Ginny Weasley hovered on her broom above the practice pitch used by the Harpies, well above the rest of the practicing players. She and the other newer players were taking in the practiced plays of the veterans from a bird’s eye point of view, looking for those subtle signals and intuitive elements of play that were never visible from the stands. Today’s exercise was to study the veterans, infuse the signals into their own style of play and do their best to incorporate the smoothness of the veteran players whenever they played with them. Gwenog had been rotating them in one at a time to try it and Ginny was hovering there watching closely and waiting for her turn when a clay colored dove lit on the end of her broom.
“Oh hello Rosie,” she greeted the bird. “Can you wait for me on the ground? It’s not safe for you to roost here.”
The bird bobbed her head in seeming agreement, flying in the direction of a flock of pigeons that usually hung out near the base of the quidditch pitch, searching the space under the stands for bits of food. As Harry had intended, the small bird blended in quite well with the rest of the birds, so that very few of her team mates even noticed. That was until Ginny called to her again at the end of their practice session. Rosie came to light on Ginny’s shoulder while she untied the note, reading it on her way back to the locker room to change.
As Ginny had expected, the note was from Harry. They had promised to keep in touch with each other at the end of every day using the doves and this was the first one, marking the end of their first day apart. Harry had promised to tell her everything and from the looks of this he very nearly did. Ron’s class was now in France for memory training. After seeing them off first thing in the morning, Harry, Hermione and Wendy visited the muggle glass specialist where they’d had a very productive meeting; and finally Laura was back. Ginny momentarily frowned as she read about it … Harry had assigned her to work with Smith today to bring her up to speed on the case … and Ginny smiled. Harry had known she would be nervous about Laura’s return but he’d been sure to include this to let her know things were okay.
Ginny folded the note thoughtfully, putting it away as she came to her locker and began to stow her equipment. She was pleased that Harry had been so open and honest with her about his day, but given what she knew of the case, she couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps Harry had been a bit too open and she began to appreciate one of the reasons behind why he’d withheld so much before. With fresh eyes Ginny surveyed the group of women she’d been working with since July as she began to change out of her practice uniform. She knew the names of all of them, how they played, how long they’d been with the team, all those sorts of things. For most she also knew if they were married or not, or involved with anyone and who their significant others were, but there were only one or two she felt she was getting to know well.
I wonder who their families are though … and their friends, Ginny thought to herself. I really have no idea what sort of ties any of them might have away from here, or what sort of involvement any of them might have had during the war.
Ginny’s brow furrowed briefly in concern as the weight of that realization hit her. They were all politically neutral at work, which was the way Gwenog wanted it. Perhaps Harry was wise to hold his professional cards so close to his chest and she made sure to tell him so in her own note to Harry sent that very same evening.
Seven days later, Harry lay on his bed studying the ceiling of his room. It wasn’t all that late, in fact he’d sent his dove to Ginny only few hours ago, but it felt late. Indeed, this last week had felt interminably long and now he was starting another just like it. Now that he knew what was happening, now that he knew the suffering being inflicted beneath those far off hills, Harry had found he had to do the hardest thing he’d ever done; he had to go home from work every day and act like nothing was wrong. All his instincts to blindly rush in, to risk everything to rescue those people, he’d had to master and suppress. Any attempted rescue at this point in time would have ended with the hostages and quite probably himself and his team killed in the process, and still the Death Eaters would have escaped free to try again, free to dream up some new terror even more horrible than the last. No this time he had to be sure that none of the Death Eaters involved would get away; all the glass vessels – instruments of torture - would be destroyed; and every muggle soul possible would be not only rescued but restored. They knew it was possible to do that now. Hermione had found it in a book, just like she had before. It would be difficult. It had to be carefully planned. It had to be exactly executed, but before they could do any of that, they needed a map. And even after they had that map, they needed a way to protect their entire team before they went in. Harry was determined of that; he wasn’t about to sacrifice another soul, whether wizard or muggle to the Death Eaters dark cause. Creating the map they needed and developing his and Hermione’s idea for protecting the muggle members of the AMASS would take time, and were tasks best done by those other than himself. And so Harry waited, thinking to himself that this might just be the hardest job of all. His melancholy state was interrupted by Hermys as the small elf came bustling into the room with Rudy balanced on his hand.
Harry sighed as he sat up, swinging his feet over the side of the bed to the floor.
“Thank you for bringing him up Hermys.”
“Yous is welcome Master Harry,” Hermys said, remembering to bow a moment later as he looked at Harry, while Rudy fluttered over and landed beside him on the bed.
“Is something wrong?” Harry asked when the elf continued to look at him.
“I’s is not sure,” Hermys told him seriously. “I’s is reading about changes in behavior meaning somethings is wrong. Masters is not eating his dinner, and Masters is going to bed with his clothes on.”
“Ah,” Harry commented. “So you were wondering if there is something wrong with me.”
“Yes. I’s is trying hard to learn,” Hermys said eagerly.
“I know you are Hermys,” Harry assured him. “No there’s nothing wrong…at least nothing a healer could help with.”
“Then Masters is not sick?” Hermys asked.
“No, I’m not sick. I’m worried and I’m frustrated. I have to wait for things to happen when I’d much rather take action now,” Harry told him.
Hermys nodded solemnly. “Waiting is hard Master Harry. Hermys has experience with waiting,” he said.
Harry regarded his youngest elf curiously.
“Why don’t you hop up here and sit down Hermys,” he offered. “Then you can tell me about it.”
“I’s is not distracting you?” Hermys asked hesitantly.
“A little distraction would be welcome at the moment to be honest,” Harry replied as Rudy strutted back and forth across Harry’s lap. He untied the note from the bird’s leg and watched Rudy fly off, but he didn’t read the message right away. He knew the note was from Ginny. It would be his one bright spot, the one thing he most looked forward to each day. Once he’d read it, all he had to do was to continue to wait.
