Ginny’s head rested against the window of the the cabin of the Hogwarts Express that she, Luna and Hermione were seated in. She was thinking about Harry and wondering where he was right at that moment.
After being gone for nearly an entire year on the run hunting Horcruxes, he had declared that he needed time to figure himself out now that he no longer had a piece of You Know Who inside of him, and headed out alone early in the summer. He had sent a letter via owl three weeks ago, from Prague of all places, but he'd had plenty of time to move around since then, even if he wasn't using apparition.
Ginny had been understanding at first but a week after he left the anger set in which eventually departed to make way for the deep sadness.
"Are you all right, Ginny?" Hermione asked.
Ginny made a small frown and shrugged, accidentally startling Luna who had passed out on her shoulder.
"We're not to Hogwarts yet," Luna observed, sleepily.
Ginny glanced at Luna, who was rubbing a pale hand on a bleary eye.
"No, we're not. You can go back to sleep, Luna," Ginny said, turning back to the window.
Luna yawned then rested her head back on Ginny's shoulder and placed a hand on Ginny's arm.
"It's Harry, isn't it?" Hermione asked, clearly not willing to leave Ginny to her misery.
Ginny nodded but didn't remove her eyes from the passing scenery outside the train.
Ginny believed they were passing through Yorkshire at the moment.
"I miss him too," Hermione said and Ginny finally looked over at Hermione.
Hermione was giving Ginny a sympathetic frown. Ginny realised that she could give in to bitterness and remind Hermione that she had got to spend weeks and weeks alone with Harry in a tent last year but she resisted.
"I do sort of understand… I really won't be able to see Ron much this year," Hermione said.
"Yeah. I suppose," Ginny acknowledged.
Hermione slouched over, seeming defeated and resting her chin on one of her dark skinned hands.
Ginny closed her eyes and said, "I'm sorry. I'm fine, really. I managed the summer well enough. I just didn't realise how hard it would be to go to Hogwarts for another year without him, until now. It's difficult and I'm plagued with a million terrible thoughts and fears. I know it's what's best for Harry and there's no question that he's worth waiting for. It just hurts and I'm ready for life to stop moving just so we can be together… really together."
Hermione sat back up and nodded. Luna lightly squeezed Ginny's forearm and rubbed the side of her face into her shoulder in small affection.
"The year will pass much faster than you suspect and he'll be back," Hermione said with a smile.
Ginny faked a smile and said, "Probably. I suppose we were always going to be apart this year, anyway. I don't think Harry had any intention of coming back to Hogwarts this year."
"Ron either. Though I did try to convince him," Hermione said.
"Hmph. Bet that didn't go well," Ginny said.
"Not very," Hermione admitted.
Ginny laughed and shook her head. Her brother could be so predictable.
"Thanks, Hermione. For cheering me up, I mean," Ginny said.
Hermione smiled at her.
"It was no problem," Hermione said, then promptly stood up.
"I think I'm going to go check on things. I'm Head Girl, after all," Hermione said then quickly left the cabin.
Ginny glanced at Luna who had a small smile on her thin lips, as her head still rested against her shoulder.
"Luna, why don't you lay your head on my lap instead. It will be more comfortable for both of us," Ginny insisted.
"All right. Thank you," Luna said, then shifted her body, stretched out, then moved her head towards Ginny's lap where she laid it down, her bedraggled dirty blonde hair, falling into her face.
Ginny reached down and pulled Luna's hair out of her eyes. Luna made a happy sound and within moments Ginny could hear her lightly snoring again. Ginny looked back out the window. She wondered again where Harry was and if he was thinking of her.
Lavender Brown lay on her side, watching the moon from her round bedroom window in Adelaide, Australia. It was the morning of September the first back home, in the United Kingdom. Her best friend and sort of girlfriend, Parvati Patil, was presumably on the Hogwarts Express heading back to school, without her.
This summer had been hard. For so many years Parvati had been her constant companion and secret love, before briefly becoming her not-so secret love then being whisked away to Australia for a year by her parents, in order to help her better recover from the trauma she suffered at the hands of the sadistic werewolf, Fenrir Greyback.
