Monday afternoon, after practice, Ginny landed her broom near the stands to find both Rudy and Rosie waiting for her.
“What are you two doing here?” she asked the birds in surprise as she shouldered her broom and prepared to walk down the passageway towards the locker room.
“What, don’t you always get messages from your fiancé at the end of the day?” her teammate Celia asked.
“Well yes, but Harry’s been away. I didn’t think he took Rosie with him as it’s too far for her to come,” Ginny explained. “So I didn’t really expect to hear from him today.”
“But aren’t those both your birds?” Celia asked curiously.
“They are…Rudy must have come with her. He does that sometimes,” Ginny replied. “Come here Rosie.”
She held out her hand and coaxed the bird to come to her, but to her surprise both of them did and both carried sizable letters, much larger than Harry usually asked the doves to carry.
“One at a time,” Ginny told them and she untied each of the notes before allowing the doves to return to feeding under the stands, pocketing the notes to read until after she’d entered the locker room.
When she looked at them again they were labeled “1” and “2”. Clearly Harry had so much to write he didn’t think one bird could carry it all, and was eager enough to tell her about it that he didn’t want to wait. Ginny was just as eager and started reading the first note, held in one hand, as she began to change.
Hi Gin. I bet you’re surprised to hear from me! Harry’s firstnote began.
“You bet I am,” Ginny murmured to herself.
I’m spending tonight at home. I talked to the blokes at the Italian Ministry today and they said it doesn’t matter where we stay. We can use their floo at any time, day or night, so I decided to come home. The others are staying in the apartment in Italy, but I decided not to. There’s just too much going on at the moment and I feel out of the loop if I’m away
. This way I get to check the field reports so they don’t pile up so badly, and I can write to you each evening. I’ll just floo back early in the morning,
Harry’s first note explained.
Ginny nodded to herself. At that least that explained why she had received a note today, but she frowned to herself momentarily as she opened note two as she considered what Harry was doing. She’d known it would be hard for him to be away, but he was doing it again…trying to do everything instead of letting others take over while he was away.
And before you start, I am
not trying to do everything. I’m just trying to stay in touch, okay?
Ginny rolled her eyes. He’d already known what her reaction would be to his decision and was arguing his point by letter in his second note. She just shook her head and read on, happy to read beyond the non-existent argument.
Training was brilliant today. I told you about my conversation with Esme yesterday, about how she associates Italy with art and architecture instead of magic. I was thinking about that today and she’s right; there’s art and architecture everywhere. I didn’t realize it before but the class I’m taking is actually as much a course in ancient magical architecture and the Italian approach to dealing with muggles as it is about history.
I hope yours was brilliant as well.
Ginny folded the second note and finished dressing, keen to send Harry a note of her own. It read,
You were right! I was surprised to hear from you. I can’t say I’m in favor of your decision to come home
every night but since you are tonight I thought you deserved a note as well.
Practice went really well today. You know all those hand signals I was telling you about? Well I really think I’m beginning to get it! I practiced with the first string chasers today and our plays went smoother than they ever have. Thanks for helping me memorize Gwenog’s newest play over the break I was one of only three to get it right, or mostly right, first time through the drill! Thank you!.
So I’m curious now. What’s so different about the way Italians deal with muggles? Doesn’t everyone do it the same?
Ginny sent the doves on their way and hurried off to supper with her team. By the time she returned to her room after dinner and socializing, it was quite late. She realized that even if she just skimmed tomorrow’s practice notes she still wouldn’t be in bed before one. Resignedly, she changed into her pajamas and began to study. Just as she finished her notes on the last page Rosie and Rudy fluttered into the room, struggling with one letter each, and landing on her bed rather tiredly.
“Back again?” Ginny asked the birds. “Harry must be really excited about today. He’s already sent both of you to me once trying to tell me about it.”
“Aren’t you going to open your letters?” her roommate Bernie asked from where she sat at her desk across from Ginny’s.
“Of course I am,” Ginny replied as she sat down on her desk and coaxed Rosie and Rudy to her so she could remove Harry’s second round of messages for the day, then began to stroke them both idly while she read the note labeled ‘1’.
Hi Again Gin,
I was really pleased to receive your note, I’m glad it helped to go over the plays.
So about the muggles…every time I’ve been sent abroad for training with the Auror department, I’ve had the chance to see different ways of doing things, different approaches to various forms of magic, and every now and then a different way of dealing with muggles. At home, we pretty much try to hide everything, but the French tend to create distractions and use magic in front of the muggles, but they are also quick to modify muggle memories in order to keep their part of the wizarding world hidden. In Italy I’ve discovered that things are really different and I’m glad you asked because I can’t wait to tell you about it. next note
Ginny folded the message and read the one carried by the other bird. It began,
Note two …
So, in Italy, the wizarding world doesn’t seem to mind that the muggles admire their buildings, and will even pay money sometimes to come see them. Its bloody amazing Gin. The muggles love to walk around looking at all these magical places and the Italian ministry let them! In Italy if a muggle sees something that appears mysterious or strange to them, then so much the better according to the Italian Ministry. They love the sense of wonder they’ve managed to generate amongst their neighbors with all their old buildings. They never explain themselves. I have seen a few occasions where memory charms are applied whenever a muggle’s at risk of figuring it out, but mostly the wizards there are just as happy to let the muggles believe any oddness they see to be the result of the inexplicable ways of the ancients. In their minds, there is no need to account for everything in logical or modern terms. The approach had its advantages
, but I doubt such an approach would ever work in England.
More next time,
Ginny added this newest pair of notes to the collection she’d been keeping of letters and messages from Harry. There hadn’t been many when she’d first returned to the dorms, but if Harry kept on like this her pile would soon outgrow the box she’d been keeping them in. The thought made her smile and she wrote back to tell him so right away while the doves fluttered back over to her bed, settling themselves to wait on her headboard.
“They look so sweet sitting there!” Bernie exclaimed as she watched the birds affectionately preening and rubbing against one another. “It’s like they’re really in love with one another. Well, if doves love that is.”