“Alright Masters Harry,” Hermys agreed and he hopped up beside Harry and settled himself in a seated position on the bed.
“When did you have to wait?” Harry asked curiously.
“I’s had’s to wait to come here. I had’s to wait to be a healer. I had’s to wait to help. House-elves is always waiting Master Harry.”
“But house-elves are always busy too…at least it seems that way to me,” Harry commented.
“Yes,” Hermys agreed. “Waiting is easier if you is busy. Me dame taught mes that. She is right. I’s learned to care for doves while waiting to come here. I’s is learned to care for chickens whiles waiting to come here. I’s is learned to care for gooses whiles waiting to come here. And dogs and horses and sheep and goats and…”
Harry interrupted Hermys list of the kinds of animals he had once cared for in his youth. “Your dame lived on a farm?” Harry guessed.
“Uh huh. I’s is an animal from a farm. A farm healer is all I’s thought I could be,” Hermys explained.
“You were learning to be a healer to those animals?” Harry asked with a start. “Not just how to take care of them, but to be a veterinarian?”
“What’s is a ‘vetter-narii-nari-um.’?” Hermys asked.
“A healer for animals,” Harry said with a chuckle.
“Yes!” Hermys nodded his head emphatically. “I’s is liking animals Master…and people too,” he added as an afterthought. “Peoples is easer sometimes, because they can tell you what they feel. But peoples is harder too because they lie. They say they’s is okay when they’s is not.”
Harry hung his head. “You’re talking about me, aren’t you?” he realized.
“Master must have some dinner,” Hermys told him. “He must read his note. He must walk around the house. If Master is waiting for things to happen, he must be ready when they do, not sick from worry and not eating.”
Harry sighed. “You’re right. I know you’re right. Alright, I’ll read the note and I’ll come down for dinner. After that, maybe I’ll go see Ron.”
Ron Weasley went to the door at the trainee’s flat in Paris when an unexpected knock sounded and opened it to find his best friend standing there.
“Harry! What are you doing here?” he asked in surprise.
“I wanted to talk…and Ginny’s at Holyhead and Hermione’s busy and worried enough for both of us…”
“And you knew where I was staying,” Ron realized.
“Yeah I do,” Harry admitted. “Look I know this may not be the best time…”
“No it’s okay Harry. I could use a break, really,” Ron assured him.
As Harry glanced past his friend he could indeed see texts and parchments and memory vials spread out on a table. “Are you sure Ron? I don’t want to interrupt your studying.”
“Yeah I’m sure,” Ron insisted rubbing lightly at his own temples.
Harry nodded in acknowledgement. Practicing the memory extraction techniques on one’s self for too long without a break was well known for causing headaches.
“Let me grab my cloak and we can go for a walk.”
“That would be great!” Harry said with a grin as Ron grabbed his cloak from a peg on the wall.
It was late, but it wasn’t all that late when the two friends set out, wandering through the streets of Paris on a weekday evening early in February.
“So how’s it going Ron?” Harry asked as they walked.
“With the memory training you mean. It can really do a number on you Harry. I’m beginning to see why you had such trouble with it when you went,” Ron admitted.
“But the exercises I gave you…they help, right?”
“Yeah they do, but we were supposed to work with a memory that frightened us today, and the first thing I thought of was when Hagrid sent us to Aragog our second year. Do you remember?”
Harry grinned, remembering how frightened they’d both been, but especially Ron, a fact he hadn’t properly appreciated until he’d learned in their third year that Ron’s boggart was also a giant spider. “That would certainly qualify,” he agreed.
The red-haired man beside him shuddered at the thought. Harry couldn’t blame him. He knew how real those fears from the past became when you were forced to re-live them day after day.
“I only wish it was giant spiders we were facing this time,” Harry told him, immediately bringing Ron back with him to the present.
“Hermione said you went to see Mr. Johnson. What did you find out Harry?” he asked.
“What makes you think we found out anything?”
“The way Hermione avoided talking about it in her letter. That’s not like her, you know? Usually when she finds out something, she goes into so much detail about it I know I wouldn’t have known that much if I’d been there. But this time… “ Once again Ron glanced appraisingly at his dark haired friend.
“I probably shouldn’t be talking about it as well,” Harry admitted. “But it’s us three that know Ron. It was us three that were there.”
“Are you talking about Voldemort? Cause I’m pretty sure he’s gone Harry,” Ron reminded him.
“I know that. But those glass things we found…and the caves…and the muggles…” Everything Harry had learned in the past week came spilling out. He hadn’t intended to tell him like that. He hadn’t intended to tell him at all, but he did, and for the moment he felt better for having done it.
“Do the girls know?” Ron asked.
“Hermione does. She was there when I figured it out. Ginny knows I’m on to something but I don’t dare put this in a note, so no she doesn’t know the whole extent of it…at least not yet,” Harry said.
“Are you going to tell her?”
“Do you think I should?” Harry asked.
Ron regarded him thoughtfully. “Not everything I don’t suppose. I mean it could be dangerous for her to know, right?”
“Right,” Harry agreed. “And if I did tell her, she’d insist on being there when we go in.”
“Ginny’s not an Auror, she’s a quidditch player.”
“Yeah. That’s what I keep telling her,” Harry agreed. “It’s my job…our job to do these things. She just needs to let us get on with it.”
“Absolutely,” Ron agreed. “Speaking of which, when are we going in?”
Harry sighed. “Not until we get a better map and a way to better protect the muggles. We’ve moved the sensors twice since you and I first went in. The pictures are getting clearer, and Hermione’s figured out how to reproduce the image from the muggle computer screen on a bewitched bit of parchment. They can’t turn it yet, but it’s a start.”
“I know. She came by yesterday evening talking to Dean about it.”
“Yeah she said. She’s been working with those tiny crystals we found too. She thinks they’re significant and she’s been working really hard trying to help us.”
“I’m really glad she is, I mean Hermione is brilliant with all these things and everything, but I’m also really glad she won’t be going in with us,” Ron said with a sigh.
