Having beaten her friends back to the lobby caused a couple of raised eyebrows and a knowing smile from Griphook. Smiling cheekily, Ginny refused to answer any questions regarding her ability to beat them back, and accompanied the pair as they exited the bank. Nodding gratefully to Seaxwielder, Ginny smiled as they passed through the main doors and out into the bright summer sunshine.
A quick message to Verity and Lee on the coins as they were waiting for Ron and Luna to finally finish up their shopping, and they made their way to the Cauldron to use their public floo to make their way to Maxine’s. Arriving at the trendy new café just in time to barely beat the lunch rush, they only had to wait for a few minutes before a table was available, allowing the other two to join them.
None of the three mentioned anything regarding Ginny’s decision to accept the position of Black family retainer, but Luna noticed something different about the ginger-haired witch immediately. While keeping up her dreamily distracted public persona during the trip to the café and lunch, a part of her mind was carefully studying the younger witch.
Finally finding the scrutiny a bit unsettling, Ginny cheerfully mentioned going to powder her nose and Luna tagged along in the time-honored tradition of women/witches everywhere. Seeing as neither Hermione or Verity accompanied them, Hermione through her realization that Luna was curious about the changes in Ginny and Verity was too involved in flirting with Lee to notice if her tablemates were to burst into flames, the two witches were able to reach the witches’ lavatory in short order.
As the two entered the nicely appointed waiting area, Luna dropped her distracted air. “Ginevra, the Black Dagger?”
Standing there, gobsmacked, both Ginny and Amaudru were furiously thinking. Ginny sharing her observations and interactions with Luna with her alter-ego, and Amaudru vainly trying to remember the last time someone had twigged to her presence without any overt manifestation of the Dagger’s enhanced abilities.
That fact coupled with the fact that Luna’s grandmother was ‘that woman’, as Amaudru called her, this left her more than a bit suspicious, despite Ginny’s longstanding friendship with the blonde witch. As the exchange was conducted at the ‘speed of thought’, Ginny merely missed a beat or two in responding.
“I’m a bit shocked, but only a bit considering some of the things I’ve seen over the years and the things the others have told me recently.” Shaking her head, Ginny watched her friend carefully as she asked, “What gave it away?”
“Despite my reputation as being totally out of touch, I am a Ravenclaw.” Smirking at the look on Ginny’s face, Luna hopped up and perched herself on the counter holding the washbasins, so her back was to the mirrors that covered one wall. “Your aura has changed. You’re much less a Weasley now, but it’s unclear whether you’re a Black or a Potter, I can see both influences on you, it’s something you haven’t decided on, yet.” Tilting her head, Luna peered intently at her.
“But there’s something else. And if the records of the Black Dagger are correct, then I’m seeing the presence of the spirit of the Dagger.”
“Records?” Echoing Amaudru’s surprise, Ginny nodded slowly to her friend. “I, we, weren’t aware of any reliable records outside the Black family. And yes, the personality behind the dagger is with me.”
“While none of the Daggers that were Ravenclaws betrayed any secrets, the companion of one of your predecessors was Head of House quite a while back. His annotations in the Tome of Ravenclaw were not very complete, but they were quite adequate to let someone who had made a study of such things see the signs”
The two witches watched each other for almost a minute following Luna’s admission. Seeing the flow of emotions in Ginny’s eyes, Luna decided to break the stalemate.
“Welcome, Amaudru Carolusdotter.” Nodding seriously, but with a twinkle in her eye, Luna straightened up a bit where she was sitting. “I bid the daughter of the Franks greeting, both from myself and from my mother’s kin.”
“She’s very sharp, you should watch this one carefully.” A feeling of annoyance and the echo of old anger coloured Amaudru’s mental voice. “Yet, that was courteously done, she tendered the greetings in such a way as to allow me to ignore her grandmother’s machinations, if I so choose.” Hesitating for a blink of an eye, Amaudru asked, “May I?” Feeling Ginny’s assent, along with the hint of an admonition to behave herself, Amaudru’s consciousness swam to the fore.
