Chapter 22 : Complicated
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Ginny ran as hard as she could, her chest heaving and tears streaming down her cheeks. Her wedding dress was ruined, the once rich fabric now hanging in muddy, bloody tatters. Tree branches whipped across her face and body as she stumbled deeper into the forest. Everywhere she turned, her family, Voldemort and Malfoy were there too, grabbing for her in the darkness.
The ground rolled, sending her tumbling to the ground. Her cheek slammed into the dirt, blood flooding her mouth before she was rolled roughly her onto her back.
Harry knelt over her as the others crowded in behind him, their faces twisted into gruesome grins. Vines slithered up over her body, wrapping around her arms and chest and cutting off her breath. She was suffocating in her panic, the earth swallowing her up as she screamed.
Ginny woke up screaming, tangled in the sheets as she surged up, trying to escape. Choked sobs forced their way from her throat and she pressed her hands against her mouth to smother the sounds. Harry’s arms were around her a second later, pulling her back against his chest.
The room was dark around them, a slash of silver cutting across the end of the bed.
“It’s ok,” Harry murmured gently, as he rocked with her. “You’re ok,” he assured her, his voice warm and soft against her hair.
Ginny turned toward him, curling up against him so she could press her face against his chest. Her body was shaking and she wrapped her arm around his back, trying to bring him closer.
“Try to relax, baby,” he soothed. “Just let it go.”
“I m-married you, right?” she asked, her chest still heaving.
“Yes, you did,” he answered, his arms tightening around her.
“And everything’s ok?”
“Everything’s wonderful,” he assured her.
Her hand moved to his, searching for the gold band she’d put on his finger the week before. Feeling the reassuring warmth of the metal under her fingers, she pulled his hand down to her chest and pressed it against her racing heart.
“Was it a memory?” he asked, stroking her hair.
“No,” she shuddered swallowing thickly, “just…just nonsense again.”
After a few more moments of rocking with her, he guided her back down to the sheets. He lifted the blankets up over their shoulders before wrapping his arms around her.
“Tell me something good,” he whispered when shivers continued to run through her body. “Something you remember.”
Ginny smiled weakly at his words. This game had become familiar and comforting over the past few weeks…something they did to help make their nightmares fade away. Shutting her eyes, she took a steadying breath, trying to think of something positive that had been hidden with her memories.
“I remember...the first time I kissed you,” she breathed after a second.
“Mmm,” he hummed, pressing a kiss to her hair. “Common room. Sixth year.”
“No,” she corrected, her cheeks heating as she began to truly smile. “Hospital wing. Third year.”
“You’d fallen off your broom, remember? You were sleeping when I brought you that stupid singing get well card, so…”
“You little sneak,” he gasped before his chuckle rumbled from his chest to hers. “You never told me that.”
Ginny snuggled closer, pressing a kiss against his chest.
Molly stared at the eggs she was making. She was holding the salt jar in her hand, but couldn’t remember if she’d already poured it in or not. She couldn’t even remember picking it up. Shutting her eyes, she tried to think back, but for some reason the only thing she could see was Ginny as a little girl, laughing in her highchair after having bounced her plate of scrambled eggs onto one of the boys’ head.
With a frustrated huff, Molly slammed the salt onto the counter, picked up the skillet and dumped the eggs into the sink. Throwing the pan in after them, she turned on the water to rinse the remains down the drain.
The sudden tapping to her left startled her and she swung around with a gasp. For one brief, irrational moment, she hoped she’d see Hedwig, but instead she saw only the familiar Daily Prophet owl perched on the other side of the window beside the back door.
Fighting back her disappointment, she crossed the room and threw up the sash. Her fingers trembled as she untied the scroll and she held it tightly for a moment, praying that today would be different, even though she knew it wouldn’t. Finally unrolling the day’s edition, she shook it out, bending it on either side to keep it straight as she skimmed the headlines.
Her grip crinkled the parchment as she read yet another headline about the secret marriage of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley.
The words of the article blurred as her mind flashed briefly back to the first headline that had appeared suddenly last week.
The Chosen One Chooses A Bride!
Harry Potter weds in a secret Scottish Ceremony.
She didn’t think she would ever get the image of those words out of her head. It had taken her two days to truly accept that it was real, and that was only after Arthur had finally checked the Ministry registry himself.
Her sons had gone straight to Scotland, but had found no trace of Harry or Ginny. It had taken a week for the reporters to stop camping out night and day around the Burrow - trying to talk to the family or get a shot of the happy couple coming to visit.
Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of her baby getting married alone - without her family around her. Shaking her head sharply before she fell apart again, Molly crumpled the day’s paper into a ball, crossed to the bin and dropped it in.
Harry poured two cups of coffee before carrying them to the kitchen table. Sitting so he was facing the stairs, he cradled a cup in his hands as he waited for Ginny to finish her shower. A cool draft blew across his back from the window and he took a deep swig of the hot drink.
For a few minutes he let his mind return to the bedroom, his skin heating at the memory of making love to her this morning. A small smile lingered on his lips as he thought about how happy he’d been since they’d come back from Scotland.
Everything was still intense, but different, as they filled the last several days only with joy and rode the high of their union. Even so, his grin faded as he thought of how she’d awoken screaming in the middle of the night.
It just as easily could have been him. It felt like they almost seemed to be taking turns having bad dreams. He knew it would take time for them to stop having them; he just worried about how upset they made her.
Taking another gulp of coffee, he turned his mind toward their plans for the day. His hand strayed to his hair, ruffling the still damp locks. A large part of him wanted to just take her back to bed, but his conjured sweatpants reminded him they had other things to do. The transfigured material itched incessantly against his skin. Scratching his hip, he knew it was time for them to go and collect some of their own clothes, ones that weren’t created from an empty burlap sack.
If Ginny felt up to it, she also needed a new wand. That was a priority, especially if she ever intended to go back to work.
As he heard the water shut off upstairs, his mind shifted to his own office. Eventually, he would have to check back in with Remus and deal with Malfoy…with Snape.
Harry’s grip tightened around the mug as he thought about Snape. For a few seconds he even started to think back, trying to remember waking up in the cave before he pushed the broken memories away with a shudder.
Not yet, he thought.
When Ginny eventually appeared at the bottom of the steps, Harry sighed as a bit of the pressure on his chest lifted. She rounded the table, her hand resting on his shoulder as she leaned down and brushed her mouth against his.
“Feeling better, Mrs. Potter?” he asked, catching a strand of her hair.
“Yeah,” she smiled, nodding against him. Cupping his cheeks, she pressed a few light kisses to his lips before one lingering one.