The two young men exchanged a look. As much as they both appreciated Hermione’s help, they also both felt better about things when they knew she and Ginny were both out of harms way.
“Me too Ron,” Harry agreed in a somber tone.
“You know though Harry, I’ve been thinking. Since we have time before we do go in, and since Valentine’s Day is next weekend…do you suppose we should do something special for them…just in case?” Ron asked.
“Don’t think like that. We’ll be prepared when we go in,” Harry admonished.
“Yeah I know, but Harry…Paris…I’m here…and it’s Valentines. Hermione’s liable to kill me if I don’t do something romantic related to that.”
Harry arched a brow. “And to think I thought you were worried about the Death Eaters,” he teased
“Well I am, but…”
Harry grinned. The Death Eaters might be responsible for the ultimate evil, but an unhappy woman could make your life miserable even when the world was otherwise a good place.
“I think that’s a very good idea,” Harry told him. “It’ll be good for us all to have the break, the girls will love it, and it will give us something else to think about while we wait for that bloody map.”
“Exactly,” Ron said enthusiastically.
And so the two young men put their heads together to form a plan. A plan Harry would put into motion the very next weekend.
Ginny smiled as Rosie found her way to the handle of her broom and landed there. It was the end of practice and the little dove had become used to the routine, bringing Ginny a note from Harry with the news-of-the-day each afternoon. No matter how major or minor the days events had been, they had developed the habit of exchanging messages, of staying in touch no matter how big or small. Today Rosie hung on as Ginny maneuvered her broom gently towards the ground and set down, before inviting her to ride on her shoulder again for the ride to the locker room.
“Is that from your boyfriend again?” Celia called.
“Fiancé,” Ginny shot back playfully. “And yes it is. He’s just checking to make sure we still have next weekend off. We still do, right?”
Celia grinned. “Gwen knows better than to mess with Valentines Day Ginny. She may take every other opportunity from us, interfering with birthdays and anniversaries with games and practice, but she knows better than to do that. If she did, she’d have a full scale riot on her hands.”
Ginny grinned at the older woman wanly. “I was beginning to wonder if Gwen has something specifically against relationships.”
“Gwen’s entire life is the team. She knows most other people have families and significant others too, but for her…” Celia sighed. “She tries to keep that in mind, but sometimes…it does rather get in the way. So does your fiancé have plans?”
Ginny looked down again at the note in her hands. “I think so. He says to meet him at the gate at seven tomorrow morning and to plan to be way for two days. He doesn’t say what we’re doing though,” she said staring quizzically at the note.
“So he’s got some sort of surprise planned,” Celia concluded.
Ginny’s smile was her only answer before they reached the locker room and the redheaded girl sent Rosie on her way.
The next morning precisely at seven, Ginny was waiting near the gate with her bag slung over her shoulder when Harry popped into view. He looked exhausted…as though he’d been up all night, but before she could even form her question, he pulled her into a searing kiss.
“Hi,” Ginny said breathlessly as she gently pulled away.
“Hi yourself,” Harry grinned. “Are you ready?”
“Harry…are you sure you’re up to what ever you have planned?” she asked worriedly.
Harry shrugged. “I’ve been working hard … and so have you. We deserve this Gin, so hold on!”
Ginny did as he said, feeling herself get pulled along as Harry started to turn. She’d expected to appear on the doorstep outside the front door to Grimmauld Place, but instead she found herself standing on a sidewalk in a strange city, beside an open air café with brightly colored umbrellas. The whole thing was shimmering from the affect of a shield charm surrounding the diners, intended to keep the warmth in and the cold out.
“Where are we Harry?” Ginny asked breathlessly as she looked around. Though it was cold out and slushy snow could still be seen lingering in gutters of the streets, the windows adorning the buildings nearby sported brightly painted window boxes bursting with color…a stubborn refusal to allow the doldrums of winter invade their city a moment longer than absolutely necessary.
“We’re in Paris Ginny, for the weekend. Ron and Hermione are here too. It was Ron’s idea actually. We thought that coming here was something you and Hermione would like to do,” Harry explained.
“So we’re here in Paris…one of the most romantic cities in the world…for Valentines…with my brother?”
“They won’t be with us all the time,” Harry assured her. “In fact, I don’t expect we’ll see them at all today until noon. I thought you might like to get settled first then maybe join me for a croissant for breakfast? With hot chocolate too…” He flashed her a quick smile, knowing her love of the sweet drink would convince her.
Harry knew from her expression he’d won. There was no doubt about it, a romantic city with good food was definitely the way to a Weasley girl’s heart. “Now, shall we get you settled then go off to see the sights?”
Ginny smiled happily at him. “Okay. Which way?”
“That little hotel up there with the blue door. This whole city looks magical sometimes, so you have to be careful about the doors.”
Ginny allowed Harry to take her hand, gazing around happily as he led her the half block down to the little hotel with the yellow stone walls and blue door. It too had flower boxes with bright red and pink flowers and blue shutters gracing each of the windows on the upper floors.
Harry tapped the brass knob with his wand as he pushed the door open revealing an enchanted hallway, giving Ginny the impression that they had the place to themselves. She followed Harry across the threshold feeling the magic of the hotel course across her skin with a light tingling sensation, reveling in the intense, atmosphere charged with excitement…letting her know that this place was magical. It was bewitched, and not everything truly was as it appeared.
Once inside, Ginny followed closely on Harry’s heels, across the hall and up a narrow set of spiral stairs. At the top of the stairs another blue door with a brass door knob awaited. With a quick flick of his wand Harry unlocked the door and then pushed it open, allowing Ginny to slip past him into the room. Ginny spun slowly, admiring the cream and yellow plastered walls. An oversized pale, wooden-framed canopy bed commanded the wall to her right, and a bright blue rug lay centered on the tile floor. Two windows spaced evenly on the wall opposite the door, both of which had the flower boxes she’d admired so much from below, along with a set of French doors that looked out onto the street in front of the hotel flooded the room with warm sunlight. A cheerful fire crackled merrily, spreading warmth from the small tile fronted fireplace situated in the corner away from the windows.