“And the greetings of the daughter of the Carolingian, the daughter of the Emperor of the West to you and to She who sits upon the Ivory Throne.” Inclining her head, Amaudru/Ginny held the pose for a span of heartbeats before looking back up. “Your Lady Grandmother is well?”
“She is, though she spends as little time with her behind parked on that overly impressive, but very uncomfortable, seat as possible.” Eyes twinkling, Luna smiled warmly. “I have no way of knowing whether or not she foresaw this meeting, but I do know she speaks fondly of your father.” Seeing the flash of emotion in Ginny’s eyes, she continued in a softer voice. “She once said that he was the man, human or elf, that she respected most. She mourned his death, then and now.”
“My father was an easy man to respect.” Shaking her head a bit, she conceded, “And an easy but frustrating man to love.”
“Ginevra and I are both well acquainted with that concept. But I must ask, what brings the Dagger of the Blacks back into the world?”
“Some would say that the trials the world has recently passed through would indicate my return was long overdue.” Making a conscious effort to be civil, Amaudru resisted the urge to add a retort aimed at Luna’s absent grandmother. “As it happened, the previous Head of the House of Black felt that Ginevra would be an admirable partner for me, and he was correct.”
“Sirius.” As if that one word explained everything, Luna leaned back against the bank of mirrors behind her. “That explains much, and adds more questions to the mix. I take it he had made this decision before he met my grandmother, true?” Seeing Ginny/Amaudru’s cautious nod, Luna rolled her eyes. “We’re going to have a very long talk, next time I see him.”
“See him?” Feeling Ginny’s increased interest, Amaudru yielded active control to her host. “Luna can you cross over at will?”
“Not exactly, but I can visit my … family and when I do if Sirius happens to be there, then we can meet.” Smiling slyly, Luna’s eyes twinkled in mischief as she admitted, “And he does seem to be there as often as he can manage for some reason.”
“Some reason, indeed.” Thinking, Ginny leaned against the low table across from the sinks and perched on hip on the table, letting her foot swing back and forth as she thought. Just as she was going to speak, the outside door opened and an older witch entered. Flashing Luna a look, she nodded at her friend’s understanding nod in return, waiting until the newcomer had passed through the inner door before continuing with her previous thought.
“Would it be possible for me to tag along the next time you go to visit your grandmother?”
“Grandmother has always said that any of my friends were welcome to visit with me, and I know she’s expressed interest in meeting you in particular.” Seeing the calculating look in Ginny’s eyes, she continued. “Though, I probably should ask, just for forms sake, in case your friend Ami wishes to go along. I doubt she would object, but she’s a bit old-fashioned about some things, and it’s basically good manners, true?”
Ignoring the sputtering protests in the back of her mind, Ginny nodded thoughtfully, realizing that she would literally be placing herself and Amaudru in Luna’s hands during such a visit.
“That’s not counting the fact that ‘that woman’ will totally control our ability to come and go if we take this path. The gates…”
“Yes, yes, the gates will afford us access to the other half of the equation, and we have a theory that suggests we can come back that way, but I’m trying to decide whether your eagerness to take that option will survive the realization that while you avoid interacting with ‘that woman’, you end up having to deal with your mother.”
“You may be several centuries older than I am, but I’m fully aware I’ll always be Molly Weasley’s daughter, and the baggage that comes with that. Not that I don’t love my mum, but that isn’t a relationship that is set aside easily. And since my mum was never Empress or anything like that…”
“Point taken, I’ll admit I hadn’t thought about that. Still…”
“Hush, we’ll discuss it later. We’re not committing to anything today.”
Switching her attention externally, Ginny smiled at the knowing smile on Luna’s face. While her internal clock told her that she had only been ‘gone’ for less than a heartbeat, she was also certain that Luna and detected ‘something’ to indicate that the internal exchange had gone on.
“Very true, and I’m certainly not willing to risk offending your grandmother, even if it is only smacks of a smidgen of lèse-majesté, probably not a good way to start at all.”
