You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com
1. In Memoriam.
The family are waiting to leave. All are trying to hold back tears. A couple sob openly.
A small plaque is held by the father. Small consolation for a lost life. The body is in the mausoleum, surrounded by others who are fallen.
Held up by the woman whose love kept him going through his greatest challenge, Harry Potter looks dejected, unsure about his place with these people.
The enormity of the last battle, and its effects, appeared to have hit him like a bludger to the gut. Fred Weasley was dead, as were Remus Lupin and Nymphodora Tonks, along with fifty two other brave souls. Some were friends, others classmates. All had been there because they chose to be. They had known the risk, or so he told himself.
It was now a full day since he had asked about dating his love once more. Ginny Weasley, ever the ray of sunshine in his dark world, had said yes. They had both been so happy. Together, with Ron and Hermione, they had visited Hagrid one last time before leaving for the summer.
He’d been cheery right the way through, until they had stood to leave. He looked like he was losing part of his own family.
“S’pose I got too close to y’eh.” He’d cried when they sat him down. “Never thought the day would come when I’d say goodbye to you three.”
That one word tore the heart out of Harry. Ron just went as silent as he had in the Great Hall. Hermione held onto Ginny for support.
“We… we’ll see you in a month, Hagrid,” Ginny tried to brighten the mood. “There’ll be a service for Fred and the others in the DA at the Burrow.”
Needless to say this had the opposite effect.
Now they just stood. Waiting to portkey home.
The key itself was an old hairbrush. Not outwardly significant, and yet the shape was familiar to those who had been waiting, and to one who had used, on that fateful night in July.
One second, they were in the grounds of Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, the next, they were picking themselves off the gravel path in front of the Burrow.
Home had never looked so foreign. They all looked at it. The sun was still high in the sky, so instead of going in, they sat on the furniture located in the garden.
Arthur Weasley held Molly as she began sobbing lightly. Bill and Fleur both squeezed Percys shoulders as he broke down. Charlie patted the remaining twin as he just stared into space. Hermione and Ginny cried into Rons and Harrys chests respectively - Ginny adding a few punches for good measure – as the men silently stroked their hair.
They remained like that for hours, until the sun finally set in a full-blooded display of colour.
“It’ll be getting cold in a bit.” Molly shifted against her husband. “Ron, dear, would you mind putting a few logs on the fire?”
“Of course.” He looked down gingerly. “Come on, Hermione.”
She sniffed, but still followed him inside, her head on his shoulder all the way in. Ron constantly stroked her hair, as if it were his only comfort. Harry stared after them, and then looked down at the trembling person at his chest. Ginny nodded slightly.
“Anyone like drinks?” He started to rise.
“Thanks, Harry.” Came the replies, though no heads turned.
He carefully lifted Ginny up out of the seat, consoling her in much the same way Ron had with Hermione. They entered the kitchen slowly, as if not wanting to disturb the calm before them.
A bottle of firewhisky, large pots of tea and coffee were set onto the biggest tray in the house. Ginny was about to set down a selection of mugs when she noticed the living room still in darkness. Without really thinking, she headed in.
“Oh, Merlin.” She sighed quietly. Ron and Hermione had fallen asleep, still clutching each other for comfort. She went back to the kitchen. “Harry, I’m going to need a hand.”
“What’s up?” His eyes were red when they looked back at her, but he followed as she led him through.
“Who do you want to tackle?”
“How about we just set them back on the sofa?” and so, with greatest of care, Ron was laid against the back of the seat, with Hermione rested on him for warmth. “Just have to light the fire and tell the others they can’t use it.”
They went back into the kitchen and collected the tray, after grabbing several glasses. Curious glances were thrown at them when they headed into the garden. The unspoken questions were mollified by a quick explanation about the sleepers.
“Ah, so eet ees love after all.” Fleur clapped lightly, Bill beamed.
“When did this happen?” George suddenly piped up.
“I think they’ve known for years, just been scared to admit it.” Mr Weasley chuckled. Harry couldn’t help but remember the trips to the hospital wing in Hogwarts, when either had been injured, and how the other had reacted.
“I think it started with that business with the Chamber of…” Percy began.
“I thought we’d never talk about that, ever.” Ginny was perhaps a little too forceful, but the look in her eyes was still one of sheer terror.
“Sorry. Is that coffee I smell?” Percy handed out mugs as Ginny led Harry away from the group, they declined drinks when offered, and walked into the woods bordering the house.
The usually bubbly little girl stood in silence, once they reached a clearing. Her head was buried in Harrys chest, again. His arms around her, protecting her. His own chin rested on the top of her head. Fresh tears threatened, but for his Ginny, he would be strong.
“Oh, you noble prat. Come here.” Ginny pulled his head onto her left shoulder, and felt the flood gates open. She ran her fingers through his hair and whispered in his ear, soothing him slowly.
When he had cried himself silent she looked into his eyes. They flashed bright green, and in their depths, she could see the turmoil in his soul. It was time to open her heart and rid it of the demons that lay there.
“I want to talk to you,” he opened his mouth. “No, don’t speak, just listen.
“When I went back to Hogwarts, I already had plans in motion to help you. Really to help everyone as much as possible, but in the main, to help you. I knew you’d been left the sword in the will. You had been refused it, so I took it on myself to get it. Then I remembered something the old headmaster had said, though I heard it in a dream I was having, ‘Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it’. I needed help and recruited Luna and Neville to restart the DA.”
“Umm, Ginny. Dumbledore said that to me and Ron. About the help. We were in Hagrids house when Fudge came for him. I don’t think Ron ever told you about it.”
“I see. Well you probably know already what happened next since you bumped into Luna.”
“Heard a bit about it from others, too. Shall have to ask about that triple patronus.” Harry looked into her eyes now. “What’s up?”
“I also went to Godric’s Hollow.” The words took time to sink in. “It was after you and Hermione had escaped, and I felt this overwhelming need to go there. I went with Lupin. Don’t worry, we didn’t get into any trouble.” Harry raised his eyebrows. “Anyway, what I realised then was, in the end you had to face Riddle alone. He’d stolen your mothers protection, but didn’t understand it, when he came back. You and he were tied together because of his attack on you as a baby, though I still don’t understand it myself fully. I knew that given the choice between more senseless deaths, and your own sacrifice, you’d face him on your own. That is who you are. I’ve known that much since my first year. I don’t say anything about the Chamber, because I was out of it. I just remember you telling me to get out, and to find Ron, and I refused. No matter how badly hurt you were, I was not going to leave you.
“Then, when I heard you walking into the forest – yes I heard you – I knew why you were going. You were attempting to use your own sacrifice as a means to gain time for someone to finish him off. I felt that like no other emotion, you remember I told you.” Harry simply nodded. “It worked though, not as you’d intended, you’re here with me now as proof. He couldn’t affect us, or hold us with his spells. That’s why you closed on Bellatrix in the final fight. I felt what you were thinking, but mum beat you to the close.”
Ginny stopped talking, looking deep into Harrys soul, through his eyes. She shivered slightly, and Harry swept her off her feet. His lips crushed against hers. His arms squeezing warmth into her body.
When they came to walk back, it was with arms around each others waists, and heads resting against each others.
“Now, zat ees love!” Fleur exclaimed as she saw them, and rushed over to hug them both and handing out glasses of firewhisky. “A toast. To new beginnings, and in memoriam.”
“New beginnings, and in memoriam.”
They all headed back into the house at this. It was time to sleep, and to begin grieving for Fred in their own individual ways.
Ron and Hermione were left on the sofa to sleep. In the morning, she would be heading to Australia to find her parents.
Ginny asked Harry to join her in her room, after everyone else had gone to sleep. They lay in each others arms that night, holding onto their own precious gift.
* * * * *
“Oi, you two. When you’re quite ready,” Ron hammered on the bedroom door, his tone light. “We’re about to take Hermione to the portair.”
Harry smiled at that. For all his learning about Muggle words and ways, he could never get the urge to mispronounce out of his system. Telephone was still his favourite.
He looked down and stroked long red hair out of his face, savouring the smell as he did. He moved his free hand down the smaller body, drawing circles on her skin.
“Mmm, that feels good.” Ginny moaned gently. “What did my brother want?”
“Hermione, airport.” Harry breathed into her ear. “We ought to get up.”
“Well, your clothes aren’t in here,” She pulled herself upright, swinging her legs out of bed. “You’ll have to make a run for it.”
“Really, why?” Innocence flashed on his face.
“Before I change my mind about getting dressed.” She teased. He made to kiss her. “Now you’d better go. I can feel the questions already forming downstairs.”
Reluctantly, Harry got out of the bed. He kissed Ginnys forehead before heading up to Rons room, and fresh clothes. Quickly, he washed in the small basin, and threw on a pair of jeans and t-shirt. He’d just finished tying his own laces when Ginny knocked on the door.
“Are you decent?”
“For you, always.” He opened it and was thrust back in the room, her lips tight on his.
“Mmm, could get used to that.” Ginny grinned mischievously as she straightened Harrys glasses, and ran her hands through his hair.
They went down the narrow stairs, hand-in-hand. Whistles and cheers greeted them when they entered the kitchen. Both Ron and Hermione looked sheepish, as though their own wake-up call had been just as loud.
“Here you are, dears.” Mrs Weasley placed a large plate of buttered, toasted teacakes on the table as they sat.
“Who’s going to Heathrow with Hermione?” Harry asked between bites.
“Arthur, Ron and you two so far as I know.” A sad look flashed across her face. “I’ve too much to do here.”
“Nonsense.” Fleur put a hand on her shoulder. “You go. I’ll see to this, with Bill.” A tight squeeze of her hand accepted this.
While Mrs Weasley went to change, Hermione dropped into a chair next to Ginny.
“What will I say to them? ‘Hi, I’m your daughter’? What if I take the spell off and they don’t want to be near me for what I did?” She looked like she was about to cry, her lips trembling.
“Wish I was going with you.” Ron placed his hands over her shoulders. “I could’ve helped you with it.”
“Now you know you’re supposed to be here ready for when I get back,” Hermione looked into his eyes, drawing strength from them. “So we – you too, Harry – can fill them in with the whys and wherefores.”
The plan had been arranged long before the wedding of Bill and Fleur. As a Muggle-born, Hermiones family would have been targeted first, after the takeover by the Death Eaters. They were safely out of the country when it did happen, albeit, with new identities and memories.
The trip to Heathrow was easy enough. Compared to the battle, it was like walking into a shop. Hermione already had her ticket, and all that needed to be done was to check-in. She still carried her small, magically-enhanced beaded bag. She wiped her eyes as the departure call was announced, cheerfully reminding them all that she’d be back in a few days.
“Come straight to the Burrow with them, won’t you.” Mrs Weasley held her face.
She hugged each in turn, tears spilling out of her eyes. Her longest, most heart-felt hug she saved for Ron. They whispered to each other before parting. He stood back to compose himself, as she walked towards the departure lounge, her body shaking with each sob. She turned to wave, and was lost in the crowd as more passengers headed for the flight.
“You know, I’ll never understand why they call a place Fel-tham.” Mr Weasley injected into the awkward silence that followed. Harry and Ginny rolled their eyes, and Ron playfully hit his dad on the arm. Mrs Weasley simply shook her head and they made their way back to a quiet corner to Disapparate back to the Burrow.
Fleur had seemingly anticipated their imminent arrival, with help from the family clock, and already had a pot of tea on the boil when the travellers arrived home. She waved to them through the kitchen window, and called for her husband.
The day was warm, and so the pot of tea was taken to the seats used the night before, along with a fresh bottle of firewhisky.
“Drinking before dinner, tsk.” Mrs Weasley didn’t object to a few drops in her mug though.
Ginny noticed Ron soulfully cradling his own drink, and before Bill, or Harry, could suggest otherwise, the five of them left Mr and Mrs Weasley sat in the garden whilst they walked into the woods, and out into the fields beyond. Soon they came upon a familiar hill that overlooked their home.
“Seems like only yesterday, we were here, looking down there,” Harry prodded Ron.
“Yeah,” Ron kicked at the ground. “Which way to old Lovegoods place?”
“Somewhere over those hills,” Bill waved the general direction. “No use going to see him though. House was destroyed, some damn horn blew up.”
“Ah… erm… well there’s a funny thing about that…” Ron perked up. “We kind of gave him a helping hand with that. That’s why Luna was with you for so long.”
“I told you. Were zere any buildings you three left standing?” Fleur shook her head at Bill.
“Hogwarts, pretty much. Then there’s Gringotts and Malfoy Manor.” Ron replied rapidly. “And I think you told me your old place is still standing, Harry.”
“It is,” Ginny assured him, Bill smiled at Fleur knowingly. “Old Bagshots is another matter.”
“How do you know?” Harry looked puzzled one second, holding her hands in both of his, then realised the answer before she replied, his eyes widened.
“I was the one behind Potterwatch remember. And the reports about wizards helping Muggles. That was my lot, also.”
“You left in such circumstances, that little Ginny went nuts. Made all sorts of plans.” Fleur beamed. “If I remember rightly, by the time you went into the Ministry and helped all those people, she’d already organised half a dozen rescues. Reactivated the DA, and begun marshalling it into a fighting force.”
Ginny seemed quite sheepish at this praise. “No more than anyone else would have done, given the right information and contacts.”
Harry hugged her tightly. So much about the past year had passed him by on those lonely nights with Ron and Hermione. Even without him, the fight back had gathered pace.
Not without him. Because of one persons determination, it was because of him.
Ron sighed heavily. One of his reasons for fighting was now flying thousands of miles to bring back two of her reasons. He already missed her, despite it being only a couple of hours since the flight left.
Fleur wrapped one arm around Ron, and the other around Bill, and slowly set off back to the house. Harry bent slightly so that Ginny could hop onto his back, and carried her all the way down the hill.
He felt no pain or tiredness as he dropped her off his back into the empty chair. Indeed, he had never felt more alive since the events in May. He slipped in place beside her, and cuddled up to her, silently communicating his feelings for her.
Ginny dropped her head to his chest, stroking his t-shirt. She was thankful to have this opportunity, like all those to come. So many lives had been lost. It was time to live once more, even though a few sad things had to be done beforehand.
“Where shall we put Fred?” She hadn’t meant it to sound so off-hand.
“Oh… how about on that tree he fell out of as a child?” Mr Weasley looked over at the old oak and smiled tightly, lost in memory.
“Yes, I think so.” His wife agreed, not entirely convinced.
"I'll get the plaque, and George." Bill stood to go inside.
“No. We’ll do it when we have the DA service.” Ginny spoke around Harry.
Chapter 2: 2. "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
[View Online] [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]
2. “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”
Hermione Granger had a harder time finding her parents than she’d anticipated. Tired, hungry, but looking thoroughly pleased with herself, she got out of the taxi around late afternoon, followed closely by the wary couple.
Mr Granger was a tall, wiry man, with dark hair and glasses similar to Harry. His wife was similar to Hermione in everyway.
Ron charged out of the front door, down the gravel path, and into the arms of his girlfriend. He swept her off her feet, spun her around and grinned at her bemused parents. She’d been gone nearly a whole month.
Ginny swept out to greet her with a hug. Harry followed it up with a big kiss on the cheeks, earning himself a hearty punch from Ron.
“Greetings,” Mr Weasley strode over to the group. “We met before your daughters second year at school.”
“Oh, yes. I remember now.”
“Best come inside. I’m sure there’s plenty you’ll want to ask.”
Mrs Weasley directed the group into the living room, where a large pot of tea and several mugs stood on the coffee table.
“I feel I ought to thank you, Harry,” Mr Granger looked straight at him. “For looking after our little girl so well.”
“Not strictly true, Mr Granger,” Harry smirked at ‘our little girl’. “I was the one leading her into allsorts of danger. It was mostly her and Ron keeping me safe.”
“Come now, don’t be modest,” Mrs Granger chirped. “Hermione’s told us all about you over the years. We feel we know you just as well as she does.” Harry was now turning a similar shade of red as Ginnys hair.
“Pretty much everything from your first day on the train, right through to the funeral last year,” Mr Granger beamed. “So what happened this year?”
The inevitable question. Hermione set down her mug. She took a deep breath and went through nearly eleven months of work in the space of three hours. At the end, she sat with Ron, who handed her a drink of firewhisky-enforced tea.
The Grangers sat quietly, thinking about what to ask first. They opened their mouths several times, but no words came out. George appeared round the corner, having listened to the proceedings from the stairs, and picked up a mug as if to join them.
Mr Granger got up; put his hands on Georges shoulders. “I’m so sorry about your twin.” He hugged him, looking at Mr and Mrs Weasley. “I’m sorry you had to endure that which all parents fear most.”
The apology was sincere. No more needed to be said.
Dinner was a more boisterous affair than had been for days, even weeks. George was a little reserved still, but at least he was making jokes again. Mr Weasley beamed at his sons and Harry. Mrs Granger swapped stories about Hermione with Ginny and Mrs Weasley. Mr Granger was watching Ron; how he shared Hermiones embarrassment and joy at the stories and jokes made at her expense, and how he seemed to know what she wanted to eat or drink, before she’d spoken about it.
“Harry, may I have a word?”
“Of course, sir.” Harry was a little unsure what was about to happen.
The two of them went just outside the kitchen door. Ginny sidled over and rested against the jamb.
“What is it with those two?”
“Ah…” Harry looked over at the table, and then at Ginny, who simply nodded. “It’s called a life-debt. It’s a link formed when a wizard, or witch, saves the life of another. Half of the people in that room share one with me. The reason for theirs being so strong is the same as mine with this one.” Harry held his hand out for Ginny to join them. “We’ve saved each others lives that often over the past school years that the links have reinforced themselves, many times over. And they keep on getting stronger the deeper the emotional involvement becomes. I don’t know, nor will I pretend to know, how this will show up in the long run. It’s just good to know what the other wants, when they want it.”
“I see. Kind of like reading minds?”
“As close as it gets, for now.”
All three Grangers left late in the evening, taking the Knight Bus home. Hermione promised to return in the morning to help with the upcoming service.
Ron went to bed early after that. Ginny waited until all others were asleep, then summoned Harry to her room. Another night of holding each other, thankful for the gift of love.
* * * * *
Ginny found Hermione waiting on the doorstep when she came downstairs in the morning. She opened the door, and poured two glasses of pumpkin juice, handing one to her friend. They both sat at the table.
“Did you settle in alright with your parents?” Ginny reached for the biscuit barrel.
“We were fine. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve invited them here for the memorial service.” Hermione pulled out a baked cookie. “You alright? Didn’t have too much firewhisky?”
“Me! I’m good.” She answered a little too quickly.
“Okay, Ginny. Out with it.” Hermione did her best Molly impression. “Why are you looking so guilty? What have you been up to?”
“Oh, Merlin. Let’s go outside, and keep your voice down.”
They stood and walked out into the garden. Neither noticed Molly and Arthur heading down for breakfast.
The sun rose in a bloody display of colour. Ginny led Hermione over to the gate by the lane. She looked at her friend, held her hands in front of her and sighed.
“We’ve been sleeping together,” time to confess. “Don’t give me that look. We haven’t been doing anything other than sleeping.”
“Okay,” a slow breathe was let out. “So…?”
“He holds me so tenderly, like he’s known for years how I like to be held.” Ginny blushed. “He keeps all my nightmares away. Tom. The Chamber. School. I feel so safe around him.”
“Oh, Ginny.” Hermione hugged her gently. She could feel Ron stirring in the house. “I thought you were over those. How stupid of me, you’ll never be over them. So, tell me, you sleep facing, or back to back?”
“That is between me and Harry. I’m surprised at you. How about you and my brother?” Ginny grinned.
“We haven’t, yet. Maybe we should take a leaf out of your book, and just go for it?” She giggled. “Shall we get them up?”
“Of course.” They turned back towards the house, left their glasses in the sink and headed upstairs.
Hermione smiled when she glimpsed Harry through the bedroom door. He was still asleep, his arm resting where Ginny had been sleeping. He seemed so peaceful.
Ginny headed up to Rons room, Hermione following, grinning at the look of mischief on her face. She slowly opened the door, quietly slipping into the bed reserved for Harry. She winked then yawned loudly.
Ron blinked as the sunlight shone through the window. He looked down at Harrys bed and sat bolt upright, his face turning white, his mouth opening and closing rapidly. He pointed helplessly as Ginny slowly got out of bed, laughing hysterically. Hermione creased up and entered the room.
“Bloody hell.” Rons face turned as red as his hair. “You two! Come here, you.” He held his hand out to Hermione.
Hermione took hold of the outstretched hand, and pulled herself into his embrace. Ginny took her cue to go and wake Harry. She had one last look at her brother and friend, shaking her head.
Walking down to her own room, Ginny felt an enormous wave of pleasure. She felt hot, and her head felt light. She stopped on the stairs, closing her eyes.
Opening them, she saw her room. Slightly blurry, and it appeared to be on its side. She blinked once more, and saw the stairs again. Trying to figure out what had just happened, she continued down and gingerly pushed her door open.
Harry still lay where she had left him. He looked at her through bleary eyes. He smiled sleepily. His hair was as messy as ever. His arm was still stretched over her bed.
She smiled and sat next to him, picking his hand up and kissed it lightly. She yelped slightly as he pulled her back onto him and kissed her neck.
“Good morning, Mr Potter,” she grinned.
“Good morning, Miss Weasley.” He kissed her again.
“Come on, time to get up, but you’ll need to knock before you go in.” Ginny tickled him.
“I heard you and Hermione go up. I can guess what you did.” He laughed. “I’ll go up when I hear them go down.”
“Bad pun, but I know what you mean.” Ginny thought for a moment. “Accio Harrys clothes.”
“OOPS.” Every piece of clothing Harry owned flew in through the little rooms window, landing in a heap on the floor. “Oh well, at least now I don’t have to worry about disturbing the lovers.” He winced as Ginny hit him on the head.
“You’ll be taking them back up when you get a free moment.” Ginny had a blazing look in her eyes. She turned her back as he got out of her bed, and started to dress himself. She turned back round when she felt his hands on her shoulders.
“I’ll make do without my glasses for the time being.” Harry kissed Ginny lightly on the forehead. “Thank you for last night.”
“Best nights sleep I’ve had for a while.” He kissed her again. “It felt right.”
They stepped out of the room, onto the landing. They could hear voices in the kitchen one way, and moans coming from the other. Smiling and shaking their heads, they set off downstairs.
“… busy day today.” Molly Weasley stood with her back to the oven. “How many are we to expect?”
“I think Ginny said close to fifty.” Arthur sat at the table reading the morning edition of the Daily Prophet.
“You’d best warn them a storm maybe brewing,” Harry winked at Ginny. She headed back up the stairs, while he went over to the table.
“Ah, you’re up I see. Sleep well dear?”
“Yes thanks. Slept like a log.” He poured himself a glass of pumpkin juice.
“And Ginny?” Harry nearly gagged on his drink.
“F… fine.” He spluttered. Trying very hard to avoid Mr Weasleys stare, another gulp of juice was taken. “What’s the plan for the decorations?”
“Bill and Fleur will be here soon. Percy has said he’ll be here as soon as he finishes some paperwork.” Mrs Weasley looked at him curiously. “Charlie is sorting out arrangements for Hagrid.”
“Well the weather looks fine for it.” He chanced a glance outside. “Would you like a hand?”
“No dear. You four spend the day out. Be sure to get back for about five.” She turned back to the oven, just as Ron came down with Hermione and his sister. He shot Harry a most unexpected look, but didn’t express whatever was on his mind.
They ate quickly and headed into the garden. It was only just ten in the morning.
“What shall we do then?” Hermione placed her arms in Rons.
“How about we go flying?” Ginny shocked them all. She had not flown in nearly a year.
Hermione was not entirely at ease with this idea. The last time she had flown, Ron had been in control, and they’d been fleeing fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement. The thought of flying was terrifying for her.
“I’ll fly with you,” she said to Ron, clinging onto his arm tightly.
“Of course, love.” He threw yet another look at Harry, and an intriguing one at his sister. “The brooms are in the shed.”
Two Cleansweeps and a Comet were extricated from the mass of other household items. Ron stepped over the Comet, pulling Hermione in close behind, and pushed off hard. He rose into the air slowly, adjusting the broom under him, making sure that his passenger was secure.
Harry watched closely as Ginny stepped over her broom, pushed off lightly and flew a couple of laps of the Burrow. He flinched as she wobbled on her turns, but some of her old moves from Quidditch came to the fore. On her third lap, Harry pushed off. He flew slowly around Ron and Hermione, and then settled back as his friends led the way over the boundary and headed for open country, taking formation behind and to the left. Ginny barrel-rolled over the three of them. Her confidence showing with the big smile she wore on her face, and the thumbs-ups she gave Harry.
Hermione smiled at Ron, kissing him softly on the cheeks. He handled the old broom well. He grimaced each time his sister performed one of her old tricks. Not grimacing through rage at his best mate seeing his sister once more. She had made her own choice. He grimaced at the memories of teasing and jokes made at her expense. He thought back to her first year, cringing at the thought that he had nearly lost her through neglect and ignorance. He smiled that the man who had saved her was his best mate. He thought of the next two years after. Cringing more at the memories of further neglect on his part.
He dropped his flying height slightly. Her fourth year had been as bad as his fifth. He had seen her seemingly drop her crush of his mate and date one of her own year.
Then all hell had broken loose. He rose over the crest of the hill, skimming the trees. The trip to the Ministry. The doubts about Harry. The great changes at school.
All those adventures. So many, in such a short space of time.
He looked at Harry. Saw him itching to join Ginny in her moves. He nodded to him. Hermione squeezed him knowingly. He smiled as the old Cleansweep accelerated in a way he’d never known. He watched the two of them circle each other, diving for the floor and pull out inches above it. They looked in total harmony.
His mind drifted back to the last battle, when everything changed. Voldemort was battling three. Lestrange was taking on three. He was lost in the melee of people watching both. His heart had skipped a beat when his sister had come so close to death. It had skipped several as he watched his own mother take a life.
He was stood between Hermione and Ginny when Harry beat Voldemort.
Now, on the brooms, Ron saw why Harry had fought so hard. Trying to distance himself from those he loved. Held on so tight to those who were with him. He loved Ron and Hermione, like a brother and a sister. He loved Ginny with an intensity and passion that was out of this world. Ron knew he would never let any harm come to her. Just as he knew he would never let any harm come to Hermione.
They flew on in formation; like a pair of fighters escorting a bomber. Hermione pointed to a village and they touched down.
3. Rest in Peace.
Harry checked the immediate area for a name for the village. Hermione frowned as they landed, spying some familiar buildings, but said nothing. Ginny hid the brooms under a tree and followed the others into the little square.
A pub stood in one corner. Nearby stood a memorial. On approach it transfigured into a statue of two adults and an infant. All bar Ron knew where there were, but he should have known from the stories.
Harry was home once more. Or at least, a place he might have called home. He took time to stand and stare at the details this time. They were dressed in ordinary Muggle clothing, but their wands protruded from their pockets to indicate they were anything but.
He marvelled at the way James’ hair really did not want to lie still, even on the statue. They were about the same height, and though Harry was a little wiry, they were about the same build.
Ginny slipped her right arm through his left. He now took in his mother. She stood slightly taller than Ginny. She had the same length of hair, similar facial features and the same blazing look.
Ron gasped at the baby. No scar marked the skin over the right eye. The artist had wanted to capture the family at their best. They had certainly managed it. He looked at the two couples. One living, the other set in stone. He shook his head and blinked, before turning to Hermione, who just looked at him sadly.
They made their way into the graveyard, noting the fresh grave for Bathilda Bagshot. They looked at the names on the stones. Kneeling down on the one they searched for.
“Well, mum, dad.” Harry rested his hand on the headstone. “I did it. He’s gone. I’ve some people here, I’m sure you’d like to meet them. My friends. Ron, Hermione and Ginny.
“I know you’d like to meet the people who saved me; helped me; loved me in your place.” Tears came to his eyes, but would not fall. “They are my Hallows. The strength to do what is right. The knowledge that what I do is right. The reason for my doing what is right.” Tears fell now, cascading down his cheeks. “I promise I’ll be back on your birthdays. I promise I’ll be back every Halloween.”
Ginny sobbed openly as Harry stood up. Hermione was leaning into Ron.
“Rest in peace, James and Lily Potter.” Ron conjured an enormous wreath of red and white roses, handing it to Harry.
Harry laid it on the grave, covering the area he assumed his parents’ bodies had been placed. He allowed Ginny to lead him out of the area and down the lane to the derelict house. She held him close as Ron read the plaque and additional messages.
All four of them stood for what seemed like hours, simply staring at the house.
“What time is it?” Hermione spoke quietly.
“Nearly three.” Harry looked at the watch that Mrs Weasley had given him last birthday. It had belonged to one of her brothers. “We’d best get back, or there may be four more bodies in there.” He nodded back down the lane.
They made their way back to the brooms. One last look around was taken, and the group pushed off into the air. Once more, Ron led the way, with Hermione behind him on the Comet. Ginny flew next to Harry, one hand on her broom, the other holding his opposing hand.
The group flew fast and low, avoiding signs of habitation until they arrived over Ottery St Catchpole. They pulled up high into the sky, surveying the scene in the Burrow.
Guests had already started to arrive, even though it was now a little after four. They descended into the middle of the crowd, causing mild panic then amusement. Mrs Weasley hugged them all. Hermione had to collect her parents, and kissed Ron before turning on the spot.
Ron went inside to get changed into something a little warmer, while Ginny said she had a surprise for Harry and was not to move until she came back.
Twirling happily, she made her way into the house, seeking out her father who sat in the living room.
“Dad, can you come with me?” She pulled him out of his seat, regardless of his apparent comfort, and hauled him up the stairs.
She went into her room, marched over to the set of drawers and dug in the topmost drawer for a couple of minutes. She retrieved a locket from it, placing it in her fathers hands.
“I’d like to give this to Harry.” She breathed. “It’s already got my picture in it, but I’d like you to make the hair and eyes glow like mine really do, please.”
“It’ll be difficult, but for my princess, I’ll do it.” He disappeared out of her room and closed the door to his own.
Ron entered looking bewildered. “How did we end up in Godric’s Hollow?”
“I was leading, remember.” Ginny rolled her eyes. “I thought it would be educational for you, seeing as you are the only one of us not to have been.”
Mr Weasley re-entered as she finished. “Been where, princess?”
“Harrys old home.” She read the look on her fathers face. “We flew there, and looked at one or two interesting things.” She winked at her brother.
“Like their graves, the house, the memorial.” Her father must have been years ago.
“That’s it. It was good for Harry to be there.” Ron knew what his father would say and cut him off. “It was good for us all to be there.”
“Oh, just what we saw, and what we did.” Ron regretted how that sounded. “Only laid a wreath on their graves.”
“How well did you know them, dad?”
“Oh the Potters? Well enough through the Order. Went round to theirs a few times before… well you’ve got the idea over the years.” He tapped the locket with his wand, the picture inside sparkled and glowed as requested. “Here you are, princess. All ready for your prince.”
“Thanks, dad.” Despite blushing deeply, Ginny threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. “This means so much to me.”
Ron glanced at his sister suspiciously. He watched as she played with her hair, turned and skipped merrily down the stairs. She passed her mother in the kitchen. Ron followed as best he could. He had just reached the back door, as Hermione Apparated with her parents, charged over and hugged her tight once more.
Harry turned slowly, he barely breathed in before he was knocked sideways by Ginny. She had hold of him round his neck, kissed him hard on the lips. The friends gathered so far smiled happily for the couple.
“I’ve an early present for your birthday,” she had a blazing look in her eyes.
“You didn’t have to,” he was unsure about what to say next.
“Oh, shut up and bend down.” She kissed his forehead and hung the locket around his neck.
“Oh, my…” For once, Harry was lost for words with Ginny. He could feel her pride and closed his eyes. He opened them, seeing himself with her eyes. He blinked and was looking through his own again.
Harry held Ginny close round her waist, turned to Hermione and Ron and smiled widely. Ron held Hermione in a similar fashion, smiling back just the same. Her parents looked from one couple to the other, bewildered but smiling at the displays of affection.
“Hermione brought you then?” Mrs Weasley smiled and hugged Mr and Mrs Granger. “I wasn’t sure you’d want to be here?”
“No, we felt that we had to come,” Mr Granger winced slightly. “We chose to come, and honour those who fell helping these three.” He waved at the friends. “Make that four.”
Ron smiled weakly as he walked over with Hermione. She had a look close to one of Ginnys blazers.
“Um… Mr Granger. Later on, I’d… I’d like to ask you something,” The tone was strong, the words forced.
“No time like the present.”
“I’d like to ask for your daughters hand in marriage.”
All conversations stopped. The sounds of guests arriving dimmed in the silence. All eyes were on the two men. The mothers stood in open trepidation.
“Rather quick off the mark?”
“I’ve spent the better part of seven years knowing your daughter,” Ron was slowly turning the same colour as his hair. He chose his words carefully. “In our first year, I went from hating her for being who she was, to admiring her talent. That admiration was replaced by something deeper, and it took this year for me to fully appreciate what that was, and what a beautiful, wonderful person… young woman… she is.” His words began to falter.
“I see. Hermione.” He looked his daughter in the eyes. “What would you like to add to that?”
“I accept.” Simple. She flung her arms around Rons neck, and kissed him with a passion she had not shown before.
Cheers rang out from the crowd. Congratulations were expressed to them both. Mr and Mrs Weasley shook hands with Mr and Mrs Granger, as though meeting for the first time. Ron looked positively shell-shocked by the time his brothers had finished clapping him on the back. Hermione was smothered in kisses and hugs from Fleur and Ginny.
Rons eyes searched out the one person who had stood by him for so long. The one who had given him the determination to admit his feelings. His sister may have been the one pushing him along, but his first, and best friend at Hogwarts had always been there for him, through the rough and smooth.
Harry strode towards his friend, parting the crowd like a ship through water. He looked at Ron, gave a full-toothed grin and pulled him into the kind of hug two close friends can give each other. He smacked his hands on his back, and ruffled his hair.
“You take care of her, you hear,” Harry held Ron at arms length,” or there’ll be hell to pay from me!”
It took a while for the word to sink in. “Brother?” Harry mouthed, then hugged Ron again.
“Hey, let the man breathe, Harry.” Hermione slowly pulled them apart. She hugged first the man she considered to be like a brother, and then the man who was now her fiancé.
Harry was stunned by what Ron had just said. Ginny approached without being noticed, her hair shining in the late afternoon sun.
“You okay?” She kissed him softly.
“Brother.” He looked into her chocolate-brown eyes. “Ron just called me brother.”
“Well don’t let it go to your head.” She kissed him again. “We’ve got about an hour before we’ll be needed.” Intense feelings radiated from her.
Harry nearly buckled under the onslaught of emotion. His head swimming, he allowed Ginny to drag him into the woods behind the Burrow. They stopped in a clearing surrounded by dense vegetation. She kissed him passionately, her hands tugging at his clothes. He kissed her back, his hands roaming all over.
* * * * *
Ginny slowly buttoned her blouse. She looked at her lover and smiled. She closed her eyes, then opened them.
She was stood in the entrance hall of Hogwarts. Blood ran unchecked from a cut on her left cheek. A Death Eater swooped down on a prone body, wand raised. Without knowing how, she knew who was about to die. She screamed. “Not Harry. Kill me. Don’t hurt Harry.”
“Ginny!” A distant voice cut through the vision and sound of terror. “Gin, look at me.”
She blinked, and saw the terror in Harrys eyes. He’d seen what she had; felt every emotion with her. She rushed into his arms, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I believe my brothers words would be ‘what the bloody hell was that?’” Ginny sobbed.
“I don’t know, but…” He trailed off as he remembered what she had seen. “I’m not going to let it happen.” Lifting her chin he looked deep into her eyes. “When you get back to school, find the centaur, or Trelawney, ask one or the other about it.”
“Trelawney? I thought you said she was a fraud?” Ginny held on tight.
“She did make two predictions, both were right.”
“I know,” Ginny gulped. “We’d best get back, and keep this to ourselves.”
“On that count I definitely agree.” Harry knelt down and picked her up. “Seeing your nightmares, that hurt more than seeing you in the Chamber.”
“I’m sorry I let that out.” She kissed him gently as he carried her.
“Don’t be. We’ll get through this. You just need to let me in. Lower your defences when we’re alone.” Harry gently put her down and wrapped his arms around her waist. “We’re so much stronger united.”
“You’ve been spending too much time with Ron and Hermione,” she was teasing, but immediately regretted her choice of words. “I’m glad you let me into the trio.”
“Wouldn’t want it any other way.” He knelt down for her to ride on his back again, she gladly accepted.
Ron and Hermione were waiting with bottles of butterbeer as they emerged from the woods. Harry gave a sheepish grin, whilst Ginny shrugged her shoulders, both accepted the drinks.
All of the guests had arrived, and were patiently waiting in groups for the speeches to start. Some looked and nodded at the quartet as they mingled, rarely leaving each others sides. Others determinedly shook hands and offered congratulations.
Ginny broke away and climbed onto the raised platform that had been erected in front of the stream where it bent around the perimeter of the garden.
“Can I have your attention?” Her voice broke over the crowd as though she addressed them like this everyday. “QUIET!”
The sound of a wand dropping accompanied the silence.
“Thank you.” She looked impressive stood there, surveying them all like troops. “You all know why we are here. Sorry you couldn’t bring Grawp, Hagrid.”
“Tha’s alrigh’.” A little chuckle broke out.
“I’ll hand over to a professional speaker now. I’m no good at speeches.” She turned to Kingsley Shacklebolt. “Minister.”
“Thank you, Ginny,” the ex-Auror smiled. “Can I say, having heard your pep talks, you make damn good speeches.” Ginny blushed and shot a quick glance over to Harry. “I know we’ve all lost someone, so I won’t dwell too much on that. What I will ask is for you to think why they, and in turn you, did what they did? Was it for some noble cause or for something closer to home?”
Kingsley stared at the crowd, as if waiting for answers. “I know many of you had your own reasons for being in the fight. You have told me as much in passing when I’ve talked casually with you. Ron Weasley,” he searched out the trio, “why did you fight?”
“To help those I call friend,” the reply came with arms held high of the people either side of him.
“To help my family, and Harry.” She shifted uneasily under the gaze of her parents.
“Loyalty and friendship.” Dean looked at those he was with.
“Miss Lovegood?” A sharp intake of breath was instantly audible.
“Loyalty to Harry.” The reply was as honest as people had come to expect from one previously ridiculed as an odd-ball.
All eyes turned to Harry. He could feel the intense gazes burning holes into his skull. The noble answer, the one people wanted to hear, had to be to save the world. And yet this did not sit right with him. That was an arrogant, big-headed thing to claim. He looked at Ginny, and saw the answer staring back at him. Without thinking about his actions he climbed onto the platform, walked straight past Kingsley, into the arms of his reason.
“Ah, yes. Perhaps the most selfless, and most honest, reason of all.” Kingsley looked back at the crowd. “The papers may say that we fought to save the world. That is too grand a concept to comprehend. Attempting to save something that large would have overwhelmed us, so we chipped away at the task, each using our own reason to keep going in the long dark.
“Ron and Hermione both used the expression ‘to help’. Both Luna and Dean used ‘loyalty’.” The Minister paused, taking a deep breath. “I have spoken to others amongst you, and heard ‘it was the right thing to do’, some more say ‘I don’t know’. You have spoken to me honestly.
“I say to you now. We may have come out of some very dark times, but even darker ones may be found unless we share more friendship, loyalty, and love.” Kingsley looked at everyone in turn. “I shall be reading out the names of the fifty-five who lost their lives in the defence of your school. As I do, think about what sort of world we would have, if not for these simple ideas.”
The Minister bowed his head. From memory, he recited the names of each of the fallen. Most of them were from the ranks of the DA and the Order of the Phoenix.
Ginny choked each time she heard the name of a classmate she’d only see again in dreams. Harry sobbed most when he heard Tonks, Lupin, Weasley. A sinister intake of breath was the reaction to Snape. Hermione and Ron were about to speak out, but Ginny shook her head slowly to them. The time for explanations would arrive soon enough.
“I know they didn’t intend being portrayed as heroes, and for one it seems deeply rooted into his nature, but let’s have the Hogwarts Trio up here.” Kingsley stood to one side as Ron led Hermione reluctantly to the platform. Ginny pushed Harry forwards to be with his friends, but he pulled her with him.
Dennis Creevey squeezed through the crowd clutching his brothers camera, firing off shots every few steps of the surviving members of the DA and the Order of the Phoenix. Minerva McGonagall cleared a space for him to stand and take a photograph of the quartet.
4. Birthday surprises.
The cleanup from the service was left until the following morning. Mr and Mrs Granger arrived in their car, immediately being asked questions by Mr Weasley. Charlie and Bill dealt with the platform, using their wands to sink it into the ground and cover with earth. George let off the last of the nights fireworks. Fleur assisted Mrs Weasley in the kitchen.
Everytime Ginny, Harry, Hermione or Ron came near to help out, they were shooed away. Unsure as to why this was happening, they decided on another trip with the brooms.
“Okay dear, but be back for about six.” Was the only acknowledgement they received.
Once more, Ron and Hermione were on the old Comet. Though, this time, Hermione was in front of Ron. Harry and Ginny were back on the Cleansweeps, performing stunts around each other. They flew south, to the coast, then casting disillusionment charms over themselves, they flew back inland, heading for Surrey.
They lifted the charms as they landed on the doorstep. Unsure as to whether anyone was in the house, Hermione knocked on the door. A baby cried in the background.
“Just a minute.” A womans voice called out. The cries drew nearer. The door unlocked and was opened. A slight gasp was let out and they were led inside.
Andromeda Tonks held little Teddy as he cried, she gently rocked him as she led the quartet through to the kitchen.
“Sorry to arrive unannounced, Mrs Tonks.” Harry apologized.
“Oh, think nothing of it, dear. Glad to see you don’t have your wand out this time.” She chuckled, remembering the last time he’d been in her house. “Would you like drinks?”
“Please.” They all replied.
“Who’ll hold Teddy for me?” She offered him to Ron who nearly dropped him. Hermione shook her head, fearing a similar reaction. Ginny took the little child and held him in her arms, the crying ceased immediately. “You’re a natural with him, I see ‘Dora made the right choice.”
“Choice for what?” Ron was curious.
“I never told you? I suppose my daughter never had chance, before…” Andromeda bit back the tears that were starting to form. “You’re his godmother. Just as Harry is his godfather.”
The news hung in the air. The trio had been at Shell Cottage when he’d been born, while Ginny had been at Aunt Muriels in hiding.
“Godmother?” Ginny paused and looked down at the tiny life in her arms. She smiled weakly. “Now you can’t leave me ever, Harry.”
“I’ll never leave,” Harry reached over and put his arm her shoulders. “Godparents, already and not even married yet.”
“So what would you like to drink?” Mrs Tonks turned to her cupboards. “I’ve got pumpkin juice, tea, coffee?”
“Tea, please.” All replied.
The time with Andromeda and Teddy seemed to fly by. They enjoyed his little changes of hair colour as he looked at each of them in turn. They left at close to five, walking down the estates lane and turning the corner. Checking the area was clear, they boarded their brooms. Ron led the way back to the Burrow, taking a wide course overland.
When they arrived, they found tables in the garden, piled high with food and drink. Mrs Weasley ran over as they landed, attempting to steer Ron away from taking a ‘light’ snack.
“You’re back early,” she had obviously been preparing something in the kitchen, as she led them around to the front door. “Well go upstairs and change.”
“Change?” They threw each other curious glances and mouthed the word, but still headed upstairs.
Ginny and Hermione entered the younger girls’ room, finding it filled with flowers of all kinds. They looked at each other, then closed their eyes.
They reopened them, and found themselves looking at a similar sight in Rons attic room. The boys turned and looked at each other, about to ask similar questions, then they noticed their eyes, and blinked.
“Okay, officially, that was weird,” Hermione moved to dig around in her trunk.
“Not so much for me, but it sure as hell…” Ginny placed a hand on her friends shoulder, then tensed.
“What?” Hermione turned, her face becoming ashen when she looked into Ginnys.
“Ginny, come on.” Hermione could sense a problem. “We agreed, no more secrets, no more lies.”
“This is going to have to be one, at least until I figure out what it means.” Ginny turned to her drawers, Hermione looked at her back and went back to her trunk.
“What the bloody hell?” Ron spluttered. He collapsed onto his bed, blinking madly.
“You okay?” Harry smiled, and reached for his spare clothes, pulling out a pair of casual trousers and a blue shirt.
“Not as good as you by the sound of it.” Colour returned to his face. “Did I really see into my sisters room?”
Harry turned slowly, not really sure how to answer this. “Through your loves eyes.”
“And what did you see?”
“The same as you.”
“Some life-debt link, huh? More like love-link.” Slowly, Ron pulled himself up to his own drawers, picking out a pair of blue jeans and a light blue t-shirt.
“Could be. I’m glad, for you two to be sharing this, I mean.” Harry changed quickly before his friend could answer.
“So what is it like in my sisters head?” Not the best question to contemplate an answer for.
“What’s it like in Hermiones?”
“Touché.” Ron playfully punched Harry on the arm, then changed quickly himself.
They went down to Ginnys room, and knocked lightly on the door. Sounds of hurried activity emanated from within, calm followed. Hermione exited through a partially opened door, as though hiding Ginny herself from view.
“Everything alright? Thought I heard something.” Ron attempted to peek inside before Hermione closed the door.
“Yes, nothing’s wrong. I take it you had flowers too? Wonder who sent them?” Hermione led them downstairs, into the kitchen. “You’ve got a surprise on her way.” She winked at Harry.
He was about to close his eyes then decided against it. He would respect the wishes of his girlfriend and take the surprise as it was meant to be, a surprise. A pleasant surprise of its own awaited them in the kitchen.
“Whose birthday is it?” Harry perused the wrapped items on the table.
“No one I know of, and yours isn’t for another month or so.” Ron tapped the table with his fingertips. “Speaking of which. What would you like to do for it?”
“Nothing too extravagant. You know how I prefer them.” Harry sat in one of the chairs.
“Yeah, well. You won’t have to go topping last years little performance.” Hermione gave Ron a reproachful look.
“I think that may be unavoidable, Ronald.” The formal use of his name snapped him away from his line of thought.
“Yeah… mate sorry. About last year. About the year before. Hell, about every year.” Ron looked down at his hands. “I’m sorry for ever teasing Ginny. I’m sorry for not pointing out to you how much she felt for you.”
“Listen, you did what you felt was right for you, at the time.” Harry noticed movement on the stairs, but continued. “You saw nothing but a childs crush. I went along with you because I knew no better. I should have seen through the behaviour. I’m just as much to blame. Hell, I am to blame for you nearly losing her in her first year. I knew from what you told me, she should be bubbly, bright, and mischievous. Instead, she was withdrawn, shy. I should have been more brotherly, and noticed her getting worse at school. I didn’t. We should have seen what a difference her time away from a certain object made. We didn’t. We just went around with our heads in the air trying to figure out who the heir was, and our fingers up our arses when it came to family.
“Yes, Ron. I considered you family even then. Looking back, it’s easy to see why.”
“Your own family were horrible to you. We were the only ones who showed any, and I do mean any, kindness to you. That’s…”
“That’s why, whenever you argued with each other, it tore the heart out of me,” Harry felt pressure on his shoulders, but still he went on. “With everything that has happened over the years, I knew that Hermione was fast becoming your sisters best friend. I know they were sharing information. I know that half the ideas we were getting were being bounced between them.” He reached his hands up to his shoulders and felt a pair of hands. “I’m proud to have known you all over the years. I’m ecstatic to have been considered a brother by you, Ron. It took great strength for you to carry on with me, despite your better judgement, Hermione.” Harry stood and faced the beauty stood behind him. “You did give me a reason for coming back, when I could have so easily given up. Someday, Miss Weasley, I’d love to call you Mrs Potter.
“I need to sort out one or two things first, but hopefully I’ll have something for you in a couple of months.” Harry held the hands of his love. His emerald green eyes looking deep into her chocolate brown ones.
“I hope so too, you noble prat.” She kissed him hard. Ron and Hermione shifted uncomfortably, looked at each other and chuckled. “I heard everything.”
Harry did not know what to say. She looked stunning. Her jeans and blouse had been swapped for a white summer dress. Her hair was set in a ponytail. She had never needed make-up, but today had used a light covering to lessen the effect of the freckles.
“All you need are wings and I’d have my own angel,” bad joke, he thought, but she knew what he meant.
Mr Weasley entered from the garden, smiling at whatever he had been doing. He smiled at the group, collected the wrapped gifts, and beckoned for them to follow him.
Out in the garden, in front of the tables of food was a gathering of the DA. Only not the entire DA. Those before them were the elite squad that Ginny had put together to go out and help Muggle-borns, run reconnaissance and generally assist Harry from the shadows. Oliver Wood, George Weasley, Lee Jordan, Katie Bell, Cho Chang, Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson, all stood there with glasses of firewhisky with Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood.
“Two guesses who the flowers were from, mate.” Ron nudged Harry, who just grinned at everyone.
“I’m sure I can.” Hermione smiled at Luna wearing a crown made up of the same flowers as those in their rooms.
“When… how… what…?” Ginny was lost for words.
“You left out why.” George hugged Angelina as he spoke. “Come on, did you honestly think we’d leave you alone for one day?”
“Okay,” Ginny leapt at her brother and hugged him, then made her way around the group, hugging each of them. “What you all been up to?”
“Ministry,” Oliver took charge. “Your little band are now the newest members of the Auror division.”
“What? No…” Hermione looked more than impressed. “I know you’d picked the best for the job, but this is…”
“Unexpected, unheard of, unbelievable? Thanks Hermione.” George gave her his best mischievous grin. “I’ll be sure to put that in my next assignment. ‘Hero of Hogwarts stumped’.” He playfully cast his hands through the air.
“Oh you know what I meant.” She slapped him lightly on the arm.
“Okay, so what brings you here?” Harry looked suddenly uneasy.
“Arthur invited us for a private get together.” Oliver turned to a blushing Mr Weasley. “We thought that seeing as we were here, we’d throw our own little party for you four. Most of us will miss your birthdays, what with postings and non-such.”
“So,” Katie stepped forwards now, “these are your early birthday presents.”
“Oh my… thanks.” The quartet sounded as one. They each took their gifts and carefully ripped off the wrappings.
Ginny had been given a new sneak-a-scope, a set of four two-way mirrors and an empty photo album. “What…” she addressed George, who simply shook his head.
Hermione was given a new set of Defensive Spells books and a picture of the group.
Ron received a sneak-a-scope, a foe-glass and a basilisk tooth.