Harry didn’t consciously try to deepen the kiss, but before he knew it, his tongue was curling against hers and he was maneuvering her down into his lap. Small moans came from her throat as she responded, her chest pressed to his as her hands gripped his shoulders.
“We’re never going to get out of the house,” he groaned, finally dragging his mouth away.
“I’m ok with that,” she breathed, undoing the buttons of his shirt.
“More than ok,” he agreed, pulling open her robe. “But we are getting you a new wand later.”
Walking along Diagon Alley, Ginny threaded her fingers through Harry’s and leaned against his shoulder. Initially, she hadn’t wanted to come. She would have been happy to stay tucked away from the world forever, but Harry had insisted. She still didn’t love being in London, but she had to admit that having a wand of her own again was a relief.
Reaching into her pocket, she curled her fingers around the wooden shaft. It was smooth and elegant, measuring ten inches and made of holly and Thestral hair. Ollivander had initially tried to find something made of willow, like her original wand, but this one had reacted to her instantly when she’d picked it up.
She wasn’t sure how she felt about the change in its properties. She knew the fact that it worked was all that really mattered, but she’d seen Harry’s expression cloud when Ollivander had mentioned the Thestral core.
“Where do you want to go now?” Harry asked, his thumb playing with her ring. “And you can’t say home yet,” he reminded her with a squeeze of the hand. “I still have at least an hour.”
“I’m starving,” she replied.
“Already?” he asked, looking down at her and shaking his head. “Such a Weasley,” he teased without thinking. “Sorry,” he winced, realizing his mistake when she tensed, “I didn’t…”
“Let’s go in here,” she interrupted, pulling him across the street toward a Quidditch supply store.
They only made it halfway there before they were stopped.
“Oh, Merlin!” an older witch exclaimed, blocking their way. “The happy couple!”
Harry and Ginny glanced at each other before the witch reached up and patted Harry on the cheek.
“Such a brave young man,” she chortled. “We’re all so happy you’ve finally settled down.”
“Uh…” Harry said.
“Congratulations, Mr. Potter,” another wizard said stepping up to shake his hand. “Mrs. Potter.”
“I…um…thank you?” Ginny stammered, glancing around in confusion as a small crowd began to gather. “But how do you…”
“Are you going to print pictures of the wedding?”
“When did you meet?”
“Are there babies on the way?”
“Who was there?”
“Why was it a secret?”
The questions came fast and jumbled, everyone speaking at once as they tried to get close enough to shake hands with them. Harry’s arm went around Ginny’s waist as she moved closer, her confusion shifting to dread as she realized the whole world must know.
“Thank you,” Harry was saying, doing the talking as he tried to maneuver them through the crowd. “Yes, thank you, but we have to be…” A flash went off, cutting off Harry’s words as they both blinked against the bright light. “Good lord,” he muttered as he began to quickly push forward instead. “Excuse us, yes, thank you, excuse us. Back off.”
Ginny felt his magic flow out of him, sweeping through the crowd and pushing the people back. All at once they seemed to lose interest, turning away and heading in random directions as if they couldn’t see Harry and Ginny at all.
“Nice,” Ginny murmured, speeding her steps to keep up with his pace as he guided her down the sidewalk. “How did they know?”
“I have no idea…Shit,” Harry cursed, bringing her abruptly to a halt.
“What?” she asked, looking up at him and then following his gaze. “Oh,” Ginny said, her body going rigid at the sight of Fred and George running down the front steps of their shop. The woman leading them pointed them toward Harry and Ginny.
“Stay or go?” Harry asked, his grip tightening on her waist.
“Go,” Ginny bit out, hearing her brothers call her name when they saw her.
They Disapparated with a pop, arriving a second later in the middle of a hallway. Ginny shut her eyes, pressing her hand against her stomach as it took her a second to settle. Her body was tense, nausea rolling through her in waves.
“Are you ok?” Harry asked, his hands rubbing her shoulders.
“I feel sick,” she muttered, swallowing as she tried to push away the hateful feeling that had come from seeing her brothers.
“Do you think you’re going to throw up?”
Ginny shook her head, opening her eyes and looking around. It took her a second to recognize where they were.
“Why did you bring us here?” she asked, looking at the door to Harry’s flat.
“It was the first place I thought of,” he shrugged. “I was thinking earlier that we should come get some real clothes, and I guess it just stuck in the back of my mind. Come on.”
Ginny was surprised by how horrible everything looked when they got inside. His wards were down and the front rooms were virtually destroyed. It felt like it had been a year since they’d been here, frantically grabbing things before Dumbledore and the Aurors had forced their way inside.
“Oh, Harry,” she said, her eyes moving over the ruined furniture and scarred walls. “Why didn’t they clean it up?”
“I don’t know,” Harry replied, beginning to pick his way across the debris. “I doubt anyone remembered…not with everything else that was happening.”
“Right,” she murmured, following him a few steps before stooping to pick up the remains of a quilt. “Can we save anything?”
“None of it matters,” he dismissed, waving his hand and shifting the pieces of his sofa out of the way. “Let’s just get our clothes and go.”
Ginny slowed to a stop, watching him head down the hall before she looked around. Hurt bloomed in her chest as her eyes roamed around the room again.
“Gin?” he asked reappearing in the doorway.
“It matters to me,” she said, her eyes meeting his. “We fell in love here.”
He stared at her for a second before he looked around the room again. The corners of his mouth curved into a frown as his gaze lingered on the sofa before he crossed back to her. Taking the quilt from her hands, he considered it for a moment before speaking.
“You’re right,” he agreed tenderly. Taking one of her hands, he lifted her palm to his lips. “Every second I spent here with you matters. I just meant that we don’t need the things.”
“I know, I just…it’s one more thing they’ve destroyed,” Ginny whispered.
“Ginny,” he sighed, leaning down and pressing a kiss to her forehead. “Don’t let them do this,”
he urged. “They can only hurt you now if you let them. Let’s just grab some clothes and get out of here, ok?”
Following him into his room, Ginny pulled open the closet door. Unlike the rest of Harry’s flat, the closet was still neat and ordered, with his shirts and sweaters hanging above the pile of shoes on the floor. Running her hand across the shirts, she let her gaze drift over the colors and patterns.
It was amazing how much everything hurt. Even something as small as the fact that she didn’t recognize half of his clothes made her chest feel tight. She could hear him moving around the room behind her, so she began to pull the shirts off of the hangers.
Draping them over her arm, she carried them to the duffle that sat on his bed. It wasn’t until she’d begun shoving them inside that she realized Harry wasn’t moving. Standing on the other side of the bed, he had his head down as he held a picture frame.
