Chapter 15 : Crossroads
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She had been up for hours, nerves eating away at her, drinking mug after mug of hot, sweet tea that her mother kept placing in front of her. Her father seemed to be almost as jittery as she was, ostensibly working in his shed but popping back into the kitchen every few minutes on the pretext of a string of excuses that became increasingly less convincing. Once the owls came into view, he abandoned the pretense and hovered nervously by the door. It made Ginny feel even more edgy, to the extent that she almost wished it wasn’t a weekend and he was at work. On the bright side, it meant Harry could be there with her. He had arrived by floo early that morning, and he was by far the calmest, squeezing her knee under the table and shooting her encouraging looks.
On the kitchen table in front of her lay an application form to join the Healer Training Scheme, almost completed and ready to give to one of the owls to take straight to St Mungos. All she had to do before sending it was add her N.E.W.T grades, assuming they were good enough. She thought back to her run-in with the Nepalese Fighting Orchid in her Herbology practical, and hoped that it hadn’t cost her the ‘Exceeds Expectations’ that she needed.
It was all very different to the day she received her O.W.L. results. Back then, there had been dark clouds gathering on the horizon, both literally and figuratively. It was a horrible rainy day, just before Bill’s wedding, and the uncertainty of a looming war had made her good results seem wholly unimportant. So much depended on it now. It wasn’t just her choice of career at stake, but also her plans to move to London with Harry. She knew that he wanted her to move straight away but she had stalled him, pointing out that until she started to earn some money, she couldn’t actually afford to leave home. Buying his birthday gift, a new strap for his watch made of finest dragon skin, had more or less bankrupted her. She was sure that Harry would have been quite happy to support her in the interim, but quite wisely, he hadn’t offered. She would have been deeply uncomfortable with accepting handouts.
In truth, there was another reason she was still living at The Burrow, and it wasn’t one that she was proud of. She had fought in three ferocious battles. She had duelled Bellatrix Lestrange. Ginny Weasley was no coward. And yet, she still couldn’t find the courage to tell her mother she was leaving home to live with her boyfriend.
As Mrs Weasley opened the kitchen window, the creak of hinges pulled her back into the room. The pair of owls landed on the windowsill, and Ginny reluctantly took the familiar cream envelope bearing the Hogwarts crest from the owl on the left. Her chair scraped on the floor as she sat down. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the envelope open and slid out the thin sheet of parchment it contained. It seemed offensively insubstantial considering how important it was. As she unfolded the parchment, Harry moved to stand behind her and read the results over her shoulder.
Dear Miss Ginevra Molly Weasley,
The results of your Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests are as follows:
Charms – E
Defence Against the Dark Arts – O
Herbology – E
Potions – E
Transfiguration – O
Congratulations, and best wishes for your future,
M. McGonagall (Headmistress)
Ginny felt relief flood every sinew of her body. She had passed, and her grades were easily good enough to submit her application form.
“Well?” asked her mother nervously. By way of reply, she handed over the letter, and gave her a huge grin. “Oh, Ginevra! This is marvellous! Congratulations! We’re so proud of you!” She slipped her arm around her husband’s waist, and they both beamed at her.
“See? I told you you were brilliant!” said Harry, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “You’re going to make a fantastic healer.”
Suddenly, there was a ‘whoosh’ of green flames in the fireplace. Ron stepped out into the kitchen, towing Hermione behind him. Her cheeks were wet with tears, but her expression was euphoric.
“Results come yet?” he asked Ginny, slinging his arm around Hermione’s shoulder. “Hermione’s did too,” he said, as Ginny nodded.
“Well?” asked Harry. “How did you do?”
“Bloody brilliantly!” replied Ron. “Of course!” He looked enormously proud.
“I can speak for myself you know, Ronald,” chided Hermione, although she pulled her boyfriend a bit closer as she spoke. “I got seven ‘O’s.” She handed her results parchment to Harry.
“Including Defence Against the Dark Arts, I see,” he commented, smiling broadly. Ginny remembered how annoyed Hermione had been with her ‘E’ grade in her O.W.Ls.
Hermione inclined her head to acknowledge the compliment. “Yes. I have to admit that one’s particularly satisfying.” She turned to Ginny, with an enquiring look on her face. “How about you, Ginny? Good news?”
“Yes, I’m really happy. I even got an ‘O’ for Transfiguration!”
