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Chapter 22 : Chapter 22: Calm Before The Storm
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He had a job to finish.
“Did the mail arrive yet?” Hermione asked the matron after taking a sip of her juice.
Harry took a bite of his lukewarm eggs and watched as the sunbeams danced around the nurse while she walked over to Hermione, handing her the paper and a letter. “Came a few minutes ago, but eat up first!” She fussed over Ron once, who was shoveling the food into his mouth, before retreating to her office.
“This is odd,” Hermione said after the door had closed. “I’ve a letter from Luna.”
“Wha’ she say?” Ron asked through a mouth full of food.
Harry looked up at Hermione, and then grinned as he watched Ron snatch a piece of bacon from her plate. She was so engrossed in the letter that she didn’t even notice. “She says,” Hermione began slowly. “Well… this is really odd.”
Harry and Ron snorted together. “‘Course it’s odd! This is Luna you’re talking about.”
“No, I mean…” Hermione faltered for a moment, and then glanced at Harry with concern in her eyes. “I think I’ll just read it to you.”
Harry nodded and waited. What could Luna say that would cause Hermione so much concern?
Hermione cleared her throat and straightened the paper before she began.
I saw this article in the Daily Prophet and wanted to send the paper to you, so that you would know part of what is going on. I don’t know exactly what you, Harry and Ron are looking for but I think that you will find the front-page article educational.
What I am writing about is the small article on page 5. It states that Ginny Weasley is now engaged to Theodore Nott but I want you, and especially Harry, to know that this isn’t true! Ginny would never marry him and I want it understood that my father thinks the whole thing is rubbish. We don’t print lies in The Quibbler and both my father and I are very disappointed in the standards by which the Daily Prophet is now operating.
Anyway, rest assured that we will continue to seek the truth for our paper, and I hope you discount anything that speaks badly of Ginny.
It isn’t true.
Harry was in shock. Had he heard her correctly?
Hermione went on as she pulled open a newspaper. “She also sent a copy of The Quibbler to us and the front page features an article on Rufus Scrimgeour, and how he’s hiding at a Muggle’s house in South Wales while the Ministry is reorganized. Oh honestly! I don’t know what she’s playing at, sending this to us.”
“But, is it true? Did the Daily Prophet print that Ginny’s engaged?” Ron asked her.
Harry was finding it difficult to breathe. Ginny engaged?
“Let me look,” Hermione said and Harry heard her open up another newspaper. He didn’t bother to look over, just stared dumbly up at the vaulted ceiling. “It’s a small blurb in here that says: Theodore Anthony Nott, age eighteen, is engaged to one Ginevra Molly Weasley, age sixteen. No word from the family on if a date has been set and neither family could be reached for comment. Mr. Nott and Miss Weasley were spotted, yesterday, leaving Gringotts together and as one onlooker said, ‘They looked really happy and she had the largest diamond on her finger.’” Hermione let out a snort. “What rubbish! That’s not news as all! This isn’t news worthy of a reputable paper; it’s better suited to that Muggle rag, The British Tattler.”
Harry felt as though his heart was being ripped from his chest. He shut his eyes, trying to breathe. This can’t be happening!
“Harry?” Hermione’s concerned voice floated into his mind as he attempted to sink lower into the soft bed. “Oh Harry…” she whispered. “I don’t think it’s true.”
“It bloody well better not be true!” Ron muttered darkly and Harry opened his eyes in time to see him throw his covers off and stand up. His pajamas were, as always, too short, but Ron didn’t notice as he hobbled over to sit on Hermione’s bed, facing Harry. His gaze was steady although the lines around his mouth were tight with anger. “She wouldn’t marry that git and if she did, it’d just be a waste of time. After my brothers and I finished with him, there’d be nothing left to be married to.”
Hermione rolled her eyes at that and took Ron’s hand, nodding. “She wouldn’t, Harry!”
“But,” Harry choked out. “What if she’s under the Imperius Curse or something?”
They both looked to Hermione who chewed on her lip and looked thoughtful for a moment. “No… I don’t think she can be. The way she behaved when she left was deliberate and well thought out. She made a plan and executed in such a way that she could leave without anyone suspecting anything until it was too late.” She shrugged and lay back down. “I suppose anything is possible, but that seems like Ginny was plotting something, not someone else through her.”
It was a small ray of hope for him. Not much of one; but enough. His dreams had been filled with Ginny, first with what he would do when he saw her again, and then later to the life he hoped to have with her. The dreams were all that kept him from searching out the box again. Hermione had softly told him, the night before, that the box was destroyed when the cup exploded, but he didn’t want to believe her.
Then, at about three AM, he realized that it was the same feeling he’d experienced when he first looked into the Mirror of Erised. Harry had wanted to stay in front of that mirror, just watching his parents.
I doubt I would see my parents in the mirror now…. Part of him felt disquieted about that, but another, louder, part of his heart knew that this was how it was supposed to be.
