Chapter 1 : A New Assignment
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The morning sun was streaming through the window, adding warmth to the otherwise stale and silent office. The large open room was full of desks, most set in groups of two and spaced in several even rows.
The room was empty except for one young man, asleep on a pile of papers at his desk. His glasses pressed into his cheek and his black hair was messy - as though he’d spent many hours the night before running his fingers through it.
It was six thirty in the morning, and as usual, twenty-five year old Harry Potter was alone in the Auror office. Having become a bit obsessed with the Malfoy case, he hadn’t felt like going home. Instead he stayed late, reading report after report until he finally fell asleep from exhaustion.
He was enjoying a very pleasant dream involving brooms and open skies when a slap on the head brought him crashing back down to his desk.
Jerking up, his hand was on his wand before he paused, realizing where he was and recognizing the chuckle behind him. Taking a breath, he released his wand and reached up. Pealing his glasses from his skin he settled them back into their correct position. When he did, Ron Weasley came into focus as he rounded the pair of desks and sat down opposite Harry.
“Did you sleep here again?” Ron asked incredulously as he folded his arms behind his head and leaned back in his chair. “You’re going to make yourself sick, Harry,” he warned.
“I’m fine,” Harry yawned before standing and stretching his arms over his head.
“Did you center?” Ron asked frowning when he felt the magical energy flowing off of him as he stretched. “You can’t keep falling asleep here,” he insisted as Harry headed off to get some coffee.
“I’m fine, Ron,” Harry threw over his shoulder.
“We thought you were coming over last night,” Ron called, but Harry just waved him off. “Hey, when you don’t show up I’m the one who has to deal with Hermione!” Ron yelled after him as he disappeared around the corner. “Have some pity, mate!”
Harry returned several minutes later, raking his fingers through his hair as he sipped his steaming cup of coffee. Arriving at his desk, he found a new file in his inbox.
Knowing it would be his new assignment, he prayed Lupin had forgiven him for the incident in Kent. Picking it up, he sat down and placed his coffee on a messy pile of folders.
“Were you talking to Cho?” Ron asked leaning in. “Hermione thought…”
“No,” Harry replied tightly. “And we’re not talking about it here, remember? Remus doesn’t know yet and I’d rather keep it that way. He’ll just overreact and think I’m backsliding.”
“Well…” Ron began.
“It’s over,” Harry interrupted firmly. “I’m fine.”
Snapping open the folder, he began to scan the information. He could feel Ron looking at him and it took a second for the words to process. When they did, Harry’s stomach dropped and his mouth turned down in a hard frown.
This can’t be right, he thought.
“Hey, Ron” Harry said, looking up. “Has Remus mentioned my assignment?”
“Not to me,” Ron replied, not bothering to raise his eyes from the parchment in front of him. “Why?”
Instead of answering, Harry tossed him the heavily laden file.
It landed right in front of Ron, sending the rest of his papers flying haphazardly off the desk.
“Harry!” Ron groused, reaching out to try to catch his falling work.
“Read the file,” Harry urged.
Ron ignored him, leaning down to gather his papers.
With a sigh, Harry flicked his fingers, causing Ron’s papers to shoot toward him.
“Read mine and I’ll give them back,” he said catching them.
With a glare, Ron relented and began to skim the first page. As he read, his eyes widened before he began flipping through the parchment.
“What is this?” Ron asked.
“Apparently Malfoy’s chosen his target," Harry replied grimly.
Across from him, Ron’s face paled as he looked up.
“But…I mean…he doesn’t even know her,” Ron stammered before trailing off as he looked back at the file. Slowly, his face filled with anger as he continued to read the notes inside. “This is just like something he’d do, isn’t it?” Looking back up at Harry he considered him for a moment before furrowing his brow. “But why is it assigned to you?”
"Because,” Harry sighed, slumping down in his chair. “Lupin seems bent on punishing me forever.”
“Hey,” Ron snapped. “This isn’t one of your crap jobs because you can’t do as you’re told, Harry. This is my sister.”
“I just mean I should be out searching for Malfoy…not just sitting around waiting for him to show up.”
“Well, you better do a bloody brilliant job of it, in case he does…”
“Ron, you know I’d never let anything happen to her,” Harry interrupted him.