“I don’t know why that’s such a surprise – you’ve always been good at Transfiguration,” said Ron. “Just look at your Bat Bogey Hex.”
Inwardly, Ginny winced. She wished Ron hadn’t said that, especially when she felt Harry’s hands tense on her shoulders. She knew he was thinking about her run-in with Draco Malfoy. The conversation with Harry when she told him about their ‘altercation’ had been deeply uncomfortable, but she knew there had been no avoiding it; it was better that he heard it from her than another of their friends.
She told him after dinner at The Burrow on her first night home from school, reasoning it would be easier face to face. Harry had fumed and raged and threatened to track Malfoy down in order to inflict any number of truly hideous curses on him, his face dark with fury and his hands balled into fists. She was very glad that that he was unlikely to run into Malfoy any time soon, since she doubted that the Ministry would look kindly on its employees dishing out their own rough justice. Harry had some difficult questions for her too, but she made it clear that Malfoy’s attentions had been completely unwelcome. Much to her relief, the way he had kissed her goodnight a short while later convinced her that he didn’t hold her responsible.
“What?” demanded Ron, when Hermione glared at him. “It’s Transfiguration, isn’t it?”
“You’ve got what you needed for St Mungos, haven’t you?” said Hermione, changing the subject to cover for Ron’s faux pas. Ginny nodded confirmation. “That’s brilliant! Well done.”
“Why don’t you come for dinner tonight, Hermione?” asked Mrs Weasley. “You know you’re always welcome.”
Hermione looked apologetic. “Thank you, Mrs Weasley, but I’m afraid I can’t.” Then her face lit up. “Actually, Ron’s taking me out tonight to celebrate. We’re going to L’Oeil de Triton! Isn’t that fantastic?”
“Ooh! How lovely.” Mrs Weasley beamed at her youngest son. “Very thoughtful of you, Ron.”
“Yeah. He’s a proper romantic,” said Harry, glaring at Ron, who looked both smug and a little bit shifty.
“So what’s next for you, Hermione dear?” asked Mrs Weasley.
“Well, that’s partly why I wanted to come over, actually. I have a bit of announcement to make.” Hermione looked pleased, but a bit nervous. “I wanted to tell Ron and Harry that I’m coming to work at the Ministry too!”
Ron looked a bit put out. “But you’ll be a year behind us! Why didn’t you just say yes when Kingsley asked you to sign up last year?”
“Not as an Auror, Ron.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “I’m joining the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Kingsley’s completely restructuring the House Elf team, and I’ve been offered a job there. I’m going to be the Elvish Rights and Welfare Officer.”
As Harry and Ginny offered their congratulations, Arthur Weasley’s eyes widened. “Gracious! That’s an unusually senior role for a new recruit.”
“I know. Kingsley pushed for it, but I still had to get a million and one references and it was all conditional on my N.E.W.T.s, which is why I didn’t say anything any sooner. I wanted to be sure before I told anyone.” Ginny thought back to the Ministry owls that Hermione had avoided explaining while they were at school. It all made sense now.
“You could have told me,” Ron backed away to lean against the kitchen counter. He glowered at Hermione.
“Well, I’ve told you now.” Hermione looked irritated that her good news had not been universally acclaimed. She turned away from Ron. “Actually, Harry, there was something I wanted to ask you.”
“Sure,” replied Harry.
“Do you think I could stay at Grimmauld Place for a while?” asked Hermione. “Just while I look for a flat of my own to rent.”
“Oh, so you’re not going to ask me about that one, either?” grumbled Ron.
“No, Ronald, I am not. It’s not your house,” pointed out Hermione.
“Of course you can, Hermione,” said Harry quickly, trying to stamp out the brewing row. “You can stay as long as you like. Permanently, if you want.”
“No, I definitely want to get somewhere of my own.” Hermione looked scathingly at her boyfriend. “I think Ron and I would probably murder each other within a few weeks, don’t you?”
Ron looked like he was about to argue, but got distracted when the second post owl bit him. It had grown impatient of waiting for attention and hopped down onto the kitchen counter behind Ron, before resorting to violence in order to get someone to notice it. “Ouch! You little bugger!” yelped Ron. He jerked his hand away from the bird and examined the small cut on his finger before giving it a hostile glare.
“Language, Ron! And don’t be such a baby. It’s only a scratch,” scolded Mrs Weasley, taking the second letter and examining the address. “This one’s for you too, Ginny,” she said, passing it to her daughter.