“Ginevra, believe me, my grandmother will enjoy meeting you even more than she anticipates right now. Between the two of you, I don’t imagine any of her friends will survive without suffering what the muggles call having their cardiacs arrested.” Seeing the confused look on her friend’s face, Luna shrugged. “Haven’t the foggiest, really, but I seem to remember Momma using something like that when someone was going apoplectic over something she had said or done.”
“We’ll ask Hermione or my dad, but I think I’ve got the idea.”
“Let’s head back out and join the others, before they think we’ve been plotting something.”
“But we have been.”
“True, but that’s no reason to let them know about it, is it?” Chuckling throatily at the look on Ginny’s face, Luna hopped down and linked her arm through hers. “The first rule of plotting is to make certain everyone else is convinced that you couldn’t possibly be planning something.”
Laughing, Ginny shook her head as the pair exited the lavatory and stepped back out into the sunlight. Looking around to make certain that no one was close enough to overhead, she inclined her head to her friend.
“No one ever believed that you were part of the brains behind what we had accomplished last year. If you hadn’t been taken away from us…”
“Then I wouldn’t have been in the right place for your brother to rescue, along with the others. I just wish I’d been able to come to him sooner…”
As the two reached their table, both witches were struck by the looks they received. Ron’s affection and regard for Luna was clearly evident in his eyes, while Harry’s concern for Ginny was plain for anyone to see. While not what she would have hoped for before, Ginny almost blushed as she could discern the true affection with which he regarded her.
“He’ll always care about you, never fear.” Amaudru’s quiet voice in the back of her head observed as she reached her seat.
“There are times when I truly wish he didn’t, at least not quite so much.”
“She knows you still love him, and she has a pretty good idea exactly how deeply that love goes.”
“And I truly wish she didn’t. Not that I have anything to hide from her, or that I’m plotting to try to replace her in his heart, but it’s humbling to know that someone else knows what I still feel for him.”
“Anything happen while we were gone?” Smiling, Ginny looked around the table and noticed the profound blush on Verity’s cheeks. “Goodness, I didn’t realize we were gone quite that long.”
“Hush you.” Smiling, Verity was watching Lee out of the corner of her eye as she answered Ginny. “However, I do think that you’re social calendar will be a bit emptier that you earlier thought when you get back from Australia.”
“Good.” Replying sincerely as she took her seat, Ginny flashed Hermione a look and saw her answering wink before turning her attention back to Verity. ‘I’ll have to admit, housebreaking wizards just to turn them over to some other witch who’s too busy to civilize them herself is a bit tiring.” Ignoring the scandalized sputtering coming from both Harry and Lee, she smirked as she nodded to Harry. “And it’s very frustrating; since I know they’re not mine for the long haul I can’t put them through all of their paces.”
Peals of laughter rang out as both wizards in question turned bright red.
The luncheon finished up about half an hour later over desserts and drinks. Smiling mysteriously, Ginny picked up the checque, pointing out that she could simply consider it a business expense, leaving Verity and Lee a bit confused and Harry more than a little nonplussed.
After Verity and Lee had flooed back to the Cauldron, the remaining six used Maxine’s floo to head to the Burrow. Thanks to Ginny’s suggestion that she would carry Teddy through the connection, reassuring both Harry and Hermione that she was perfectly capable of maintaining her balance and footing while carrying the infant’s carrier, Ginny ended up making the trip to the Burrow last.
Stepping through the greenish flames, the pair tumbled merrily past the glimpses of wizarding business and households on their way to Ginny’s childhood home. Teddy’s reaction was one of unmitigated glee, chortling and giggling as they made their way through the nonspace that made up the floo network.
Landing gracefully on the colorful rug that fronted the floo in her parent’s sitting room, Ginny did an impromptu twirl to finish off the maneuver that set Teddy off on a fresh set of giggles. Her happiness at the joy on the infant’s face, and with his Weasley-red hair and brown eyes was cut short when her father’s voice broke into the moment.
“Ginevra, Harry, could I speak to both of you in the kitchen?”