“I know…I just…I can’t believe it,” Ron said as he looked back down at the file. “Bloody Malfoy. We should’ve killed him at school.”
“How do you think she’s going to take it?” Harry asked.
Watching Ron’s face, Harry was mildly amused when he saw the fear fill his expression.
“Blimey, she’s going to be pissed,” Ron declared when he looked back up. “I’d hate to be you, Harry.”
“Me?” Harry chuckled, raising his eyebrow. “You’re the one who’s going to tell her.”
“No way,” Ron shook his head.
Buried deep beneath the covers in her bed, Ginny Weasley groaned and rolled over. Rubbing her hand wearily against her face, she blinked her eyes open. The world was dark around her, the morning light blocked by her thick cocoon of blankets.
The air was stuffy, but for a moment she simply curled deeper under the covers and shut her eyes. Having been unable to sleep the night before, her head was hurting and her body ached.
Despite her desire to go back to sleep, her eyes snapped open when she heard the Muggle garbage truck squeal to a stop outside.
What time is it?
Pushing at the twisted sheets, she dragged them down until her head poked out the top. Her dark red hair was tangled around her face and she pushed at it irritably as she looked over at her bedside table. When she saw the time, she cursed, her mood darkening when she realized she’d forgotten to set her alarm.
Throwing off her covers she climbed quickly out of bed and crossed to her window. Pulling open the heavy curtains, she blinked quickly when the morning light flooded the room.
“Bugger,” she muttered when the sight of the truck outside affirmed the time on the clock.
All evidence of the previous night’s thunderstorm was gone. The clouds were sparse, allowing the sunlight to shine down on the now dry cobblestones. The cheery morning outside did nothing to improve her mood.
Turning away, she headed to the bathroom.
Despite the time, she stood for several minutes in the shower, allowing the hot water to pound down on her stiff muscles. The storm had kept her up most of the night and she grimaced as she thought about facing her long shift ahead.
Once she was out of the shower she managed to leave her flat in record time. Soon she was walking briskly down the streets of Muggle London. Dressed in jeans and a light sweater, she had a burgundy scarf draped around her neck and a coffee in her hand.
As she turned a corner and headed toward the abandoned department store that housed St. Mungo’s, the comfortable breeze ruffled her hair. Above her, several birds chirped brightly as they swooped from one tree to another. The day was so annoyingly pleasant; it almost seemed to be mocking her cranky mood.
Still several blocks from the hospital, a shiver of awareness ran down the back of Ginny’s neck. Slowing her steps at the unnerving feeling of being watched, Ginny glanced over her shoulder.
A block back, a man in black robes lounged against a building. His stance was casual, but his eyes hard as they followed Ginny. When their gazes locked, he stared at her for a second before running his eyes up and down her form. Finally looking away, he casually brought a cigarette to his lips.
Unused to feeling uneasy in the familiar area, Ginny continued on, speeding her steps. When she looked back, she was relieved to see that the man was gone.
Whipping her head back around in surprise, Ginny stumbled over a crack in the sidewalk. Colliding with a young man in front of her, she cried out when her hot coffee spilled down her front.
“Shit!,” she exclaimed, stepping back and dropping her cup as she began to wipe at her sweater.
“Oh, geez, I’m sorry,” the man said at the same time, reaching out and trying to help.
Knocking his hands away as he tried to wipe the stain off her front, Ginny stepped back. Although she didn’t know him, his Auror robes were easily recognizable and she pulled her wand. Using a quick cleaning charm to fix her shirt, she crossed her arms over her chest.
“I’m really sorry,” the young man insisted, scooping up her ruined cup from the ground.
“It’s fine,” she replied, her eyes flicking to St. Mungo’s entrance as she wondered how her day could possibly get any worse. “Did you need something?”
“Yes,” he nodded, pulling his credentials. “I need you to come with me, if you don’t mind.”
It didn’t take long for Lupin to call Harry into his office to officially go over his assignment. Although Harry made his displeasure known, Lupin showed no signs of letting him off the hook.
“This is where you’re needed,” Lupin insisted as he paced behind his desk.
Harry lounged in a chair facing him, balancing on the back two legs as he dropped his head back.