Ginny turned the envelope over in her hands. It was plain white, with no clue who might have sent it. When she read the sheet of parchment it contained, her jaw fell open.
“Bloody hell!” was the only thing she could manage to say. Dumbfounded, she handed the letter to Harry, whose face reflected Ginny’s stunned delight as he read it out loud.
“Dear Miss Weasley,
“Following the sudden departure of Wilda Griffiths and the retirement of Belinda Brocklehurst, the Holyhead Harpies have vacancies for two new Chasers. Representatives of the team have observed you playing on two separate occasions this season, and we are delighted to invite you to trial for a place as a Harpy.
“The trial will be held at our pitch on Penfeil Moor, Near Holyhead, Anglesey on Friday 30th July, beginning at 9 am. Please come suitably attired. A professional standard broom will be made available for your use.
“Please confirm your attendance by return owl.
Team Manager, Holyhead Harpies”
All around the room, her friends and family were offering amazed congratulations, but Ginny, still reeling from the shock, barely heard them. She looked from the letter in Harry’s hand to the St Mungos application form on the kitchen table, and then to the pair of post owls sitting on the windowsill. Just when she thought she knew where were future lay, a completely new path had suddenly opened up to her.
She had been right about one thing though; one of those two owls had indeed been carrying a letter that would change her life. It just hadn’t been the one she was expecting.
On the morning of Ginny’s trial she apparated straight to Anglesey from Ottery St Catchpole. It was stretching her apparition skills to make the jump directly, and she took a moment to steady herself. She really hoped she improved quickly; it wouldn’t be long before she was making the journey every day from London. At least, I hope so, she thought to herself.
Once the dizziness had passed, she looked around for a landmark. The apparition point for Penfeil Moor was more or less in the middle of a field. In the distance she could see the small town of Holyhead, huddled against the coastline, a collection of grey stone buildings tumbling untidily down to the sea. There was nothing else around her apart from bracken, drystone walls, and a few inquisitive-looking sheep. It was a typically British summer day, and she pulled her robe more tightly around her for protection against the chilly breeze that was buffeting in off the Irish Sea. Looking up at the iron-grey sky, she sent a silent prayer to the wizard gods that it wasn’t going to rain. Playing her best in wind like this was going to be tough enough.
Just to her left, there seemed to be a path of sorts, weaving through the bracken, leading up the hill towards a plateau that appeared to be overgrown with gorse bushes. At this time of year, they were covered not only in a hundred thousand yellow flowers, but also twice that number of wicked thorns. She smiled to herself. The threat of being shredded to pieces was an excellent way to discourage any Muggles that happened to stray this way.
About half way up the path, there was a strange ripple in the air as she passed through the wards that surrounded the Harpies’ ground, and then suddenly, the stadium loomed above her. She had been here once before, brought by her father as a birthday treat when she was twelve years old. Not much had changed since then, but the scale of it still took her breath away. It dwarfed the pitch at Hogwarts. The stands were four times the size and built of stone, with the Harpies green and gold logo painted thirty feet high at intervals all around the walls. It looked more like a fortress than a sporting arena, especially on a non-match day when there wasn’t another soul to be seen. Ginny suddenly felt utterly tiny. Pulling herself together, she followed the stadium wall around to her right, looking for the entrance.
Given the Harpies’ reputation as an all-witch team, she was quite surprised when the first person she saw was an man. He was standing just outside the main gates, holding a clipboard and quill. He was much older than Ginny, with a shock white hair, and he peered at her myopically through a pair of spectacles so thick that they distorted his watery blue eyes, making them appear to bulge out of his head.
“Name?” he croaked, by way of a greeting.
“Weasley, eh?” The wizard broke into a broad smile. “Ah yes, you’re the one that Gwenog couldn’t stop talking about. Are you one of those Weasleys?” he asked, looking at her hair.
Ginny wasn’t aware of any other Weasleys. “Umm, yes. I suppose so.”
“Excellent, excellent. I’m Arnold Cotterill, club secretary. I knew your Uncle Ignatius, back at Hogwarts.” Arnold nodded to himself, and gazed into the middle distance for a moment, as if recalling a happy memory. Then he snapped his attention back to Ginny. “You’re the third to arrive. Go through the gate, take the corridor on your right, and you’ll find the locker rooms down at the end. Use the one marked ‘Away Team’. Wait there until someone comes to collect you. Good luck!”