“Are you ok?” she asked. “Harry, what is it?”
When he didn’t reply, she rounded the bed to his side. Her breath caught when she saw the photo he held. It was of her, Harry, Ron and Hermione standing in front of the Burrow with their arms draped around each other. As Ginny watched, the image of Harry leaned down, kissing her on the forehead and making her laugh.
“It was by my bed,” Harry explained tightly. “I looked at it every day…but I never saw it.”
Staring at the picture, Harry tried to keep control of his emotions but couldn’t quite manage it. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d looked at this picture, seeing only what the Fidelius had allowed him to see. What had been a comfort to him, an image of his two best friends, had really been a lie.
His chest hurt and his fingers tightened against the frame as he thought about the fact that she’d been there all the time, but he hadn’t been able to see her.
It didn’t occur to him that his magic was reacting until Ginny suddenly pulled the picture frame away from him. Only then did he smell the burning plastic and see the imprints his fingers had started to make.
“It’s ok,” she soothed, tossing the picture onto the bed behind him before pulling him down into a kiss. “I’m here now,” she whispered.
Her lips were soft and, in an instant, more comforting than any picture could ever be. Ducking his head into her neck, he breathed her in, holding onto her as tightly as he could. As much as it angered him to see the image, it was just as frustrating to know that he’d been unable to control his reaction. She’d seen his distress and it had dragged her farther away from the lightness she’d had at the cabin.
For a minute they didn’t move, before Harry began to kiss her throat. Her fingers stroked his neck, soothing him as he dragged his mouth up over her chin to her mouth.
“Let’s get out of here,” he whispered, even as his hands pulled on her shirt, lifting it up so he could touch the warm skin of her back. “We can come back for our stuff later.”
“Ok,” she answered against his mouth. At the same time, her fingers curled into the hair at the base of his neck, urging him closer as their tongues flicked together.
Groaning, he lifted her up before turning and lowering her quickly down onto the bed.
Ginny wrapped her arm around his neck while his mouth travelled across her jaw in search of the sensitive skin beneath her ear.
“I thought we were leaving,” she breathed, biting her lip against a moan as her back arched.
“No, we should stay,” Harry murmured, his voice rumbling in her ear. “We should definitely stay.”
Running her hand over his chest, she sighed his name before beginning to undo the buttons of his shirt. At the same time, his hands moved down to her thighs, dragging her farther up on the bed.
“Ow,” Ginny grimaced, shifting up as something hard dug into her back.
Reaching beneath her, Harry pulled the picture out. For a second his face clouded again before he chucked it away and kissed her harder. His body pressed down against hers, his hips shifting as his hand went to the button of her jeans.
“Harry,” Ginny groaned arching against him.
“Harry!” another voice called from the hallway.
Freezing, Harry looked up as his name was called again, closer now. Recognizing the voice, he began to pull away just before Cho appeared in the doorway.
“Harry, thank Merlin! Are you…” With a gasp she froze, her eyes widening. “Oh my God!”
Ginny watched the deer in headlights look flash across Harry’s face before he looked down at her. Guilt filled his expression and he opened his mouth before snapping it shut and pulling her up quickly from the bed.
“Cho,” he began, clearing his throat as he faced the other woman. “What are you doing here?”
”What am I doing here?” she echoed incredulously, “What are you doing here?!”
“This is my flat.”
“Not for the last month!” Cho exclaimed furiously. “I thought you were dead!”
“How would you know how long…” Harry faltered as his brow furrowed. “Dead?”
“Your flat’s a wreck, Harry!” She exclaimed spreading her arms. “I came over and you’d disappeared. You’ve been gone for weeks. The department…Lupin...no one would tell me anything,” she continued glaring at Harry with glistening eyes. “I’ve been…sick with worry and checking in and then the papers came out saying you’re married and my detection charm starts going off, so I…”
“Your what?” Harry interrupted.
“My detection charm…I put it up when no one would tell me what was happening, but that doesn’t matter,” she dismissed. “The point is no one’s been here before today and now I find you back and…and fine and going at it with…with…whatever her name is…”
“Ginny,” Harry supplied, his hand tightening around Ginny’s when she tensed beside him.
“Yes, Ginny,” Cho replied scathingly. “Your friend right? You were just friends, remember? That’s what you said…”
“This is none of your business, Cho,” Harry replied, his voice hardening. “I think you should go.”
“And I think I deserve the truth,” Cho shot back, glaring at him as her lips trembled. “After everything we went through, everything I did for you and…”
“Why don’t you know me?” Ginny interrupted.
“What?” Cho asked, contempt in her voice as her eyes flicked over Ginny.
“Why don’t you know my name?” Ginny enunciated, her voice slightly unsteady.
Realizing what she meant, Harry looked back at Cho in confusion. The Fidelius was broken, so Cho should have remembered Ginny. She should have recognized who she was, and more importantly, who she was to Harry.
“Why don’t you know her?” he asked.
“What are you talking about?” Cho replied in frustration. “All I know is that I love you!”
“And I love Ginny,” he replied quickly when he felt Ginny flinch beside him. “Something’s gone wr…”
“After a month?” Cho scoffed, swiping her tears off her cheeks. “You spent a year with me and…Don’t be ridiculous, you don’t love her, Harry. You just want her because she’s new.”
“No,” Harry replied, bristling at the insinuation. “She’s not…”
“Is that where you’ve been? Off regressing? I can’t believe I spent all this time worried and afraid when you were just…You never really changed, did you? You could never really control it…Never really keep fr…”
“Stop it, Cho,” Harry gritted out. Energy filled the room as his emotions surged, anger about what she was saying and a sudden fear over what she might say next. “I’m sorry you worried, but…”
“You’re just adding another notch because she’s too stu…”
“I said stop!” Harry shouted, moving from Ginny’s side to in front of Cho in an instant.
“I hope you like it rough,” she exclaimed, trying to push Harry out of the way as she focused on Ginny. “He’s got a bit of a kink for…”
Harry didn’t touch her, but a gust of wind rushed past him, propelling her back several steps.
“Ginny went to Hogwarts,” he spat, his voice trembling. “I love her. I’ve always loved her.”
Blinking in confusion, Cho started to respond before she cringed. Closing her eyes, she pressed her fingers against her temples for several seconds. When she shook her head and looked up, her gaze went to Ginny before returning to Harry.
“What’s going on?” she asked unsteadily as she pointed at Ginny. “I know her. You know her. She went to Hogwarts and the two of you…but…”
“It’s complicated,” Harry replied.