“This is wonderful Harry!” she breathed as she set down her things and stepped further into the room. Harry followed her in.
“Are you certain Ginny? I could ask for another room if you’d like. This one tends to have a draft sometimes they say, and there’s noise from the street in the evening sometimes…” Harry was telling her, when Ginny kissed him. Harry sputtered with a grin.
“So you really like it?” he asked anxiously when she pulled away.
“I really do,” she said smiling broadly as she began to explore the room, checking out all the cabinets and drawers, and then the fixtures in the attached bathroom. The taps for the bath particularly intrigued her. “Oh Harry, look at this tub!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never seen one this big.”
Harry went to look at it too. “I have,” he told her.
“In the prefect’s bathroom at Hogwarts. I got to use it during my fourth year.”
“Really?” Ginny said. “I never knew that. Who’d you use it with?”
Harry looked at her feeling startled. “Nobody…ah er, except Moaning Myrtle came to visit me while I was in there, but it wasn’t like I invited her or anything,” he hastened to explain. “I was trying to work out the clue from that egg.”
Ginny smiled slyly at him. “As long as it was only Myrtle. I want to be the only one to share a bath like this with you.”
A smile played around Harry’s lips as he thought of Ginny’s not entirely successful attempts to keep herself covered in front of him during the time they’d been together, including one time when she nearly tripped in fell over her trailing clothes in her effort to reach the bathroom before he could awaken completely. Wondering if she was finally giving up he asked in a teasing tone, “I thought you wanted to wait until we were married to see each other completely naked.”
“I do, and we still can if I put enough bubble bath in,” she said equally teasing tone, turning on the tap and playing with one of the settings as she splashed some of the water playfully at him.
“So do you like want to take a bath…or what?” he asked.
“Nope, breakfast first Harry,” Ginny told him, turning off the tap and drying her hands on a fluffy white towel. “Then maybe we could go shopping? I’ve heard the shopping is wonderful here so much better than London or Hogsmeade. They have all the latest fashions from both the wizarding and muggle worlds.”
Harry smiled. “Actually, that’s what we had planned for you and Hermione for this afternoon. For this morning I thought we could eat, maybe take a walk, take in some of the gardens, or just hang out,” Harry suggested. “We’re meeting Ron and Hermione at a little café a little ways from here at noon.”
The rest of the morning went more or less as Harry had suggested. They laughed and talked while strolling casually about the magical section of Paris, and enjoyed feeding one another chocolate filled croissants for breakfast. With breakfast complete the couple walked for hours along the river enjoying the flowers that were everywhere, before meeting Ron and Hermione at noon. The foursome enjoyed a luncheon filled with unfamiliar yet delicious foods before Ginny and Hermione took to the stores with the men trailing patiently behind as the group entered the muggle section.
The shopping district was packed with boutiques and stores with goods of all types with wizarding shops set in between muggle ones. The muggles seemed oblivious to them though as their eyes slid from the display of one muggle store to the next while Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione could see them all. There were fashionable shops with ladies dresses and witches robes, men’s attire appropriate for either wizarding or muggle worlds; specialty shops with shoes, handbags or leather goods; house wares with kitchen items of every kind; sporting goods shops; shops with just hats, others with just shoes and boots, and finally they came to one claiming to sell only shirts. A fantastic array of uniquely made and styled garments filled every open inch of their window and Hermione came to a sudden stop.
“Oh Harry look! That one with all the puckers,” Hermione exclaimed.
“What about it Hermione?” Harry asked in confusion. At most of the shop’s windows she had been pointing things out to Ron while Ginny discussed them with him. It seemed odd for Hermione to suddenly have turned to him about something like a shirt.
“The design of that shirt could be just what we’re looking for to use with those crystals,” Hermione explained.
Harry’s first impulse was to scold her for thinking of work when the entire purpose for their trip here was to forget about that for a while, but he couldn’t help himself. He too had found himself looking for things that might offer solutions they hadn’t thought of before.
“How do you make that out?” Ron asked before Harry could.
“We think those tiny crystals you and Harry found in the cave could be used to help protect the muggles, but they’d have to be attached to something first…something they could wear. We’d thought of using an ordinary shirt, but they’re hard to attach and they’d make the shirt pretty uncomfortable to wear,” Hermione explained.
“So you’re thinking to attach them in the puckers,” Harry realized. “That could work,” he said appreciatively.
“It might. Let’s go in and buy one?” Hermione begged. “Then we can try it?”
“Hermione,” this time Harry did scold. “We’re not supposed to be working today, remember? We’re taking the weekend off. All of it.”
“We’re not working. We don’t have to do anything with the shirts until Monday, but since we are here…and it does look like it’s a good idea…” Hermione looked at Harry with a pleading expression that wasn’t lost on either Ron or Ginny. “Please? Just because we have the time off doesn’t mean we can’t be gathering information or acting on ideas when they present themselves to us…”
Harry just stared at her. They were friends, peers he thought when it came to ideas, and yet here she was looking to him as though he was in charge.
“What do you say Harry?” Ron asked. “It might just work, yeah?”
“Not you too Ron…” Harry said faintly, a growing expression of guilt on his face. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean us all to be so saturated by this we couldn’t turn it off.”
“Harry…it’s alright,” Ginny soothed.
“No Ginny, it’s not alright. It’s not okay that even when we plan to take the day off we don’t…that we can’t. We can’t all be obsessed by this. I thought it was alright as long as it was just me, but them too?”
“Harry…it’s not just us,” Hermione reminded him quietly. “Your entire team is invested in this case. Everybody from muggles to experienced Aurors is dedicated to putting a stop to it. It isn’t just you, nor is it because of you.”