While not exactly cool, there was something in her father’s voice that she hadn’t heard in quite a while. The last time she could remember her father sounding like that was the night that the Order had rescued Harry before the War had begun in earnest, and Mad-eye had lost his life in the ensuing escape.
“Certainly Daddy.” Ignoring the cryptic “Busted” from Amaudru, Ginny looked over to where Harry was standing. Seeing that Harry was just as much in the dark about her father’s tone, much less the thunderous look on her mother’s face as she was, Ginny smiled at him and nodded . Taking a couple of steps towards them, she handed Teddy’s carrier to Hermione, who was trying to make sense of the slightly uncomfortable tableau in the room.
While Luna vainly tried to strike up a conversation with Molly, both Harry and Ginny followed her father to the kitchen. Passing through the short corridor that led to the kitchen, Harry stepped slightly behind her and placed his hand on her lower back, more for a sign of support than anything else.
As they came into the kitchen, she saw that her father had gone over to the counter where the Weasley family clock rested and had turned to await them. Their entrance into the room, with Harry slightly behind her, but coming forward to stand beside her caused his slight frown to intensify.
As the three of them stood there, with Ginny and Harry not knowing where to start and Arthur, apparently, waiting for the pair to explain something, the atmosphere in the room became decidedly uncomfortable.
“Do either of you have anything to say for yourselves?” While not harsh, Arthur’s tone was definitely not what either of them would have ever expected.
“Sir, I’m not totally certain what this is about.” While suspecting that Arthur and Molly’s expressions and attitudes were a result of the decision that Ginny had made earlier with regards to the invitation that Sirius had made, the subject was one that he felt Ginny should broach to her parents and he was willing to temporize a bit to give her a chance to decide what tact to take with her parents. He could feel Hermione’s concern and could gather that things weren’t going overly well in the other room, but nothing could have prepared him for what happened next.
“Daddy, what in Merlin’s name are you and Mum going on about? I’m not certain what you think Harry and I may or may not have done, but we certainly have nothing ‘to say for ourselves’.”
Ginny’s acerbic tone took both her father and Harry off-guard. Harry turned to stare at her while her father’s eyes darkened with some sort of emotion that she couldn’t readily read.
“I’m not certain what to think. I was at work and I received word from the Hall of Records that there was a change in status for a member of my family, and then I rush home to find your mother totally unable to understand this.” Pointing to the clock, Arthur waited, almost patiently, for an explanation.
Turning her attention to the clock, both Ginny and Harry had a sharp intake of breath as they looked at the face of the device.
The first thing that attracted their attention was the addition of three new hands to the face of the clock. While it had been a running joke before things had changed between the four that it would be fitting to add Harry and Hermione to the clock, not only were their hands signifying them, but also one for Teddy. A different colour than the ones for the Weasleys, the three newly added hands were all pointing at a new heading that had appeared on the face, ‘The Burrow’.
While Arthur and Molly’s hands pointed towards ‘Home’, a small cluster of hands now pointed towards ‘The Burrow’. Ron’s, still matching the rest of the Weasley hands, was fluctuating between ‘Home’ and ‘The Burrow’, which probably indicated the changing attitudes he had given his deepening relationship with Luna and his settling into life at Grimmauld Place.
But it was the fifth hand that was pointing at ‘The Burrow’ that elicited the gasp from Harry and a sigh of resignation from Ginny. Ginny’s own hand had shifted in colour to match the ones that belonged to the newly added hands, and the annotation on the hand itself kept shifting.
First, it was ‘Ginevra Weasley-Black’. Then, ‘Ginevra Potter-Black’. Next came ‘Ginevra Weasley-Potter. And finally, the cycle completed with ‘Ginevra Black’ before repeating.
“Daddy,” Ginny started warily, not knowing exactly what her father thought had happened and not exactly certain as to where she should begin to explain her new status, especially since the fluctuating hand indicated that her mind was far from settled about some of the aspects of her new relationship with Harry and Hermione. “Nothing untoward has happened, since that’s what you’re obviously thinking. However there has been a few changes since the last time we spoke.”