“Complicated?!” Cho demanded. “Were you hiding her from me? Where was she while we…Was this some sort of sick joke?”
“No,” Harry said, his voice low as he stepped forward.
“Stay away from me!” Cho exclaimed, stumbling back. “Just…you stay away from me. Both of you.”
Harry watched as Cho spun and ran from the room. Cursing under his breath, he rubbed the palm of his hand against his forehead, unable to believe how wrong this day had gone. Behind him, Ginny remained silent.
For a second he hesitated before he turned around. He wasn’t sure how much she’d understood but her skin was ashen. Her eyes were fixed on the doorway.
“Do you…” Ginny hesitated, her eyes flicking to him. “Should you go after her?”
“No,” he said firmly.
Ginny couldn’t think of anything to say, she just knew that her chest hurt. Taking a step back, she turned away, letting her eyes fall on the bed. The visual of Harry under the covers with Cho slammed into her mind and she quickly looked away.
“Harry…” she began before her voice faded.
“Come with me,” he said, grabbing her hand.
She had to run to keep up, stumbling over the debris in the front room as he led her to the fireplace.
“What are you doing?” she asked as he pulled his wand and pointed it toward the coals.
Bill stood on the beach, his toes curling into the sand as the waves washed back and forth over the tops of his feet. He held his infant son against his shoulder, his hand absently rubbing circles on his back.
Turning at the sound of his daughter’s voice, he watched as she ran toward him. Her sundress billowed around her, the oversized bow that was tied at the back flopping with each step. When she’d almost reached him, she hopped the last few steps, landing on her knees in the wet sand with a squish.
“Shhh,” he replied, smiling as the baby shifted. “You’ll wake Anton,” he reminded her softly.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered back, curling her hands into the sand as she looked up at him. “But Harry Potter’s in the foo.”
“What?” he asked, crouching down swiftly. “Where is he?”
“In the foo,” she replied, forgetting to be quiet as she started fiddling with her baby brother’s blanket, trying to see his face. “He said to come get you. Wake up, Anton! Harry Potter’s in the foo!”
Bill looked up at Shell cottage before he grabbed his daughter’s gritty hand and drew her to her feet.
“Come on, pumpkin,” he said, leading her back toward the house.
He went straight to the den, cradling Anton against him as he dropped to his knees in front of the fire.
Harry’s face appeared in the flames, his expression full of resentment as he glared.
“I got him, Harry! See?” Danielle chirped, peering around Bill’s shoulder.
Harry’s eyes flicked to her and his expression softened.
“Thanks, honey,” he said, nodding.
“I’m gonna go wake mummy!” she exclaimed before running out of the room.
“Where’s Ginny?” Bill asked as soon as she was gone, bouncing the baby automatically when he started to fuss.
“Why is the Fidelius still up?” Harry demanded, ignoring the question.
“The spell. Why doesn’t everyone have their memories back?” Harry gritted out. “I told you to take it off.”
“We did take it off…”
“Don’t lie to me,” Harry interrupted sharply.
“Let me finish,” Bill snapped. “We took dad’s off. But we couldn’t take off Snape’s. I’m sure you understand why.”
Harry blinked before the anger left his face, replaced by understanding and guilt.
“Shit,” he breathed.
“Yeah,” Bill agreed. “If you want to take it off someone, you’ll have to do it yourself. Now, I want to talk to Ginny.”
Harry’s face hardened. His eyes held Bill’s for a second before he disappeared without another word.
“Wait!” Bill called as the connection ended and the flames turned hot.
Harry sat with his back against the headboard. His hand traced patterns on Ginny’s lower back as she sat in front of him, using her new wand to charm her toenails. He kept expecting her to finish and focus on him, but the silence continued to stretch between them. He’d felt unsettled ever since they’d left his flat and it increased now, knowing she was avoiding any sort of conversation.
Not sure if he was wanting to distract her or prompt a discussion, he leaned forward and pressed a kiss against her shoulder.
“Are you done yet?” he asked softly, continuing to brush his mouth across her skin.
“How many people have you slept with?”
Harry froze, feeling the tremor run through her skin before he pulled away.
“Nothing,” she amended quickly, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It doesn’t?” he echoed, running his fingers down her arm.
“No,” she breathed. “No,” she repeated more firmly before she twisted to look at him. “It doesn’t,” she told him.
Her kiss was sweet and soft but he could feel the lie in her touch and his heart thudded with growing dread as she shifted closer. For the first time ever, kissing her felt wrong, as though she was going through the motions and not really feeling it.
With a shudder, she became still, her lips leaving his as she looked down.
“Talk to me,” he whispered, bringing a hand to her hair.
“I just…I know Cho was just…upset…and wanting to hurt you,” she said quietly as she leaned into his touch. “And I know that you love me. That if things were different you would have been only with me…ever,” she added thickly before taking a trembling breath. “But…I’m not stupid. Even without…what she said, I know you’re experienced.”
Harry stared at her face, fighting back a rush of pain that came when he thought about everything that happened while they were apart. He saw the sadness already clouding her features and he desperately didn’t want to add to it.
“You always remember to do a spell,” she said, keeping her eyes on the comforter.
“When we’re together,” she clarified. “I never remember and you always do. It doesn’t matter how far gone or where we are. It’s like you do the spell without even thinking about it.”
“Did you sleep with Cho?”
Cho. He really didn’t want to tell her about that. It was so much more complicated now. He hadn’t known. He hadn’t understood who Cho was, what it would mean to Ginny that they’d been together. When he’d started to date her, she’d just been someone familiar, someone who cared about him and wanted to help him.
“Harry?” Ginny prompted, her voice thick. “I already know the answer, I just need…”
“Yes,” he answered finally, his voice tight. “I did.”
His whole body seemed to ache when she nodded, her chin trembling as she fought not to cry.
“She meant nothing compared to you,” Harry told her firmly. “Even before I remembered the past you meant so much more. So much…”
“I know,” she said, nodding again and knocking the tears lose that had been threatening to fall.
“Don’t,” Harry pleaded, reaching out and brushing them away. “Please don’t do this. You know there’s not a comparison. I choose you. I’ve always chosen you. You’re my wife.”
“I know,” she choked out, shaking her head. “I don’t know why…I’m crying.”
“I love you,” Harry tried to assure her. “Things may have happened with Cho, but I never loved her. Not like you.”
“Was she your first?” Ginny breathed, looking down.
Harry froze before he pulled his hands from her face. Fisting his fingers into the blanket, he watched another tear roll down her cheek before she reached up and brushed it away.
“Ginny, I don’t think…” he began before he faltered. He didn’t want to lie, but he desperately wanted to protect her from the pain his answers would cause.