“But our chances are better with you in charge mate,” Ron agreed. “But Harry is right too Hermione. We do need to stop thinking about it this weekend.”
“Thank you Ron,” Harry said in a tone of relief.
“Buy the shirt, but put it away. Let’s not think of it again until Monday, okay?” Ron suggested.
“Okay,” Hermione agreed. “Are you coming in?” she asked the men.
“Yeah I think I will,” Harry answered. “I’d like a better look at those…as long as we’re here.”
This time it was Ginny who rolled her eyes. Despite Harry’s protests, it was clear he too was still thinking about work as they all trooped into the store.
Thirty minutes later they emerged, their arms laden with packages. Harry was the first to step out onto the street, holding the door open behind him for Ron and the girls.
“Bonjour, Monsieur Potter!” someone called from a short distance away.
Harry turned to see a very tall, blonde man he didn’t know hurrying towards him from across the street. Harry studied the man hurrying towards him, not expecting to be recognized in muggle Paris. But then again this was France and the French and did not delineate the muggle and wizarding worlds as completely as they did in Britian. As the man approached Harry began to suspect he was a wizard as his attire and short winter cape even here would have been strange for a muggle. Harry knew he was right when the stranger stopped beside him and began speaking rapidly to him in French. To Harry’s surprise though this man was talking to them as if he knew him personally, and yet he was certain he’d never met the man before. He shifted his packages awkwardly in his arms as Ron, Hermione and Ginny stepped out onto the sidewalk beside him looking curiously at the wizard who continued to talk. With his limited French vocabulary, Harry thought the man might be thanking him, but couldn’t be sure.
“Er…Excuse me,” Harry interrupted as soon as he politely could. “Do I know you?” he asked in English.
“Oui…oh no, I suppose not, but you have saved my chéri Monsieur Potter. Merci beaucoup. I owe you so much…and my chéri ‘as told me so much about you,” the man continued, pausing finally as he looked at Harry in wonder. “You have saved her,” he repeated. Merci…my chéri…”
“Your…chéri?” he asked in confusion. “I don’t know anybody called Cherie.”
“Non, non,” the French wizard replied and jabbered on more rapidly than Harry could follow more fully in French.
“He’s not saying her name is ‘Cherie’ Harry, but that you know his sweetheart, his girlfriend, I think? And you saved her?” Hermione asked as she switched to French to speak to the man.
He smiled and beamed at her as the two began to converse, the wizard in broken English and Hermione in halted French.
“This is Jean,” Hermione clarified for the rest that were standing around looking at them.
“Jean,” Harry repeated. “Laura’s Jean?” he asked with dawning comprehension.
“Oui, oui!” Jean answered enthusiastically. “Laura es me amore…“ he tried in an odd mixture of English and French. “You saved her in the snow…merci!”
Harry smiled as recognition of who this wizard was and the reason for his behavior clicked into place. “You’re welcome…and I’m pleased to meet you Jean. Laura has told me about you. These are my friends Hermione and Ron, and this is my fiancée Ginny,” he introduced them all.
Jean gave a little bow to Ron as they were introduced, but bent at the waist and kissed the back of each girl’s hand as Harry said their names. Ginny smiled at the Frenchman’s manners, flushing slightly, but she fidgeted too as though meeting him was making her uncomfortable.
“What’s the matter Gin?” Harry asked in a low tone.
“What’s he doing here Harry?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” Harry answered with a shrug. “I expect he lives here. He and Laura are French after all. Perhaps they’ve been out shopping?” Harry queried looking at Jean who was nodding enthusiastically.
“Does that mean she’s here too?” Ginny asked trying unsuccessfully to mask her displeasure at that particular scenario.
“Oh…maybe…I don’t know Ginny,” Harry back-pedaled when Ginny’s expression threatened to turn to anger. “Hermione, could you ask him?” Harry asked warily thinking it would be better to know than to be surprised.
Hermione relayed the question, and Jean’s answer was to turn while he talked to gesture gesturing towards a shop, located directly across the street at about the place Jean had been standing when Harry had first seen him. They all did a double take at the wares on display in the window of the shop, now that it had been brought to their attention.
White lace curtains, touched with pink satin hung elegantly around the edges of the windows, reminding Harry momentarily of Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop. The sign above the door however read Lingerie and the lace in this window framed a display of women’s lacy under things, silk and lace trimmed nighties, and other intriguing, sexy-looking garments Harry couldn’t immediately put a name to…a much better reason for the window to be decked out in this way in his opinion. He chanced a quick glance over at Ron who obviously carried the same opinion. This time Hermione didn’t have to translate Jean’s answer as Laura emerged from the shop, looked around briefly and then, spotting Jean, crossed the street to join them.
“Bloody wonderful,” Ginny muttered under her breath.
Harry quirked an eyebrow at his fiancée, wondering if he’d heard her comment correctly, but turned to face Laura as she reached the sidewalk in front of the assembled group. Laura looped her arm through Jean’s and he beamed at her, bending to kiss her before she could speak. She blushed prettily at Jean’s attention. Harry smiled, pleased to see that things were evidently back on track between them, but quickly tempered his reaction when he noticed Ginny glancing quickly back and forth between the three of them.
“Hello Harry, Ron, . Hermione,” Laura greeted them after Jean broke the kiss. “I hope Jean hasn’t been bothering you, but he’s wanted to meet you for quite some time.”
“We were just getting acquainted,” Hermione answered for them all, smiling at Jean who’s clear face and bright blue eyes smiled brilliantly back at her.
“It’s not a bother,” Harry assured her, sliding his hand onto Ginny’s lower back as he spoke. “Besides, it’s about time you two met…Laura I’d like you to meet Ginny. Ginny this is Laura.” He gave Ginny a gentle squeeze of assurance as he gently prodded her forward
“Oui, it is time. It is nice to meet you Ginny. I’ve been wanting to meet you,” she said warmly as she shook the red headed girl’s hand while Ginny smiled tentatively at her.