Harry was given another set of four two-way mirrors, a lifetimes supply of anything he wanted from Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes and a pair of socks similar to those he had placed on Dobbys feet.
Unsure what to make of these gifts, all four turned to look at each individual person. They were met with simple nods and smiles.
“Ginny, help.” Harrys thought sounded like a cannon exploding in her mind. Her knees buckled and her hands went up to her head.
“Inside with her,” Ron picked up his sister and carried her into the kitchen. Harry ran to the sink for a soaked cloth; Hermione felt her head and hands as Mrs Weasley rushed over. The guests just stood in the doorway, dumbstruck.
“I’m okay,” Ginny struggled to sit up on the table, her eyes fixed on Harry. “No need to shout.”
Harry paled as the thought screamed in his head. “We’ll talk about it when they’ve gone.” He glanced at the crowd. She nodded slightly in understanding.
“I just felt faint,” she lied. “Massive headache came on.”
“I think you’d better lay off the firewhisky for the day then, young lady.” Molly took her daughters hand and helped her off the table.
The rest of the day passed much better after that. Jokes and gossip were shared, particularly at the expense of a former beater and his ex-chaser girlfriend.
After the last of the guests had left for home, and the tables had been cleared, the quartet could be found walking down the lane away from the Burrow, apparently deep in thought.
“You okay,” Harry quietly sent to Ginny who looked up at him.
“I see you two have found out about that particular little side-effect as well.” Hermione hung her arm around the pair of them. “I think I know what’s causing it.”
“Do tell,” Ron held on to her waist as she took a deep breath.
“Harry, in a word.” Hermione turned to face him slightly. “Or rather his love for us all. His love for us as his friends helped us to overcome our own insecurities. His love for Ginny, well we know what that did.
“Our own love for each other,” she turned to Ron, “helped us to break through barriers we thought were impossible to surmount.”
“That explains something I heard when I was in the hospital wing after I’d been poisoned,” he fixed his eyes on hers. “You spoke to me, with your mind.”
“How has it taken so long for us, then?” Ginny flushed a little at the question.
“You were distracted, and he was too.” She grinned.
They continued walking, slipping each other messages with their minds, attempting to push the limits of this surprising gift.
* * * * *
July 31st arrived with a fanfare of colour and noise. Hermione arrived from her parents early to take Ginny shopping in London. They left the Burrow at about nine, promising to be back at around six.
Harry and Ron didn’t emerge from their beds until around ten. They washed and got dressed in slow time, before going down for breakfast. Finding Mrs Weasley outside feeding the chickens, they offered to help. Harry was told in no uncertain terms that this was his day and he was not to do anything. Looking a little non-plussed he shrugged as Ron was put to work on de-gnoming the garden.
Unsure what to do with himself, Harry went to find Mr Weasley, who was rearranging the tables on the front drive. He repeated his wifes command, but did suggest he send a message to Bill and Fleur about this afternoon.
Looking more bewildered now than before, he sent a message by floo to Shell Cottage. Fleur sent a reply that she’d be there as soon as she could be, and that Bill would be coming over from Gringotts with some papers for Harry.
Curiosity overtook him now, and Harry began pacing the kitchen and living room to pass the time.
Ron entered after a couple of hours, looking displeased. “You know I don’t see why you get out of chores?” He sounded worn out.
“Like I have a choice.” Harry made his way over to the sideboard and poured a glass of juice for his friend. “What’s Bill up to?”
“What..? No idea, mate. Mum’ll be in to do lunch in a bit. Fancy helping me with the last few gnomes?”
The next half-hour was spent banishing the last gnomes over the garden boundary, before temporary spells were put in place to prevent them returning during the day.
Mrs Weasley announced lunch at one in the afternoon. It was a simple affair of cheese on toast with sausages and bacon. A moderate amount of butterbeer flowed.
“Don’t have too much, or you won’t be standing for your ladies when they get back.” Molly warned them.
Harry turned to Ron. “Speaking of which, I think we ought to get the rings,” he said quietly under his breath.
“Rings?” Ron frowned, then realised what he meant and tried to bite back a wide grin.
“We’ll be going out for about an hour or so. Thought we’d visit George and Angelina in the shop.”
“Alright, dear. I’ll tell Bill at the bank to meet you there if you like.”
“Thanks, Mrs Weasley.” Harry hugged her, and then quickly ran upstairs to find a cloak and some money. He ran back down and into the garden, where Ron was already waiting.
They Apparated directly into the back storeroom of Georges shop. Making their way to the front, they spied Angelina talking to one of the store-witches. They stopped long enough to tell her what time to arrive at the Burrow later, then headed out into Diagon Alley.
A few heads turned to look at them, as they headed up the street towards the jewellers, Spraggins. A sign over the door proclaimed it to have been open since 1590 AD, although the fresh paint and glass suggested it had suffered over the last year. They entered to find the inside very much larger than the outside.
Rings lay in a cabinet to the left. Necklaces in one to the right. In front of them stood a display of photographs of previous clients of the business. Bill and Fleur were the latest addition to the wall. Other photographs included Mr and Mrs Weasley, the Malfoys, the Lestranges, and the Potters.
Harry blinked madly, trying to check that the image was real. After the tenth time blinking he decided it must be.
“I was wondering when I’d be seeing the two of you in here.” An elderly wizard hobbled into the shop from behind the display, leaning heavily on a heavy stick, similar to Mad-Eye Moodys.
* * * * *
Hermione led the way down Tottenham Court Road, past a very familiar café and on towards the shops. She and Ginny had spent the morning window shopping for ideas, and now both had a mind for spending. Once or twice, Ginnys naiveté of all things Muggle came to the fore, but Hermione managed to put her right before anything untoward happened.
They visited clothes shops for themselves, buying a range of provocative items, from underwear to full dresses. They visited music stores where Hermione introduced her to the delights of Muggle-music. They left them with more bags and boxes.
Tired of carrying so many packages, Hermione shrunk everything and placed them carefully in her beaded bag. Ginny giggled when they finally left Tottenham Court Road and headed for the Leaky Cauldron. She’d just put a rather large dent in Hermiones bank credit; though neither of them was sorry for it. They’d each got presents for Harry that they were sure to make him blush, but now Ginny wanted to get him something extra special.
They turned on the spot and Apparated right into the middle of the pubs entrance. Making their way over to the back wall and Diagon Alley, they said ‘hello’ to all they passed before tapping the bricks. Harry and Ron were exiting the jewellers just as they entered the street, and joined them quickly, casting sidelong glances into the shop as the owner hobbled into the back room.
“What have you two been buying?” Hermione cast a quick glance at the packages they were both carrying now.
“You’ll have to wait and see,” Ron kissed her quickly.
“You heading back to the shop?” Ginny enquired.
“Yeah. Meeting Bill to talk about the bank.” Harry held out his hand to her. “Shouldn’t take too long.”
“Okay. Well we’ve got to get back home, and sort ourselves out.” Ginny squeezed his hand, then kissed him softly. “See you when you get back.” She left him standing in the middle of the street as she sprinted off towards her brothers store, her hair trailing in her wake, whipping from side to side.
“You can wake up now, Harry.” Hermione is over by his side faster than he can realise he is falling. “You’ll see her in a bit.”
“Yeah, mate. Come on, or you’ll miss Bill.” Ron tapped him lightly on the arm.
“You’re right. I’m glad I made the right choice with her,” Harry blushed at Hermiones look, “her present.”
They walked quickly as they saw the eldest Weasley brother enter the shop in the company of one the banks goblins. Ron and Hermione followed Ginny into the store room at the back and Disapparated back to the Burrow. Harry asked to use a room in the flat above, Angelina showed him into one with the fewest boxes in.
“Don’t be too long, I’m locking up when George gets in,” she called as she headed back down the stairs. Harry was struck with just how attentive she was being of the remaining twin.
“What’s up, Bill?” He finally brought his full attention back into the room.
“Just some paperwork to clear up. It seems that not all of your presents were delivered last year,” he smiled in grim memory. “Gringotts was holding onto several important documents and accounts. They seemed to think it was for the best given the state of things at the time.” He looked down to the goblin.
“Yes, and we’d have held onto certain monies as well if it hadn’t been for this mans persuasive talents.” The goblin did not look in the best of moods. “Nevertheless let’s get down to business.
“In the matter of Harry James Potter, the last will and testament of his parents was addressed only to this young man. The contents of their own vault are to pass into his on the celebration of his seventeenth year. The house in Godric’s Hollow is now his to do with as he sees fit.” The goblin paused, looking for another parchment. “This is a list of the various charms and spells you’ll need if you decide to rebuild it.
“There is also the matter of your own will and testament to consider. I have the paperwork here, but I can always leave it with Mr Weasley here if you’d like time to think about what you’d put.” The goblin looked over as Harry thought for all of three seconds.
“I’ve already decided how I’d like my ‘estate’ split.” He looked at Bill, who looked shocked. “One half of the total value is to be split one part to one part to two parts between Miss Hermione Granger, Mr Ronald Weasley and Miss Ginevra Weasley. The rest is to be split equally between the rest of the immediate Weasley family, Mr Neville Longbottom, Miss Luna Lovegood and Mr Teddy Tonks, when he comes of age. On the matter of Mr Tonks, I’d like to set up a trust for him. I’m sure we can go through the details at some other time.
“With regards my own accounts, I’d like to set up a second name on them. This is to be Miss Ginevra Molly Weasley,” Bill went from shock to disbelief, “effective immediately.”
“Harry, are you… sure… about… this?” Bill struggled with his words.
“As sure as I am that you are in front of me, and that she is your sister.” Harry nodded in thought. “Just out of interest, what am I worth now?”
“With the information I have to hand, not including the house, your total funds come to six million, one hundred thousand and forty two Galleons.” The goblin looked up from his papers and smiled. “Rather a lot to be going on with, yes?”
“I never knew…” It was now Harrys turn to be shocked.
“When they find out what you’ve done, you’re going to have a hell of a time.” Bill smiled, knowing he was with his future brother-in-law.
“Is that everything?”
“Yes, to be going on with. I’ll send official confirmation of your will and account adjustments before the end of the week.” With that he turned and left the room, leaving the men in quiet.
“I suppose that is for my sister, then?” Bill motioned at the package Harry was still carrying.
“Seems so small now,” the words were mumbled as the full impact of his own actions took effect. “I hope you and your family don’t mind what I’ve done? You’ve done so much for me over the years, all of you. You’ve been the sort of family I wish I’d grown up with,” Harry held out his hand to stop the inevitable barrage of questions. “I’m kind of glad in a way, that this is how things turned out, not that I’m glad about Fred. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. More than likely for the best. If I’d been closer, last year we may not have got through it at all.”
“Perhaps, but we did.”
“Which is why I’ve done what I have now. I’m sure my own parents would have wanted me to look out for those who are closest to me. Three years ago, your mum called me as good as her own son. All of you, are as good as my own family, and soon will be, once I pop the question.” He turned to leave the room.
“Harry,” Bill stepped close and hugged him. “Welcome to the Weasleys.”
* * * * *
Harry and Bill Apparated onto the drive of the Burrow along with Angelina and George. Harry hung back whilst the others headed into the house, looking at his package from Spraggins. Turning it over in his fingers he thought of all the times he dared dream of moments of bliss, only to have them interrupted. He made another silent promise with himself and pocketed the box, before heading into the kitchen.
“Harry, dear. We thought you’d stay out there all night.” Molly gave him a quick hug. “Go and get washed. Dinner will be ready soon.”
“Of course, Mrs Weasley.” He smiled as she patted him on the shoulders. “Ginny, you alone?”
“Not at the moment, got Fleur and Hermione with me.” The reply was much quieter than the first time of communication.
“That’s okay. I was going to make a suggestion about your birthday.” Harry stopped outside the bathroom, waiting for Ron. “How about we go for a mask-theme?”
“How about a Muggle-heroes theme. I can ask Hermione on the quiet if you like?”
“I love you.” Harry finally entered the confined area. “I’m in the bathroom if you fancy a quick kiss.”
“I’ll make my excuses.”
Ten seconds later, they were locked in passionate embrace, pinning each other against the door.
“I’ve missed you today.” They both moaned between kisses.
They continued kissing until a noisy queue formed outside, then headed for their own rooms looking rather sheepish. They changed quickly into something a little more comfortable.
Harry headed for the living room, in the hope of finding Arthur before Ginny came downstairs. He was successful in that respect, but hadn’t banked on Hermione and Ron being with him.
“Er… Mr Weasley, can I have a word? Outside, maybe?” He looked even more sheepish than he had ten minutes ago.
“Of course, Harry.” Mr Weasley gave him his biggest smile. “Though, if you are about to apologise for holding up the bathroom, don’t.”
“No, sir.” Harry headed out of the door, trying to summon up the right words.
“So, what’s on your mind?” A quizzical look now on his face, Arthur sat on the edge of one of the tables.
Harry nervously kicked the earth with his trainer. “I… that is… with your…” He struggled with more words. “It’s just… I’d like…”
“Okay, take this,” Arthur conjured two glasses of firewhisky.
“Thanks.” Harry gulped the drink, the heat seared his throat. “I’d like to ask your permission to marry Ginny.” He breathed out hoarsely.
Arthur appeared to consider him for a minute, as the rest of the household emptied onto the gravel around them. He slowly looked at his daughter, tears of joy in his eyes. “Young man, nothing would make me happier.” He leapt off the table and hugged Harry hard, knocking the breath out of him.
The entire crowd slapped Harry on the back, except for Hermione and Ginny. Being the last ones out of the house, they’d missed what had been said. Wearing confused looks they watched as Harry made his way towards them, under a barrage of back-slaps.
Hermione noticed the box he was carrying, still. She quietly stepped away from Ginny as Harry bent down on one knee.
“What…?” She broke into her widest smile yet.
“Ginevra Molly Weasley. Will you do me the greatest honour, and become my wife?” He held out the box, lid open.
“Oh my…” She sighed, a little unsteady on her feet now, but she refused help to stay upright. “YES!” She bent down and hugged him around the neck, kissing him full on the lips.
“HOORAY!” Those around them roared.
Ginny reached down for the ring. She felt the rough edges and smooth faces of the stones. She looked down at it. One large central diamond, surrounded by four smaller stones; two emeralds and two rubies. Sliding it on her finger, Harry gazed into her eyes, watching her eyes widen then return to normal as each knuckle was squeezed over.
“You sneaky git. So that was what you were doing in there with Ron.” She pressed her forehead to his. “I thought you were just picking out her ring from him.”
“I’m glad to see I can still surprise you, even with our little gifts.” He kissed her again.
“Oi, you two there’s food to be had as well, you know.”
“Teepical Ron. Always thinking weeth his stomach,” Fleur stepped forward with Bill to admire the ring. “C’est tres charmante.” Bill just winked at them both.
While most of the family congratulated Harry on his choice of ring, and Ginny on officially, and finally, getting the man of her dreams, Molly was looking at them curiously. Each time she started forwards, she bit her lip and stopped. She eventually decided to head into the house. She emerged a few minutes later, trays of food levitating in front of her, and her own arms full of presents.
The food was placed at one end of the table, while the presents were placed in front of Harry. He sat in front of the pile, still holding Ginnys ring hand. Remembering his manners, he stood to pull out a chair and pushed it in for her as she sat down. She returned her hand to his, resting it on her thigh.
Blushing slightly, Harry struggled to reach for his first present. “I’m going to need that hand, love.”
“I’ll help with that.” She took hold of the wrapping as he held on, gently ripping the paper away.
“From Hermione, lots of love on your birthday.” He carefully viewed the contents, catching them as they fell from Ginnys grasp. “Wow, thanks.”
He meant it. Hermione had found a pristine copy of Ginnys paper clipping from the Daily Prophet. Her other presents were another new sneak-a-scope and moleskin wallet.
Rons present was an unusual one. A jar of bezoars, and a collection of books. Harry smiled at the jar, nodding knowingly. Ginny glared, then half-remembering another birthday, broke into a smile. The books were left to one side for the moment.
Bill and Fleurs present was a large wall mirror. “That is for your first home.” She explained in her best English. Bill kissed her lightly on her forehead.
Charlie wasn’t able to make it across from Romania, but had sent a red dragonskin jacket. Harry disengaged his hand from Ginnys so he could put it on. It fit perfectly. He reengaged Ginnys hand as he sat back down, brushing it against the inside of her thigh, causing her to blush wildly, before resting it on her knees.
George and Angelinas present was a selection of products not yet for sale in the shop.
Percys present was up to his usual standard. A large roll of parchments, and invitations for jobs and functions. He shook his head slowly, apologising for the lack of thought. “I’ve been snowed under at work. Reorganising the Auror Department is taking more time than even I thought possible.”
Arthur and Molly exchanged glances, smirking. Their present was the last one on the pile. Harry held it while Ginny tore the paper off.
“Oh my…” They both exclaimed. Two pictures lay before them. One was a photograph that neither of them could remember posing for. Looking at the decoration in the background, dating it would become easier. The other picture was of four very familiar people; Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, James and Lily Potter. They looked under stress, but smiled back out at their viewers.
“Where did you find this?” Harry asked.
“We’ve had it for years. We thought it was time you had it.”
“Thanks,” Harry would have got up to hug them both, but Ginny kept him rooted to his chair, watching the pictures.
“This is for you,” she pulled a package of similar size to the one Harry had had the ring in. “I was going to pull a similar stunt to yours, but you beat me to it.”
“I’m sorry,” he hung his head in shame.
“Don’t be. After that year of yours, I’m surprised you waited this long.” She reached her hand up and kissed the ring on her finger.
“So what is your excuse?” Harry teased.
“I’ve had time to think about this. Today is perfect for it.” She finally opened the box. Inside was a close copy of the ring she wore herself. “I went into Spraggins first thing with Hermione. That’s how he knew which rings to give you to get for us.”
“You sly, young fox, Miss Weasley,” he couldn’t help but be impressed by the amount of planning she and Hermione must have done. “You are the best present I could ask for.”
Ginny slipped the ring over his finger, and they kissed once more.
“Come to me tonight. Hermione will be heading up to Ron,” mischief played in her eyes. Harry only nodded.
Ginny waited with anticipation for her fiancé. She was tingling all over with excitement. When he did appear she threw him onto the bed, and straddled him. Kissing wildly they succumbed to each others passions and spent most of the night joined, mind and body.
The cloaked figure stood over the first-year student. His dark robes swirled in the breeze. The chamber filled with the roar of a great creature. And still the child did not stir. The viewer moves around the two to get a better look, and nearly collapses. The cloak melts away to reveal a man with unruly black hair and a lightning scar. The child has long red hair, and can be no more than eleven. Her breathing faltering she struggles to open her mouth, “Why?”
“Because I can.” An evil laugh echoes through the chamber and all goes black.
The scene changes to a forest. More cloaked figures stand around. The man with the unruly black hair faces his nemesis, unarmed. He stands there stoically as he is joined by the red-haired girl, only this time she is older. They turn and kiss as the killing curse is uttered; both become engulfed in its light and fall to the ground.
The scene changes once more. A massive hall filled with small, bright, round objects. Two people stand surrounded, wands at the ready. But it is no use. Again the curses are uttered, and they fall to the ground.
The scene changes back to the chamber. Only this time, the corpse of the basilisk lies before the statue. A cacophony of sounds and actions draws the eye to the edges. Duellists. Many of the friends locked in combat with Death Eaters. In the centre of the floor lies two bodies, locked in their final embrace. There is no need to venture forwards to see who it is; their hair stands out as distinct as new snow.
Harry and Ginny both woke drenched in sweat, both held down by different members of the household. They look around at the concerned faces. Unable to speak after what they had seen they motion for water.
“Harry, I can’t break the connection.” The voice echoes between the two. Ron and Hermione both doubled over in pain, clutching their heads.
“Shut out every thought right now,” the instruction came through much quieter, but it still betrayed the agony. “Ginny, you must quieten your mind.”
“Arthur, get me the sleeping potion from the top cupboard in the kitchen. GO.” Mollys voice pierced the screaming noise. Footsteps could be heard running out of the room and down the stairs. “Bill, hold Ron steady. Fleur, hold Hermione. Keep them from thrashing.”
“What’s happening?” Ginnys frightened voice echoed once more. Again, Ron and Hermione bent over in pain.
“Ginny, look at me. Trust me.” She tried to look into his eyes, but they were tight shut.
When Harry sensed Ginny was looking directly at him, he opened his eyes. They were not the normal emerald-green that she had come to love so much, rather a mix of her own colour and red slits. He looked into her eyes and saw his own looking back at him with the same tinge of red.
They wrenched free of their restraints and wrapped their arms around each other, weeping hard. George and Percy tried to pull them apart, but they remained locked together.
Arthur returned with the potion. Molly took it and forced them to drink some. With peace spreading across their faces, they slowly fell back down onto the covers of the bed.
“What the bloody hell was that?” Ron regained his normal composure. He looked over at Hermione, wanting to hug her.
“Don’t touch each other!” Arthur stepped between them; clasping his hands around their wrists and pulling their rings level with his eyes. “Spraggins, yes? They appear harmless enough. Take them off. Bill, see if there’s anything wrong with either of these will you.”
Begrudgingly, they handed over their rings to the eldest son who promptly left the room. The returned to staring at the two bodies lying on the bed, unable to shake what they had felt, or seen in their minds.
“Come with me,” Mrs Weasley pulled Hermione out of the room and into her own. “What did you see?” Her voice betrayed every ounce of fear she felt.
“Images. The Chamber of Secrets. The Forbidden Forest.” Hermione looked hard at her future mother-in-law. “What’s happened to them?” She began to cry.
“I don’t know, dear.” Molly pulled her in close to hug her, allowing the salty tears to soak her gown.
Arthur allowed Ron to lead the way into his own attic room. He’d left Percy and George with Harry and Ginny, more to ensure they did not wake without company than to restrain them again.
“Ron, I don’t want to know why they spent last night together or you two for that matter.” He sat down heavily on the extra bed. “I saw glimpses of what they were dreaming. Now, I want you to keep Hermione close to you for the rest of the day… make that week.” He held up his hand as his son began to protest. “Try and block out this ‘gift’ as well. Given the histories of you four, I’m not expecting anything to happen to you two, but just in case, I’m going to make my own arrangements about this. Hermiones books should have something in them about Occlumency.”
With that, he got up and left his son to think about what he’d said. Still thinking, Ron rose slowly and made his way to find his fiancée.
* * * * *
The strength of the nightmares may have subsided, but Harry and Ginnys grip on each other did not. They slept, wrapped tightly around each other, through the entire day. Eventually, at close to seven in the evening, they woke slowly.
“Don’t think about what happened this morning,” a Scottish lilt calmly greeted them.
The pair gave a start, gathering up handfuls of bedding. Sat at the little desk under the window, was Professor McGonagall. Her face showing lines of deepest concern. She was dressed in darkest green tartan robes, with her hat in her lap.
“Professor…” Ginny spoke for Harry.
“Don’t even use this bond between you two, either,” she cut them off. “You’d best get dressed. I’ll be down with Molly and Arthur.” With that she left them staring at the door as it closed.
Fresh clothes had been brought in for Harry and left piled on the bottom of Ginnys bed. Her room seemed so much smaller as they tried to dress without bumping into each other, but they managed it. Looking quizzically at each other, they went down to join the rest of the gathered assembly.
Sat by the fire was Molly, Minerva to her right, whispering. To her left was Arthur, trying to pick up on what was being said. Bill and Fleur stood directly in front of the fire, their backs to it, nodding every so often. George, Angelina and Percy sat under the window, their own eyes tuned in on Ron and Hermione, who stood rigid next to the doorway, holding onto each other in a fashion similar to Harry and Ginny.
Charlie Weasley passed from the kitchen holding a tray of glasses and firewhisky. On seeing the colour of the liquid, Harry looked down at his hands, then Ginnys. Their rings were gone. He looked over at his friends’ hands, rings also gone.
“Evening, sorry about the rude wake-up,” he tried to break the silence, and was slapped across the chest by Ginny. No-one by the fire looked at them.
Feeling a little put out, Harry led Ginny out into the yard, followed by Ron and Hermione. George and Angelina trailed at a distance, obviously with the intention of keeping an eye on them. Percy viewed from the window with Charlie.
“You want to start, or should I?” Ginny asked, eyeing the escort.
“Nothing really left to say about what we saw. Given our emotional state yesterday, it’s easy enough to see how we got lost in each other. The only question is why it was so intense, and why we couldn’t break out of it?” Harry rested his chin on her head when he finished, his face a mask to his emotions.
Unfortunately, Ron was used to his particular look. “Snap out of the guilt, mate. It’s not your fault,” he chastised him. “Bill ran tests on our rings. The rocks are safe. The metal is too. Turns out old man Spraggins forgot to mention the small matter of the phoenix feathers he was using as the core for each ring.”
“Phoenix feathers?” Ginny looked non-plussed.
“Yup. Four from the same bird, and two guesses as to which bird it is, though I doubt you’d need that many.”
“Yeah, McGonagalls theory is that someone has picked up Riddles previous wand and is using it. Or rather, was using it, last night,” he looked over to George as though signalling. “Seems our rings have been made into little wands, and amplified our individual connections to each other.”
“It also appears that they formed a much more profound link with each other too,” Hermione continued. “Remember the prophecy, ‘neither can live while the other survives’? This is more like ‘neither shall live if the other dies’.” The reality of those words hung in the air.
“But surely, with the rings off…” Ginny began.
“… that should break it.” Harry finished.
“They don’t know. That’s why they’re in there with the rings now.” George approached with Angelina. “True enough, mum and dad have got similar rings, as had your parents, Harry, but they’d asked for them to be made that way.”
“Well, it’s done now,” Ginny almost wistfully said. “No point regretting it. Though, I think that the first priority should be on finding that wand and breaking it.”
“Dads already got the Ministry working on it. Kingsley was here while you were out of it,” Ron cringed slightly. “He wants us all to go with him up to Malfoy Manor, next week, and see what they know about the remaining Death Eaters that haven’t been rounded up yet.”
“How do you two feel about that?” Harry squeezed Ginny slightly, passing on his own thoughts to her.
“I’m not happy about it, but Ron thought it was a good idea at the time,” Hermione winced at the sudden explosion of memories of her own experiences in that place.
“Give you a chance to hit Draco again,” Harry smiled.
“After what he put his family through, I almost feel sorry for them,” Hermione glared at Ginny, then realised what she meant.
“Well it looks like they want us to go in now,” George announced, and so he and Angelina led the group inside.
The older adults were now standing with their backs to the fire. Professor McGonagall stood looking imperious in the middle of the group, her eyes piercing each of the quartet with a knowing stare. She motioned for them to sit.
“What has happened will not be discussed, for the time being,” she announced. “Rather, I wanted to ask what you planned to do about this coming year? I am extending open invitations to all students who missed out on their education last year, to return to school.”
“What?” came the chorus.
“If you see fit to finish your education, in the appropriate manner, then there will be places at Hogwarts for each of you. What do you say?”
“Very good. I have already been to see Miss Lovegood, and she agreed also, with one proviso.” She arched her eyebrows. “She wishes to receive extra tuition on those subjects she missed last year, and has already mentioned who she would like to act as her tutors. There is one in this room, who is in a similar situation. What do you say Miss Weasley?”
“I’d be happy to be with Luna during her tuition. Who did she have in mind to teach us?” Her eyes widened in sudden realisation.
“Miss Lovegood suggested Ronald for Defence Against the Dark Arts; Hermione for Charms; Mr Neville Longbottom for Herbology; Harry here, perhaps Potions.” She smiled as they each looked at the other.
“Us, tutors?” Ron spoke what they were thinking.
“Why not? We practically lived the courses while we were out on our little quest. Although, Harry for Potions? Do you still have the Half-Blood Princes book?”
“It was up in the attic with the rest of the books we left behind,” Harry caught a glimpse of triumph in Hermiones eyes. “I think that settles it then. We’ll do it, but only if we can find somewhere to teach. I don’t think Mr and Mrs Weasley will be too happy if we blow up their kitchen with a stray spell, or potion.”
“I think you already have the perfect location. Kreacher,” McGonagall called. The elderly house-elf popped into view between the crowd. “I have a job for you. Or rather your master does.”
“Master Harry has a job for Kreacher does he?” He looked with tired eyes up at Ginny and Harry, smiling.
“Kreacher, I would like you to have Grimmauld Place ready for residence by…” Harry looked around at Hermione. He saw what he wanted. “Ready in two days. If you would like help, give us a shout.”
“As Master Harry requests. Will that be all?” Kreacher bowed slightly. Harry shook his head, and the elf vanished.
“I’ll make arrangements with Neville. Oh the look on Augustas face when I tell her,” she cheerily smiled and bade goodbye before heading into the garden and Disapparating.
“Well, it’s nearly time for tea.” Mrs Weasley reached for the kitchen.
“No, mum. I think after todays ‘fun’ it should be us to prepare the meal,” Ginny looked at Ron for help.
“Yeah, mum. You’ve done enough already.”
“Oh alright, if you insist.”
Dinner was prepared by the quartet in about an hour. During the time, the others took it in turns to stand at the door and watch them in action. Without using magic, they prepared a simple meal of two courses. Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings with mixed vegetables, with jelly and ice cream for dessert.
Looking thoroughly satisfied, Ginny and Ron called for the others to join them at the kitchen table. Two large bottles of wine rested in the middle of the table, ready to be drunk.
* * * * *
The days between arranging the lessons and actually carrying them out passed quickly. Ron and Hermione spent the time either preparing their own notes or going for walks. Ginny spent time with Luna, catching up gossip and comparing the notes given to them by their tutors. Harry left early each day with Neville, though he did not say where he was going, arriving back in time for supper each night.
At eight in the morning, all six of them left for Grimmauld Place. Ginny and Luna going by Side-Along Apparation with Harry and Neville. They arrived outside number twelve to find the house sitting proudly in the terrace. Its windows shining and brasswork polished.
Harry stood dumb-founded before the others. He led the way into the house with Ginny on his arm. This felt natural; he could do this thousands more times given the opportunity. Unconsciously, he felt for her ring and realized it was still at the Burrow. He opened the door. Kreacher stood before them, bowing low and smiling.
“Master Harry, welcome back. Mistress Ginny, welcome also. Master Ronald, stay out of the kitchen for now. Miss Hermione, I’ve set your books in the study. Master Neville, your plants have arrived.” Kreacher led them from the hallway into the living room.
“Thank you, Kreacher.” He watched the little house-elf leave the room. “Right the idea is we use this time to catch up on education you both missed last year. Hermione, would you like to kick off with Charms?”
Hermione led Luna and Ginny up into the first floor study. The room was stacked with cushions and bookcases. Ginny stood thinking that if she had to read all of the books she’d be very old by the time she finished. Luna just gazed around, her blue eyes as wide as ever.
Harry dug out his old potions book and began to make his own notes. He was tempted to see what the women were doing but decided against it. Instead, he put his head on his arms and tried to catch up on some sleep.
* * * * *
Charms with Hermione turned out to be revision of half the spells they had all used over the past year. The two-hour lesson finished with a quick demonstration of talking patronus’. Hermiones otter could now deliver quite long messages, and she was trying to explain how to do it when Luna interrupted.
“I think I feel my old DA coin,” she felt inside her pockets, and sure enough, words were forming on the face of the fake Galleon. “Under attack, need help.”
“Who? Where?” Ginny whipped her head around to look at her friend she received a mouthful of her own hair.
“That’s coming now.” Luna held up her hand. Hermione stepped closer, her hands already on Ginnys shoulders. “Angelina, the shop.”
“What? But that’s in Diagon Alley…” Hermione leapt for the door, not really thinking about what she was doing.
Ginny beat her to it, throwing it open. “HARRY! RON! NEVILLE!” she screamed down the stairs. “Trouble at Georges. We need to get there quick.”
Ron grabbed his wand off the table. Neville dropped his book on venomous plants, springing for the door.
Harry rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, yet was instantly alert. “Kreacher,” the little elf popped into the room. “Can you head for the Burrow? Find Arthur Weasley, or Molly Weasley, tell them George and Angelina are in trouble. GO.”
Harry shot out of the door, took hold of Ginnys hand and turned on the spot. Arriving outside the Leaky Cauldron, he checked to see if his friends were near.
“Come on or there won’t be any left for us,” Ron charged into the pub.
Ginny dragged Harry in after her brother. The pub looked as though it had been hit by a dragon. Tables lay on their side, smoking. Chairs were little more than firewood. The entrance into Diagon Alley was little more than a pile of rubble. The sounds of a pitched battle filled their ears.
About a dozen Death Eaters were spread around the street, sheltering behind remains of stalls and shop fronts. From the remains of the wall they could clearly see Angelina sheltering behind the entrance to the shop. George appeared to be injured, blood rapidly escaping from a wound on his head.
“REDUCTO!” Ginnys spell exploded the ground between half a dozen enemies, throwing them through windows and doors. A deep crater now existed in the middle of the street. “Use it before they do.” She dove for the new cover, firing spells as she went.
“What’s gotten into her?” Ron ducked as a spell raced past his head.
“Not sure, yet,” Hermione ducked and ran after Ginny, Luna followed as close as she could.
“Stupefy.” Red flashes narrowly missed the charging friends.
“Protego maxima!” Ginny screamed, pointing her wand at Luna and Hermione. The spells rebounded, hitting their throwers.
A purple beam slashed across her back, blood spurted into the crater and Ginny fell onto her face. Harry and Ron yelled, and began to charge forwards, both were hit by Stunning spells. Neville peered around the rubble he sheltered behind. He could see Luna attempting to hold off the remaining Death Eaters alone. Hermione was struggling to deal with Ginnys wound.
Plucking up his courage, Neville ran for the crater, reaching down to grab hold of Harry and Ron mid-stride. Using a silent spell he pitched them into the shop next to George. Angelina shrieked before she saw who it was.
The street filled with the noise of more people Apparating. Spells flew in all directions. Finding themselves suddenly out-numbered, the Death Eaters took hold of their fallen comrades and Disapparated.
“Hermione are you okay?” Bill raced over, wand at the ready.
“I can’t stop the bleeding,” she whimpered.
“Mum, we need you here,” he turned his head to the shop. “Are you hurt?” He focussed on Hermione once more.
“I’m fine. Luna?”
“Whole and ready for more.” Was the dreamy reply.
“How are Ron and Harry? How’s George?” Hermiones voice shook.
“They’ll be alright, dear.” Molly Weasley bent down next to her own daughter. “Oh my…” Her hands started shaking.
“We need to get her to St Mungos, fast.” Arthurs voice barely broke above a whisper.
“On it.” Bill picked his sister gently off the floor, her back still leaking claret. He turned on the spot and was gone.
“Best see to this lot,” Molly turned to the others. “She’ll be alright, dear.” Her hands came up to her husbands shoulders.
“I know,” the only reply he could muster.
Bill Apparated right in front of the abandoned-looking department store. He spoke once to the store dummy and stepped into the foyer of the hospital.
“I need help here.” He called out. Three Healers immediately rushed to his side, levitating Ginny out of his arms and away to a ward. Helpless, he followed as best he could until his path was blocked by an attendant. “Let me in there.”
“Can’t, sterile area.” He pointed at the signs. “You’d best find a seat, this may take some time.”
Feeling thoroughly defeated, Bill Weasley conjured an armchair and sat next to the doors, waiting.
* * * * *
“He seems so worried,” Ron put a hand on Hermiones shoulder, handing her a cup of herbal tea with the other. They both watched Harry wrestle with his conscience.
“You’d be worried if it was me in hospital,” Hermione said coolly.
She was right, she always was. She tried to reach out to Harry using her mind, but was met by a brick wall. Whatever he was thinking, he wasn’t planning on sharing, yet.
“How’s George?” Change of subject required.
“He’ll be alright. Nothing more than a cut where he hit his head after he’d been Stunned.” Ron managed a tight smile.
“Shook up, but otherwise unharmed,” Ron stopped smiling, pulled Hermione out of the room and turned to face her. “She seems to think this was nothing more than a diversion. Why? I don’t know.”
“Find Neville and Luna,” Hermiones brain fired into action. “Get them to check on the rest of Ginnys elite. God I hope I’m wrong about this…”
“You’re doing it again.” Ron looked puzzled, then suddenly realised what they’d both said. “On it, boss.”
Hermione smiled weakly as he ran down the stairs and into the shop. She turned back into the room with Harry still standing in front of the window. She walked over and laid both of her hands on his shoulders. He was trembling slightly, shallow gulps of air could be heard in the quiet. She pulled him around to face her, but he resisted. She moved around to his front. She saw the great tracks of tears that had fallen since he had regained consciousness. He looked like he’d aged another ten years. Eyes that usually sparkled no matter what, were now dull.
“I can’t feel her, Hermione. No matter what I do, I can’t contact her. I can’t hear her,” he threw himself at her, sobbing. “It’s my fault. I should have told her to stay behind us. I should have…” His words were lost in the tears.
“Stop that. Ginny knew what she was doing, leading the charge like that. If anything, it’s OUR fault she went down like that protecting us. We should have supported her better.” Hermione said darkly. “What you thinking of doing?”
“As soon as I can, get myself down to St Mungos. Between you and Ron, keep Luna and Neville safe. If these people are after her crowd they’ll definitely be on the list,” he smiled at her expression. “Your thoughts made it through the wall easily enough.”
“Then go. Don’t let me stop you.”
“You never have.” He turned on the spot, leaving Hermione to explain to the others.
Harry found Bill outside the Magical Injuries Ward. His face was pale, but at least he was smiling. He rushed over to Harry and hugged him.
“She’s stopped bleeding, but…” Bill broke off.
“But..?” Harry felt a sudden wave of fear spread up his spine.
“She won’t wake up. The Healers have tried everything.” Bill turned slowly to the ward doors. “They’ve made her comfortable, but they can’t do anything else for her.”
“Which bed is she in?” Harry made for the doors.
“Furthest from the doors, near the window.” Bill held them open as Harry went in. He trailed him as he approached the bed.
Ginny Weasley lay under the white covers like a statue. The only clue that she was not, was the slow rhythmic rise and fall of her chest. Her face was paler than usual. Harry decided this was more from the loss of blood. He reached out to her with his mind, but still received no reaction. The warmth that normally radiated from her was extinguished. He reached for her hands. They felt like ice.
“Are you relatives?” A Healer came over from the desk by the doors.
Bill headed her off, holding his arm out. “I’m the young ladies brother, and he is her fiancé. Can I get you a drink?”
“I’m sure you know where the canteen is.” She smiled though, recognising Harry for his scar, but did not press the matter.
“Ginny. Can you hear me?” Harry leant close to her left ear. “I won’t leave you. After last year, leaving you behind like that, I will not leave you anymore.” He buried his face in her hair, tears flowing freely.
The sounds of running did not make him look up, nor did the various calls of ‘Oh my…’ He just leaned over the bed, then collapsed onto his knees, his face still buried in her hair. His tears soaked the covers and pillows.
He felt Hermione place her left hand on his back, but did not move. He heard Ron talk to Luna and Neville, but did not hear the words. He could feel the holes being burned in the back of his head by the rest of the Weasley clan, but did not care.
Luna knelt beside him, slipping something small and hard into his free hand. He squeezed it, not knowing, or caring, what it was. He heard the family turn to leave. Feeling more pressure on his shoulders he finally turned to face them.
He saw their love for him. He saw their understanding. He allowed them to lift him to his feet. He looked down at his hand, and cried more tears. Sparkling in his palm lay the ring he had given Ginny not three days ago. He reached for her hand, and slipped it back on its rightful place. He did not know if she felt it, but to him it felt like the right thing to do.
Hermione took his hand, leading him out of the ward, slipping another object to him. She motioned for him not to look at it. He knew what it was from the look in her eyes. Biting back the urge to laugh, he slipped the other ring on his own finger.
If anyone had been looking, they would have seen both rings pulse brightly.
6. Pulling through.
Harry remained quiet for much of the trip back to number twelve Grimmauld Place. He, Ron, Hermione, Luna and Neville took several buses to return to the former Black family residence. Ron raced ahead when they got off the last bus to make sure there was no-one in front of the house. Hermione led them in through the front door, before heading down to the kitchen to find Kreacher.
Luna helped Harry into a chair before he collapsed on the floor. He suddenly felt really tired. More tired than he had felt after facing Tom Riddle. Barely noticing his eyes closing, he entered a realm of dreams.
His spirit soared out of his body. He looked back at the shell he had left. He realised he was not alone. Turning his head, he saw Fawkes. He heard the phoenix song just as he had the night Dumbledore died. If this is death, he thought, it’s not that bad. The phoenix led him away from his body, away from the house. He sped over streets he had passed along only moments before.
A foolish realisation came to him. HE had been dead once. He had faced that end, not with fear in his heart, but love. He had come back, stronger than his enemy, safe in the knowledge that what lay beyond should not be feared, but, when the time is right, welcomed.
He flew on with the firebird. They soared down into the hospital ward. Fawkes landed on the end of the bed, Harry stopped in the middle of the room. He was shaking once more. Tears would not come this time, he had none. He took in the sight before him, as though trying to commit every detail to memory.
The once-shining, lively red hair now lay dull and flat. The once-bright face now tinged with grey. Where once there had been a radiant smile, a death mask was worn. He refused to look away. He felt the ring pulsing on her finger, as though marking her own hearts beats.
Her pain was his to bear. He knew he was not to blame for her condition, but he shouldered the responsibility nonetheless. He had left her behind once, of his own choice. Now he was going to lose her, and all the pain he had suffered before counted as nothing to the pain he felt now.
He went to her. Lay on the bed beside her, and slept. The phoenix kept watch.
* * * * *
Ginny rushed at Harry with a blazing look in her eyes. He had only meant to hug her. What he got was more than he had ever dreamed for. After all those years of hoping he’d notice her, she had him.
She’d grown up with tales about the boy-who-lived. Over time, she hoped to meet the boy she’d heard of for so many years, and claim him. For a child to think of such things had earned her ridicule from her brothers, but she had not cared at the time. All that changed on that day in September, when her youngest brother went to school. She had finally seen the boy-who-lived, and barely noticed who he was. He was far skinnier than she had imagined, and the scar was not as prominent as she had led herself to believe. Her heart had leapt when she had heard he was on the train. She had wanted to see him for so long, and he was getting away from her. She had sulked most of the next months, cursing her luck. She had read all of the letters from her brothers to see if any news about him was to be found. So much news and so much danger. Her heart had swelled each time she read of some new danger he’d escaped, and when she read about Voldemort trying to kill him, again, she had cried.
When her brothers came home from school, she’d insisted on being at the station, on the platform to greet them. Not them. HIM. And as soon as he was there, he was gone.
The next years seemed to blur into one drawn out period of agony. She’d asked, perhaps looking back a little too much, about Harry Potter. She’d built up her fantasy of meeting him. Making everything perfect for him. She failed. The incidents with the diary and the Chamber; his godfather; the Tri-wizard tournament. Everything in fact had shown her that he could never be truly happy, while some crazed lunatic was loose.
And while he was not happy, so too, she was not.
And, yet. Despite the odds. In spite of the dangers yet to be faced, they had come together. She had finally managed to get him to genuinely smile in a way he only ever reserved for his two closest friends. It was the most perfect day of her young life.
Then disaster struck, and the next year was spent in fear for loved ones.
And when he came to her, her heart had soared clean out of her chest. She was whole, again. She knew they’d never be parted. Ever.
Until the day in Diagon Alley, she had never felt fear quite like it. She felt the spell slash at her back. She felt the blood pour from the wound. She tasted the granite of the setts in the road. It was all cold. Yet the fear she felt, numbed all of that. It helped to pass out. Keep the pain of her injury at bay. It could not keep the fear out, though. She set her defences and retreated behind them, away from the world of excruciating agony and fear.
Harry now stood before those defences. Wandless, but not powerless. He raised his hand, holding the ring before him. Her walls crumbled before him. Her beasts turned tail and fled from his own protector. He raised his head, and the phoenix searched the citadel. She heard the cries of her name, and could not, would not, believe what they meant. She saw the phoenix and called him to her. Harry found her as the bird settled on the window ledge. He ran to her. Swept her off of her feet and kissed her. They both looked at the bird, and touched its head.
Harry woke with his hands in Ginnys. She smiled weakly at him, unsure about whether to believe what her own eyes were showing her. She ran her fingers through his hair. She looked deep into his emerald eyes, and knew with utmost certainty he was real. They were really together. She tried to laugh, but stopped when pain shot through her back. She winced an apology to him. He understood. He kissed her lightly, and rested his cheek against her head. They looked around at the side of the bed. Fleur was asleep in one of the chairs at the side. Bills travelling cloak lay over her. George and Angelina were sharing another chair, also asleep.
Ginny smiled once more, then fell asleep again. Harry remained awake. Trying to figure out how he’d got there. He watched Bill tiptoe back into the ward with a cup of coffee; watched him adjust the cloak over his wife, attempting to keep her warm. He watched him look down at her with same look in his eyes he always had when he looked at her.
“I don’t deserve you all as family,” Harry finally spoke.
“Don’t talk such nonsense,” Bill looked at him, as though knowing he’d been watching. “It’s us who don’t deserve you. Is she okay?” He nodded at his sister.
“A little sore, but she’s back with us.” Harry managed a small smile. He looked down at their rings. “These came in very handy.”
“I’m sure they did, just don’t tell mum, or dad, what you saw in there, okay?”
“I won’t,” he knew it would be more than his life was worth. “Is Fawkes here?”
“How...? Why...?” Bills words failed him. He simply pointed over to the window.
Harry fell asleep watching the bird watching him.
When Ginny awoke next, it was to find herself still in the arms of the man of her dreams. She knew they’d shared her recurring nightmare, and that he’d broken through to her. She also knew he’d seen her at her most vulnerable. There would be no secrets now about her past feelings towards him. She’d shown him everything.
She looked over towards the gathered members of her family. Bill now sat in the chair with the cloak over him, while Fleur kept vigil. George was awake and talking to Angelina about the shop.
Ron was in deep conversation with Luna, who for once was not referring to anything she’d heard from her father. She had a most serious expression on her face that was unnerving to those who were used to seeing her normal look.
“How do you feel?” Hermione was sat at the other side of the bed, her face brightening as she spoke, but she still looked like she hadn’t slept in days.
“Lousy.” A strengthening smile creased her face. “Thank you for these.” She held up the rings. “How long…?”
“Better part of four days.” Hermione reached for a glass of water. “Here, just small sips. He’s been out of it most of that time.” She nodded at the sleeping Harry. “Gave us all quite a turn, back at the house. Then Fawkes turned up and it was a mess. We got a message to bring him here. That was yesterday. He’d been asleep since he got back.”
Ginny smiled at her friend, wanting to explain what had happened between them, but at the same time not wanting to say too much. Hermione seemed to gain some idea of it from the silence, for she blushed madly and looked away.
“Welcome back, Ginny.” Fleur hugged her over Harrys body. “You just missed your parents, but they will be back soon enough.” Her English had just a trace of accent that suited her. “Now to wake up my ‘usband.” She gave Bill a sharp tap on the arm.
“Hmm, what…? Oh, thank Merlin.” He knocked Harry as he hugged her, but did not wake him. “Fawkes, would you mind signalling mum and dad for us, please.” The firebird nodded once, and vanished in a ball of fire.
“When did he return?” Ginny tried to sit up, but the deadweight kept her down. A good thing too, as a lance of pain passed up her back.
“Not sure. Best ask him when he wakes up next,” Bill sat on the edge of the bed alongside Harry. “You’ve both given us quite a few turns this week, stop it.” He playfully tapped her shoulder.
* * * * *
When Ginny and Harry both got out of the Ministry vehicle outside of the Burrow, it was to find the whole place decked out in streamers and balloons. A wide banner proclaimed ‘Welcome Home’. Quite who it referred to neither could guess.
A large marquee had been erected on the front garden with a pair of golden lions standing guard either side of the entrance. They could hear frantic preparations going on inside, but did not venture to look.
Despite the extra day in St Mungos, Ginny still leant heavily on Harry for support. Emotionally, as well as physically, she would not be back to her old self for sometime. Harry, better than any other, understood this. He always seemed to find the spot just under her armpits where she was most comfortable for him to hold her. Each time she felt a twinge of pain, their rings would glow and he would ask her where it hurt most, and apply a soothing charm.
Mrs Weasley saw them first from the kitchen window. She dashed out and greeted them. She took their bags and carried them into the house. When she came back out, she was trailed by the entire Weasley clan, including Aunt Muriel. She looked at Harry down her nose, then walked slowly around him, noting where his hands were, the positioning of his feet and his posture despite him virtually holding Ginny upright.
“Scrawny bugger, just like his father.” She walked around him again. “Still, very attentive isn’t he. You’d do well to learn by his example, Ronald.”
Harry hadn’t seen Ron blush that particular shade before, but was glad he was smiling, shifting his own hold on Hermione to mimic Harry. She looked at him curiously, then smiled as to why he’d done it. She broke free and hugged Ginny gently, whispering in her ear and looking at Aunt Muriel.
Ginny smiled sweetly at Hermione and motioned to Harry that she wanted to go inside. He led the way through the crowd to the front steps, where he picked her up and carried her into the living room. Without using his wand, he summoned all the cushions in the room onto the sofa, and placed Ginny softly on top of them. Kissing her gently on the forehead he turned back into the kitchen.
“What did the Healers say?” Arthur Weasley pulled him to one side as soon as he entered the room.
“She’ll be in pain for the next week or so,” Harry relaxed his stance just long enough to show his own pain. “but it’s nothing to how she could have ended up. The spell hit bone, missing her spine by about a quarter of an inch.” He held up his fingers to show the distance to Bill who’d joined them. “She needs rest, and plenty of it. We’ll have to bring our lessons here, if she wants to carry on with them, that is.”
“I’m alright with that, and Luna won’t have too far to travel in that case,” Arthur waved to George, who promptly ducked out of view. “Mollys putting you in with Ginny.” Harry was about to open his mouth to protest about how uncomfortable this would make them. “Don’t argue. She’s already made her mind up about it.”
“We’ll keep the noise down then,” Harry joked. Bill had been taking a swig of firewhisky, but decided it best to spray it all over his father. With a sheepish grin he cleared the mess and hurried out of the room.
Harry looked in on Ginny and found her in deep conversation with Fleur and Hermione. He saw Ron looking lost, but still in talks with Angelina and Charlie. Percy, for all Harry could see, must have been in the marquee.
Deciding not to intrude on any of the conversations Harry quietly settled into one of the comfortable chintz chairs in the living room. He had barely sat down before his head lolled to one side and he was asleep.
