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Chapter 18 : Chapter 17 - Interlude
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Harry reached out and took the bag. He opened it slowly to reveal a small golden cup with two handles. A badger was engraved upon it.
"It's beautiful," Ginny breathed. "Why does he choose such beautiful items for such evil?"
"I don't think he can appreciate beauty like we do," Harry replied.
Turning to Kreacher, Harry asked, "Did you have any trouble getting the cup?"
"No, master. It was in Miss Bella's vault," Kreacher replied. He looked up at Harry. "Is that like Master Regulus's locket?"
Harry nodded. "Tom – the Dark Lord, he manipulated this cup like he did the locket." He looked appraisingly at the elf. "Would you like to destroy it?"
"How, master? I couldn't destroy the locket," Kreacher said, his ears drooping.
Harry tried to hand the Sword of Gryffindor to the elf, but he refused. "No, master. House elves are not allowed to touch weapons."
Harry nodded. He walked over to the cupboard where he'd been keeping some of his things. Reaching in carefully, he pulled out a large wrapped item. He unwrapped the item, revealing a Basilisk fang. Lifting it carefully out of the wrapping, he hefted it like a spear.
He offered it to the house elf. Kreacher examined it for a moment before he reached out and took the proffered fang. With a fierceness that surprised Harry, Kreacher stabbed the cup. An unearthly scream poured from it, along with a fountain of thick black liquid. A black mist floated away from the cup.
Kreacher dropped the fang. "Is it done, master?"
Harry nodded numbly. He turned to Ginny. "They're all destroyed. We've gotten all of his Horcruxes."
Ginny threw her arms around him. He looked down into her eyes for a moment before a smile spread across his face. He lifted her and spun her around. Setting her down, he kissed her softly at first and then more passionately.
Walking through the Ministry, Arthur wasn't sure which was worse – the people who stared and pointed at him or those who pretended sympathy. Keeping his eyes straight ahead, he headed for his office. The buzz had settled down briefly until the Playwizard issue had come out. He didn't care what anyone said: he did not believe his daughter would have turned her back on everything nor would she have posed for that magazine. He'd been told that she was partially clothed in all of the pictures, but he hadn't wanted to look for himself.
He sank down at his desk, looking at all of the pictures of his family. He smiled as he picked up a picture of Bill and Ginny together. They must have been seventeen and seven in the picture. They had been swimming in the pond and were laughing at each other.
A knock on the door caused him to look up. Kingsley was standing in the doorway.
"Arthur, I have a few questions for you."
"Haven't you asked them all already?" Arthur asked testily in a slightly louder voice than normal.
Several Ministry workers turned away as Kingsley entered Arthur's tiny office closing the door and casting privacy spells. They had been able to meet regularly at the Ministry using the pretext of the investigations into both Ginny's disappearance and the Carrows' murder.
"How are you holding up?" Kingsley asked compassionately.
Arthur shook his head. "I just hate that there are people out there thinking all of that trash about my baby girl is true. Molly is beside herself. When that horrible magazine came out, she...she lost it. I refused to look, but Molly wanted to see the pictures. She was certain that she would be able to spot something that would prove it wasn't our Ginny. She was so upset when she didn't find anything."
"Minerva reports that Miss Parkinson was not at the school for at least one weekend and Mr. Malfoy missed quite a bit of school, recovering from his injuries. She also wanted me to pass along to you and Molly that neither she nor Ginny's friends at school believe any of the press. They are certain she would never turn dark or pose for those pictures," Kingsley said sympathetically.
"That is comforting," Arthur allowed. "But where is she and why hasn't she come home?"
"I don't know," Kingsley admitted. "I spoke to Draco Malfoy about his allegations. As best as I can figure, Malfoy and his junior Death Eaters were terrorizing the Muggle bookstore. Harry broke it up. It is so frustrating. The Auror that was killed, Charles, was a good man. I know Malfoy or one of his cronies killed him, but I have to investigate Harry instead. "
Kingsley shook his head as he continued. "When the other Aurors got there, the Muggles were safe. Three of the Death Eaters were tied up in the shop and two were stunned and bound near Charles's body. We figure that Malfoy and at least one other person Apparated away before we got there. Malfoy swears he was trying to apprehend Harry and his injuries were the result of his fight with Harry. But I don't think it was Harry who inflicted most of those injuries."
