Kingsley Shacklebolt arched his back as he turned to gaze at the dying embers of the fire, his eyes opened wide when he caught a glimpse of the time, “Arthur, you should have said something. I didn’t mean to keep you this late.”
Stifling a yawn, Arthur Weasley shook his head, “No, Molly understands there’s still important work to be done. Later, we’ll have time to spare. Ginny is still home for one more day, so she has someone to keep her company.”
“How’s she doing?” Shacklebolt’s voice was laced with concern. “Any lasting effects from the fall?”
“Thankfully, not as far as I can tell. The healers said she’ll be fine - provided she stays off her broom for another week.”
“That’s good to hear,” Shacklebolt shifted forward in his seat and placed his elbows on his desk. “Are you worried about her going back? Do you think she’s still a target?”
Arthur considered his words for a few moments. With a rueful grin, he said, “I think I’ve become accustomed to being worried about her over the last few years. Somehow, she and Ron both have survived their relationship with Harry, although their proximity to him has been enough to add some gray to my hair. Honestly, either one of them could be a target. I have to hope, though, that they’ve both been trained well enough to make it through whatever this mysterious whoever has in mind for them. That, and I don’t see Harry just sitting back and relaxing knowing Ginny could be in danger again.”
Shacklebolt stifled a chuckle, “You’re correct about that. When I met with him on Wednesday, that was the main topic of our discussion. Tell me, Arthur, does the boy ever take his guard down?”
Arthur scratched his chin, “Not often. I’ve seen him relax a few times, especially years ago. I remember watching him at the Quidditch World Cup. I don’t think anyone enjoyed it as much as he did. I think those carefree times have been too few for him. He really never was a child. You’ve met his aunt and uncle, haven’t you? Of course, the added burden of the last few years haven’t helped. So, lately, no, he doesn’t relax. Harry always seems to be ready to draw his wand at a moment’s notice.”
“I thought as much,” Shacklebolt grinned widely, “I think I made the right choice for our future head auror.”
The week had passed unbearably slowly for Harry. In classes, he constantly found his mind wandering with a growing list of unanswered questions. Who seemed to want to destroy him. Who else might be in danger because of him?
On Friday night, Harry, Ron and Hermione finally had a few moments to themselves. Sitting before the common room fire, Hermione asked, “Harry, have you given the news from Professor Lawton any thought?”
Harry was sitting on the floor with his back to the fireplace. Drawing his knees to his chin, he answered, “I’ve barely thought of anything else. I have so many unanswered questions that I can’t narrow anything down.”
Hermione nodded, “I understand. Professor Lawton seemed to imply that the threat was coming from within the Ministry.”
“That’s what I thought as well,” Harry ran his fingers through his hair, “I met with Minister Shacklebolt this week. He’s gathering a list of Ministry employees for me to look at. At least that might give me a place to start.”
“You?” Ron looked at Harry.
“Right, me,” Harry corrected him.
“Harry, you’re not doing this alone. We’re going to help you,” Hermione looked at him with concern. “I can help you compile a list of the whereabouts of known Death Eaters as well. Professor Lawton might be misinformed about the source of the attack.”
“That would be a real first for him, I think,” said Ron with a surprisingly straight face, “you know, to be wrong about something.”
The three burst into laughter.
“Feels a bit like old times, doesn’t it,” Ron looked at Harry and then Hermione.
Harry looked at Ron with a puzzled expression, “What do you mean?”
“Us - sitting here - trying to sort out who’s trying to kill Harry,” Ron attempted to add some levity to the night.
“But this time I’m not the one who’s going to get hurt,” Harry answered stiffly. He locked his jaw and looked at the floor. “You’re the ones in danger this time.”
“Yes, that’s such a novel situation for us to find ourselves in,” Hermione carefully pulled her collar away from her neck revealing the fine pink scar. “Harry, you weren’t alone last year. Nothing has changed. Its time you accept that. Here, list everyone you can think of who’d like to get rid of Harry and list the reason. Perhaps with all of us thinking, we’ll ensure we get the right person.” She handed each of them a scroll of parchment.