Ginny looked at him carefully. She had never felt so utterly dependant on one person before, it frightened her. She’d always been so strong, magically and, more recently, emotionally. Yet, she could not express how useless her back injury had made her feel. She adored Harry for the way he helped her. She had listened to the Healers telling her to rest, and not do anything strenuous for about a week, but she needed to get back on track with her schoolwork and her fitness.
“Anyway, your mum reckons that we could do both weddings together,” Hermione was telling her. “Thinks it’ll be a great idea.”
“Ah, but of course, you will need only the one set of dresses for starters,” Fleur injected. “Have you decided on who is to be bridesmaids?”
“Given everything, I thought about you and Luna, but it’s Ginny we need to ask.”
“Hmm?” She turned her head slightly, keeping her back absolutely rigid. “What do I need to think about now?”
“Luna for one. And if you don’t mind, Fleur.” She smiled at her sister-in-law. “You don’t think we’re rushing this do you?” She looked down at the ring, then at Hermione.
“I don’t think it. I know we could put it off for years, but we’d always kick ourselves if anything happened,” she looked at her own fingers, missing the token of love. “I know I love Ron, and that he loves me. I know you love Harry, and he loves you. There are ways of formalising the bond, without going through the ceremony, or having it forced on you.” Fleur frowned at the mention of the magic in the rings.
“I know there are,” she grinned remembering back to her ten-year-olds fantasies of getting the boy-who-lived.
“And I know your mum has been itching to get started planning it all, so it’ll only be a matter of time before she asks you,” Hermione looked at the sleeping Harry. “Where’s Fawkes? And what was your aunt on about?”
“Wish I knew, on both questions.” Ginny rested her head back against the cushions, a twinge of pain shot through her back. Harry waved his hands sleepily and the pain was gone.
“How does he do that?” Hermione looked shocked.
“For that answer, you’ll have to ask himself,” Ginny closed her eyes and joined her loves dreams.
Molly Weasley walked through from the kitchen, clutching a pair of blindfolds. Carefully, she wrapped each one around the sleeping pair and levitated them out of the seats. Winking for Fleur and Hermione to follow, she took them out of the house and into the marquee. Once inside, she placed them in Hagrids arms, lifted the blindfolds off and woke them.
“SURPRISE!” The couple were instantly alert. Harry sat bolt upright in Hagrids left arm, while Ginny flinched in his right. They both stared at each other then at the assembled guests.
Friends from all over the Wizarding world were gathered before them. Hogwarts old guard mixed with remnants of the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledores Army headed by Neville and Luna surrounded the edges of the assembly. The Wizarding band, The Weird Sisters, were set up on a platform at the far end of the marquee.
Harry struggled to take it in as he dropped down out of Hagrids arm and helped Ginny down. Hagrid knelt down so her feet touched the floor before Harry lifted and hugged her, sending spasms shooting up her back. She did not notice them however, he had already applied the soothing charm to last for the rest of the day.
Ginny looked at her mother, mouth wide open, questions struggling to surface. Harry slipped his arm around her and kissed her quickly. Loud whoops and applause broke out.
George stepped forwards, two glasses of firewhisky in his hands. “We knew you didn’t want anything flashy for your own birthday, and seeing as my sisters’ is just around the corner, we thought we’d throw a combined party.” He handed over the drinks before either could say anything. “Don’t worry, the family won’t be handing out presents until next week,” he added quietly for only Ginny to hear.
“Three cheers for the happy couple,” Luna stepped onto the platform, everyone looked surprised to see her there. “Hip, hip.”
“Nice one, Luna.” Rons voice sounded over the cheers.
“And another three for that happy couple too, though I must say they took their time about it,” Luna stuck her tongue out as Rons ears turned pink, and his face the same colour as his hair. Hermione kissed him quickly as more cheers sounded.
Arthur Weasley, with Molly, got up next. “Harry,” he started, “last year was the sixth anniversary of your meeting Hagrid and finding out you were a wizard.”
“And not that bad of one either.” George teased.
“Quite, quite. This year, today in fact, is the sixth anniversary of your being taken in by our family,” Arthur hugged his wife. “If we’d known then, as we do now, how much you’d alter our lives, we’d have still done it. Molly once said that you were as good as our son. Seeing what you both carry on your fingers, and the way you look out for everyone around you, I am proud to call you ‘son’.” He dabbed his eyes, signalling for Harry to stand with him.
Looking at Ginny, then Ron and Hermione, he stood still, unsure about what to do. Finally, Bill and Charlie picked them both up onto their shoulders and carried them over, landing them in front of Molly and Arthur. Ginny unwrapped herself from Harry as her father grabbed him into a great hug. Her mother followed with a similar hug and a kiss on the cheeks.
Dazed and more than a little confused about the whole situation, Harry nearly fell off the platform, had it not been for Ginny grabbing hold of him before he reached the edge. He turned and smiled at her, kissed her hard on the lips and they rejoined the crowd, searching out their oldest friends and best allies.
Ron and Hermione both clapped as they approached, though they looked ill at ease themselves.
A song could be heard over the voices of the crowd, but the band were silent. It grew louder, until the source appeared through the entrance. Fawkes the phoenix had joined them, but he had two small objects in his talons. Hovering over Hermione and Ron, he dropped their rings into her hands, then landed on Harrys shoulder on the opposite side to Ginny. Hermione looked quizzically at the firebird, understanding coming with each second she gazed and put the ring on. Ron did the same. They stood looking first at Fawkes, then at their rings. They felt more at ease with every second that passed, smiling more at each other, then at Harry and Ginny.
* * * * *
The celebrations lasted well into the night. By the end only the Weasleys, with Harry and Hermione, remained, their glasses seemed to refill automatically when they appeared empty. They thanked the band and watched as they departed for their next gig. Feeling quite content as quiet descended the group retreated back to the house.
Ron and Hermione were the first to depart for bed, holding each others hands as they climbed the stairs. Arthur and Molly looked first at their son and his fiancée, then at each other before laughing to themselves. Angelina and George headed back to the shop, a little worse for the alcohol consumed. Percy headed back to his own flat near the Ministry.
Ginny led Harry up the stairs to her room. She opened the door and blinked. She watched herself enter, breathing hard. Her hands ran over her body. She stumbled, feeling the effects of the entire bottle of firewhisky. Harry reached out for her, picked her up and carried her over to her bed. He stared longingly down at her.
He undressed her gently. Slipping her nightgown over her, he kissed her softly. Changing into his own nightclothes, he pulled a spare blanket out of the wardrobe and settled into the chair at the desk. He tapped it with his wand, and it became far more luxurious. Pulling the blanket tight around himself he looked at her desk, picked up one of the books Hermione and Ron had given him for his birthday and began to read. He stopped, turned the cover to look at the title, smiled and turned back to the content he had read already.
‘The matter of the shape of the patronus when made corporeal is down to the emotional state of the individual. The larger the form, the greater the emotion used to generate it.’ Harry read that one passage over and over. He flicked a few pages. ‘On the subject of multiple forms, it is normal practise for the individuals own form to multiply. Rare occurrences of differing forms have been reported, however, involving far more powerful emotions than those used to produce individual forms.’
Considering that passage, Harry looked at the sleeping woman. He remembered what she had said about the incident on the Express. He ran it over and over in his head, falling asleep with the image of the stag, the mare and the phoenix racing through his thoughts.
* * * * *
The stag, the mare, the phoenix exploded from the end of the wand. Fear and despair were pushed back from the carriage. Then a new kind of terror replaces it, an assault of sound and pressure. The scene went black.
The Chamber of Secrets. The cloaked figure stood over the girl once more. A third joined the scene, sword in hand, firebird on his shoulder. The cloak melted away, as before the scarred man laughs evilly.
“Why did you come?” He turns to face the new figure, his wand now inches from the girls throat. “Was it because they made you? Was it because you feel some unspoken allegiance to them?” He sneered.
“Why?” Breathing faltering, the girl struggles to get the words out.
The figure smiles. The same cute smile that sends her heart fluttering everytime he uses it on her. “Because I can.” He swings the sword and the scarred man falls.
The girl begins breathing normally. The victor kneels down to help her up, she accepts his hand.
“Why?” The same question.
“Because I’d never let anything harm you.” He looked deep into her chocolate eyes. “I’d lay down my life for you.”
They aged rapidly. Ginny kept Harry before her, watching him. She held his hands, felt the rings appear on their fingers and smiled in the knowledge that he would be true to his word. She felt the pain in her back, and he held on tighter, pulling her in to a tighter hug. He looked at her, smiling.
Harry woke from his slumber, his vision blurred, but he could see Ginny sat up in bed, her eyes sparkling with tears of pain and joy.
“You okay?” Harry got up and went to her. He held her as she buried her face into his chest. “Stupid question.”
“I…” she began. Her door burst open. Ron charged in with Hermione. “I was about to say never better, but…” She scowled at her brother.
“Well I’m glad to see you’re not writhing around like last time,” he looked ashamed. “Really need to watch these through to the end, but that would be rude.”
“Nearly as rude as bursting into someones room,” Ginny shot at him.
“Point taken,” Hermione said by way of an apology. “You two getting up? Kingsley is here. He’s not really eager to do today, but he wants to get it over with.”
“We’ll be down in about ten minutes,” Harry assured them, as they took their leave and headed out of the door and back down the stairs.
“What time is it?” Ginny slid herself out of bed and slipped her nightgown over her head. She slid a t-shirt over herself and reached for her drawers.
“About nine in the morning,” he reached over to the desk where he had put Fabian Prewetts watch, trying not to brush Ginny as she searched for clean panties and jeans. He got dressed quickly, reaching for Ginnys hairbrush he started to sort her hair into a ponytail. “You sure you’re good? You don’t have to do this today.”
“I am going, regardless of how I feel,” Ginny was defiant.
Chapter 7: Return to Malfoy Manor and Godric's Hollow
[View Online] [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]
7. Return to Malfoy Manor and Godric’s Hollow.
Harry led the way down the stairs. He could hear Kingsley Shacklebolt talking to Ron and Hermione in the living room. Looking at Ginny, he indicated to head for the kitchen first and breakfast.
Molly was already on with sandwiches, a large jug of juice sat in the middle of the table.
“You’d best eat quickly,” she handed over a plate of ham sandwiches. “Hermione is about to… what’s the Muggle saying? Have kittens. Ron’s trying to keep her calm. Kingsley has a couple of Aurors stationed outside of the property, which should be enough.”
Harry and Ginny scoffed down only a couple of sandwiches and a small glass of juice. Molly looked at them in indignation. Her arms folded over her chest, she scowled as they ran out of the room.
Hurtling into the living room, they nearly knocked Kingsley over in their haste.
“Well I’m happy to see at least two people eager to go,” Kingsley beamed at Ginny. “Though I’d’ve expected you to want to remain here, young lady.”
“I’ve already made my mind up,” she glared at him, defiance shone in her eyes. “You know what happens when I do that. Big things start happening, or I get pissed if they don’t.”
Kingsley smiled at her, attempting to deflect her anger. “After working with you last year, I know exactly how you get,” he led the group out of the house. “We’ll be Apparating to the front gates. Ginny, you’ll need to hold on tight, and stay close to Harry.”
“I will,” she held on as though she’d never let go of him.
The group turned on the spot, leaving the Burrow behind, they passed through the dark, tight space. They appeared in front of the main gates of the Manor. To Ginnys surprise, the Aurors chosen to protect the house were a couple of her own squad, Oliver Wood and Katie Bell.
“I thought a little familiarity would be in order, at least at this end of proceedings.” Kingsley tried to smile. “I wish to see the Master of the House.” He spoke to the gates.
“You may enter, Minister.” The gates parted.
The group walked slowly up the drive towards the house. In any other circumstance, the grounds would have looked suitably decadent. Now, they mocked the owners of the estate. The great hedges and borders seemed to act to shut them in. The flowerbeds shone with defiance in spite of the situation.
The door was opened by another Auror, again a member of Ginnys elite, Cho Chang. The two women greeted each other stiffly. The group passed into the main reception area, over the trapdoor to the cellar.
They stood uncomfortably in the room, surveying the decoration. Ron eyed the re-hung chandelier then noted how Hermione was keeping close to the large window. He mentally kicked himself for nearly forgetting what had happened in this room, and felt a desire to get out as quickly as was prudent. Four months may have passed, but he should not have forgotten something like that. He looked at Harry, and suddenly realised in part how he had felt about forgetting Ginnys experience with the Chamber of Secrets. Ashamed, he placed an arm around his fiancée and waited with her.
Harry carefully watched Ginny and Cho, even though he was listening to Kingsley talking about how much he was needed at the Ministry. As far as the Ministry was concerned, he was not about to become a part of it, until he was ready. He’d spent so long fighting for his life, and for those he loved, that he was tired. He wanted to kick back, relax, and try to regain his lost youth. The tension mounting between his ex and his fiancée was threatening to explode into the open.
“What did you hope to achieve on that night?” Cho stood in the middle of the doorway, blocking the exit, Ginny launched into her.
“I’ve no idea what you mean.”
“You know damn well what I mean,” Ginny fumed. “It was your job to work as our intelligence officer! You weren’t supposed to get involved with the fighting until we knew exactly what their forces were made up of.” Ginnys eyes sparked.
“I’m sorry, Ginny.” Cho may have been buying time, or trying to diffuse the bomb about to explode. Harry had learned long ago that to try either was a very bad idea. “I was compromised in March. I had to lay low, and I mean low. I had the werewolf after me before he went after them with the Snatchers.” She nodded at Harry, Ron and Hermione. Ginny seemed to climb down a step or two from her impending explosion. “I only resurfaced when I saw the phoenix your brothers sent. I knew what it meant, and where to go.”
“You were supposed to do a specific job,” Ginny feigned the last of her anger. “With the information you managed to get us, we accomplished much. I should have asked at the time, when I saw you in May, or June. I was just so wrapped up in my own work.” She hugged Cho, damage repaired.
“How touching. Two blood traitors together. I never thought I’d live to see the day when our house was full of such filth.” Draco spat out, entering the room. “And here we have another traitor, and his Mudblood whore…”
Before anyone else could act, Harry had lifted Draco physically off his feet and pinned him against the closest wall with one hand at his neck, the other held his wand at his throat.
“Harry, NO.” Ginny was at his side, trying to force his wand down. She saw the fire in his eyes. Felt the hatred in his mind. Yet she knew in his heart, he would not utter the spell. “The only blood traitor, or whore, in this room is the one up against the wall.”
“That is as maybe, but only I can call him that,” Narcissa Malfoy placed her hands on both Ginny and Harry. “Put him down, Mr Potter.” She turned to her son. “Get out of my sight. Fetch your father, NOW.”
Narcissa turned to face Kingsley. Harry lowered Draco to his feet, then glowered at him as he hurried out of the room. Ginny slipped her arm around him and pulled him over to Ron and Hermione. Cho stood alongside the Minister, her wand placed back into her robes. Lucius Malfoy entered with his shoulders hunched. He glanced over to the window, registering the people there, he looked at the Minister and his associate, smiled out of the corner of his mouth and sat in a chair.
“What do you want now, Kingsley?” He sounded as though he was still in the Shrieking Shack, on the night of the battle. “What more can we tell you?”
“I was hoping for more names,” the reply was tired, as though they’d faced each other like this many times before. “But now, I want to know who has been targeting this young ladies team.” He held his arm out to Ginny. “You see, that day Diagon Alley was closed for repairs was actually a cover for repairing damage caused in an attempt on the lives of two of her former team members as they worked a packed establishment.”
“I wish I knew, Minister,” Lucius was stopped cold in his lie by the piercing look from his wife. “Dear, if they find I told them, we’d be as good as dead.”
“I’ll kill you myself if you place anymore people in front of you like shields,” the threat was like a hammer-blow.
“I can’t tell you directly. Try the one with a link to the centaurs, and one who howls at the full moon.” Lucius sunk into his chair. “That is all I can give you, but given the ears in the walls in this place these days, I suspect that is the last I shall ever inform you.”
“You’ll have twenty-four hour protection. You have my word.”
“Forgive me if I do not take you at your word though.”
“Then I give my word to Mrs Malfoy,” Harry startled everyone. “No harm shall come to you. I’m in your debt. If you need my help, just send word, and it will reach me.”
“I accept, though, quite how you feel you are in my debt, I know not. You gave me my son, and for that I thank you, even if he is an ungrateful little wretch.”
* * * * *
Ron and Hermione Apparated direct to the Burrow after the rather odd meeting. Kingsley had business to take care of back at the Ministry. Harry and Ginny decided on another visit to Godric’s Hollow. They Apparated directly in front of the house, and stood for long minutes looking at it.
Repairs were under way on the first floor. Scaffolding completely hid the devastated nursery. Builders could be heard behind the screens, as yet another piece of cursed stonework attempted to fall on them. Shaking his head, Harry led Ginny towards the front door. He found the foreman, Tobin, leaning against it, smoking a Muggle pipe.
“Third stone, today, that’s tried to kill my guys,” he puffed away less than contentedly.
“How many’s that make in total?” Harry looked up at his old room.
“A dozen,” Tobin looked over him. “We’ve been lucky. Last place we worked was the old Orphanage in London. Most of the stones there wanted us dead, I swear. Begging your pardon, miss.”
“Good to see you’re getting your moneys worth, then.” Harry joked, badly judging from the scowl on Tobins face. “How much longer will it take?” Back to business.
“If that was the last one that needed removal, we should be done rebuilding the wall in a few days, plastering a day after that,” Tobin rattled off the schedule. “You want the wall painting or something?”
“No, leave it bare plaster. I’ll deal with it in my own time.” Harry looked around. “You want to grab an early lunch?”
“We were about to before that stone dropped. Now its removed, we can leave the job for an hour or so, if you’re wanting to look around?” Tobin smiled at the uncertainty on both of their faces. “Boys, lunch.”
Half a dozen builders Apparated onto the garden, nodded at their boss before heading down the lane towards the pub in the village. Tobin was the last to leave, “Be careful if you intend going into the nursery.”
“We will.” Harry watched the squat man amble away from the property. “Shall we?”
“After you. It is your house.” Ginny peered around the jamb, taking in the details.
“Where to begin?” He looked on in trepidation.
“I know mum would certainly start in the kitchen,” Ginny quipped. “Let’s go meet the Potters at last.”
She took his arm, trying to fight back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. She closed her eyes, took a breath and opened them again. The house now appeared brighter. Lights blazed through from every room. A Muggle radio sounded in the background. Her arms felt heavier, they appeared to be carrying something.
That was wrong. Not something. Someone. Harry James Potter, aged twelve months and a week. She looked at him and smiled. Looked around at the details and blinked.
Ginny now held onto her fiancé. Tears flowed from his eyes and down his cheeks. They kissed quickly, brushing each others tears away from their cheeks.
“In… in here.” Ginny led Harry to the rear of the cottage. The kitchen had not been touched. Pots and pans still hung where they had been put when Lily had last cleaned them. A thick layer of dust covered everything that was not in a cupboard. She turned to face back out of the door, and was startled by dozens of pictures of Harry growing up as a baby, from his first moments, to his first steps, to his first presents. More tears fell as they perused these images.
“Let’s head for the living room,” Harry choked back tears. He led the way back down the passageway, turned left into the required room past the foot of the stairs.
More dust. Again the room had not been touched by any hand since it had last been used. Harry plainly saw his fathers travelling cloak and wand, lying on the sofa. Harrys first broom, another present from Sirius Black, rested against the coffee table. More pictures of his family were spread around the shelves and bookcase tops. About half of the images were of the family unit itself. The rest were of either James and Lily alone or of James and Lily with Remus Lupin and Sirius. Whatever differences the group may have had at Hogwarts, they had been set aside by the time these images had been captured.
Ginny took in the way the room had been furnished. She was impressed by Lilys choice of furniture and decoration. An assumption, most Wizarding families left it to the women to decorate and furnish while the men provided the means to afford these things. She was sure that Lily and James would have been no different, despite the Muggle influences Lily may have brought into their lives.
They moved out of the living room and into the study. They felt like invaders in this room. Intimate pictures of James and Lily were spread around. They left quickly and headed up the stairs. Deciding against going into the nursery, they headed for the master bedroom.
Ginny thought the place was idyllic. Whoever, out of James or Lily, had chosen the furnishings for this room, they had chosen them to last through time. Not a speck of dust lay anywhere in the room. The cleaning charms had held, despite the caster dying years ago. The bed looked as though it had been made only moments ago. The dresser was laid out with Lilys perfumes and make-up. A single letter was propped against the mirror, addressed to Harry.
Reaching over with shaking hands, he picked it up, turned it over and over as he stepped back to sit on the bed. Ginny joined him, wrapped her arm around his shoulder and sat quietly as he opened this message from the past.
8. The letters.
My dear Harry,
If you are reading this then our greatest fear has come to pass. I’m sure you will have learned by now about our demise. Know that we loved you. I do not know if you have grown up loved, or not. I hope you were loved by whoever brought you up, and raised as one of their own. I had hoped to send you to Arthur and Molly Weasley, they are good friends of ours and they would have been more than pleased to receive you. However, Albus feels they will have enough coping with that little daughter of theirs through the years. She is already a handful, but Arthur looks at her with such loving, as I do you. I hope, one day, that you will meet them all and become great friends.
There is so much to write, and so little space on this sheet. I have written you a series of letters, to take our place if we are not with you through the years. We knew you would be drawn here, that is your fathers side of you. You were always inquisitive as a child, and I hope you still are. I have letters for each of the Weasleys, Sirius and Remus as well. You’ll find them all in a box in the attic. I have kept diaries throughout my years at Hogwarts and beyond. You may read these if you like, with your girlfriend/fiancée too, if you so wish.
I wish I could have seen you grow into a handsome young man, but it does not do well to dwell on such matters. Your father will be home soon from visiting his parents.
All my love,
P.S. I hope you have made good friends at school, and stick by them.
Harrys eyes stung. He felt the pressure build in the back of his throat. His hands tightened on the parchment. He felt the areas where his mothers tears had fallen, he knew his own would soon join them. He felt Ginny already sobbing on his shoulder. He knew he should not leave her, but if he did not find the box of letters now, he never would.
He placed the letter on her lap, turned for the landing outside the bedroom and saw the hatch entrance for the attic. Pulling out his wand, Harry opened the hatch and lowered a set of ladders from above. He climbed up and immediately saw the box in question. He reached for it and carefully lowered it back down and into the bedroom.
He found Ginny rereading the letter. She looked up as he finished securing the attic hatch. Tears were coursing down her cheeks.
“Shall we go?” He asked of her.
“You got your box I see. Let’s go back to the Burrow.” Harry was intrigued she did not say ‘home’.
“I’ll lock up, and nip over to the pub to let Tobin know we’re heading out.” Harry took the letter from Ginny, placed it in the box and looked at her. “You know, if this place is going to be ready when he reckoned it should be, it’ll be your birthday…”
“If you’re about to suggest moving in here as a surprise, then it’ll still be your surprise,” she winked at him.
He could have kissed her there and then, but for the box and a need to get back to the Burrow.
* * * * *
They appeared on the lawn of the rear garden, next to the oak tree with Freds plaque. Arthur and Molly were enjoying the sunshine before making the evening meal together, something that rarely happened unless it was for a special occasion. They smiled at Harry and Ginny then saw the box they were both holding onto. The smiles vanished. They saw the initials on the sides. J.L.P. They had dreaded this day for seventeen years. They motioned to the house. Harry nodded, and looked at Ginny. Somewhere, in the parchments within, would be a letter for her. He saw the look of comprehension in her eyes as she let go.
The box was placed in the centre of the kitchen table. Harry looked around at the Weasleys, expecting questions and receiving none. He opened the box, removing first his mothers letter to him, then worked his way down the contents. Arthur Weasley. Molly Weasley. William Weasley. Charles Weasley. Percival Weasley. Fred Weasley. George Weasley. Ronald Weasley. Ginevra Weasley.
They all took their letters. Freds was left on the table with the ones for Sirius and Remus. The seals were broken on the parchments and they began to read the multiple pages.
Surprisingly, Molly was the first to leave the table. Floods of tears poured down her face. She walked quickly for the stairs, and the door to the master bedroom could be heard shutting several moments later. Arthur was next, heading up, after his wife. Ron stood and headed into the garden, Hermione trailing behind him. Percy and Charlie just stared dumbfounded at the contents of their letters. Bill and George exchanged silent words every so often. Ginny was reading her letter over and over, as though the words, or their meaning, changed each time she read them.
Harry put the lid back on the box, and carried it up into the room he now shared with Ginny. He took out the first of his mothers letters to him, and started to read. Her words were so tender and loving, in a matter of minutes, he was in tears again. He opened another, and another. The minutes turned into hours. Tears stained his face and chest where they had fallen. He had read nearly all of them. Two remained. They carried very specific instructions.
To Harry, to be opened when you have found the woman of your dreams.
To Harrys fiancée, to be opened after he has proposed to you.
Harry felt a chill run up his spine. He had mixed feelings about showing these to Ginny, especially as he did not know what his mother had put in her letter. Swallowing a large amount of courage, he headed back down to the kitchen. He glanced at the table, which was being set by Bill and George. They looked up, saw Harry about to speak, shook their heads and nodded towards the living room
Harry nodded his thanks and headed in. He looked over at the fires dying embers, waved his hands and more wood landed on it. He saw Ginny sat on the sofa, her legs pulled under her chin and her arms wrapped around them. She looked up with her tear-stained brown eyes. Whatever resolve he may have had about showing the letters melted with that look. He rushed to her, kissing and hugging her. He wanted to wipe away the tears, remove the pain.
“I’m sorry, Ginny.”
“You did what was expected of you,” Ginny showed Harry the letter. “You’d best read it for yourself. You’ll need time to digest the contents, too. Is one of those for me?” She saw the letters still in his hand.
“One of them. Here,” he handed over the second letter and began to read the one she had just given him.
They both sat in silence, arms wrapped around each other as they read. Both shed more tears at what was written.
While they digested what was on the parchments, smells of cooking emanated from the kitchen. Turning their heads slowly, they saw all of the other Weasleys stood in the doorway. They had all shed tears, of sorrow, of joy. Before Harry could speak they had all squeezed around him and given him one big group hug.
“Thank you for these,” Arthur said in a low voice. “I wish you’d known them.”
“I will get to know them,” Harry replied in an equally low voice. “I’ve got my mothers letters, which I’ve read through quickly, and her diaries, which I intend going through slowly. I also have this,” he held up his last letter. “I will look at tonight, when I go to bed.” He pushed the parchment into his pocket.
“What you got there, mate?” Ron pointed at Ginnys letter. Harry looked at her, awaiting her approval. She consented.
“My mothers letter to Ginny. I’ve only just read it myself,” Harry looked at Arthur and Molly as though for the first time. “The night before they were killed, they’d been asked to be god-parents. This is the last letter they wrote. Can I read it love?”
“You may.” Ginny rested her head on Harrys arm, steadying herself for what was to come.
I know you have been named Ginevra Molly, but no doubt your brothers will have shortened this somewhat. Your dad is so proud of his little princess; he goes on about you all of the time when he visits us. I’m sorry to say I’ve probably not had the opportunity to meet you. We’ve been invited to the Burrow for Christmas, so we may see you then.
Ginny, your dad came to us today with an exciting piece of news. He wants James and I to be your god-parents. We told him we’d think about it and give him an answer in a day or two, just to make him sweat; you’ll know what he is like by the time you read this. I’ve already decided for us. I’ll owl him tomorrow night, invite him around for tea and tell him yes.
I’ve enclosed a photograph of our own little boy, Harry. By the time you read this he should be a young man. He’s a year older than you. I do hope you have met him and become firm friends. Don’t let your brothers intimidate him. I know they’ll be looking out for you, but they could be a bit bullying at times, you being the first girl of the family and all that.
I hope you have your mothers eyes and her nose. I’ve found the best features children can inherit are these two. I know you’ll more than likely have the trademark hair, but don’t let that get in your way. We red-heads are a fiery breed, and when stoked there’s no force on earth can stop us. Use that strength well, and it will protect you and those you love.
All my hopes,
P.S. Harry is more fragile than he appears, so if you do meet him, look after him.
The silence was deafening when Harry finished. Arthur sat in his favourite chair, with Molly on his lap, both were crying softly. George and Percy looked confused, but held onto Charlie as he too sobbed. Fleur and Bill were holding each other, as were Ron and Hermione. Both couples were looking from Harry to Ginny and back again, their mouths opening and closing as though about to speak.
“I’m sorry, that was a mistake,” Harry jumped out of the sofa, and practically ran for the door.
He threw it open, and ran down the gravel track towards the broom shed. He took out one of the old Cleansweeps, slung his leg over and pushed off. He felt the broom bounce under him, but ignored it, soaring into the night sky. He heard tiny gasps of breath behind him. His eyes burned, so too his throat. He dropped down into a field, landed the broom, fell onto his knees and cried. He was aware of the smaller person cradling him, soothing him, calming him. Her voice cut through his sorrow and anguish. She let him cry himself hoarse, then cradled him until he cried himself asleep. She hung onto him as she positioned herself on the old broom then flew low back to the Burrow.
Ginny left the broom where it lay on the path and helped Harry inside. Her brothers rushed over, but she waved them off. She struggled up the stairs to her own room. Laying him on the bed, she undressed him and tucked him under her covers before turning out the light and heading back downstairs with the original letter from the dresser.
She showed it to her parents first. They smiled at the writers hopes, and sobbed that they had not come to pass. While the others read it, they left to make the meal. Ginny joined them. She lay out the place mats, plates and cutlery, glasses and cups then sat to face her parents.
“You never knew they’d accepted did you?” she asked quietly as they approached with the food.
“No. Lily never sent the owl. They never made it to another Christmas meal,” Molly broke down in tears again. Arthur retrieved a couple of bottles of firewhisky, poured out as many glasses as there were people to eat, plus an extra couple for Molly and, if he was to show up, Harry.
Ginny did not mention the cottage at all while they ate. It was to be Harrys surprise to her. She should have known that he was planning something with it, the way he’d behaved when they had visited it previously, but she also knew they’d need to exorcise a few ghosts before that happened.
A/N: I hope you all have enjoyed this story so far. Please leave a review if you have time to spare. I'd like to know what you think. I'm up to chapter 18 in my writings, and I'm starting to gain a sense of where this is heading.
9. Ginny comes of age.
The days after the arrival of the box of letters passed in relative calm. Percy and Arthur left for work as usual before the crack of dawn each day. Fleur visited everyday after her husband had gone into work and she’d tidied their cottage, looking rather rosy and feeling sick all of the time.
The extra tuition continued. When the weather was good, Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts were taken in the garden away from the house. Potions was taken in one of the sheds, to save the wrath of the Weasley matriarch in case they blew up the cauldrons, which happened more infrequently the more lessons were carried out. Only Herbology was suffering, this being due to the lack of access to the Hogwarts greenhouses rather than Nevilles teaching style. He soldiered on with his textbooks, attempting to describe how nasty venomous tentaculas were without the real thing.
The day before Ginnys birthday, Molly sat in on one of their lessons. She was most impressed by the progress, saying if she had learnt as quickly as they were, she’d have finished school in the second month of her third year. This brought much laughter to the concentrating faces. The afternoon was to have been Potions, but Harry thought it best to actually go and buy presents for Ginny.
“You haven’t bought me anything yet? Shame on you.” She playfully slapped him on the arm before rushing off to find her travelling cloak.
“Right, not a word. Hermione, Luna, keep her busy while we go off and get our presents. Then we’ll meet at George and Angelinas, take her off of your hands so you can get yours,” that was the plan.
“Understood,” they all headed into the house to search for travelling cloaks.
About five minutes later, they were all standing on the gravel path in front of the Burrow, all holding hands. Hermione concentrated hard, she’d never taken this many Side-Along Apparation before, and turned on the spot.
They appeared outside the Leaky Cauldron. Making their way towards the entrance to Diagon Alley, they noticed the funny looks several of the pubs customers were giving them, but paid them no attention. Luna drew her wand and tapped the bricks, looking around while they parted to form the gateway. She caught sight of at least one front page of the Daily Prophet, but kept it to herself. They were here for fun, not business.
As arranged, Luna and Hermione took Ginny on a little diversion while the men legged it into the shops. Neville dove into Flourish and Botts. Ron into the jewellers. Harry ran up the street into the Quidditch store.
Breathing heavily, he looked around at the brooms. He saw the two types he wanted high up in the ceiling space of the shop. Within five minutes, he had a Firebolt for himself, and a Firebird for Ginny. As he shrank the gift-wrapped pair to fit in his pocket, he quickly scanned the specifications for the latest broom.
Named for the firework that had signalled the call to arms in May, the Firebird was a step beyond the Firebolt. Top speed of one hundred and seventy five miles per hour. Will turn on a Knut in the hands of an experienced flyer. The new broom of choice for the Holyhead Harpies.
Harry smiled to himself. One more place to visit. He headed off down the street to the imposing Gringotts bank building. The goblins on the door bowed low as they opened the doors but could not hide the sneers on their faces. He walked calmly upto the farthest desk and waited for the goblin to finish his previous business.
“Yes?” He sneered.
“I’d like a second key for my vault, please.” Harry had obviously caught the goblin off guard, because he stopped sneering and blinked heavily. “You should have the details in your records.”
“Understood. If you would like to wait in a private room. I believe you know Bill Weasley, I’ll ask him to meet you.” The goblin had softened his tone to an unnerving level.
“Only if he isn’t busy with his own work,” Harry did not want to bother his future brother-in-law. “I’ll take that room though, I’ve no intention of causing any inconvenience for the rest of the bank by being a spectacle.”
The goblin led Harry away from the main area and the cashiers’ desks. He showed him to a private room. Several minutes passed after the goblin had left. Bill did not show at all.
The goblin returned with a small package. “You may check it for yourself, if you wish.” He bowed.
“I have no wish to further offend this great establishment, by insulting its credibility with such an act,” Harry informed him. “I would like to leave you in peace for now. I’ll more than likely be in later with the young lady in question. Who shall I ask for when I do?”
“Gornak,” the goblin looked completely taken aback.
“I will see you later then, Gornak.” Harry stood and left the room, and the bank, heading for Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes.
He saw Ginny with Luna and Hermione, peering into a tank of Pygmy Puffs. He noted Ron and Neville poring over the daydream charms. Harry took a deep breath to steady himself then entered the shop. He smiled as Ron looked up at the sound of the door chime. He winked at Angelina as she was about to say hello, held his finger to his lips and crept over to Ginny.
He tickled her in just the right spot. She jumped up and screamed, knocking over the tank of little furry creatures, and scaring Luna and Hermione. She jumped around and landed a semi-playful slap on Harrys cheek before kissing him hard.
“I’m sorry.” They both said. Harry reached down to help Angelina collect the escaped Pygmy Puffs; she gave him a reproachful look but smiled as he gave her an apologetic one.
Ginny hugged her friends and apologised for scaring them.
“That’s alright, we all heard him come in. I should have known he’d do something that devious,” Luna smiled.
“Devious? You wound me,” Harry clutched his chest. “What were you upto before I interrupted?”
“I was thinking of getting another Pygmy Puff,” Ginny played with Harrys hair.
“What happened to yours?” Harry looked into her eyes, regretting the question as he saw the sadness in them. “The train?”
Ginny merely nodded, looking at Luna, remembering.
Harry looked at them both, thinking. He made his decision. “Hermione, can you and Luna get your gifts,” he said quietly. “Ginny, I have something for you, already. Ron, we’ll see you and Neville in the Leaky Cauldron. Angelina, I’m sorry for the mess. We’ll see you tomorrow no doubt.” He led Ginny out of the shop, into the street. He passed her the package from Gringotts, aiming towards the bank itself. She looked shocked and confused as she took out the little key.
“Why…?” The inevitable question cut short as Harry pulled Ginny into O’Connors café.
“Two coffees, please.” Harry called to the waiting-witch.
“Still giving orders, I see.” Ginny laughed.
“Old habits die extremely hard,” Harry smiled. “Ginny, I have a confession.” He turned to the witch as she handed over the drinks, thanking her with a warm smile. “This is your key, for our vault. I put you on the account before my birthday. I also made certain other arrangements, but we can discuss those later if you want?”
“You could have told me earlier, before today, I mean.” Ginny sipped at her coffee. “Okay, so I’m on the books now. How much is in the vault?”
“A little over six million,” Harry looked at his cup before continuing. “More money than I’d ever be able to spend sensibly. I’ve no idea what to do with it. I’m hoping you’d be able to help me out?”
“You’ll have to give me time to think about that,” Ginnys eyes were bulging, her hands were shaking. “Six? That’s unbelievable. I’ve never dreamed that much money, never mind seen it.” She reached over and hugged Harry. “I love you, Mr Potter.”
“I love you, Miss Weasley,” He looked at her and smiled. “I love you, the future Mrs Potter.”
The waiting-witch had been passing close to them with a pot of tea. She dropped the pot as she heard their exchange, mouth wide open.
Harry and Ginny laughed, repaired the pot and headed out into the street quickly, leaving behind a couple of silver Sickles on the table. They headed for Gringotts as calmly as they could whilst others looked suspiciously at them. Harry bolted up the steps to open the doors.
“Ever the gentleman,” Ginny smiled at him. The goblins did not.
“Always.” He kissed her quickly then they headed over to the desk and Gornak.
“I see you are back, sir.” The goblin smiled as he looked up from his work.
“I am,” Harry took a deep breath. “Miss Weasley and I would like to make a withdrawal.”
“Does Miss Weasley have her key?” Ginny handed over the new key. “Ah, yes. Made just this morning. I have the necessary paperwork right here. If you could both sign in your respective spaces. I’ll take you down to your vault.”
They signed the parchments, and handed them back to Gornak. The goblin dropped down off of his stool, leading them towards the carts that ran down to the vaults.
When Ginny looked into their vault, she felt faint. She had heard the amount. Had guessed what it might look like. Nothing prepared her for the sight of so much gold in one place.
“Take as much as you feel you can carry,” Harry whispered into her ear, reaching for a pile himself. He turned to Gornak. “I’d like to transfer one hundred thousand Galleons to the vault of Mr and Mrs Arthur Weasley, and the same amount to the vault of Mrs Andromeda Tonks.”
“Very good, sir.” The goblin wrote the information on his pieces of spare parchment. “Will that be all?”
“I’d like to make an exchange from Wizards money into Muggle money. Three thousand Galleons.” Harry looked at the goblin.
“That comes to seven thousand pounds.” Not even a hesitation to work it out.
“I think that is it,” Harry looked at Ginny who was holding only a handful of coins. He gave a quizzical look before smiling at her. “Yes, that is definitely everything.”
They left the bank after picking up the Muggle money, and headed for the pub to meet Ron and Neville. Rounds of drinks were bought for themselves and their friends while they waited for Luna and Hermione.
As the glasses emptied, Ron noticed a small crowd gathering at a table in a corner. Turning his head to better hear the conversation, he better understood who the centre of their attention was.
“Please, mummy. Can’t we just go and say hello?”
“No, I’m sure he’s had enough of that sort of thing.”
“No. You may see him at school. He only looks young.”
“Now dear, you never know how old he really is.”
“I know but… If the stories are true, even a few of them, I’d have expected someone a lot older.”
Ron couldn’t help himself. He burst out laughing. The sort of laugh that usually has you holding your sides in and gasping for breath. Confused looks spread across the faces of his companions. All he could do was point first to his ears, then at the table in the corner. Confusion turned to comprehension.
Ginny got up, shaking her head and walked over to the corner. “You can join us if you like,” she smiled warmly at the family. “Please, we don’t bite.”
“But of course,” the father replied, before picking up his coat and ushering his family over.
Harry pulled out stools for them all. Ginny sat in his lap, her arms around his neck.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but hear you,” Ron apologised.
“Quite alright. We’ve been hearing so much recently, we weren’t sure what to do, or believe,” the mother spoke up.
“I’m sorry, where are our manners. This is Neville Longbottom; Ron and Ginny Weasley, brother and sister; the two heading over now are Luna Lovegood and Hermione Granger.” Harry pointed to his friends. “I’m sure you know me already, by reputation. Harry Potter.” He held out his hand for them to shake it.
“Harry Leonard,” the father shook the offered hand. “My wife, Laura. Our twins, Stewart and Brian. They’ll be starting that school, Hogwarts? This September. We got the letter last week, and thought we’d come for their supplies today.”
“So, what are these stories you’ve been hearing so far?” Ron could not help his curiosity.
“All sorts. Not sure which ones to believe, though.” Elder Harry admitted.
“To be honest, I’ve not heard any of the stories floating around,” Junior Harry laughed. “Start with the last one you heard, we’ll fill you in if it’s right or not.”
“Okay,” Stewart piped up, barely looking at Harry. “Do you have your own phoenix?”
Ginny let out a little laugh before answering, “Own is perhaps the wrong way to look at it. Fawkes belonged to a great man. He came to us after a particularly bad business, and hasn’t left, yet.”
“I see,” Brian seemed to be communicating with his twin. “What is Hogwarts like?”
“Ah. An interesting question,” Hermione looked at Luna to continue, but she shook her head. She looked at Neville, but he declined also. “Ron, a little help here?”
“You’re on your own with this, dear.”
“Oh dear.” Hermione took a slow breath, closed her eyes and tried to sum up seven years in as gentle and optimistic way as possible.
“Oh my, it sounds like a dangerous place,” Laura cried.
“No, no. Mrs Leonard, the school and its teachers are great. Certain individuals make it seem dangerous,” Ginny explained quickly. “But this last year, that element has been weeded out. This next year should be much quieter than the last seven has for these four.”
“Okay. So how do you get into this alley with the shops?” Laura enquired.
Hermione grinned ear to ear. Luna grinned like a cat.
“If you’d like to follow us, we’ll show you.” Neville stood with Ron. “Harry, will you be coming with us?”
“Not this time. I’ve a couple of items to take care of before tomorrow,” Harry Potter winked then led Ginny out into Muggle London, bidding them all goodbye for the time being.
“What are you upto now, Mr Potter?” Ginny looked into his eyes.
“Well, between the three of us, we’ve arranged for your birthday to be a Muggle-hero themed day,” Harry led her out into the streets. “And we need to get outfits to suit.”
“You sneaky git.”
“I know, but I’m your sneaky git.” He kissed her as they walked down into the heart of the capital.
* * * * *
August the eleventh began with a passionate kiss for Ginny. She moved herself under the covers of her bed, reaching all over Harry, panting wildly as his own hands roved over her body. She was about to reach for her wand when he stopped her.
“Not this morning, love.” Harry pulled away, breathing heavily.
“You tease,” Ginny kissed him hard on the lips. “I suppose you’re right though. Tonight?”
“Have to see how you behave first.” He began tickling her, she tickled him back.
After five long minutes of laughing and panting, they got out of bed, threw on a dressing gown each and headed down the stairs for breakfast.
“Good morning, dears.” Molly was already dealing with the morning meal. “Happy birthday, Ginny.” She kissed her daughter on each cheek before turning back to the counter.
Harry held Ginnys ring hand on the table with his own. The stones shone brightly as though mimicking their own love for each other. Fawkes appeared in a burst of flame and settled on the surface next to their hands. Between them they took it in turns to stroke his plumage, and noticed how much brighter the rings shone with the firebird next to them.
“You know, I have no idea what a phoenix eats,” Ginny said quietly. “All the times I could have asked Hagrid over the years and didn’t.”
“Guilty, also,” Harry rubbed her hand with his thumb. “Can always ask him when we get back to Hogwarts.”
“You’ll be able to ask him before then,” Hermione was walking rather gingerly down the stairs. “He’ll be here tomorrow.”
“You alright?” Ginny pulled back a chair for her friend to sit on.
“I may tell you, later when we’re changing.” A wicked smile flashed across her face.
“Okay, I just realized I don’t want to know,” Ginny paled in understanding. “You and he got your costumes sorted out already?”
“We have. Have you?” Hermione cocked her head to one side as Molly passed over the breakfast.
“Getting there. Got the material, but need inspiration.” Ginny poured glasses of pumpkin juice for the four of them. “Harry bought a few books on the subject, but I’ve barely looked at them, yet.”
“And has Harry sorted his out yet?” Molly sat down with them, taking a plateful of hot scones and cream.
“I have.” He spoke between mouthfuls of teacake. “I needed something with a mask, so I could insert lenses into the eyeholes. I’d probably wind up dancing with a gnome otherwise.” He quickly kissed Ginnys hand.
“That could be arranged,” she quipped.
While Ginny looked through the hero books, Harry barricaded himself in Percys old room to put the last finishing touches on his own costume. The cowl was more like a helmet with ears. It allowed full movement, yet covered most of the head and neck, a large opening was in the front for the mouth and chin to protrude. The torso was made of a hard rubber that was quite firm, but lightweight after a few charms had been placed on it. It was also going to be hot to wear, so Harry added a layer of cooling material on the inside. A more flexible rubber made up the arms, pants and leggings of the outfit. Again, it was going to be hot to wear, so more cooling material was added on the insides of the pieces.
The cape was a single piece of suede that was held onto the torso by a line of clips that made it appear to grow out of the neckline. Harry tried them all on, individually to get the feel for the pieces after his modifications. Happy with the result, he put them all on together.
First the arms then the leggings and pants. Next was the torso. It fitted tightly with the other pieces. Harry pressed home the clips that held those all together then looked at himself in the mirror. He charmed it to have a delay before showing the image. Pleased with what he saw, Harry attached the cape, checked himself again and picked up the cowl. He looked at the helmet thinking about why he had chosen this particular character.
Afraid of flying rodents. He’d seen his parents gunned down in front of him. He’d grown up, and used his own fear to instil fear in those who preyed on the weak and helpless. He operated out of shadow and always left a calling card. So unlike Harry in his approach to problems, and yet, so like him. Had Harry, also, not spent the best part of the past year operating out of shadow? Had he not also been trying to protect the weak and helpless? Did he not also leave a calling card?
Shaking his head at his own thoughts, Harry placed the cowl over his head. Closed his eyes, turned to where he knew the mirror stood and opened them.
The cry of shock was instantaneous. No longer stood the man before him, but the monster. He looked at the effect of the combined parts of the costume and knew he had made a dramatic choice. He tried to remember the descriptions of the voice and attempted to imitate it. That effect alone would be worth the effort and the money spent to acquire the outfit.
He didn’t care about the expense. This was Ginnys big day. He’d suggested it to Ginny months ago, and was glad that he had.
He heard voices outside the door.
“You okay in there, Harry?” It was Ron.
“We thought we heard you yell,” with Hermione.
“Just a minute,” he wanted to show them later, but decided that now was as good a time as any. Making his way quietly over to the space behind the door, he added. “You can come in, but shut the door quickly.”
“What is he upto this time?” Ron opened the door and both he and Hermione walked straight into the middle of the room. They’d both been mid-way through applying their own outfits, too, judging by the garments they were wearing. “Where are you?”
The door slammed shut. In a low voice, Harry growled. “Here.”
Hermione spun around and barely contained her scream. Ron fell over onto the bed. Harry smiled. This was the same effect the comic book character had on those who feared him.
“It’s alright.” He, however, had not wanted to frighten his two best friends quite this much. “I’m sorry, Hermione.” He hugged her as he pulled Ron into a sitting position. “A little overdone?”
“Bloody nutter.” He smiled all the same. “Bloody brilliant.”
“I hope you don’t frighten Ginny too much.” She took a step back. “Won’t you be a bit hot in that?”
“Got that covered. Though, I need to wear it in.” Harry took off the cowl and cape. “It’s a little tight in areas, if you know what I mean.”
“I’m sure it is.” Ron got up. “We’ll see you downstairs in a bit. You may want to put something on over that if you intend wearing it all day.”
“See you in a bit then.” He watched them leave then pulled on his t-shirt and jeans, and put his glasses on his face. The idea about using the eyeholes would save having to worry about being recognised at first glance.
Smiling, he made his way down to Ginnys room and tapped on the door.
“Just a minute,” she called through the door. Frantic sounds of boxes being shoved under the bed came from within. “You can come in now.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to disturb you,” Harry poked his head around the corner.
“You already disturb me, and in a good way too.” Ginny leapt into his arms when he shut the door behind him. “I’m about done, but I’ll need some help with cooling charms. What’s this you’ve got on? Feels so hard?” She felt at his chest.
Harry winked at her but didn’t tell her, “It’s my surprise. You wouldn’t happen to know if I left a belt in here this morning?” He tried to peek under the bed.
“Hey, no fair,” Ginny grabbed hold of him, and pinned him on top of her bed, kissing him. Silently, she hexed him to sleep for a few hours while she sneaked a quick look at his chest, gathering ideas for her own costume and finishing it off.
* * * * *
When Harry awoke, he was still in Ginnys room, on her bed, covered in his own cape. His helmet sat next to him with the belt he was looking for. It had small compartments on it for storing things. It held his wand on one of the rear loops. Harry checked for Ginnys present. It was still where he’d put it.
Ginny herself was not in the room. Harry reached out to her mind.
“Where are you?”
“In the kitchen. You’ve quarter of an hour to get yourself together.”
“You still need to cool down?”
“You can do it down here. You’ll know me by the hair.”
Harry was rather confused by that then spotted the book she’d been using for her ideas. Smiling as he looked at the drawing on the page and then at the drawings Ginny had produced, he knew that they would complement each other perfectly tonight.
Harry attached the cape to his outfit. He conjured a pair of knee-length rugged black boots and slipped them on over his leggings. He looked in the small mirror on the desk, tapped the symbol on his chest so that it shone more than the rest of the uniform, and then pulled the cowl over his head.
He opened the door and made his way down towards the kitchen. His boots were stiff, but he bore the pain silently. He saw Molly in her outfit, looking rather extravagant.
A slender figure in a black uniform passed before him. A waist-length yellow cape contrasted with the red hair. The cut of the outfit accentuated her curves. Feeling his eyes on her, she turned and smiled. Her mask covered her face except for her mouth, like his own mask.
“Do I know you?” Ginny beamed at him, pulling him close for a hug, her voice kept low to suit her character.
“I hope so,” Harry growled, he had slipped into character all too easily. He bent his head to kiss her. “So, how about those charms?”
“Hmm…?” She kissed him deeply. “This isn’t rubber like yours. It’s fabric, bewitched to look like rubber.”
“And you call me sneaky?” He kissed her again. “Where is everyone else?”
“Outside. Hermione is trying to put a sound system together.” Ginny turned to the window overlooking the garden. “We got some Muggle music to party to, a variety of fast tracks to start with and a few slow ones to finish later,” she looked at Harry, “much later.” She laughed as he moved in to kiss her again.
“What are you laughing at?”