“But, I’m more help searching,” Harry argued. “He’s not anywhere near ready, so she’s not in danger.”
“We don’t think he’s ready,” Remus corrected. “But we have no idea when he’ll try to take her. He could take her early, just to be safe. He already has people watching her.”
“But one of the younger guys could do this. What about Mullinsky? He’s…”
“This is too important and you know it,” Remus interrupted pausing to give him an irritated glance. Going back to pacing he shook his head. “She’s powerful, Harry.”
“Really?” Harry asked quirking his brow. “How powerful? As powerful as me?”
“Powerful enough that if he uses her it would only make things worse,” Remus sighed, ignoring Harry’s jest as he rubbed his eyes. “Not to mention she’s a Weasley,” he added, shooting Harry a pointed look. “Ron’s sister.”
“I know,” Harry sighed as he let the front two legs of the chair drop back to the floor.
“This is a serious assignment, Harry,” Lupin continued. “If we can’t find him, he’ll send everyone he has to make sure he gets her. That’s something Mullinsky…hell, even Ron, probably couldn’t handle. We didn’t choose you lightly. Believe me...given your history…given everything…”
Harry’s face hardened as Remus trailed off distractedly.
“I’m fine,” Harry insisted quietly. “That’s not an issue.”
Abruptly, Remus turned and sat back down in his chair. Regarding Harry closely, he leaned toward him resting his hands on the desk.
“I know you’re fine,” he nodded, “but I want this done by the book. No fooling around, no doing your own thing,” he added pointedly.
“Look,” Harry began, bothered at Remus’ grave expression. “I’ve said I’m sorry about Kent. It won’t happen again. What do I…”
“That’s not what this is about,” Lupin interrupted sharply.
“I wouldn’t assign you to guard Arthur and Molly’s only daughter as a punishment.”
At the mention of the Weasleys, Harry frowned, rubbing the back of his neck as he considered what they must be feeling right now.
“Do they know?”
“Yes,” Lupin nodded. “I don’t anticipate the search for Malfoy will last much longer, so you won’t be with her long,” Lupin added, “but you’re to be professional with her at all times. Forming an attachment or relationship is, as you know, unacceptable.”
“This is important, Harry,” Lupin insisted. “Your priority is keeping your mind focused and under control so that you’re able to…”
“I mean it, Harry,” Remus insisted, his expression stern. “This is a job. She’s under Ministry protection and it’s my responsibility and yours to…”
“Moony,” Harry interrupted, confused by his friend’s intensity. “I know the rules. She’s Ron’s baby sister for Merlin’s sake. Of course, I’ll be professional,” he said making a face. “She’s only what…nineteen or something anyway, right?”
Trying to picture her, Harry couldn’t even remember the last time he’d seen her. He had vague memories of Ron’s little sister from when he was young at the Burrow, but beyond that, he’d rarely seen her because she hadn’t gone to Hogwarts.
“She’s not a child, she’s twenty-four,” Lupin corrected, “and you’re to treat her the way you would any other witch.”
“Make up your mind,” Harry told him as he broke into a cheeky grin. “Do you want me to be professional or treat her like any other witch?”
“Harry…” Lupin warned, his expression turning dark.
“I’m joking,” Harry rolled his eyes. “Merlin, what’s with you today?”
“What’s with me…” Lupin trailed off, pressing his lips together for a second before continuing. “We’re about to tell this girl that an evil, crazy wizard has singled her out for something horrible. I need to know you’re taking it seriously and treating it with the caution and professionalism Ron’s sister demands.”
“I’d never let anything happen to her, Lupin” Harry replied, stiffening as all amusement left from his expression. “I know how to do my job…we both know that. You just need to find Malfoy.”
“We will,” Remus nodded firmly. “If everything goes well, you’ll be in and out.”
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. At Remus’ call to enter, the door opened and a young wizard stuck his head in.
“Ginny Weasley’s arrived,” he said. “Mullinsky put her in the conference room. Ron’s with her now.”
“Thank you,” Remus nodded, standing at the same time Harry did.
As they walked down the hall, Harry flipped through the notes and pictures inside. In one, Malfoy sneered up at him, his platinum hair slicked back and his grey eyes glinting in annoyance before looking away.