Ginny found the away team changing rooms easily enough, and pushed open the door. Two other witches were already sitting on the benches. Both were taller and a few years older than Ginny. One had jet black hair shot through with pure white streaks that ran back from her temples, reminding Ginny of a badger. She was picking nervously at the hem of her robe. The other, who was much more muscular and had terrible acne, just stared into the middle distance. Her lips were moving, as though she was silently chanting to herself.
“Hi,” said Ginny.
The witch with black and white hair looked up and smiled weakly. Ginny thought she looked like she might vomit. The witch with bad skin didn’t even acknowledge her. Since neither of them seemed inclined to chat, Ginny sat down and tried not to let the oppressive silence amplify her nerves.
Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, two more witches joined them. One, a mousy haired, pale skinned girl wearing beige robes, practically melted into the walls. The other, a tiny, chubby witch with round rosy cheeks bounced into the room with a ridiculous amount of nervous energy.
“Hello everyone! I’m Cosima!” Ginny opened her mouth to return Cosima’s greeting and introduce herself, but didn’t get the chance. It seemed that Cosima was going to do enough talking for everyone. “Wow! Isn’t this exciting! I can’t wait to get out there and fly! I heard that we’ll be using Nimbus SkySprinters! SkySprinters are supposed to be amazing! I’ve never ridden a broom that fast before, have you?”
Again, Ginny started to reply, but apparently Cosima had no need for an answer to her question. Her stream of chatter continued, each sentence delivered at lightning speed with breathless excitement. “I was so surprised to get my trial letter! It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me! I’ve been playing Sunday League for years, of course, but I didn’t know anyone was watching! Fancy Wilda Griffiths just walking out like that! I was amazed when I heard! Apparently Puddlemere paid her a thousand galleons! Personally, I never really thought she was that good! Gwenog Jones is still spitting feathers about it! She’s got quite a temper! I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of her! And I wouldn’t want to be Wilda Griffiths next time Holyhead plays Puddlemere either!”
Cosima’s incessant wittering was setting Ginny’s teeth on edge. She was just wondering how on earth to shut her up, when the door opened and the stocky, grey haired witch that Ginny had seen with Gwenog Jones at Hogwarts walked in.
She smiled broadly at the potential new Harpies. “Hello, ladies. My name is Meredith Menaddwyn,” she told them in a sing-song Welsh accent. “I’m the Team Manager for the Holyhead Harpies. If you’re successful in your trial today, we’ll be getting to know each other very well indeed. We’re ready for you now, so please follow me to the pitch.”
Ginny bolted to her feet, anxious to get as far away from Cosima as possible. She could hear that the babbling had already started up again. “Meredith Menaddwyn used to be a Keeper you know! She was amazing!” Ginny hurried to catch up with the older woman, following her down the player’s tunnel.
When she stepped out onto the pitch, Ginny was struck again by the size of the stadium. The high stone walls were topped by rows and rows of seating, soaring up into the sky. They were draped with enormous green and gold Harpies banners that hung right to the floor. It was such an intimidating sight from the arena floor that even Cosima was momentarily silenced.
There was a group of witches already gathered on the pitch, all dressed in Harpies training gear and holding top-of-the-range brooms. Ginny recognised several of the witches as Harpies players, Gwenog Jones among them, and her heart began to beat a little faster.
The moment Meredith stepped out from the tunnel, a tall, slender witch with honey-blonde hair stepped away from the group and accosted Meredith. “I hope my place is safe, Meredith,” she said loudly. “Didn’t I prove myself against Wimbourne? I scored ten goals, in case you weren’t counting.”
“You played very well, Valmai,” Meredith reassured her, “but you know we need more Chasers. What if someone gets injured?”
As the blonde witch continued to gripe at Meredith, Arnold shuffled on to the pitch, clutching an armful of racing brooms. He muttered to Ginny under his breath as he handed her a broomstick. “That’s Valmai Morgan. She stepped up from reserve Chaser when Wilda left. Bit of a drama queen, but she’s harmless enough.”
From what she had seen so far, Ginny thought Arnold was being rather too generous. Valmai was still complaining loudly to Meredith. “I just don’t see why I should have to compete for a place against them.”