The three sat huddled by the fireplace until the logs were a mass of glowing embers.
“You’re certain you’re ready?” asked Mrs. Weasley with concern as she cleared the breakfast dishes away.
“Yes, Mum, I feel fine. You know what the healer said yesterday. I’m as good as new,” Ginny smiled at her mother.
"It is still so early. They're not expecting you back for hours. You won't stay and rest a bit longer?"
Ginny took a deep breath and tried to hide an impatient grimace, "Mum, I'm ready to go back. I'm certain Professor McGonagall won't tell me to get back in the floo and come back after tea. I'm sure I have loads of work to catch up on."
"Yes, I know your school work is forefront on your mind," Mrs. Weasley hugged her daughter, “Alright then. Take care! Goodbye dear. I’ll see you at Christmas.” She gave her daughter a quick peck on the cheek and watched as she stepped into the fire.
With a small turn of her head, Ginny turned back once more, “Bye, Mum!”
Brushing ash off her clothes, Ginny soon found herself looking up to see a smiling Professor McGonagall.
“Its good to have you back, Miss Weasley. We were worried about you,” she wrapped Ginny in an uncharacteristic hug. Pulling back, she asked, “No ill effects?”
“No, I’m completely back to normal,” Ginny brushed her hair behind her ear.
Professor McGonagall’s eyes widened at the twinkle caught in the firelight. “I see Harry didn’t tell us everything,” Professor McGonagall looked at Ginny’s hand.
“Really? Harry hasn’t told everyone?” Ginny grinned broadly.
Shaking her head, Professor McGonagall answered, “No, I imagine he was saving that honor for you. I must say, having all the older students here has definitely made this an interesting year. You two make four Gryffindors, two Ravenclaws and one Hufflepuff already engaged; and it isn’t even Christmas holidays yet.”
Ginny laughed and blushed slightly.
“Miss Weasley, I know that you’re anxious to get back to your common room. However, I have to discuss one of your Quidditch player’s grades with you,” Professor McGonagall grimaced slightly.
“I can’t believe she’s taken Abercrombie off the team!” Ginny stormed through the portrait hole. “She’s replaced him with someone else! Who does she think she can get at this time of year? Oh, what are you three working so hard at so early on a Saturday?”
Harry, Hermione, and Ron were sitting at a familiar table, scrolls of parchment surrounding them. Ginny walked behind Harry and placed her arms on his shoulders.
“Ginny! I didn’t expect you until later this evening,” Harry turned back to look at her.
Running her hands down his chest, she said, “I guess I just couldn’t stay away from you any longer.”
“Ginny!” Hermione stood and pointed at her hand. “Harry! Why didn’t you tell us?”
Harry gave a weak grin and shrugged his shoulders. He turned to see Ron still looking back and forth between Hermione and Ginny.
“Congratulations!” Hermione ran around the table and hugged her friend.
“What about? Losing a Quidditch player?” Ron still seemed lost.
“Ron, how thick can you be?” Ginny thrust her hand in front of her brother’s face.
“Oh! I see; Harry, why didn’t you say something?” Ron stared at Harry.
“I just wanted to save that until Ginny got back,” he drew her into his arms, “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve got to go, though, it seems I have Quidditch practice this afternoon. Professor McGonagall removed one of my players. Really! I thought she wanted us to have a fighting chance this year,” Ginny sighed in exasperation.
“You’re not flying today! Mum owled me. You know you’re still not to play for another week,” Ron rounded on his sister.
“No, I’m going to stay on the ground. I just need to see if this new player is any good. Why am I the Quidditch captain if Professor McGonagall can make changes to the roster without talking to me?” Ginny shook her head and stormed up the stairs to change.
“What are you smiling at?” Hermione looked at Harry accusingly.
Giving his best innocent expression, Harry answered, “Nothing. Its just good to have her back. If you’d like to see something interesting, though, come down to the pitch with me.” He waited for Ginny to return. “Mind if we come with you?”