"You think You-Know-Who punished him?"
"Yes, it makes the most sense," Kingsley explained.
"Did you ask him about the girl?" Arthur asked anxiously.
Kingsley hesitated. "He says he doesn't know who she is, that he didn't see her until the end of the fight. We figure she must have been out with the Muggles. We did question them briefly before we Obliviated them. They spoke of men in black robes and masks burning books and torturing them. The women were quite afraid they were going to be sexually assaulted. They described the woman who helped them as young with shoulder length blond hair. They guessed she was in her early twenties. They said the couple left together, but that was all they knew."
Arthur sighed in frustration. "So if Ginny isn't with Harry, where is she?"
"I don't know," Kingsley replied. "Except for the weekend she was interviewed, no one has seen her. She seemed to be everywhere that weekend – the interview, the Dark party, and the photo shoot. She was accompanied almost everywhere by Theodore Nott. They didn't seem to be romantically involved, but they did seem very friendly. Before you ask, Nott is still at Hogwarts and Snape has not let us interview him, claiming he has not left school property. We did confirm through Minerva that Nott was also missing that weekend and that no one has ever seen Ginny and Nott together."
"Who is he?"
"He is an associate of Malfoy's. His father is an associate of Malfoy senior, a known Death Eater," Kingsley explained.
Arthur nodded sadly. "What about Harry?"
"Except for the pictures and now the Paris pictures, no one has seen him." Kingsley sighed. Over the weekend, pictures had been published in a French magazine showing Harry and an unidentified brunette enjoying what appeared to be a romantic weekend in Paris. This had led many to wonder if Harry had decided to abandon the Wizarding world.
Hermione settled back against the willow and pulled her cloak more snugly around her. While March in France was much warmer than March in Scotland, it was still a bit chilly. She felt a bit guilty for sneaking off, but she wanted to enjoy Ron's letter in private.
A lot had happened in the past three months. Hermione and Justin had gone out on a few dates before deciding that they were really better off as friends. Initially, she had felt a bit like she was cheating on Ron, but she reminded herself that he had not made any move toward pursuing a relationship with her. In the end, she decided that she didn't want to pursue a relationship at this time and she was content with waiting for now. The one thing her short lived relationship with Justin had done for her is bolster her self-esteem.
Ron's relationship with Lavender last year had broken Hermione's heart. She had thought she and Ron finally had a chance to get together and he threw all of that away for Lavender. Hermione had always been nervous that Ron was not attracted to her and his relationship with Lavender reinforced that belief. How could he think she was pretty after dating Lavender?
Hermione liked to think she was fairly honest with herself. She knew that while she was not unattractive, her looks were never the first thing to attract someone's attention. She had always been a bit envious of Ginny in that regard. There was no doubt that Ginny was beautiful and Harry had not missed many opportunities to compliment her. She wished Ron would look at her just a fraction of the way Harry had watched Ginny at Bill's wedding.
Shaking off her melancholy thoughts, Hermione opened Ron's letter.
Thanks for the birthday gift. This year was much better than last year. No love potions, no poisoned mead. It was just me and Charlie, which was kind of cool as I haven't spent my birthday with him since I was a kid. He took me to a Quidditch match – Transylvania versus Heidelberg. It was great!
As much as I love being here, in some ways it doesn't seem right that I'm going to Quidditch matches and you're going to school when there is a war on at home. I've been talking to Charlie a lot about everything that happened with Harry and everything going on with Ginny. I realize that my parents sent me here to get me away from the war. I feel a bit guilty, but I don't know what I could do if I was at home.
My mum and really all of us are upset about the pictures of Ginny out there. I got into a few fights over that Playwizard. I know you are thinking I shouldn't be fighting. Believe me, I've heard it all from Charlie. I just got so angry at these guys drooling over half naked pictures of my baby sister. Mum is so angry and hurt, not because she believes it is her, but because the pictures will be out there forever. According to Kingsley, Neville and Seamus don't believe it is her. None of us believe it is her, but where is she? I thought she was safe with Harry. Did he leave her? Who is he with in those pictures?