He was also reminded of Dumbledore’s words about the mirror and how if he stayed in front of that mirror, he was dwelling in his dreams and not living his life.
Harry ran a hand through his already disheveled hair and looked off towards the large windows. His last moments with Ginny had been bittersweet ones. They had danced at her brother’s wedding, gliding around in a circle while she secretly asked him if he trusted everyone around him. Then she’d asked him to trust her.
The band in his chest eased slightly as he heard her words reverberating in his head. She’d sounded so sure of herself and yet her behavior was so out of character that Harry was having trouble reconciling the two. He wanted to trust her, but she was with Nott.
Ginny was with Nott… a Death Eater’s son. She had asked him to trust her… that he couldn’t trust everyone around him.
He trusted her, he trusted her judgment and when all else failed, Harry had followed Ginny blindly. She was the cornerstone in his plans for life, and without her it would be nothing.
There wasn’t another choice for him. He was going to have to trust in her and get what he needed to accomplish done quickly.
The question now was how long was he, Harry, going to have to wait to see her again?
Rotating slowly, Harry looked back at Ron and Hermione, specifically Hermione. He needed her brains to help find the last Horcrux. He knew now that when the prophecy was enacted in such a way that he was given certain abilities. Harry was also beginning to suspect that part of Voldemort’s brain was imprinted into his, along with Parseltongue. How else could he have known, with absolute certainty, that blood would destroy the cup? How could he explain that he knew he had to face down the snake, along with every other beast that inhabited the world of the box?
Harry had wracked his brain for another explanation, but couldn’t come up with one. He hadn’t run it by Hermione yet, but he was confident that she would agree. The problem now was that he didn’t have any clue what the next Horcrux could be, besides another unknown object of the founders.
His instincts told him that this was the right direction. In order to figure out what that object was, though, he was going to need Hermione. He was certain that she would be the one to find it, if it could be found. That was another voice in his head. His intuition told him that if they were going to find the next object quickly, he was going to need help. Finally Harry broke the silence. “We need to get working, again.”
They both nodded. Ron opened his mouth, shut it again and then straightened as if steeling himself for what he was about to say. “I think we’ll be released from here soon, but if Madam Pomfrey wants to keep us, we can always sneak out.”
“You will do no such thing!”
All three jumped and spun quickly towards the door. Mrs. Weasley stood there, arms crossed and glaring at them.
Ron laughed nervously, “Uh, hi Mum.”
Mrs. Weasley shook her graying head and marched over to them. “Don’t you ‘hi’ me, young man! You will stay here until Madam Pomfrey says you are well enough to leave, do you understand me?”
They each nodded, glancing down at the floor, contrite. “So…” Ron said tentatively. “How’d you know we were in here?”
The matron sat next to Harry and patted his hand affectionately before addressing her son. “Professor McGonagall flooed me to say that you were here. I was going to come last night, but she convinced me to wait until this morning.”
Harry didn’t know what to say. Her face appeared older than the last time he saw her, which hadn’t been that long ago. The lines around her mouth were deepening and her eyes looked as if she hadn’t slept in several weeks.
“Thanks for coming,” Harry told her softly and she smiled tiredly at him, while pushing a stray lock from his forehead. Harry wasn’t sure why he had said it, but it felt right and he knew that she would understand.
“Any time, dear,” she replied and tisked over his half-eaten breakfast. “This won’t do! Tuck in and I’ll check with Madam Pomfrey about when you will be allowed to leave.”
Harry managed to choke down a bit more of his toast while Mrs. Weasley was in conferring with the matron. By the time she came back, though, he’d given it up as a bad job. His appetite was gone and he doubted it was going to reappear any time soon.
“Did you hear about Ginny, Mum?” Ron asked as he polished off his eggs. Nothing, not even his sister marrying a Death Eater, would curb Ron’s appetite.
Mrs. Weasley nodded but didn’t respond. She moved about the room in a whirlwind of movements, straightening perfectly made beds and fluffing pillows that were already stuffed to the brim. When she made a pass by Harry’s bed, he saw that tears were streaming down her face. “Mrs. Weasley…” Harry began, but when she paused, he didn’t know what to say. He could reassure her that Ginny wouldn’t do anything like that, but why would she believe him? He could say that he missed her too but he wasn’t her mother and Harry was starting to see that what a mother felt wasn’t the same as the rest of the world. Finally he said, “I want her back too.”
That was what he wanted to say. Harry wanted to tell her that he was an idiot for breaking up with Ginny and that while her running off probably wasn’t his fault, he had definitely played a key part in it. The older woman watched him and she saw what was going through his mind. Harry could read that in her eyes. She sat beside him, once again and pulled him into a hug. They held on wordlessly for over a minute before she whispered in his ear, “When did you realize that you love her?”
“Yesterday,” was his honest response. Yesterday Harry had completely embraced what he felt for Ginny and what it would mean to have her in his life for the rest of his days on this planet. He needed her; it was that simple.