“Shut up, Valmai.” Gwenog Jones cut across Valmai’s whingeing, leaving the younger witch with a sour expression on her face. “No-one’s place is safe, not even mine. Do your talking in the air, and you’ll get the matches. You know that.”
Gwenog turned to Ginny and the four other new witches. “Meredith and I have already seen you play,” she told them, in her no-nonsense voice. “We know you can all fly. We know you can all catch. We know you can all put the Quaffle through the hoops. What we don’t know is whether you can hack it as professional players. So, today’s trial will consist of a rolling training match, alongside our current Chasers, Beaters and Keepers. We’re looking for how well you fit in with the rest of the team, not just individual skills.
“There will be no Snitch and therefore no Seekers, so the game won’t end until Meredith and I think we’ve seen enough. There will be rolling substitutions as we try different combinations, so come down immediately if we call you in.” She looked pointedly at Valmai Morgan as she spoke, before turning back to the five hopefuls. “It’s up to you to show us what you’ve got. Don’t hold back. Now, everyone mount up, and we’ll get started.”
Ginny looked at the broom that Arnold had given to her. Cosima had been correct, it was indeed a Nimbus SkySprinter, by far the best broom she had ever ridden. The handle felt warm and responsive in her hand, and she was delighted by the way it hovered at exactly the right height for her to mount it, in the same way that Harry’s Firebolt had done for him. Trying to ignore the knots in her stomach, she kicked off from the ground, prepared to play Quidditch as though her life depended on it.
Come on, Weasley, she thought to herself. Time to pull out all the stops!
The first week in August was ridiculously busy for Harry. No-one in the Auror office seemed to have time to draw breath. The continued focus on the Jugson case alongside all their other active investigations meant the Auror office was already stretched very thinly, but the arrival of N.E.W.T results brought another necessary complication: Recruitment.
Gawain and the other senior Aurors found themselves wading through a slew of application forms from would-be trainees. Once they had whittled down the list of candidates, they then had interviews and aptitude tests to conduct, and as well as references to check.
It was a bumper year for applications. “Apparently, every man and his dog thinks they can take down a dark wizard now,” Jeremy commented, as he flicked through his hefty pile of applications. He gave Harry a dirty look, as if it was personally his fault that the senior Auror had so much extra work to do. Harry thought briefly about the D.A., and decided that actually, he might have a point.
“To be fair, Jeremy, an awful lot of them have,” replied Hestia, with a wink in Harry’s direction, “and you know you haven’t got a choice about it. We’re still badly understaffed, and if we don’t recruit more people, it will never improve.”
Harry knew some of his friends and former classmates must have applied, but none of the recruiters was giving anything away. Not that he had much time to wonder about it; since the seniors were shouldering the extra work, Ron, Harry and junior Aurors had to take up the slack elsewhere.
Harry’s heavy workload provided him with the ideal excuse to avoid a much-delayed visit to Diagon Alley. He knew he was procrastinating; the purchase he needed to make was vital, and yet just thinking about it filled him with confusion. With every day that passed, the feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach grew, until at last he knew there was no choice, and headed to the Leaky Cauldron on his lunch-break. Once he had made it through to Diagon Alley, he stood motionless, feeling the familiar despair that he had been fighting all week creeping over him again. Why had he left it so late? And more to the point, what on earth was he going to get Ginny for her birthday?
Her gift to him the previous week had been so thoughtful that he was really feeling the pressure. He wanted to get her something truly special. He could have asked Hermione for advice, but he had done that for Ginny’s last birthday, and at Christmas too, and he didn’t quite dare to do it again. So, here he was; clueless, desperate and wandering down Diagon Alley on the day before Ginny’s birthday with just under one hour to find something that she would love.
He gazed hopefully into the shop windows as he passed. She was bound to need plenty of things from Quality Quidditch Supplies if her trial had gone well, but he didn’t want to jump the gun, and he didn’t need Hermione to point out that it wouldn’t exactly be a romantic choice. Perhaps an owl? But why would she need one? Once she had moved to London, she could use Pigwidgeon. Every other option he considered was flawed too. A book felt too impersonal. She certainly didn’t need beauty potions. Some new robes might be good, but he didn’t have the confidence to choose them for her. He sighed. Nothing he had seen exactly shouted ‘you are the most amazing girlfriend I could possibly ask for and I love you to bits.’ Which she was, and he did, even if he was still more comfortable with the thought of a gift doing the shouting for him.