“You,” she turned back to him. Her mother left them alone in the kitchen, carrying a tray of drinks outside. “You are the best thing to have happened to me. When I’m with you, I feel safe, secure.” She hugged Harry.
“You bewitch me, Ginny.” Harry looked down at her. “Time to go and party.” He led her over to the door, opened it for her and she stepped into the garden.
Arthur and Molly were dressed as King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. George and Angelina were in costume as Saint George and his damsel in distress. Bill and Fleur were dressed as Superman and Lois Lane. Charlie had chosen to arrive as Sir Lancelot. Percy had gone all out by appearing as Merlin, complete with beard and staff. Ron and Hermione stood out in their red outfits, the Daredevil and Elektra. Neville and Luna looked perfect; he as Zorro; she as Supergirl.
Ginny ran over, her hair trailing behind with the cape. Harry smiled to himself, as he always did these days; he was part way to heaven watching her. She turned to see if he was following her. His heart skipped so many beats, he thought he was going to faint. Not only did the cut of the outfit accentuate her curves, so too did the detailing of the pieces. The bright yellow emblem curved over her breasts. The belt hung low over her hips. The mask framed her mouth and lips. He walked purposefully over to her and swept her up into his arms.
Hermione flicked her wand and the hybrid music system began to play the music it contained. ‘Happy Birthday’ sounded across the property as a table full of presents appeared close to the food. The table was crammed with boxes of all different sizes and shapes.
Harry put Ginny down onto her feet as she eyed the gifts hungrily. She picked up Ron and Hermiones, tore off the paper and stared. ‘12 ways to bewitch your wizard’ and a jewelled photograph of Hogwarts in winter. Ginny thanked them.
Bill and Fleurs was next. Ginny carefully unwrapped the small parcel. A silver box lay within. Ginny opened it with shaking hands. A Veela love charm necklace sat on the padding. She reached to put the necklace on, but Fleur stopped her.
“It is not to be worn in such public surroundings,” she explained quickly, with a twinkle in her eye. Ginny opened her mouth, as if to ask a question then realised what she had meant as she was now looking at the figure in black.
“You’ll get me into trouble,” she whispered in her ear.
Neville and Lunas gift was a replica Sword of Gryffindor. Ginny was puzzled by this, but didn’t say anything there and then, noticing that Neville wore a similar one with his costume.
Percy had given her private lessons at the Ministry for Apparation. “These will be useful for getting back here without having to go Side-Along,” she burst out.
Charlie had given her a bright red dragonskin jacket, with a ‘G’ in emeralds on the back. She put it on over her outfit, making sure that her cape was safely tucked out of the way with her hair before she fastened it.
Two packages remained on the table; Arthur and Mollys, and George and Angelinas.
Ginny decided to open her brothers’ gift first. It was another photograph in a jewelled frame. Only this one brought tears to her eyes. It showed Fred and George at the Yule Ball with Angelina and Alicia Spinnet. She cried and hugged both her brother and his girlfriend.
Her parents present now lay alone. Ginny tore the wrapping off and gasped. She was now holding two photo albums. Looking in the topmost one, she found it to be empty. The second one was full of pictures of her growing up; from her first picture as a baby, right through to the last meeting of the DA. She rushed over to hug her parents, kissing them each on the cheeks.
“What happened to Aunt Muriel?” Ginny noticed one member of the family missing.
“She’s not been at all well,” Molly shook her head. “I said we’d go later if she felt up to having visitors.”
“Of course,” Ginny now fixed her gaze on Harry. She took off the jacket and allowed her hair and cape to billow in the breeze that had risen behind her. He smirked at her, his cape flowing behind him with a life of its own.
Harry opened one of the compartments on his belt, pulled out a small object and started muttering at it. The object grew until it was about five and a half feet long, wrapped in brown parchment. He handed it to Ginny as she walked slowly towards him. He could see she knew what it was by the shape, her eyes wide behind the mask. She laid it on the ground removing the covering and stood back from it. The name of the broom was shining brightly in the sun. ‘Firebird’. Ginny stood alongside it.
“Up.” She commanded. The broom flew straight into her outstretched hand. She held it over her head and did a sort of victory dance around the garden, before mounting it and performing a lap of honour of the grounds.
Landing next to her fiancé, Ginny jumped into his arms, her legs wrapped tightly around his waist and kissed him hard. The kiss knocked the wind out of Harry, and it took all of his strength to kiss her back and keep his balance.
“We’ll go flying later if you like?” he whispered to her. She nodded in reply.
“Let’s eat, I’m starving.” Ginny announced loudly and turned her attention on the food before Ron did.
The music had changed to sing-along style tunes.
Despite her hunger, she did not load her plate up like the others. Between helpings she sat and looked through her photo album with Harry. She blushed at pictures of games she used to play with her brothers. Her favourite appeared to have been playing the damsel in distress for George to rescue from an evil Fred dressed in a black sheet. Ginny appeared to be aged between four and nine, then those games seemed to have stopped. “They’d gone off to Hogwarts.”
The next few were of her and Ron playing chess in the living room. Judging from the photos, they had been evenly matched. Then Ron had vanished from the sequence. Hogwarts and their first year together. The first of many.
Ginny seemed not to smile as much over the next pages. Exceptions were marked clearly by green ink. She was holding a ball of emerald green wool in the first one.
“Taken after we’d seen you off on the Express.” Ginny smiled mischievously.
“I wondered who had put your mum up to making that jumper.” Harry remembered his first present from Mrs Weasley. “I never said thank you properly.” He kissed her again as she turned the pages.
A big gap in the sequence seemed to appear between ages eleven and fourteen. Harry knew these were her most painful years and decided against pressing her.
Only one page was devoted to Ginny aged fifteen. She was holding a broom in all of the pictures, with Ron, Harry and Hermione in the background. Harry had no wish to remember the events later on in that particular year.
The album finished on a large picture of the six friends on one page, and facing it, her whole family. She closed the book, looking at Harry. “Dance with me.”
The music changed tempo and mood. Jon Bon Jovi sounded out now, ‘It’s my life’.
He held out his hand and pulled her onto the area cleared for a dancefloor. Whirling around in time to the music, Ginny and Harry formed the centre of the action. They faced each other in time to sing the chorus into each others faces. When the song finished they hugged each other laughing.
The music carried on at that level for hours. In the end, only Ron and Hermione, with Harry and Ginny, were left dancing. A whirlwind of black and red on the dancefloor.
Hermione changed the tracks with a tap of her wand. The tempo slowed dramatically. Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra started off the last of the songs with ‘All the way’.
The temperature had dropped significantly over the course of the night. The sun had set hours ago and the only light was that coming through from the Burrow.
With the advent of the slower tracks, the dancefloor filled up again. Bill was holding Fleur close to him, his own cape flowing in the breeze. Lunas longer cape was in danger of being trodden on, had it not been for Neville draping it over his left arm as they danced. Ron and Hermione seemed locked together at the hip and shoulders. Arthur and Molly rested against one another and swayed in time with the music.
George and Angelina appeared to have gone to bed in Georges old room; Percy appeared to have done something similar in his, too.
Ginny was wrapped under Harrys cape. It draped forwards off the shoulders, and easily covered her smaller frame, sheltering her from the strengthening breeze. She was content to snuggle there for the rest of the night.
The music finished. Neville and Luna hugged and thanked everyone for a wonderful time before Disapparating to the Lovegood residence. Bill and Fleur left for Shell Cottage. Arthur and Molly headed inside to their own bed.
Hermione remained locked in Rons embrace. Ginny stayed under Harrys cape, keeping warm. Her head was the only part of her body visible above the black material.
They stayed that way for a while longer, until the sun started to rise, then made their way into the house and the beds they shared.
10. Godric’s Hollow.
Harry and Ginny did not feel anywhere near as tired as they should have rightly felt after the nights festivities. Indeed, they were still wearing remnants of their outfits when they went down for breakfast a couple of hours later. He had unclipped the cape and replaced the mask with his proper glasses, while she had removed her cape and mask and put a t-shirt on over the form-fitting torso piece.
Wearing a dressing gown, too, and holding one of his mothers diaries, Harry wrapped an arm around Ginny as she sat next to him at the table. They rested their heads against one another as Angelina and George laid out the morning meal.
“You two slept at all?” Angelina questioned.
“Not yet,” Ginny reached over for the juice jug. “Don’t feel sleepy.”
“So, what have you got planned for today then?” George sat down with his girlfriend and started to hand out buttered, toasted teacakes.
“I was thinking of going over to Godric’s Hollow with Ginny.” Harry squeezed his fiancées hand. “Test fly the new brooms to get there.”
“Brooms?” Ginny enquired, her eyebrows raised.
“I got two at the shop,” he winked at her. “Your ‘bird. And I got a ‘bolt.”
“When can we leave?” Ginny flushed with excitement, she started to shake in her seat.
“As soon as we freshen up and get changed,” Harry kissed her lightly.
They ate quickly and flashed up the stairs, nearly knocking over Percy as he headed down for breakfast himself. They turned into the bathroom together after collecting an extra dressing gown. Showering quickly, and washing each other, they headed back into Ginnys room for fresh clothes.
They both wore Muggle jeans and t-shirts, with the red dragonskin jackets they had received as birthday presents. They both decided to wear the belts from their outfits, for no reason than they could.
They ran out into the garden, chasing each other to the broom shed. Ginny picked up her Firebird. Harry resized his Firebolt. Waving to the people in the kitchen window, they mounted their brooms and were pushing off into the sky.
Ginny performed a few rolls and loops, slowly getting used to the feel of the new broom. Harry was quickly used to the feel of his broom, and was itching to test the speed of it. Ginny sensed this and dropped alongside him, ready to race.
“On the count of three,” He called. “One… two… three.” The pair of them shot off into the morning sky. They climbed high above the morning clouds. The Firebird may have had the better specifications, but Ginny was not prepared to push the limits of its capabilities just yet. She kept her broom level with Harry as he attempted to pull away from her. With more daring, he threw the broom into a series of complex manoeuvres. Ginny kept pace with ease, but pulled out of a steep dive a few feet earlier than Harry.
They had arrived over Godric’s Hollow in record time, despite their competition. They landed in the lane outside the rebuilt cottage, breathless but smiling. They noted the area where the scaffolding had been erected previously. The whole right side of the first floor had been replaced. Nervously, they walked upto the front door and opened it.
A letter had been left on the mat. Harry picked it up, Ginny stood on the step, coughing gently.
“Hem, hem.” She raised her eyebrows to him. He laughed quietly, stepped outside and lifted her up.
“I think this is not supposed to happen until our wedding night,” his eyes twinkled in the sunlight. He carried her over the threshold, kissing her full on the lips as he did so.
“I love you too much to wait for then.” She was kissing him back, not willing to unlock their lips. Her arms were locked around his neck.
Harry felt dizzy. Struggling in his mind with what he heard, he used his foot to close the front door, muttered a charm to lock it and staggered over to the stairs. He rested Ginny on the steps and they proceeded to undress each other as they headed up to the bedroom.
They were in their underwear as they reached the top step, panting and wanting each other. Harry picked Ginny up and threw her onto the bed. She whispered a charm over her abdomen. She pulled him on top of her, kissing wildly.
“I’m ready,” she whispered to him.
* * * * *
Ginny woke several hours after they had made love, looking at the sleeping figure next to her. It was not their first time, but it was the first in a place she could call ‘their’ home. She looked at the man she had loved since childhood, and shed tears of joy. A single tear for each moment they had been happy together. There were so many. She ran her hands over his bare chest, tracing the contours of the muscles he’d developed since May. She ran her hands through his hair. She felt the arm he had laid over her move down her back, rubbing and squeezing her as it did so. She moaned softly and looked into his wide-awake eyes.
She saw the love they shared, and the protection they both needed, for each other. She kissed his lips and they hugged each other.
A tapping at the window roused them from themselves. Putting on his boxers, Harry made his way over to the window and found Fawkes waiting patiently to enter, a roll of parchment tied to his leg. Harry untied the letter and carried the phoenix over to the bed, before reading the contents to Ginny.
Harry and Ginny,
We hear you’ve gone to your parents’ old house. We’d like to come over and see what you’ve done with the place, unless you’re busy of course. Reply quickly, Molly’s on the warpath. Something about dishonouring her daughter.
Ginny laughed at the last sentence. “If only she knew,” she shook her head.
“Hmm, what should I do if she does?” Harry looked extremely nervous.
“It’s not my mothers tirades you need to worry about, Potter.” Her eyes flashed. “I’ll send my patronus and tell them all to come if they like. Unless you wanted today to be about us?”
“We’ll have hours, days, months, and years even for it to be about us.” He looked longingly at her. “They’ll need to Apparate here if they are going to come. No floo connection.”
Ginny called for her patronus. Her silver mare stood in the bedroom as she gave it the message. An instant later, it had galloped out of the house and over the countryside.
Harry had taken the opportunity to collect their clothes from the stairs. They dressed quickly. No sooner had Harry finished running a brush through Ginnys hair then there was a knock on the door. Holding hands, they headed down to the lobby.
It sounded like the entire Weasley clan, including Aunt Muriel, had turned up. Squeezing each others hands for support, they unlocked and opened the door.
Molly Weasley did indeed look ready to string Harry up by his neck, and yet when she looked at her daughter, she melted into one of her hugs.
Bill and Charlie muttered something about getting a few bottles to toast the house with from the pub. Percy and George set about finding the most comfortable seat in the living room for Aunt Muriel to sit in, rapidly escorting her through before she restarted the scrutinising she had left off weeks earlier.
Arthur and Ron took a quick look around with Harry, as Fleur, Angelina and Hermione engaged Ginny in a mild interrogation. Ron looked wide-eyed at all of the furnishings. He finally understood why Harry thought so highly of the Burrow and the people who lived there. Compared to the Dursley residence, both properties were pictures of paradise. Arthur had tears in his eyes, remembering times long gone.
Arthur turned back down the stairs when they faced the nursery, muttering something under his breath about needing to find Molly.
Harry stood in front of the door to his old bedroom, simply looking at it. He felt a small hand slip into his own, noticing the pressure that so often gave him strength. Ron and Hermione were behind him, ready to support him. He needed to enter this room, but felt he could not do so without their presence. They had known him the longest, and would be curious about the room alone.
He placed his hand on the doorknob, and turned it. The door opened slowly on its own. Harry closed his eyes, took a deep breath and walked into the room.
The furnishings were hidden by dust sheets. The new wall stood out with the new plaster.
“We’ll deal with this room together,” Harry turned to his companions. “I don’t think I’ll be able to sort it out without you.”
His friends smiled at him. They knew he was being silly, putting off the inevitable onslaught of emotions that that room may deliver. They all turned and made their way down to the living room.
Aunt Muriel was poring over the photographs, again muttering to herself. George and Percy stood back from her as she steadily made her way around the sides of the room. Occasionally, the elderly lady picked up a picture to view the image closer, as though she could not quite focus on it. Each time she did so it was Ginny who sucked in a small breath, hoping that she did not drop and break it. Harry smiled to himself, but let the grin spread across his face.
* * * * *
The rest of the day in Godric’s Hollow passed without any mention to the way in which Harry and Ginny had left the Burrow without telling her parents. Bill recited a story the landlord of the pub had told about an incident the Potters had handled with him, many years ago. When he had heard that their son was thinking of moving into the village, the old man had extended an open invitation to dinner.
“That was kind of him,” Ginny had said in reply. “I thought your parents were in hiding?”
“That wouldn’t have stopped them helping others,” Harry kissed her forehead.
A screech from what sounded like an oversized eagle pierced the evening air. Ron turned to look out of the window, and was confronted by Buckbeaks features.
“Argh,” he fell over the chair he was stood next to. Hermione could not help but laugh at him, even more so when she heard the heavy knocks on the front door.
“I’ll get it,” Ginny rushed out of the room. Harry had obviously told her about the first time he’d met Hagrid.
“Tell him we’ll be out to him,” Harry called after her. He watched the family all follow the youngest out of the room. Thinking he was now alone, he sighed deeply.
“She’s a handful for sure.” Aunt Muriel was still standing in front of the fireplace, watching Harry carefully. “I still stand by what I said.”
“Of that I have no doubts,” Harry straightened up once more. “May I ask you a question?” He helped her into one of the chairs.
“Of course.” She looked at him expectantly.
“I’m not sure how to put this,” he sat on the sofa, facing her. “Erm… how do you think Molly would react to her daughter living with me?”
“And now we come to the crux of the problem don’t we,” Aunt Muriel positively basked in the light of the question. “Have you thought that the best person to ask that question to would be Molly herself? Of course not.” She was now smiling wider than he had seen before, even at Bills wedding. “You can defeat a dark wizard, but you’re scared witless of your future mother-in-law. Arthur was exactly the same, part of why they eloped. My dear boy, you’d better find out, before events force your hand.”
This last statement puzzled Harry somewhat. “What do you mean?”
“Have you been reading the papers? I expect not,” Aunt Muriel visibly sagged, Harry rushed over and knelt in front of her, waiting. “I did not want to be the one to break this to you. I expect the others did not want you to charge off blindly.”
“Charge off where? What’s happened?” Harry was frantic now.
“The Tonks residence was levelled more than a week ago,” her eyes filled with great sadness as she watched Harry recoil. “Andromeda and Teddy are missing.”
11. Rescuing family.
Ginny felt the wave of emotion flooding out of the living room. She buckled at her knees as she was greeting Hagrid and stroking the hippogriff. Her ring pulsed brightly enough to light the immediate area; the emeralds flashed at a rapid rate. Using every ounce of strength she could muster, Ginny drew herself to her fullest height and charged into the cottage.
She found Harry rocking to and fro behind the sofa looking in shock at Aunt Muriel. He was shaking his head, muttering incomprehensibly.
“HARRY.” She knelt beside him, trying to steady him. “Harry, what’s wrong? What’s happened?”
He took several gulps of air before looking at her, seeking her eyes, trying to picture what he had just been told. “Teddy. Andromeda.” The only words that could escape his lips.
“What about them?” Ginny tried to find the answer in the depths of his eyes now.
“Oh, hell.” Percy was the unexpected source of this outburst.
“WHAT?” Ginny was reaching a point in her temper where self-control would become extremely difficult.
“Where’s dad? He should be in on this, too.” Percy turned to leave, but found Ron and Hermione blocking his way. Mr Weasley was stood behind them, his face like stone.
“What have you been upto now?” Were his only words.
“I need to sit down,” Percy looked like he’d just had an encounter with a Dementor. “You have to understand, I was not happy about keeping this from you.”
“You remember that incident in Diagon Alley.” He paled even more, if that were possible. “Angelina thought it might have been a diversion of some kind.”
“I did, and I remember you were at work at the time, so how do you know?” Angelina turned from helping Hagrid into the house.
“I am running the Auror Department.” Percy looked at his subordinate.
“So why don’t I know about this?”
“It was decided higher up that this was to be hushed up, and dealt with by another department.” Percy looked at his feet. “We couldn’t silence the Prophet though. And they’ve been running some pretty wild stories, but not on the front page, not until two days ago.”
“What happened then?” Ron moved closer to his brother, clenching and unclenching his fists.
“Word got out that a demand had been made.” Percy looked at Harry and Ginny, then at Hermione and his brother. “Whoever these people are, they wanted an exchange.”
“Us for them?” Hermione blanched. “And what was the dear old Ministry line on that?”
“I don’t know.” Percy looked around. “I swear it. I was removed from the case there and then.”
“What do you know?” Ginnys voice was calm and quiet, but her eyes were flashing dangerously, as was her ring, emeralds and rubies flashing in time with her pulse.
“Before I was taken off, my sources had the group located in the Forest of Dean area.” Percy realised he knew more than he should, and continued. “There are some old workings there. Other than that, I don’t know their numbers, or who they are.”
Harry got up off of the floor. He flexed his fingers and rolled his head around his neck, taking deep breaths. He fixed Ginny with a stare. She nodded in understanding then left the room. He turned his head to Ron, fixing him with the same stare, and then Hermione. They both left the room also. Harry looked at Aunt Muriel.
“Thank you.” He looked at Mr Weasley. “Get everyone back to the Burrow. It’s more defendable than here. I want you to be my Secret-Keeper. Put the Fidelius Charm back on this place.” He slipped back into the role he had tried to deny. “Get in touch with Neville. Ask him and his gran to get over to Lovegoods, and wait there. Tell him to remember what he pulled out of the hat.” Harry turned to leave.
“Where are you going?” Molly was now blocking the way.
“I’m going to put a stop to this.” He growled then pushed past. He met Ginny outside with Ron and Hermione, brooms at the ready. “We’ll be flying full speed back to the Burrow. Hermione, you’re with Ginny this run. We’ll need to Apparate into the pantry, in case the place is being watched. We’ll be flying, so you two will need to get us in.” Ron opened his mouth to protest at the plan. “It’ll hurt, I’m not saying it won’t, but it’ll hurt more if we’re seen before we suit up.”
“What’re you planning?” Hermione saddled up in front of Ginny, who kicked away from the ground.
“To use deception and theatricality.” Harry kicked off as soon as Ron was onboard.
Pushing her broom to the limit, Ginny sped low over the fields and trees. She thought only of her destination of the flight. Her hair trailed behind, whipping across her back, but the dragonskin jacket prevented it tearing into her skin. Hermione on the other hand, had to hold her hair. They were soon within sight of the old building. Hermione clenched her hand around Ginnys wrist and they turned on the spot in mid-air.
Ginny reared the broom up to prevent them smashing through the pantry wall. Moving quickly, they exited to the stairs before Harry and Ron performed the same manoeuvre.
As fast and as quietly as they could, the quartet headed to their shared rooms. Harry followed Ginny into her room. He reached under her bed and pulled the boxes containing their outfits from their spaces. He unpacked them and laid them out on the bed. He then turned to his trunk and dug around for his Quidditch gauntlets. Silently, Ginny searched for her gauntlets.
They changed relatively quickly compared with the previous days proceedings. Harry charmed the materials on both uniforms to emit no noise when moved. He dulled the shine on the symbol on his own chest, and replaced the one on Ginnys entirely. Now they had two dull black bats. He pulled the gauntlets over their hands and wrists, muttering charms to change the colour from brown to black.
A tiny knock on the door told them that Ron and Hermione were ready. They left the room, carrying their masks, and headed down the stairs and into the kitchen. Harry took off his glasses, placed them on the table and put his cowl on. Ginny applied her mask. Hermione tied her hair back and conjured her own mask. Ron already wore his. Harry took hold of the brooms and shrunk them, placing them inside opposing compartments on his belt.
They took each others hands, and Hermione turned on the spot.
Appearing in the clearing in which Hermione and Harry had Apparated to after their escape from Godric’s Hollow, they stopped only to gather their bearings. Hermione led the way deeper into the forest.
They walked into a stiff headwind. The capes and hair of the individuals trailed behind them. Every so often, Hermione would stop and silently cast a charm. She smiled at the resulting imprint in the ground, and followed the direction it indicated.
Within half an hour, they had come upon an old mine working. The buildings looked like they had been abandoned for decades. An old entrance stood off to the side where it had been cut into the rock. Even in the bright moonlight, the buildings still contained plenty of shadows to hide in.
Muttering charms under his breath, Harry revealed the location of a dozen persons, each one in a prime location to spot intruders. There was no sign in the buildings of a woman and child. There was, however, at least one werewolf in the group.
“Greyback.” Harry let that thought slip out. He saw Hermione begin to shake. Ron took hold of her.
“The werewolf is mine,” Ginny said in a near whisper. No-one argued with her.
“Right, when we go in, we use our characters names. That should keep them guessing long enough to get through,” Harry pulled his wand out of its holder. “If you see Andromeda, or Teddy, call in reinforcements. No heroics.”
“Done.” The other three agreed. They split up. Hermione headed for the outbuilding to the far left, sprinting hard for the cover of the wall. Ron dove for the door of the next building along. Ginny used an Ascension charm to gain the roof of the building where the werewolf was located. Harry pulled his cape around his shoulders and walked towards the mine entrance.
Spells flew from the first building penetrated. He heard Ron giving as good as he was receiving. An explosion tore through the furthest building. He saw Hermione thrown clear of the blast as the building collapsed in on itself.
Forgetting all about his own responsibility, Harry ran over to her.
“Elektra. You okay?”
“Never felt better, Batman.” They smiled together. “Where’s Daredevil?”
“In there,” he indicated over his shoulder. He barely had time to cover his friend with his cape as the building disintegrated, succumbing to an explosion that deafened them. A body clad in red flew out of the middle of the engulfing fireball. “Arresto momento.”
Ron barely missed snapping his neck on the tree he was headed for. Hermione struggled over to him. He was mumbling and breathing heavily. Deep gashes oozed blood along his sides and back.
“GO.” Hermione yelled at Harry. “Get Batgirl out of there.”
With only a seconds hesitation as he looked at his friends and made sure they were safe, Harry used the same Ascension charm to gain the roof of the building Ginny had gone for. He made his way across to the skylight she had entered by. He saw her about to be cut off from escape by the werewolf and six others. Death Eaters from Diagon Alley.
There was no time to communicate a warning. Harry somersaulted through the skylight. The diversion worked. Spells flew up at the falling figure, as he spread his cape to slow his descent. Too late, they realised their mistake as they were Stunned by Ginny as she took advantage to push closer to the werewolf.
Harry landed right next to Ginny, keeping his head down. The suit was scorched with burn marks where spells had found their target. He was breathing shallowly, attempting to keep himself from passing out after the fall.
“Greyback! Where are you?” A new voice sounded through the night and dust. High-pitched and all-too-familiar.
“About to feast.” The werewolf was transforming, they could see it in the shadow of the fire behind him.
Hermione and Ron burst into the building. Harry and Ginny both leapt over the rubble they were sheltering behind. Four separate beams hit Greyback as he finished his change. He flew over to where Dolores Umbridge stood holding little Teddy and Andromeda.
Seeing herself outnumbered, she dropped the two of them, took hold of the werewolf and turned on the spot.
As fast as he knew he was, Harry could not have reached the baby in time. He didn’t need to. Arthur Weasley had arrived in exactly the right place, at the right time. He caught the falling child. Running over with wide grins on their faces, the quartet gathered up Andromeda Tonks. The grins left their faces when they felt the first of the explosions tear through the rear of the building. They held onto Arthur as he turned on the spot, heading for home.
12. Return to Hogwarts.
Arthur brought the group onto the garden alongside the Burrow. He ran inside with young Teddy, while the others carried Andromeda. Ginny tore off her mask so she could get herself positioned under the older womans arm and support her better.
“You got them,” Molly Weasley ran into the living room with a tray of potions, Angelina and Fleur trailing behind her.
Arthur handed Teddy to Fleur then grabbed Harry and took him outside. Ginny extricated herself from under Andromeda and followed. Ron and Hermione both crumpled onto the floor, exhausted and injured.
“What the bloody hell were you playing at?” Arthur yelled at Harry, their faces inches apart. “This is not a game. Take off that thing.” He pointed at the cowl.
Slowly, Harry obliged. He threw the helmet so that it landed with Ginnys mask beside the front door. He seemed to suddenly deflate, his shoulders sagged and his legs appeared to give way. Ginny was over to him in an instant, supporting him.
For all he was mad about Harry charging off on some damn fools errand, Arthur had not wanted to cause this response. He knew that to tackle Harry alone about his impulsive behaviour would be hard enough, but to tackle him with his own daughter at his side would be nigh on impossible.
“You realise you could have got them killed? Do you realise that you could have been killed?” He continued regardless. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“I… thought… it… was… the… right… thing… to… do…” Harrys breathing was starting to fail him.
“Dad, if you’re through yelling, I need to get him resting,” Ginny glared at her father. “Can you help me get him up to my room?”
“I will,” he took hold of their hands and turned on the spot, taking them directly into Ginnys room. Looking back at them as he opened her door, he let a slight smile appear on his lips, and then headed down the stairs to check on those in the living room.
Ginny carefully laid Harry on her bed, his cape folded under the small of his back. She took in the damage to his suit. The scorch marks were not too deep in the rubber; none had penetrated through to skin. Waving her wand over him, she found the sources of his pain.
Turning him onto his right side, gently, she found a two-inch long shard of glass sticking out of his left side, just below his ribs. He had several cracked ribs to add to his discomfort.
She rose quickly and headed downstairs. She needed two people alone. One family, the other a friend. She found them resting on the sofa.
Hermione was covered in soot from the explosion, but otherwise uninjured. Ron was topless, but bandages were wrapped around his chest. Both of them looked exhausted. Ginny was about to change her mind when she noticed Hermione looking right at her.
“How is he?” She mouthed.
“Not good,” Ginny replied, slowly pointing to her back. The soothing charm Harry had applied days ago was now wearing off.
Automatically, Hermione and Ron got to their feet, ignoring the incredulous looks they were getting and followed Ginny back up the stairs.
Several minutes later, Ginny led the troupe back down the stairs. Harry was asleep now, his injuries healing slowly. The wound in his side was closing nicely, thanks to Hermiones wandwork. The ribs would take the longest to heal. Not being truly broken, Skele-Gro potion would not be appropriate. They needed to be protected by stiff bandaging, Ginny had a few ideas about how to achieve this, but kept them to herself.
They had entered the living room before they realised they were still wearing their outfits. Too tired to care about any comments they smiled at each other and sat in available seats.
“I suppose you thought you were being heroic with that stunt?” Molly opened fire on them. “You realise that it could have gone badly wrong?”
“I don’t suppose any of you stopped to think that the Ministry was already sending its own people to deal with this?” Percy joined in.
“Drop it.” Arthur surprised them. “Everyone out. Not you three. You can listen from the kitchen, but do not come back in.” He looked at Mrs Tonks. “You may stay if you wish.”
“Right, talk,” he sat in his favourite chair, waiting.
Ron looked at Hermione, who was looking at Ginny.
“Do you remember why we went to the Department of Mysteries?” She pitched in. “Do you remember why we were guarding the hallways of Hogwarts, the night Dumbledore died?”
“I never asked about that.” He shifted in his seat, thinking.
“Do you remember why I set up my elite squad? Why I restarted the DA?” Ginny was in full flow. “It was to do nothing more than help people. Mum calls it heroics. She of all people should know better than that. Have I done nothing this past year that has been selfless?
“I never wanted the responsibility of leading the DA, but I was chosen to do so. I chose to go to the Ministry. I was Harrys girlfriend that night at Hogwarts, and I would not hide in the shadows while others risked their lives.” She drew a deep breath. “You should have at least asked yourself where I get these qualities. I’m a Weasley, and proud of it. We look out for everyone, family and friends.
“As for the Ministry? To hell with them. Kingsley may be trying to change the place, but it still runs in the same fashion it did when Fudge was in charge. It was his own Under-Secretary who had them for Merlins sake,” she pointed at Andromeda and Teddy. “Percy did not know that. Now that you do, you can light the fire and give Kingsley the ammunition he needs to get his job done, because while there are members of the Riddle regime at that place, none of us will be safe from reprisals.”
Ginny fell silent, letting her own words sink in. Her eyes flashed dangerously. Ron looked at Hermione nervously. One wrong word would land the speaker with a face full of batwings.
Arthur slowly stood and crossed to the mantelpiece. He considered the pictures which rested there. He turned slowly to face them all, tears streaked his cheeks. Molly rushed over from the doorway where she had been listening, hugging her husband.
Ginny stood and exited the front door, followed closely by Ron and Hermione. The fire gone from her, she curled up on one of the garden seats and stared at the grounds of the house.
“We were right, weren’t we?” She was starting to doubt her own argument.
“Nothing is ever that clear cut,” Hermione rested her hands on her friend. “Were we right to leave you behind? Were we right to cut you out? You can run these arguments until you go mad. We are so alike, the four of us. Given the danger, we go out of our way to protect those we love, even if it means our own destruction.” Hermione held her up and looked into her eyes. “You know to what I refer to.”
“We also have strengths individually, that mean that with out each other we will just fall on our faces,” Ron hugged his sister. “We are Harrys greatest strength, just as we are each others with him. He said as much at his parents graveside.”
“Come on, we need to sleep.” Hermione helped Ron pick Ginny up for him to carry her. “Besides, you know what day it is tomorrow? Letters day.”
* * * * *
Ginny woke extremely refreshed after a long nights sleep, despite having slept in the chair at her desk, still in the altered form Harry had transfigured it to days ago. She smiled at the sight of him still asleep in her bed, remembering the last bed they shared before wincing. They had made love in his parents bed! She had not thought about it at the time, she was too wrapped up in Harry to do so. Twenty four hours later, though, she could not help but feel a little odd… no, disgusted. True, the house and its contents were now his to do with as he saw fit, but even so.
She slowly left the chair and knelt down by Harry, checking his breathing and pulse. Both were as normal as he ever allowed them to be. She’d need to adjust those, or he’d wind up in an early grave through a heart attack or something. Using her wand, she checked on his ribs. They were still weakened, so she decided to strengthen the costumes torso piece to act as a support for him while they healed fully.
Picking up her dressing gown, Ginny headed off to the bathroom to shower and freshen up. She did not notice her fiancé waking as she left her room. What she did notice were the rather confused feelings coming from his mind.
Harry could vaguely remember how he got back in Ginnys room last night, but the pain he felt all over was intense. His mind reeled with Mr Weasleys words. How could he have been so stupid as to attempt the rescue like that? Deception and theatricality? More like sheer stupidity and dumb luck that none of them had been killed, by spell or explosion. He looked down at his own outfit, and hated it. He had rarely needed such elaborate, and obvious, disguises before, unless it was to get a specific job done in a specific way.
He felt guilty about not letting the professional agencies just get on with the job, and for him to stand back and do nothing. He had gone in, not knowing what they would find, or who.
“Don’t think that, Harry,” a small voice snapped him out of his thoughts. “You did what you always do. What you did for me. What you tried to do for Sirius. What you did for Hermione with Ron. Don’t tear yourself up about being you.”
“I know, Gin,” he tried to move, but the pain in his rib intensified. Instead, he just held out his hand to her. She took it and sat next to him on the bed. “Your mum and dad tried to tear a pretty big strip out of us, though.”
“I thought you were out of it?” She kissed his hand. “Yes, they tried, but…”
“You pointed out a few home truths, thank you,” Harry pulled her hand to his lips. “You were going over it all night in your sleep. I had to summon Fawkes to soothe you.”
“Where is he?” Ginny looked around.
“Sent him off to Hogwarts before you woke up, he’ll be bringing our letters this morning.” He tried once more to sit up, and failed. “What is wrong with me?”
“Cracked ribs. Glass in your side, but that was taken care of.” She stood to get fresh clothes out of her drawers. “Hermione patched you up good, but she was shaking that much she didn’t want to risk your ribs.”
“So what have you done?” Harry once more tried to sit up, this time Ginny helped by supporting his back between the shoulder blades and pushing until he was upright.
“You’ll be wearing that ‘thing’, as you called it earlier, until your ribs have healed themselves,” she was now pulling on a pair of blue jeans and a yellow t-shirt. “You are not to exert yourself in anyway, physically.”
“I mean it, Harry.” She gave him a fierce look in his eyes. “Unless you want to miss Quidditch this year? Or any other activity that involves exercise?”
“No quick fix then from your mum?” He looked at her with pleading eyes.
“That’ll depend on how much of what I said last night upset her.” She finished getting dressed. Pulling on a pair of white socks and her trainers. “I’ll help you get dressed.”
Ginny slowly unclipped the rest of the costume from the torso piece. She passed Harry a dressing gown and helped him shower before replacing the support he’d need to wear. Picking out a matching pair of green jeans and t-shirt, she helped him pull them on.
“I’d much rather be taking these off, you know.” She teased.
“I’m sure you would,” he kissed her, his hands at her back and in her hair. He winced at the sudden bolt of pain from his ribs as she hugged him back. The pain from her own back was showing on her face too, so they both applied soothing charms and headed down for breakfast.
Mrs Weasley was in the kitchen already cooking bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms, beans and fried bread. She was attempting to follow Hermiones directions on how to produce a Muggle full-English breakfast, and was so far succeeding very well, much to Hermiones delight. Ron was sat on one of the many chairs surrounding the dining table with his fiancée sat in his lap, running a brush through her hair.
Harry pulled out a chair for Ginny to sit, but she pushed him into it before he could protest and walked over to the pantry for the juice jugs. She summoned several glasses and poured out equal measures for everyone in the room.
“Umm, Ginny. Where’s your wand?” Ron gave her a curious look, Hermione smirked.
“Think what you just did.” Harry said quietly. His eyes sparkled and he gave her his half-crooked smile.
“I just…” Ginny trailed off. Her mum was shocked as she realised what had happened. “Summoned. Wandless?” The only words she could get out.
“Not entirely,” Hermione giggled. “Remember what we discussed about certain little objects?” She held up her ring, wiggling it on her finger.
“Smooth.” Rons understanding came faster than usual, for him.
Mrs Weasley brought their minds back to breakfast by depositing five plates filled with food onto the table.
“What are your plans for today, dears?”
“I was thinking of going over to the cottage and starting to rearrange things there to better suit me… us,” Harry quickly changed the final word after a squeeze from Ginny. “Once Fawkes has returned with our letters, of course.”
“As long as that is all you are planning,” Molly waved her fork at him. “Arthur’s had to go into work extra early to help with clear up after your little… excitement, last night.”
“I promise it is.” Harry looked down at his food and just played with it, thinking.
“And what about you two?” She looked at Ron and Hermione.
“We’d like to give Harry and Ginny a hand, if they wouldn’t mind, that is?” Hermione answered quickly.
“We’d love for you to come,” Ginny smiled at her friend.
The letters from Hogwarts arrived a little after eleven. The only occupants left in the old house were now the two couples and Mrs Weasley. The rest of the family had headed off to work or their own homes. Percy had taken Aunt Muriel home before heading off to the Ministry.
Fawkes appeared in a ball of flame in the middle of the living room, startling Ginny that she upset the chess game that Ron and Hermione were allegedly concentrating on, while rubbing each others hands next to the board.
“Calm down, dear.” Mrs Weasley gently grabbed her daughters hand as she sat back down.
Harry petted the phoenix before taking the rolls of parchment from his legs. Three of the four were slightly misshapen. Harry handed out the respective letters to their intended recipients.
Hermione tore hers open first. A shiny red badge fell onto the floor. “Oh, good. Head Girl.” She turned her head back to the letter itself.
Ron snorted loudly. He had only received a letter. He read it a couple of times before starting to pack away the chess game.
Harry opened his letter next. Another badge fell onto the floor, this one proclaiming, Head Boy. “I don’t understand.”
“What’s McGonagall say?” Hermione stood to read over his shoulder.
It is with great pride that I, and the other members of staff, have chosen you to be this years Head Boy. You’re probably wondering why we have done so. In the past your friends were chosen as prefects instead of you, for reasons given in my letters to them. After the events of earlier this year, it has been decided that the student body would benefit from someone of your experience and talents. I know you are probably wanting to refuse this award, but bear in mind all you have achieved. I trust you still have the items in your possession that have proven so useful to you in the past, and that you intend to use them in certain situations should you feel the need arise.
Your fellow prefects will report to you in your compartment onboard the Hogwarts Express on September 1st; though I have no doubt that you will not want to reside in the usual carriage set aside for seventh year students. Try not to make it too difficult for them to find you. Miss Granger has a list of the fifth, sixth and seventh year students who have been made prefects this year.
Appropriate accommodations have been set aside for your use and I’m sure that you will find them more than suitable for yourself and Miss Weasley to share if she so desires.
I look forward to seeing you on the first day of school,
“Wow,” Ginny breathed after she heard the details. “She’s thought of everything.”
“She’s right, though,” Harry had his faraway look in his eyes. “I don’t want this. I just want to be me, plain old Harry. Ron…”
“No, mate. You have it,” turning from packing the still-fighting pieces into their container, Ron shook his head. “I ran out on you. I left the pair of you when you needed me most. I don’t deserve it.”
“When was this?” Ginny had a pained expression on her face.
“I’ll tell you later. I don’t think mum would appreciate the carpet covered with my blood,” he turned back to the chess pieces.
“What does yours say?” Harry nodded to the remaining letter.
His girlfriend turned the parchment over and broke the seal. She caught the badge as it left the folds and began to read. Halfway through she finally looked at the badge and cheered.
“Quidditch Captain!” She performed a victory dance around the living room. “Now, you’ll have to do as I say on the pitch, Potter.” She teased.
“Thought I already did,” Harry leaned in and kissed her as she passed him. Caught unawares, Ginny let out a little cry and hugged him, a bit too hard as he winced.
Mrs Weasley rolled her eyes and left to go into the kitchen. She could be heard working away for several minutes.
“We about ready to head over to the cottage?” Hermione injected. She was looking at Rons growing scowl and wanted to talk to him.
“Brooms?” Ginny danced on her heels.
“Sure, why not?” Ron looked downright miserable now.
“I’ll see if we can scrounge some food for while we’re there,” Harry pushed away from the mantelpiece.
“Too late, dear,” a picnic basket was levitating its way across the room. When it set down on the floor, Fawkes glided over and rested on the upturned handles. Molly entered carrying cloaks for all of them. “Take care of yourselves won’t you?”
“We will,” Harry hugged her. “I’ll go get our brooms from the pantry.”
A few minutes later, they were in the air, heading west. Harry and Ginny resumed their activities of playing escort to Ron and Hermione, with Fawkes contentedly flying overhead. Every so often, either Ginny or Harry would pass close enough to hear the conversation taking place between Ron and Hermione. They were in deep discussion about the letters.
On the final approach to Godric’s Hollow, Fawkes began to sing. Not the sad, unrelenting tune that he had produced for Dumbledores funeral, but one of joy, happiness and love.
The group landed behind the cottage, leaving the three brooms standing against the kitchen wall as they entered. Fawkes landed on the surface close to the wash basin, let go of the basket and went over to perch on the cabinet. Moving into the living room, they took in the photographs once more.
The pictures of Harrys parents seemed to have more sparkle in them on this day. They were smiling more than usual, and they moved with more vigour.
Hermione pulled her Muggle music collection out of her beaded bag, along with a new radio set. She inserted a couple of compact discs into the drawer and started the music. Ron sorted the food out onto plates he found in the cupboards. He couldn’t quite stop himself from taking a few light snacks as he emptied the basket, but there was still enough left for everyone else.
Harry emerged from the study when Ron announced he was taking the meals into the living room. He was carrying two books he was sure Hermione would more than enjoy reading once they got back to Hogwarts. He heard Ginny coming down the stairs, out of the master bedroom, their room.
She smiled heartily at Harry, carrying a basket of laundry. Winking once, she turned towards the kitchen and began feeding the washing into the machine. She called for Harry to help with operation, before they both headed into the living room to eat.
The conversation was light over the meal. They constantly changed from earlier run-ins with Filch, the school caretaker, Fred and Georges misdemeanours over the years, eventually coming to the subject of the past year. Harry tensed up slightly, but he noticed Ginny looking at him expectantly.
“I’ll take this if you like?” Hermione started to rise out of her seat.
“No. I’ll do it. There’s a spare room between the master and the nursery, upstairs.” Harry looked at her and Ron. “Mum mentioned there should be a double bed in there.”
“Of course,” Hermione smiled and tugged on her fiancé to follow her. “Come on you.”
“So, what would you like to know?” Harry looked down at Ginny when the couple had opened the door upstairs.
“Well, you told me about the search for those items and how they helped to bring Riddle down,” she pulled herself into his lap. “But, what is a Horcrux?”
Harry chewed on his bottom lip for a moment, thinking how best to describe them. He thought back to how Hermione had described them. He thought of a slightly less brutal way.
“A Horcrux on its own is a container – object or animal – that contains a piece of a persons soul.” He started to run his fingers through her hair. “In order for it to contain this piece it needs to have powerful dark magic protecting it. Also, the soul can only be split through an act of unspeakable evil.
“You have come across two such items over the years.” Ginny looked up quickly into his eyes. “Riddles diary, he made that one through killing Moaning Myrtle, and it possessed you.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“And me. Riddle turned me into one the night he killed my parents and tried to kill me.”
“I’m going to be sick,” she rushed up the stairs into the bathroom and retched into the toilet. Harry chased up, holding her hair out of the way as she threw up her meal.
“You took it better than I did, sis.” Ron leant against the landing rail. Hermione went downstairs for a bottle of firewhisky and some glasses.
“Okay.” Ginny finally stopped throwing up and wanted to continue. “So, there were how many of these things again?”
“Just the seven. I think the order was the ring, the diary, the locket, the cup, the diadem, me and then his snake.” Harry held her hair again as she threw up some more. “I think he did the snake after he came back, but I can’t be too sure about that.”
“Here, Ginny, try this.” Hermione passed her friend a glass of red liquid, before handing the others one too. “So now that bombshell is out of the way, anything else you’d like to hear?”
“I think I just want to get drunk and forget about what I just heard to be honest,” Ginny managed a weak smile. “How long until the washing is done?”
“I’ll see to that,” Harry gave her a quick squeeze. “Want to help me make the bed before we get too sozzled to do it later?”
“Sure.” Ron and Hermione sniggered then headed back to their own room as Harry and Ginny headed into the master bedroom. “Just remember, we need to put fresh flowers on your parents grave, and then look in on the pub in the square.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Harry laughed as he reached for fresh sheets in the wardrobe. “Actually, there’s something else I need to do today, also. I’ll do it before we head out.”
“Always the mystery with you,” Ginny shook her head as he passed her one side of the fresh blankets. “What is it?”
“I’m going to give Grimmauld Place to Andromeda. She needs it more than I do,” Harry chuckled. “One house is enough to be going on with I think, plus she’ll be better protected behind those wards.”
“You keep thinking of everyone don’t you?” She smiled at him, about to kiss him.
“You know we’ll never get anything done if we start.”
* * * * *
Ginny was pulling the last of the washing out of the machine when Harry got back from the Burrow. He had another basket of food and drink. He kissed his fiancée as he entered the kitchen, prolonging it to the point where they both nearly dropped the items they were holding.
“Hem, hem.” Hermione had to duck as they both pulled wands out on her. Her own shield charm was enough to disperse the hexes.
“Sorry.” Ginny ran over to the door and gave her a quick hug. “We thought you were someone else.”
“My fault. I should have expected it, really.” Hermione hugged her friends, thankful for the absence of batwings beating her face. “More food? Best keep it away from Ron.”
“It’s got to last us until tomorrow, so we’d best lock him in your room,” Harry joked. “Are you both ready?”
“Ready?” Hermione looked confused for a second, then realised what they had agreed on while Harry was out. “Yes, I’ll go get himself.” She turned around and went to find Ron.
“You sure you want to do this?” Harry held Ginny as he looked deep into her eyes.
“As sure as I’ll ever be.” She gazed back into his. “You need to do this, too. Kind of get their blessing, even if you can’t hear them.”
“You’re right. You’re always right.” He hugged her with his chin resting in her hair. “Gives me something to look for when we get back to school.”
“A lost Hallow. I promised Dumbledore I wouldn’t look for it, but I think we can make one last exception.” Harry leaned down and kissed Ginny with a passion he never had before.
“Here we go again!” Ron turned around quickly after he burst into the kitchen.
Harry and Ginny laughed as they pulled on the dragonskin jackets and headed towards the front door. Hermione and Ron had changed into jeans, t-shirts and leather jackets. They left the cottage and turned left down the lane towards the village square.
The memorial changed just as it usually did whenever a magical person approached, though the group paid it no attention at this stage. They entered the graveyard through the kissing gate and made their way over to the Potter grave.
They stood in silence before the headstone. Harry knelt down and rested his hands on it. New tears formed in his eyes. Ginny knelt down beside him, holding him as he wept silently. Ron held Hermione as she succumbed to tears.
Harry swallowed a couple of breaths and looked at Ginny. She nodded and helped him to his feet. Silently, he conjured a wreath of red and white roses, and set it down on the grave. He hugged Ginny for what seemed like an eternity, drawing strength from her to move on.
“I’ll see you at Halloween.” He turned and headed out of the graveyard. Stopping in front of the memorial, Harry let a few more tears fall as he tried to compose himself.
He had faced down the most dangerous wizard in history; gone against all manner of hardships and yet he was unable to stop the onslaught of emotions he had bottled up since Dumbledores funeral. He leaned on Ginny a little as he drew deep breaths. Ron and Hermione closed in and supported them. Harrys sobs lessened as time went on.
Each of the four rings pulsed in time with their hearts. Feeling uplifted, the group moved off towards the pub, and a hearty meal.
* * * * *
The remaining days of the holiday passed quickly and uneventfully. The nursery at Potter Cottage had been painted a light blue, and pictures of Hogwarts and the surrounding area had been applied to the walls. Harrys toys that had been damaged were removed and the remainders were spread around the shelving. The miniature broom was given pride of place on the dresser.
Ron and Hermione had taken to going for long walks after each meal, which had left Ginny with plenty of time to be alone with Harry. Mostly they just sat and enjoyed the moments of peace hugging each other.
By August thirtieth, however, all four realised that as they were heading back to school they should really head off to Diagon Alley for the years equipment, and then begin packing ready to catch the Express.
With a heavy heart, Harry locked the Cottage for the last time of the summer, joined his friends and turned on the spot. The quartet Apparated directly into the front garden of the Burrow, flashing smiles at Mrs Weasley as she rushed out to greet them.
“You know your trunks are still not unpacked from the last time you were at school,” she announced after giving each of them one of her famous hugs.
“We know,” Ginny responded. “We just need some new robes and supplies.”
“Alright, dear.” Her mother smiled at her, taking in how much she had grown in the days with Harry. “Looks like you’ve been well-fed anyway. How many times did you have to be carried home from the pub?”
“MUM!” Ginny was scandalised. “Only once.” She grinned. “It was Harrys fault, besides, accepting all those drinks.”
“So at least the Prophet got that much right,” Molly shook her head.
“Come again?” Ron looked away from Hermione for a split second.
“Er… yes… well. You might not want to read the paper.” Molly headed back towards the house, attempting to avoid the questioning glances and hide her own blushes.
Ginnys eyes narrowed, her temper on the rise. Harry did the one thing he could to stop the explosion. He kissed her hard on the lips. He felt her relax, the pent-up aggression melted away at his touch.
“That’s an unfair advantage you have over me, Harry.”
“Only one compared with your many.” He bent in more to kiss her neck.
“Stop,” she pleaded. “We’ll see you two inside. Come with me.” She led him over to Freds tree. Resting her hands on the rough bark, she fought for control of herself.
“Gin, what’s wrong?” Harry rested his hands on her shoulders.
“You really have no clue? Do you?” She turned to face him, tears running down her cheeks. He shook his head, waiting for the answer. “I haven’t felt that vulnerable in nearly six years.” Harrys own eyes narrowed now, but he still waited. “Possession is a good thing, as long as it is by the one you love. I have waited my whole life for you.