Ginny smiled as she looked up from the note under her hand. “I guess…or hope so...I think they are. I think that’s why they work so well. They’re always eager to get back to the one they love.”
Bernie nodded as she focused back on her playbook studying Gwenog’s latest revisions to their plays. “Do you know this one already?” she asked holding up an animated play diagram.
“Not yet, but I will,” Ginny assured her. ”I’m just going to finish this first,” and she went back to writing the note under her hand. It read,
This is so wonderful to be getting notes like this from you! To really understand what you are thinking and doing.
You are right, the way the Italians handle the muggles is really odd from our point of view. But tell me Harry, is that what your lessons are about? Dealing with muggles? ’cause you’re right. I don’t think that approach will do you all that much good here. I’d love to hear more about it, but let Rosie and Rudy take a break, yeah? Let the birds nap for tonight and write me more about it tomorrow. I still have about another hour of studying to do tonight and at least a couple hours worth tomorrow night too. I look forward to the next letter.
She sent Rosie off, watching as Rudy followed, unwilling to let her fly off on her own and Ginny smiled, thinking, ‘I know just how you feel Rudy.’ She sat back down at her desk and turned her attention back to learning the revisions to the plays they’d been practicing today. Pulling her own book of plays closer, she turned to the page with the latest revisions and began to read. Finally, after a little past one she closed the book, climbed into bed and slept.
It was later in the afternoon, bordering on evening, the next day when Ginny saw the pair of doves waiting patiently for her, beside the tunnel off the pitch. She gave a quick clicking sound with her tongue to let the birds know she saw them and they fluttered up to her shoulders, each carrying another larger than normal letter from Harry. Ginny removed each note and let the birds continue to ride on her shoulders into the locker room.
Note 1 read:
Hi Again Gin,
Today’s lessons began in the Roman Forum, and there were loads of muggles there. The ruins are really confusing and there are these ancient doorways that muggles could see that look like they lead to nowhere, walls that stand alone and don’t seem to belong to anything else, and none of them ever question it. There are charms in the spaces beyond the doorways in most cases that lead to enchanted spaces, but since the muggles never try to enter a door that goes nowhere, it’s never a problem. At least not for the Italians. The problems start when one of the really old spells begins to break down, which is what our lessons are about. Everything in this place is a variety of ages, including both the doorways and their spells. Some are as recent as a few decades in age, while others are many centuries old. It’s incredible but some at the lowest levels are as much as two to three thousand years old!
Note 2 read:
Our task today was to determine the difference between concealed wizarding doorways whose charms have started to deteriorate, hidden alley entrances which are concealed by comparatively modern means, and those doorways leading nowhere that are truly part of the muggle ruins. We’ve had to master the aevum revelo spell and it’s a fascinating spell really. The aevum revelo charm is perfect for what we’re facing now and I couldn’t wait to tell you about it.
Gin, it is working out so well to simply floo home in the evenings. I plan to keep doing it. It won’t be any worse than the fall when I was at work all day then out in the evenings, only this time it will be the other way round. Most notes won’t be so long, but I wanted to explain everything to you in addition to telling you about my days.
I know you’re supposed to be studying tonight, as am I. I’ll write again tomorrow Gin,
Ginny folded the final set of notes and sighed at Harry’s reference to working nights again. There was just no stopping him once he got involved in something. She only hoped that their plans for the next weekend would be able to successfully distract him from work…at least a little bit.
The rest of the week flew by with Harry and Ginny exchanging lengthy notes and before they knew it, Friday, the day before Ginny’s long anticipated Saturday off, had arrived. Harry’s note the evening before was short and to the point.
I’m babysitting for Andromeda Friday evening as well as on Sunday morning, so I’ll be seeing Teddy then instead of on Saturday. I thought it was time we had an entire day to ourselves. I can’t wait to see you.
Harry had barely landed on front step of Grimmauld Place Friday evening when Rudy lighted on his arm, bearing a note from Ginny in reply. Harry read it eagerly.
I get the whole day off on Saturday, including the night! I don’t have to be back in until mid-afternoon on Sunday. That means I get to spend the night with you! I can’t wait to see you too. Have fun with Teddy tonight and I’ll see you in the morning.
Harry grinned. Despite his long work hours that day and the need to stay up late that night to care for Teddy, Harry was determined he would be at the Harpies gate early, ready to pick her up as soon as she was allowed to leave so as to spend every available minute together.
The next morning Harry arrived early at the main gates to the Harpies facility. All the extra effort was worth it Harry decided as soon as he saw the look of surprise and delight on Ginny’s face. She was obviously thrilled to see him too.
“Harry!” Ginny ran the length of the path as soon as she saw him, her red hair flying behind her and shining brightly in the morning sun, and she threw herself into his arms.
“Ginny!” Harry buried his nose in her hair. “I am so glad to see you. This week felt like it’s been a month long!”
“It did to me too Harry.” Ginny moaned slightly as she leaned into him, relishing in his need for her. “Our practices have been going well, and the game was good on Tuesday, so I’ve been busy too…but I’ve missed you.”
“Sorry I couldn’t be there,” Harry apologized.
“Stop Harry. Please don’t apologize. We decided you shouldn’t try to come, remember?” Harry nodded mutely as she went on.
“I’m glad you didn’t try to really,” she insisted. “It’s the best way I have of taking care of you when I can’t actually be there,” she reminded him as their arms wound around each other’s waists and they began to walk towards her flat.
Whatever else they did, it was agreed that their time together would begin and end there. The flat fit within the team’s first season rules and it was convenient to the practice pitch and the Harpies team facilities, making it quick to get to. The fact they usually left there, the rest of the team didn’t need to know.
“I remember,” Harry assured her as they continued to walk. “I was up late that night anyways meeting with Robards. Watching your game would have been much more fun, but enough about work. I’ve been talking about that too much lately. What do you say we have a quick lunch, go shopping for Teddy’s birthday this afternoon, then go out to dinner after. We can go to our favorite place,” Harry suggested.
“The little Italian place on the corner?”
“Yep. I even made reservations.”