“Well,” Mrs. Weasley said with a watery chuckle, “it’s about time.”
Harry pulled back and looked at her questioningly. “Was it that easy to see?”
“To me it was plain as day, but I couldn’t say anything about it before. You weren’t ready,” she explained, still in a low voice but Harry doubted Ron or Hermione were listening anyway. They were snuggled together on Hermione’s bed, innocently enough though. Ron’s mother was in the room, after all.
Harry sighed before grinning at her. “Better late than never, yeah?”
Her soft hand cupped his cheek and beamed at him. “I always hoped that you two would end up together. You are the kind of man I always wanted for my baby girl.”
After a moment of shock, Harry blushed furiously. Ducking his head, he tried to fight back the hot feeling in his cheek but it was no good. Giving up, he raised his head and met her eyes. “I…” he swallowed and tried again, “I want…” but it wouldn’t come out.
“I know,” she assured him. The bed squeaked a bit as she got up and moved over to Ron and Hermione, eyeing them with interest. Hermione looked a bit nervous but Ron seemed to be completely at ease. “Now you, Hermione,” her tone was a bit stern and for a moment Harry wondered if she was going to reprimand her.
“Yes?” Hermione asked hesitantly.
“Make sure that Ron doesn’t do anything to drive you off,” she told the younger woman, now beaming down at them. “You’re not who I pictured Ron ending up with, but I must admit, I couldn’t have dreamt up someone as wonderful as you.”
Hermione burst into tears and leapt from the bed to throw herself into Mrs. Weasley’s waiting arms. The two women clung together and then moved off to another bed to sit and talk quietly.
Harry and Ron had simply watched them do this, as if it were a well choreographed dance.
Eventually Ron turned to Harry and said, “I reckon that I’m never going to understand girls.”
“You’re just now realizing that?” Harry said with a snort. Still, it wasn’t that bad. He may not understand them, but he was starting to realize that he probably didn’t have to.
“‘Spose I should have gotten that sooner,” Ron agreed and shifted a bit in the bed. Frowning at Hermione’s pillow, he reached under it and pulled out her infamous notebook. “Blimey, she’s sleeping with this thing now?”
“Here,” Harry reached out a hand for it and took flipped it open. Her self-inking quill fell from the front cover page as he thumbed through the pages, looking for her list. Finally he found it and using the quill, marked off the cup.
Four down, two to go and then Voldemort himself. He was getting closer to his goal but he had no idea what that last Horcrux could be. Looking up, he saw Ron watching him and he handed over the book. Ron, in turn, leaned back in the bed to hand it over to Hermione.
“What is that?” Mrs. Weasley asked as she put out a hand for the notebook.
“No!” Hermione yelled as she pulled the older woman’s hand away. “Don’t touch it!”
“Why?” All three of them asked at the same time.
Hermione’s cheeks reddened a bit as she held out her hand for the notebook. “I put a hex on it so that if someone besides Ron, Harry or myself touched it, it would explode. I… well I saw it in a James Bond movie once and thought it would be a good safety precaution.”
Mrs. Weasley’s face clouded over as she looked between them. “Is this… something to do with… no, never mind.” She shook her head in resignation. “I know you won’t tell me.”
“Can’t,” Harry said instantly. He felt this need to reassure her. “Dumbledore asked us not to tell anyone.”
Her mouth formed a perfect ‘O’ as understanding filled her eyes. “I see,” she told them slowly as what Harry had said took a moment to sink in. Then she was back to her normal self. “Right, well Madam Pomfrey said that you three can leave with me if you promise to take a day off and rest at home.” Her mouth tilted a bit at the corner as she said, “I assured her that I would make sure that you were well fed.”
“Great,” Ron agreed and Harry could see his mind spinning at the thought of his mother’s cooking. “So we’re out of here, then?”
“Yes,” she assured him. “I’ll leave you to get dressed while I speak to Professor McGonagall.”
Mrs. Weasley left them with a soft click of the door and the three friends stared mutely at each other.
“So… we agree that Ginny’s not engaged, right?” Ron asked tentatively before bending down to dig out his clothes from under the bed.
“Yes,” Hermione replied and Harry nodded. “She probably wants everyone to think that she is because-” Hermione faltered and looked questioningly at Harry, who shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know why! I can’t figure out exactly what she’s up to, but I trust her. She’s your sister and she loves Harry. She’s not going to willingly hurt him.”
It was all true… Harry knew it, and yet a small part in the back of his mind kept telling him that he was the reason for her being with Nott. He didn’t want her there, but if he hadn’t broken up with her, would any of this have happened?
There wasn’t really an answer. He couldn’t go back in time, especially since he’d helped destroy all of the time turners, but more than that, he was getting very close to being able to finish Voldemort off.
Standing up resolutely, Harry grabbed his clothes and went over to the corner where a screen stood to change. He needed to get his bag from Gryffindor tower and spend one day with Mrs. Weasley pampering them. After that, the hunt was back on.
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