Another, more recent image showed a young woman entering a shop in Diagon Alley. Although her profile was obscured, her hair identified her as a Weasley, red and tangled as it whipped across her cheeks. Brushing it back, she glanced around, giving the camera a quick view of her face before she disappeared through the door.
It was then that the real focus of the picture came into view. A man Harry recognized instantly as Theodore Nott approached the door only a few moments after Ginny. For a few seconds he looked through the shop window before leaning idly against the wall, presumably to wait for Ginny.
When Ginny reappeared and the image loop started again, Harry snapped the folder shut.
Coming to a stop in front of the two-way mirror of the conference room, Harry looked inside. Ron was leaning up against the window, giving Harry a view of his back.
With a flick of Remus’ wand, the conversation inside the room began coming through a speaker next to the window.
“I’m not a child, Ronald,” a woman’s irritated voice declared.
“I know that, Ginny,” Ron replied, shifting against the glass, “but this wizard is powerful and dangerous, and he’s singled you out.”
“But, I don’t even know a...what was his name?”
“Right,” Ginny huffed. “I don’t know a Draco or any other Malfoy for that matter.”
“I understand that, but it doesn’t change the fact that…”
“This is going well,” Harry murmured. When he glanced over at Remus, he was surprised to find the older man focused on him and not the window. “What?”
“Nothing,” Remus said, staring at him for another second before turning the sound off and heading for the door. “Apologies for the delay,” he said as he entered.
Harry followed him inside, crossing to lean against the wall next to Ron while Remus introduced himself.
“I understand that this is quite a shock,” Remus continued.
“You have the wrong person,” Ginny interrupted, her voice muffled.
Harry couldn’t see her face because she was hunched forward with her elbows on the table and her head cradled in her hands. Her hair created a thick red curtain around her, while her fingers massaged circles against her scalp.
“Unfortunately, we don’t,” Remus said, gesturing for Harry, “if you’ll take a look at this file, I will explain what is going on and what we intend to do to keep you from harm.”
When Harry dropped the file onto the table, Ginny tossed her hair out of her face and looked up.
With a pair of deep chocolate eyes, she met his gaze squarely for a second before her eyes widened in recognition. Her porcelain skin was dusted with freckles and her lips were thick and red. As he stared at her, her mouth opened slightly as a slight blush darkened her cheeks.
For just a second, something shifted deep inside of Harry. Stepping back, he gave his insides a stern shake, using his training to shove down the feeling that had unexpectedly roared to life inside of him.
Turning away, he felt her gaze follow him when he returned to his place against the wall. When he turned back, she was looking down at the file.
Harry watched her skin slowly drain of color as she flipped through the pages. Her hand paused over the picture of Malfoy, her brow furrowing in confusion as she stared at it.
“Do you know him?” Remus asked.
“This is Draco Malfoy?” she asked as she looked up.
“So you do know him,” Remus said, taking the seat across from her as she looked back down at the pictures.
“I know…well, I know James. This is James," she said as she pointed at Malfoy's face. "I met him at St. Mungo’s. His mother was ill…this is Malfoy?”
“He said his name was James?” Harry asked, his eyes narrowing.
Her eyes lifted to meet his. When she nodded yes, he cursed under his breath.
“How well do you know him?”
“Um,” Ginny’s cheeks colored again, her eyes flicking to Ron for a second before returning to Harry's face. “I don’t know him that well.”
“Has he been to your flat?”
“No. We’ve had lunch at…at the hospital,” she explained, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear distractedly. “He asked me to go out with him a handful of times...”
“For more than lunch?” Harry clarified.
“Yes, but I always said no…”
“How about this man?” Remus asked, reaching across the table for the file.
Shifting through the papers, he pulled the picture from Diagon Alley and set it on top, pointing to where the man came into view behind Ginny.
Ginny inhaled sharply, pulling the picture toward her.
“Ginny?” Ron prompted, taking a step away from the wall.
“I saw him this morning…When was this…”
Trailing off, Ginny stared down at the image of the man who had been following her. Her hands began to tremble and she tucked them into her lap, curling her fingers tightly around each other. Remus answered her question and continued to try to explain the situation to her, but everything suddenly sounded like it was coming from behind a glass.