Ginny grinned. “I love you. You know that right?”
“Yeah I do, and all because I take you to Italian restaurants,” Harry teased.
“Oh yes, that’s the reason,” Ginny said with a playfully innocent smile on her face. “It has nothing to do with the fact that you are brave, and selfless, and handsome, and kind and gentle and loving or that you saved me in my first year…or of course the fact that you love me back. That has nothing to do with it at all!” she quipped. “It’s all to do with that Italian restaurant…you took me there before our first time.”
Harry smiled. “Yeah I did. It’s sort of become our place, hasn’t it?”
“Us and all our friends. It amazes me sometimes when I think of the different people we’ve taken there,” Ginny agreed.
“So that’s yes? You like my plan?” Harry asked as they arrived at the flat. It really was very close, and sometimes he had to admit, that had its advantages.
“Very much. Let me banish my bags to your place …” she waved her wand and the bags levitated through the floo to land in Harry’s kitchen at the other end. “And now Diagon Alley? To the Leaky Cauldron for lunch, then the toy store?”
Harry grinned. “After you Gin.”
Ginny smiled, took a pinch of powder and shouted “The Leaky Cauldron” leaving Harry to follow after her. They brushed themselves off at the other end, waved to Hannah who was working that day and found a table. The pair had placed their order and begun their meal before their conversation drifted back to their shopping plans for the day.
“So we’re going to the toy store, right?” Ginny asked as they ate.
“Actually, I think Teddy has enough toys. I saw something at Quality Quidditch supplies that looked good,” Harry suggested as he bit into his sandwich.
Ginny looked at him in surprise.
“You want to get Teddy a birthday present from a Quidditch store?” Ginny asked as she sipped her pumpkin juice.
“Yeah actually…” Harry started to explain as he finished his sandwich.
“Harry, I like quidditch as much as the next person…in fact probably more than the next person considering I’m a professional player, but Teddy is only two years old…or he will be on his birthday. He’s too young to play quidditch,” she said gently.
“I know that Gin. Actually what I saw was one of those practice snitches. It’s designed for primary school aged children to play with at home. Parents can charm them to stay in the yard and limit the height, but I thought it might be good for Teddy too,” Harry explained.
“Why? You said yourself it’s for older kids,” Ginny asked.
“Because…I watched Teddy for Andromeda last night … Oh, I promised I’d do that tomorrow too, so you can see for yourself, but you know that usually when we have Teddy we’re at my place or sometimes at the Burrow? Well, this was the first time in a long time I’ve spent much time with him where he lives. He’s got lots of toys Gin, but he hardly plays with any of them. What he loves to do most is fly on the little broom, He zooms zooming around the house looking for things to chase; bugs, toys he throws, their cat. I think I’m beginning to understand now why my mum thought I might kill our cat ‘cause Teddy regularly terrorizes Andromeda’s …”
“How do you know your mum thought that?” Ginny interrupted in surprise.
“It was in this letter from her to Sirius I found … back during the war,” Harry said distractedly. “So anyway, the poor thing spends most of Teddy’s waking hours under Andromeda’s bed quivering in fear.”
“And so how is getting him a practice snitch going to help?’ Ginny said with a bit of amusement.
“He can chase it instead,” Harry explained. “We can charm it to only go into certain rooms, to stay clear of that vase he keeps breaking, and to stay away from the cat. I thought it might give Andromeda a break.”
Ginny nodded in understanding. “So is this practice snitch the regular size?”
“No. The one I saw was bright red, so you can see it coming, and it’s about the size of an orange so he can’t swallow it and choke on it like I almost did.”
“When did you do that?” Ginny asked in amusement.
“My first year…my first game actually. That’s how I caught the snitch, in my mouth,” Harry said with a grin. “I thought Ron had told you about that.”
“He might have,” Ginny said…“Actually he did Harry, I was just pulling your leg. I’m glad you thought of the choking bit though. Teddy still puts nearly everything he touches into his mouth.”
“Exactly,” Harry said. “So what do you think?”
Ginny sighed. “Let’s go see it.”
Harry paid for their meal and they waved to Hannah on their way out to the alley. They took their time, browsing in several stores before finally ending up at Quality Quidditch supplies late in the afternoon. A short time later they emerged triumphantly with a small wrapped package in Harry’s hands.
“He’s going to love it,” he beamed. “I can’t wait to give it to him.”
“Me too,” Ginny said with a grin just as her stomach rumbled. “Now Mr. Potter, if you don’t mind…”
“Dinner? Coming right up!” Harry promised.
He shrunk the present to put into his cloak, then apparated them both to an alleyway close to the restaurant. It was an all-around pleasant day Harry decided reviewing the day’s events, a leisurely dinner after shopping, then a nice walk back to the house. It was the first time in a long time that they had time for everything: shopping, talking, dinner, and intimacy too. It put them both in a very good mood for babysitting Teddy the next day.
“How are you little guy!” Harry greeted his godson enthusiastically when Teddy came with Andromeda to meet them at the front door.
“Daha Harry!” Teddy grinned.
Andromeda smiled at Teddy’s obvious affection for Harry.
“I shouldn’t be all day,” she promised. “I just promised Cissy we could go together to pick out a present.”
Harry looked at Andromeda in surprise. “Mrs. Malfoy?” he asked.
“Yes Harry. I’ve invited her and Draco to Teddy’s party. You will be there, won’t you?” Andromeda checked.
“I plan to be,” Harry assured her. “Assuming of course I don’t have to work.”
“How about you Ginny?” Andromeda asked. “Do you think you can come?”
“I’ll try. It’s the day after a game, so those are sometimes iffy, but I will try,” Ginny promised.
Andromeda smiled, clearly nervous about the ramifications of inviting the Malfoys even if they were her blood family.
“That’s good,” she told the young couple. “Thank you again for watching him Harry.”
Harry scooped Teddy up into his arms and prompted him to wave goodbye as he, Ginny and Teddy watched her leave from the front door.
“Now what do we do?” Ginny asked as Harry closed the door.