As he walked, he passed Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. He was imagining the well-deserved slap he would get if he bought Ginny anything from George when suddenly, he saw it: His salvation. Tucked into a tiny gap between Madam Malkin’s and Gringotts was the very smart frontage of Golightly’s, the jewellers. A discrete sign next to the door read: Fine Jewellery and Exquisite Objets d’Arts Bought and Sold, and the window was filled with all sorts of tasteful rings, watches and bracelets.
As he pushed open the door, he was dazzled by the array of precious jewels and other items on display. The shop was filled with counters dripping with fine jewellery set with gemstones of all colours. Against the walls were cabinets packed with other valuable objects; golden caskets, sets of goblets, ornate candlesticks, engraved salvers, and many other things. Some seemed brand new, while others were obviously antiques.
The other thing that struck him was that Golightly’s was one of the quietest places he had ever set foot. The walls were lined with thick, navy blue velvet, and a dense carpet the same colour covered the floor. Between them, they absorbed any sound that might escape. It was like being in a very sparkly library.
He ambled up to one of the counters to examine the contents. It contained a multitude of trays all lined with the same blue velvet that draped the walls. Each tray was packed with row upon row of rings, and each ring was mounted with one or more diamonds. Engagement rings. An image of him slipping one of the rings on to Ginny’s finger flashed unbidden through his mind. His pulse quickened, and he felt a bit queasy.
Someone cleared their throat very softly only inches away from him, and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. He would always hate that sound. It filled his brain with visions of fluffy, pink kittens, and seemed to make his scar – his other scar, the one on the back of his right hand – feel hot and itchy.
“Does sir have a special question to ask?” enquired a smooth voice at his elbow, where a smartly dressed sales-witch had appeared, as if from nowhere. So stealthy was her approach that he was tempted to ask whether she had ever considered a career as an Auror, but then he decided that even Hagrid could sneak up on someone on carpets this thick.
“Erm… No. No, I don’t. I was just looking,” said Harry, nervously.
“Very good, sir,” said the witch, with an obsequious smile. “For anything in particular?”
“Yes. A birthday present. For my girlfriend.”
“Then you’ve come to the right place, sir. We’re bound to have the perfect gift. Perhaps sir would care to take a look around?”
“Right. Yes. I’ll do that.” Harry moved to the case next door. The lack of engagement rings made it instantly more attractive.
“These cases include our extensive selection of Muggle pieces,” commented the sales-witch.
“Muggle pieces? Really?” Harry was surprised that you could by anything on Diagon Alley that wasn’t of magical origin.
“Yes, sir,” confirmed the witch. “It’s a very popular range. We find that Muggles have something of a talent for metalwork and jewellery making. As with all of our items, they are of excellent quality, but perhaps if I might make a suggestion, sir? For a really special gift, I would definitely guide you towards our Goblin-made range.”
As she talked, she steered him to a case on the other side of the room with the practised ease of an experienced salesperson. This case contained far fewer items than the others, but they shared a distinct ‘other-worldly’ quality he recognised. “Of course, Goblin-made is so much more difficult to come by these days, but that really only adds to the cachet.”
As soon as Harry looked into the case, he knew he had found what he was looking for. “That one. That’s perfect,” he said, pointing it out to the sales-witch.
“An excellent choice, sir,” she simpered. “It’s an unusual material for Goblin work, but that just makes it more desirable. Any witch would be delighted to receive it, I’m sure.”
A few minutes later, Harry left Golightly’s with the small, gift-wrapped box tucked into his pocket. By the time he returned to his desk at the Ministry, he was feeling much happier indeed.
On Ginny’s birthday, Harry and Hermione joined the Weasley family for a celebratory dinner. Ginny waited until after dessert to open her gifts. There was a thick winter cloak from her parents, in midnight blue wool. Percy had bought her a new quill, made from a Goshawk feather with a gold nib. Ron, who always had a tendency to buy gifts for others that he would like to receive himself, bought her a wizard chess board. Ginny had to admit it was very attractive though, with its mother-of-pearl border.
Hermione gave her a lovely carved photo frame. It contained a photograph of the two of them standing together by the lake at Hogwarts, waving back at her enthusiastically. “But feel free to change it,” said Hermione anxiously.
Ginny waved away her concern, hugging Hermione warmly. “It’s wonderful. Thank you.”
