the castle was spent in silence.
As they entered the castle and went into the dining hall it seemed the same as before, except for the fact that Dumbledore was not there in the Headmaster's seat. Instead there was McGonagall the Headmistress. Harry, Ron and Hermione found a place to sit and took it. Harry did his best not to look around the table much for fear of seeing Ginny. He glanced around the hall more than anything else trying to see who was back. Harry found himself looking for Ginny. He spotted her and smiled to himself, she was wearing the robes that Harry had helped get for her. A part of Harry wished that she knew he was behind it. Harry saw Ginny look in his direction, he took a chance and smiled at her but she turned her head away. Harry was regretting searching her out at the table. He really was feeling depressed now. He just hoped that being back at school could take his mind off of Ginny. Harry decided to study real hard, study like Hermione. At that thought he couldn't help but smile, Hermione would be so ecstatic she would have some one to study with.
After the first years were sorted into their houses, the welcoming speech and the usual warnings of off limit areas the feast began. Harry ate what he could but just couldn't really stomach anything and retired to the common room early. Ron and Hermione weren't far behind him.
"Hey, Harry you okay?" asked Hermione
"Yeah, just peachy Hermione."
Ron and Hermione looked at each other, they were both really worried about Harry. Hermione had decided that if Harry didn't perk up some in the next month or so she was going to suggest to Harry that maybe he should finish his studies through the owl correspondence that was offered in their letters.
Harry got up and went to the boy's dormitories to go to bed. It had been a long day for Harry. He really missed Ginny a lot.
About two months went by and there was no change with Ginny, she was still ignoring Harry. It was becoming more and more painful to see Ginny and have her not acknowledge her was there. Harry didn't think he could take this much longer. Maybe he'll go to number 12 Grimmauld Place and finish his studies through the owl correspondence. 'Who am I trying to kid, as much as it hurts for her to be ignoring me, I can't go through each and every day not seeing her. Not being able to know for certain that she's okay.' Harry thought to himself.
Hermione had not yet suggested to Harry about the owl correspondence. She was not sure if she was actually going to do it. Harry seemed to be perking up some, but then again he was really studying hard, more than Hermione. Harry was improving in all of his classes so far that year with all the studying he was doing.
After lunch was potions, they were going to be working on more advanced potions. That day they were going to working on a time travel potion. Harry was not in the mood for potions that day but he went any way. He couldn't keep his mind off Ginny.
Harry was trying real hard to focus on what he was doing, making sure he was adding the right ingredients at the time, the right amount period, stirring when necessary. Ginny entered his mind once again that day. He was really distracted from what he was doing. Before Ron or Hermione could get his attention and get him focused on the potion, dark purple smoke began to rise from Harry's cauldron, and then there was a loud bang like a bomb going off.
The smoke cleared and the class looked around confused and really puzzled. Ron and Hermione were a little scared.
"Where's Harry?" Hermione said aloud.
"Your guess is as good as mine." Replied Ron.
At dinner Ginny looked around and didn't see Harry any where at the table. She knew that she had been real mean towards him for some time. Ginny wanted to talk to Harry and try to explain what was going on with her. She got up from where she was sitting walked over to her brother and Hermione and sat down.
"Where's Harry?" asked Ginny.
Ron and Hermione just looked at her very shocked. Neither one knew if they should tell her that Harry disappeared in the middle of their potions class.
"Why do you want to know?" asked Ron a bit rudely.
"I just want to talk to him. To explain and apologize."
"Uhm…Ginny…I don't know how to say this…" stammered Hermione.
"Hermione please just tell me what it is. I can handle it. What did he quit school or leave to finish by owl correspondence?"
"Well, in the middle of potions and working on a really complicated potion, Harry did something not right and well he disappeared." Hermione finally managed to get out.
"What do you mean he disappeared? He walked out?" Ginny was really puzzled and getting real scared. Harry couldn't be gone, he just couldn't.
Hermione explained in as detail as she could about what happened. Ginny went pale and ran out of the dining hall. Hermione ran after her.
"Ginny what is it? Please talk to me?"
"It's all my fault that he's gone. I have been so mean to him. I know I hurt him, everyday at that. It killed me to see him so much pain but I just couldn't talk to him. During the war, when Harry was brought in and I thought he was dead and then he wasn't. I was mad that he didn't find a way to let us know. I know it was stupid but I couldn't help it. I can't believe he is gone. Is there any way of finding out what exactly happened, where he went? Is there any way to bring him back here?"
"Ginny." Was all that Hermione could say. She was at a loss for words. Hermione put her arms around Ginny who was sobbing.