“He has been spotted again!” Ron called to Ginny and Harry. She glanced up as he came running towards them. “Malfoy was spotted near Hogsmeade.”
Ginny glanced over at Harry and saw that he looked skeptical. “Who was the witness?” He asked Ron.
“Hagrid.” Ron answered. “Six of us are going to check it out.”
“Right.” Ginny stood and threw on her cloak. “We’ll go search and then grab a drink at the Three Broomsticks.”
Harry and Ron stared at her. Harry managed to speak first. “You want to go to a pub while we are working?”
“Of course I do!” She winked at them. “Madam Rosmerta hears all of the gossip. She’ll be able to tell us if anything odd has been happening.”
“She might not have heard about a Death Eater strolling about.” Ron interjected.
Ginny sighed and shook her head. “Then we’ll go and visit Aberforth Dumbledore down at the Hogs Head Inn. That man truly knows everything seedy that goes on in Hogsmeade.”
The three walked over to meet Tonks, Dawlish and Fraiser who were speaking to Kingsley. The tall, black man eyed them as they joined the group. “I do not want you to take any chances today. I believe that you two,” he indicated Ginny and Harry with a wave of his hand, “are our best hope we have of tracking him down. Nevertheless, it is not worth your lives. Be on your guard and do not take any unnecessary risks. Go and report back here when you are finished with your search of the area.”
“Yes sir.” Fraiser answered for them.
Ginny spoke up. “I think we should check the town over before heading back. There is a barman there that sees everything. If we can persuade him to cooperate then he might have some information for us.”
Kingsley studied her before answering. He knew whom she was referring to, of course, but no one outside of the Order knew that the barman at the Hogs Head was related to Dumbledore. By keeping a low profile, Aberforth was able to spy for the Order and discretely keep tabs on Hogsmeade. “You, Harry and Ron may go. It will not look odd for you three to be seen together. If we send in more Aurors then we might scare off the clientele and that would anger the management of the establishment. The old man is crotchety enough without deliberately raising his ire. He will be more pliable if it is just you three. If I remember correctly, he has a bit of a soft spot for you, Ginny.”
Ginny laughed and nodded. “We’ll be off then.” The six Aurors Apparated right outside of the village before Ginny started to direct them off. “Harry and I will walk down to the Shrieking Shack.”
“Ron and I will move through the village,” Fraiser comment.
“That leaves Dawlish and I to check down near the station.” Tonks and her partner walked off towards Hogwarts.
“We’ll meet back here to head down to the bar if we don’t find anything, yeah?” Ron directed his question at Harry.
“Right, we’ll see you here later, then.” He called and together he and Ginny moved down the road towards the decrepit house.
The walk was made in silence as they both scanned their surroundings. Ginny looked hard at a stand of trees as her breath rose as steam in the air. Seeing nothing, she went on. “This is really frustrating!” She bit out quietly.
“I don’t see any sign of a person having been here either. Why he would hide here, I don’t know. It makes no sense to be near an all magical town since he would be spotted easily.” He reached over and took her hand in his large, calloused one. “Do you feel anything?”
“No. My instincts are not telling me anything. I don’t feel like we are in danger but I do want to check every lead. If we get complacent then we might miss our actual chance to get him.” She squeezed his warm hand and pulled him off towards the rickety shack at the end of the row. When they reached it she looked up at the house that almost seemed to sway. “Poor Remus. I would not like to be stuck in there once a month.”
“Lycanthropy has to be one of the worst afflictions that a person can suffer from and it is on going. Once a month the person becomes an out of control beast.” He started to chuckle.
“What?” Her brow furrowed as she stared at him.
He shook his as his laughter increased. “I… can’t… you’ll hex me!”
She felt a grin tug at her lips. “I won’t. I promise not to curse you just tell me what is so funny.”
Harry’s smile faltered as he spoke. “You promise?”
“Yes!” She cried exasperatedly. “Now tell me!”
“I was just thinking that werewolves are not the only humans that turn into beasts once a month.” He grinned at her sheepishly.
Ginny felt her face flush and she instantly regretted her promise not to curse him. However, that was not the only option available to her. She pulled her fist back and punched him hard in to the stomach. His breath left him with a satisfying ‘whoosh’ and she beamed at him as he doubled over. “That was quite funny, Harry.” She informed him innocently.
