Chapter 3: The Escaped Murderer.
The time remaining in Egypt after the visit to the Tomb was spent looking around the more touristy areas. The trips to the Pyramids at Giza were not overwhelming successes due to the large number of press photographers that followed the family around. The reporters too were finding ever more imaginative ways of getting near to the group.
By the time Mr Weasley decided it was the right time to head home, Bill’s wards on his apartments had been tested no less than a dozen times. Each time the unfortunate individual was treated to an interesting array of transfigurations and charms. The international papers had run all sorts of stories about the Weasleys.
The Daily Prophet had printed a full page picture of the family in front of the Great Pyramid. Arthur was pictured with his arms around Molly and Bill, the twins flanking them. In front of them, kneeling, were Percy, Ron – holding his rat, Scabbers – and Harry and Ginny; Ginny in front of Harry with his arms wrapped around her.
The story had been run two weeks previous to the Weasleys heading home. Waiting for Arthur when they arrived back at the Burrow was a summons to report back to the Ministry as soon as he arrived back from holiday.
“They can’t be serious, Arthur?!” Molly slammed her hands on the kitchen table. “You only just got home.”
“I know, Molly dear,” he looked apologetically at the rest of his family as he replied. “It’s probably nothing more than Fudge losing his wig, again.”
This statement caused Harry to wonder exactly what did go on at the Ministry. He’d been told about the humorous incident involving the twins and a visit there a few years previously. This latest one could not have been too bad, because otherwise, surely, the holiday would have been interrupted. He paused on the stairs long enough to throw a questioning look at Ginny, who merely shrugged as she climbed up behind him.
“Probably more like he found a book with words of less than three syllables that he can understand.” Harry smiled Ginny always seemed to know just how to do that to him. It made him feel... good inside.
“D’you want a hand with your trunk?” It was a clumsy offer, but it was the best he could come up with given his stomach was performing somersaults at her smile. ‘What is wrong with me?’
“Harry, you do realise that we have less than a week before September 1st?” Ginny’s smile grew larger. “I know you still have at least one essay to complete, because I was going to help you with it. Then there is the Defence reading you were going to help me with...” Her smile became mischievous. Harry’s stomach flipped more. ‘What am I doing to him?’
“Alright, I’ll bring my Charms work down to your room, then we can go through what Lockhart didn’t teach you last year, not that Quirrell was much better being frightened of his own shadow.” Harry’s grin was now all over his face as she slapped him on the arm in reference to the professors; one having been a useless fraud; the other carrying Voldemort on the back of his head.
“See you in a few minutes, after you’ve found your parchment.” With that Ginny squeezed past him on the narrow stairs and disappeared into her room.
Harry heard the kitchen door opening and closing before the sound of a person Disapparating. He shook his head, thinking about the mayhem that Mr Weasley was possibly walking into at work, climbed the rest of the stairs to the landing with his room and flopped onto the bed. His head was now spinning with the effects of Ginny. Everything about her was making him giddy; her laugh; her smile; her mischievous nature.
‘Why am I feeling like this? She’s my friend, should I feel this way?’ An unfamiliar word flew through his mind. And yet it had a familiarity. He had felt this way during Ginny’s nightmares in Egypt. He would have done anything to help her, prevent the recurring dreams and their effects.
Groaning, he rolled off of the bed and crawled towards his trunk, removing the tools and parchment he needed. Standing abruptly, Harry felt a wave of strong emotion from his friend down the stairs. He made to hurry to the door of his room then caught himself. The feeling was similar to that he was experiencing. It had more familiarity to it, and there was an undercurrent of unfulfillment.
Ginny was in her room, sitting on the desk under the window and staring out into the garden. Her hands rested on the Egyptian charm necklace that Harry had bought on the last day of the holiday. He had spotted it in the window of a jeweller in the Magical section of Cairo, and immediately asked her oldest brother about it. The Curse-Breaker saw the necklace and smiled, albeit grudgingly. Harry had entered the shop and bought it on the spot, presenting it to Ginny with a grin.
Now, a day later, Ginny was sat staring into space, and reflecting what the necklace meant to her. Her fingers traced the cool silver of the ankh, and the inlaid image of the phoenix at the cross-arms.
The ankh, a symbol for peace in the Ancient World, had allowed Ginny her first nightmare-free night since the start of the summer. Harry had had to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night, leaving her to sleep alone for around five minutes. The morning had found him asleep in the chair next to her bed, his face angled towards the watching girl as the sun rose.
The phoenix warmed slightly as she felt Harry’s emotions. Her own shifted to how she felt about him. Even after what had happened to her – them – the last year, he did not shy away from her as she had expected. Indeed, the first thing that had happened after the announcement of the cancellation of the exams was the largest party Gryffindor Tower had seen for a number of years.