“Broom Gin Gee,” Teddy told her as he squirmed from Harry’s arms and ran up the stairs. The young couple attempted to follow him but Teddy was faster than they were and before the couple could make it halfway up the stairs they were momentarily pinned to the wall of the stairwell as Teddy came zooming back down on his toy broom.
“Daha Harry, me fly!” he crowed as he rounded the corner at the base of the stairs and knocked over a spindle-legged table with a vase on it, which crashed, shattering as it hit the floor.
“Reparo!” Harry cried as he ran after his godson.
Ginny followed in Harry’s wake just in time to see Teddy screech, “Kitty” and chase a striped gray tabby under the sofa.
“Here Teddy. Catch this,” she invited.
Ginny levitated a small ball and caused it to zoom across the room. Teddy turned sharply and happily followed the rubber ball. Ginny realized quickly she had to run in front of him though to keep the ball in the air and away from anything breakable.
As promised, three hours later, Andromeda was back and both Ginny and Harry were exhausted and out of breath, having spent the entire three hours literally running to keep up with Teddy.
“How did it go?” Harry asked trying not to let on.
“As well as can be expected,” Andromeda said tiredly. “I know family is important Harry, but sometimes…”
Harry smiled sympathetically. “I understand,” he assured her. “Really, my uncle’s a bit of a challenge too.”
“So we’ll see you next Saturday? So I can get ready for the party?” Andromeda reminded him.
“Yes. I’ll take him to Ginny’s game and keep him afterwards,” Harry assured her.
“Say goodbye Teddy,” Andromeda prompted.
“Bye bye Daha Harry!” Teddy called.
“Bye!” Harry and Ginny called together.
They stopped by Harry’s house just long enough to get Ginny’s bags before taking the floo back to her flat.
“You know, I think your birthday present for Teddy was an excellent idea. It’s absolutely perfect,” Ginny commented as Harry prepared to leave her at the gate.
“I’m glad you think so,” Harry said with a bit of a smirk. “See you next Saturday Ginny, sooner if I can manage it.”
“Bye,” Ginny said and she leaned into him for a proper, rather lengthy sort of kiss. “Have a good week Harry. I love you.”
“Love you too.” Harry murmured and he kissed her again.
Eventually the couple managed to break apart and let one another go so that Ginny could go back into the dorms. Harry stood watching and smiling, happy with himself, with Ginny and their weekend.
Ginny was happy with their weekend too, and though she’d never admit it to Harry, she was looking forward to his two-bird notes the following week. They were getting long enough to make her wonder if they should after all consider getting an owl…but they’d had that conversation before. This was working and Harry was happy, so for now she took pleasure in watching for Rudy and Rosie as they flew together between herself and Harry.
Late Monday afternoon she wasn’t disappointed. Both birds were waiting for her under the stands when practice finally ended at half past four. At first she worried that something was wrong…why were they here so early? But then she remembered the time change and the fact that Harry’s days were starting extra early, generally beginning before the dawn in Italy, which meant he finished them earlier too, allowing him to come home and do other things before reporting back for a full day of training once again. Harry knew Ginny didn’t approve, but she’d accepted that he was doing what he felt he had to do. Eager to hear what his notes said, Ginny once again removed the notes and read them on the way to the locker room.
I just wanted to remind you that this is my last week of training and it will only last three days. I’ll be working here in the office like normal later this week. I’ll probably be working in the evenings after supper too. It helps to go over the reports so I can leave recommendations on assignments for the next day.
Of all the training I’ve had here so far, I think these last days are going to be the most fascinating. We’re in the ancient city of Pompeii, a truly unique place.
Pompeii is famous in the muggle world for having been destroyed by a volcano and buried in lava and ash, but when we arrived I discovered that the muggles’ perception that much of the city was buried in ash turned to rock is an illusion, generated and perpetuated by generation after generation of wizards. All you do is tap the surface of a lava plug in a doorway with a wand, and the black lava surface melts away. It isn’t the ash preserved city the muggles see at all! Its very much alive, there’s a whole busy, wonderful, wizarding city hidden there! End of 1
Note 2 …Hi again,
Gin, this place is amazing. Once we learned the spells to get through the barriers, it turns out the wizarding area of Pompeii is even larger than the part muggles can see. It’s a true wizarding city that only appears to be covered in rock. Even to us it appears that way because that’s the way those old spells work. Muggles and wizards see the same thing: they see the buildings okay, but their doorways and windows appeared to be filled by the rock, but you can get through it if you know how. The muggles of course don’t, so they all go about on the outside looking at everything, walking along all the streets, admiring and commenting on their structure, never once do any of them ever attempt to enter.
Hope your Monday went okay in preparation for next weekend’s game.
Ginny read in fascination Harry’s description of Pompeii and the way the wizards there hid their world. He was right. It was amazing and she wrote back telling him so.
Tuesday was more of the same, but by Wednesday, Harry’s last day of training, his note made it was clear that he thought Esme Fletchley was right: art and history were everywhere in Italy and his message read,
I’m home for good now…finally! But I’ve got to tell you, I really have a new appreciation for the way art and history has shaped the way magic has been used, both here and abroad, throughout history right up to the present day. It was good to see such a wonderful example of another way to live, to have the chance to learn other forms of otherwise common magic and spells. It really helps reinforce the idea that magic over time is fluid rather than static. I’ve heard that before. Remus tried to tell me the same thing during my third year; that just as fashions come and go, changing gradually from year to year but varying greatly over the centuries, magic does too. It’s just that it wasn’t until I saw the evidence of those changes laid out before me and on such a broad scale that I understood in the grand scheme of things what it all might mean.
I’m going to have to tell Smith he was right. This course has been really useful. I can’t wait to get back to work on the case so I can begin to use all I’ve learned.
As fascinating as it was, Harry could hardly wait to get back to work in England the next morning on the third Thursday of March. Training, as always, had been tiring and demanding, but the reports he’d been reviewing needed more and more of his attention. He was looking forward to meeting with Hermione and the rest of the team to learn what had happened in his absence, aside from what could be learned from those reports.