“So, she wasn’t,” she said.
Harry forced himself to swallow before he shook his head. He seemed to be unable to say the words – dreading the questions that would come next. Before they’d gotten their memories back, his past struggles had been his burden alone, and he didn’t want to make it hers too. She was too fragile.
“Were there a lot?”
“I don’t want to do this,” he breathed. “None of this matters now…”
“I just want to know you,” Ginny said. “I want to know what your life was…”
“No, you don’t,” Harry replied, grimacing. He was beginning to feel sick, his skin flushing hot and cold as his stomach rolled. “You think you do, but…this will only hurt you.”
“I just want to know how many,” she said eventually, her fingers plucking distractedly as the comforter. “You don’t have to give me names or details or…I just want to know…”
“I don’t know,” he breathed after a few seconds.
“Harry,” she said, looking up at him as a flash of the strong Ginny he remembered replaced the new vulnerable one sitting before him. “Just tell me.”
“I don’t know,” he repeated, holding her gaze and waiting for her reaction. “I don’t know how many.”
Ginny’s eyes widened, her skin paling as she started to speak only to stop.
“Don’t,” he pleaded. “Please, don’t look at me like that.”
“I’m not, I just…How could you not know?”
“Compli-” Ginny cut herself off, blinking quickly as she looked down at the mattress. She seemed to take a steadying breath before she spoke again. “How was it complicated?”
“You have to understand,” he said reluctantly, “in the beginning I wasn’t a good person.”
“I wasn’t,” he insisted. “You know I wasn’t, Ginny.”
“I don’t know that,” she argued. “I don’t know what happened after I was erased.”
“That’s not true. You know I was still out of control,” Harry told her, reminding her of the conversations they’d had over the past month. “You know I was in a cave for two years and that most of the beginning I don’t even remember. Every evil, hateful urge inside of me still wanted to be in charge and I had to learn to control it.”
“But you did,” Ginny said, furrowing her brow. “When I met you, I had no idea there was anything wrong.”
“After five years of work,” Harry reminded her, shaking his head. “By the time I met you…met Cho even, I was different. I’d worked myself out. But I wasn’t always so controlled and I was always drawn to darkness,” he explained, his voice beginning to tremble, “violence and…and sex and I wasn’t always…I wasn’t always good at holding onto myself. In the beginning I didn’t have any inhibitions and sometimes I took whatever I wanted, no matter who it hurt.”
Ginny stared at him for several moments before she moved. Crawling to him, she wrapped her arms around him.
He flinched at her touch, remaining stiff for a few seconds before letting her guide his head down onto her shoulder.
“Ok,” she whispered. “It’s ok.”
“I was stupid and weak. I thought I was ready to leave the cave,” he admitted softly, thinking back. “Remus wasn’t convinced but I was so cocky…so sure that I’d mastered it.”
Harry sat on the edge of the table in the stone room, cradling a blue flame in his palm. Lifting his hand, he blew on the fire, causing it to spark purple as it spun around.
“You can convince them if you really wanted to,” he said, his eyes flicking to Remus, who stood against the wall near the door.
“I’m not sure I want to.”
“Why not?” Harry replied, his eyes narrowing as he began to toss the fireball from one hand to another. “You agree I’ve got it under control.”
“Most of the time.”
“Oh, come on,” Harry retorted petulantly, “I haven’t had any lapses in months. I’m centering all the time and I’m going out of my mind down here. I’m ready, Remus.”
“I think you’re underestimating things,” he replied, frowning. “We should start smaller.”
With a disgusted sigh, Harry flopped back onto the table, tossing the flame high into the air above him before catching it.
“What makes you think you can hold it together, surrounded by people?” Remus pressed. “You
still have trouble being around Ron and Hermione.”
Harry’s gut tightened and his jaw clenched at the names of his best friends. He shut his eyes quickly and the fire froze, hovering in the air as he took a calming breath, steadying his insides and reminding himself that he loved them.
The darkness faded and the fire fell into his waiting hands when he opened his eyes again.
“So, I won’t go near them for awhile,” he offered with a shrug. “I don’t care about everyone like I care about them, so it won’t be the same. It’ll be like with you and the rest of the Order guards.”
“We’ll see,” Remus said, after a brief, tense silence...
“I had no idea what I was suggesting and I wasn’t ready,” Harry told Ginny as the memory faded, replaced by another. “Being around so many people, feeling so much and having so much temptation, I just…I lost myself before I could even try to control it…”
Harry’s body hummed, his skin tingling and his power pulsing inside of him as he stood in the pub. Remus and Bill flanked him, while several other Order members spread through the crowded room, just in case.
He could feel the power of the wizards and witches surrounding him, mixed with emotions and desires that made him feel a bit heady. Everything seemed brighter, more in focus than it ever had before he’d gotten his power. Remus was speaking to him, reminding him of his techniques and warning signs.
“I’ve got it,” Harry said, striding toward the bar.
His eyes flicked over the crowded room, lingering on a couple arguing near a window. Without thought, he changed direction as want coursed through his body with each step. His focus was on the woman, whose long auburn hair turned gold in the torchlight when she flicked it over her shoulder.
Want, his body urged.
“Oh my, God,” a woman gasped as she stumbled drunkenly into his path. “You’re Harry Potter.”
Harry caught her arm to steady her, glancing down as she swayed up against him.
“I’m Maddy,” she slurred, her hand sliding up his chest as her gaze roamed his face.
“Hi, Maddy,” he said, his words cut off as she kissed him.
Hot, he thought, his hands going to her waist as she licked into his mouth. Heat flooded his body and he jerked her closer. She took it with a groan, her body rocking as he pushed his tongue against hers.
Harry’s eyes flicked open, straying back to the redhead. His grip tightened on the girl whose name he’d already forgotten but after a few seconds, he lifted his head. She clung to him, her hands rubbing and searching as she began kissing his neck.
“Get off,” he growled, his eyes darkening before she flew away from him, knocking into a table full of people several feet away.
Crossing the room, he ignored the wizard completely as he came to a stop in front of the woman.
“Lloyd, how many ways can I say that we’re over,” the woman hissed before she looked over at Harry. The woman’s eyes widened, first in recognition and then excitement, when Harry reached out and fingered her hair.
Want his body told him, before he pushed her back against the wall.
Her mouth opened but he covered it with his own before she could speak. For a second she started to struggle before she seemed to reconsider and kissed him back.