Her thoughts flitted back to the present. She had always been, and saw herself as always being, in love with Harry - not Harry Potter, just Harry – ever since he had arrived in her garden with Professor Dumbledore.
And yet, she was uncertain as to how he felt about her. This left her feeling frustrated, and in turn sending the feelings heading to Harry through the link. She knew that he would have rescued any of his friends from the Chamber had they needed it. Yet, there was something beneath the events. Tom, in his arrogance had told her as much.
Ginny needed time to think about what was happening to her – them – and knew of only one place at the Burrow where she might be guaranteed some peace. Then she remembered her promise to Harry, and the work she had to do herself, and resignedly sat at her desk and waited for him.
* * * * *
The afternoon hurtled by. The warm weather outside seemed to mock the students as they worked and read. Ginny’s advance reading of the previous Summer served her well in understanding the books that Harry had brought down for her, even though her own were in her trunk at the bottom of her bed.
None of the books were by Gilderoy Lockhart, however. Harry had borrowed from Percy and the twins each of the yearbooks he was planning on reading, and finding out how much Ginny had learnt, in spite of her troubles.
To his surprise, and hers, none of the information from the books was foreign, or difficult. After a few hours of studying, the pair had settled into a comfortable silence, with Ginny leaning against Harry’s right side and her arms wrapped around his waist; her head against his chest listening to his heart.
Harry absently rubbed his right hand along her back, while his left hung onto her right shoulder. The scent of her hair drifted up to his nostrils, and he grinned as he heard her contented purring. All of their troubles were pushed far away in the moment of peace.
“Harry?” Ginny cocked her head back to look at his face.
“Hmm...?” He smiled back at her.
“Thank you,” she smiled through forming tears, “for being here. I...”
“Sshh, I know...” He gave her a gentle squeeze and rested his cheek against the top of her head.
Whatever Ginny was about to say was cut off by the sound of Molly Weasley crying as she ran up the stairs. A few seconds later, the door to Ginny’s room burst open as the matriarch launched through it and gathered them both into a bone-crushing hug.
“Mum, can’t breathe.” Harry had meant it as a joke, but it only served to set her sobbing louder.
“Mum? What’s wrong?” Ginny looked first at her mother, then at her father as he entered the room. “Dad? What’s going on?”
“Molly.” Arthur closed the distance between the door and his wife slowly, reaching out a hand to rest on her back. “Molly, we need them downstairs so that Kingsley can talk to them. We need everyone to know what is happening, so I’ll get the others down, too.”
“Dad, please, what’s wrong?” Ginny was starting to shake with fright, so Harry wrapped both of his arms around her, pulling her into a hug inside of her mothers.
“Gin, it’ll be alright, whatever happens, I’ll always be here.”
For someone of his size, it surprised Arthur how easily Harry was able to stand with both Molly and Ginny weighing him down. Shaking his head at his guardian’s reaction to his predicament, Harry gingerly made his way down the stairs and into the kitchen, allowing enough time for the rest of the family to have queued behind them.
By the window overlooking the garden, two adults stood in conversation. The taller of the two – a dark-skinned man of about fifty – was shaking his head at something that the other – a slim woman with short, spiky pink hair in her early twenties – had suggested. Both looked serious when they noticed the family had seated themselves at the table, waiting to hear what had happened.
“Arthur, thank you for allowing us to come, I know this may be difficult...” The man stood solemnly as his partner darted her eyes around the room.
“Not at all Kingsley, I’m glad Amelia could spare you on this.” Mr Weasley shook his tired head. “Family, this is Kingsley Shacklebolt, he’s an Auror, and his trainee...”
“Just call me Tonks.” The younger woman smiled gently as she took up position behind Harry and Ginny, trying to nod casually to her mentor. “Though Kingsley is not my only instructor. Moody sent his regards, Molly.”
A loud crash ended the sentence as Tonks missed the wall she was about to prop herself against and sat down heavily on the last step of the stairs.
“Nothing really changes, does it Tonks?” Arthur chuckled. “I seem to remember you doing that many times when you were visiting Bill and Charlie.”
“How are they? I keep meaning to write to them, but...” Tonks blushed slightly as her voice trailed off quietly.
“Bill’s okay. In the same boat as you, that he doesn’t get chance to write much either.” Molly informed the young woman. “Charlie, well you know how he was at school, and he hasn’t changed much either.”
“Him and his dragons...”
“If we could... Arthur, Molly. We need to get on and discuss the arrangements.” Kingsley interrupted, leaving Harry confused about the history between the Weasleys and the young Auror.
“First thing to ask I suppose... is when he escaped?” Arthur began. “I know what Fudge told us in the briefing about it being after his visit, but how long after?”