“Welcome back Harry.” Ron met his friend outside his cubicle on the way to the conference room for the meeting Harry had called first thing that morning.
“Yes, welcome back Potter,” Wendy said as she, Smith, Justin, Hermione and Dean all drifted in.
“Thank you everyone,” Harry said with a genuine smile. “It’s really good to be back. The Italians were brilliant and all, and the magic and culture there is really, really interesting, but I am glad to be back.”
“It is hard to be in charge and be away,” Smith agreed. “That’s why I told you last January that I wasn’t sure they’d done you a favor by promoting you so soon.”
Harry shrugged. Smith had a point, he had to agree, but it was part of the job.
“So what have we got?” Harry asked looking at Hermione as she finished arranging her papers and the meeting came to order.
“We have this Harry.” Hermione unrolled a scroll in the center of the table, tapped it once with her wand and immediately a three dimensional projection appeared in the air above it; a white, gray and black representation of the map being created on Dr. Summerby’s computer.
“You did it!” Harry said with a grin.
“Dean, Rupert, and I did it together,” Hermione answered anxious to give credit where it was due. “Rupert thinks it looks a bit like a hologram, but yes, this is actually a magical duplicate of the electronic record the muggles have been creating.”
“So what are we looking at?” Smith queried. “That looks more like a plant root than it does a map of a cave.”
“It does,” Dean agreed. “If you look here,” he pointed, “where if it were a plant it would be connected to the stem, that is the spot where the tunnels connecting to the caverns come through the burial mound. Follow the main root down, ignoring the side tunnels for the moment, and you get to these.”
He pointed to large speckled white nodules or extensions from the white main root, a point at which the root analogy began to break down.
“These we think are storage areas. The speckling means they are filled with glass,” Dean explained. “Then this leads down to the main cave.”
The root representing the main tunnel narrowed again, then flared out, ballooning enormously into what was obviously the main part of the cave. Branches from this point connected to other chambers and smaller tunnels connecting the cave systems to one another as they lead back up towards the surface, but also split and ran horizontally in one particular direction as well.
“Is this the tunnel that leads to the coast?” Harry asked as he pointed it out.
“We think so Harry,” Hermione confirmed.
“Then why do some of these areas appear cloudy instead of pure white?” Wendy asked.
“The pattern is related to the type of material the sonar waves are going through,” Dean explained. “The speckled pattern is made by glass.”
“I get that,” Wendy told him. “But what about this and this.” She pointed to blank spots in the map where there appeared to be small breaks in the lines of the roots.
“Those are the locations of our concealment charms,” Harry reminded her. He’d been present when they’d first figured that out. “My question is, is this map complete? Is there anything more that we need to get?”
“Except for the shaft that leads out to the coast, we think it is. Rupert wants to place one more set of sensors here and here, to capture that, just to be sure.” Hermione pointed to areas where the narrow tunnel leading down from the top connected with the main tunnel and the great cavern.
“When are they planning to go?” Harry asked looking at Ron.
“Tonight, they wanted to wait for you to be back. You’ll go with us right? We’ve never let them go in this close to the Death Eaters before.”
“Of course,” Harry agreed. “We can take the usual team. Okay, that takes care of tonight. For today’s assignments though, we have these…”
Harry passed out parchments he’d received from Robards and Kingsley asking for help elsewhere on another unrelated case.
That evening, tired though he was, Harry eagerly joined Ron, Hermione, Dudley and Rupert as they went to visit Esme and Dr. Summerby in the Digg Hut, fully aware as he did that his team had been doing it without him the entire time he was away. It had become nearly routine by now except on this night, after one final placement of the sensors, they stayed much later than they usually did talking with Dr. Summerby, waiting for the sensors to come on line, and check the monitors without getting too close. Finally they had reached a level deep enough that the sensors began detecting the tunnel leading out to the cliff above the shore and the cavern below it by the tiny beach. They knew their map was complete when the sensors detected the concealment charms being used as a blind by the team of Aurors they knew to be watching there. While the caverns seemed to extend a bit further down, everything lower than twenty feet below the sensors showed as being filled with water and was connected through narrow cracks in the rock in three places to the sea two hundred feet down, suggesting that the scans they had represented all the usable space.
“So do you think this is all of it?” Harry asked the scientist anxiously as he sat across the room from where the muggles worked. He wanted to be present to hear what they said, but he also wanted to be far enough away not to interfere with the computer.
“I think it is,” Dr. Summerby said. “A lot of these natural caverns do connect to the sea, so I believe that is what we are seeing here. There used to be a myth about a water dragon that would come and go from there, protected by the water, unseen by all mankind. I remember as a boy wanting to believe it so badly I actually imagined I saw them flying one day, just beyond those cliffs to the west. It was an amazing sight watching them.”
“I’ll bet it was,” Harry agreed. “Too bad they’re not real,” he added with a flick of his wrist to reinforce that particular notion in Dr. Summerby’s head.
“Very well Harry, I think we are through here,” he said as his eyes slid ever so slightly out of focus then back again. “Miss Granger, if you wanted to make a copy for your records?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Hermione agreed and performed the magic to duplicate the finished map on her scroll of parchment once again while Dudley convinced Summerby to look the other way. “Shall we notify you again in the event we still need your help?”
“If you are finished with the map, I believe Esme can assist you much better than I,” the gray haired scientist said. “These late hours are hard on an old man.”
“I’ll be happy to Charles,” Esme said. “Just call me if you need anything,” she told them as the members of the AMASS readied to leave.
“We will,” Dudley assured her as he kissed his fiancée and bade her goodnight.
“So are we ready Harry?” Dudley asked anxiously as they stepped out into the chilly night air and made their way to the apparition point.
“Yeah I think we are,” Harry said. “We’ll have to check our plans with the Ministry, but we’ll definitely be in touch. Hold on,” he added unnecessarily as he offered Dudley his arm.
One moment and three soft pops later the group stood in the square in front of Harry’s house in the middle of London. Harry released his cousin and waited for a moment for him to shake off the effect.