“I…” His voice was wheezy. “I probably deserved… that.”
“You did deserve that because I certainly do not turn in to a beast every month. I am quite restrained compared to most women.” Ginny glared at him with a superior glint to her eye before huffing indignantly as she turned back to the house and sighed.
“You are but your brothers have told stories of when you were younger.” He came up behind her and put his arms around her waist. She stiffened slightly but let go of her anger quickly. She knew that as a teen she had been often unreasonable and her brothers had usually been on the receiving end of her temper. “Is it true that you made all the dishes explode when you were twelve?”
“Yes.” She smiled reminiscently. Her six older brothers had not taken her seriously before then but George had put a frog into her soup and when she had gone to eat it, the frog had jumped out at her. She screamed at him and blew up all of the plates on the dinner table, shattering them into tiny pieces. She had gotten her first period soon afterwards. “It is always harder when a girl is younger and I have learned to control myself since then.”
“I know you have, Gin.” He hugged her and then backed off. “Do you want to check through the house or just go? I really don’t think he is here. It would have been a perfect opportunity for him to curse us but we have not seen him.”
“Let’s go. I want to say ‘hello’ to Aberforth and see if he has any information for us.” She rubbed her hands together, trying vainly to get the circulation going again in her frozen fingers. She could not believe how cold it was outside.
Harry took her hand again and she felt warmth spread through her at his touch. “Why is it that the old man likes you, anyway? You’ve never mentioned knowing him before.”
“I used to go to the pub regularly my seventh year. He and I would drink together and reminisce.” She said casually as they made their way back to the village.
He stopped abruptly and she came jerkily to a halt. “I though all you did was study your seventh year?”
She winked at him. “That is what Ron wanted to hear. I added in the bit about Quidditch so that it would be believable but honestly, I would not have gotten through that year without some firewhiskey occasionally.”
“So you got drunk with Dumbledore’s brother?” Harry asked her incuriously but she could tell that he was also mildly impressed. “Didn’t he do bad things to a goat?”
She snorted amusedly. “He charmed his goats to play cards.”
“You should know about those since you were raised with muggles. He taught them games like poker and blackjack. Then he would bet with unsuspecting muggle drunkards that his goat could beat them at cards. He started raking in quite a bit of gold in London until the Ministry found out what he was doing and shut him down. At the time gambling was illegal but he argued with the Wizengamot that since it wasn’t between two humans that he should be allowed to make the bets; he got off on that charge but the Ministry had him for practicing magic in front of the muggles. There was a hefty fine involved.” She scuffed her shoe along the hard, packed dirt. “Aberforth is still angry about that since he made sure the muggles were extremely drunk before he brought out the goats but eventually he gave up and retired to Hogsmeade to watch the students for his brother.” She waved at Ron who was waiting off in the distance. Ron waved back before motioning for them to hurry.
“You’re not serious, are you? All he did was teach a few goats to play a game?” Harry face was crestfallen.
She frowned as she looked up at him. “What did you think he did to the goats?”
His face flushed and he looked away. “We’d better go before Ron comes to collect us.”
“You have a dirty mind sometimes.” Ginny muttered but took off towards her brother. “Honestly!”
“Oy! Hurry up you two. I am freezing!” Ron yelled and they hurried over. Ginny spotted Tonks and Dawlish coming slowly towards them from the train station. “Did you find anything?”
She turned quickly to face him. “No. There is no sign of him.”
“This is damn strange.” Fraiser grumbled. “We have been searching for him all over the place and getting leads from everyone and yet we still have not gotten even close to catching him.”
“We spoke with Hagrid.” Tonks said as they caught up with them. “He said he saw him heading in to the village but by the time he got here, Malfoy was gone. He was sure that it was him.”
Dawlish shook his head. “You three head down to the bar and be back at the Ministry in less than two hours. If you come in drunk you will be in the practice room all day tomorrow. Do I make myself clear?” He stared hard at them but Ginny just beamed bemusedly.
“We will be fine. I’ll keep them in line.” She assured him.
Tonks let out a short burst of laughter. “I don’t really think its Harry or Ron that we have to worry about.”
Harry grinned and took her hand. “Come on, Gin. Let’s go down to the Hogs Head.”