“Oh really?” Her father’s disbelieving tone cut her, and she could feel Harry stiffen beside her. Instinctively reaching over and putting her hand on Harry’s arm, she felt him relax as he resolved to follow her lead.
“While it’s keeping your young wizard out of this, it’s probably less than reassuring to your father, since he thinks that something is going on between you two.”
“The truth, give him a bit of an introduction, and then show him,” Amaudru replied, flashing Ginny a quick memory of one of her predecessors being in a similar situation a bit over two hundred years ago.
“Daddy, there’s nothing going on between Harry and myself. Neither of us would do that to Hermione, even if we wanted to.” Shaking her head, Ginny took a deep breath. “However, what did happen is that I went to Gringott’s and was informed that there was an inheritance from Sirius waiting for me, and it required that I make a decision.”
“What does that,” pointing towards the fluctuating hand that was now omitting any selection that referenced ‘Weasley’, reflecting her annoyance with her parents, “have to do with Sirius’ bequest to you?”
“As the Head of the Ancient and Honorable House of Black, Sirius offered me a position within the family, and a chance to move forward with my life on my terms.”
Seeing the shocked look on her father’s face, she simply closed her eyes and willed the change. Hearing the sharp intake of breath from him and the muttered “Bloody Merlin” from Harry as he witnessed exactly what Hermione had conveyed to him in person for the first time, she opened her eyes and stared levelly at her father.
“I’m not a boogeyman to scare young witches and wizards into behaving, the Black Dagger exists Daddy, and when Sirius offered me this chance, I took it. Without reservation, and without qualms.” Seeing from the look on her father’s face, she continued. “And certainly without Harry or Hermione’s knowledge. This is something I decided, something I needed to do.”
Leaning back against the counter, Arthur Weasley suddenly looked much older than his years. Gone was his daughter, in her place stood a stranger, dressed in black and radiating a sense of purpose and danger.
Snippets of old stories and legends flashing through his brain, Arthur tried vainly to reconcile the concept of the Black Dagger, a mysterious figure of mythic proportions that passed in and out of wizarding England’s story for a millennium, with the image of his youngest daughter that he was vainly trying to hold onto. That image had taken a severe battering over the past year, both with the things she had done during the War and the events that had occurred since the night of the Battle of Hogwarts.
Finally looking up, he tried to drop all of his preconceptions, both of Ginny as his youngest child and only daughter, and of the mysterious ‘Black Dagger’ and simply studied the witch in front of him.
Poised and collected, she was watching him with a cautious wariness. Dressed in black, she stood balanced on the balls of her feet, and she had moved so she was slightly in front of Harry, who was trying not to stare at her. In her hand was an ancient dagger, it’s matte finish seemed to drink in the light from the room, but Arthur was forced to keep his attention on it as some force seemed to be gently seeking to pull his attention elsewhere.
Shaking his head, Arthur closed his eyes for a moment and mourned. Mourned the loss of his baby girl, for she was good and truly gone. The witch that had replaced her was someone he loved, and he was certain she still loved him, but he would forever mourn the passing of his youngest, his only daughter, quite firmly into the ranks of adulthood.
“What on earth am I going to tell your mother?” Opening his eyes, Arthur smiled apologetically. “And I do owe both of you an apology for dragging you in here that way. It’s just that…”
“I know, Daddy. Believe me, I know.” As she slowly shifted back into the appearance she had when she entered into the kitchen, Ginny looked at her father with tears in her eyes. “I’m still your princess Daddy.”
“You’re still my daughter, and you always will be. But I’m afraid you went and grew up behind my back. I’ll always love you, and I’ll always look forward to those moments when you can be just ‘my princess’, but we both know that you’ve moved over the threshold that can never be recrossed.” Smiling sadly, he nodded towards the face of the clock.
While her brother’s hand was still fluctuating between ‘Home’ and ‘The Burrow’, hers was quite firmly pegged on ‘The Burrow’. Starting to cry, she crossed the distance between them and into her father’s embrace.