I don't know what to believe. I also don't know if I should be angry at Harry for taking my advice and leaving Ginny alone or if I should be angry at him for leaving her. I don't know what's going on with either of them. I don't think Harry would abandon the Wizarding world, would he?
It feels so strange to not know what is going on with Harry. I wish I could talk to them both.
I'm sure you are enjoying Beauxbatons. Don't study too hard.
Hermione leaned back against the tree as she considered Ron's letter. It was quite possibly the longest letter he'd ever written her.
Shame flooded through her as she reread what he wrote about his family and his sister. He just assumed she would believe it was not Ginny. Hermione closed her eyes as she thought about everything that had happened since Christmas. Would Harry have abandoned Ginny after rescuing her? Tears filled Hermione's eye as she thought about her best friend. No, he would not have abandoned a girl he'd never met until she was safe. He would certainly never abandon Ginny.
Hermione had initially rejected what Neville and Seamus had to say about Harry and Ginny because Harry had not said anything to her about keeping in contact with Ginny. Now looking back with the perspective of having had a relationship, Hermione realized that he may have wanted to keep it to himself. He certainly wouldn't have talked about it in front of Ron, not after what happened on Harry's birthday.
Could Ginny still be with Harry? She froze as she realized what had bothered her about the pictures. You could never see the girl's face. Every picture showed Harry's face, but not the girl. Was that so no one would recognize her? Changing Ginny's most recognizable feature would be essential in keeping hidden.
Tears started flowing down Hermione's face. How could she have so willingly believed that Ginny would have even flirted with Malfoy? Ginny hated anything to do with the Dark Arts. Hermione knew that better than most. She had shared a room with her every summer for the past few years. Ginny still had nightmares about her first year. Hermione realized guiltily that the articles had done their job if someone who actually knew Ginny was ready to believe they might be true.
Drying her eyes, Hermione headed back up to the castle. She needed to talk to Justin and Lauren. She knew she had some friendships to mend and she was determined to start right away.
As she headed back towards her new school, she thought about Ron. Hermione was glad he was coming to terms with everything that had happened. She knew in some ways she still had not come to terms with the fact that she had, in fact, abandoned her best friend. She shied away from thinking about it and hoped that Harry would come back so she could help him. In many ways she felt if she could help him with his quest, it would make up for leaving him alone. The way she looked at it, by finishing school, she would be in a better place to help him when he asked for it. It never really crossed her mind that perhaps Harry could complete his quest without her help.
Remus thought his face would freeze in a permanently goofy grin. He just couldn't stop smiling. It was late at night or early in the morning, depending on your point of view. The candles had burned down so they were just casting a soft warm glow over the rest of the room.
Dora shifted in her sleep and Remus smiled again. She was exhausted, her bright pink hair picking up the light from the candles. He could see the smudges under her eyes and knew she was tired, but to his mind she had never looked more beautiful.
He shifted again and caught sight of the tiny bundle in the cradle. His son – Teddy. He still couldn't believe that tiny amazing creature was his son. He was so small and so perfect. To Dora's delight, he had already changed his hair colour several times.
With the isolation that came with being a werewolf, Remus had never imagined that he would be able to father such a perfect little being. He smiled to think of James and Sirius's reactions to his son. He would have to make the visit out to Godric's Hollow to tell them the news.
He only wished he could tell Harry the news. He and Dora had talked about it and decided they wanted to make Harry the baby's godfather. Remus knew that Andromeda didn't fully agree with their decision. She wasn't certain that Harry would be a good role model for her grandson, but Remus knew that if his son even half the person Harry was, he would be amazing.
A small cry broke through his reverie. Remus jumped up and gathered Teddy into his arms.
"Hey, little man." Remus kissed him softly as he deftly changed the newborn's diaper. He hadn't changed a diaper in more that sixteen years, since Harry was a baby, but he was pleased that he still remembered how.
"Is he hungry?" Tonks's soft voice sounded in the room.
"I think so," Remus replied as he walked over to the bed and handed his wife the fussy baby. She smiled at Remus before taking the baby.
"Hello, lovey," she said as she kissed his soft downy hair. She loosened her gown and watched in amazement as the baby latched onto her breast. She had never really imagined herself as the maternal type, but the moment she found out she was pregnant, it just seemed so right. The new mum watched Remus out of the corner of her eye.