“Only if you don’t mind being ill. I’m telling you, the team’s still rubbish,” Ginny grumbled as she stormed past.
Harry walked with Ginny to the portrait hole. Hermione and Ron looked at each other, shrugged, and followed.
At the pitch, the Gryffindors were grumbling.
“I can’t believe Professor McGonagall removed Abercrombie,” Demelza Robins leaned against her broom.
“You think he’d have the sense to keep his grades up though,” added Ritchie Coote. “What I want to know is who we’re replacing him with. I’m sure he’s rubbish or he’d have tried out earlier.”
Ginny stood at the edge of the pitch. For a moment, she hesitated; Harry came up behind her and placed his hand on her back.
“Go on,” he encouraged her.
“Alright everyone. You all know why we’re here. We have our next game in three weeks. I’m not allowed to play for one more week, but we have a new player to train before the match with Slytherin. Let’s see what we can do,” she grimaced, “I see our new player has decided he can be late to his first practice. Professor McGonagall said I’d find him satisfactory, I’ll be the judge of that. Try not to be too hard on him. Leave that to me!”
At that moment, Harry emerged from the changing tent. Smiling, he looked to Ginny, “I hope I’ll do.”
Ron and Hermione burst out laughing. This was definitely worth the trip to the pitch.
Ginny drew in her breath, “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!” She swatted his arm.
He grinned back at her, “I thought it would be more fun this way. Are you angry?”
She narrowed her eyes in a cat-like expression, “I’m still trying to decide. I know one thing, though. With you playing Seeker, we’ll definitely have a winning team.” She gave him the blazing look that he’d come to love. Looking back at the team, she yelled, “Alright, let’s get to work!”
Saturday evening, Ginny and Harry found themselves seated beneath their tree on an unusually warm night.
“Now, are you going to tell me what the three of you were really doing this morning?” Ginny asked, “And don’t try to tell me it was schoolwork. Ron doesn’t concentrate that hard on essays.”
Harry leaned back against the tree, “We’re trying to decide who would be the most likely person to be behind the plot against me.”
“Did you come up with anyone?” she turned and looked at him expectantly.
“Hermione is still working on a list of Death Eaters who survived the battle. So far we have a few likely candidates: Lucius Malfoy - in Azkaban, Rodolfus LeStrange - unknown, the goblins of Gringott’s”
“The goblins?” Ginny interrupted.
“They were quite upset that Hermione, Ron and I were able to break in,” Harry answered.
“I suppose so, but a conspiracy like that?” Ginny shook her head.
“Well, let’s just say that Hermione is making sure we examine all our options. Where were we? Matthew Crabbe - in Azkaban, Edmund Goyle - unknown, Fenrir Greyback - in Azkaban, Antonin Dolohov - Azkaban,” Harry stopped and shrugged his shoulders. “Somehow, I think we’re still missing someone. At my next meeting with Minister Shacklebolt, he’s going to give me a list of all the Ministry staff. I think that may be where our answer lies.”
Ginny looked hesitantly into his eyes, “You really think someone will try again?”
Paling slightly, Harry said, “I do. I have to stop them before they succeed in hurting someone again.”
Reaching up, Ginny caressed his face, “I know you will.” She leaned into him. “I believe we were interrupted earlier this week.” She ran her finger lightly along his jaw. “I’ve missed you.”
Harry took a deep breath and was rewarded with the soft scent of wildflowers, “So, was I an adequate player today?” He ran his hand down her arm.
“I think you might need some one on one coaching,” Ginny giggled.
“Well, I guess we’d better start tonight, then,” he closed his eyes and found her lips with his.
On the hill overlooking the lake, Neville and Luna stood watching the sun begin to set. She pointed at the couple under the tree, “Did you hear they’re engaged?”
“Really?” Neville looked at Luna in surprise. He turned and gave his attention to Harry and Ginny. “She deserves it. After last year, she definitely has a right to some happiness.”
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