“I used to dream of moments like that, long before I knew what you looked like. I used to get my brothers and dad to tell me your tale, night after night.” She did not look ashamed at this admission. “You were in my world long before you knew about it yourself.”
“I never knew…” He started, but Ginny cut him off.
“I never knew what true love felt like. I’d read about all those heroes and fairytales, and other such,” she was close to tears now, “but I didn’t understand what it meant to feel that way. After you saved me from the Chamber, I knew I loved you. It wasn’t just a childs crush anymore.”
“You broke my heart twice. The run-up to the Yule Ball, when you decided to ask Cho instead of me. Last year, when you left me, to protect me.” Tears fell freely. “Yet, through it all, I never stopped loving you. I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.”
“I do. You are my reason for living, Gin. When I lose all hope, I only need to think of you, and I feel so alive.” He pulled her into a tight embrace, kissing her cheeks where tears ran down. “If I’d known how you feel… I mean, if I’d really known… for all these years, I’d have asked to be with you when you met us off the train in my first year.”
“I know you would have,” Ginnys face brightened up. “I would have accepted with all my heart, and you wouldn’t have been alone for all those years.”
“I’m sorry.” Harry hung his head down.
“I don’t ever want to hear you say that again,” she flew at him. “You have nothing to be sorry for. You are here now. We have each other.”
“I know.” He kissed her softly on the lips. “I love you, Ginny.”
“I love you too, Harry.” She meant it. She deepened the kiss. “I meant what I said at Andromedas. Never leave me.”
“I’ll never leave you.” He gave her a good squeeze as he continued the kiss.
Hermione read the Daily Prophet over and over. Her scowl deepening with each pass. Ron had his arm around her shoulders, resting his head against hers. His face showed an expression of thunder. His ears were bright red, his face was white with anger.
Molly Weasley was watching the situation unfold. She had been following the reports in the press ever since the attack on Diagon Alley. They had been less than favourable. There had been a pattern. Quite what that pattern was, she could not figure it out.
Hermione threw the paper away from her as though it was a diseased rag. The photograph on the front page was not a recent one, but the article by Rita Skeeter was as cutting as ever.
Where is Potter?
After months of speculation, the whereabouts of the famous Boy-who-lived are no closer to being divulged by those closest to him. Even after the alleged incident in the Forest of Dean, no-one will comment on the fact that Potters godson was involved. Even his extended family and friends will not comment on his current location. This leads this reporter to surmise that he was so distraught after his failure to prevent so many deaths on his behalf that he has lost his mind. After having been in the forefront of the public eye for so many years, his defeat of the so-called Dark Lord has left him without any clue as to what his purpose in life is. Indeed if his performance during the Tri-wizard Tournament is to go by, Harry Potter will be wallowing in self-pity and trying to conjure up some new tale of woe for his adoring public to swallow. His association with one Ginevra Weasley certainly seems to be providing him with some solace, however, if my sources are correct this little girl is no more of an innocent than Potter himself. His very public break-up with her during the funeral of Albus Dumbledore left her so beside herself, she turned to anyone for support. And by anyone, I mean, everyone. Reports from former students at Hogwarts School tell that she was frequently spotted in the dungeons close to the Slytherin dormitories…
Hermione could not allow Harry to read this article. During their time at Potter Cottage, she had watched him be so happy and contented. They had been completely oblivious to the reports in the press, even after the reported problem involving the Tonks’. They had closed all their ties with the world outside of the Weasleys and the DA.
The press had wanted to hear the complete story about the destruction of Tom Riddle. All they were given was the basics. The briefest of descriptions about how Riddle had attempted to become immortal; the details about the battle of Hogwarts were watered down to spare the families of the dead any visits from the journalists who would hound them relentlessly. In all, the ‘conference’ held during the second night after the battle had gone according to plan, until the questions started flying. Probing questions. Questions about Hermiones relationships. Questions about how close they had all got in that one tent on those lonely nights in the dark.
Hermiones best, and most frightening, response was for a Ministry witch who asked why they thought they were more qualified to judge what was to happen for the future. Harry and Ron both made their way to the furthest side of the raised platform in the Great Hall, getting out of the way of the fire. The heat and venom in the words caught everyone. By the time the trio had left the area, silence reigned.
Ron looked down at his fiancée, gave her a gentle squeeze of the shoulders and nodded out to the garden. Harry and Ginny were heading inside, almost at the door. Too late, they tried to hide the Prophet under the table.
“What you got there?” Ginny pried the paper out of her brothers hands. She read the headline and continued, curiosity etched on her face Curiosity turned to outrage, then turned to absolute hatred.
The paper smoked in her hands. Harry just had time to rip it out of her grasp and throw it onto the gravel outside before it fully erupted in flames. He ran back to the table and quickly kissed Ginny as she sat there, calming her instantly.
“That bloody woman is going to be the death of someone,” Ron voiced more gently what they were thinking. “What the hell is she playing at? You wouldn’t would you, Ginny?”
“RON!” Harry was thrown off of Ginny, as she whipped out her wand and pointed it at her brother, tears coursing down her cheeks.
“If you choose to take her word over mine, I’ll hex you into the next life and beyond.” She held the sparking end of her wand to the end of his nose. “If I could, I’d make you damn well go through what I did last year.”
Harry and Hermiones eyes flashed for a second, big grins spread over their faces.
“Of course,” Hermione slapped her hand to her head. “There is a way. We’d need permission of course.”
“I like the way you think,” Harry smiled in recognition as the plan formed in his friends mind. “I’ll owl her right away. No, wait. Fawkes.”
The firebird flew in through the still open door from the garden. Hermione ran upstairs quickly to find a spare parchment and quill. Ron and Ginny looked bewildered, but stroked the phoenix as they watched the action unfurl. The request was written rapidly.
“Take this to Dumb… I mean, McGonagall. Wait for her reply, then come straight back.” Harry fairly brimmed with excitement.
* * * * *
September the first. The Burrow was a hive of activity. The last minute checks to ensure they had everything for the next four months of school kept everyone on their toes, but for once, everything was ready as it should be. The family sat collecting their thoughts as the time approached to head off to Kings Cross, by the Knight Bus.
The purple triple-decker swung into the taxi-rank in front of the station, violently. Those with sense clung onto the handrails tightly so as to avoid being thrown into the drivers cab when it stopped.
The trunks were shrunk and slipped into their pockets, and they made their way towards the gateway onto platform nine and three-quarters. Andromeda Tonks and Teddy Lupin were waiting in the station foyer as they arrived. Ginny and Harry rushed forwards to greet their godson and his grandmother. Ron and Hermione both stood back with Mr and Mrs Weasley, hand-in-hand.
The two groups appeared on the platform and were surrounded by reporters. Andromeda held back with Arthur and Molly, as the teenagers headed for the train, Teddy being carried by Ginny and Fawkes perched on Harrys shoulder.
“Where did you get the phoenix?”
“Is that your child, Mr Potter?”
“When did you get married?”
“How many have you slept with?” Rita Skeeter made the mistake of stepping directly in front of the group. The group smiled maliciously. Andromeda stepped in to take Teddy back, before Ginny fired the first volley.
“Tell you what, bug. Why don’t you just scuttle off and find someone to sleep with yourself.”
“And I know how you had that agreement with me? You know the one about my not telling anyone you’re an Animagus? An illegal one at that.” Hermione feigned embarrassment and brought her hands up to her mouth. “Oops.”
“Why you little…”
“Is it true?”
“You’re an Animagus?”
“What form do you take?”
The quartet hid their laughter until they were safely in a compartment on the Express.
13. Ginnys thoughts and desires.
The whistle of the engine sounded at exactly eleven in the morning, one hour after Ginny, Harry, Hermione and Ron settled themselves into their seats. They had been joined by fellow seventh years Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood and Hannah Abbott. Conversation was light, reflections on what had occurred over the summer, congratulations on the engagements and who the new teachers could possibly be.
Five minutes after the train had left Kings Cross, it was clear that not all of the students had found seats yet. A trio of first years were looking in on the compartment, trying to find space to sit together. Ron on recognising the twins, immediately jumped into big-brother mode.
“Hi, guys. Who’s your friend?” He waved them into the cramped space.
“Hi, Ron. We won’t all fit in here surely?” Stewart Leonard piped up.
“Oh no?” Luna chimed. “Watch this.” She winked. The compartment seemed to expand outwards. A space built to seat eight, could now easily hold a dozen and their luggage.
“Oh, wow.” The first-year girl exclaimed. Her blonde-white hair glittered in the light shining through the window. She sat on the rear-ward facing seat, next to Hannah, whilst the twins sat opposite, next to Luna and Neville.
“Introductions are in order I believe” Ginny coughed in the following silence. “I’m Ginny Weasley.” She placed a hand on her chest.
“Zara Lestrange.” The little girls face turned a distinct shade of scarlet. “But I prefer Black, after my third cousin, Sirius.”
Harry paled at the mention of his godfather. Ginny winced as she felt his emotions about to spin out of control and squeezed his hand, feeling relieved as he squeezed back.
“Zara? I don’t remember Sirius talking about you when I saw him.” Harry sat forwards to look directly at her.
“He wouldn’t have. I only found out about him through the papers, then I went digging in the family archives…”
“Another Hermione this one.” Ron interrupted, earning himself a hearty slap.
“I found out about you through the papers too.” She stared into Harrys face, accusingly. “Who you are. What you’ve been upto.”
“Trust me, when I say, they got most of it wrong,” Ginny hissed so quietly, she could barely be heard, but she got her message across with the look in her eyes. “Would you like the truth?”
All three first-years nodded their heads in glee.
Ron rubbed his hands together, stood up and closed the door, “Right where shall I start?”
“How about, our first meeting?” Harry suggested.
“Of course,” Ron pitched into the events of his first year.
Zara and the twins were the perfect audience as they were recounted tales of Harry and his friends. The twins got excited over the events of the first and third year. Zara cried during the telling of the second year. Ginny actually had to reassure her and quieten her as she howled during the description of the events in the Chamber as Harry told it, even though, she herself was not feeling too bright at being reminded of those events either.
Hermione was about to relay the events of the fourth year, starting with the Quidditch World Cup, when the door was thrown open. In stalked Pansy Parkinson, followed by Draco Malfoy, looking decidedly uneasy at having to be there.
“Yes?” Hermione raised an eyebrow at having been interrupted.
“We’re… we’re here to report to the Head Girl and Boy,” Pansy didn’t look at anyone in the face. Draco had a curious expression as he glanced at Zara.
“Oh dear. I forgot about that,” Hermione dug around in her beaded bag for the list from the headmistress. “Oh yes. Here we are. Thank you. You may go and keep an eye on the front end of the train as you see fit.”
Pansy looked shocked to have been dismissed so off-handedly, but did not press the issue as she had spotted Draco still with his curious expression. Huffing loudly, she stormed off.
“You want something?” Ron prodded him.
“Hmm? Oh… erm… no. See you around weasel-beak.” He sloped off looking lost back towards his carriage.
“Seven years of insults, and that is the best he can come up with?” Ginny shook her head laughing. “I think he must have hit his head rather hard after our visit.”
“Maybe…” Hermione, Hannah and Luna had all seen the look on his face, but decided against pressing the matter. Ginny peered at Zara, who appeared to be oblivious to the whole situation.
“Where were we?” Ron wanted to continue with the story-telling.
“Fourth year.” Harry reminded him. “I’m going to go for a walk. Coming, Gin?”
“Sure.” Ginny followed Harry out of the compartment as he headed for the rear of the train.
Students in their seats either gaped at them, or rushed out to check that they were really walking past them. Harry tensed occasionally when some wanted his autograph. Ginny chuckled inwardly, feeling his emotions boiling under the surface. She steered him back towards the guards area of the last coach.
“Mind if we hide away here for a while?” She asked the bemused staff-wizard.
“Not at all. I was about make a brew anyway. Care for one?”
“Love one. Harry?”
“Please.” He sat in the ducat, his back to the windows. Ginny sat in his lap, her head finding the hollow in his chest, arms around his waist. Both were lost in thoughts.
“You know, Ron never mentioned the mirror before today?” She said thoughtfully.
“What about it?” Harry glanced down at her.
“What did you see in it?” She looked up into his emerald eyes, losing herself in them.
“My hearts desire. The family I never had, growing up.” A lone tear formed in his right eye.
“I never came across it, even under Toms influence.” She shuddered at the mention of the name. “I think we should try and find it. See what it shows now.”
“It does not do to dwell on such matters.” Harry repeated Dumbledores words of so long ago. “I’ll speak to Minerva when we get up to the castle. There’s another matter I want to talk to her about also.”
“Oh yes?” Ginny smiled for him to continue.
“That Skeeter woman got me thinking,” Harry kissed his fiancée quickly before she could scowl. “I need for you to see what we went through this past year. Before the papers start twisting that as well.”
“Okay.” She smiled intensely. “You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.”
“Have I told you I love you yet today?” He squeezed her.
“Not since we left the Burrow.”
“Why have you started calling it that?” Harry narrowed his eyes at her.
“Hmm? Since I found out that you had rebuilt Potter Cottage and we went there all those times, I’ve felt more at home there.” She confessed. “To be honest. Home is wherever you are. I love you so much.”
* * * * *
The train slowed as it approached the platform of Hogsmeade station. Hermione Granger was ready to open the carriage door when she spotted the very familiar silhouette of the Hogwarts gamekeeper.
“Shall we give Hagrid a surprise?” She squeaked.
“Yeah, lets.” Ginny joined in.
“Best shrink the trunks again.” Harry pulled his Invisibility Cloak out of his pocket as the others dealt with their luggage.
Exiting the carriage immediately it pulled up, the quartet hid as best they could under the Cloak, heading for the half-giant. When they were behind him, Harry lifted Ginny up to whisper into his ear.
“WHA’” Hagrid nearly fell over in fright. Looking around frantically, all he could see was a sea of students. Laughter brought his attention closer to his waist. “You four.”
Harry pulled the Cloak away, stuffing it in his pocket, laughing harder than ever. Ginny was hanging onto him, straining for breath. Hermione and Ron were giggling like crazy.
“Pleased to see us?” Hermione piped up.
“Like y’eh wouldn’ believe,” Hagrid bent down to hug them all. “Wha’ are y’eh doin’ back?”
“Finishing school, of course.” Ron answered, puffing his chest out.
“Well, y’eh’d best get goin’ then,” he said thickly. “I got my work cut out this year. But I can’ tell y’eh abou’ it.”
“Here we go again!” Ginny giggled. “Last time you said you had your work cut out for you, it was for the Tri-Wizard. It’s not that again is it?” Her eyes lit up as the gamekeeper suddenly stiffened.
“Oh my god. You going to enter Harry?” Ron slapped his friends arm playfully.
“Not if I can help it. You?” Harry returned the slap.
“You kidding? I’d have to be mental to do that.” Rons ears turned pink. “I hope you two aren’t thinking about it?”
“It was bad enough watching last time. Though the Ball was fun in the end.” Ginny winced as she brought up that disaster for the trio. “Besides, at least we’ve got partners already for it.”
“I might not want to go with you?” Harry teased. Wrong move.
“Harry James Potter. If you do not ask me to the Yule Ball, you’ll be getting very friendly with some batty friends of mine. UNDERSTOOD.” Harry nodded furiously before kissing her on the lips.
“If they follow the same procedure as last time, we’ll miss the choosing of the Champions.” Harry looked thoughtful.
“Why?” Hermione asked.
“Godric’s Hollow.” The only answer. The mood changed from one of glee, to one of sorrow.
“Let’s go. We need to get up to the castle and start making arrangements with the Headmistress.” Ginny pulled her fiancé away from the group. Hermione gave them a quizzical look, before turning to Ron to give him instructions.
The carriages carrying the students had always been drawn by creatures known as Thestrals. Great decomposing, winged horses that only those who had seen death could see. Unfortunately for a great number of returning students, this meant that they could be seen all too clearly. The usual chatter about the holidays was replaced by silent foreboding about the new experience.
Ginny held tightly onto Harry during the trip upto the castle, not wanting to look at the creatures which at one time had fascinated, and now, terrified her.
They left the carriages and headed straight for the Great Hall. The house tables were set out much as they always were. The staff table at the head of the Hall stood proudly over the scene. Professor McGonagall was already sat in the throne-like chair in the middle.
“Professor, may I have a quiet word before the first-years arrive?” Harry boldly enquired. He held onto Ginnys hand as his old teacher thought for a moment.
“Of course, Potter. What is it?” She bowed her head to listen without others hearing.
“I… was wondering… could I… could we,” he pointed between himself and his fiancée, “borrow the pensieve later on tonight.”
“I see no reason as to why not. Anything else?” She could sense there to be more.
“I would like your permission to look into the mirror of Erised with Ginny… Miss Weasley.” He corrected himself. They might have been on first name terms over the summer, but now it would be more appropriate to use formalities.
“So long as the four of you do not tell others about its location. It is to be used in one of this years tasks, but I shall reveal all later.” The headmistress stood as they made their way to the Gryffindor table, perching next to Ron and Hermione.
Professor Flitwick entered from the side chamber with the latest intake of first years. Many of them looked frightened. Some were staring up at the enchanted ceiling; others were searching the tables for faces they knew.
The little Charms professor placed the three-legged stool in front of the tables and began announcing the names of the first-years, before placing the sorting hat on their heads.
Ginny was listening out for three names in particular.
“Lestrange, Zara.” A loud hiss sounded throughout the hall. The young girl faltered on her way up to the stool, fear was etched on her tiny face.
“I’ll go.” Before anyone could stop her, Ginny had stood and walked over to help Zara up to the sorting hat.
“Hmm.” The hat muttered loudly. “Shares the family name, but not the family traits. I haven’t had one this difficult to place since young Miss Weasley and Mr Potter. Better be Gryffindor.”
Zara nearly fell off the stool in her haste to hug Ginny, and the two walked hand-in-hand back to the table, being greeted with loud applause.
The last student to be sorted nervously left the stool, heading for the Slytherin table. Professor Flitwick picked up the hat and levitated the stool out of the Hall as the headmistress stood to make the usual announcements.
“The corridors should not be used to practise magic. The Forbidden Forest is still out of bounds to all students,” she definitely looked over to the Gryffindor table. “The ban on Weasley products is lifted with the exception of the daydream and love potions. Any student found using a love potion will be fed their own creation as punishment. The daydream potion will be punished with detention with Professor Hagrid.”
Ron could not help himself. He burst into a giggling fit which left him incapable of acknowledging the reprimand he was receiving from Hermione.
“I have a few more announcements, but they can wait until after the feast.” The headmistress clapped her hands. “You may begin.”
“Ronald. Are you quite done?” Hermione glared at him.
“Detention with Hagrid.” Ron stopped himself enough to reply. “Probably have loads of fun with him.”
“Quite, quite.” A Scottish lilt sounded over his shoulder.
“Um… sorry Professor McGonagall.” Ron ducked his head down.
“No need to apologise. I must say this is an improvement over the last time we met.” The professor sat on the bench with her old House-students. “Are you wearing those little items we spoke of during the summer?”
“Good. I would like to announce your intended unions tonight, unless you object?” She looked at the four of them as they shook their heads slowly. “Marvellous. I rarely got to speak of such happy tidings recently. You should also know. We’ll be holding the Tri-Wizard tournament again this year, with a twist. This years competition will be open to pairings. The rest of the details I’ll divulge later.”
The feasting lasted a good hour as the plates were cleared and the goblets drained. Professor McGonagall stood and clapped her hands to gain the attention of the masses.
“This year, we will once again be playing host to the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Unlike the previous occasion, the Champions will be pairs of students from the three schools taking part. The age-limit is set for those over the age of fifteen, however, I feel that those students in their N.E.W.T. years stand the better chance.
“We have the Goblet of Fire set up as the impartial judge to choose the Champions. All you need do is write your pairing on a piece of parchment and drop it into the flames. The draw will be taken on the night before Halloween with the first task taking place a week later.” The headmistress took a deep breath. “I’m sure that some of you may have been following the reports in the Daily Prophet written by a certain Rita Skeeter. All of these reports have been lies.
“I am happy, nay ecstatic, to announce the engagements of Mr Ronald Weasley to Miss Hermione Granger, and Mr Harry Potter to Miss Ginevra Weasley.” She surveyed the crowd. “I hope even the old students of Slytherin house will join us in wishing them every happiness for the future.”
The quartet stood. Rapturous applause broke out. Looking over to the Slytherin table, Hermione caught sight of the new students clapping furiously, joined by… Draco Malfoy. His face filled with the expression he had on the train. His fellow seventh years were scowling at him, clearly with no intention of joining in the celebration.
* * * * *
The quartet finally stood up from the house table after the last of the students had left the Great Hall, except for Neville and Luna with Hannah. They were still discussing the arrangements for that nights patrols of the corridors.
“I’ll take first watch with Luna if you like?” Neville volunteered. Luna looked at him curiously. Hannah rolled her eyes.
“Okay. We’ll be up in the Heads office before we head off to the common room,” Harry accepted the help. As they were leaving, he held Neville back a few yards.
“Here, take my map.” He passed over the old parchment. “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”
“Is that Hogwarts?”
“Yup. Shows you everyone, everywhere in the castle. Just let me have it back when you come in tonight.” He smiled as Neville looked at the map.
“See you in a bit.”
Neville turned to catch up with Luna who was heading for the seventh floor corridors. Harry swung around to see Ginny further along the corridor, waiting with Hermione and Ron.
“We ready then?” Ginny asked as he approached.
“Let’s go. I know what you told us about last year, but to experience it will be another thing.” Harry held onto Ginnys shoulders as she led the group up to the Heads office. The gargoyle leapt aside as they approached, no password would be needed for them to enter.
They knocked on the office door. Sounds of rapid movement could be heard within.
“Just a minute.”
The door unlocked and they entered. Professor McGonagall was sat behind the desk, waiting for them. She had altered the room to suit her own tastes and ancestry. Instead of the myriad of instruments, tartan hangings covered the walls and shelves.
“I like what you have done with the place.” Ron mused.
“Why thank you, Mr Weasley.” The headmistress looked at Harry. “I trust you know what you are looking for?”
“Not really. Anything you’d like to divulge before we take the plunge?” Harry was now feeling very nervous.
“Only that I will not be joining you. I saw too much of what went on here and would sooner forget it.” The old professor left the area, retreating to her quarters. “You may take the pensieve if you like. Be sure to leave a note if you do though.”
“We will.” Harry turned to Ginny. “You ready?”
“Yes.” She leant forwards, her wand at the ready, pressed against her right temple. She pulled it away, drawing a string of gas-like silver-grey substance. She dropped it into the bowl.
Repeating this several times she filled it close to overflowing, before stopping.
“That’s the whole year,” she announced.
“In we go then.” Hermione nudged them.
They placed their heads slowly into the bowl, touching the ether, allowing themselves to be drawn into the memories.
The memories start with the Chamber of Secrets. So long ago. The feelings of helplessness at being possessed by a memory wash over them. The scene blurs as history unfolds from the point of view of the littlest Weasley. Harry covering for her. Dumbledores explanation about the diary and how it had worked. The nightmares on the family trip to Egypt to visit her brother, Bill.
Time slides to the night of Harrys retrieval by the Order of the Phoenix. Ginnys anguish and hope-beyond-hope for the mission to be a success. The feelings of being left out of the bigger picture during the run-up to Harrys birthday. The disappointment at being interrupted by her brother, Ron.
The day of the wedding. So much happiness, and yet, underlying all of that, a sense of loss. The loss of happiness at not being able to be with the one person she wanted to be with.
The following periods of months consisted of blurs as Ginny worked on her plans to help the trio. Forming the elite squad made up of old members of the DA and the Gryffindor Quidditch team. The items from Fred and George to help them communicate and protect themselves without their wands. Ginnys discovery of the list in the book. Her enlisting of Neville and Luna to restart the DA at Hogwarts. The attempt to acquire the sword brought tears from the trio. Harry squeezed Ginny, having only heard about it, and now seeing it, he could see the determination and drive to help despite him wanting her to be safe.
The Christmas train journey brought out the most anger. The cowardly way in which the Death Eaters attacked two girls. The strong resistance put up. The triple patronus. The diversion and the explosion, before the darkness.
The trip to Godric’s Hollow with Remus Lupin stood out clearly. So much detail, so much pain and so much understanding. The absolution of Remus’ surviving whilst his friends died around him. Finally, understanding the link between Lily and Ginny.
Professor McGonagall touched the shoulders of the teenagers, motioning for them to follow her. They gripped her arms and felt themselves being dragged up and out of the scene.
“I’m sorry to break up the occasion,” she smiled. “It is way past curfew, now and you should really be getting ready for lessons tomorrow.”
“You’re right, sorry Professor.” Harry looked down at the floor.
“My dear boy,” the portrait of Dumbledore spoke up. “You, more than anyone, have nothing at all to be sorry for.” He shifted his attention to their hands, smiling, and then towards Minerva McGonagall. “I believe you have given permission for them to borrow this, yes?”
“You know I have, seeing as it was your idea.” Minerva chuckled.
“Then all that remains is to disclose the whereabouts of the mirror,” the painted eyes seemed to twinkle. “Harry. Do you remember the location of the mirror when you first laid eyes on it?”
“An old classroom, somewhere near the library.” He looked up at the image.
“Then, you know where to look,” Dumbledore seemed to sag after that. “You will find your happily-ever-after, but trials will be sent to test you, once again.”
“Great, just when I was hoping for a quiet year.” Harry felt Ginny tense under his arms.
They all turned to leave the office. Ginny went over to replace her thoughts inside of her mind and levitated the stone bowl in front of her.
“Miss Granger,” a voice called out from one of the side walls.
“When you get chance, would you mind replacing my picture at Grimmauld Place, unless you’d like me to keep an inventory of the contents of your bag for a while longer?”
“Sorry, Professor Black. I’ll do it next time I’m there.”
They left and headed straight towards Gryffindor Tower. They listened intently for Peeves the poltergeist, trying to avoid him smashing the stone bowl.
“I’ve just thought. Where do the Head Boy and Girl live?” Hermione turned to Ron. “I know the letters we got spoke of separate quarters, but where are they?”
“‘Mione, calm down.” Ron put his arm around her shoulders. “The Head prefect quarters change location each time a new pairing is chosen. With it being a Gryffindor pairing this year, they’ll no doubt be attached to the dormitories somehow.”
“Great, so I don’t need to move my stuff into the seventh year dorms.” Ginny laughed, then fell silent at Harrys intense look. Trouble was, he wasn’t looking at her. “What’s wrong?”
“Hermione? Will you be letting Ron in with you?” He asked.
“I don’t see why not? As long as he doesn’t try and distract me when I’m working.” She looked at her fiancé.
“That’s settled then. Ginny, you and I will be sharing the apartment.”
* * * * *
The first week of lessons passed slowly. Fridays Potions lesson was devoted to brewing Amortentia, and writing down the aromas coming from the completed mixture. With help from the Half-Blood Prince, Harry made sure that the quartets brew was exactly how it should have been.
“If you could bring up your parchments for evaluation, and your concoctions for grading,” Professor Slughorn stood behind his desk.
Ginny took the potions and parchments up to the desk while Harry cleared her cauldron and ingredients. He was trying hard not to rush the job. Potions was the last lesson of the day. In an hour they would head into the Great Hall for the evening meal and then launch into the mountain of homework from the week. A three-foot roll for Charms. Two-foot for DADA. Two and a half feet for Transfiguration.
He was also trying hard not to rush for another reason. Over the past three nights, they had finished watching Ginnys memories and started on the trios recollections. Neville, Luna and Hannah had covered for them on their turns for patrolling the corridors. Tonight they were going to go and find the mirror of Erised. Tonight, Harry was going to find out if the images had changed for him, and what new images would appear for his friends. He was fairly shaking in anticipation of it all.
When Ginny came back from the desk, he picked up both of their bags, wrapped his arms around her shoulders and they headed off to the common room. They entered the narrow corridor for the apartment through the portrait of Godric Gryffindor beside the fireplace.
The living quarters they shared were shaped similar to the dormitories above; circular, with a single window opposite the entrance. A king-sized four-poster bed sat next to the window, with cabinets either side. A writing desk sat to the left of the bed, whilst opposite that was a fireplace. The trunks had been emptied completely into the oversized wardrobe next to the door.
Ginny had added her personal touch to the room, with a little help from Mrs Potter. Wizarding pictures from Potter Cottage sat on the top of the desk, with a couple of newer ones of the quartet. She had managed to enchant the radio set from the cottage to work despite the interference from the magic surrounding the school. They were able to listen to Muggle music to relax to before turning in at night.
The couple changed quickly from their school robes, and into Muggle-clothing. Ginny changed into blue jeans and green t-shirt. Harry had changed into jeans of a darker blue and a larger version of the jumper he had received as his first-ever proper Christmas present. He tried to straighten his hair. Ginny giggled at him.
“You’d better give it up.” Ginny was sat on the edge of the bed, tying her trainer laces.
“I know, but no harm in trying.” Harry dove on her, kissing her hard on the lips and squeezing her stomach.
“Ooh, that’s nice,” she moaned. “We’d better stop, don’t want to be late down to tea with Hermione and Ron waiting.”
“Continue later?” He pulled them both up off the bed, he smoothed her t-shirt, tucking it into her jeans, stealing a gentle caress of her rear.
“Naturally.” She kissed him hard on the lips once more, before removing his hands and holding them in her own. “We have a job to do tonight, remember?”
The evening banquet passed slowly for the group. The courses of food seemed to go on for forever. Even Ron was complaining about the perceived amount of extra food available. The anticipation of seeing the mirror was building by the minute.
When Headmistress McGonagall finally stood to make her announcements, the quartet were ready to bolt for the doors.
“As I made clear on Tuesday, the Tri-Wizard Tournament will be taking place this year,” she took in the eager looks on the faces before her. “We will be playing host to the Beauxbatons Academy once more, and to a new team, the Salem Institute from America.”
Excited murmurs sped around the Hall. One member of the staff was looking as though he was about to explode with pride.
“The teams from the other schools should be treated as though they are one of us. Make them feel welcome in the best Hogwarts manner,” The headmistress looked over the tables again. “Contrary to what I said previously, the Goblet of Fire will be set up to accept the nominations for the participants the night the teams arrive. This will be one week before Halloween. The Goblet will, however, be open until the night before, with the announcements being made that night, also.”
“Good, because we’ve made plans for Halloween that I don’t want spoiling.” Harry muttered under his breath, Ginny glanced at him.
“Well, now that is said, all I have to do is wish you all good night. And remind the Quidditch Captains to post notices on the boards about try-outs and dates for practices.”
As soon as she was finished, Professor McGonagall headed straight for the Gryffindor table and the quartet. They immediately stood to the side to allow others to pass by unimpeded.
“I’ve decided to come with you tonight.”
The group headed past the library entrance, finding the old, disused classroom with ease, thanks to the help of their oldest teacher.
The mirror stood off to one side, much like it had the first time Harry had seen it. He held back to see who would step forwards first this time. No-one did. Nervously, Harry prodded Ron to step before the glass.
Ron stepped forwards with Hermione, hand-in-hand. The image shimmered, but to the casual observer, it remained the same. To those looking directly at the image from the required spot it showed something much more. Both were older. Ron wore fabulous gilt-edged robes. Hermione wore the robes of the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. In front of them stood two children, a boy and a girl, both took after their parents.
The real Ron and Hermione stood before the mirror, tears streaking their cheeks. They stepped away from the area, ready for Harry and Ginny to take their place.
The image for the next couple ran like a slideshow. It showed their wedding at the Burrow. Showed their career choices, and finally their own children, two boys and a girl. The couple drank in the scene, tears flowing freely down their cheeks. As they stepped away, Ginny clung onto Harrys neck, sobbing into his chest.
“I hope you all realise, that the images shown are not prophetic. They merely show what your heart desires.” McGonagall suddenly looked each of her years. “It is down to you to make those images a reality.”
“Yes, Professor.” The reply was heart-felt.
14. The Goblet of Fire
Nearly two months passed quickly in the build-up to the competition. Friday the twenty-third of October finished with an audible buzz of expectancy. The contingent from Beauxbatons arrived in the giant horse-drawn carriage landed in front of the castle.
The method of transport for the Salem Institute was not unexpected. A big, yellow school bus drove through the school gateway. All of the students filed out of the door and lined up in front of the school. When the Headmistress stepped out onto the grounds, the crowds of Hogwarts students attempted to descend onto the lawns in uproar.
“SILENCE!” Professor McGonagalls angry voice sounded over the noise. She stepped forward to greet the visitors.
Madame Olympe Maxime towered over her students. Little Gabrielle Delacour still appeared to be acting as the school mascot once more. Hagrid enthusiastically greeted them all, sloshing the buckets of whisky he was carrying for the horses.
The Hogwarts Headmistress glowered at the Salem head. They exchanged curt nods and parted company.
“Well, so much for a quiet year, this year.” Ron whistled. Hermione and Ginny stood frozen at the top of the steps into the Entrance Hall, their faces set like stone.
“You want to start up the DA again?” Harry whispered. His face reflected the anger surrounding him. His clenched fists white. The scars on the back of his hand showed clearly.
The toad-like features of Delores Umbridge beamed back at the school she had nearly brought to its knees. Her pink outfit clashed horribly with the yellow of the bus behind her. She looked directly up at them, her sickly sweet smile spreading across her face.
Harry tried to put his arm around Ginny, but felt a strong resistance, like a barrier between them. Their rings shone brightly and a song filled the air. The resistance lessened, and died completely when Fawkes rounded the castle wall and settled on Ginnys left shoulder. They both started to walk back inside the walls, stroking the phoenix. Hermione and Ron took hold of each others hands, and with a cheeky smirk at their old nemesis followed the other couple into the castle.
* * * * *
The following days after the arrival of the teams passed at a relatively slow pace. Hermione, at Harrys insistence, had doubled the number prefects patrolling the corridors at night. They had agreed that to be safe, the prefects would patrol in pairs, one being good at shield charms, the other being able to produce a corporeal talking patronus.
Harry made sure that the Marauders Map was open to view at all times when he was not out on patrol himself. Fawkes spent a lot of time circling the castle towers, also watching and waiting.
The Goblet of Fire in the Entrance Hall was not given a guard, in spite of the events of the previous occasion it had been used. Professor McGonagall had berated her Head Prefects for suggesting the need for a guard on such a powerful magical artefact.
The safety of the students in the castle was not the only item weighing on Harrys mind. His graveside promise to his parents was coming through to the fore of his thoughts. His dreams were becoming more and more erratic and disturbing, even with Ginnys presence in their bed. Neither were getting much sleep, once the nightmares took over, she was finding it more and more difficult to sooth him. His cries would wake Hermione and Ron, who could only stand by and watch as Ginny fought with him to stop him thrashing.
On the night before Halloween, the quartet were sat at the Gryffindor table, heads turned to watch the calling of the Champions. Ginny was supporting Harry as he shook in his seat. He had just woken from a particularly nasty nightmare, and had barely made it down for the evening meal without further assistance from Ron and Neville. Hermione virtually carried Ginny down to eat. Three straight days with little or no sleep were catching up on them, fast.
The group watched Professor McGonagall approach the chalice, waiting for the first names to be ejected.
“Well, there’s one thing. We know we did not put our names in there.” Ginny tried to smile at her fiancés statement. “And I know the toad didn’t put them in either.”
“How so?” Ron looked at him.
“She never left the bus at all this week, even for the judges meeting.” Harry cautiously pulled out his map, just enough for them to see he had it on him.
Ginny quickly stole a quick kiss as the Headmistress began to speak.
“The Tri-Wizard Tournament has been a source of controversy for many years, and through many reasons.” She looked over the gathered students. “This year, it is hoped that through the use of pairs of Champions, we can avoid a repeat of the events of several years ago.
“The first pairing, the Champions for Salem Institute, will be…” she waited for the parchment. “Marcus Bromby and Carel Smythe.”
The American pair stood and walked over to the staff table, to be displayed in front of the crowd. Delores Umbridge clapped and her smile made her look even more toad-like.
“The next pairing, the Champions for Beauxbatons Academy, will be…” another wait. “Michel Vincent and… Gabrielle Delacour?” She sagged as she read the name, her eyes betrayed the emotion playing behind them.
“Non!” Madame Maxime and Fleurs sister both exclaimed.
“Ron, as soon as this is over, get Pigwidgeon. Hermione ready a letter, quick.” Ginnys brain crashed into action.
“Will the two Champions come up here, please? Thank you.” The Headmistress gathered herself up. “The next Champions, for Hogwarts School, will be…” the parchment was ejected from the Goblet by angry red and gold flames. Minerva McGonagall took one look at it and took a step backwards to find a seat, losing all pretence over her emotions. “Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley.”
The silence in the Hall was deafening. The entire school turned their heads to look at the pair as they tried to hide themselves behind the table.
“Not again…” Hermione moaned.
“But… but…” Rons jaw dropped as he looked at the expressions on their faces.
Harry was frozen in terror. The previous Tournament and its tragic ending played out in his mind. Ginny just stared into space, her eyes glazing over as she felt the onslaught of emotions from Harry, seeing the fear, the pain and the loss of that year.
Little Dennis Creevey, usually one for brandishing his brothers camera at them, took hold of their elbows, lifting them off of the benches and guiding them over to the front of the Hall. They stood there, trying to support each other.
The three pairings were led off to the side chamber where the first-years normally waited before the Sorting Ceremony. Gabrielle Delacour was in open-floods of tears; her partner was just managing to keep her standing. Ginny had now come around enough to kneel down and attempt to sooth the much-younger girl. Harry ran his fingers through her hair.
“What is the meaning of this outrage?” Madame Maxime burst into the room with Professor McGonagall hot on her heels. “‘Ow did your name get in the Goblet?”
“I do not know,” the young girl cried more, her howls becoming more painful.
“I’ve got the same question for you two, also.” The Headmistress glowered at the Hogwarts Champions.
“Do not even think of heading there, Miss.” Ginny spoke clearly and slowly, venom dripped with each word. “We did not put our names in there.”
“Hem, hem.” The group spun around to the doorway. “I think you will find that regardless of the circumstances, you are the selected competitors. I’m sure even Mr Potter would not mind one last chance at glory before leaving school.” Delores Umbridge turned and led her Champions away. “Breakfast at the usual time, Minerva? I’ll see you then.” She called over her shoulder.
“Just one hex, please. Just the one.” Ginnys teeth ground audibly. Harry did not bother to pacify her with a kiss, he felt exactly the same.
“Unfortunately, she is right,” Minerva McGonagall sat on the sorting stool that was against one of the walls. “Best get some sleep. You are taking care of the arrangements, Potter?”
“I’ve got Ron and Hermione on it,” Harry nearly forgot his own request. “Professor, I’m sure you know what day it is tomorrow.”
“I was hoping to get special permission to leave the area for a couple of days, with Ginny.” He searched her face for any objection. “It is time I remembered them properly.”
“Of course. You remember the arrangements from last time.” She placed a hand on his shoulder, a rare display of affection. “You are both exempt from exams for the year. Go on. You need to grieve for your parents. You’ve not done it properly for seventeen years. Go.” She barely held back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.
“Gabby,” Ginny looked at the young girls eyes once more. “We’ll help you. Your sister will be here as soon as we can act. Don’t worry.” She tried to smile, but the terror in her eyes only led to more tears.
“Merci.” Gabrielle smiled faintly.
Madame Maxime collected her students and stalked off to the great carriage. Her face betrayed the shock and anger at the latest problem. She managed a slight smile towards Harry, and squeezed Ginnys shoulder in thanks.
“Let’s go.” Harry slipped his arms around his fiancée, resting his chin on her hair. “We need to get ready for tomorrow.”
“You’re right. We need to meet up with the others in any case,” she wrapped her arms around his waist, leading them out into the Great Hall and onwards to the Gryffindor common room.
Ron and Hermione were waiting for them on the sofa in front of the fireplace; they looked like they had been sharing sad tears. Pigwidgeon flew in manic circles around their heads, hooting wildly.
“Oh there you are.” Hermione looked over at them, tears still welled in her eyes. “What did they say? Are you going to appeal? You’re not seriously going to go through with this are you?”
“Slow down ‘Mione.” Ron wrapped his arm around her shoulder as his friend and sister sat in the armchair next to them. “I know I shouldn’t even…”
“Then don’t. Have you written the letter?” Ginny sat in Harrys lap, running her hands though his hair, her head resting against his chest.
“Yes. I’ve included your own predicament, also.” Hermione held the parchment in her hands.
“Great, I hope Fleur does not do something rash about her sister,” Harry looked down at the flaming red hair shaking against his chest. “Geez, I feel for her.”
“Another Champion pitched into a competition against her will.” Luna entered the common room with Neville. “Extra training for them?”
“Ask them first. I’ll leave it in your hands.” Harry tried to shift out from under Ginny. “I need to get things together for this weekend.” He gave up, just lifted her into his arms, carried her towards the portrait and into the apartment.
Ron watched his sister closely as she was carried away. He was concerned by the lack of any response to the situation. He had expected her to show anger, rage or even fear. He had expected her to rant. Instead, she was quiet, withdrawn. She was taking it exactly like Harry had four years ago. This scared him the most. He had never seen her this quiet, not since her first year.
Harry carefully lowered Ginny into the chair at the desk. He kissed her forehead lightly and set to work on sorting out their clothing. He checked on her after filling the rucksack, slowly running his hands through her hair.
“Are we going to go out in costume?” She sighed after a while.
“Huh…? Yeah. It was what the Muggles do at Halloween. Birthday costumes?”
“Yes.” She perked up as she remembered her coming of age. “You okay?”
“I will be,” Harry lied. “You?”
“I’m not afraid.” She looked into his eyes. “As long as you are with me, I’m never afraid.” She threw herself into his arms, kissing him fiercely. “And don’t lie to me. We’ll get through this, love.” She cupped his chin in her hands.
“You’re right,” he looked deep into her eyes. “Let’s go home and forget about this evening.”
Harry took their costumes out of the wardrobe, folding them and placing them into the rucksack. He shrunk the boots and sat them on top of everything else before closing the pack up.
“That’s that done.” He crossed back over to Ginny. “Ready?”
“As ever.” She suddenly took on a thoughtful expression. “Harry?”
“Yes, Gin.” He looked into her eyes once more.
“I don’t want to wait until the summer,” she looked away.
“Wait for what?” He pulled her chin back towards him.
“To get married.”
Harry swept her off of her feet in a crushing hug. “Nothing would make me happier, than to marry you here and now, but are you sure? This does seem like we are rushing things?”
“If we go for something small, I’m sure we could be married before Christmas,” she had obviously been doing some serious thinking lately. “I’ll write to mum and explain everything.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
* * * * *
The young couple Apparated into the front garden of the cottage. Ginny had her arms tight around Harrys waist, waiting for the effects of the side-along to wear off. She, once more, gazed longingly at the place she now called home. It had felt strange, after her years at the Burrow, her first home, to call Harrys parents’ cottage, home. She felt a lump wind its way into the back of throat; tears beginning to form in her eyes. Holding onto Harry even tighter, Ginny buried her head into his chest.
Harry half-carried his fiancée into the cottage, levitating their rucksack in front of him. If he was honest with himself, he would rather have stayed at the school than go through with his promise, even if that meant facing the toad. However, he also needed time away from the place. The business with yet another forced entry into the Tri-Wizard Tournament, was taking its toll on his thoughts. He may have taken part once before, but he was on his own then. Now, he felt a responsibility, not only to Ginny, but also to Fleurs sister, Gabrielle. A twelve year-old, thrown into a competition designed to have no-one younger than fifteen taking part. Whoever was truly responsible for this turn of events was going to pay. If he didn’t get to them before Ginny, or Fleur, the chances of finding a recognisable body part would be very slim.
A/N: see chapter preview for full reasoning behind certain changes in direction. Next chapter dedicated to person closest to guessing point at which my birthday interfered. Not all character deaths are permament.
15. Halloween Horror.
Ginny woke early the next morning. Her usual wake-up call was another showing of the Chamber of Secrets, coupled with Harry being carried out of the Forbidden Forest by Hagrid. She felt cold, and yet, was sweating profusely. Her hair was splayed out in all directions, and where it covered her skin it was matted. Looking at her engagement ring, she could tell that Harry was not fairing any better in his dreams, but at least he was no longer thrashing the way he used to.
Peeling herself from under Harrys outstretched arm, Ginny padded over to the bathroom and turned the taps for a relaxing soak. She sat at the dresser, waiting for the bath to fill, and noticed Fawkes perched on the window ledge. Even though the window was open, the bird waited to be invited into the room.
“Come on, Fawkes,” she made her way over and rested her arm on the frame. Even though the talons and beak of the phoenix had ripped the eyes out of a basilisk, its grip on her arm was soft and gentle. The heat from the claws was soothing, and the low sorrowful cry set the tone for the day. “I know, Fawkes. I know.”
Harry sat up slowly in bed, picking out the blurry forms of his fiancée and pet bird. He smiled weakly at the pair before swinging his legs out and standing. He greeted Ginny with a soft kiss on the cheek and lips before wrapping his arms around her waist, his head resting on her shoulder.
“Morning, love.” He whispered into her ear. “Is that the bath I hear?”
“It is. Care to join me?” She smiled up at him.
“Of course, love,” he kissed her on the lips, softly. “Let me send Fawkes to Hagrid with a letter and I’ll join you.”
An hour later, well rested and refreshed, Harry and Ginny were sat in the front garden of Potter Cottage. He was resting against the wall of the property, whilst she sat between his legs, her back to his chest. They looked to all the world perfectly contented. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The nightmares which had plagued them for weeks were taking ever darker twists. The old images of past events served as the advance for the main showing. The images thrown together were from their own deepest insecurities and fears. Loved ones dying. Trusts betrayed. Feelings unrealised. They had both struggled with the same scenes. Their dreams had merged at the fifth instalment of the Chamber of Secrets scene from Harrys second year, Ginnys first.
The scenes then shifted purely onto Harrys experience in the Little Hangleton graveyard. Riddles phoenix feather wand threatened to overpower them both. The priori incantatem slowly replayed as it had in the real world, but only after Ginny had linked hands with Harry and thrown her own spell into the mix.
The nightmares split at this. Ginny being forced to confront her personal demons once more; as so too did Harry. While she was forced to relive the Chamber on her own, he was forced to relive the graveyard, the Chamber, the Ministry and the Forest, over and over. He had woken from his sacrifice due to Fawkes’ song as the bird waited to be invited into the bedroom.
A screech and the sound of beating wings drew them back from the memories. The couple looked up at the roofline of the cottage, in time to watch as Buckbeak soared overhead. The hippogriff landed just in front of them, shaking its head and ruffling its feathers.
Ginny stepped forwards, slowly bowing before the potentially dangerous creature. Unsure, Harry made to protect Ginny. He stopped when Buckbeak lowered his head and allowed her to approach. Harry followed in awe, as his fiancée ran her hands over the feathers, looking the creature in the eye as she did. He stepped up behind her, reaching out and meeting her hands close to the wing joint.
“Would you care to ride him?” He whispered into her ear. Nervously, she slowly nodded her ascent.
Harry lifted her up, and onto the area just behind the wing joint. He hauled himself up behind her. Holding her waist, he gently dug his heels into the hippogriffs side, urging it into flight.
Buckbeak took to the skies so violently he nearly threw his passengers off his back. Their shrieks of surprise turning to laughter and joy as they gained height, rising through clouds and heading away from Godric’s Hollow. The steady rise and fall of the wings was reassuring. The cool breeze on their faces made them feel alive, similar to the feeling they got when riding their brooms.
The hippogriff flew out over the Bristol Channel, heading for the surface of the sea. One front claw trailing in the waves, the other tucked up under his body, Buckbeak sprayed his riders with enough salt-water to wet them but not soak them, before he pulled up above the clouds once more.
Harry held onto Ginny the entire time; his grip relaxing from her waist as they headed over Bath. As they headed down for Buckbeaks trip across the water, his hands moved up and along her arms, holding them out as though they were flying. When they ascended through the clouds, he pulled her arms back around her waist and kissed her longingly, their mouths working furiously to taste each other.
Buckbeak took the couple home to Godric’s Hollow, still wrapped in each others arms, tears flowing down their cheeks. Harry slid of the creatures back first. He turned and held his hands out for Ginny to take hold of. She squeezed his hands hard as she dropped to the ground.
Standing on tip-toe, Ginny brushed her lips against his, tasting the salt of his tears. She wrapped their hands around his back, before leaning in to his chest, pressing an ear to his heart. Nervously biting her bottom lip, she came to a decision.
“Harry,” she looked deep into his emerald eyes. “I’m scared. Scared about what has been happening to us over the summer. Scared about this competition.”
“I know. I can feel it.” He kissed her forehead softly.
“I don’t want to lose you,” tears rolled down her cheeks once more. “I’m probably being silly, but I wanted you to know.”
“I thought I’d lost you that day in Diagon Alley,” his own tears fell into her hair. “I kept seeing everyone I’ve lost in those moments when you fell. I wanted so much to give you the strength to rise up and carry on fighting.”
“There is a way, you know.” A small smile flickered across her lips. “That we can share each others strength and magic.” She looked up at him. “I don’t know if you’d want that sort of commitment though. Once it’s done, it can’t be undone.”
“What is it?” He looked deep into her eyes, searching for the answer before she gave it.
“A bonding, of sorts. If we did it, we’d be all but married in name,” her smile came back again, and remained. “I understand if you didn’t want to go ahead with it though.”
“You are kidding?” His face cracked with his trademark crooked grin, and her heart melted. “I spent the better part of eleven years wondering what it was to feel love, any love. I meet your brother and Hermione, and I found the love of friendship. You came along, and I found the unconditional love of a child.” Harry winced as Ginny pouted. “Your ordeal nearly put me off wanting to give myself like that. Seeing you manipulated, tore at me when I found out the truth; that you went through it twice left me in awe of you.
“When we did finally get together first time around. I was no longer in awe of you, nor did I see you as a child who needed saving from evil. I just saw you. In a way that made me realise what you saw when you saw me.” Harry planted a lingering kiss on her lips. “I broke up with you because I wanted to protect you. Looking back, I was a fool. I turned my biggest strength, my love for you, into my greatest fear, fear of losing another loved one.
“If I had lost you, I would have given up. I would have gladly handed myself over to Tom, and the rest of the world would have fallen soon after. I know I’m probably being selfish, but I never want to be away from you.” He looked into her eyes. “How do we go about this bonding?”
Ginny looked shaken by his openness. Her hands were shaking as she held onto him, as though she was afraid he’d vanish if she let go. Slowly, she gathered her thoughts.