“Nice to meet you,” Ginny answered stiffly and Laura frowned ever so slightly before glancing at Jean and brightening again.
“And I’m glad you’ve finally had the chance to meet Jean,” Laura added to them all. “But Harry, what are you doing here today? I thought you were taking the weekend off?” Laura asked.
“I am, I mean we are…we’re here on holiday,” Harry hastened to explain. “Ginny and I…and Ron and Hermione…well…” he trailed off in his explanation as he glanced at Ginny who was still watching Laura carefully, but seemed slightly more at ease given Laura’s obvious affection towards Jean.
“Oui. Paris for Valentines. Non?” Jean added putting it all together. “Zey are here together…as are we? To se marier?” he told Laura.
Laura blushed prettily. “Oui…I mean yes,” Laura agreed glowing brightly.
“You’re engaged?” Hermione asked following the French couples conversation more successfully than the rest.
Laura smiled. “We are,” she confirmed.
“Really?” Harry asked, smiling broadly. “When did this happen?”
“Just last night…Jean took me here shopping to celebrate,” Laura explained.
“Congratulations!” Harry exclaimed.
“Yeah, from me too,” Ron added nearly as enthusiastically as Harry.
“I’m really glad to hear that,” Ginny told the other girl honestly. “Congratulations…truly.”
Harry, who’d been watching Ginny closely from the moment of Laura’s appearance, did a double-take at the expression on his fiancées’ face. At Laura’s confession the tension so evident on Ginny’s face earlier faded away slightly, although her body still portrayed some level of discomfort around Laura. Harry smiled reassuringly at her as he recognized the reason and bent to kiss her. “Love you,” he murmured into the kiss. By the time they broke apart everyone was smiling.
“Yes, congratulations from us all!” Hermione interjected covering the awkward moment with her enthusiasm.
Laura glanced at Ginny taking in her wary expression and reproving stance, so at odds with the comments made by her friends as the red-headed girl studied her. Picking up on Ginny’s discomfort Laura looked up at her fiancé again and gripped his arm, a brand new diamond ring flashing in the sunlight as she looked up at him. Ginny noted the ring at nearly the same time as Harry and visibly began to relax.
“Thank you,” Laura answered. “I’m sure it’s not all that important to you.”
“Laura…this is brilliant!” Harry assured her. “Bloody excellent!” he exclaimed as he grasped Laura’s hand, noting the subtle glow of her ring. It shone even without the sunlight directly hitting it, reminding him strongly of Ginny’s.
“Really?” Laura asked with the hesitant air of one not quite believing him or else not quite following why he might be saying that.
“Yeah, it is. You know…from the looks of this…you should be able to power through the pain now, no problem,” Harry told her.
Laura withdrew her hand which went self-consciously to her shoulder, gripping it over her scar.
“How?” she asked.
Harry turned to Ginny who’d been watching the interplay between the two of them carefully. He looked at her with the sort of love and fierce passion he usually saved for when they were alone.
“Like this,” Harry said with the air of someone explaining something.
He seized Ginny in his arms and kissed her with all the fervent love he could muster, thinking of how he had felt on that fateful walk through the forest. She struggled against him in surprise for a brief moment before letting herself fall into, and then return the kiss with enthusiasm. Ginny’s ring flashed with a brilliance those present hadn’t thought possible.
“That’s how,” Harry said emphatically as they broke apart, still gazing into Ginny’s eyes as he spoke to Laura.
“Try it. You and Jean,” Harry instructed turning to his French friend while Ron and Hermione looked on in awe and Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand.
Laura glanced in confusion at her fiancé. “Here?” she asked in surprise.
“Yeah here,” Harry said. “Just explain it to him and then try it.”
Still Laura hesitated, though if it was due to the public nature of the place or something else, he wasn’t sure. “I promised to help you Laura and this is the best way I know how. Use your ring as a guide, then make it happen. Your light magic will be stronger that way,” Harry said, and from his tone it sounded like this was a conversation the two Aurors had had several times before.
Jean said something in rapid French. Laura nodded and responded in kind as they spoke together in low tones.
Ginny watched the pair in wonder, occasionally glancing at Harry as though confirming something for herself. Hermione was watching and listening with an air she usually reserved for very important lectures, while Ron looked on with an expression of one just figuring something out.
“Zes es for Laura’s protection?” Jean asked Harry while glancing at Laura.
“Yes,” Harry confirmed. “Try it,” he urged the other man.
Jean took Harry at his word and swept Laura into a passionate kiss, repeating what the black haired man had just done with his own fiancée.
“Wow,” Laura exclaimed softly when Jean released her, and for a moment her ring glowed nearly as brightly as Ginny’s had.
“Yeah, exactly. That’s why it will work better than it did with me in the barn,” Harry explained patiently as though he was teaching a lesson. “That’s what Auror Bajashi told us too, remember?”
“In that Persian course you took?” Hermione queried.
“Yes,” Harry confirmed.
“Does your scar hurt sometimes like Harry’s used to?” Ron asked Laura.
“Yes, I think it must. He always recognizes what it is when it happens to me,” Laura explained.
“And he’s been teaching you what to do about it?” Ron realized.
“Yeah Ron I have,” Harry confirmed. “Laura, if you can use this…make your ring glow even more brightly than it just did…it should help you power through it. It should help.”
“Enough to be able to put in a surveillance shift?” she inquired tentatively.
“And more. It will help you when we go in…maybe even enough to help us what our strategy should be. Try it,” Harry urged again.
Laura regarded Harry then and each of his friends critically, then turned to Jean again. This time, she kissed him and he returned it enthusiastically, obviously responding to the old magic Laura was drawing into it.
“That’s it,” Harry praised when her ring began to glow.
Laura drew back from Jean with a start, looking at Harry.
“Sorry. It was rude of me to be interrupting…but that feeling you had just now? The one that made your ring glow? If you can draw on that when your scar burns…chances are you won’t collapse,” Harry assured her.