Lavender could've resisted her parents's wishes. She was of age now and free to make her own choices if she wanted. But somehow she knew that they were right and knew that a change in scenery would help her. The scenery change definitely had helped. Not only was Australia lovely, but there was little here that reminded her of the Battle of Hogwarts.
The nightmares had got better over the summer and the wizard therapist they'd found for her in Adelaide was amazing.
But none of that changed the fact that Parvati wasn't here. It was like a void inside of her that she longed to fill or else risk losing herself in the darkness forever. She could get through most days just fine. She could take care of herself in all the necessary ways. She could still smile and laugh when the situation called for it, without truly having to fake it. But all it took was for a moment of silence to leave her alone with her thoughts and the emptiness came creeping back in.
She had written to Parvati nearly every week since she had arrived in Australia at the end of May. She felt silly constantly rambling about all the little ways that Australia was different from the United Kingdom and all the things she loved about it. But when Parvati wrote back she always encouraged Lavender to tell her more, and Lavender was more than happy to do just that. What she really wanted to do was tell Parvati, in a million different ways, how much she missed her and longed to be with her. There was something bitter and tragic about knowing the one you love does love you back but not actually being able to be with them, even though you had waited so long.
Though, already Lavender was feeling herself begin to doubt whether Parvati truly did return her feelings. Often her letters seemed to take significantly longer to arrive than Lavender's took to send. Oh, she knew that Australia was a long way off, even for wizards, but that didn't stop her from waiting for an owl to arrive every minute of every day while awaiting a response. Then just when she was prepared to give into despair, an owl would arrive and she would read Parvati's words and feel herself filled with love and the joy of their shared connection once more. She replied quickly and then the process repeated itself.
But Parvati's responses had got slower, Lavender was sure of that. And with her being at Hogwarts they would be slower still. And worst of all, Lavender would now have to deal with the fear that Parvati would find someone else. There were plenty of suitable witches and wizards who would be returning to Hogwarts for an extra year and Parvati was far too pretty not to have admirers.
Lavender, on the other hand, had few dating prospects, putting aside the fact that she didn't feel terribly inclined. For her, Parvati was all there was or could ever be.
Lavender sighed and rolled over, pulling the blanket over herself. She closed her eyes, hoping that sleep would come quickly and with it sweet dreams of her faraway love.
Padma's friend, Morag MacDougal, had been making eyes at Parvati for at least an hour. Parvati was flattered, certainly. Morag was undeniably cute, with her short, dark brown hair, amber eyes, pink, bow-shaped lips, petite stature, and light brown skin, an apparent product of her Scottish father and Thai mother according to Padma.
She was laid-back, funny and had a laugh that made you want to smile. Padma certainly seemed to like her a lot. In fact, frankly, Parvati had thought they might be dating and when she confessed her feelings for her best friend, Lavender Brown, over the summer she had inquired about Morag but Padma stated that in no uncertain terms that there was nothing romantic between them, though Morag was a lesbian.
This last revelation had led to a discussion between the sisters where Parvati had explained that she wasn't gay and that she was, in theory, interested in people who weren't women. In practice, she didn't believe anyone who wasn't Lavender Brown really stood a chance, however.
Even still, the next time Morag shot her a glance, she added a little, playful smile and Parvati felt herself flush, despite herself. She supposed she shouldn't feel bad. It was the only reasonable response to being flirted at by a cute girl. It didn't have to be a big deal, unless she let it. But once Padma left to go say hi to Terry Boot, Morag turned to Parvati with interest.
"How are you?" Morag asked Parvati.
"I'm fine. And yourself?" Parvati replied.
Morag smiled and glanced out the window.
"I'm feeling excited and curious. It is a strange time for the people o' our world. My mum and dad didn't think I should come back but if I'm honest I wouldna miss this year for anything," Morag said, then turned back to Parvati with a big grin.
Parvati smiled and nodded.