“I never really knew… about your childhood, or lack thereof.” She stiffened at her own words. “I know what you said back in August was only part of the story, but to hear it like this is overwhelming. As for the bonding? We need to go inside.”
Ginny led Harry inside the cottage, leaving Buckbeak to lie down in the front garden. They made their way into the study, settling into two hard-backed chairs that Ginny conjured in front of the fireplace there. She positioned her chair closer to Harrys so they were virtually sitting on top of one another.
“There is time to back out of this,” her gaze blazing and certain. “If…
“I’m prepared for this.”
Ginny placed her hands on his shoulders, preparing herself. After several deep breaths, she closed her eyes and moves her hands. Her right hand lands over Harrys heart, her left reaches up to his right temple. Unsure about doing otherwise, Harry does the same to her.
“I hope you are being serious, mister.” Ginny smirked at his touch.
“Always.” He bit back an urge to show her just how serious he was being.
“You need to say the words with me. I’ll place them in your mind, otherwise we destroy the power of the bond.”
Scrunching her face up in deep concentration, Ginny pictured the words she wanted to share. Her words flashed through Harrys mind, causing him to open his eyes momentarily. He noticed the soft flush in her cheeks and the contented expression on her face.
“You were a hero to me. You became my hero. All that I am, is yours. All that you are, is mine. My heart, is your heart. My soul, is your soul. My mind, is your mind. My life, is your life. From now, until the day I die, I am yours, and no others.”
They spoke the words clearly, at an even, equal pace. As they spoke, two strands of light formed around them, one of chocolate brown, the other of emerald green. The strands clashed against each other, intertwining and wrapping around their bodies. Each time they came into contact with them, Harry and Ginny both let out low moans, and their hands clenched where they rested.
The combined strand finally joined its ends, encircling them, binding them together. Ginny leant forwards, pulling Harry towards her also, before sealing the bond with a passionate, fiery kiss.
Sparks flew from their bodies as they entwined themselves on the floor, having fallen out of their seats. The passion they felt for each other engulfed them entirely. It was as though they had never explored each other before. Their shared feelings and emotions taking them to ever higher levels of perception. Their hands and lips exploring areas they’d only covered in passing, but now enjoying the sensations caused by their even greater understanding of the others needs and wants.
It was close to twelve o’clock when Harry and Ginny finally emerged from the study; their clothes smoothed down and their hair set back to somewhat of a more appropriate appearance. Both of them were still somewhat flushed from the passion they had just been showing for each other.
Buckbeak was sleeping in the front garden, still. The cottage was quiet and almost reverent to what had occurred in its walls. The pictures on the walls seemed to congratulate them in their own way; the occupants either wordlessly shouted their glee, or tried to reach out to them.
Harry caressed Ginny before he dashed up to their bedroom, emerging several seconds later with their dragon-skin jackets and his moleskin wallet. Glancing at him curiously, Ginny accepted her jacket and turned for the front door.
Outside, Harry marvelled at the way the midday sun shone on his loves hair, causing it to appear to be dancing on its own. He shook his head, put on his own jacket and hooked his arm for Ginny to slide hers into the elbow. The couple headed off down the lane towards the village square.
Ginny led Harry over to the old memorial as it changed into the statues. She did this for two reasons. One, because she could never shake the surprise at how the family had been represented. Two, because it helped Harry to relax a bit each time he went near the graveyard behind.
They both turned to study the inn, ‘The Old Hollow’. In appearance it was an old Elizabethan plaster-and-wood structure – white walls with black beams. Once over the threshold, though, it was anything but. The rooms were similar in style to the Gryffindor common room – deep red carpets, wooden tables and soft, comfortable chairs. The walls were covered in pictures of families who had at one time lived in the village, most now resident in the shadow of the church over the square. It was an almost deceptive mix of Muggle and Wizard photos. A subtle, and welcome, mix that embraced the fact that members of both communities lived, and died, in the area.
Not entirely unexpectedly, a huge framed photograph of James and Lily Potter had pride of place behind the bar in the main lounge. The first time Harry had seen it, he had almost ran out of the pub, until Ron had reminded him about the conversation with Bill previously. After that, Harry had made a point of finding out as much about the lives of his parents during their time in the village as he could.
This day however, Harry sat in a quiet corner with Ginny, sharing a few drinks with the landlord. Tobias Moon had run ‘The Old Hollow’ for the better part of forty years. He knew all of the villages residents, and made it a point to get to know any new ones. When he heard about the son of James and Lily Potter coming to live in the neighbourhood, he latched onto the couple instantly the minute they first ordered drinks from him. The first round was always on him, and he would hear no argument otherwise.
He filled Harry in about the short time he knew his parents, and introduced him to various others whom he drank with. Today was no exception. While they waited for lunch to be cooked, Ginny noted another couple seated in the furthest corner from the entrance and pointed them out.
“What’s their story, Toby?” She nodded her head in the general direction.
“Wha…?” The landlord turned slightly. “Oh those two? Ah, not a good day for them, today.”
“Why not?” Harry glanced over now.
“Well, you know the story about that night better than anyone, Harry,” Tobias turned back, as Harry nodded in understanding. “Two kids. A guy in a cool costume.”
“Oh, hell.” A very pained expression shot across Ginnys face. “Please tell me they didn’t see him kill.”
“No, thank goodness.” The landlord pulled a large handkerchief out of his pocket and proceeded to wipe his brow. “Unfortunately they did see the house being blown apart, and were the ones who found your parents, Harry.”
“How do they handle this night each year?” Ginny squeezed Harrys arm as she looked over to the corner.
“They haven’t been able to, yet.” The landlord nodded as the couple in question headed for the bar. “Each year’s the same. They get drunk and cower from anyone in black cloaks. Last year got quite nasty, what with all those others running around, presumably looking for you.” He nodded at Harry.
“Yeah, I can imagine it did.” He stood to walk over to the bar, Ginny hanging onto his arm, Tobias heading back around to serve the customers.
“Two double whiskies, no ice, mate.” The man ordered.
“Sure thing, Ross.” The landlord turned to face his optic measurers. “How are you anyway, this year?”
“Same old crap, different year.” Ross answered. “Cheers for the drinks, get one for yourself.” He handed over a ten pound note.
“These are on me.” Harry stepped up next to the bar.
“No, you don’t have to.”
“I insist,” Harry looked down at Ginny before looking the man in the face. “I know what seventeen years of hurt feels like.”
Ross’ right fist drove hard into Harrys gut, sending him flying across the lounge. Ginny was knocked clean off of his arm, sprawling against the couch they had just left. Wand out faster than when she duelled Bellatrix Lestrange, she used a full Body-bind curse to prevent anymore punches.
“You will just stay there and listen,” she hissed before helping Harry onto his feet and back to the bar, supporting him fully while he got his breath back. “What the hell was that for?” She turned her attention to Ross’ companion, a slight woman about the same height as Ginny, with short black hair and blue-grey eyes.
“You have no idea what we have gone through, missy.” She stood horrified, looking between her friend and the strangers. “You have no idea what it is like to pass someone in the street and then find them dead a few minutes later.”
“I think you’d better sit down,” Ginny was not requesting this. “You see we have much to share, the four of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“All in good time.” Ginny turned to Tobias. “Same again with the drinks, please.” She turned to Ross. “I’m going to release you, to sit with your friend, then we will talk. Any punches pulled by you, and you’ll find out why my own family fear me more than any idiot in a black cloak.”
Ross sagged as Ginny lifted the curse before backing away cautiously from the witch, running her words over in his head.
“You okay?” His companion asked quietly.
“I’m not sure, Sarah.” He rubbed his arms slowly then sat down. “What the hell was that you did?”
“It’s called a full Body-bind curse,” Ginny helped Harry over to the table from the bar; he was still trying to get his breath back. “Useful for dealing with people who like to use fist then ask questions.”
“Sure looks like it.”
“Be glad I didn’t use my special on you,” Ginny smiled wickedly. “Now why did you do that, before?”
“We do not like people laughing at us.” Sarah stated.
“Who was laughing?” Harry looked up, still clutching his gut. “Nice punch, thanks.”
“You were about to…”
Ginny dove into the mix again. “Do the names James and Lily Potter mean anything to you?”
“Those two! They blew up their house and killed that person. Never found their son in the end.” Ross stood as he spoke.
Ginny shook her head slowly, looking at Harry and wondering what lies had been told over the years. “It killed them.” Confusion drew across their faces. “The thing in the cloak. It… he was a very powerful person, hell-bent on killing their son. James and Lily stood in his way, and he killed them. When he tried to kill their son, it backfired.”
Comprehension suddenly dawned on Ross’ and Sarahs faces. They looked at each other, then at Tobias, who simply nodded. “But why?”
“What you are about to hear, you will not understand for a while. Do not try to. Just accept it for now.” Harry studied the table in front of them. “In the world, there are wizards and witches living alongside the rest of you. Most in harmony. Some like to try and gain the upper hand every so often.
“The person who came here and killed my parents was one of these others. I was sent into hiding that night, and spent ten years having the snot beaten out of me for being ‘different’.” Harry looked pained as he said this. Tobias sat down at the table listening, setting down another tray of drinks for them all. “I found out why I was special on my eleventh birthday. I have just spent nearly seven years trying to stay alive, due to this persons followers trying to kill me or hurt those around me.” He gave Ginny a hug. “I beat him this May, and I’m here to lay a few ghosts to rest.
“The first ones I’ll deal with will be my parents. Seventeen years is a long time to not be able to grieve properly.”
“Why? What happened?” Sarah blanched even as she asked the question.
“I was told by those I ‘lived’ with that they had been killed in a car crash. It took a complete stranger to tell me the truth.” Harry hugged Ginny tighter, drawing strength from her. “I had never known the love of a family or friends for such a long time. Then I met this young ladies brothers and a few others at school and found out about friendships. Something most people take for granted. I hold onto them as though my life depends on it.
“In many ways, it has,” Harry managed a light chuckle, kissing Ginnys hair. “For so long I just wanted to be normal, and now I can be, but once more situations have presented themselves for me to deal with.”
“How do you mean?” Ross looked shocked at just what he had heard, he was unsure about wanting to hear more.
“My sister-in-laws younger sister has found herself entered into a competition against us,” Ginny motioned between herself and Harry. “She is way underage, and like us, was entered without our knowledge. We need to figure out who and why, before events take a turn for the worst.”
“You mean the Tri-Wizard?” Tobias mentioned in passing. “I get the Daily Prophet for the local wizards to read when they come in for a drink.”
“Yes, but that is for us to deal with in our own time.” Harry closed the line of conversation. “What do the residents of Godric’s Hollow do at Halloween?”
“Fancy dress ball in the square, everyone’s welcome, especially new residents,” the landlord winked at Ginny. “Just no black costumes, or hoods, alright.”
“I think we can charm our outfits a different colour, don’t you, Gin?”
“But I liked the black and yellow.” She pouted. “And you looked downright scary in black.” She winked at Sarah.
“What outfits? And when did you use them last?” Sarah was intrigued now.
“Batgirl and Batman. Heroes in your world as I understand.” Ginny smiled.
“I would love to see them as they are now.” Sarah squeezed Ross’ arm. “I think it’s time we stopped being so frightened of shadows, and if you’re willing, we’d like to do it with your help.”
“We’d love to.” Harry smiled at them.
* * * * *
Harry and Ginny set the table in the living room for two that evening. The Halloween ball was to start at eight, which gave them nearly two hours to eat before getting suited up.
The meal in itself was rather a small affair. Tobias and Ross had told them that food was available at the ball (enough to feed a small army were Ross’ actual words). So the rest of the time was spent relaxing, either on the sofa talking quietly about the day, or, when Harry finally took the hint, in bed. Their love-making being tender and slow, enjoying the sensations and emotions of each other, once more.
The time to get ready to suit up arrived with the chiming of Lilys clock in the living room. Seven times the bell sounded, stirring the couple from their slumber as they dozed. Groggily, they swung their legs out of bed and made their way into the bathroom and showered together.
Harry sat on the edge of the bed, with Ginny between his legs, drying her hair and brushing out any knots. She was holding the torso section of her costume looking at how dark it was. It had not been changed back to its normal black and yellow colouring since the incident in the Forest of Dean.
Forgetting to summon her wand, Ginny waved her left hand over the material, surprising herself when the original colour returned. This did not go unmissed by Harry, who simply held her hand and wiggled the ring with his thumb.
“I wonder what else we can do with these?” Ginny sighed. “Would they behave like normal wands? Would they behave like yours against each other?”
“I don’t know,” Harry whispered into her hair, putting down the brush and pulling her into his chest. “We could always try to disarm each other to find out the answer to your last question?”
“Why don’t we wait until we’ve got most of our outfits on before then,” she pulled at the towel wrapping her body. “I don’t fancy losing what little cover I’ve got before we sleep again.” She smirked and kissed her fiancé on the cheek.
“You tease,” Harry caught her as she tried to jump away and planted a lingering kiss on her lips.
Ginny broke away to begin applying her costume. She altered the cape back to its original yellow colour, before turning her attention to her headpiece. The ears of the mask still contained burn marks where various spells had whistled close-by and needed to be repaired. Her boots exhibited no signs of damage, either by spell or by the climb down from the roof, so they were changed to the same colour as the cape.
Harry looked down at his own costume as he retrieved it from the rucksack. Ginnys work on the repairs and improvements were outstanding in his eyes. The gouges in the rubber from the spell-strikes, the hole where the glass had penetrated were all barely discernible. The material had been thickened and made more rigid in the appropriate areas to provide more protection. The cloak had been improved by its replacement with materials from Georges stores of shield cloaks. Ginny had managed to work the new cloak into a replica of the one supplied with the outfit originally. Unlike the original, this cloak would now properly hold its shape when used as a makeshift parachute.
Harry had barely adjusted the clips on his sleeves when Ginny fired her first spell at him. Remembering what they had intended to try out he rolled off of the bed and took aim deliberately at her chest.
“Expelliarmus.” Both cried, holding their ring hands in front of them instead of their wands.
The spells flew from the rings and collided mid-distance, forming golden globes on the red beams. The rings vibrated wildly, and the couple used all of their concentration to stop them tearing off of their fingers.
Harry pulled away first, leaping towards Ginny as the spells fired over her head. She stumbled slightly as she ducked out of the way of the beams, reaching out for Harry as he reached for her. They fell into each others arms, laughing loudly.
“That answers that question then.” Ginny shook her head as though to clear it, then looked at the wall-mounted clock in the room. “Time to go, dear.”
“Turn around, I’ll fix your cape,” Harry summoned the material and secured the clips. Turning her back to face him, he ran his fingers slowly through Ginnys hair. “I love you.”
“I know.” She cocked her head to her right, span Harry around and then summoned his cape. She popped the last fasteners shut and walked around to face him. “I have loved you for so long. I would die for you.”
Harry winced as she said this. He knew she meant every word, every associated feeling, of what she had said. Truth be told, he would do the same for her.
“There are worse things than dying.” He mused before summoning both of their cowls.
Hand in hand, the couple went down the stairs and exited the cottage. Turning left, they walked down the lane towards the square, pausing briefly to put their masks on. Ginny waved her hand over Harrys chest, transfiguring the black bat symbol to one with a yellow oval background.
She smiled at her work, and positively beamed at the look from Harry. He wrapped his left arm around her shoulders, under her cape, and they crossed the square, heading for the graveyard. They barely noticed the people double-checking the connections for the lights and speakers that had been in place all day. They failed to notice, too, the not-so-innocent looks from the workers.
They moved deeper into the graveyard, passing the now-familiar headstones of Wizarding families long-buried. So far, circumstances had not allowed Harry to enquire about the unknown Abbott, he made another mental note to do so at some point in time soon.
The gathering crowds in the village square hid any noise they made as they crunched the fallen leaves surrounding the graves. The start-up squeal of the sound-system hid the sounds of additional persons moving into position around the couple.
Harry rested his hands on his parents’ grave, trying to use the feel of it through his gauntlets to strengthen his resolve for being there. Ginny stood behind the headstone, one of her hands resting on the marble, the other twitching nervously at her side. Every few seconds, her gaze broke from the man in front of her, scanning the area.
Six red beams flashed through the air towards the sentinel. Ginny dove to the side of the grave, pulling her wand out in one fluid motion, spells leaving the end of it even before she had finished her roll.
“Stupefy! Expelliarmus! Reducto!”
Another six beams raced towards her, pinning her down beside Harry, who had taken cover in front of his parents’ headstone.
“Protego maxima!” Using her wand, Ginny set up the strongest adaptation of the shield charm she knew. “Harry, can you pick them out?”
“There’re two beside the church. Two behind the tree over there.” He indicated to their far right. “And the last two are behind the cross near the wall.”
“Great…” she topped mid-sentence, the hairs on the back of her neck beginning to stand on end.
“Bombarda maxima.” The sickly sweet voice uttered the spell from all of twelve yards from where they held their ground.
The spell collided with the shield, sending sparks and flames shooting in all directions. Using all of her concentration, Ginny just managed to prevent the spell from breaking through, but it had cost her. The protective shell flickered and died, leaving them exposed to fresh volleys.
“Protego amor.” Harry stood. His wand in his right hand, producing a shield there. His ring hand out to his left, protecting that side. He faced Ginnys back, the charms on his cape protecting their rear.
“Very good, Mr Potter.” Delores Umbridge stepped forwards three paces. Her toad-like features shining in the lights from the ball. “Unfortunately, you have one side exposed.”
“No he doesn’t.” Ginny grinned at the woman.
“That might have been true, before.”
Harrys eyes widened. He saw the wand. He knew the damage it had caused before. He knew they were pinned on top of the graves of only two of its victims. He sensed Ginny tense slightly, reading his thoughts. He knew what she was about to do, even before she did it. The same thing he had done all of those years ago. He marvelled at how alike they truly were. He felt pride for her, knowing that she had given him reason and hope. He also felt a blind panic, knowing that the one thing that had beaten the impending spell was being used to protect them on one flank.
“Expelliarmus!” Ginny dropped her wand and braced as the two spells collided.
Using her right hand to steady her left, her legs set one behind the other as though pushing against some great force; she fought to hold off the killing curse. Red met green, and where they met, golden globes of energy began to form.
Ginny had heard about this phenomenon from Harry the night of the third task. She had heard Dumbledores reaction to it. And now, she was living it.
That was the key. To hold on. To force the globes along the line of the spells, back at the opposing wand. With luck, she reasoned, her opponent would not know about the likely outcome of the meeting.
Luck, however, has a cruel sense of timing. One of the opposing wizards had circled around to his mistresses side and fired a Stunner straight into Ginnys chest. With no opposing force to overcome, Umbridges killing curse struck both Ginny and Harry. They crumpled to the floor, lying directly over the locations of his parents’ coffins.
Feeling triumphant, Delores Umbridge fired off the Dark Mark into the night sky, before making good her escape with her cohorts.
16. Kings Cross again.
Ginevra Molly Weasley replayed the skirmish over and over in her mind. She had been beaten by her own concentration. Simple. If she had only taken the time to view what else was happening around them, they would not be dead. Or were they dead? If they were dead, then where were they? She tried to open her eyes. The brightness of the area stung them. She blinked rapidly, trying to force the images to darken as they penetrated her vision.
“Welcome back, Gin.” A very familiar voice spoke close to her shoulder.
She looked around, and found herself looking deep into the eyes of the man she loved more than life itself. She threw herself into his arms, kissing him wildly, her tears streaking down her cheeks.
“Oh, Harry. What did I do?” She was beside herself. Not surprising really.
“What you always do. What I always do.” Harry smiled down at her. Taking her hand in his hands, wiping her tears away with his thumbs. “Try to protect others at the expense of ourselves.”
“The cost was too high this time.” She looked down, and realised they were still wearing the outfits they had been wearing in the graveyard. “Where are we, anyway?”
Harry took time to break his gaze at the woman he loved to take in their surroundings. He saw benches spaced out at regular intervals. Brick columns. The great glass roof. The ticketing barriers. He smiled mischievously.
“We are at a place where we can either go back, or move on.” He stated simply. He looked around, searching. He found his target. “Though, for some, neither act is possible.” He nodded to a struggling form beneath one of the benches.
Ginny cringed at the sight of it. She knew what it was of course. Harry had told her, and shown her his memories. They had no secrets from each other.
“You need not pity him, we don’t.” A womans voice cut through the silence.
“He got what he deserved, meddling with power he neither understood, nor wished to.” A mans joined them.
“What…?” Ginny and Harry span around, and stood frozen at the sight before them.
Lily Potter stood before them looking exactly as she did the night she had died. Her green eyes filled with unshed tears. James Potter stood beside his wife, his arms wrapped around her shoulders. His hazel eyes dark behind his glasses.
Harry started to back away from the couple, reversing straight into Ginny, who held her ground, forcing him to stand his.
“Mum? Dad?” He barely hid the emotion welling up in his voice. Full of uncertainty, he instinctively grabbed Ginnys hands with his own.
“Ah, I see you met the Weasleys then,” Lily chuckled then set her face with a sombre look. “You must be Ginny? I’m sorry.”
“What for?” Ginny looked up at Harry to check his reaction then faced his mother.
“For not being there through the years. For you two dying.” The elder woman stepped towards them. She appeared to be in two minds about this action, because she headed for the nearest bench, sat down and motioned for the others to do likewise. “Would you mind removing your masks? I’d like to look on the faces of those I talk to.”
Slowly, Ginny and Harry removed the offending items. Harry ran his hands through his hair before turning his attention to his fiancée. He stood her in front of him and began to pull his fingers slowly through her locks, missing the look of satisfaction on her face.
“You know I think there is at least one waiting room around here if you two want a quiet moment together.” James received a sharp jab in the ribs from Lily.
“You can’t leave them alone, can you?” She admonished. “We’re here to meet them, not scare them off.”
“Meet us? Why?” Ginny looked up sharply.
“There’s no easy way to put this.” Lily took a deep breath. “You’re both dead.”
The younger couple merely nodded their heads at the news.
“The bitches curse was rather strong, even without that cowards Stunner adding to the effects.” Ginnys temper started to rise.
“Now I know you’re a red-head, but is the language truly necessary?” Lily looked straight into the younger womans eyes.
“If I’m anything like you, and lord knows how many times I’ve heard the comparison recently, especially after the letters, you’d be saying exactly the same.” Ginny glared back.
“You’ve read the letters?” James breathed.
“We have.” Harry confirmed. “Though, there are three that have not.”
“We know. Ginny…”
“Thank you.” She cut off the apology. “And I want to thank you, also. It’s not everyday you can meet your god-parents together, even in these circumstances.” Ginny gave Lily a patented Molly-style hug.
“Wow, you’re certainly stronger than you look,” Lily eased herself out of the hug, rubbing her arms. She glanced down at Ginnys hands, catching the glint of her ring. She blinked, not daring to believe what she was seeing. She glanced at her sons left hand, and broke down with tears. “I… can’t… believe… it.”
“What’s wrong, dear?” James showed he was nearly as observant as Ron.
“When did you…?” Lily grabbed their hands, gaping at the rings.
“Well, officially, we got engaged on Harrys eighteenth…” Ginny shifted uncomfortably under her mother-in-laws gaze.
“And…?” James had finally caught up.
“Ginny and I went through our vows a few hours ago. This morning in fact.” Harry performed a suitable impression of the Weasley blush.
“Why bond with the woman I love in the face of everything?” Harry looked coldly at his father. “Dad, do you know what the Tri-Wizard Tournament is?”
“Of course I do.” He was rather put out by the question. “Why?”
“We,” Harry motioned to himself and Ginny, “got entered into this years tournament. They’d arranged it to be for pairings. Now, neither of us put our names into the Goblet of Fire, and I get the feeling neither did the French pairing.”
“Oh, Merlin. How do you feel about this?” Lily enquired.
“It doesn’t matter, now.” Harry glanced at Ginny then looked down at his hands. “We’re dead. None of what went before matters anymore.”
“Not strictly true, Harry.” James bent down in front of his son, cupping his chin and forcing him to look into his face. “You can go back if you wish to do so.”
“How is that possible? I’ve died already. By rights, I shouldn’t even be here.”
“This is not a place of your making.” Lily looked directly at Ginny.
“Why are you looking at me?” the young woman tried to hide behind her fiancé.
“This is your party, Ginny.” James held her hands along with Harrys. “Harry is connected to the living world because of the wand. The wand that failed to kill him. It has a shadow of Riddle imprinted on it. In the fight in the Hangleton graveyard, four years ago, that wand was unintentionally turned into an extra anchor for Harrys soul when it was used against him.
“Think about the protection of the twin-cores. You are both bonded, now. Both through your vow, and through the rings.” James looked right into Ginnys eyes. “You are tied to the living world through Harry, but you got here ahead of him, so the choice is yours to make. Do you accept the path laid out for you? Or do you do what you always do?”
Ginny looked very sheepish at the last comment. She thought through the options. It would be so easy to just give up and move on, but that is what Tom would have wanted her to do, as in the Chamber. The thought of it stoked the rage building in her. Eyes narrowing, fists clenched, she stood up from the bench.
“Accio cowl.” Her decision was made. She held out a hand to Harry.
When they joined hands, sparks shot out of the stones on the rings. They held left hand to left hand. The love in their eyes was plain for the older couple to see.
“See you on the other side.” Lily called.
“What?” Harry shot back.
Harrys body still covered his fiancées. His cape covering them completely. It could not have been more perfect, the way the bodies had come together and the way the cape had served to protect them in case of additional spell damage.
Fawkes’ fireball startled another couple as they rushed over to the crumpled forms.
The cries from Ross and Sarah rang through the night. The firebird fixed them a look before perching on top of the Potters headstone. It wept two tears onto the earth below.
Harry stirred first. His heart beating wildly like it had in the forest. He opened his eyes. Taking in the smaller form he was still protecting.
“There are worse things than death,” he whispered. He felt Ginny stir beneath him. His heart leapt more than ever. “Hey.”
“Hey, yourself.” She whispered back. “We did it. We’re back.”
“We sure are.” Harry slowly prised himself up off of the ground. He held out his hand, and Ginny gratefully accepted it. “I swear I never want to see that place again. At least until we have around a dozen great-grandchildren.”
“Already planning for the future?” Ginny quipped.
“After dying twice, I intend living everyday and making lots of happy memories.” He bent down and planted a kiss on her rising lips.
“Harry? Ginny?” Sarah finally got to them as their lips parted. “Oh, thank god. We saw the lights and feared the worst…”
Now they looked at her, Harry and Ginny could see the terror in her eyes. Sarahs face was deathly white. Her costume had been a Shakespearean witch outfit, but that was no longer recognisable for the tears in the skirt to help her run faster. She warily eyed the phoenix, recognising the creature from old legends but in awe of seeing a live one. This helped to relieve some of her terror.
“We need to get back to the house. Can you help us?” Harry held Ginny close, his arms around her waist.
“Sure. What’s up?” Sarah reached out a hand, only to snatch it back. “You’re both freezing.”
“I’ll explain it later,” Harry looked pained. He was trying to apply a soothing charm to Ginnys back injury and his side at the same time, without using any of the motions for either.
“Come on.” Sarah hooked Harrys left arm around her neck. Ross did the opposite with Ginny. “Pretend you’ve had too much to drink, that should save any questions.”
Luck was on their side this time. The group made it all the way to the front door of the cottage without incident.
The door swung inwards. A man with messy raven-black hair and hazel eyes, not too much older than Harry greeted them. A woman with cinnamon-red hair and emerald eyes showed them into the living room.
“Thank you for bringing them.” He said. “We’ll take it from here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Sarah, it’ll be fine.” The woman caused a raised eyebrow, but nothing more was said on the matter as Ross and Sarah left the house. Neither noticed the hippogriff with the phoenix on its back.
Harry proceeded to remove his cowl, then turned to remove Ginnys. He stopped mid-motion when he noticed the damage to her costume.
The entire top section around her breasts and shoulders was scorched and slashed. Her cowl was free from damage, and so too was her face. He sat her down on the sofa before removing the mask. He did so gingerly, apprehensive about what he might find underneath.
Ginny beamed at him. She understood why he was taking his time, and did not want to rush him. With a low moan she turned her cheek into his palm as he pulled the mask off, freeing her features. A sudden cough brought them both back to reality.
“What…” She held her ring in front of her as she would her wand. Harry looked around confused.
“Harry. Oh my Harry.” The woman melted into a tearful hug.
Harry did not know what to do. His first thought was to hug her back. He thought about pulling Ginny in, too. In the end, Ginny joined them on her own, leaving a bemused James to stand, watching the scene from the doorway.
“But… you were dead?” Harry finally pulled out, holding his mother at arms length, taking her in.
“You both found a way to bring us back. I don’t know how, but you did.” His father finally spoke, joining his wife, kneeling in front of Harry. “Thank you.”
“It’s all too much…” Harry bolted for the door. His cape trailing behind him. He tore his cowl off and dropped it on the stairs as he raced up them.
In the living room, Ginny heard the door to the master bedroom slam shut. She winced as the cottage shook with the violence of the action and the magic behind it.
“Got your temper I see,” James joked before Lily slapped him hard on the arm.
“Will he be okay?” She looked straight into Ginnys eyes.
“I’ll need help with that,” the younger woman tried not to get lost in the familiarity of the eyes. “Fawkes.” She called. The phoenix flew in through the open window. “Circle the village. Send warning of anyone using dark magic or objects.
“Kreacher.” She called for the house-elf. “Sorry to drag you all the way here. Can you get back to Hogwarts? Find my brother and Hermione. Tell them ‘Godric’s Hollow, again’. Got that? Please hurry.” Ginny turned towards the kitchen after stepping into the hallway. “Have you eaten? I’m not sure about what we may have in.”
“We’ll be fine,” Lily spoke first before James could complain about not having eaten for seventeen years. “You look a mess though. Go get changed. We’ll take care of your friends when they arrive.”
“Thank you.” Ginny dropped her shoulders as she headed up the stairs. “I’m glad to finally meet my god-parents.”
James looked shocked. “Lils, you never put that in her letter, did you?”
“Why not, James? Why not?”
* * * * *
Ginny woke after grabbing a quick nap. She had successfully managed to calm Harrys confusion and removed the damaged costume, replacing it with a pair of red jeans and white t-shirt. Heading into the bathroom, she splashed her face with water to try and take some of the tiredness out of her eyes. Looking into the mirror she gave a slight start when she saw Lily reflected there next to her.
“You scared me.” Ginny placed a hand over her chest, taking deep gulps of air.
“Sorry.” She offered a quick hug. “Your friends are downstairs. We’ve not told them anything about us, yet.”
“Okay. I’ll get him sorted.” Ginny nodded. “And Mrs Potter.” Lily looked back as she turned to go down the stairs. “Thank you, once again.”
“Please, call me Lily,” she headed down as Ginny entered the bedroom again.
“Come on, you,” she pushed Harry lightly to rock him awake. “We have visitors.”
“I have no idea what to say, to anyone.” Harry propped himself up onto his elbows.
“You might want to find something more appropriate to wear,” Ginny teased playfully about him still wearing his costume. “I’ve already pulled out jeans and t-shirt for you. Be quick, I’ll do my best to explain what happened tonight.”
With that, Ginny left the room. Her hair trailing in her wake as she dashed downstairs. The world went dark as a bush of hair threw itself into her as she emerged into the living room, rapidly finding it hard to breathe for the Molly-esque hug.
“Ginny. Thank Merlin. How are you? Where’s Harry?” Hermione blurted out into her friends ear. “Who are these people? There’s something familiar about them, but I can’t place it.”
“Hermione, let the girl breathe,” Ron came and placed a hand on his fiancées shoulder. “What happened?”
“I think you should wait until Harry comes down before we start.” Ginny walked over to the fireplace, rested her hands on the mantel and contemplated the photographs there. She reached out to Harry. “What are we going to tell them?”
“The truth, as we understand it. Any questions and we’ll have to answer them as best we can.” Harry walked through the door, straight to Ginny, his arms outstretched.
“Will you two stopping using the ‘gift’, and tell us what happened?” Hermione broke into the silence.
“We’re sorry.” Ginny faced the group. “Today has been pretty intense… no, this week has, to be honest.”
“The things we’ve been going through at school, you know all too well.” Harry side-stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Today started off pretty much like one of those days. We flew on Buckbeak, had a few drinks at the pub…”
“Sounds okay so far.” Ron held onto Hermiones hands, somehow he knew they were building up to something big.
“It was, until we went to visit the graves.” Ginny continued. “We were going to join in with the Halloween party they have here afterwards, so we were in costume.
“Unfortunately, we had a not-so-welcoming committee waiting for us.” She took a deep, steadying breath and ploughed on. “I think it was some of the American students, either brainwashed, or imperioused, but we were outnumbered six to two, even before she turned up.”
“She? Who’s ‘she’?” Hermione paled.
“Umbridge.” Harry fought with his emotions, struggling not to blame himself. “She’s got Riddles old wand…”
“But Harry, what about the protection of the twin-cores?” Hermione interrupted.
“Did not do much good, this time.” Harry rested his head on Ginnys left shoulder, his voice barely rising above a whisper. “I’d got my hands full keeping the goons off of our backs when Ginnys shield collapsed.
“That was when she hit us with the killing curse,” Harry pulled Ginny closer, as though afraid to lose her in the room. “She did really well against it. Used the same spell I did in the graveyard when he came back. Luck was against us though. Ginny got Stunned, and the curse hit us both.”
“So you died?” Ron was back to his normal rate of understanding.
“For a time. We came back when it was explained that the reason we hadn’t gone straight on was because we were still tied to the living world, due to the wand and…” Harry came to an abrupt stop as he felt the woman in his arms tense. She was not ready to divulge that last secret, yet.
“So you wound up at Kings Cross, again? So who are these people…?” Hermione gaped at the photographs surrounding her. How could she have been so stupid as not to notice before, while they were waiting? She leapt to her feet and retrieved one photograph in particular. It showed a couple in a similar posture to Harry and Ginny, and yet was not them. “James and Lily?” She whispered.
“I’m impressed, son. Moony reckoned she’d have caught on quicker than that.” Prongs laughed.
“Well, that would not be the first time he’d be wrong about my friends.” Harry flinched from the slap Hermione gave him.
“So, how much do you know about what Harry has been through in the past seventeen years?” Hermione turned to face the couple. “More to the point, why are you here? Now?”
“For your first question.” Lily stood and walked over to the cabinet full of photographs that stood next to the fireplace. “We only know a little about what has happened in that time, glimpses of the word when we’ve been pulled back.”
“Yeah, it’s a bit of a bind when the only way you can get current information is from dead people,” James stayed sat on the sofa, looking at his wife. “Moony passed on as much as he could, mostly the past four years when he was involved directly with you.”
“There was one kid, cute little fellow, blonde hair, just would not stay quiet about you,” Lily laughed, then quieted at the pained expressions in the room. “He was a good kid.”
“He was,” Ron commented. “I’ll… we’ll miss him.”
“Who was he?” James glanced sadly at his son. “He never mentioned his name.”
“Colin Creevey.” Harry managed a half-hearted laugh as he remembered the first time he came across the little Gryffindor photographer. “He was a Muggle-born. Great person. He was in Ginnys year at school.” He choked on the forming lump in his throat. “He shouldn’t have been there, at the battle.”
“Mate, don’t go there,” Ron warned. “You beat yourself up for five straight days after that morning. That was one load of guilt you could have done without.” He looked at Lily. “No offence, Mrs Potter, but if I ever see your sisters family again, I’m liable to do some guilt-tripping of my own.” He flexed his fingers into fists.
“I think you need to start from the beginning, and tell us everything.” Lily walked slowly over to her husband and pulled herself into his lap.
Harry picked the comfortable chair in front of the fire, settling himself into it so Ginny could mirror Lilys move into her fiancés lap. Hermione stayed in front of the mantel, looking hesitantly at Ron, both feeling suddenly out of place.
“Hermione, you’ve got the better memory, and are loads better at telling this tale,” Harry could see the tension on her face. “You know it’s true, look at the job you did on the train when we were telling those three about our fun over the years, filling in bits we missed.”
“Oh, alright then.” She perked up a little at being made story-teller. “Don’t expect me to get our second and third year right though. I only remember what you told me afterwards.”
Hermione launched into a full-blown account of the trios first year, from Harrys first dealings with Hagrid, to meeting the Weasleys at Kings Cross, right the way through to the search for the philosophers stone and the journey home. Ginny actually buried her head in Harrys chest as Hermione described the first proper Christmas presents he received, and the way in which she had been very excited when the train had arrived at the end of their first year.
“You were smitten from the start weren’t you?” Lily winked at her as Hermione paused.
“There’s a reason for that, but I’ll tell you some other time.” Ginny shifted in Harrys lap as she accepted the glass of firewhisky Ron passed over. “Leave the bottle, I’m still not too hot about the next years account.”
“Mustn’t be too good then?” Lily picked up on the quiet exchange.
“It wasn’t. I still have nightmares about it.”
“You want me to tell it?” Harry looked down at her, kissing the top of her head.
When Ginny nodded, Hermione looked relieved. She made her way over to the sofa and sat down next to Ron, winding her arms around his shoulders and resting her head in the crook of his left shoulder. Her own reasoning for not wanting to tell the tale was that having been one of the victims of the basilisk attacks, she did not know what had happened in the Chamber of Secrets. Only Harry knew the full details, and despite him sharing them, she could not help but feel that he had left a few details out, even on the train.
True to form, Harry credited most of the breakthroughs and legwork to his friends, even rescuing Ginny from the Chamber he’d put across as Rons handiwork, though he did accept killing the basilisk and destroying the diary.
“That’s Harry though,” Hermione joked after the telling. “He goes and does the hard work and lets someone else take the limelight.”
“I think that is enough for one night,” Harry yawned.
“Mate, it’s only ten,” Ron had been enjoying the stories.
“Yes it is, and we need to come up with some sort of plan.” Ginny read Harrys mind.
“What sort of plan?” James wiped a tear from his wifes cheek. Like Ginny, she had cried during the describing of the events in the actual Chamber.
“Well, we need to work out how to announce to the world in general that James and Lily Potter are no longer dead,” Hermione had come to the same idea as Harry. “And we also need to work out how to get you two back into Hogwarts for the first challenge.”
“Problem number two. How do we deal with the toad?” Ron piped up. “Are you sure we can’t restart the DA?”
“Ron, you are a genius!” Hermione chirped, spinning around to kiss her fiancé.
“I am?” He pulled away looking quizzically at her. “I suppose I do have my moments…”
“What is the one question we haven’t asked?” Hermione looked around. “Aside from the one about your parents.” Harry looked bemused. “Why is she doing this?”
“The DA?” Ron half-replied, half-answered his own question.
“Exactly, or more than likely.” A look of triumph flashed across her face. “Ginny came up with the name, Dumbledores Army. Harry led it. You and I organised it.”
“Up to a point I’ll agree with you,” Ron smiled carefully. “So where does this leave us?”
“Umbridge thinks, or knows, Ginny is out of the picture, along with Harry.” Hermione suddenly looked sick as she came to an unnerving realisation. “We’re next. Or rather I am, if she is going after the DA alone.”
“What do you mean?” Lily mirrored her worry.
“She went after Harry and Ginnys godson and his grandmother in late July, early August,” Ron explained. “That hurt somewhat, going after them.”
“Sorry,” Harry apologised.
“Don’t you dare apologise, mate. If it hadn’t have been for you, then little Teddy would have joined his dad earlier than anyone would have wanted.” Ron balled his hands into fists. “I’m only sorry that we only managed to stun Greyback.”
“I think we’re getting off-track here,” Hermione brought them back to the present. “The first challenge is on Friday, right? That gives us some time to prepare.”
“We’ve got tomorrow to work on that, though,” Ron was feeling hungry and his patience was starting to wear down. “Why don’t we eat? Then your parents can fill us in as to their story?”
“We are right here, you know?” James played hurt, but in truth couldn’t help but laugh.
“So…?” Hermione wanted to hear this as much as the rest of them.
“I’m not really sure where to begin, to be honest.” Lily admitted. She looked non-plussed by the situation. “We were brought through to the station, I presume by Ginny, because she ‘died’ first. When she decided to come back, the two of them clasped hands and some connection was made with the rings…” She broke off, gaping at the tokens of love once more.
“Lils?” James took hold of her hands again. “What’s wrong?”
“James, our son is engaged!” She broke down, rushing over to Harry and burying him in a hug. “When did this happen? Oh, wait, you told us already.”
Lily was positively bouncing on her sons neck, crushing Ginny in the process. When she noticed this she wrapped her into the hug, too. Tears of joy were rolling down her cheeks.
“Molly knows of course? Of course she does.” Lily gushed as she came up for air. “How did she take it?” The older woman knelt down in front of the couple.
“Not really sure,” Ginny admitted. “She just stood there, while everyone else congratulated us.” She took hold of Harrys left hand with hers, causing more sparks to radiate from the rocks.
“There it is again! James, look.” Lily was more than excited and pulled the couple into another hug. “You must love each other truly deeply for this to be happening. Tell me, Ginny, what were you thinking when you came back?”
“I was thinking how much you’d both want to be at the wedding, how much Harry would have wanted you to be there,” Ginny blushed under Harrys gaze.
“Gin, thank you,” Harry kissed his fiancée deeply in his mums hug, breaking off when the need for air outweighed his need to show her how much he loved her.
“Okay, you two. We’ve seen that enough since you got back together…” Rons mouth carried him over the line in the sand.
“Ron, don’t even go there.” Hermione chastised him. “And it’s not as though you’ve not been doing the same thing…” She blushed as she realised what she was saying.
“Son, I’ll say something. You certainly know how to pick your friends,” James sat forwards on the sofa, running his hands through his hair. “Where are my manners?” He stood quickly and covered the distance to Ron and Hermione in a single stride, holding out his hand in greeting. “James Potter, pleased to meet you.”
“Ronald Weasley.” The hand was shaken, and backs slapped.
“Hermione Granger.” Cheeks were pecked.
“I think you know mum already,” Harry sheepishly stepped up out of the chair, resting his hands on Ginnys hips as he stood behind her. Hermione and Ron took turns to kiss Lilys cheeks.
“Engaged too, I see.” Lily chuckled. “Congratulations. Old man Spraggins must have had his work cut out when you went in.”
“I’ll say he did. Four rings on the same day.” Ron ran his hands through his hair as he remembered the details of that particular day. “That is one birthday you won’t forget in a hurry.”
“Nah, Ginnys was better,” Harry corrected, bending down to steal a kiss. “We didn’t sleep at all that night, remember.”
“It was an enjoyable night.”
“Come on, girls. Let’s go and chat on our own,” Lily grabbed Ginny and Hermiones hands. “Leave the boys to catch up.”
With shrieks of delight, the women charged out of the room, heading up the stairs for the master bedroom. Seconds later, the door to that room was heard to close.
“I hope mum doesn’t mind what we’ve done to the place.” Harry ran his hands through his hair as he sat down again.
“What do you mean, son?” James sat on the end of the sofa closest to Harrys chair.
“I’ll get some drinks while you talk, okay?” Ron announced to no-one in particular and left the room.
“Dad, the house was a wreck.” Harry sighed. “Upstairs was anyway. The nursery, really. Mums sacrifice caused Riddles spell against me to blow a hole in the wall. Sometime after I was sent to live with the Dursleys the place was done up as a memorial to the three of us.
“A reminder of the sacrifices made during that first war. There’s a statue of the three of us in the village square, which is there for the same reason.” Harry gulped down a lump that was forming in his throat. “I wanted to rebuild the wall. Make the place good for our home.”
“It’s okay, son.”
“No, it’s not, dad.” Harry eyes shone. “What we’ve told you and mum so far… it’s only the tip of an extremely large iceberg. There’s so much to come, so much to go before.
“I’m a mess. Rebuilding the cottage, I thought it would be a good place to try and rebuild my life.” Tears built up in his eyes. “I look at my friends and fiancée, and I’m envious of them. They had a childhood I never had. They grew up loved and cherished, not openly hated and despised.
“The first summer I stayed with the Weasleys, I found what it was like to live in a loving family, even though I was a guest.” The tears rolled forth. “Until I read mums letters, I had never hated the fact that I could have experienced that, but was sent elsewhere. However, I know that if I had been sent there, I probably would not have got together with Ginny for the same reasons, if at all. I would have taken love for granted, rather than fought so desperately to keep hold of it.
“I would have grown up, healthily, in body and mind,” Harry felt small hands resting on his shoulders and he turned into the embrace. “Rather than under-nourished and with a sense that every little thing was my fault somehow.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that.” James spoke quietly. Ron passed around tall glasses filled with firewhisky.
“I know, and I thank you.” Harry pulled Ginny into his lap once more. “I want to move on and live my life how I want to, with the woman who saw me as a hero for most of her childhood, then got to know the real me, faults and all.”
“Yeah, Ginny made mention about her crush,” Lily chuckled as she sat with her husband. “Who’d have guessed it. Our god-child falling for our son?”
“Mum!” Harry laughed. “You know there’s more to it than that.”
“Yeah, Harry.” Hermione joked. “How many times have you been her hero?”
“I think an easier question would be, how many times has she been mine?” Harry looked deep into Ginnys eyes. Her breath caught in her throat under his intense scrutiny.
“Are… are we talking in total? Or each year since my first?” Ginny teased. “Let’s see. The big ones. Getting the twins to give you the Marauders map. Kicking my brothers backside over the Goblet of Fire. The DA and coming with you to the Ministry. Giving you a reason to fight so hard against Riddle. Accepting you for who you are, as opposed to what you are in other peoples eyes. Accepting your offer of marriage.”
“You forgot knowing how to deal with my tantrums at Grimmauld Place,” Harry added. “And, for being… the wonderful… loving… young woman… you are.” Harry broke the statement with repeated kisses.
“Okay, get a room already.” James laughed at the scene before him.
“They have, our old one.” Lily shook her head.
“You can take it if you like? Harry and I can always take the guestroom or the sofa?” Ginny offered.
“There’s a lot we need to catch up on,” Lily replied. “Seventeen years worth. This is your house now.” She shook her head. “Yours and Harrys, remember your vows. We can always adjust the nursery to suit our needs.”
“Mrs Potter, I think you and Mr Potter should take the guestroom. Ron and I will bunk in there tonight.” Hermione wrapped her arms around Rons waist.
“Thank you, dear.” Lily accepted. “Please, call us Lily and James.” She turned to Ginny. “Or mum and dad.”
Harry paled, tears threatened to spill from his eyes again. His thoughts flew back to a day in August. The day Ginny was released from hospital. The welcome home party. Mr Weasleys speech.
“Sorry, I’m a mess at present. I should go to bed.” Harrys tears were wiped away by Ginnys soft touch. He led her out of the room.
The collective chorus followed them up the stairs as they headed for their bedroom. Emotionally, Harry was drained in a way he had never felt before. He had laid bare feelings he had hidden for so long, and they had crashed through his cast-iron façade in a way that left him feeling renewed. He no longer felt the crushing guilt of the deaths that he had taken as being his fault. He finally accepted that those who had given their lives in the battle did so willingly, and had fought with him, not for him.
18. The first challenge.
Sunday, November the first. All Saints Day in the Muggle calendar, though few actually celebrated it. For one household in Godric’s Hollow it would be a day to celebrate. A celebration of life in the face of death. The beginning of a great healing.
For most of his life, Harry Potter had been informed that every little thing that went wrong was his fault by his uncle and aunt. His cousin had partially apologised for his behaviour on the night they went into hiding. The main instigators of the abuse had acted strangely on that night, as though they were about to show some form of remorse, but in the end did nothing.
Now, he lay in bed, the girl… no, woman, she had long ago grown up too quickly… he was in love with, and was loved by, wrapped in his arms. He marvelled at how, after everything that had happened in his past before Hogwarts, he could still manage that emotion. Power the dark lord knows not. He could so easily have gone down the same path and become the next Voldemort, if not for his spirit, his friends, his adoptive family.
He owed so much to the Weasleys. Too much to list. A small smile crept over his lips and was mirrored in his eyes. He thought back to the letters from his mother, once dead, but now apparently very much alive. How long had he wished to know his parents? How many times over the years had he wondered what they would have said about his many escapades? What would they have said about the decisions he made? Would they have stood by his decision to go to the Ministry in his fifth year? Would Fleur and Bill have gotten together if they had attended the Tri-Wizard Tournament in his fourth, instead of the Weasleys? Would Lily have berated him on breaking up with Ginny at the funeral? Would James have backed him up in his argument with Remus at Grimmauld Place?
So many questions that, thankfully, would not be answered. ‘It does not do to dwell on such things.’ Wise words from a wise man. Harry had dwelt too much on some things, often at the expense of others. He had looked around him and ideas and persons far away had caught his eye, and he had not noticed the small things closer to him, often related to the woman before him.
He had never, never realised that she had helped him so often through the years. Sure he remembered the Department of Mysteries fiasco, the fight at Hogwarts the night Dumbledore died and the final battle when she had nearly been killed herself. For him, the revelations came with the instances she had mentioned. He owed her for his fathers map. He owed her for Rons friendship. He owed her his life. The words he had spoken to Mr Granger dropped on him as though from on high. ‘We’ve saved each others lives that often… the links have reinforced themselves…’
He had saved each of their lives – Ginny, Hermione, Ron – and they had each saved his in their own way. Ron and Hermione had physically saved him many times. Ginny had saved him on an emotional level. ‘Size is no indication of power, just look at Ginny.’ If George Weasley had understood the depth of his words all of those years ago, and their significance over that time, he might have gone into philosophy rather than comedy. The youngest, smallest member of the family was showing herself to be by far the most powerful. Magically, she was a match for Harry. Intellectually, she could give Hermione a run for her money, and did so regularly in class. She was physically strong, despite her small frame, and she was more than capable of countering Harrys mood swings.
Using their love-link, Harry tried to convey his thoughts and emotions to his love. He felt her tense as he began, then relax as she realised what he was doing. A sense of peace filled her facial features, and her eyes fluttered open.
“Hey,” Harry breathed as he drank in her appearance.
“Hey,” she replied, twisting around to look into his eyes.
His breathe caught in his throat as he watched her twist around. Her red hair trailed over her right shoulder. Her left leg slid further across his stomach, and her left arm found its way down his right side and onto the pillow.
“Better?” He finally got out.
“Much.” She kissed him hard on the lips, gauging his reaction to her shift.
Fully awakened by her, Harry flipped Ginny onto her back, hungrily kissing her and roaming his hands over her body.
They heard the knock on the door, just as they were about to give themselves to each other. A crooked smile forming on his lips, Harry pulled away slightly.
“Who is it?”