What had seemed impossible suddenly became much more real. Her eyes flicked back for a second to the picture of James – Draco before flicking away as her stomach rolled.
“…I understand your apprehension, Miss Wealsey, but what Malfoy is trying to do is very dangerous. If he succeeds he’ll be extremely powerful...”
“Yes, but what does it have to do with me?” Ginny interrupted, looking up. “Specifically?”
When he didn’t answer right away, she looked over to see Ron staring at his feet. Her eyes drifted to Harry Potter. He was still watching her intently, his eyes dark green and his expression unreadable.
“Ron?” she asked, suddenly feeling nervous.
“Well,” he began before clearing his throat, “the ritual requires the blood of a Pureblood and a… a…” Ron trailed off, his face as red as his hair.
“A what?” Ginny urged, not following.
“A virgin,” Harry finished plainly from the wall and her eyes shot back to his. “To secure his power, Malfoy needs to take the innocence of a Pureblood witch.”
Ginny opened her mouth and then shut it, feeling her face become hot.
“You’re telling me that…that this Malfoy needs to sleep with a Pureblood virgin to complete some sort of dark ritual, and you think he's chosen me?” she asked as she crossed her arms and glared at her brother. “How do you even know if I’m a virgin, Ronald?”
Ron’s face was now more of a purple. When he opened his mouth to respond nothing came out so Harry spoke instead.
“That’s none of your business,” Ginny snapped as her gaze flew back to his and her blush deepened.
“Malfoy’s made it my business.”
“Harry,” Ron intervened, shooting him a look of warning.
“What?” Harry replied, not moving from his position, as he waited for her answer. “If she’s not then that saves us all a lot of trouble and she can…”
“Look…” Ginny interrupted tightly, “I’m sure there are plenty of Purebloods he can choose from out there. I don’t see why he would choose me…He doesn’t even know me.”
“No…but he knows me,” Ron explained, causing everyone’s gaze to move to him.
“Ron,” Ginny began in confusion as she read the apology on his face. “What…”
“I know it’s difficult, Miss Weasley, but this is a very serious situation,” Remus insisted. “We know that you’re his target and whether you want us to or not, we are going to protect you. We're protecting the entire Wizarding world by doing this, not just you.”
“Okay, but…even if what you’re telling me is true, what am I supposed to do, go into hiding or something? I can’t just put my life on hold. I have a job to do. People depend on me and…”
“We understand that,” Remus nodded, “and we don’t expect you to give up your life if we can avoid it.”
“If you can avoid it?” she repeated her brow furrowing.
“Yes,” Remus replied firmly. “We’re hoping to keep things as normal as possible,” he assured her. “That’s why Potter,” he explained, jerking his head in Harry’s direction, “is going to be guarding you. He’ll basically be your shadow, going to work with you or wherever else you need to go and staying at your flat until we can find Malfoy.”
“Staying in my flat?!” she shot, her eyes widening.
“It’s not negotiable,” Remus countered evenly. “You need round the clock protection.”
Ginny looked back and forth between them, trying to decide if it was a joke before she spoke.
“Are you telling me,” she said slowly, as if talking to a child, “that your big plan for protection is to have the most famous wizard in the world, a known Auror, follow me around?
“Don’t you think that will just tell him you know what he’s up to?” she demanded.
Silence fell over the room as Remus and Ron tried to come up with an appropriate response. Their struggle was quickly ended though, because at that moment, Albus Dumbledore came into the room.
“A very good question, Miss Weasley,” he said with a smile, gazing at her over his half moon spectacles. “But he already knows we're aware of his activities, and Harry is the only one I trust enough to protect you if the time comes.”
Harry looked at Dumbledore and then back at Ginny. As their eyes met and held, Harry felt for a moment that she could see straight into him. Something shifted inside of him again, darkening his eyes and causing him to look away quickly.
Taking a steadying breath, he stared at the floor as he considered Dumbledore’s words. He knew what he meant, but he wasn’t sure he would be protecting anyone if it came to that.
It took several more minutes to convince Ginny that Harry’s assignment was the best plan. She finally grudgingly agreed to what they wanted but she wasn’t happy about it.