“What the fuck, man!” Lloyd exclaimed, grabbing Harry’s shoulder. “Get off-”
Harry’s hand was around his throat a second later, squeezing hard enough to cut off his words. Pushing away from the girl, adrenaline mixed with desire as Harry turned to the man and threw a punch. Lloyd’s head snapped back and Harry hit him again before releasing him and watching him stumble back into a chair. Drawing his wand, a hard smile curved Harry’s mouth just as Remus reached his side.
“Stop it,” Remus ordered sharply. “Focus.”
“I’m fine,” Harry hissed, rolling his neck.
“Wanna leave?” he asked the girl, ignoring Remus as he pulled her from the wall and up against him.
Warmth flowed from his hands into her body, making her moan softly against his shoulder before she nodded. Remus’s reply was lost as he apparated them away. He didn’t take her far, just outside and up against the side of the building.
Harry shoved the memory away, holding himself as still as possible as he tried not to get sick. Ginny’s arms were around him and he had to fight the urge to shove her away too, to get as far away from her as he could.
He felt dirty, disgust and shame pressing up on his throat as he realized he’d gone after a redhead. It had meant nothing at the time, but now…now he knew what had drawn him and he wanted to throw up. He wanted to scream and rage and hurt the people who’d done this to him.
If only I’d been stronger…or tried harder…if I’d been able to keep control…
“Harry?” Ginny murmured into his hair. “What’s wrong? What are you remembering?”
“Nothing, I just…did some horrible things,” he forced out, praying she’d never ask for details because he knew he’d lie and he didn’t want to do that. “I didn’t care about anything except what I wanted at the moment. I wouldn’t listen to anyone…”
“So, how did you get past it?” Ginny asked.
“Ron and Hermione,” he said, thinking back to one of his worst memories of that time.
“Ah,” she murmured, “well, I’m glad you had them at least.”
“I didn’t have them,” he corrected tightly, “not back then.”
“What do you mean?”
“I couldn’t see them much in the beginning,” he explained. Pulling away with a groan he pressed his hands hard against his face before raking his fingers through his hair. Shifting back, he leaned against the headboard before he caught her hand, holding it tightly.
“I loved them the most,” he explained. “So, I hated them the most too. It was nothing compared to my reaction to you, but…for over a year they couldn’t see me at all because I couldn’t control myself. I’d lose it almost instantly. Eventually, as I got stronger and understood what was happening, it got better.”
Ginny was quiet for a long moment, her grip tightening on him.
“I’m sorry they couldn’t be with you through the worst of it,” she whispered finally, a new sadness in her voice. “How did they get you to stop?”
Harry shut his eyes, letting that day wash over him as he began to explain what had happened.
Harry arrived in the cave with a pop. The sound echoed off the walls, fading gradually as he walked to his rooms. He slowed when he got close, his head cocking to the side before his eyes darkened and he sneered.
“Well, well,” he said, throwing the door open. “Living dangerously, are we?”
Hermione was perched on the edge of his bed, while Ron leaned back against the wall across the room.
“Harry, what happened!?” Hermione asked, standing up and beginning to cross toward him.
Ron moved fast, catching her arm and holding her back.
Harry’s gaze flicked between them before he turned and headed to the sink. Grabbing a towel, he wet it under the tap. Taking a quick look in the mirror, he saw that his right eye was swelling shut, already dark and puffy beneath the blood that was still seeping from the cut above his eyebrow.
“Have you been fighting?” Ron asked.
“You should try it,” Harry said, pressing the towel to his skin as he pulled a wad of cash from his pocket and tossed it on his desk. “Hell of a rush.”
“Do you want me to heal that?” Hermione asked. “I could do a…”
“If I wanted to heal it, I’d do it myself,” Harry snapped, his power dictating his reaction to the concern in her tone. His head jerked to the side as he pulled himself back into control. “Why are you here, anyway?”
“We wanted to check on you,” she replied, her hands rubbing nervously against her jeans “We’re worried about you.”
“Well, don’t. I’m great,” Harry stated, lowering the rag. “Thanks for coming by, you can go now.”
“That’s not what I hear,” Ron said. “I hear you’re running wild, hurting yourself and anyone near you…you’re just barely holding it together.”
“Tell Bill to keep his fucking mouth shut,” Harry replied, his eyes darkening angrily. “I’m not hurting anyone. I’m not trying to kill you or anyone else and the world is still spinning, isn’t it? I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine,” Hermione said as she crossed her arms in frustration.
“How would you know?” he demanded as the darkness pressed up.
“Because this isn’t you.”
“It’s me now.”
“Only because you’ve stopped trying to get better! Is this how you’re going to stay? Stuck in a place where you’re a slave to every sick, perverted urge you get?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry said, his eyes dilating as his hands clenched. “I have plenty of urges I hold back.”
“Hermione,” Ron warned.
“I know it’s still controlling you,” Hermione pressed, “even if you’re not trying to kill everyone around you. Remus says…”
“Screw Remus!” Harry yelled. “I’m sick and tired of him telling me what to do and always thinking he knows best, because he doesn’t. Being a God-damned werewolf doesn’t mean he knows what this feels like!”
“Well at least he’s trying,” she interrupted. “At least he got you to do that compulsion charm to protect you when you won’t protect yourself.”
“He’s not protecting me,” Harry shot back, the air around him beginning trembling. “He’s just making sure I don’t create any bastards with black eyes and bad tempers.”
“Well,” Hermione replied, her face falling at the thought, “deep down you agree because you cast it.”
“Go away, Hermione,” he ordered, “I like things how they are.”
“I don’t believe you,” she retorted.
Throwing down the rag, Harry Disapparated, appearing a second later right in front of her.
“Maybe because you haven’t tried it,” he snarled as she gasped.
His fingers tangled into her hair, jerking her forward as he slammed his mouth down on hers. There was no seduction, only punishment as he shoved his tongue between her teeth and used his free hand to hold her against him.
When her fingers raked down his cheek, he laughed, biting down on her lower lip hard enough to make her cry out. Striding forward, he forced her backwards until they tumbled down onto his bed.
“S-stop,” she choked out as she twisted beneath him. “Ron!”
“Yes, pay attention, Ron,” Harry growled before a wand was shoved hard against his back.
Harry gasped, jerking as some of his power flowed up through Ron’s wand and temporarily into his body. Ron fell to his knees with a groan while Harry collapsed down against Hermione. Squeezing his eyes shut, he rolled off of her when she shoved at him.
Taking a deep shaky breath, Harry pushed back the darkness that remained unchecked. Ron appeared over him a second later, his eyes almost black as he reached down and dragged Harry off the bed. Landing on his knees, Harry looked up just as Ron threw his first punch. His head whipped to the side, pain shooting through his cheek before he jammed his hand against Ron’s chest.