Charlie was still in Romania, but he had sent her a beautiful pair of dragon-hide gloves, and George gave her an umbrella. It it had an elegant mahogany handle, and George had charmed it so that she could never lose it, no matter how many times she left it behind somewhere. “Let me know how you get on with it. I’m thinking about making them for the shop,” he told her.
She was particularly delighted with Bill and Fleur’s gift - a tiny black kitten, with boggly yellow eyes that she immediately named Treacle. Mrs Weasley was less impressed. “Oh, Bill! A kitten? As if I needed anything else to clean up after. And you needn’t think it’s allowed on the furniture.” Harry and Ginny exchanged a guilty look, both thinking that Treacle was unlikely to be a resident of The Burrow for very long.
Next, Harry handed her his gift, looking a bit nervous as he did so. She opened the small box and gasped. Inside was a small, oval pendant made of polished amber. Around the edge was a twisted band of silver, and it hung on an elegant silver chain. The pendant seemed to glow from within, and the chain felt almost like liquid in her hands as she lifted it out of the box. It was very heavy for its small size.
“Gracious, Ginny - isn’t that beautiful?” exclaimed Mrs Weasley.
“I love it, Harry! Thank you so much,” Ginny told him, throwing her arms around him.
“I’m glad you like it,” mumbled Harry, embarrassed. “I thought it would match your hair.” Eventually, Ginny released him, and Harry fastened the chain around her neck.
Next, there was a small pile of gifts sent by friends and relatives, including a pair of earrings shaped like bottle-tops from Luna, chocolate cauldrons from Neville, and a tortoiseshell comb from her Auntie Muriel.
“Who’s this one from?” asked Ginny, reaching for the final a package. It was long and thin, and wrapped in plain brown paper.
“I don’t know,” said her mother. “It came yesterday, at the same time as Charlie’s present.”
When Ginny opened it, she discovered that it wasn’t a gift at all. Instead, the packet held a thick scroll of parchment. As she unrolled it and began to read, her jaw dropped and her face lit up.
“It’s a contract from the Harpies!” she said, excited. “They want me to play for them! I did it!”
Almost instantly, she was at the heart of a scrum of red heads (and a scruffy black one too), all trying to hug her at the same time.
“Well! I think this calls for even more of a celebration!” said Mr Weasley, enthusiastically. He summoned a bottle of champagne and some glasses. “This was left over from Bill’s wedding. I think it’s time we cracked it open.”
As Mr Weasley popped the cork on the bottle, Hermione picked up the contract. Whatever she saw seemed to worry her. “Ginny? How much of this did you read?” she asked, warily.
Ginny shrugged. “I only skimmed through the first bit. Why?”
“Well, it’s just that I spotted this clause here...” Hermione held the contract out for Ginny to see. She was pointing at a paragraph towards the bottom of the scroll. As Ginny read, her heart felt as though it was trying to escape through the pit of her stomach.
‘All Holyhead Harpies players will reside within three miles of our ground at Penfeil Moor, in order to facilitate both training exercises and build team spirit.’
“I have to live in Holyhead?” she said, talking to herself rather than anyone else. No-one had said anything about that at the trial. It had seemed like such an obvious assumption that she would apparate in every day.
“What?” asked Harry, looking disbelieving. He took the contract from her and read it for himself.
“I have to live in Holyhead,” she repeated. It didn’t seem real.
Harry hadn’t quite processed it either. “So, you can’t move to London with me?” he said slowly.
“What?” Mrs Weasley’s voice rose to a screech. She looked from her daughter to Harry with an expression of horror on her face.
“I know! I mean, I am!” In her confusion, Ginny wasn’t sure who to talk to first and eventually settled on Harry. “Living with you, that is.”
Mrs Weasley looked outraged. “Under the same roof? Over my dead body!”
“I’m of age, you can’t stop me!” Ginny told her mother, mutinously.
“Wait a minute? You’re actually thinking about turning them down?” Harry seemed even more surprised by that than the Holyhead bombshell.
“Well there’s no way I’m moving to Holyhead!” said Ginny, hotly.
“And there’s certainly no way you’re moving in with your boyfriend, young lady!” Mrs Weasley sounded resolute. “I don’t know how either of you could possibly think about doing such a thing!” she said, glaring at Harry.