“I’m so sorry Daddy; I didn’t really mean to grow up. It just happened.”
Gently folding his arms around his daughter, Arthur kissed her gently on the top of her head and looked up at Harry. Seeing the emotions in his eyes, Arthur nodded to him before kissing his daughter’s head, one more time.
Before Arthur could speak, Harry felt that gentle presence in the back of his mind that heralded Hermione’s regard for him.
“Everything all right in there?” Hermione’s mental voice hand only a touch of concern, it was mostly coloured by amusement.
“Not bad, Ginny broke the news to her father, and Arthur’s coming to terms with the fact that his ‘little girl’ has gone and grown up on them. You doing fine out there?”
“Other than Molly is trying to convince me that whatever you and Ginny have been up to isn’t what I think it was, and that she’s certain that you still love me very much. Ronald’s beside himself trying not to laugh and Luna’s not far behind him. What on earth happened?”
Quickly sending her a synopsis of what had happened with the Weasley clock and Ginny’s revelation to her father about her status, Harry smiled as Hermione chuckled at the conclusion that both Molly and Arthur had come to regarding the changes the clock reflected. Harry smiled as Hermione wished him luck as she went back to dealing with Molly and returned his attention back to Arthur, who was starring to speak in response to Ginny’s apology.
“All five of you have done a great deal of that, and no one gave any of you a choice, I suppose. I think you’ve reached that point a bit before your brother, but this moment comes for every parent, if they’re lucky.” Looking up at Harry, Arthur smiled at the look of understanding in the green eyes of the younger man.
“Daddy, I’ll always be your little girl, but how are we going to break this to Mum?”
“Leave your mother to me.” Smiling sadly, Arthur hugged his daughter once again before stepping back and looking at her. “And don’t worry about this September. Whether or not you attend Hogwarts, begin training with the Harpies or are off on some adventure of your own, we’ll stand behind you and be proud, regardless of how you decide.” Looking over at Harry, he smiled. “Harry?”
“I will, Arthur. Whether or not she wants me to, I will.”
Turning and staring at Harry, with unshed tears in her eyes, Ginny smiled as they exchanged a look that ran along many levels. Ginny gently nodded and turned back to her father. “Daddy, could you give the two of us a moment. I think Hermione probably needs rescuing from Mum if she’s of the same opinion you were when we came in. I’m certain Ron’s being exactly no help and Luna’s trying to explain the entire thing in terms of wrackspurts and three-legged lunar frogs, or something like that.”
“You’re probably right, Ginny.” Leaning forward, he kissed her tenderly on her forehead before turning towards the door. As he opened it to return to the sitting room, he paused for a moment as she spoke.
“I’ll always love you, Daddy. I hope you know that.”
“I know, princess. And I’ll always love you.” The door gently closed behind him as he left the room.
The two of them, left alone, watched each other warily for a second. Smiling, Ginny rolled her eyes as she shook her head.
“Harry, you can’t protect me forever. Besides, that’s part of my job, to protect you.”
“Gin, the Black Dagger’s job is to safeguard the House of Black, among other things. Ginny and Harry are two different people from all that. Blame Hermione, she’s the one that pointed out that I have this ‘saving people thing’.”
“We’ll have to sort this out as we go along, I suppose.” Walking over, she wrapped her arms around Harry and laid her head on his chest. Feeling his arms go around her, she sighed. “We need to go back in there so Mum will stop fretting.” Chuckling bitterly, she looked up at Harry and her eyes twinkled at his perplexed look.
“What’s so funny?”
“More ironic, I suppose. For years I’ve longed for the day when I was ‘all grown up’, and now that it’s here…”
“Scary, isn’t it?”
“Just a tad. Might as well go in and face the music, right?”
“No other choice that I can see. If we sneak out the back door, Hermione will be quite upset with both of us once she gets back to the house. And your poor father will never be able to convince Molly that nothing has happened.”
Giving Harry one last squeeze, she stepped back and held out her hand. Smiling when he took it, they turned and exited through the door, towards their family and friends.
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