“Blimey Harry. I don’t know as I’ll ever really get used to that. It is quick though, there’s no doubt about it,” Dudley remarked.
“Yeah it is,” Rupert agreed, experimentally shaking his head, as though it had only reluctantly come along for the ride. “We’ll be in touch Harry. Good night.”
Only two days later it was Saturday again, and as usual on Saturdays when Ginny had a game, Harry picked up Teddy early in the morning to watch her play, promising to keep him all afternoon and overnight too. He picked him up well before noon, in plenty of time to apparate with Teddy to the stadium just before the game began. Together they climbed to their seats and settled in to watch the game, expecting the day to materialize as it did normally, hopefully a win and then the team going off to celebrate, or commiserate. The Harpies played well scoring goal after goal staying ahead of their opponent, when early in the afternoon their seeker, who was much improved, caught the snitch and won the game. The team huddled for a brief moment on field before heading off the pitch to the lockers. Harry waited for the crowd to thin before taking Teddy down the reserved staircase towards the locker room level of the stadium where Harry was expecting a quick goodbye kiss from Ginny before she left with her team. This time however, instead of opting immediately to go celebrate with her team as she had always done before, when Ginny emerged from the locker room to greet them she stopped, taking a moment to look carefully up into Harry’s face. As Harry watched, her brilliant smile became laced with concern as she searched his face.
“Why don’t we go for a walk Harry?” she suggested.
“Instead of celebrating with your team? Are you sure Ginny?” Harry asked in surprise. Generally speaking the party was always Ginny’s favorite post-game thing to do…especially if the Harpies won.
“You look like you need it,” Ginny told him trying to sort out for herself what precisely Harry might need. He looked worn, but the lines on his face looked to be from stress rather than exhaustion. “We’ll ask Mum to babysit for a bit and go for a walk down the lane at the Burrow, just you and me,” she suggested hoping it would give them a chance to talk.
“I thought Bill and I were going to babysit,” Harry said with a furrowed brow.
“I don’t think it matters who babysits Harry, just as long as Andromeda gets the help. So let me help you by asking Mum to fill in…just for a little bit this afternoon, then you can take over this evening.”
Harry smiled wanly at her. “Thanks Gin. I’d like that,” he admitted.
Ginny smiled, took him by the hand and together the three of them apparated to the Burrow.
“Well of course I’ll watch Mr. Lupin,” Mrs. Weasley said when they asked. “I have Victoire here and I’m sure she and Teddy would enjoy playing together.”
“I thought Bill and I were supposed to keep them both here this afternoon while you helped Andromeda,” Harry said with a bit of chagrin on his face.
“Bill went early with Fleur and asked me to call when you got here, but I’ll just call and let them know there’s been a change of plans. It’s no trouble Harry. Bill can help with moving the furniture and cleaning as well as I can. But why don’t you just take Teddy home afterwards?”
“Andromeda’s worried he’ll undo all her preparations for his party tomorrow, so I’m supposed to keep him overnight,” Harry explained.
Mrs. Weasley nodded with a wistful smile, remembering her own rather unsuccessful efforts to keep her house clean for a party when her children were small. “Yes of course,” she said knowingly. ”I suppose that would help. I’m going early in the morning to help with the food and I was wondering who would be watching Teddy while we’re busy in the kitchen and everyone else is putting up the decorations.”
“I am trying to help,” Harry assured her.
“I know you are Harry,” Mrs. Weasley assured him. “But I can spare a couple of hours this afternoon to help you as well. Bill can help Andromeda with the furniture as easily as I can.”
“Harry really is doing his part Mum. He’s already had Teddy since this morning, but I thought he could use the break,” Ginny added. “He’s been working evenings here even while he was away in training last week.”
“Ron mentioned that to me when he was here last week. Hermione did too,” Mrs. Weasley said with a motherly expression on her face as she looked at Harry noting the lines on his tired face. She took Teddy into her arms saying, “You take your time dears, relax a little. We’ll be fine, right here.”
“Are you sure it’s not too much for you Molly?” Harry asked. “I didn’t know you have Victoire too.”
“Nonsense Harry, after raising my seven, I’m sure I can handle these two, at least for an hour or two,” Mrs. Weasley assured them with a wink.
“Thanks Mum,” Ginny said with a grin as she leaned in to kiss her mother’s cheek.
“Yeah, thanks Molly,” Harry murmured, and he gratefully slid his arm around Ginny’s waist for their walk together down the lane.
Ginny smiled up at him as they walked. “You look worried Harry,” she commented leaning into him.
“I am. Thanks for taking care of me Ginny, I really appreciate it.”
“That’s what I’m supposed to, remember? No more ignoring you just because it interferes with what I think I want to do, when what I really need to do is to take care of you. I’ve learned my lesson Harry. Now I’m trying to live by it,” she said in a determined tone.
“That goes both ways you know. I’m supposed to also take care of you.”
“True, and I’ll let you when I need it, but today I think you’re the one who needs to be taken care of,” Ginny admonished.
Harry smiled, pulling her closer to himself as they walked, leaning down to kiss her face.
“I am so glad to hear you say that. I feel better already, just being here with you,” he assured her.
“So Harry, what is happening?” she asked. “With the case I mean. Why are you so wound up all of a sudden? Are you working overtime or extra-long hours again?”
“Well sort of…I mean, I’ve had to review the field reports from the office every night after training all day in Italy. That wouldn’t be so bad. I mean now that I’m back I could in theory work regular hours again, except that it’s suddenly become intense just now,” Harry began.
“How do you mean why?”
“Why now when it wasn’t particularly stressful before?”
“Because our investigation is ready to enter the next phase. We’re going to start sending people…and by that I mean the muggle AMASS lot…in,” Harry explained.
“So you think they’re ready?” Ginny asked.
“As ready as we’ll ever be. We’ve been working really closely with the muggles trying to prepare them. Wendy, Laura and Hermione have finished up with those shirts we bought on Valentine's Day, remember?” he asked.
“I do,” Ginny assured him. “Do they work?”