Left alone in the room while the final details were worked out, Ginny sat at the table in silence. She had no idea how long she’d been at the Ministry and she glanced around looking for a clock. Not finding one, her eyes moved back to the open file before her.
For a few seconds she stared at Malfoy’s face glaring up at her before finally shoving the file away. The legs of her chair skipped noisily across the floor as she pushed it back and stood up.
Tucking her hair behind her ears she made her way to the window. Ministry Maintenance had charmed the window to depict a light snowfall. Considering that it was almost summer and she was currently several floors underground, Ginny couldn’t help but smile reluctantly as she watched the tiny white flecks meander past the window. The minutes inched by as she stared out, her eyes eventually losing focus as her mind wandered.
Jumping slightly at the sound of her name, Ginny spun around to find Harry standing in the doorway. For a moment neither moved as they stared at each other.
“Did you need to do anything today?” he finally asked, crossing to her.
“What do you mean?”
“Before you came here,” he clarified, “did you have any plans for today?”
“I’m supposed to be at work,” Ginny told him.
“I meant anything else,” he clarified. “You’re not going to work today.”
“Lupin’s there now. He’s talking to Healer Martin and dealing with security. Was there anything else you needed to do?”
“I thought you said I didn’t have to stop my life,” Ginny replied, her back straightening.
“You don’t,” Harry promised.
“Then, I’m going to work,” she declared crossing toward the door.
When the door swung shut in front of her she instantly pulled her wand.
“Alohamora,” she said firmly. When the door didn’t open she spun back around. “Let me out,” she ordered.
“You’re not going today. It’s already done, Ginny,” Harry pointed out calmly as she glared at him. “We can leave whenever you’re ready but you’re not going to work.”
“I want to go to work,” she replied tightly.
“You can go tomorrow.”
Pressing her lips together in a thin line, Ginny studied him for a second before crossing her arms tightly over her chest.
“Fine…whatever. I need to go to the apothecary, if that’s allowed,” she added sarcastically.
“Oh, it’s allowed,” Harry replied his voice suddenly annoyingly chipper as he walked past her and opened the door.
Spinning on her heel, Ginny glared at his back as she followed him to the lifts.
“Where’s Ron?” Ginny asked as she looked around the Auror office.
“Gone,” Harry replied, slowing his steps so that she could catch up.
“What do you mean, gone?” she demanded. “He just left me here?”
“Do you need him with you?” Harry asked, cocking his brow as he looked over at her.
“I don’t need him,” she countered. “But he could have said he was leaving.”
The conversation lapsed quickly into silence as Harry and Ginny made their way out of the Ministry. Harry continued to watch her while Ginny seemed determined to look anywhere but at him.
“Would you rather Apparate to Diagon Alley or take the Knight Bus?” he asked as he pushed open the door of the cramped phone booth and stepped out.
“Apparate,” Ginny decided, making a face at the thought of riding on the Knight Bus. The one time she’d ridden it several years before it had made her nauseous for the rest of the day.
“Ok,” Harry nodded, closing the distance between them.
“Wha…what are you doing?” Ginny demanded, backing up as he reached for her.
“Side-along is safest,” he explained following her retreat.
“I assure you,” Ginny replied crossly, “I’m perfectly capable of getting to Diagon Alley by myself…”
“Mhm,” Harry replied. Only when her hand landed on his chest to hold him away did he stop moving. “And what happens if Malfoy’s there when you arrive?”
Clenching her jaw, Ginny hesitated before dropping her hand with a huff.
“Side-along isn’t that bad,” Harry chuckled as he stepped up to her. Slipping his hands around her waist he pulled her up against him.
Instantly uncomfortable with the close proximity, Ginny stared at the button of his shirt. His arms wrapped securely around her, his hands gripping her sides as she held onto his shoulders.
“One, two,” he counted softly, his breath rustling her hair as he tightened his hold on her. “Three,” he finished before they disappeared with a small pop.
They reappeared almost immediately in an alley across the street from the Leaky Cauldron.
“Ugh,” Ginny grimaced pushing away from him and feeling like she’d just been shoved through a narrow tube. She’d never liked the sensation of side-along apparition; it made her feel out of control. “Happy?” she grumbled, running her fingers through her hair.
“Yes,” Harry smiled benignly.