“It’s your mum.” A voice chuckled uncertainly, unused to performing the simple reply.
“Just a minute.” Harry summoned a pair of dressing gowns, so that he and Ginny could quickly cover up.
“You can come in now,” Ginny confirmed, still releasing her hair from the folds.
Freshly clothed in blue jeans and a green t-shirt, Lily slowly opened the door into the room. Her hair hung loose around her shoulders. On her ring-finger, she wore her wedding and engagement bands. The stones were a large diamond, surrounded by two rubies and two emeralds.
“No wonder the guy in the shop knew which rings to produce,” Harry gazed at his mothers trinkets. “I bet he just took the designs for yours and repeated them.”
“I don’t think so, somehow.” Lily smiled and took a seat on the end of the bed, as though she had done it for years. “You’ve got phoenix feathers in yours, ours haven’t.”
“Umm, Gin. Just what did you open up about last night?”
“Well before I felt you going off the deep end,” Ginny blushed as that scene replayed in her minds eyes. “We – Lily, Hermione and I – had been going over how I fell for you in the first place.”
“Okay,” Harry let out a slow breath. “You already told me about your childhood stories about me and how enthralled you were when you finally saw me and how normal I was. Is there anything else I should, perhaps, know about?”
“Only that I approve,” Lily snorted. “A bit annoyed that it took you so long to notice. The Tri-Wizard Yule Ball was a missed opportunity if ever I saw one.”
“Oh, no.” Harry tried to bury his face in the head of hair next to him. “Anything else?”
“I’ll let you know as the day goes on.” Lily playfully slapped his arm. “Come on, time to get up. It’s nearly eleven. Your friends are downstairs with your father. We need to start making arrangements with Minerva about staying at Hogwarts with you,” she chuckled at the thought of the old teacher suddenly being faced with people she thought to be dead. “Then you can tell us about your third and fourth years of school.”
As she stood and turned to leave, Lily began humming. To Harry the tune seemed rather familiar. Only when he saw the shade of red Ginny had turned did he realise what it was.
“‘His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad’? Mum!” Harrys own blush mirrored his fiancées as Lily ducked out of the door in time to avoid the pillow he’d thrown at her. “Honestly, Gin. Some secrets are best left as that.”
“You told them about it when we were talking last night, so this one is your fault,” Ginny glared, then realising what she had said wrapped her arms around him. “In a good way that is. We should look back on daft things that embarrassed us, if only to laugh at them.”
“You’re right. You always are.” He kissed her on the lips, moving down her chin and onto her neck. “I’ll leave the planning upto you for today. I’m having too much fun right here.”
“Harry, stop.” She grinned as he pulled away, pouting. “There’ll be time enough for that later, but for right now, we need to get showered and dressed.”
“Mind if I join you in the shower?” He teasingly enquired, certain of her answer.
“Only if you behave,” she slapped his arm as he picked her up, and carried her out of bed.
They stopped in the doorway of the bathroom long enough to share a public kiss, before closing the door and engaging in quite a few more private ones, both out of, and in, the shower itself.
Hermione was busy in the study when the couple descended the stairs an hour later. She was in the middle of writing an update to her letter to Fleur, asking her and Bill to head for Potter Cottage, instead of Hogwarts, to discuss what had happened and to decide what needed to be done. Other letters surrounded her. Some completed, others not. A handful were meant to be sent, the rest were first drafts that were not intended to be seen.
The original plan was up in smoke. As former champions, Harry and Fleur could have taught Gabrielle and Michel everything they knew about the Tournament. Now that Harry was officially dead in the eyes of one of the judges, as well as by the hand of, the idea to help was lying in ruins. Hermione had been up since the small hours of the morning, trying to figure out the next step.
Her mind simply would not allow her to think of an alternative to Harry and Ginny turning up for dinner with the rest of them that night, no matter how hard she tried. She thought about trying to put off their ‘miraculous’ appearance until the morning of the first task, but dismissed it due to the possibility of increased interest from the students in general as to why the Head Boy was nowhere to be found. Add to that the possibility of Umbridge throwing her unique brand of information into the mix, and the situation would get very messy, very quickly.
And then there was the ‘rebirth’ of James and Lily Potter to consider. Hermione sat back in the old chair, pressing her palms into her eyes. The very idea that two people, hit with the killing curse, buried for seventeen years, were now walking around, looking just the way they did moments before they died… It unnerved her immeasurably. The books said it could not happen. There were no spells known that could explain what had occurred. All they had to go on was the description and visual example of what Harry and Ginnys rings had done in ‘Kings Cross’ and back in the cottage.
Whatever had happened that night, had happened for a reason. Nothing else would fit in the pattern of Harrys life. And yet, in spite of that conclusion, Hermione began to wonder about herself. Was her part in Harrys existence part of some predetermined path? Or a matter of coincidence? Either course had easy answers for her question, if not easy reasoning.
Ginny contemplated her friend as she leant back. She could see the tell-tale signs of mental exhaustion. She casually wondered as to whether Hermione had gotten any sleep the previous night. It had not been unknown for her to try and pull three day stints without sleep when revising for exams. This was not a time to be attempting this kind of behaviour.
Taking carefully noisy strides so as to not frighten her friend, Ginny entered the study, bending every so often to pick up stray rolls of parchment. She rapidly glanced at the writings on them, taking note of what had been written. Her best guess put Hermione as having been awake since around two, maybe even one, in the morning. She knelt down on the chairs right side, looking up at the tired woman and waited.
“I’ve been awake since three, just so you know,” Hermione managed to surprise her. Taking her hands away from her eyes, she revealed tracks of tears. Looking down at Ginny, she betrayed the wealth of emotions colliding in her, but one overriding one shone over all others. Guilt. “Ginny… you and Harry… mean the world to me… I… failed you… both.”
“Merlin, Hermione,” Ginny instinctively reached up, wrapping the vulnerable witch in a soothing hug. “There was nothing anyone could have done. We were outnumbered, outgunned, outflanked.
“Don’t do what Harry used to do,” she managed to smile in spite of herself. “You can’t go shouldering that kind of guilt. It’s not healthy, for anyone, least of all you.”
Lily Potter had been passing the door on her way to answer natures call when she heard the exchange. The comment about her son troubled her, but she did not know him, not really. Despite a calendar age of thirty-eight, she appeared to all intents and purposes to be no more than twenty-one. To a stranger in the street, she would have been mistaken for either Ginnys, or Harrys, older sister. An unmistakeable fact not lost on James either, to all intents and purposes he too looked like an older sibling.
They had missed so much. Days, months, years. Time that could not be recaptured. They had been there for his first stumbling steps. They’d heard his first words; his first broom ride. They had missed his first day of school; the first ride of the Hogwarts Express. They had missed his first true friendships; his first kiss. Lily chuckled at that particular thought. That would be one tale that no matter the timing, Harry would receive a ribbing over.
Fighting the sudden impulse to intrude on the younger women in the study, Lily turned back into the living room, searching. Within minutes, she found what she was looking for. Ginnys photo album. Sitting back into one of the comfortable, chintz chairs, Lily held the book for a moment. Running her hands along the spine of the object, she noted it was dragon-skin-backed. It had been faultlessly red all over, but someone, probably Ginny, or Harry, had had the initials H.P. and G.W. embossed in the front cover.
Turning the cover over slowly, Lily choked as she registered the first couple of photographs. On the back of the cover was a copy of the picture Mr and Mrs Weasley had given him on his birthday. James and Lily standing tall, if not stressed, with Remus and Sirius. Facing it was a family gathering. Family holiday to be more precise. The Weasleys trip to Egypt. Most of the family appeared to be enjoying themselves, the youngest member was trying, but not quite managing. A smile on her lips that was not matched by her eyes, Ginny was constantly snatching glances at her brothers, and seemed afraid to be more than a few feet from Ron.
Oblivious to her surroundings, Lily did not hear either Ron, or her husband, enter the living room with Harry. They stopped and watched the witch gaze at the pictures. They noted how her eyes were drinking in the scenes as they were captured. Finally, after several minutes, Lily noticed their presence.
“When was this taken?” She held the album for Harry to see the picture she was referring to.
“After the last events we told you about last night,” Harry sat on the arm of the chair. “Ron would be able to tell you about it better, he honestly would not be quiet about it when they got back.”
“Hey, I told you the great bits…” Ron cut himself off.
“There was more?” Harry looked at his friend with interest. He was about to continue, but Hermione chose that moment to leave the study with Ginny in tow, heading for the living room, also.
“Oh, glad to catch you, Harry. Mind if I use Fawkes to send a couple of letters?” Hermione caught the exchange of looks. “Or maybe it can wait.”
“What’s up?” Ginny stepped around her friend, stopping dead when she saw the album, open. “I suppose I’ve got to face this eventually.” Was all she said next.
“Face what?” James looked bemused. “Ginny, what’s going on?”
Unwilling to see her emotions spill out uncontrollably, Harry got off of the chair arm and pulled Ginny into a soothing hug, whispering quietly into her left ear. After a couple of minutes, she stepped back, composing herself.
“I need to get this out before Bill and Fleur get here. They don’t need to see me like this.” She sighed.
“Like what?” Harry took her hands and led her over to the sofa. When he found a comfortable position to sit in, he pulled Ginny into his lap, wrapping his hands and arms around her.
“I hate feeling vulnerable, you know that, Harry.” Ginnys eyes sported fresh tears. “When we went on that holiday after my first year at Hogwarts, I was just about ready to face the world again. I knew that everything that had happened was down to Tom controlling me. In my mind, I had convinced myself that maybe things would not be too bad.
“On one of the tours we went on, we visited a huge underground temple. The antechamber was the size of the Great Hall, or at least it seemed like it to an eleven-year-old.” Taking a deep breath, Ginny crashed on through her memory. “When we got to the main chamber, I had a relapse, as memories I had fought so hard to lock down broke through my mental barriers.
“The statues to the sides of the place might have been jackals, and the altar may have stood before a huge statue of the Egyptian god Osiris, but to me, I was back in the Chamber of Secrets.” Tears coursed down her cheeks. “My memories of the events I had been forced to be a part of came crashing over me.”
“You should have seen her, mate,” Ron continued for his sister. “She was a wreck. I got her out of there, feigning a dizzy spell to keep mum happy. That night is when her own nightmares started in earnest.
“I was sharing the room with her, and I knew enough to keep the noise down so as not to disturb the rest of the family.” Taking a deep breath, he looked right at Harry. “At one point it got so bad she was thrashing around, screaming for him not to hurt her. Then she screamed for him not to hurt you. She loved you.
“So you see, my crack about taking Ginny to the Yule Ball wasn’t entirely without motive.” Ron chuckled. “I digress. When Ginny came out of it, she was ashen. She realised I’d heard everything, but I promised not to say anything, or act in a way to draw attention to what I knew.”
“So you what? Became her ‘sleep guardian’?” Harrys brows twitched.
“Until she started confiding in Hermione, yes.” Ron wrapped his arms around his fiancée. “That was a part of why I was so annoyed with you last year. I knew what her dreams for the future were, and I thought you were toying with her emotions, in spite of all that you had said.
“I was an idiot, and I’m still sorry for it,” Ron hung his head into Hermiones bushy hair.
“I forgave you once, and I will again.” Harry grinned at his best friend. “So you wanted to borrow Fawkes? He’s all yours.” The conversation was dragged back to the present.
“Just the two to send. Both to Hogwarts.” The phoenix appeared in a ball of fire, accepted the letters and vanished in another fireball.
“Now then, I believe we were up to your third year now, son.” James sat on the opposite arm of Lilys chair to the one Harry had occupied earlier.
“Ron, you have the stage.” Harry laughed as the red-headed man blushed slightly.
* * * * *
Fleur Weasley stepped out of the bathroom for the fifth time in nearly as many minutes. Her head spinning as she tried to steady herself, she reached gratefully for the glass of water Ginny was holding ready for her. Smiling appreciatively, she slowly sipped the cool contents.
“I’m so sorry, ‘Arry, Geeny. I ‘ave been feeling terrible for weeks now.” Her features pale but strikingly strong, she tried to gather herself up, but rushed back to the toilet bowl. “Merde.”
“I got your hair,” Ginny threw the glass to Harry as she collected the older womans locks out of the firing line. “Bill, how long has she been like this?”
“A few weeks really, why?” Her older brother looked non-plussed by the question.
“You’re an idiot,” Ginny calmly stated, before turning her attention back to the retching form.
“Hey, I resent that,” Bills face flushed crimson, but was cut off by Lily.
“Come with me young man,” she led him down the stairs. “I think it is wonderful, congratulations.”
“What…?” The eldest Weasley child opened his mouth, thought about what has just been said, added it to the events of the past weeks and broke into the biggest grin he could manage. “I’m going to be a dad.”
“You are?” It was Rons turn to look confused. Both James and Hermione shook their heads at him.
“Idiot.” Hermione swiped him around the back of the head, laughing. “When did the sickness start?”
“Not sure. Around the time you left for school.” Bill was still grinning. “So maybe I’ll be a father around the end of April, maybe even the start of May.”
“Papa Bill,” Ron had finally caught up. “Who’d have thought it, eh?”
“You know what? I think Uncle Ron has a better sound to it,” Bill slapped his younger brother on the back. “The first of the next line of Weasleys. Mum’s gonna flip!”
“Yeah, a couple of strangers and four kids found out before her!” Ron joked.
“I’d hardly call Harrys parents ‘strangers’.” James gave him a quizzical look. “I’m not going to ask ‘how’ you are back.” Lily gave his arm an appreciative squeeze. “You four grew out of being ‘kids’ years ago. We need to concentrate on this debacle.
“Which brings me to Friday night. Fleur flew right off the handle when we got your letter,” Bill tipped his head to Hermione. “I’m pretty sure Ginny is putting on a brave front, but has anyone spoken to Gabrielle?”
“We left her and her partner with Luna and Neville in the Room of Requirement yesterday evening, practising summoning charms,” Hermione stated. “Considering how young she is, I have to say, I have never seen a gifted little witch. Her partner on the other hand,” She shook her head sorrowfully. “If he goes up against anything bigger than a flubberworm, he’s toast.”
“Just great.” James grimaced. “Five days to train up a fresh face.”
“‘Train up’. I don’t recall you taking a hand in this.” Lily glared at him. “We haven’t even tried our magic, nor do we have wands.”
“Minor details, love.” James smirked. “Accio Harrys wand.”
“Hey.” Harrys cry sounded down the stairway. Seconds later, his wand flew into the room.
“Accio Harrys wand.” Lily held her hand out as her sons wand changed direction.
“Well that is settled,” Bill, still grinning, headed for the drinks cabinet behind the sofa. “Now, to the other concerns. Number one: Gabrielles training. Number two: James and Lilys comeback…”
“Number three: Harry and Ginny returning from the dead.” Hermiones statement caused the grin to be wiped off Bills face, the bottle fall from his hand.
Very slowly, and with deliberate movements, Bill Weasley turned to face Hermione Granger. Being engaged to his brother might have allowed some leeway, but that was one bombshell too many. His face turning white with anger, he arched his eyebrows at her.
“Bill, sit down,” Ron stepped in between the pair, his face set, his posture leaving no possibility that he was not ready to fight his brother. “Why do you think we sent for you to meet us here rather than at school? We should have been in either Hermiones, or Harrys, apartments, or McGonagalls office at best.
“But no, we’re here. You need to hear everything, starting with the week before the announcement of the Champions, right up to last night.” Still standing firm, Ron searched the eyes of his brother for understanding. “It’s best if Fleur hears this, too, but I don’t want to upset the baby too much, either.”
“Best if I hear what?” Fleur surprised the moment. Her radiant beauty apparent, despite the paleness of her skin. “Beel, what is going on?”
“Please, let’s sit and hear what they have to say,” Bills shoulders sagged, the scars on his face filled with angry red streaks, as though they were threatening to burst open any second.
And so it began. Ron and Hermione filled in what they knew, followed by Ginny, while Harry sat quietly. James and Lily busied themselves in the kitchen, ensuring a steady supply of hot drinks after they had heard about the events before Halloween.
Bills face had turned a stonier shade of white, his scars blazed angrily against the whiteness. Fleur looked positively terrifying as the Veela side of her heritage came to the fore.
“First my zister, then my zister-in-law.” Her features contorted. “Ooh, if only I ‘ad been zere…” She started mumbling in French, with the odd smattering of English profanities thrown in for good measure. The room was shocked into silence. Bill seemed to physically shy away from her as her anger grew.
Harry knelt down in front of her, reaching for her hands. He locked his eyes on hers. Slowly, he rubbed the backs of her hands with his thumbs.
“Fleur, look at me,” he repeated soothingly over and over until she locked her eyes on his also. “I will not pretend to know who entered Gabrielles name into the Goblet. I have no idea who entered ours. I promise you this, though. We, as a group, will try to prepare her for what she may face. Ginny and I will try to keep her safe while she is on the grounds.
“Fleur, you are my fiancées sister-in-law, which practically makes you family to me…” Harry glanced at Ginny for help.
“And this family fights best when it works together. Not pushing people away, or trying to keep its members safe by pushing them away.” The last comment raised a smile from Harry and Fleur as they remembered the funeral and the night of the battle.
“So what are we going to do then, boss?” Harry grinned.
“Floo the Headmistress. Arrange for her to have Madame Maxime meet us and we’ll sort out what needs doing then.” Ginny stood slowly to survey the group. “If we enter you in as last-minute students, we might be able to get away with this.” She looked between James and Lily. “James and Lily Evans, alright with you? It’s a bit obvious I know, but not if you don’t know what to look for.”
“Sounds good to me,” Lily answered for her husband. “Let’s do this.”
Within an hour all of the necessary arrangements had been made. As the group stepped out of the fireplace into the Headmistresses Office, Professor McGonagall sat behind the desk, Madame Maxime stood before it, her arms folded across her chest.
“Well, what is this surprise?” Minerva looked around as the teenagers exited the fire.
“Calm yourself, my dear,” Albus Dumbledore spoke from his portrait.
“Are they the last ones?” Harry nervously enquired as Bill stepped out after Fleur. When Bill nodded slightly he visibly relaxed.
“Mr Potter, what is going on?” Olympe Maxime drew herself up to her fullest height.
As James and Lily exited the Floo network, Harry beamed widely. “May I present, James and Lily. My parents.”
The dramatic effect was worth it. Olympe braced herself against the desk, while Minerva McGonagall, in a rare show of emotion, leapt from the chair and embraced the couple, tears rolling down her cheeks. Albus’ portrait positively glowed with affection.
“What? How?” The old Transfiguration teacher gushed.
“Wish I knew, Minerva, but enough about us already, we need to talk.” James wore the mischievous grin he wore so often for photographs of himself and the Marauders.
“I should say that we do,” the Headmistress stepped back slightly, taking in the gathering. “Olympe and I were discussing the implications of tonights report in the Sunday Prophet.”
“Nothing too good, I hope?” Harry adopted his fathers grin, wrapping his arms around Ginnys shoulders at the same time.
“If you call reports of your demise ‘good’, then this is the best,” Minerva nodded at the newspaper copy in the Beauxbatons’ Headmistress’ hands.
Hermione reached out for it, smiling her request. She glanced at the headline, her eyes betraying her displeasure at the title and author of the piece. Reading on, she snorted twice before throwing the rag to Ginny.
Death of the Chosen One. By Rita Skeeter.
We all thought that after his defeat of You-know-who in May, that young Harry Potter would be invincible, that he would be able to stand alone in the face of any adversary. It has come to my attention that reports from the West Country village of Godric’s Hollow, former home of Bathilda Bagshot, show the Boy-who-lived as nothing more than a weakling who hides behind others. In this case, he hid behind the graves of his parents and then behind the girl who was his fiancée before being hit with a killing curse. I’m sure my readers would agree that this action shows him for what he truly is. A coward.
My most heart-felt condolences go out to the parents of Ginevra Weasley and her brothers, as another person associated with Harry Potter is snuffed out before their time. (For more details turn to page 5).
In related news, the Tri-Wizard Tournament being held at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will now be one team short. One can only hope that whoever is called in to replace the couple are up to the challenge.
The accompanying picture showed Harry and Ginny walking through a corridor of Hogwarts, oblivious to the photographer. The paper began to smoulder as Ginnys grip on it tightened. Harry ripped it out of her grasp and threw it onto the fire before it properly caught alight.
“Harry.” Ginny sounded into the quiet, her voice dangerously low and even. “Next time I see that woman, I’m going to hex her into oblivion.”
“I pray it never comes to that.” Harry pulled her into a soothing hug. “Sorry, mum, dad. Once more I’ve screwed up.”
“HARRY JAMES POTTER!” Ginny took hold of the side of his head, pulling it down so she could pierce his gaze. “I HEAR THOSE WORDS AGAIN, I SWEAR I’LL MAKE YOU REGRET THEM!”
“Yes, boss.” Harry gulped before kissing Ginnys cheek.
“Smart boy.” Ginny turned her blazing look onto the crowd. “Right. If this is how they want to play, so be it.
“Madame Maxime,” Ginny addressed Olympe, “would you be agreeable to your Champions taking up residence in Gryffindor Tower? Not only for safety reasons, but it is up to you.”
“Of course,” the half-giantess smiled at the fiery young woman. “Will you be training them up as well?”
“We’ll have time to talk about that later.” Ginny looked at her brothers. “Would you two head off mum and dad? I know they’ll be distraught if they’ve read the Prophet, but we need time.” She glanced at Lily and James.
“I’ll deal with it.” Bill stepped forwards. “I’ll tell them our news as well.”
“Understood.” Ginny turned her attention to her sister-in-law. “Fleur.” She broke away from Harry and knelt in front of the part-Veela. “I know this is hardest on you. You’ve been in this before, and you know what was happening behind the scenes then. I know you’ll want to be with Gabrielle all of the time, and help her every step of the way.
“I would be exactly the same if it was only Harry in this.” Ginny blushed through her blazing expression. “But right now, all we know for sure, is that whoever set this in motion, thinks that we are dead. When they see us walk through those doors later into the Great Hall, they may either panic and target us again, this is the best that we can hope for, or they may try and go after someone else. In your condition, you have to stay safe, for your childs life as well as your own.”
“You are correct, Geeny.” Fleur looked down into her eyes. “But I refuse to stand by and allow my little zister to become a victim of this madman.”
“I know.” Ginny forced a smile. “Believe me, when I say that I will not allow that to happen either.”
“I’ll hold you to that, you know that don’t you.” Fleur gave Ginny such a hardened look, it seemed to go straight through her. “Now, Professor McGonagall,” she turned to face the Headmistress. “Would it be possible to have an apartment within the castle for a few weeks? Just so I know that my zister is settling in alright?”
“Of course, my dear,” Minervas face softened. “Indeed, you and your husband are most welcome to stay in the castle for as long as you wish.”
“Merci.” Fleur thanked the old professor before making her way over to her own old headmistress and starting conversing in French.
“You know, if I didn’t know any better,” Harry whispered to Ginny, “I’d say you just got overruled on one side of your argument.”
Ginny silenced Harry with a quick jab to his ribs. “Reverse psychology.” She turned to face her fiancé. “I got reading a couple of Hermiones books that she left behind while you weren’t here. I also read up on Veelas, too.” She flashed a smile. “I pity the person who pisses her off while she is pregnant.”
“Why, Miss Weasley, I do believe you have been picking up Rons bad habits.” Harry smirked.
“As long as you don’t do the same, you’ll be fine,” Ginny flashed a mischievous one back. “I don’t intend looking as sore as Hermione, after certain occasions.”
“Ouch. Point taken.” Harry laughed quietly before grimacing to remove that particular image of his two best friends. “You know, some things, a bloke can live without knowing.”
“I know, but I enjoyed the look on your face.” Playfully, Ginny turned and walked away, swinging her hips exaggeratedly. Harry just gawked at her, failing to hear his mother calling to him.
“… Harry. Harry.” Lily tapped him on the arm. “Just like your father. What is it with you Potters and your red-headed women infatuation?”
“I would say upbringing, but that is rather a moot point,” Harry quipped, earning a slap on the wrist. “Mum, we… myself, Ron and Arthur Weasley… need to fill you in with the fine details about my lack of a childhood, but that can wait.
“Professor McGonagall,” Harry called the Headmistress over politely. “I would like my parents to attend the school, say as mature students under slightly different names, and for them to attend the same classes as ourselves, if possible?”
“I’m sure that an impromptu sorting can be arranged,” Minerva sat back into her chair. “I’m sure they’ll be in Gryffindor again, but nothing is guaranteed. I’ll ask the house-elves to prepare extra quarters for our guests, when we are done here.”
“Fair enough,” Hermione replied for Harry. “Have you seen your Champions today?” This directed at Madame Maxime.
“The last time I saw them, there were with Monsieur Longbottom and Mademoiselle Lovegood.” She looked curiously at the group. “You’ve already started training them haven’t you?”
“Hope you don’t mind?” Hermione winced slightly. “Gabrielle is rather quite good. Outstanding I’d say. Michel, is another story.”
“No confidence. Thinks himself a squib.” Professor McGonagall injected. “Reminds me of a student I know.” She chuckled at the early memories of Neville.
“Yeah, well…” Harry broke up the reverie. “We’ve got about an hour before dinner. Let’s get back to the Tower. Ginny, if you and Hermione want to find some robes for mum, I’d much appreciate it. Dad, me and Ron will sort you out.
“Bill, if you can head to the Burrow and give your mum and dad a head-start on what is going on, thank you,” Harry hit his stride. “Fleur, see your sister and her partner, let her know this is under as much control as possible for now.” His brow furrowed as he thought about what he might have missed out. “We’ll meet in the courtyard, in say… forty minutes? Good. Thank you, professors, for everything.”
Harry turned and led the group out of the office as Bill flooed to the Burrow. He missed Professor McGonagall addressing the portrait of Dumbledore.
“Will that boy ever relax?” she asked.
“He has known more suffering than most ever encounter in entire lifetimes in his short time,” the portraits eyes twinkled. “However, I believe that Mrs Potter is helping him to cope.”
“Lily always did have that effect on James.” Minerva scoffed.
“I was not referring to Lily, Minerva.” The old Headmaster bowed his head to look over his glasses. “When they left here just now, did you not notice their hands?”
“No, not really.” McGonagall squinted at her predecessor. “Why?”
“My dear, remember who we are dealing with here,” Albus tried to be patient. “I may be a mere representation of my former self, but I can see in their hearts what young Ginny has initiated, and Harry has concluded. They are bonded. Mind, body and soul. When they left here, I could see the final threads of the bonding taking place. Together, they will be significantly stronger than they will be separated.”
* * * * *
Hermione led her small group into her apartment at the base of the Gryffindor dormitory stairs. They entered a room similar in size and shape to the Head Boys, the main difference being the feminine touch to the décor, except where Ron had left his mark.
“Ugh, I’ve told him hundreds of times to leave his dirty clothes next to the sink, not in the middle of the room,” Hermione banished the offending articles. “Let’s see. Spare robes in the wardrobe, fresh towels in the bathroom. I think we’re all set.”
“Are you sure about this, I mean…” Lily looked most unsure.
“Here’s a deal. We sort you out with these robes, and fill you in on your sons more distressing character flaws,” Hermiones look rivalled Ginnys blazer now.
“Okay,” Lily followed the younger women over to the wardrobe. “I heard you mention something about guilt this morning. What was that all about?”
“Well, that is as good a place to start as any.” Ginny broke into a grin. “I don’t know what happened at his aunts before he started at Hogwarts, but he used to blame himself for every little thing that went wrong…”
“Don’t get us wrong, some of the things that have happened have been his own doing,” Hermione cut in. “Like locking a mountain troll in the girls bathroom, with me inside, for one.”
“But it was the major things he blamed himself for too.” Ginny continued. “My being taken into the Chamber of Secrets. The fiasco in the Department of Mysteries. Dumbledores death, and his noble act of breaking up with me,” Lily caught her eye. “I’ll tell you later.” She gave a look to say, much later. “This year was the worst. He blamed himself for each and every one of the deaths at the hands of Riddle and his regime.”
“Remus did fill us in with some of the details when he passed over,” Lily noticed Hermione flinch when she mentioned this. “Sirius did hope that you’d help him overcome that flaw.”
“It has… no, is, taking a lot of hard work.” Ginny sat at the desk as Hermione pulled out some robes. “My brothers remark back at the cottage was on the money, though. He spent a full five days in the Room of Requirement, just moping. It was as though the rest of us could not help him. Some hurts, however, need someone other than family to help heal.”
“What else happened to you last year?” Hermione asked quickly while Lily tried on the robes.
“You know everything I can remember,” Ginnys face set like stone.
“How did you reach him in the end?” The older womans voice sounded through the material.
“I got Kreacher, his house-elf, to Apparate me into the room,” Ginny smirked. “Once he was through fighting off bat-bogeys, I yelled a lot of sense into him. Between helping to fix up the castle in time for the mass funeral, and the usual eating and sleeping, I yelled myself hoarse.
“After the funeral, we went to our tree… an oak down by the lake… and we talked about the past year.” Ginny walked over to the window and gazed over the grounds. “All of the hurt. All of the pain. All of it seemed to wash off a little while we talked.
“I fully realised the depths of Harrys feelings for me, and I for him.” Ginny turned to face the other two. Lily and Hermione were both now in full school uniform. “I knew, that no matter what life threw at us, we’d never be parted again.” She snorted a laugh. “And as we saw yesterday, death has no power over us. There are far worse things than death. Like living without your soulmate. You might exist, but it would be an empty existence.”
“Okay, which books have you been reading?” Hermione threw the question, but Lily smiled in recognition.
“You knew, didn’t you? The first time you saw him at the station,” the answer was clear for anyone to see, if they knew where to look. “When you stole back the diary. When he saved you from the Chamber. That is when it started to show itself, isn’t it?”
“At first, I didn’t know how to deal with it.” A sheepish grin spread over her lips. “I thought it was just a kids crush and acted accordingly.”
“I helped you get on with your life though,” Hermione calmly walked over and hugged her friend. “I helped you get over your shyness in front of him. The full effect of that was evident that Christmas your dad was in hospital and Harry was hiding.”
“He was hiding?” Lilys eyebrows raised.
“He thought he was possessed, and thought that by hiding away, he would spare us any danger. He had forgotten about my own experiences, so I let him have it.” The grin became wider. “The shy, littlest Weasley took on the infamous mood of the Boy-who-lived, and threw it back at him. One hell of a way to come out of the shell, but I have no regrets about that.
“When Ron hinted that he wanted Harry to be my boyfriend after Michael and I had split up, I could have jumped at the chance, but Dean had already asked me, and Harry still did not seem interested. So, when we spent the summer after the Ministry fiasco together, healing our wounds, I was dumbfounded that Harry was spending rather longer than normal looking at me, or holding onto something as he passed it to me.” Ginnys grin spread all over her face as she opened up. “I had a boyfriend, and my blind-as-a-bat soulmate was finally working up the courage to make a move.
“I’ll always remember that year. For the good and the bad.” Ginny held out a hand for Lily to join the hug. “I wanted to thank you. Not only for the letter to me specifically, but also for the one addressed to the woman who captures Harrys heart. You kind of put into words your own hopes for your sons future. Almost prophetic.”
“Hey, I just put down all the things you would need to be able to put up with a Potter. I didn’t know that would be taken care of already. If anything, I should ask, have you shown it to Harry, yet?”
“Not yet.” Ginny blushed, she had come close on many occasions.
“Then, my advice, is don’t. At least, not until after you are officially married, not just bonded.” Lily shocked Hermione with that, but she shook her head to keep her from asking the inevitable question. “Well, it’s nearly time to go shock the world, how do I look?”
“Exactly as you do in those old photographs,” Hermione smiled widely. “We should find Dennis and get him to record moments like this to put in your albums.”
“Yeah, we will, eventually.” Ginny broke away and headed for the door. “So, Lily, ready?”
“Let’s do it.”
Harry Potter paced across the Entrance Hall like a caged tiger, every so often glancing up the marble staircase. His father and Ron were leaning against the wall next to the House point hourglasses, hands firmly in their pockets.
“You know… Harry, that never helps, trust me.” James smiled. “I did exactly the same thing at our Graduation Ball, afraid that Lily wouldn’t show up, and do you know what?”
“No, what?” Harry stopped pacing long enough to face the pair.
“She showed up, on time, and looking as beautiful as ever.” James was pulled from his reverie by a bush of red hair, slightly greying, and the feeling that his life was measured in seconds if he could not get air into his lungs, soon.
“Molly, dear. Let him breathe.” Arthur Weasley beamed at the crowd from the top of the stairs, Minerva McGonagall, and Bill and Fleur behind him.
“I know, I know. You’d think after all this time… I just don’t…” Molly spluttered.
“It’s alright, mum.” Ron pushed off of the wall. “Questions can wait. We have work to do.” He nodded at Harry.
Harry glanced up the stairs once more, and found who he was looking for. A dazzling image of red hair filled his vision. How he had missed her, even though it had been mere minutes. Launching himself up the steps, he swept her off of her feet into a crushing embrace. Her kisses were hungry and passionate. His reply was equally as emotional.
“I love you.” Ginny breathlessly uttered when they pulled apart for air.
“I love you, too.” Harrys lips brushed hers as he gently dropped her feet back onto the ground. “You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.” Ginny turned to the Headmistress. “Let’s see who is the most shocked.”
The group turned as one at the bottom of the stairs, and headed into the Great Hall. All sounds of conversation and eating died as the student body noticed the newcomers. The occupants of the staff table at the end gaped as the group broke apart and made towards their places.
Ginnys eyes were on Umbridge the entire time, noting her particular response. Or rather, the lack thereof. The Salem Academy Headmistress simply glanced at them before returning her head to her hands, nursing what appeared to be the mother-of-all headaches. The lack of alarm, or indeed intrigue, surprised the rest of the group when Ginny pointed this out to them.
“She always was good at acting, though,” Hermione stated plainly.
“Yes, but even if she hadn’t cast the curse, she would surely have read the paper.” Ron, eyeing the rest of the Hall and plainly seeing the sea of looks, threw an unnerving possibility into the mix.
“Back up a minute, son,” Arthur peered at his youngest son. “When was the last time, you saw her here?”
“We saw her about seven last night, before we took Gabrielle and Michel up to the seventh floor.” Hermione began chewing her bottom lip.
“Then, it looks like…” Lily leaned forwards over the table, turning her head to look at the staff table. “You may have an apology to make, and a bit of a problem.”
“Maybe, but not too soon. I’m not sorry for what happened to her during her tenure here.” Ginny scowled. “As for the new problem, I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, yet.”
The truth of the matter was that no-one had made any form of facial expression apart from shock and intrigue. Most of the crowd knew about Harrys strange luck, and the first years were intrigued as to how the Prophet could have got the story so wrong.
“May I have your attention please,” Professor McGonagall stepped up to the lectern. “It may have come to your notice, through one of the less-reputable mediums, that an incident took place in the village of Godric’s Hollow. As you can see from looking at the benches of Gryffindor house, the conclusion of this is far from the truth.
“I would like to impress on you, not to question the individuals concerned. They are tired of the attention being focused on them during what should have been a private time for them.” The hard, steely gaze swept the area. “You all know the story, so I will not repeat it.” The gaze softened. “I would like to introduce a couple of returning, mature students, who recently married. Mr James Evans, will be taking over from Professor Flitwick as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.” The combined Potter and Weasley clan shot their heads up towards the Headmistress. “Mrs Lily Evans, will be taking over from me as Transfiguration teacher.” The clan shook their heads and tried to look normal. The old teacher had changed the plan drastically. “I hope you will join me in welcoming them, and wishing them the best of luck.”
* * * * *
For the first night in nearly a week, Harry Potter had had pleasant dreams. Filled with the same images of hope and longing that had kept him going through his darkest days on the run, he had enjoyed the images for what they now were; the life he chose to lead, not dictated by prophecy, but by his heart.
He shifted slightly in his bed. His face burying itself in the flame-red hair of his wife-in-all-but-name. Wrapping his left arm around her small frame, his thoughts drifted back to a conversation between his mother and Hermione after the meal.
Hermione once more noticed the sparking of the rings on her friends fingers. Each time the sparks were emitted, the stones of her own ring pulsed with light. She looked at the ring on Lilys finger, noticing the same reaction. Her interest piqued, she approached Harrys mother.
“What is with those two?” She whispered.
“Apart from them being young and in love?” Lily laughed. “You’ve heard of soulmates? Right?”
Hermione shook her head. Not strictly true, as she had heard about the connection in the Muggle-world many times, but was unsure about how it would translate into the Wizarding one. Lily gave her a quizzical look before continuing.
“Wizards and Muggles,” she snorted a laugh at the term,” can become soulmates in much the same way. No-one knows why it happens, or how. It, however, takes a conscious decision to unlock the potential.” She smiled crookedly, betraying where her son got that trait from. “Harry and Ginny both vowed themselves to each other. They took the decision to do this alone.
“And since they were alone when they performed the vow, the magic associated with it was not diluted the way it is during the marriage ceremony.” She looked at her son, both happy and sad at the same time. “The link they created not only strengthens them, physically and magically, but if one of them was to receive mortal wounds, or a killing blow, the other would soon join them when they pass over.”
“Which is entirely possible given the Tournament they are entered into.” Hermione paled at her words, not noticing Harry drawing close with Ginny. “Why would they do this?”
“Because despite passing over once before, death does still frighten them both,” Lilys expression saddened. “They are not frightened by their own demise, that has been accepted and faced. No, they are frightened by the possibility of having to continue on without the other.”
“That was why I broke up with Ginny at the funeral, Hermione.” Harry broke in. “I’d felt like I’d lost so much, I couldn’t allow my greatest source of comfort to become another victim…”
“You had me and Ron.”
“No offence, but you guys already offered me comfort, as friends. Ginny, she showed me the comfort of more than that. The way in which Ron does for you, when you aren’t arguing.” Harry gave his customary grin. “No, if she’d become another victim, either directly, or otherwise, because of me, I would have died. I knew it then, and I know it now. Besides, it was Ginnys idea to bond properly.”
Ginnys idea. Harry smiled at the thought. It might have been her idea. She might have given a childhoods time to prepare for the moment when she married Harry Potter, but in the end, it was down to the two of them. The bond required the two of them to be consenting, and to understand the full implications of the process, and the effects on the both of them.
He better understood what she had meant when they returned to the Burrow at the end of the holidays. The talk about his power over her. The unconditional love she had felt for him the moment she laid eyes on him at Kings Cross. The pain of her betrayal to Riddle through the power of the diary. He knew it all. He felt it all.
And, as he understood her, so she understood him, fully. He had no secrets at all from her now. His memories were an open book, that, if she so desired, could be read in their entirety, or piece-by-piece. His memory of the attack on his parents and the effect of Dementors on him to relive it. His forsaken childhood at the hands of his living relatives. The deep joy he felt around her family and his friends. The hurt caused by Ron and Hermione over the years, only served to strengthen their friendships.
Nuzzling her neck and tightening his grip on her, Harry poured his emotional love into Ginny. He felt her tense as he began, then, as she realised who was sending the intense feelings into her, she relaxed, accepting him with her mind as she would her body.
After ten minutes of accepting Harrys feelings, Ginny turned the tables back on him, pouring her own emotions into him, along with a few of her more risqué thoughts.
“You know we’ll have to have a very cold shower before we go down for breakfast, don’t you?” Harry smirked as he spun her around to face him.
“You should have thought about that before you woke me up,” she stuck her tongue and tried to pull away.
“I think that it is time I started to follow a piece of mums advice,” Harry pulled her back in close, locking his lips on hers. “I love you, so much.”
“I love you, too.” The reply was honest and true.
Nearly an hour later, they barely made the last few minutes of breakfast. Grabbing a quick bowl of cereal, they sat alongside Ron and Hermione. On the opposite side of them sat Fleur and Bill with the Beauxbatons Champions.
“You’ve got five minutes, Harry, then we need to leg it up to your d… I mean Professor Evans’ first lesson,” Hermione blanched at the near slip of her tongue.
“We’ll make it, we always do,” Harry smirked at his friends. “Besides, he’s still here, so we should make the lesson in plenty of time.”
“Never mind, Harry.” Ginny stepped away from her bowl, an unusual move for her to leave food. “Come on, you can show me that passage you were talking about the other day.” She winked at him before dragging him out of the Hall, leaving a very confused Ron and a highly amused Hermione gaping at their retreating forms.
“Ah, young love,” Fleur giggled as she caught the look on her sisters face. “Do not even think about trying to get between them, Gabrielle. Ginny would be rather upset, if you do.”
“I was not thinking about, that. Honest.”
Harry and Ginny arrived outside the DADA classroom two minutes after the class had started, looking rather red-faced and mussed. Trying to be discreet, they slipped into the room and made for the nearest free tables.
“Ah, you’ve decided to join us then, very good.” They cringed as they registered the berating tone. “Now you are here, perhaps you can join me in a demonstration.”
Slowly, Ginny dropped her bag on the desk and headed towards the front of the group followed by Harry. They stopped and faced an oddly familiar chest.
“Right then. Today we’ll be dealing with Dementors.” The looks of shock spread through the class. For those who had been in the battle in May these looks rapidly turned into rather large grins. “The Dementors used to be the main guards of Azkaban. Can anyone tell me what they do? Aside from Miss Granger.”
The look of disappointment on Hermiones face was plain to see as her hand relinquished its usual spot above her head.
“They are used to keep the inmates under control, by sucking out every happy memory and feeding off of their despair.” The more notable students turned their heads to see who had spoken. With his hand still raised in the air, Draco Malfoys face turned a shade of red a Weasley would have been proud of. “They… ah, they are also used to perform a fate worse than death. The kiss. Where they suck out a persons soul. There is no reversal for this, though.”
“Fifteen points to Slytherin, and a further five for correctly pointing out the last part.” James Potter/Evans turned his head from the young man and surveyed the group. “There is no reversal of the Dementors kiss. What is left is nothing more than a shell. Living, but not alive.
“There is a way to counter them though…”
“The Patronus Charm.” Seamus Finnigan announced. “Sorry, we learnt about it several years ago from your man there.” He nodded at Harry.
“Really?” James tilted his head close to his sons. “You never told me about that.” He whispered.
“Thought you got most of your news from the dead?” Harry narrowed his eyes.
“Right. So for those who don’t know. The incantation is Expecto Patronum.” Professor Potter/Evans walked around to the side of the chest, pulling his wand out. “Now you need to be thinking about something incredibly happy for the spell to work. It is usual for the charm to take the form of a shield, though the more powerful forms are corporeal, and the animal produced is linked to your form as an Animagus,” James smiled inwardly. “I believe that my wife will be teaching you about that at some point.”
“Indeed. Now, you two,” James concentrated his gaze upon Harry and Ginny. “What we have in here is a Boggart, not a Dementor, but its effects will be felt just the same. On the count of three. One… Two… Three.”
James waved his wand over the chest. The lid flew backwards and the great black, cloaked mass of a Dementor rose out of the depths.
Ginny paled instantly, but remained on her feet, her mind flooding with images of her possession by Tom Riddle.
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” She yelled, and a silvery animal burst from the tip of her wand, forcing the Boggart to shift its attention away from her.
Harrys silvery stag burst into life and finally forced the black mass to abandon its approach and seek refuge back in the chest.
“Well done.” James clapped his hands. “Well done indeed. Highly impressive. If you don’t mind my asking, what were you thinking? Harry?”
“When I asked Ginny to marry me.” He beamed as the memory filled both of their minds eyes.
“And you Ginny? And please don’t say what you were doing five minutes ago, please, I have just eaten.” A peel of laughter broke out.
“No, it wasn’t that,” Ginny blushed suddenly, her own happy memory flooding over the bond into Harrys mind. “I was ten, at Kings Cross with my brothers and mum. It was Rons first time on the Express, and this scrawny, lost little boy asked how to get onto the platform. I knew who it was, I tried to get closer to him. In fact I chased the train out of the station trying to see him again. When they came back in the summer after school, I went with mum to the station again. Not to see my brothers, but to see HIM.” Ginny finished with a whisper, blushing furiously, but keeping her head high.
“That certainly explains your patronus form…”
“But, sir. It used to be a mare, as tall as Harrys stag.” Ginny eyed her fully formed silvery doe.
“Love is a powerful thing, none of you forget that,” the professor spoke to the entire class, but mainly to Ginny. “What you have been through, the challenges faced and overcome. You have been changed as a result of those. When you come up here and face the challenge I present you with, some of you will find your own forms may have changed, others may find that they are able to produce something you have never managed before. I expect to see a few shield forms, they are nothing to be ashamed of.
“Those of you who came together last year, I don’t fully expect you to have male and female equivalents of the same animal. If you do, great.” James took another breath. “Before I call you up here, let’s practice shall we? Harry and Ginny. A word in private if you please.”
“Yes, sir.” Ginny swallowed. “I think this is the part where we get it in the neck for being late.”
“Maybe.” Harry looked at his father as he led them up into the teachers office at the back of the classroom. He could already here the whoops of glee as his classmates produced their patronuses.
“Harry, I may not know you as well as I should,” James closed the door behind the teens. “But I would have expected you of all people to have been here early.” The hurt was there for anyone to see. “My first day, and my own son can’t be bothered to wish me luck before class.”
“Sorry, dad, it won’t happen again.” Harry hung his head.
“Now, back to the matter in hand.” James sat behinds his desk. “You are aware, I believe, that only two other people in this building have been able to produce your forms?”
“Three, dad. You and mum, and Professor Snape.” Harry exhaled slowly, waiting.
“I know,” the reply hung in the air. “I won’t pretend to be happy about that, but he did right in the end. No, I meant living, right now.” He chuckled to himself in a way that made Ginny realise where that trait came from. “The Potters have been producing those forms throughout time. I shall have a word with Minerva and Lily, and see if we can’t squeeze in a program for actual Animagus training, this term, before the Christmas break?”
“But what about Quidditch? With the Tournament and lessons, I won’t have time to prepare a half-decent team,” Ginny moaned.
“You have an ex-captain for a husband-to-be-officially, your brother is one of the best strategists I’ve been told about and seen, and you have a friend who makes Lilys organisational skills seem positively mediocre,” James beamed. “I’d say that you’ll do just fine.”
Ginny burst at the seams with the compliments about her family and friends. Blushing furiously, she forgot about protocol and grabbed her future father-in-law and gave him a huge hug.
“Okay, you can squeeze the life out of me some other time,” James quipped. “I do still have classes to teach. By the way, you may want to seek out Hagrid tonight. Mentioned something about packages from Romania? Ah, I see from your faces you understand all too well what it means.”
* * * * *
Once the news about the opposition for the first challenge had made the rounds of the Hogwarts grapevine, the dragons had turned into giants, centaurs, Dementors and Chimaeras. Unknown to the gossipers, though, the last creatures had been brought in as well.
When the Champions met for the pre-task round-up, the situation was explained fully.
“Each of the teams must locate and retrieve a replica of the Sword of Gryffindor,” Professor McGonagall waved at a plan of the arena. “You will face one Chimaera and one Hungarian Horntail dragon.
“While some of you may remember the tournament from several years ago, do not think for one moment that you can be complacent.” Her Scottish accent rose to the fore. “The dragons are out-of-season, but hungry. The Chimaeras will devour anything. So, be on your guard. We will see you tomorrow at three sharp outside of the gamekeepers hut. Until then, you are to research and come up with your own plans of attack.”
Once the news about the opposition for the first challenge had made the rounds of the Hogwarts grapevine, the dragons had turned into giants, centaurs, Dementors and Chimaeras. Unknown to the gossipers, though, the last creatures had been brought in as well.
When the Champions met for the pre-task round-up, the situation was explained fully.
“Each of the teams must locate and retrieve a replica of the Sword of Gryffindor,” Professor McGonagall waved at a plan of the arena. “You will face one Chimaera and one Hungarian Horntail dragon.
“While some of you may remember the tournament from several years ago, do not think for one moment that you can be complacent.” Her Scottish accent rose to the fore. “The dragons are out-of-season, but hungry. The Chimaeras will devour anything. So, be on your guard. We will see you tomorrow at three sharp outside of the gamekeepers hut. Until then, you are to research and come up with your own plans of attack.”
* * * * *
Harry and Ginny spent the next three hours following the meeting in the Room of Requirement with Gabrielle and Michel. Now they knew what they were going to face they used the library to look up weaknesses of Chimaeras. The two teams had agreed early on that one of the best ways to deal with the Horntail threat would be to out-fly it. As they were all allowed their wands the relatively simple matter of learning the summoning charm was required.
Simple, however, was somewhat of an exaggeration. Gabrielle got to grips with the magic quickly enough; her partner, unfortunately, lacked sufficient confidence to even make the object he was supposed to have been summoning twitch.
Now, with only an hour to go, Gabrielle looked ready to hex the poor boy into next year, even with Fleur beside her trying to calm her.
“If the Champions would follow me please.” Professor Flitwick turned away from the gathering of the three pairings.
Looking back hesitantly, Gabrielle followed the teacher along the corridors to the Entrance Hall. Ginny and Harry looked on as the younger student gazed in awe at the stadium where the first challenge would take place.
Perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Black Lake, the wooden structure seemed to be balanced precariously. A flight of steps led the group up into the caves beneath the arena, ending in a tapestry featuring the coats-of-arms of the three schools. Behind this were several alcoves where the Champions were supposed to relax.
Ginny strolled over to the cots with the Hogwarts crest emblazoned on them, sitting down on one, testing how springy the mattress was. The look on her face showed that it had the same feel as one of the hospital beds in the castle. She’d seen enough of those through the years.
Harry sat down beside her, wrapping her up in his arms. His attention was drawn to the American pairing, Marcus and Carel. They seemed to be having a quiet argument. About what, Harry could not make out. Ginny pulled out her wand and wrapped her sleeve around it, polishing off fingerprints that had accumulated over the past few months since she last polished it. Harry chuckled as he drew his attention back to her, planting a kiss on the top of her hair.
“Ready?” An unnecessary question really, but it never hurt to ask.
He looked into her face. It showed determination. Her eyes betrayed her concern, for them both. She twitched her wand, sending red sparks flying over the sheets of the bed. She waved her free hand over the smouldering embers, instantly putting the fire out before it got started.
“Gather round, if you will,” Headmistress Umbridge slipped between the exit curtains into the enclosure, followed by Olympe Maxime and Minerva McGonagall.
“She looks worse than yesterday,” Ginny smirked.
“She’s got a familiar air about her, but I can’t put my finger on it,” Harry whispered into her ear before standing with her and approaching the judges.