“We think they do. So on Monday we’ll be ready to test them, then assuming it all pans out we should be able to have the AMASS wear them when we send them in,” Harry said, launching into the explanation of what they intended to do.
Ginny listened as Harry talked and gradually the tension eased from his shoulders. She knew he had a tendency to feel responsibility for every aspect of operations like this, bearing the full weight of the burden all on his shoulders. She didn’t think it wasn’t good for him and she let Harry talk until the effects of the stress started to fade from his face.
Ginny reflected on the changes in their relationship as Harry continued talking. Slowly it seemed, that as a couple, they were making progress. The damages to their relationship from last winter were gradually being repaired, their bad habits being replaced with better ones. They knew the cost of ignoring one another now, learned what not to do, and the quality of their communication was improving daily, so they were definitely making progress. Ginny slipped her arm from Harry’s waist, deftly taking his hand in hers and twining their fingers together, marveling once again at just how well they fit together in so many ways.
From the sound of things Harry was also making considerable progress on his case. He was quite happy with the developments from the past week, and the longer they walked the more relaxed he became. That is, until they arrived back at the Burrow and made their way past Arthur’s shed. Apparently Mr. Weasley had company, two voices wafted through the half open shed door talking discussing dinner, and one Ginny knew was Kingsley Shacklebolt.
“Wonder why he’s here?” Harry mumbled curiously.
“Doesn’t matter,” Ginny replied, not wanting Harry to relapse back into thinking about work. Ginny hurriedly pulled Harry along and into the Burrow through the kitchen door, intending to retrieve Teddy and free Mrs. Weasley to go back to her dinner preparations.
“Dada Harree!” Teddy cried running up to Harry when he spotted him.
“Hi Teddy. Have you been a good boy? Are you playing nice with Victoire?” Harry asked.
“I don’t think he quite knows what to make of her Harry,” Mrs. Weasley commented as Harry followed Teddy back to the sitting room to find Victoire cruising around on the furniture.
“Hey, you’re almost walking now!” Harry said with a grin as they came in. “Look Teddy, she’ll be able to play with you properly soon.”
Teddy ran from Harry to the little blonde girl standing unsteadily on her feet, clinging to the sofa.
“Baby,” Teddy said pointing at her.
“Yes she’s a baby,” Harry agreed, “but she won’t be for long.”
Teddy stared in fascination as Victoire moved closer to him, pausing momentarily to reach a hand in his direction. He watched until it seemed she was about to grab him, then Teddy backed up a few steps. Victoire bent and picked a toy up from the floor, straightening, held the toy out to him instead. Teddy stepped forward to claim it, hesitant to take his eyes off her. In that moment of hesitation, Victoire grabbed the front of his shirt to steady herself. Teddy pushed her down in his panic, grabbing the toy before towering over her when Victoire began to cry.
“Teddy no! We don’t push,” Harry scolded sharply. Teddy burst into tears and Harry panicked slightly. “I didn’t mean to make him cry,” he said anxiously.
“I don’t think he would have if it had come from anybody else,” Ginny reasoned.
“Harry didn’t mean it.” Ginny soothed as she knelt to set Victoire on her feet and hugged her, but she also hugged Teddy too. “But Teddy, that wasn’t very nice,” Ginny said to him firmly. “She was trying to share with you and you pushed her down. Ron used to do that to me, and I didn’t like it very much. It’s not nice, understand?”
Teddy looked from Ginny to Harry and back, still unsure of his feelings.
“Yeah Ted,” Harry said kneeling too. “I’m not mad, but you shouldn’t push, okay?”
Mrs. Weasley chuckled behind them as she watched the two young people trying to handle the children. “Dears, you are trying to reason with a two year old. The best you can do is to mediate at that age.”
“An almost two year old,” Ginny corrected.
“Exactly,” her mother said. “Children that young rarely know how to relate to other children and Teddy probably isn’t around other children his age much.”
“No, probably not much,” Harry agreed.
“So you just do your best to intervene by correcting their behavior. Save the sharp voices for when they’re really doing something wrong,” she advised.
Harry nodded, grateful for the advice just as Bill and Fleur walked in to the sound of both children crying.
“Oh my,” Fleur exclaimed. “We didn’t know Teddy would be here too.”
“Ginny’s game was short so we came by for a visit and brought Teddy,” Harry explained.
“We thought they’d have fun together,” Ginny told them sounding slightly guilty.
“Pa pa pa pa,” Victoire began babbling as soon as she saw her parents. “Papee!” she exclaimed upon locking her eyes upon her father and Bill smiled. Instantly her tears cleared.
Teddy stopped crying just as suddenly as he stared at her looking at Bill.
“Papee!” Victoire said again reaching for Bill, who immediately picked her up in response to his daughter’s outstretched arms. Teddy watched as Victoire snuggled against Bill’s chest much as Teddy often did to Harry.
“Da Harree!” Teddy said coming to stand by Harry but looking at Victoire.
Harry raised a brow as he watched him.
“Papa ee!” Victoire exclaimed emphatically patting Bill.
“Pa Har ree,” Teddy mimicked her now holding firmly onto Harry’s trouser legs.
Harry looked at him in surprise as he bent to pick him up. “Pa instead of Da?”
Teddy looked uncertainly at Victoire again.
“Pa pa pa pa. Papee Me,” she repeated and wrapped her chubby arms around Bill’s neck.
“Pa pee Har ree?” Teddy tried tentatively, looking between Victoire and her father and then at Harry again.
“It looks like he’s considering it Harry,” Bill commented. “He’s trying to put it together.”
“Yeah he is,” Harry said looking thoughtfully at the boy. He was clearly trying to say two words, adding something in front of his name that was different from the syllable he’d used for so long.
“I think he’s trying to say Papy, Harry,” Ginny told him. “Is that it Teddy? Is Harry your Papa Harry?” Ginny asked as she put an arm on Harry’s free arm, looking at Teddy.
“Pa pee? Har ree?” Teddy asked looking directly at Harry.
“Are you asking if I’m your dad Teddy?” Harry asked the little boy.
Teddy looked at him a bit anxiously.
“I’m not…" Harry started to say.