“I promised!” Ginny’s eyes were flashing dangerously as she wheeled around to face her mother. They both had their hands on their hips, chins jutting forward, looking alarmingly similar.
“Ginny, you need to think this through properly.” Harry’s brows were furrowed.
“I have thought it through! I’ve already decided to move in with you!”
“Don’t be ridiculous! You’re only just eighteen! And you’re not even engaged!” Mrs Weasley threw Harry a very dirty look. Ginny thought he paled slightly.
“Ginny, this is an incredible opportunity!” Harry told her firmly. “You’d be mad not to take it.”
“Anyone would think you didn’t want me to move in with you anymore,” she shot back, hurt and confused.
“What on earth would people think if you did? Your Grandma Prewett will be turning in her grave!” Mrs Weasley threw up her hands in despair.
Frustration and confusion finally got the better of Ginny. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks! Now can you all just shut up and leave me alone!”
Knowing she needed to get out of the room and away from both of them before she said something truly dreadful, she turned and marched straight out of the door into the garden. She needed some fresh air, to clear her head.
She could still hear raised voices coming from inside the house. She assumed it was her mother and Harry, which was strange. She couldn’t recall them ever exchanging cross words before, which Ginny thought was an indication of just how upset her mother really was. Gradually though, Mrs Weasley’s strident tones faded into the background. Whatever Harry was saying, it was enough to calm her down.
Ginny moved further away from the house, and settled on the swing that her dad had strung up over a branch of their old oak tree when Bill was just a little boy. Every Weasley child had taken their turn being pushed higher and higher by their parents or siblings, and Ginny found the motion soothing. She rocked herself gently back and forth with the toes of one foot as her mind churned through the choice in front of her. That one letter had sent her soaring, filled with the promise of a thousand childish daydreams come true. How could it also be threatening to break her heart?
She heard the kitchen door open and close, and the rustle of grass growing louder as someone walked towards her. Harry. He stood behind her and dropped his hands on to her shoulders, then started to push her, very gently, backwards and forwards. They stayed like that for while. Eventually, it was Harry that broke the silence.
“Don’t,” she snapped, cutting him off. “I told you I was moving to London. I’m moving to London.”
“No, you aren’t.”
Upset and frustrated, Ginny lashed out at him. “Don’t you tell me what to do, Harry Potter! I thought you wanted this too! It was your idea! How dare you change your mind?”
“Don’t make this about me, Ginny,” he said quietly, refusing to take the bait. “Of course I want you in London. But playing professional Quidditch? That’s amazing! You can’t turn that down. You’d never forgive yourself. And I’m afraid you’d never forgive me either.”
Ginny couldn’t let go of the idea. “I’ve spent so long waiting for us to be together. I won’t just give up on that now.”
“Ginny, last year, when I chose to take the job with the Aurors, it killed me to walk away from you, but you supported me and that’s how I knew it was the right thing to do. Trust me when I say I know exactly how you feel. Now it’s my turn to support you.”
“This is different, Harry. You joining the Ministry was only going to keep us apart for a year. Merlin knows how long I’ll be in Holyhead.”
“Isn’t that the point, though? Who knows what will happen in the future?” As the swing reached the bottom of its arc, he held firm on the ropes to stop it, then moved around in front of her. He crouched down so his face was level with hers. “I seem to remember someone once told me that anything is possible, if you’ve got enough nerve. I think we can do this. Do you?”
She was silent for a few moments, then she said, very quietly, “I think we can do anything.”
“Go to Holyhead, Ginny. We’ll work it out. I promise.”
Ginny looked down at her toes. Her mind whirled with the possibilities. Things were changing, so fast that it was hard to comprehend. But eventually she met his eyes again and sighed.
“It’s never going to be easy for us, is it?” she asked.
“Easy? Where’s the fun in that? Now come on - you’ve got a birthday and a new job to celebrate, and your champagne is getting warm.” He smiled at her, offered her his hand, and led her back into the kitchen.
A/N - So, there’s been a bit of a break, but I’m finally back with Chapter 15! I really hope you enjoyed it, and if you can spare a few minutes to leave a review and let me know what you think, I would absolutely love it. Getting reviews makes me very happy!
Thanks as ever, are due to CambAngst, my brilliant beta reader, who keeps me on the straight and narrow, and makes writing Evolution a whole heap more fun. If you haven’t already read his story, Harry Potter and the Conspiracy of Blood, you really are missing out.
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