"Have you slept at all?"
Remus looked up at that and smiled. "No, I've just been watching the two of you."
Dora laughed as she lifted the baby and gently began to burp him. "Am I doing this right? I'm so afraid I'm going to hurt him."
Remus smiled. "You are perfect, my love and you are going to be an amazing mother."
He leaned over and kissed her softly on the cheek before settling onto the bed next to his wife, the two of them staring in wonder at the new life they had created.
Alicia hurried through her closing routine of re-shelving books. Her coworkers were straightening the newspapers and tidying up the place. The three of them had perfected their closing routine so they could be finished by 6:15. Alicia nodded to the others as she finished and hung her blue robe in the small employee lounge. She headed up the basement stairs and to her delight, found Oliver waiting for her. She and Oliver had reconnected over the summer and had been dating for almost eight months now.
He looked up and smiled as she made her way into the London Library proper. He set down the London Times he'd been pretending to read and stood up to greet her.
"Oliver, I didn't expect to see you here," Alicia exclaimed as she embraced him.
"Practice was canceled," he said, kissing her briefly before taking her hand and heading outside.
Oliver sighed. "Mr. Winters's son and grandson were killed in an attack last night. Coach let us all go home to be with our families."
"Oh Merlin, that's terrible," Alicia breathed. Mr. Winters owned the Pride of Portree, so all of the players knew his family quite well.
"Yeah, I feel so badly for him. His daughter-in-law, Michelle, isn't expected to make it either. She was..." Oliver trailed off, not wanting to finish his sentence.
Sadly, Alicia was all too familiar with the habits of Death Eaters not to guess what had happened to the pretty, vivacious woman.
The couple walked quietly on to Alicia's family home. When they walked inside, Alicia could tell right away something was wrong. Her father was pacing up and down beside the fireplace while her mother and Aunt Anne were sitting huddled on the couch.
"Mum, Dad. What's wrong?" Alicia asked.
Brian Spinnet held a sheet of parchment out to his daughter. Alicia gasped as she read the letter. She could feel the blood draining from her face and was grateful for Oliver's presence as he wrapped his arms around her. Her mother had gotten a summons to go before the Muggle-born Registration Commission.
"Mum?" Alicia looked at her mother. "What are you going to do?"
Kathy Spinnet quickly stood and hugged her daughter. "It's okay, love. That is what we are talking about."
"I've been trying to convince your mum and aunt that they should go visit their cousins in Canada," Brian explained.
"Brian, I don't want to leave my children," Kathy flared up. "Will and Dani are still at Hogwarts. I don't want them to come home and find I'm in another country."
"You don't want them to come home and find you dead either," Alicia responded. "You know what they do, don't you? They send Muggle-borns to Azkaban."
"Those are only the lucky ones," Oliver put in. "A friend of mine went before the commission and they let the Dementors loose on him."
Kathy looked at the three determined faces. "B-but it feels like I'm running away."
"Then run away, Mum," Alicia said. "Run away so you can come home when this is over."
When her mother still didn't seem convinced, Alicia added, "Please, Mum. It will be much safer for you. That way we know Aunt Anne will be safe as well."
"Alicia, we can't afford to send the two of us halfway around the world," Kathy said, desperately trying to get her daughter to see reason.
"Actually, Kath," Anne started. She pulled a bag of money from her jacket pocket. "I brought this with me when you called."
Kathy reached out and took the bag her sister offered. To her astonishment, it was full of gold.
"Where did you get this?" Kathy demanded.
Anne shot a glance over at her niece before answering. "One of my tenants had to leave unexpectedly and they felt badly that they couldn't give me notice. They left this bag of gold for me."
"But this is Wizarding money," Kathy protested.
"Her tenants were friends of mine," Alicia broke in.
"You asked your aunt to take in magical tenants?" Kathy asked her daughter. "Alicia do you understand how dangerous that can be?"
"I know, Mum," Alicia said. "But this was really important. They needed a place to stay and I didn't think anyone would look for them in the Muggle world. H-he cast several powerful protective wards around Aunt Anne's place."
Seeing her mother weakening, Alicia added, "Please, Mum."
By the next evening, Kathy Spinnet and Anne Watson found themselves on a flight to Ontario to wait out the end of the war.
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