Ron froze, his body going rigid before Harry lowered him onto the ground.
For a second Harry remained on his knees before he stood up and turned around. Hermione was climbing off his bed, her hair mussed and her eyes were full of tears as she wiped the blood off her mouth.
His power burned inside of him, filling him with pleasure at the sight of her tears but he grabbed hold of it and shoved it back down. Gritting his teeth, he shoved it as hard as he could, containing it and isolating it until all he felt was shame over her words and how he’d just treated her.
“Hermione,” he breathed. “I don’t know what I was doing. I’m so…” he trailed off when she
pointed her wand at him.
“Don’t say it,” she said, her voice shaking. “This is beyond saying you’re sorry.”
“This is not you. I want my best friend back. I want you to be able to be with us and have a life with us. You’re so close. You were so close...”
Her voice broke and his power surged in response but he squeezed his eyes shut and forced it back down.
“It’s too hard,” he whispered.
“It’s not too hard,” she replied. “You’ve just stopped trying. I thought…you were stronger than this.”
“I am stronger,” he said slowly, letting his eyes open only when he was certain he felt stable. “I will be stronger. I swear…I’ll never hurt you again.”
“Prove it,” Hermione said quietly.
Ginny was silent beside Harry when he trailed off. So caught up in his own memories, it took him a moment to realize her hand was trembling in his. His throat closed up, his cheeks burning with humiliation as he forced himself to speak again.
“I never did anything like that again,” he whispered, needing to make it better. “I finally realized that I wasn’t in control. Until I hurt her I didn’t…I didn’t recognize how bad it was…” his voice broke off and he pulled Ginny to him, wrapping her up in his arms. “Oh, God, please don’t hate me.”
He could feel her trembling increasing and he squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his face against her shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” he told her. “I’m sorry I wasn’t stronger. I’m so sorry for everything.”
“That’s not…” she managed before her voice broke. “Oh, Harry…”
Harry shifted up and kissed her, wanting to take the pain away and show her how much he loved her. It took her a second to respond, before she began to kiss him back. For a few minutes things blurred, the pain lessening as physical pleasure joined everything else swirling inside of him. Ginny seemed to go with him, letting him maneuver her down on the bed.
“I will make myself worthy of you,” he swore gruffly. “I swear…” he managed before she shook her head and kissed him.
Everything between them this time was a little desperate – a little choked and breathless as they tried to focus purely on the feel of each other.
It wasn’t until he pressed his hand to her stomach beneath her nightgown, casting the charm so ingrained he never thought about it, that her body went rigid.
Harry froze, his heart pounding as he watched the emotions play across her face while a distressed whimper escaped her throat. He didn’t know exactly what she was thinking, whether she was imagining him with Hermione, or Cho or the others but he saw her fighting her revulsion before it overwhelmed her and she started to cry.
“Get off,” she whimpered, shoving at his shoulder. “Get off.”
She crawled away from him when he moved, scrambling off the bed in her haste to get away.
“Ginny,” he entreated, his heart sinking to his stomach. “Wait.”
“Don’t,” she choked out, turning away. “I can’t…I have to get out. I need to…”
Harry watched, helpless as she gave up on her explanation and disappeared out the door. For a second he couldn’t move. His stomach tried to empty itself and he curled over on the bed, unable to stand how much he’d just hurt her.
It was several minutes before a roll of thunder sounded faintly outside, sending a ripple of awareness through Harry’s body. It took several more seconds for him to realize why the sound affected him, before his eyes snapped open. He was up and Apparating out of the cottage a second later.
He arrived on the cliff, only a few steps behind Ginny where she stood looking out at the approaching storm. It didn’t seem to be too close, the darkest clouds still in the distance but the night air was cold around them, making their breath frost the air.
“Are you ok?”
“No,” she answered hoarsely.
“Tell me how to fix this,” he said, taking a step closer as she shuddered. “I can’t take it back. I can’t make it go away, but…Tell me how to make it better. Tell me what to do…”
She spun around. Her arms were crossed over her chest and the wind blew her hair around her face as tears rolled down her cheeks.
“There’s nothing you can do,” she said, shaking her head.
“I don’t believe that,” he replied, trembling. “We love each other. We can work through this.”
“How?” she asked, her eyes squeezing shut. “I don’t think I…I’m just so angry.”
“Ok,” he said, feeling numb. “You’re angry with me, but…”
“No, I’m not!” A sob slipped out as her tears suddenly increased, her body trembling as she stood before him. “I’m not angry with you.”
“It makes me sick,” she choked out, her fingers digging into her sides, “It makes me…furious to think of everything I couldn’t s-stop. I’m angry with m-myself. Why wasn’t I stronger? Why couldn’t I help you?”
“What?” Harry asked, his misery shifting to confusion at her words.
“I couldn’t protect you,” she cried, her tears quickly becoming more hysterical as above the clouds opened and the rain began to fall. “You didn’t deserve any of this. You should have defeated V-voldemort and been h-happy but everything went crazy and I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t save you and I…I couldn’t keep them from doing this to us and…and it’s my fault.”
“Ginny,” he said, his eyes widening as he reached for her through the cold large drops quickly wetting them. “No it’s not.”
“Yes, it is. I should have protected you. None of this would h-have happened if I’d just…if they’d just…I’m so angry,” she wept as he cradled her face in his hands. “When I hear what you went through. What you had to live through. When I hear you say that you think you’re not worthy…I’m so angry I can’t breathe. I hate them. I hate everyone. I hate myself and…”
“Listen to me,” he interrupted her, forcing her gaze to meet his as the water ran down their faces. “There’s nothing, nothing else you could have done.”
“You don’t know that,” she choked out. “If I’d found you faster…helped you with Voldemort or…or fought harder…”
“You saved me,” he insisted. “You did what no one else could do and now we’re here. Together. Nothing else matters.”
“It does matter,” she whimpered, her body shuddering involuntarily as lightening flashed in the distance.
“Ginny, we need to go inside,” he said, worried by the way she was shivering, but she just shook her head.
“…It matters and I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop crying and sometimes it feels like I’m dying and…and I don’t understand how you don’t feel it. Why don’t you feel it?”
“I feel it,” Harry assured her, pulling her closer. “Believe me, I feel everything you feel, but I’m choosing to focus on you, not them.” Reaching down, he grabbed her hand and lifted it up so she could see her ring. “I focus on this. It’s us now, remember? It’s just us.”
A clap of thunder sounded and she jerked against him, whimpering.
“I’m taking you inside now,” he told her.
“No,” she choked out. “I want to stay.”