“That’s what did it?” Hermione asked staring at her dark haired friend. “You never told us that!"
Harry turned to the other two thirds of their famous trio and blushed bright red. “Yeah well, I didn't tell you everything Hermione,” he assured her. “Some of it was…you know, private?”
“About Ginny?” Ron prompted.
“None of your business,” Ginny intervened.
“But you know?” Ron asked his sister directly.
Ginny smiled, turning pink too, but she also resisted answering.
“I never knew that,” Ron told his friend.
Harry’s smile turned to a grin. “So as I was saying, you’re going to need that…when we go in,” he continued on speaking to Laura.
“He is teaching you how to protect yourself, non?” Jean checked with Laura.
“He’s trying,” Laura confirmed. “And I do want to be there when you do go in Harry. I want to do my part…so I will practice…and try to learn.”
Harry smiled and Laura looked again into her fiancé’s eyes, beaming with the love she found there. Even to Ginny it was clear that although Laura respected and appreciated what Harry had to say, when it came to affection she only had eyes for Jean, who was by far the tallest person there. For the second time Ginny noted the tiny pink bag looped over Laura’s arm. The intensity of her gaze drew Laura’s attention away again and the French girl took in for the first time the arm load of packages Ron and Harry were carrying. Smiling at the other two women she asked,
“If you are here to do shopping…and I know you are engaged too…you might try across the street?” she suggested looking back at the shop she’d just left. “My aunt runs it. They are very busy with Valentines, but they have many nice things.”
Ginny, who had been watching Laura nearly the whole time since she’d first appeared, finally broke her gaze and took a better look at the displays in the windows of the establishment across the street. Behind the glass, scantily clad mannequins posed in silks and lace and satin, all artistically and tastefully arranged, but provocative just the same.
“Oh,” Ginny gasped. “Do you think so?”
“Oui. It is very famous here in Paris…many witches…and muggles shop there. Inside you might find something very nice,” Laura said with a small smile, with a hint of an accent, something Harry had rarely heard in her voice before.
“I suppose it would take their minds off of work if we were to go in there,” Ginny suggested, glancing at Hermione then at the two men.
“You have not been thinking of work,” Laura asked in a surprised and slightly scolding tone in her voice as she glanced back at Harry.
“Not really…” Harry began.
“Yes he has,” Hermione interrupted. “We got these shirts…we think they’ll work with the crystals.” She started to pull one from the bag when Laura stopped her.
“Please, Mademoiselle Granger, save it for Monday. The meeting is all arranged and everyone will be there. It will keep,” Laura assured her.
Laura looked to be on the verge of scolding Harry again when Ginny stepped in.
“You know Hermione, I think Laura has a very good suggestion. I think it is time we went somewhere that would take their minds off work completely, and I think Ms. DuPont’s Lingerie shop across the way might be just the thing.” Ginny leaned towards Hermione and whispered something into her ear. The two exchanged a look, then began to giggle madly as they glanced back across the street and smiled at Laura.
“I think that would do it,” Hermione agreed.
“Are you really going over there?” Ron asked trying not to sound too eager as his eyes followed the girls’ gaze.
“Yes, I think we will,” Ginny answered sweetly. “Shall we Hermione?”
Hermione too was gazing at the window from across the street. “Yes, I think we should,” she agreed.
“Really?” Ron repeated eagerly, still looking at Hermione.
“Yes really,” she answered her fiancé. “Thank you for the suggestion Laura,” she added then she and Ginny crossed the street.
“We’ll just cross then wait outside, shall we?” Harry called.
“Please,” the two girls called back as the disappeared inside.
“Zere is a small bench near the door,” Jean advised.
“Thanks,” Ron said gratefully. “Come on Harry. We don’t want to be too far behind.”
“Enjoy your day,” Laura called as the two British wizards prepared to cross after their fiancées.”
“You too Laura, Jean. Bye!” Harry called.
Laura and Jean nodded and smiled in farewell then disappeared into a wave of shoppers coming along the walk. By the time Harry and Ron reached the other side and looked back, they had disappeared from sight.
“Shall we wait here?” Ron suggested locating one of the benches at the side of the little shop.
“It does say pour Monsieurs,” Harry read a little sign on metal stakes amongst the flowers beside the bench. “I think that means us.”
Ron nodded, allowing his gaze to wander briefly over the array of sexy bras and knickers and provocative bedroom wear displayed in the window.
“How long do you think they’ll be?” Ron asked after they’d shrunk their existing packages enough to fit into their pockets and settled in to wait.
“Does it matter?” Harry asked as he too took in the nature of the items displayed in the window. “I think it’s brilliant they wanted to go in there.”
“Yeah me too. This being engaged thing has its advantages,” Ron admitted. “Even if it does mean holding Hermione’s packages and going shopping.”
Harry grinned at his friend before turning his attention back to watching the people moving about outside the shop, some looking in the window, others, mostly men, were sitting on benches like themselves, waiting, but most were walking past as though the shop itself didn’t exist. Harry was just beginning to wonder if this shop, in a muggle neighborhood, who claimed to serve both witches and muggle women alike really could be bewitched so that only a selected few muggles could see it. He was just beginning the amusing exercise of speculating what could possibly render some muggles able to see it while others couldn’t when much more quickly than he’d expected, both girls emerged from the shop. Both were still giggling and each carried over her arm a tiny pink bag.
“What’d you get?” Ron asked enthusiastically as he eyed Hermione’s bag and eagerly left the bench.
“Never you mind,” she told him coyly moving her bag to her other hand while Harry rose too and the foursome continued on down the street in the direction they were originally going.
“Please show me? You make us wait out here for an hour, then you won’t show me what you got?” Ron said with a teasing grin as he reached for her bag, but Hermione pulled it away again.
“Not just yet,” she told him with a defiant look at Ron and an embarrassed look at Harry, who, though he was looking equally curiously at Ginny’s bag, seemed to know better than to ask.