Rolling her eyes at him, Ginny passed him and headed out of the alley.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” Ginny grumbled as she stepped off the curb to cross the street.
Reacting instantly, Harry grabbed her arms, yanking her back against him as a muggle car zoomed past.
“You could’ve fooled me,” he said smugly into her ear causing her to jerk her arms out of his grasp.
I’m going to kill Remus for sticking me with this, he thought as he watched her storm away before he followed.
It took only a few minutes to make their way through the Leaky Cauldron to the familiar brick wall. With a few taps of Harry’s wand they were soon walking down the streets of Diagon Alley. With her hands tucked into her robes, Ginny walked beside Harry, unwilling to get drawn into conversation with him.
When she suddenly sped up, Harry grabbed her arm, pulling her back into step beside him.
“Don’t walk off,” he told her, ignoring her thunderous expression.
Watching her from the corner of his eye, Harry tried to decide if he was amused or annoyed by her stubbornness.
On one hand he was relieved that she wasn’t crying or overwhelmed with fear. He also didn’t blame her for not wanting a guard, but the threat was real and not something to be disregarded.
Reaching the Apothecary, Harry accompanied Ginny inside as she picked up what she needed. Soon they were back on the street. Despite his instruction for her not to leave his side, Ginny walking briskly a few paces ahead of him.
Harry caught up with her quickly, falling into step beside her as they made their way past the wizarding shops.
Knowing her flat wasn’t ready for them to return, Harry glanced around, spotting a small coffee shop a few doors down.
“Let’s go in here,” he suggested, putting his hand against Ginny’s lower back to steer her towards the door.
“I can walk on my own,” she glowered as she shook him off and stalked ahead. “And I don’t want to go in there,” she threw haughtily over her shoulder.
Seeing her walk away from him again, Harry reached the end of his patience. Setting his jaw, he caught up with her, grabbed her arm and hauled her back toward the shop.
“Let go of me!” she exclaimed, attempting to jerk her arm out of his hold.
Spinning toward her, Harry pulled her close.
“You can’t just walk off, Ginny,” he ordered. “I know you’re not happy about this and I don’t blame you, but don’t be stupid.”
“Don’t manhandle me,” she shot back.
Gritting his teeth, Harry stared at her for a moment.
“This sort of situation, walking down a busy street,” he bit out, gesturing toward the people ambling by, oblivious to their presence, “is a perfect opportunity for Malfoy to try to take you.”
“I walked down this street yesterday and nothing…”
“Yesterday was different.”
“You don’t know that,” Ginny replied tetchily. “Yesterday could be just like today and tomorrow and the next several weeks – with nothing happening. You guys said you don’t know when he’ll be ready. We could be stuck together for a month before he even begins to try to do anything!”
“Trust me, it will not be that long,” Harry assured her.
“You can’t know…”
“Believe it or not, I don’t want to be stuck with you anymore than you want to be stuck with me,” Harry snapped.
Glaring up at him, Ginny remained silent.
“Look,” Harry said tightly after a pause. “You’re right. We don’t know, for sure, when he will try something, but he already has people watching you, so he has to be reasonably close. We’re stuck with each other for awhile, but there’s no reason it has to be horrible. Let’s just go in, get something to drink and talk, ok?”
Considering him for a moment, Ginny finally huffed and looked down with a nod.
When they entered the diner, it was a small den-like space, with mismatched chairs and sofas placed around. There was a lone waitress sitting with some regulars.
Sipping her coffee, she didn’t bother to seat them and just waved them in. It was the kind of place that artists would like, with painted walls, handmade dishes and an air of artsy indifference.
When they were seated at a table near the back, Harry settled into a large cushy chair before sitting back and studying her.
As he watched her, Ginny sat across from him, fiddling with a spoon and glaring at the room in general. Eventually she looked over at him, glaring at him too.
Unaffected by her cold nature, he continued to watch her steadily.
“What?” she snapped after a minute as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
“I was just wondering when you were going to stop sulking,” he smirked at her tone.
“I’m not sulking,” she said folding her arms over her chest.
“Oh,” Harry replied simply as his brow rose and his lips twitched, resisting a full-blown grin. “This is your ‘not sulking’ face. I’ll make a note of that.”