“I want to,” she insisted. “I remember what I’m a-afraid of now and I can handle it. I need to.”
“You can’t, baby. You’re falling apart.”
“Then help me,” she said. “I don’t want to be afraid of you anymore…I won’t,” she forced out before she kissed him. They were soaking, the rain slicking their lips and running into their mouths as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Give me a new memory,” she pleaded against his mouth.
Harry’s hand caught her head, drawing her closer as he acquiesced. Needing the comfort too after everything that had just happened he deepened the embrace, trying to keep her grounded in the intimacy of it. His hand roamed down her back, cupping her bum and bringing her up against him.
Groaning, she focused on the feel and taste of him as she tried to stay in the moment, but she couldn’t hold on. Another round of lightening flashed overhead and the crack of thunder thrust her suddenly into her nightmares.
Pulling back with a gasp, she looked up at him and her body froze when she saw him as he was before, his hair wild and his eyes black. She cried out, trying to break away as he held her captive in his arms.
“No, stay with me,” he ordered, kissing her again. “I love you.”
Ginny squeezed her eyes shut before forcing them open again. For a second, his eyes seemed black before she blinked and light seemed to flicker within them. The image of her nightmares melted away, replaced by his true eyes; the pupils ringed with gold as he stared down at her with a determined expression.
“Stay with me, Ginny,” he repeated.
He kissed her again, his tongue slipping into her mouth and easing back the horrific storm-filled memories that flashed through her mind. She whimpered around his tongue, popping the buttons off his shirt as she yanked it open to touch his skin. He murmured a charm and suddenly they were warm, the rain heated as it passed through a golden barrier surrounding them. Clothes were discarded quickly, peeled off and tossed carelessly away without a second thought.
“Still with me?” Harry asked breathlessly, his hands tangled in her hair.
“Y-yeah,” Ginny replied.
The rain continued to fall, warm and slick as Harry lifted her up, having her wrap her legs around him before he sank to his knees. The grass was soft and muddy beneath them but they barely noticed as the moved together, both determined to lose themselves in each other.
Eventually, he grabbed her hand, pressing it between them and having her perform the charm. When they finally came apart lightening was still flashing far in the distance. Ginny didn’t notice, her body sated and her mind filled only with the Harry who held her.
Ron stretched out on the oversized sofa, watching Hermione as she crossed the room and pulled a quilt off the arm of one of the chairs. He shifted over, making room for her so she could cuddle up beside him.
“Happy to be home?” she asked when she pulled the blanket over them.
“Yes,” he smiled against her ear as his hand splayed across her belly. “You?”
“Very,” she replied, snuggling against him.
He rubbed his palm over the baby bump that had finally appeared a few days before, the first sign of the child growing inside of her. The rhythm of his breathing matched hers as they relaxed together. Thinking about the baby and how their lives would change, he looked around the small front room of their flat.
“We should get a house,” he announced suddenly.
“This is way too small,” he said, gesturing with his arm. “We need more rooms. We need a yard, and a bigger kitchen, and a shed for brooms. And a pool.”
Hermione laughed, her hand covering his on her stomach.
“Ok,” she smiled. “But you’re doing the mowing.”
“So demanding,” he sighed with a grin before pressing a kiss to her temple.
For several minutes they didn’t say anything else, enjoying the peace and quiet of simply being together. Ron shut his eyes, making plans for the house he wanted. He imagined teaching the baby to walk and then fly and having birthday parties in the back with the family.
Thoughts of his family led him to thoughts of Harry and Ginny and he frowned as he considered what had happened over the last few days.
“They’ve really made a mess,” he said eventually.
“Harry and Ginny.”
“They didn’t do anything.”
“They got married without telling anyone,” Ron argued. “Ginny had to know what that would do to the family.”
“I doubt she was thinking about the family.”
“Sure she was,” Ron replied. “She wants us to hurt like she does.”
“Maybe,” Hermione agreed. “But…I’m not sure I can blame her after what we did.”
“What they did.”
“I helped, remember?” Hermione reminded him. “I don’t…I don’t think they know that. If they did they wouldn’t be talking to us,” she said quietly.
“You never supported it after Ginny said no,” Ron defended, his hand moving to her hair. “You fought for her.”
“I know, but I doubt she would care at this point. If I were her; I wouldn’t want anything to do with any of us. And I certainly wouldn’t have wanted us at the wedding.”
“Still, for mum to find out from the Daily Prophet is just…” Ron shook his head. “I almost wish we didn’t know at all.”
“Well, from Harry’s expression when he flooed wanting to know where the information came from, we know they hadn’t meant for it to come out…” Hermione frowned, “I wouldn’t want to be that Registry Clerk if they ever meet.”
“Stupid Ministry fool,” Ron muttered. “Anything for a few Galleons.”
They fell silent again, both lost in their own thoughts. Hermione ran her fingers up and down Ron’s arm, tracing the scar left from the ritual. The thought of someone doing something for money tugged at her memory until she realized what it reminded her of.
“Do you know what happened to Sam?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” Ron asked, furrowing his brow.
“Well, did they arrest him or something? Do we know why he did it?”
“Arrest him? For what?”
Hermione went still, her body tensing beneath his hands.
“Hermione?” he asked, foreboding rippling through him as he shifted up on his elbow so he could see her face. “Arrest him for what?”
“I just assumed,” she said before she trailed off, swallowing. “Ron, he was working with Malfoy. He’s the one who came to the Burrow. He gave me a Portkey that sent me to Malfoy.”
“Ron,” Hermione said as he pushed her up and scrambled off the sofa. “Ron, what are you doing?”
“I’m flooing Remus,” he said, grabbing a handful of powder before he threw it back down and grabbed the poker to build up the fire instead, “right now.”
Harry’s eyes fluttered open. Lying on his side in bed, he remained still as he felt the touch of Ginny’s lips against the center of his back. The sun was streaming through the window, warming the sheets as his body woke up.
Her hand was resting on his side and she curled her fingers lightly over his skin, sending ticklish sparks of heat across his stomach. She swirled light circles over his hip until a soft moan slipped from his throat. Her lips curved into a smile against his back before she continued to press warm kisses across his shoulder blades.
“Morning,” she murmured, her hand sliding down his stomach.
“Morning,” he managed, his eyelids drooping as his breath caught.
As quickly as she began to tease him, she stopped, cursing softly instead before she rolled away. Harry groaned as she left the bed before he flopped onto his back. Looking over, he watched her disappear into the bathroom before he draped his arm over his face to block the sun.
“Cruel!” he called.
Instead of a reply, he heard only the faint sound of her getting sick.