“Oh come on,” Ron whined. “Why won’t you show me?”
“You’ll get to see it in June,” she promised, “after the wedding.”
“Oh okay, so I don’t get to see you in it until June. But you can still show me what it is,” he tried again, doing his best to persuade her as he reached for the bag a second time. But again Hermione charmed it out of his hand, this time sealing the top with a spell. Ron pouted and complained that the least she could do was to let him take a peek.
Harry watched with some amusement as his friends argued, as they often did, while he walked along behind them with his arm around Ginny who was walking at his side.
“So what, you’re not even going to ask what’s in the bag?” Ginny asked Harry as the couple watched Ron and Hermione bicker playfully for a while.
“Nope, I figure you’d tell me if you wanted me to know. And if you don’t, then I’m going to assume it’s a surprise,” Harry told her.
“That’s very mature of you Mr. Potter,” she said.
“Why thank you Miss Weasley. Shall I assume then that my guess is correct and that it is a surprise?”
“Maybe,” Ginny said coyly. “Do you want it to be?”
“That depends,” Harry replied.
“How long I have to wait. Do I have to wait until June too?”
“Nope only until April Harry,” Ginny said.
“April?” Harry said eagerly.
“Of next year!” Ginny squealed, laughing in delight as she sprinted off down the block with Harry chasing after her. He caught her before they’d gone very far, pressing her up against a low wrought iron fence for an energetic kiss.
“What was that for?” she exclaimed in mock indignation as she pulled away.
“Well for a surprise I have to wait that long for, it had better be something really great, so I thought maybe I should practice showing my appreciation,” Harry teased back in kind.
“Oh you!” she exclaimed and the chase was off again. They didn’t stop until they found themselves breathless and winded upon the river walk along the Seine.
“Oh look!” Hermione gasped as they caught up with them at a slower pace. “The Eiffel tower! Shall we go up in it?”
“Let’s,” Ginny said.
“Okay,” Harry said with a grin.
Ron grinned too as he pulled Harry aside.
“You have to have galleons to go up in that,” he said in a low tone.
“No you don’t, you have to have Euros,” Harry told him. “Don’t worry I have them. I’ll drop them in the box near the ticket office. Why don’t you try those charms you’ve been learning and convince the elevator man to let us on.”
“I’ll pay you back,” Ron promised.
“If you can do this…and watch my back, that will be payment enough Ron,” Harry assured him. “Come on.”
Harry watched as Ron tried his hand at the charm. He was a little heavy handed and the man let an entire elevator full of people on before asking for a ticket from even one, crushing the two couples against the glass at the back of the lift.
“A little lighter next time I think,” Harry suggested.
“Yeah, I had no idea that would be so easy,” Ron agreed.
Harry grinned, remembering the first time he’d tried it too, taking in the view as the elevator carried them high up to the top while they talked.
“Look at that Harry!” Ginny exclaimed in his ear. “It’s just so beautiful! It’s like being on a broom.”
“Yeah it is, except not so windy,” Harry agreed as he wrapped his arms around her.
The two couples took their time at the top enjoying one another and the view. It was late in the afternoon, closer to evening now and the sun started to settle into the western horizon while they were there. The two couples watched the panorama below them change as the city fell into shadow and lights within the city flickered to life.
“That’s the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen,” Ron commented.
“The muggles who built this are pretty amazing, aren’t they?” Hermione remarked.
“Yeah, it’s like magic Harry. Maybe even better than,” Ginny agreed.
“It’s amazing what people of all kinds can do,” Harry concurred. “All of them, every last one. It’s nice to know there is still such beauty in the world.”
“It really is,” Hermione agreed.
Finally, after oohs and awes in every direction, it was time to leave. Both Ron and Ginny were growing hungry again, and even Hermione was beginning to complain slightly, so the entire party went back down, and walked along the boulevard until they found a place for dinner.
That night back in their room, Harry waited while Ginny indulged in a bubble bath in their giant tub, then deciding he didn’t want to wait any longer, he went in to join her. Turning out the lights, they bathed in the warm foam covered water by candlelight, enjoying each other, the warm perfumed water, and their time alone. By the time they emerged they were not only clean and relaxed, but ready for bed and they fell between the sheets feeling peaceful and happy.
The next morning Harry awoke with Ginny in his arms looking happy and rested as chocolate colored eyes looked up at him.
“Happy Valentines Day Ginny,” Harry told her as he brushed back her hair.
“Happy Valentines Day Harry,” Ginny answered reaching up from where her head lay on his shoulder to kiss his lips. Harry returned it, and they lay there for a while kissing.
“Mummm,” Ginny murmured. “You know I think I like the way my team thinks.”
“The Harpies?” Harry asked in surprise. “You are thinking about the Harpies? Now? You’re in Paris on Valentines with me and you’re thinking of the Harpies?” he said with a bit of a pout.
“Yes because if it wasn’t for the Harpies unwritten rule about never requiring players to either play or practice on Valentines, I wouldn’t be here,” she told him. “And as I was saying, I think I like that rule.”
Harry’s grin returned. “You know, I think I do too,” he told her and he spent the next hour proving it to her in every way possible.
It was mid morning before Harry and Ginny emerged from their room in search of a café with the best croissants in town. They decided they’d found it one block away when they spotted Ron feeding Hermione a croissant filled with cream with his fingers. Grinning at the two and the mess Ron was making, they slid into their own table a short distance away.
Harry was grinning like a mad man as they watched Hermione struggling to clean the cream and powdered sugar from her face when their own food finally arrived.
“Remind me to never do that to you in public,” Harry remarked, nodding towards the other couple. Ginny grinned too when she saw where he was looking.
“You’d better not,” Ginny retorted with a grimace as Ron reached across the table, making a show of kissing some of the cream from the tip of Hermione’s nose. Their own breakfast passed relatively neatly and they spent another day enjoying the romance and the delights of the wonderful city before it was time to go home.