Biting back her smart remark, Ginny took a calming breath. She knew she was acting like a complete jerk, but she couldn’t seem to shake her mood.
“Look,” she said tightly. “Why don’t you just tell me how this is going to work, exactly.”
Flicking his wand, Harry threw a Muffliato charm over them and leaned in a little.
Ginny resisted the urge to roll her eyes since there were only three other people in sight and they were on the other side of the room.
“We know Malfoy's been watching you, so right now Ron and a team of Aurors are going through your flat, looking for surveillance charms and such. Once it’s clear we...”
“Wait, there are Aurors at my flat?” she interrupted him, giving him an affronted look. “Right now?”
“I’d be pissed too, but it had to be done,” he contended. “It was easier to do it when you weren’t there. At least, that’s what Ron thought…but regardless,” he hurried on when she opened her mouth, “we just need to go get my stuff and then I’ll be staying with you, going wherever you go.”
Ginny stared at him for a moment before she decided not to argue. As frustrating as it was that they were so invasive, the idea that someone had been watching her was even more disturbing.
“So, wherever I need to go,” she said slowly as she considered him, “you have to go with me?”
“When I go shopping you have to go too? If I go see a ridiculously girly muggle movie you have to see it too?”
Harry nodded again, suddenly not doubting by the gleam in her eye that she might actually take him shopping.
“What did you do?” she asked, raising her eyebrow. “Piss off the boss?”
“Something like that,” he grinned, running a hand through his hair.
They stayed at the coffee shop until Harry got the signal that her flat was clear. He paid for their drinks and they Apparated to his flat so that he could pick up some things before going to her place.
“But, I mean…why me?” Ginny asked as Harry followed her into her kitchen, having deposited his things into the guest room. “He could choose anyone. He doesn’t even know me.”
“Well, for one thing, choosing you hurts Ron,” Harry admitted. “That only makes it sweeter for him.”
“Why doesn’t he like Ron?” she asked as she pulled open a cabinet.
“He doesn’t like anyone close to me. Especially Ron,” Harry explained as he watched her reach up to get a cup from the top shelf. “And you’re just Malfoy’s type,” he added as her shirt shifted up to expose a bit of her pale, flat stomach.
“Oh yeah?” she asked, irritation slipping back into her tone as she turned toward him. “And what type is that?”
Harry dragged his eyes back up to her face, taking the cup she offered to him.
“Pureblood,” he replied as she moved to lean against the counter opposite him, “petite, strong-willed…beautiful,” he continued, crossing to the sink and filling his glass at the faucet.
He thinks I’m beautiful? Ginny thought in surprise.
Feeling her stomach give a little flip, Ginny pushed off the counter. Her reaction confused her, especially considering that almost everything he’d done so far irritated her. Cursing her pale complexion as she walked quickly to the fridge, she prayed he wouldn't notice the blush she could feel blooming on her cheeks.
“But, how do we even know what his type is?” she asked as she opened the door.
Harry watched her as she leaned down, looking inside.
“Because I know him,” he said, heading back to the front room. “And his taste is the same as mine,” he added without thinking.
Ginny froze, her hand curled around the can of muggle coke before she looked up. Peering over the door of the fridge, she watched him leave the room.
What was that? Harry’s mind was racing as he walked to the sofa and sat down. Why the hell did I say that? She’s not my type...is she?
He’d never really thought about what his type was, but apparently some part of him thought she was it. Frowning, he ran through the people he’d dated, but none of them necessarily fit her description.
Ginny followed him into the room a few moments later and curled up on the other end of the sofa.
“So how do you know him? What’s he like?”
“We went to school together. His father was a Death Eater, really high up,” Harry added with a bite to his voice. “Malfoy was just like him – cruel, arrogant…a real piece of work.”
As they sat on the sofa, Harry told her about his time at school and pretty much everything he knew about Malfoy.
Eventually the conversation shifted to a more general discussion about school and growing up, Harry talking about Hogwarts and Ginny sharing her experience at Beauxbatons.
Hours had passed before either of them noticed how long they’d been talking. Given the rocky beginning of their day, it wasn’t lost on either of them how comfortable it now seemed or how at home they felt in each other’s company.
Neither was particularly thrilled with that realization and they went to bed with an awkward goodnight.