“Before you go out and face the challenge,” the usually girlish tones were replaced by a more deeper, less confident tone, similar to the one she used when Dumbledore retrieved her from the centaurs. “You all know what creatures you will be up against. You have no doubt been preparing to confront the beasts by splitting up and taking them on separately. However, in the interest of preserving the spirit of the Tournament, you will not be able to split up.”
The three judges stood behind the pairings, conjuring ropes around the left arms of the males and the right arms of the females, running from the wrists up to the elbows.
“Now I know you may feel slightly uncomfortable about this arrangement,” Umbridge glanced over at Gabrielle and Michel. “This is your chance to show that you can work together and obtain your goal.”
“You will be going out into the arena in the order that you were drawn out of the Goblet of Fire,” Minerva McGonagall rounded her students, looking into their eyes, hoping they understood. “The Salem Institute Champions will go first, then the Beauxbatons Academy Champions, and lastly the Hogwarts Champions.”
“I don’t suppose we’ll be allowed to watch the action, then?” Michel looked pale as he fully realised what was possibly at stake now.
Harry felt for the young man. ‘People have been killed in the Tournament before’. Haunting words from so many years ago. The panic-stricken look on the Frenchmans face confirmed Harry’s fears. Not only were he and Ginny unwilling participants alongside Gabrielle, but so too was her partner. The Americans, to all intents, appeared to be the only ones who had themselves put their names into the Goblet of Fire.
So much for not putting a guard on the artefact. Hindsight is a wonderful thing to have, but foresight would have been so much better. Maybe, if they’d paid attention in Trelawneys lessons, either he or Ron would have seen this turn of events and tried to do something to avoid them.
“When Mr Filch sounds the cannon, you may proceed,” Headmistress McGonagall informed Carel and Marcus.
Ten seconds later, the loud boom of the school cannon sounded across the stadium. The American pair stood, and headed for the exit tapestry. Before they left, Carel turned her head slightly to view the others. A flicker of trepidation crossed her otherwise calm expression, causing Ginny to sit up straighter, and they were gone.
Almost immediately, the roar of the waiting dragon was heard, drowning out the screams of the crowd. Thankfully, with the lack of commentary from outside, the atmosphere in the Champions enclosure was only just calm. The occasional collective intake of breath from the crowd, usually punctuated by the roar of the dragon, served as sharp reminders as to why they were there.
Gabrielle’s heritage served to provide a calming action over the two pairings, her Veela side showing through to diffuse the tension they felt, but could not show. However, this was not the only effect of the action. Being thrown into the Tournament had reawakened the young girl’s adoration of Harry. A fact not lost on Ginny, as she constantly caught her sneaking looks across, almost always when she thought Harry was looking at her and not Ginny.
When the cannon sounded for the second time, Michel jumped out of his skin; his face white and clammy, with sweat pouring down his forehead and cheeks. Gabrielle gave his hand a reassuring squeeze and stood them up from the bed they had been assigned.
With a weak smile to the pair of them, the young part-Veela turned away from the Hogwarts Champions and pulled her partner through the tapestry. Almost immediately, the noise of the crowd changed from welcoming applause to imploring screams.
Ginny twitched at Harry’s side, her wand whirling in her fingers.
“There’s nothing that we can do, love,” Harry reached around with his free arm and pulled her into a hug. “All we can do is wait for our entrance.”
“Are the brooms ready?”
“Both of them are next to our window. Which one did you intend on risking?” He had a mischievous look about him, in spite of their situation.
“Call the Firebird.” Ginnys face was set with determination. “I’ll fly, you shoot.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Harry quipped, and pressed his lips to hers.
The sound of the cannon caused the pair to jump apart. Trembling slightly, they stood as one and made their way out into the arena.
The sight before them left a bitter taste in their mouths. The reason for the cannon being sounded so soon was all too apparent.
The arena was an out-and-out mess. The obstacles hewn from the natural rock were smashed and scorched. The French pairing were trapped against the far side of the area by a Chimaera. The Hungarian Horntail they were supposed to be facing also was just lying down, seemingly bored by the whole thing.
At least, it was until it smelled the new challengers. With a deafening roar, it took to the air, flailing its tail along the ground, throwing up debris. Momentarily distracted, the Chimaera turned to follow the progress of the other creature.
With a sickening jolt to her stomach, Ginny realised why the French pairing had not progressed further. Gabrielle Delacour was unconscious, Michel Vincent was barely keeping up a shield charm to prevent the advance of the fiery animal. When the beast turned away from them, the Frenchman dropped the charm long enough to rest slightly.
Seizing the moment, Ginny yelled loudly, distracting the pair of fiery animals further. Casting as powerful a shield charm as she could muster, she protected herself and Harry from the first wave of fire.
“Great plan,” Harry’s bout of sarcasm was not entirely without merit. “Keep it up, Michels nearly got her out.”
“A hand might be good, I’m tiring too quickly,” Ginny looked at her partner. “Kiss me.”
“What...” Harry was shocked about her forwardness.
“Dammit, Harry. Kiss me.”
Looking curiously at her, he saw the determination. He heard her voice in his mind. He understood the ‘why’. He pulled her close in, making sure her wand stayed out before the pair of them, and planted the fullest kiss he could on her lips. The power to the charm increased dramatically. The shield increased in size, glowing with a golden light that lit up the darkest corners of the arena. Without thinking, Ginny gripped Harry’s left hand with her right, producing another shield charm with his ring. She deepened the kiss, trying to drawn as much power from their love for each other as she could.
Subconsciously, Harry could ‘see’ their situation. He pictured the dragon concentrating on trying to incinerate them, as the Chimaera circled them, looking for an opening from their rear. Shaking his head to clear the images, Harry brought his wand up, pointing it straight at the circling beast and started firing stunning spells.
“Accio Firebird.” Ginny summoned her broomstick, looking at the French pairing as they made good their escape. “Come on, Harry.”
She twisted the pair of them out of the fiery onslaught from the dragon. They ran for the cover of a large boulder to their right. The spiked tail of the dragon attempted to intercept them, sending shards of stone into their sides, but otherwise missing them physically.
“Bugger,” Harry swore, throwing himself protectively over Ginny. She on the other hand pitched them both into a gulley behind the boulder she was heading for.
“Don’t do that ever again.” She was fuming. “Your damn nobility is going to get you killed here, and I can’t carry your deadweight.”
Harry couldn’t help himself, he burst out laughing. The fire he loved so much about her was clear in the expression on her face.
“Where’s the sword?” He glanced out of the gulley just long enough to spot the Chimaera advancing on them.
“Behind the dragon,” Ginny gazed into the distance, as though picturing the arena from afar.
“I don’t know how, just trust me on this.” She crouched down again, bringing her legs beneath her, getting ready to spring into action. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“Good.” She smirked. “Now!”
They leapt out of the hollow just as the dragon swung its tail in, missing them, but hitting the advancing Chimaera instead. The fiery beasts faced each other, preparing to fight, neither one noticing the wizards now streaking for the replica sword.
19. Ginevra versus Gabrielle.
The celebration after the challenge lasted well into the early hours of Saturday morning. Come three in the morning though, even the patience of the most understanding of the professors was reaching its limits. Rubeus Hagrid was trying to enter the common room to berate the students for the noise when he spotted that the only ones remaining were the Gryffindor couples and the French pairing.
He smiled inwardly, remembering the last time two of that number had looked so peaceful and content. A lone tear ran down his cheek as he heard the line of conversation. Some things just had to be said. Be they good, or bad.
“So let me get this right... You dumped Ginny at Albus’ funeral. To protect her?” Lilys voice was a little high, but full of love.
“It was a mistake, I know that now.” Harry tried to defend his actions. “I thought that if I left her, Riddle would leave her be and not try to use her to get to me. You remember what I told you about her first year. I kept thinking about what I felt when I saw her lying on the floor of the Chamber. Then I saw her lying on a slab like Dumbledore, with Riddle standing over her.
“I couldn’t bear to think about that,” Harry turned his head so that he faced the woman in his lap. “With her own connection to Riddle, we could have used that to our advantage. And I wouldn’t have felt so lonely last year.
“But what is done, is done. Even given the opportunity, I would not go back and change it,” Harry finished.
“Fair enough then.” James looked thoughtfully into the fire. “How’s the Quidditch team coming this year?”
“Oh damn,” Ginny fumed. “I nearly forgot about that.” She made to get up, then thought better of it, feeling the effects of nearly a full bottle of Firewhiskey and settled into Harrys lap further. “The first match is in two weeks, what am I going to do?”
“Well, let’s think for a moment, shall we...” Harry tried to furrow his brow in concentration, but gave up as Ginny started giggling at him. “What?”
“You... thinking? That’s a first.” She was teasing, but was shocked by the look he gave her.
“I do have my moments, it’s not all about instinct,” he bent his head to capture her lips. “Though, at times, they have been the better option.
“Anyway, how many of last year’s team are here? Would they be willing to try out again?”
“Aside from... Colin... the team made it,” her eyes cast downwards, her whole body seemed to sag. “He played seeker in your absence. He was good. My heart wasn’t in it to replace you.”
“You mean, you didn’t want to be the one filling in during my... absence.” The word held so many meanings for them, both. The whole conversation seemed to die. The jovial atmosphere created by the completion of the first task had taken a nosedive.
Grabbing the replica sword had not in fact ended the challenge. Once it had been pulled for the stone it had been set into, the Hogwarts cannon had sounded yet again. The beasts present for the French pairing had been replaced by fresh ones. The Chimaera took to circling them as the French sword vaporised. The sword that had been their intended prize was now positioned behind the latest Hungarian Horntail; a dragon that Harry sorely recognised, and hoped did not do likewise him.
It was a vain hope. No sooner had its restraints been released, then it was advancing on them, fire cascading from its mouth, tail whipping around and crashing into the ground.
Ginnys Firebird arrived just as the combined attack reached their position. Harry had never been so thankful that he had been paired up with his wife-to-be. Throwing the pair of them onto the broomstick, she immediately took charge, reverting to the original plan of attack – namely her flying, while he fired off spells.
Reaching the replica sword was only a matter of when, not if, and the clash was over mere seconds after it had begun.
The jubilation, the ecstasy, had sprung up immediately. No-one had the presence of mind to ask how the situation had arisen in the first place – that one team had had to rescue another, and then complete their own challenge.
Now, once more, the tone of events had taken a dive. True enough, they had talked. They had laughed; they had cried. The roller-coaster of emotions seemed to match the moment.
“How do you go on?” Hermione spoke up, her actual question underneath the spoken one.
“‘Mione, is this the time?” Ron warned.
“It’s okay.” He looked into his friends eyes, seeing the grief that threatened to spill out. “Though, I was expecting either Dennis or George to be the ones to ask.” He shook his head, as though to clear it. In reality, he was trying to prepare an answer. “I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve just got used to it, over the years.”
“But, how? You’ve lost so much more than any of us can imagine. No offense, James, Lily.” Hermione nodded to them. “You lost your family. You lost friends. I suppose I’m trying to ask if the pain ever goes away?”
“It never does go away.” Harry stared into the fire, his chin resting on the hair of his love. “It hurts like hell in the immediate time. As time passes, though, and you’ll find this out for yourselves, it can’t be taught, the pain of loss lessens.
“You reach a point, when the lump in the back of your throat doesn’t have the potency it once had. You can do an action that may make you think about someone, and the tightening in your chest isn’t quite as harsh.” His eyes glistened as he addressed each in turn, failing to notice the portrait hole open to admit Neville and Luna. “The hardest part of any of this, is the nightmares. We are all having them. Some worse than others. You will always have them. Trust me, after seventeen years, I know about that.
“But it is the power that they have over you that lessens. With time, even their power is diminished. With help, their pain also fades. Whether it is by talking about it, or going to the place that scares you most, this all helps.” Harry buried his face in Ginnys hair as his floodgates opened.
“Godric’s Hollow.” Ron threw in a place of hurt.
“Malfoy Manor.” Hermiones response.
“The train.” Lunas.
“Hogwarts.” Neville put in his place of fear.
“The Chamber of Secrets.” All too familiar was the pang of hurt in the voice. The unbidden image of a red-headed child lying face-down on the stone floor, close to death, flooded the minds of everyone in the common room.
“The Hall of Prophecy.” Another location.
“Merlin, you children should not have lost your innocence like this,” James moved Lily off of his lap, and stood before them. “Your childhood should not have been spent trying to survive.”
Ginny snorted, shaking her head at the man who should have been her father-in-law and godfather of a great many years. “Harry never had a childhood to speak of. I’ve seen his memories, he’s shared his memories through our bond.” She looked the older man in the eyes, as though trying to push the images into his mind. “My childhood was torn from me by a bloody diary. Ginny Weasley, the child, died that day in the Chamber. What came out was a shell. Between us all, I’m proud of what I have accomplished, and who I have with me.
“Ron and Hermione, their childhoods ended the day they followed Harry after the Philosophers Stone. Nevilles kind of did too.” She glanced over her friends. “Luna, you told me about your mum. I think that is when you partially lost your innocence as a child. The rest was ripped out by Umbridge and the Ministry.”
“I think you are right, on all fronts.” The usual spaced-out look was replaced by a harder one, if only for a split-second. “But let’s not forget the reason for it all.”
“Riddle.” Ron spat the name in the same instant as Neville.
With that, the conversation stagnated again. The couples split up, heading for their beds.
“Aren’t you in the wrong dormitory, Luna?” Ever tactful Ron blurted out.
“She can’t sleep, nightmares.” Neville defended, his decision was final. “I’m looking after her.”
“Good to know.”
“How about you?” Luna looked at Ron for a second. “On the other hand, I’d rather not know. Enough to work out as it is.”
Harry half-carried Ginny into their room, the young red-headed woman feeling none-too-clever for the amount of Firewhiskey consumed. He pondered what she had admitted before. ‘Ginny Weasley, the child, died that day in the Chamber’. His legs buckling under him, Harry barely managed to make the distance to the bed. Exhausted, and wracked by fresh waves of guilt, he slipped into a new nightmare, gripping tightly onto the lifeline beside him.
‘Her body shall lie in the Chamber, forever.’
The words, written in fresh blood, dripped on the corridor wall. None of his friends were with him this time. He was truly alone. He sought out the entrance to the catacombs. The washbasin in the girl’s toilets on the second floor. His heart pounding, he found it already open, inviting him into its depths.
Not caring that it might be a trap, with sword in hand, Harry slid down the pipe. He came to the door guarding the Chamber. Again, it was open, inviting him in.
He stepped in. What he saw appalled him. Ginny Weasley was once more lying face down on the cold stone floor, with a figure standing over her.
Harry raced forwards. His heart pounding harder in his chest, as though it was trying to beat for the two of them. In a way, it was. Through their bond, Harry could feel her life measured in seconds, and he was trying to force as much of his into her as he could.
“Ginny. Please... please don’t be dead. I can’t live without you. Please... don’t die... not here.” He fell to his knees at her side, pulling her over onto his lap.
Her red hair clung to her pale-as-ivory skin. Her breathing was shallow, too shallow. Her eyes were closed slightly. Her hands were cold as ice. The usual, welcoming warmth of her body was no more.
Ginnys breathing failed. Harry knew it was only time before death took him for his own, too. He welcomed it with open arms. He had lost the one reason above all others to survive, to simply be.
The figure observed the scene unfolding, with a hint of interest. If that was his choice, then so be it. If she could not have him, then no-one, not even his love, would get to keep him.
The figure turned her back on the dead and the dying. She left the Chamber, sealing the entrance with a cave-in, then left the catacombs using a spell she had heard used in a forest.
* * * * *
Ginny Weasley awoke with a very sudden jerk. She had no recollection of getting undressed for bed the night before, and yet, she was in her nightgown in bed. Beside her, Harry Potter lay on his side, facing her. One arm wrapped around her shoulders, the other lay over her stomach. Sweat poured off of his brow as the last moments of the nightmare played over.
With a few, free moments to call her own before he woke, Ginny contemplated this latest bad dream. It was the same old hellish place. The same old hellish scenario. The extra person this time was different. As though the dream was being directed from someone, somewhere. But why? And by whom? Both needed answers, and yet, they knew not either.
A sudden thought brushed into her mind, subtle enough to be dismissed, but blunt enough to be a possibility. What if... the forced participation in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, the nightmares... what if they were linked somehow? What would be gained by this? Her thoughts flew back to the summer. The attack on the shop. The kidnappings. They weren’t random. They weren’t directed at Harry, either. Those tended to be more direct.
A half-smile curled her lips. This was personal to her. The attacks were on people she had been directly involved with. Her elite squad. Her godson. Herself. Harry had been nothing more than a bystander. She thought about what Harry would have done before. His nobility would have insisted on breaking up with her, to protect her.
But that was not his way now. She had successfully purged that from him, and she sure as hell was not going to do that to herself. She had spent too long working to capture the man of her dreams, to give him up like that.
At age four years, she had first heard the story of the boy-who-lived. At six, she had written the tale in the first of her short stories, expanding it to include herself, as the person to give him that which had been taken away from him. A family of his own.
Ginny thought for a moment, looking at the sleeping man beside her, chuckling silently at the past. She had been enthralled by the legend of the boy-who-lived. Then she had developed the ill-fated crush on the boy-as-he-was, the legend now forgotten. After he had saved her, she had fallen in love with him, then given up hope of him noticing her, and finally, was able to give him a glimpse of peace beyond his fate. It would be unkind to say that all the boys she went out with before Harry were marking time, but that was what it felt like at the time.
She had never... could never... get over him. His saving her life had left an indelible mark on her soul, initiating the process she had worked towards, and completed, with Harry in their home. Soulmates, bonded for eternity.
Ginny smiled as she recalled some of her later writings, at home before her first year at Hogwarts. If she had known then, about all the hurt, the suffering, and on the flip side the joy and sheer pleasure, that would become a part of her life, would she have tried to avoid the problems? No, she was a Weasley, and as such, problems tended to hurtle towards her more often than not. Unless you were the twins, in which case you went looking for the best way to cause mischief, in order to distract from the problems.
She thought some more about her earlier writings. The incident involving the diary had left her vulnerable. She had not picked up a quill to write anything other than essays and exams in over five and a half years. It was high time to get back in the saddle, as the Muggles would say.
Ginny was torn between slipping out of bed, and providing a calming presence as the fever of Harrys nightmare broke. After a couple of minutes, his eyes slowly drew open, catching her watching him, biting her bottom lip in that way he found so incredibly... Ginny. There was no other way to describe the action. It was just one of the myriad of small actions that she took for granted, and he found so enthralling.
Using the link between them, he drifted through her recent thoughts, looking for the answers to his unspoken questions. He learned about her works, and why she had stopped. Shaking his head slowly, once more he was drawn into thinking the same thought he had every time he woke next to her.
“How am I so incredibly lucky to deserve you?” He kissed her gently on the lips.
“Your mum would probably say we were born to be together,” Ginny returned the kiss. “I never believed in that stuff. Prophecies are what you make of them, as are destinies.”
“You thought of me as your destiny?” Harry raised an eyebrow, propping himself up with an elbow and tracing random lines across her exposed arm.
“With what you’ve just seen, you know I did, and still do.” She raised her hand to trace his scar, something she had not done for months. “You’ve seen how I thought of you, and do think of you. As we said at our bonding, ‘I am yours and no others’.
“Do you think we’ll be allowed to go into Hogsmeade? I want to pick up some supplies from Schrivenshafts.” She changed the subject quickly.
“I’ll speak to Minerva, if you can do something here while I’m gone?”
“Put a sheet up about tryouts, okay?”
“You got it.”
The couple had only just made breakfast, after their errands. Harry had been able to convince the Headmistress to allow an impromptu trip into the village. In spite of her apparent unease about such a thing, Minerva McGonagall had given the go-ahead on one condition – that Harry and Ginny go with an escort. Agreeing had been easy, as long as they could decide who to provide the cover.
Suitably wrapped against the impending cold weather approaching the area, Harry and Ginny passed by Mr Filch in the company of Ron and Hermione. Neville and Luna followed close behind with Bill and Fleur, with Gabrielle.
The young part-Veela had been discharged from the Hospital Wing by Madame Pomfrey on the promise that she was not to exert herself in any way. Naturally, this advice had been ignored as she tried at nearly every opportunity to squeeze between Harry and Ginny. After several beratings from her sister and almost winding up on the business end of Ginnys wand, Gabrielle had settled on glaring at the back of the red-head whilst babbling on at Luna.
Ginnys only purposeful stop of the trip was made, and she left with a heavy bag of writing materials and parchment. Harry tried to hide the smirk as Ron looked on as the owner announced the cost of the supplies. A small fortune by the usual student standards, but for his Ginny, Harry would have paid triple, easily.
The group made their way over to the Hogs Head, preferring the quiet atmosphere of the run-down old pub for today, rather than the bustle of the Three Broomsticks. Aberforth Dumbledore gave them all drinks on the house, earning a not-too-disapproving look from Bill as he handed a bottle of Firewhiskey to Fleur and Butterbeer to Gabrielle.
With an eerily familiar ease, the group slipped into conversation about the past, the present and the future. Ginny watched the original trio chat animatedly about their first year at Hogwarts. She looked at her brother and his family, before turning to speak to her friends.
Neville was leaning in and occasionally kissing Luna, as they both listened intently to both sets of chatter. Every so often, questions would be thrown out for them to answer.
One of the conversations merged with the other. The trio were finding out how much of a problem their break-in at Gringotts had caused Bill and Fleur. Ginny missed the details of the replies, she was on the receiving end of some rather pointed stares from Fleurs sister.
“What?” She turned her head to face the young girl, her tone light.
“’ow did you manage eet?” this was not a polite turn. “Why deed you take ‘im from me?”
“What are you talking about, Gabrielle?” Confusion spread across her features.
“You beetch,” she drew her wand. “’e was supposed to love me. ‘e saved me from the lake. We were supposed to fall in love and get married, but you stole ‘im from me.”
“Fleur, can you deal with this, please.” Ginny looked pleadingly at her sister-in-law.
“Do not talk to ‘er. She is too good for you to even look at.”
“Okay, if you want to play it that way, Gabby, then we will.” Ginny folded her arms across her chest. “I’m going to count to five, if you still have not either given me a good reason for your behaviour, or put your wand away, we’ll be stepping outside to settle this.”
“I do not care what you want you leetle tart.” That was a low blow, reminiscent of one Rita Skeeter.
“One.” Schooling her features, Ginny developed a neutral expression.
“You ‘ave done nothing but disappoint ‘im.”
“I ‘eard you were sleeping with zat Malfoy boy while ‘e was trying to save ze world.”
“Gabrielle!” Fleur was outraged by that.
“Three.” Ginny continued.
“’Arry is too good for you.”
“You are nothing but a scarlet woman, who goes after anyone with power.”
“Five.” Ginnys patience reached the end of the line. Shaking her head, she looked around at the group, extending silent apologies. Fixing her gaze on the enemy, she finally stood. “OUTSIDE.”
“Weeth pleasure.” Gabrielle headed for the door, Ginny in her wake.
“You don’t have to do this, sis.” Bill reached out a hand as the rest of the group stood.
“See if you can find out what was in her bottle,” Ginny nodded to the half-empty Butterbeer. “I won’t hurt her, much.”
“That is what worries me,” Harry placed both of his hands on her shoulders. “It was probably just the drink talking.”
“There’s no alcohol in there though, and her eyes don’t look right for her to be under the Imperius, so that leaves me with either a delusional individual – sorry Fleur – or a potion to work out of her system,” Her face set like stone, Ginny headed for the door. “Personally, I hope it’s a potion and we can burn it off with this workout, I really like her, in small doses yes, but she is family after all.”
Harry smiled at her last words. Hadn’t he said the same to Fleur at the cottage only days ago, when they were working out how to train and protect each other?
Gabrielle stormed around the back of the old pub, into the field behind. It was far enough away from the main street that this little conflict would not draw too much attention, and yet it was close enough that if either of them was seriously injured they could get help, quickly. She did not know where her anger was coming from, but it felt justified. Harry should have been hers that much was clear to her. But it was only a bout of hero worship that had lasted for years, true enough. Where the hell had all of those other words come from? As much as she wanted to calm down, and patch things up with Ginny, she only got madder.
Ginny turned the corner of the structure to enter the field, to miss by inches the sickly green light of a killing curse. Where in blazes had that come from? There should only be one other person out here, and she certainly should not have been able to produce that... not at that intense a level.
Reacting on pure instinct, Ginny Weasley dove behind the low wall running around the back of the building, her wand flying out of her hand as she landed heavily on her side. Behind her, she heard Harry wince as the pain shot through their bond away from her. If she lost to a killing curse, they would both lose their lives. With a renewed determination to find out what had caused this change, she summoned her wand and let loose a string of bat-bogeys to her opponent.
Swearing loudly, Gabrielle loosed another killing curse at her opponent, taking out the incoming batwings and shattering the wall behind which she was hiding.
Ginny noticed movement to her right. She chanced a glance in that direction. Harry and Bill were both moving off to circle the duel and end it their way. Firing off a silent petrificus, Ginny barely had time to leap out of the way as the wall exploded around her, debris bouncing off of the hastily erected shield charm.
“Very good. You have skill, but you are still nothing more than a silly little girl!” Gabrielle’s voice carried high over the field. Her words were more than just bluster to the ears of the careful listener.
Harry blanched, his eyes betraying the obvious fright to hear those words. Words from long ago, in a dreaded place, spoken by one who still haunted them, even in death.
“Ginny, you need to end this, quickly.” Unable to move, he could hardly cry out his pain and realisation.
“Small problem with that, or had you not noticed the twelve-year-old gone nuts?”
“Gin, it’s not Gabby. Whoever she was to us before, she is not at the present.” Harry tried to form a coherent, yet non-scary, statement. Finding no easy way, he dove in. “It’s Tom, or at least that bloody wand of his.”
That did it. Her own body convulsing as Harrys statement sank its reality into her mind, Ginny stood and fired off every stunning spell she could think of in rapid succession. Hardly blinking, she closed the distance between them as quickly as she could as her own spells rebounded off of Gabrielles own shield charm.
The young girl’s wand pulsed with sickly-green yet again, as Ginny launched herself forwards. The spell scorched her cloak, but did not contact her body.
For a few nightmarish seconds, Ginny thought she heard a scream coming from the old pub, but put it down to adrenaline as her mind raced as to how best to finish the duel. She was now two feet away from her opponent, and with her mind racing as it was, any stunning spell at this range would likely prove lethal.
Ginny had managed to subdue her opponent faster than she thought possible at the outset of the skirmish. Quickly tearing the wand out of her hands, she placed a sleeping charm on Gabrielle, to activate the instant the petrificus dropped.
Harry watched on in amazement. His eyes following the course of battle even as his body could not. The group of seven were stuck with the charm Ginny had used to prevent any of them from interfering, or at worst getting themselves killed. He had to hand it to her, she was much better at this sort of thing than he was, almost to the point of emulating Dumbledore.
An odd realization struck him. After the events of her first year, how much time had she spent with the old man? What had he taught her? Every regret he had had about failing to see her, the way in which she had seen him bubbled up to the surface, yet again. Oh, how he cursed himself at leaving behind the greatest source of comfort to him for nearly a year. But then, if she had joined them, how else would Severus Snape have covered the deposition of the Sword of Gryffindor, if not by passing the fake she had tried to steal, into the vault of the Lestranges?
Too many questions, too many possibilities to even consider. If a suitable timeturner was available, he knew he would not use it. They had been lucky for the most part, not to have been discovered or captured earlier than they were at Easter. The excursion to Godric’s Hollow may have felt like a disaster at the time, but looking back, it had been necessary. He looked at the woman he loved, feeling the anxiety pour off of her. He could feel how terrible she felt about Gabrielle being the one to be used as a tool, fully understanding how she felt about the subject herself. He reached out with his mind to ease her nerves. He tried to show that she had taken the right course of action. They on the other hand had let a perfect opportunity slip by. To have spotted who else was watching and pouring their hatred into the innocent so that she would act in that way would have saved a lot of questions and possibly even the guilt now emanating from the two combatants.
They had not done so, and so they missed the movement of the floo network being used in the pub, as the last remnants of polyjuice potion wore off and the old innkeeper revealed his true appearance.
Feeling a sudden wave of nausea sweep over her, Ginny collapsed to the ground. Her spells of earlier collapsed with her, only the sleep-inducer on Gabrielle activated in place of the petrificus charm.
Harry was at her side immediately, apparating in to catch her as she fell.
Ginevra Molly Weasley awoke slowly to find herself in the worst room she could possibly imagine at Hogwarts, aside from the Chamber of Secrets. The hospital wing still carried the same sanitised air it always had, the same one it had carried during her first year and the same one it had carried during her fifth.
Trying to tilt her head to see who was causing the shadow to fall over her bed, she gasped at the inordinate amount of pain she seemed to be in.
“Shush... shush...” A welcoming and gentle hand wiped a tear from her cheek as the pain flashed in her features. “You’re okay, now. Welcome back.”
“How... long was I out?” She tried to move, but that just seemed to make the pain worse. “Did you catch the name of the hippogriff who hit me?”
“Only a few hours, and it wasn’t Buckbeak, he’s still at home.” Harrys face reached into her line of vision, a grin plastered on his lips, concern in his eyes. “In case you are wondering, Gabrielle managed to get off one last spell, whilst petrified.”
“Any ideas which one?”
“No, and I don’t care at this stage.” Harry leant in to kiss her on the lips. “For a moment there, I felt like you did in May. I never understood that, until now.”
In spite of the pain, Ginny pushed herself up and wrapped her arms around Harry. She felt all of the conflicting emotions bouncing around his mind. Love, hate, loss. The greatest one present was the feeling of near-loss of the one person who could, and had, brought him back from the edge so many times. She poured all that she felt for him at that moment, through their bond into him. He winced as he felt the sorrow and the acknowledgement of her power over him, and felt enormous pride that she would do exactly as he would for her. It was more than an understanding. It was more than an acceptance of something that he had known for years.
When pushed, Ginny would hit back, hard, but she would rarely overstep the mark. She would only do that for close family. Harry was more than family to her. For him, she would do anything, including die.
He would have questioned that, and even tried to push her away from making that sort of decision. That was in the past though. In the present, and in the future, he would stand by her decision. She was after all, so like him, as Hermione was quick to point out on occasion, and knew that given the same choices, he would make the same decision.
“How’s Gabrielle?” Ginny wheezed as the pain in her body finally brought her crashing down to earth.
“Asleep. Your little hex certainly paid dividends.” Harry glanced at the still form in the bed opposite. “Madam Pomfrey was able to determine that her injuries were inflicted by you, so no surprises there. She also found the remains of a potion in her system. Slughorn is looking at the sample for analysis, along with the bottle I gave to Bill.”
“He was found unconscious in the flat above the bar,” Harry nodded to another bed, this one in the furthest corner. “He’d been hit with a Cruciatus, then Stunned.”
“So, then whoever set this in motion was at the pub. They most likely followed us this morning and saw the hostility between Gabrielle and I, and played on it,” Ginny painfully wrapped herself around Harry again, letting out a hiss between her teeth. “You know what? This feels like a slow-running torture curse.”
Harry raised his eyebrows rapidly. He had never heard about her being under that particular curse, but then, as he sifted through his own memories of the visions he had seen in her mind, he found what he was looking for, and as always, it came down to one string of events that even he was getting sick of the memory of.
“Don’t, Harry,” Ginny felt his increasing frustration. “You did what you could.”
“Gin, you almost died.”
“And you came to my rescue, like some Muggle knight in shining armour, swinging a bloody sword to boot,” Ginny blushed deeply, her memory of the event as she had found out dulling the pain in her body. “If I hadn’t already been infatuated with you, then I soon would have.”
“Ginny Weasley, my stalker.” Harry quipped. Ginny merely buried her face into his chest.
“When we are released, I’m going to send a letter to mum. There’re some boxes I’d like her to send up,” Ginny looked at the curious expression on Harrys features. “You should know that these may be pretty embarrassing. You know for a six year-old to have those thoughts, and they don’t get any better over the years, the stories just get longer.”
“Oh, those stories... I’d like to read them, that’s if you don’t mind.”
“Not a problem, just don’t laugh too much at the last one,” Ginny looked sheepish. “I wrote it while you were at ours that summer.”
“Ah, yes. Shall I get you a butterdish, you know for a repeat performance?” Harry cringed slightly as he was answered by a swift scuff to the side of his head.
“I know, but I’m your prat.”
* * * * *
Ginny was released from the hospital wing early the next morning. Madam Pomfrey had insisted on keeping her in overnight, ‘for routine observation’. Harry had put up a fight about it, of course, but a compromise was reached. He had stayed with her through the night, applying soothing charms over her when the pain from the curse had become unbearable.
Both James and Lily had stopped by shortly before dinner with Ron and Hermione. They had talked for a while before they retreated to eat. James had been working with Ron to pick a new set of playing strategies for their upcoming match. Lily and Hermione shook their heads at their men and passed the time talking about the upcoming weddings and Christmas.
Harry led the way back to his apartment. Being a Sunday, there was very little activity in the corridors. They’d passed Peeves the poltergeist close to the second floor girl’s bathroom, but as he was occupied with tormenting Moaning Myrtle, he didn’t notice them.
Ginny stopped short at the door, her face set with a grim expression. She turned to face the doorway, composing herself. Striding purposefully on, she entered the bathroom and confronted the washbasin.
“You don’t have to do this now,” Harry placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
“I know, and I don’t want to, but I need to. I won’t let that one event drag me down each time, not like this.” Eyes clenched shut, she sought a particular memory. “Open.” She hissed.
Harry could not determine which surprised him most. That Ginny, his Ginny, had just used parseltongue, or that the basin had responded. He had to go with the former of the two. Had she acquired that language through their bond? Or was it a leftover from Tom’s time with her?
Ginny responded to these silent questions by reaching over and taking his hands in hers. She looked into his eyes, reading his expression correctly and pulled him close in. She would need his strength to go through with what she had in mind.
She led the way down the slippery drainpipe, her wand held lit in front of her. They came upon the antechamber, still containing the shed skin of the basilisk and the resulting mass of rock from the cave-in. Concentrating on her destination, Ginny pulled Harry close to her and apparated to the doorway with the snake-locks.
“Open.” She hissed once again.
The cold blast of air tore through the opening. The smell of decaying flesh hit their nostrils moments later. Casting an air-purifying charm, Harry stepped back from Ginny, watching her every movement as she took in the Chamber of Secrets.
The remains of the basilisk lay where it had fallen, minus a good number of its teeth. The damage to the statue of Salazar Slytherin had been repaired, though by whom, Harry did not know. So far as he could tell, no-one had been down here since the night of the battle. The pool of black tar had solidified and the outline of the diary was just visible where it had been stabbed. The dried pool of Harry’s blood stood out against the grey stone.
A flood of memories hit the pair of them at once. Ginny reeled under the mental onslaught, backing into Harry, her hands up against her temples. Gathering her strength, she stepped forwards into the Chamber. Her steps were slow and steady, her breathing however, was not. She walked on, past the snake statues, vividly reminded as to why she had freaked out on her trip to the tomb in Egypt.
Harry watched as Ginny made her way up the Chamber. The reality of the situation, that he was watching her in the here and now, was clouded by his own memory of years ago. All he could see was the young girl lying face down on the stone floor, close to death. Her words from the common room crashed through his subconscious – ‘Ginny Weasley, the child, died that day in the Chamber’. An involuntary shudder shook him from the dark thoughts. He saw Ginny, the woman, stop by the pool of black tar and glance at it, deep in thought.
“You know, I can feel it,” Ginny continued looking at the pool as she spoke. “It’s been in the castle the whole time since we got back.”
“What is?” Harry joined her, slipping his hand into hers. “What’s been here since we got back?”
“Tom’s wand. The yew and phoenix feather wand.” Ginny finally raised her head.
“How do you know?” He looked into her eyes, concern written into every line of his face.
“The rings. The dreams.” Ginnys expression spoke volumes. Her face showed calm, yet her eyes had her trademark fire. “When we rescued Andromeda and Teddy, the woman we saw was the same woman who attacked us in the graveyard.
“I checked with dad, one weekend after we got back, as to why there had been nothing done about the kidnapping,” Harry nodded his understanding. Ginny had been putting in a lot of extra work regarding their love-link and the power behind the rings. Time he had assumed she had spent in the library. “Umbridges wand was still registered as being the original that she had picked up from Ollivanders – willow and Unicorn-hair, similar to mine. Tom’s wand was never found after the battle, so whoever took it has been in the shadows, ever since.”
“Need more than that to convince me, Gin.”
“How about the travel documents she filed after she was accepted as the head of Salem?” Ginny countered. “How about the footage from the airport where she boarded the ‘plane?”
“But even so?” Harry grew concerned at the anger rising in her, suddenly finding himself unable to think clearly about stopping her.
“We were wrong about it being her, okay.” Ginny slumped down and rested her hand carelessly in the pool. Harry knelt down beside her, took hold of her hand and muttered a cleaning charm on it. “It would seem the wand has chosen a new master.”
“You got talking to old Ollivander didn’t you?”
“I had plenty of time to do so after Bill brought him to Aunt Muriels.” Ginny gazed at her now-clean hand. “Going on what we have learned so far, it would appear that it rejected him after he stole Dumbledores wand. After he was killed, someone close to him must have picked it up and it connected with them. Or maybe it was someone bitter and twisted enough that it recognised their potential? Who knows. I just know, that for our dreams to stop becoming a reality, we need to find whoever this is, and deal with them.”
“I’ll agree with that.” Harry chuckled, Ginny gave him a curious look. “You realise we had our first argument, not a proper one mind, but even so.”
“I think you are beautiful, even when mad at me,” he reached over and brushed his lips across hers. “How long have you been sensing the wand? And the whole snake language thing?”
“Long enough to realise that I was ignoring it previously.” Ginny blushed at her own admission of guilt. “Parseltongue? On and off since first year. Albus helped me to hide it, easy to do when there are no snakes around. Side-effect from the diary.”
Harry was shocked. He had been warned about the possibility of such a thing, but for him to witness it firsthand... he felt even more humbled by the woman before him.
“Let’s go. I’ve done what I had to do here,” Ginny took out her wand and twirled it in her fingers. She pointed it at the statue of Slytherin. “REDUCTO!”
The curse blasted the stone mouth. The lower jaw, from whence the basilisk emerged, fell backwards into the tunnel behind. The rest of the opening was filled by a mini cave-in, as the rest of the mouth area collapsed.
“That felt good.” She looked at Harry sheepishly and turned to head out of the Chamber, her demon having been laid firmly to rest.
“Not just good,” Harry smirked. “Bloody brilliant!” He followed her out into the castle above.
* * * * *
Gabrielle Delacour woke to find herself in a room she did not know, surrounded by the family she knew in this country. A sense of unease flashed through her as she spotted they were all holding their wands at the ready.
“Where am I?” The young girl inquired.
“Hermiones apartment in Gryffindor Tower.” Bill answered as Fleur returned from the bathroom with a dampened cloth. “We thought it best to keep you here rather than the hospital wing.”
“Gabrielle, what happened?” Hermione sat on the bed next to the French girl, her face full of questions, but one would do for now.
“I can’t remember too clearly.” She paused as her sister pressed the cloth to her forehead. “We went into the village, did some shopping, after we went into the pub, I just remember feeling so angry.” She buried her head in her hands, as the tears she had been holding back crashed through.
Harry and Ginny entered the room at that moment, and both surveyed the crowd. Bill and Hermione looked like they were trying to work out when they had been followed into the Hogs Head, but to be fair they had been discussing it rather loudly while they were in Schrivenshafts. Ron looked on, feeling hopeless about doing anything. Fleur, on the other hand, was driving glares at Ginny. She knew that what had happened was not the younger womans fault, but she had promised to keep her sister safe.
Ginny cowered under the stare, a reaction Harry had never seen from her before, and it scared him. Only minutes before, Ginny had appeared to be so much the stronger of the couple, and yet now, she was the one needing his help. He placed an arm around her waist, and reached around with his other to pull her close to him. The effect was immediate, and overwhelming. Every emotion that Ginny had suppressed during their duel rose to the fore. Ignoring the stares, she broke from Harry and headed over to Gabrielle, enveloping her in a hug worthy of her mother.
Both girls cried as they realised how close they had been. Gabrielle to how close she had been to killing someone, even if she had been under a malignant influence. Ginny to how close she had been to failing in her promise of protection. They clung onto each other, both silently promising to never go to that place again.
Another sort of healing began there and then.
21. The brothers.
After the fight and the tears, Ginny Weasley and Gabrielle Delacour became virtually inseparable during their training and after-class activities. At first Harry was rather put out by this turn of events, assuming that he was being left out of the loop. A screaming match with both Ginny and his mother showed him the error of his ways.
The argument occurred about a week after the ill-fated weekend. Ginny had made mention about some extra training with Gabrielle to strengthen her mental defences with Lily, when Harry passed comment about spending more time with competition rather than him. The row had been so loud at one point that everyone from the Ravenclaws to the Slytherins had heard it. Lily had become involved when she had tried to calm the pair and take the discussion to the seventh floor and the Room of Requirement.
Harrys counter had been to remind her that she knew nothing about the way he thought or the best way to end the fight. To say the comment had hurt would be a gross understatement. The punch from each of the women left him with a pair of black eyes and a pounding headache from where his head hit the wall.
The pair left Harry to stew in his thoughts while they sought out an empty classroom to calm down in. Once Ginny was inside she sank to her knees. The surge of raw emotion coursing through their bond overwhelmed her. She could feel every doubt, every insecurity. Was he worth the hassle? Why was she with him after a blow-up over nothing? What had he ever done to deserve her?
The same questions over and over.
Lily stayed quiet the whole time, just watching the breakdown as it unfolded. It pained her to do this, but instinct had taken over. She knew that, due to this remarkable witch before her, and the love she had for her son, both her and her husband had been given this time to get to know their son in the living world. She had heard the stories from all concerned about their exploits. Ginny had even shared her writings about the boy-who-lived, something she had yet to do with Harry. Arthur Weasley had passed on his knowledge about Harry’s life with her sister, and prayed to any god who cared to be listening that she never come across her soon.
In short, Lily felt that the only thing that she could do at the moment, was to let events unfold as they were, and not interfere with them. Too many people had manipulated the two of them already, or tried to do so. This second bout with the Tri-Wizard Tournament was testament to that. People were still trying to manipulate them, and it made her sick.
Harry entered the room about ten minutes after they had; tears streaming down his face, his glasses broken from the punches and his breathing wracked with sobs. Ginny hurtled into his arms, wrapping her own tightly around his waist. He took off his broken spectacles, throwing them onto a nearby table and cried into her hair.
Lily watched the scene as it developed. Streams of green and brown enveloped them, colliding and turning golden, as they held onto each other. Entranced, Lily viewed the display until a bright golden aura shone from their bodies, causing the older witch to cover her eyes.
“Wow, that was some display,” she breathed when the pairing had broken apart, and the aura dimmed. “What did you do?”
“We reaffirmed our vow to each other, and swore to never doubt each other, or ourselves, in the future.” Ginny answered, but kept her eyes on the man she still had her arms wrapped around. “It took me the best part of six, or seven, years to capture his heart, I don’t ever want to lose him, not through some petty argument.”
“I don’t think you’ll ever lose each other,” Lily smiled and approached the pair, wrapping them in a hug of her own. “You mean too much to each other.
“Now do you think we can get on with helping out? Or would you two like to be alone for a while?” Lily pulled back enough to look into both of their faces.
“As much as I would like to be alone with my fiancé, we really need to get on with preparing for the match tomorrow.” Ginny pulled out of Harrys arms. “See you down at the pitch in half an hour? I want to get some airtime in before we practise.”
“Okay, see you in a bit.” Harry reached down for one last kiss as he released her to leave the classroom. “Mum, can I ask a favour?”
“I’d like you to find out why Minerva changed our plan? I want to find out who was missing from the castle on Halloween, who has the biggest reason for wanting Ginny out of the way?” The look on Lilys face was exactly what Harry did not want to see. “These attacks against us. They are not aimed at me, I’ve figured that much out. Ginny is the target. So I want to know who. Is it someone from last year? Or is it someone from previous years who can’t let go?”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Lily turned for the door, stopping after a few steps. “Harry, don’t worry. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
“I know we will, but I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.” Harry licked his lips. “I think I’m going to get something to drink before I head down to the pitch.”
With his last words, Harry leapt out of the room and ran up to Gryffindor Tower. Changing quickly, he ran back down to the common room.
“Is there anything to drink around here?” He glanced over to one of the tables.
“Here you go.” A seventh year girl he could barely remember the name of handed him a glass of liquid.
Harry had barely raised it to neck height before he was bumped from behind, causing him to spill the contents over the floor.
“Oh, sorry, Harry. I didn’t see you there,” Stewart Leonard apologised sincerely enough, but the slight grin on his brother’s lips suggested otherwise.
“That’s okay, guys, I wasn’t really that thirsty anyway,” Harry set the glass down on the table. “Coming down to watch the practise?”
“Sure, let’s go.” Brian replied for the two of them, waving his wand behind his back.
The group left the common room as rapidly as the portrait would allow them. Only the twins, looking back, saw the look of anger on the girls face as she turned to storm up to the dormitories.
Ron met Harry as he left the changing rooms, a look of concern written all over his face.
“Heard you two had an almighty bust-up,” he put his arm around his best mates shoulder in a brotherly gesture.
“Who’d you hear that from?” Harry blushed crimson.
“Romilda Vane, of all people.” Ron stopped them both and turned his friend to face him. “Look, I don’t mind you two going for each other’s throats. Lord knows I do still have the occasional one with Hermione, but in the middle of the corridor, especially with her around, is not good.”
“Yeah, Ron, it’s not good. I got into a screaming match with Ginny, and my mum, and the castle knows about it within half an hour,” Harry kicked the ground and pushed into the air, followed by Ron. “Remind me to save the jealous boyfriend routine for when we are at home, okay?”
“I’ll remind you, but I think you’ll have someone else do that for you,” Ron nodded to where his sister was chewing the heads off of the pair of beaters for missing a simple play. “I’ve only ever seen her do that with Fred and George.”
Silence passed between them as Ron realised his slip of the tongue. He sighed loudly.
“How long will this last, Harry? How long before we can mention his name and not regret it?”
“Sneaks up on you doesn’t it? It gets easier, trust me.” Harry walked onto the pitch, leaving Ron to contemplate what he had just said.
Ginny was still fuming at the beaters, so when Harry blew into her ear to announce his presence, she turned on him.
“WHAT?!” She spat, and immediately regretted her action. Bringing her hands up to his cheeks, she stood on tip-toe to rest her forehead against his. “I’m so sorry, I’m just a bit het up. Peakes and Cootes never did that when you were in charge, I don’t see why they did it now?”
“They’re probably a bit rusty? How much play did you get last year?” Harry pulled her into a hug.
“Not a lot to be honest,” Ginny sighed. “Matches were banned after we made our play for the sword.”
“That was when? October? Best get up in the air, then.” Harry mounted his broom and kicked off.
He felt free. Flying always had that effect on him. He flew a lap of the pitch before he felt another free presence in the air. Harry blinked quickly. His vision cleared and he found himself looking at himself on his broom. He knew from whose viewpoint he was watching. He blinked again.
Ginny flew up alongside Harry. Her team joined them in the air. They all flew a few laps to warm up. Ron made towards the goalposts while the chasers prepared to begin their runs towards him and practise scoring. Harry drew alongside the beaters, holding both bludgers at the ready.
“Right then, you two. Try and hit me. I’m giving you both balls, to give you a fair chance.” Harry winked at them as he tossed the balls into the air and sped off.
In the Gryffindor stand, the twins were watching the proceedings with interest. They had heard so much about the game and how it was played, but to watch the team in action like this... was entrancing. They watched Ginny and the other chasers go through their workout with Ron at one end of the pitch, while Harry put the beaters through their paces at the other. They never noticed the extra spectator approaching them, or the wand that was drawn.
Miranda McGonagall noticed the body falling from the stand as she raced to collect the quaffle. In the next split-second, she saw the second falling, too. She knew that there were two brooms in the air that were faster than hers, but only the one was close enough.
“GINNY!” She yelled, as she dove for the base of the stand. Her eyes on her target as she angled her broom to intercept the falling student.
Miranda caught Brian Leonard just before he reached the gap between the stands and the pitch, her arms catching hold of his as she brought her broom into a steep climb to counter his plunge.
A streak of red shot past her, causing her to sway in the air. Phoenix song filled the stadium as Ginny pushed her Firebird to its full speed. This was going to be risky move, and if she missed her target, Stewart was dead.
Harry froze at the other end of the pitch as he watched the two people on a collision course. If he thought about trying to assist, he might distract Ginny, and the result was not worth thinking about. Instead he watched the woman he loved, pull off the sort of stunt he was notorious for. At least his stunts were made with feet on the ground, not racing up the side of a stand.
* * * * *
“Brian and Stewart Leonard should consider themselves the luckiest people alive,” Madame Pomfrey shook her head to the sleeping forms in her hospital. “They appear to have been Stunned. Did any of you see it?”
“No, we didn’t have time to search the stands either,” Miranda shifted on the spot as her great-aunt looked over the team. “We were more concerned with getting them up here as fast as we could.” Richie Cootes lay a hand on her shoulder as she shuddered with images of what might have been filling her mind.
“The match may have to be cancelled,” Headmistress McGonagall shook her head.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Weasley.” Minerva looked down at the stony-faced red-head.
“I said no.” Ginny looked up into the eyes and saw sadness. “We carry on. I’m sure Poppy would agree that they’ll be good after a good night’s rest? We let whoever did this know that they failed, in the biggest way possible.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let them do the commentary tomorrow. They’ll be in plain sight for all to see, and no-one would dare to attack again with all of the teachers around.” Ginny smiled as Minerva understood the ploy. “I’ll catch you all tomorrow. Good practise, everyone.”
Ginny turned and walked calmly out of the hospital wing, leaving a stunned group behind. She made her way to Gryffindor Tower, entering the common room and heading for the apartment she shared with Harry, giving the passwords automatically.
Once she had undressed and turned on the shower, allowing the warm water to soak her, she collapsed to the floor. The adrenaline and realisation of what had transpired washing over her. She was joined by Harry five minutes later. He said nothing, but just caressed her as she trembled through exhaustion. A single nauseating feeling nagged at the back of her mind. The malevolence of the yew wand had been present in the stadium. She had not been the target this time, but next time... What had changed to justify the shift of focus? Obviously the twins must have stumbled onto something, or seen something, to have become targets, but what?
Harry ran each of the scenarios over and over, but he could not get past his prejudice against Delores Umbridge. She had to be connected, but how? Or better yet, why?
For now, though, the focus had to be on the game. Gryffindor versus Slytherin.