“The escape was made less than a week after, about ten days ago.” Kingsley’s statement caused Harry to shoot a significant look towards Ginny, remembering. “It appears he was not missed by the guards until a visual check was made of the cells, that was nine days ago. They check them every other day after meals, just in case any decide to try and play dead to get out.”
“When the word went out, the guards moved in on the poor soul who raised the alarm. He was lucky to get out and back to the mainland.” Tonks added, shaking her head sadly.
“We think there may be two specific places he’ll try to get to,” the elder Auror sighed. “We... as in the department... think that his most likely target will be Hogwarts, the other could be here.”
That revelation caused an unnatural silence to descend. Other families might have been shocked and begun to vent their feelings, but not this one. Ever since Hermione and Ginny between them found out about the prophecy made by Lillian Weasley after the events of the Chamber, nothing seemed to shock them anymore... nothing major.
Tonks watched the faces of those around her. Percy, she knew, would be trying to rationalise why they would not be attacked. The twins were wearing devilish grins and glancing at Harry madly. Ron... well, his features showed he was getting ready for another mad year at school, and given his friendship with Harry, it would not be quiet, at all. Then there was Harry and Ginny. She did not know what had happened between them, so far in spite of the stories filtering from Madam Bones’ office, but the shared look of conviction was hard to miss.
“Are you going to be providing security for the children?” Molly broke the silence with trademark concern.
“I’m sorry to do this, Molly, but your children are not the apparent targets,” Kingsley said, his eyes boring into Harry’s skull from where he stood behind him.
“Not again,” Ginny whined, throwing her arms around her friend’s waist.
“Just another trial for you to face... eh... Harry?” Ron clapped his hand on his shoulder in a show of support.
“I... I need some air.” Prying Ginny’s hands from his back, Harry turned for the door. “I’ll be out in the garden.”
He bolted before anyone could react. The kitchen door was closing already before Ginny made to follow him.
“I’ll go with you,” Tonks announced as she took the girl’s hand in her own, leading the way. When they were clear of the building, she continued. “You okay?”
“Not really.” Ginny glanced up and noticed the frown forming on the Auror’s face, her hair changing colour from pink to red. “I’ve got Harry wondering whether he’ll ever have a normal year without Tom, or someone, coming after him.”
“It’s a long story, and if you’re on the train to school in a week, I’ll fill you in then.” Shaking her head, she successfully blocked the feelings racing at her. “What’s your involvement in this though? It can’t be normal for trainees to get landed with babysitting duty, can it?”
“HEY!” Tonks slapped Ginny playfully, her hair turning pink again, before turning red and waist-length. “There, we match now.” She stuck her tongue out as the younger girl grinned. “You’re right though, it is not a normal duty. I’ve got a bit of vested interest in this case, and Kingsley reckoned I shouldn’t be in any of the groups looking in case I find this guy, alone.”
“Okay.” Ginny breathed slowly.
“Let’s find Harry, and then somewhere a little more private, I’ve something to tell you both which could land me in a lot of hot water.”
“Now, you’ve got my attention, follow me.” Harry removed his Invisibility Cloak and turned for the path in the trees that led to Gin’s Spot, as their shared private area had become known.
“Where’d he get that?” Tonks whispered.
“Was his dad’s. It was given to him for Christmas, a couple of years ago. Still not too sure who had had it, but we suspect Dumbledore was involved, judging by what he hasn’t told us.” Ginny watched the back of the boy in front for any reaction to what she was revealing. “He always has it on him. Comes in really handy for when you want to prank the twins, or Ron.”
“I take it that you’ve used it as well then?”
“A few times.” Ginny’s admission was all the confirmation Tonks needed about how close the two children were.
The rest of the walk was quiet, save for the sounds of the woods. Harry sat on one of the rocks that formed a part of the bank of the stream that ran past the Burrow, while Ginny sat in front of him, resting her back against his legs; both sat with their arms folded across their chests.
Tonks was a little unnerved by the sight. Bill’s descriptions of his sister had always been that she never took anything seriously, but in front of her was someone so opposite of those descriptions she had to pinch herself.
“Are you related to this person, somehow?” Blunt, is the only way to describe Harry’s question, and it caused Tonks to sit on the ground harder than she had intended.
“Yes.” The children merely nodded. “Sirius Black was... is the only male relation left to my mother. He is only separated by the one generation, and was always her favourite, even over her sisters.”
“I’d like to hear about your family, when you have time in your babysitting duty that is.” Harry’s teasing caught Tonks off-guard. “So, why do they all think that he is after me?”
“After the Minister’s visit to him, Black was heard mumbling over and over, ‘he’s with the Weasley’s; he’s going to be at Hogwarts’. No one thought much about it, until he escaped. The connection to you was made when the cell was searched.” Tonks looked at both children, searching their eyes. “In the stonework of three walls and the floor, there were carvings. They were lightning bolts, like your scars.”