"I'm not sure what else I would do. I suppose I feel a loyalty to Hogwarts. Last year certainly wasn't a proper school year. I think Hogwarts deserves to see us through just as much as we deserve to finish our education," Parvati said.
"Aye, that is one way of looking at it," Morag said.
Morag looked around, looking thoughtful then said, "So where's your friend? The bonnie lassie with the curly, hair who used to snog Ron Weasley all the bloody time."
Parvati frowned and said, "Australia."
"Oh? That's a shame. Must be hard losing a girlfriend like that."
Parvati's eyes widened at Morag and she shook her head.
"I haven't lost her. And she's not my girlfriend… at least I don't think. It's sort of complicated," Parvati said.
"So if I wanted to ask you out on a date sometime that wouldna be a problem?" Morag asked, genuinely looking interested.
Parvati blushed and opened her mouth to speak but didn't know what to say. She wasn't interested in dating anyone else. But on the other hand, she wouldn't mind getting to know Morag and she couldn't imagine that Lavender wouldn't want her to have friends.
And besides even if she did go on a date, there was nothing officially official about her and Lavender. She wouldn't be breaking any promises, though if she weren't careful she might break Lavender's heart.
"Only if we can do it as friends," Parvati said, firmly.
Morag looked disappointed but nodded.
"Aye. Friends it is then."
Harry Potter scratched his head with a dark hand then examined the sculpture that stood before him. It was of a semi-nude woman playing a wooden flute. It was nicely done and fit in with the rest of the decor at the Belvedere Palace Gardens in Vienna. It wasn't the only semi-nude sculpture present, though it at least it didn't look like a Muggle's strange idea of a hippogriff.
Harry continued his walk. It was September the first and Ginny would be going back to Hogwarts today. He was wishing he had bothered to send her a letter before the start of the autumn term but he had got distracted in the Czech Republic. He had almost considered making a last minute attempt to make it back to the United Kingdom and attend Hogwarts, just so he could see Ginny. Or he could go back and work with Ron and George at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. That would let him at least see her during the holidays.
Harry stopped and glanced around the gardens, then sighed. No, he knew this was for the best. He was a man of eighteen, and for the first time in his life his mind and choices were wholly his own. He was free of fate, destiny or prophecy and most importantly free of Voldemort and the piece of his soul that had existed inside of him since he was a small child.
He needed this time. He needed to be alone with his own thoughts and experience true freedom. He knew it was what he needed but it wasn't what he wanted. He wanted to be near Ginny and his friends. Harry was lonely, though he hated to admit it. But it was a different sort of loneliness than what he was used to. It wasn't like when he was isolated thanks to the Dursleys. It was loneliness by choice and that only made it harder.
Harry wondered if everyone resented him for running off. But they couldn't understand what it meant to be famous Harry Potter. There was nowhere he could go back home where he wouldn't be recognised. He hoped if he went away that perhaps people would move on and focus on rebuilding their world.
He knew that there was no way to stop people from talking about his fateful battle with Voldemort and spreading rumours of his apparent death and resurrection. He would always be Harry Potter. There would always be someone who would see him and think of his father or see his eyes and think of his mother. There would always be someone who wanted to see his scar.
There was no use fighting all of that, in the long term. But for now? For now, he could remove himself from it all. He wanted to just be Harry, and now what it was like to be his own man. The price of that was separating himself from the ones he loved. Oh, he had been tempted to beg Ginny to not finish her last year of school and run away with him. It would've been the same thing but at least he would've had her. They could see the world together. It would've been wonderful. But Mrs. Weasley never would have forgiven him and he probably wouldn't have forgiven himself. And that's even if Ginny would've consented, which she might not have.
Harry looked up at the sky and sighed. He resolved to write Ginny a letter that evening. He needed to send his love to her and to Hogwarts. He supposed he had abandoned Hogwarts as well. But he never had any attention of returning after sixth year. He knew there would be a job waiting for him with Magical Law Enforcement once he was back in the United Kingdom. His days of education were done.
Harry looked around. He'd had enough of the palace gardens for now. Time to move onto his next destination.