The three walked away from the others and down the road towards the Inn. As they entered the dingy room to find that the bar was empty except for one person, a warlock that that Ginny instantly recognized because the Ministry had trouble with him in the past. He stood swiftly and moved towards the door, which creaked open and slammed heavily shut in his wake. “I guess he doesn’t want to have a drink with us.” Ron said jovially.
“Can’t say that I blame him since you have arrested him twice.” Harry agreed. “He was the one who was trafficking dark objects, right?”
“What the hell do you want?” A gruff voice came from the back room. “I don’t like Aurors. They scare off all of my customers.” The old man came sidling into the room, glaring at them.
“Shut it, you old codger and get me a firewhiskey in a clean glass; not in that filth you keep for everyone else.” Ginny bounded up to the bar and sat down. The foul odors that permeated the bar no longer fazed her. She had long since built up a tolerance to it. She smiled widely at the older man who so closely resembled his brother that she often felt she was looking into the eyes of her old Headmaster. “How are you, Abe?”
His ancient face cracked as he smirked at her. “Ya always were a bossy chit. I’m doing fine although I haven’t seen ya in here for a few years now. How are ya, Ginny?”
“I’m as well as I always was, maybe a little better than that.” She admitted carefully.
Aberforth nodded in understand before he turned to stare at Harry and Ron who had not moved from their spot. “Do I have ta serve them?”
Ginny glanced over her shoulder at the two men. “Sit.” She commanded and they moved to join her at the bar. “They’ll have butterbeers.”
“Thanks.” Ron grumbled as Aberforth wandered off to fill her orders.
He came back with a smoking glass that Ginny downed immediately. The whiskey burned all the way down but she was quite used to it. Harry fished out some sickles to pay for their drinks as he and Ron opened their dirty bottles. “We need some information, Abe.”
“Ask.” He commented gruffly.
“We are looking for Lucius Malfoy. Hagrid spotted him walking in to the village but then Malfoy disappeared. Have you heard anything?” She probed as she swiped Harry’s butterbeer and took a drink. Wisely, he did not comment.
“I havena heard nothin of him around here although that twitchy fellow tha ya scared off mighta been some help. He came in here all riled up and nervous like.” He swiped at the bar with a disgusting rag before raising an eyebrow at her. “Can I tell ya anything else, lass?”
“He’s escaped?” Ginny whispered in horror as she looked at the report that Kingsley Shacklebolt had just handed her before remembering herself and returning the determined expression to her face. “We’ll just have to find him again.”
She watched Harry pace in front of their boss. “When did he break out?” He finally stopped to stare hard at Kingsley.
“He was reported missing just over an hour ago. We don’t have a more precise time.” He drawled slowly. “I expect you two to locate him.”
“We will.” Ginny assured him. “I’ve gotten Lucius Malfoy once and I can do it again.”
“Right.” Harry agreed. “You can count on us.”
The scene shifted smoothly until she was at the final battle.
Malfoy’s belittling words penetrated her frantic brain. “You might be turned on by fat, ugly, blood traitors Wormtail but I find her…” his eyes roved over her as he spoke, “… unsatisfactory. I think I’ll just kill her.” He smiled maliciously, raised his wand and started to speak but Ginny reacted quickly. She stomped hard on the instep of Pettigrew’s foot and ducked when he let go of her. The green light flew close over her head, hitting the other man.
She snatched her wand from the short man’s pocket as he fell and pointed it at the tall blonde before yelling, “Stupefy!” Her spell hit him straight in the chest. Ginny staggered to her feet and bound him heading back towards the retreating Death Eaters that the others were trying to apprehend. Before she could move more than a few meters, she was hit in the face by a bright blue light. She tried to scream but the pain that consumed her left her unable to utter a sound. Her face felt as though it were on fire.
“Deglubi!” She vaguely heard Harry’s voice and suddenly the intensity of the curse decreased. She looked up to see him fighting off the Death Eater.
“Harry.” She heard her voice from a distance and it sounded like a croak. “Stop!”
He glanced at her and his eyes widened but he removed the spell from the black robed figure. As Harry lifted it, the Death Eater fell to the ground and did not move. “You need to get to Madam Pomfrey.” He came over and helped her to her feet.
She nodded and leaned on him as they moved towards the castle.
A/N: Thank you to Blumnkymn for the use of the spell "Deglubi"
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