“Oh but you are ‘arry!” Fleur interrupted. “For ‘im you are. You are his godfather, no? At that age, it is just as good.”
“Pa pa Har ee?” Teddy repeated looking even more anxious and a bit worried now.
Harry furrowed his brow slightly as he looked anxiously into the little boy’s eyes remembering that expression on another orphaned little boy’s face…he could remember wearing it himself each time he realized he was different…that there was no one he had been allowed to call ‘Dad’ or ‘Papa’…what would it have meant to him if he had? There was a time when even Uncle Vernon would have done…if only it had been allowed.
“I think it’s more than that Fleur,” Harry said seriously. “I think he’s realizing that he’s different from other kids. It’s hard that. It’s really, really hard figuring out that other kids have something that you don’t…and never will have.”
Harry turned back to Teddy again. “I’m not going to let that happen Teddy. I promised you at your Dad’s funeral…and your Mum’s. I can do that,” Harry told him seriously. “I can be your Papa Harry if you want me to.”
At that moment Teddy’s brown eyes turned green like Harry’s and the blond hair he’d been wearing turned black. He grinned at Harry with such joy Harry wondered if he’d actually understood what he said, as Teddy planted an open mouthed kiss on Harry’s cheek as he clung to Harry’s neck. Harry held him tight as his own serious expression turned to a grin.
“Papa Harry,” Teddy said happily with all trace of worry gone when he leaned back.
“Papa,” Victoire repeated smiling too.
“Et zeems that they have decided,” Fleur said. “I always ‘oped she would say ‘Mama’ first instead.”
“They always seem to pick the father to name first,” Molly agreed, trying to steer the conversation away from Harry’s uncomfortable reference to being orphaned. “I don’t know why that is. Merlin knows that I spend far more time with the children when they were that age than Arthur did, but they always chose a name to call him first instead. All except Fred.”
Ginny smiled gently, her arm protectively around Harry’s waist. “Fred was always a bit different Mum.”
Mrs. Weasley smiled. It was the first time she’d managed to mention him without tearing up.
“Well, I guess that’s settled then. I’m Papa Harry from now on,” Harry said and everybody grinned.
“Are you staying for dinner Harry?” Bill asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. It looks like you’re having company?” Harry asked looking towards Mrs. Weasley. “We heard Arthur talking in the shed…I don’t want to impose.”
“Nonsense Harry, it’s only Kingsley whose come by to talk to Arthur while he putters about in his old shed. I think he may stay for dinner, but Bill and Fleur are as well and we have plenty,” she assured him.
“Ginny?” Harry asked. “Do you have the time?”
“Curfew is at nine on a game night,” Ginny said. “I have time as long as I’m back before then.”
“Okay we’ll stay. Thanks.” Harry said smiling with Teddy still in his arms although the little boy was once again flirting with Victoire, smiling and changing his hair back to blonde like hers, his moment of anxiety about Harry forgotten. “I think he likes her Bill,” Harry added as Teddy started to push away from Harry in an effort to get down again.
Bill grinned as Victoire began to wiggle be put down too. “Yeah I guess so. Do you think we can trust him with her?”
“I think we can if we watch them,” Ginny said. “I can, unless you need help Mum?”
“Not at the moment Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley said.
“They weell have to learn,” Fleur agreed. “Set her down Bill.”
“You too Harry. Let’s see how they do,” Ginny urged.
Everybody watched as Harry set Teddy down by his feet and Bill stood Victoire near the sofa once more. Once again Victoire made her way along the sofa headed in Teddy’s direction. This time when she got close enough, he simply backed away, running briefly to hide behind Harry’s knees, then feeling momentarily braver, he approached Victoire on his own. This time when Victoire grabbed his shirt with one hand Teddy didn’t push her or try to back away. His eyes grew wide as he stared at the girl and her silvery blonde hair, fine and short but so like her mother’s. Victoire released the sofa with her other hand, took another step towards Teddy, but Victoire was so unsteady on her feet that she wobbled dangerously until when she fell she threatened to pull Teddy over as well. Everybody laughed as Harry reached down and caught them both.
“Here, how about some toys,” Ginny suggested as she coaxed them both out into the middle of the floor.
Fleur sat down next to the pile of toys and both Harry and Bill did too. Soon the four young adults where having just as much fun as Teddy and Victoire were as they tried to entertain the children.
Mrs. Weasley smiled at the scene, realizing as she did the change in her family it represented. Here were two young couples, each caring for very young children. Her own children were grown, and even though Harry and Ginny weren’t yet married and Teddy wasn’t their own, they interacted with him as though he was. It was a glimpse into the future, to a day when the Burrow would be filled with young adults and grandchildren instead of her immediate family as it had been for so long. Victoire was only the first. From the looks of things, others were probably not all that far behind.
“That’s quite a family you have there,” Kingsley remarked in a low tone as he and Mr. Weasley came into the doorway of the room, watching the young couples enjoying each other and the children.
Mr. Weasley slid an arm around his wife’s waist and she leaned into him gratefully.
“Yes it is,” Mrs. Weasley said proudly.
Kingsley nodded. “You know, sometimes I feel we still have a long way to go, but it is at times like this when I allow myself to just step back and enjoy the moment, that I realize just how far we have all come.”
“I do too Kingsley,” Mr. Weasley said. “It is for things like this that we fought the war, and I for one, am incredibly grateful.”
Harry looked up from the blanket and the toys as he overheard Mr. Weasley’s words. They hadn’t been directed at him, but for a moment he’d thought they had been. Then Arthur Weasley caught his eye and Harry knew; he’d been thinking of those who died. Harry looked back at the babies there on the blanket. Mr. Weasley was right. These children had the opportunity to grow up surrounded by peace and love, without knowing the fear and loneliness he had as a child. That was a gift far greater than anything else he could give to them. That alone made the effort worthwhile.
That realization was enough to cause Harry to force from his mind his worry about the future, concentrating his attention fully on enjoying the here and now, the time he was spending being part of a family. This is what was important and he was able to push aside worrying about Monday for another day.