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Chapter 13 : Freedom
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Being captured would prove troublesome, born from a moment of weakness upon hearing about Harry’s state. Lucius would not make the same mistake again. He glanced down at the paper. The moving picture of the Harpy’s Seeker as she dove to catch Harry covered the front page.
“A pity the plan did not go as planned, My Lord.” A gruff voice spoke from behind Lucius.
The tip of the other man’s wand touched the paper and it burst into flame. The light illuminated Lucius’ faint smile. “Potter’s heroic rescue of this…” He glanced at the rapidly diminishing paper for the name. “Weasley might just help.”
The newspaper curled upwards as it burned. The last to disappear was the face of a very determined Weasley.
“I would’ve preferred an unfortunate accident, My Lord.” The other man sounded unimpressed.
“Let the poor girl live. Potter is who we want and he is playing right into my… our hands.”
The other man coughed. “If you say so, My Lord.”
Lucius ignored the comment for now. The man would be needed to get out of this predicament. “Are the plans for the Cannons in place?”
“They are, My Lord.”
Lucius stood stiffly and turned to stare through the bars to the man standing outside. “Excellent.”
Ginny left to go see her parents after the nurses and Healers returned the next morning to check on an already standing Harry. They deserved to see her and know that she was alright. They probably wanted to celebrate her first ever victory in professional Quidditch even though the win felt hollow.
She, however, did not go home immediately. Instead Ginny detoured to take a deliberate stroll across the Harpies pitch. The deep furrow made by her broom remained. The memory of the sudden calm and disorientation after the crash made her shiver. The minutes ticked by as she worked to overcome the fears threatening to overwhelm her. In a few days’ time she would need to be up in the air again. And up there she needed to be fearless.
Satisfied that her fears would indeed be overcome, she Apparated to the Burrow. Her foot barely entered the kitchen before her mother's strong arms wrapped themselves around her. "I'm fine, mum," Ginny managed to say. The hold tightened. "Steady mum, try not to break any more ribs!"
"Sorry, dear," her mother said hurriedly while letting go. "We've been so worried. I don’t think I slept at all last night."
Ginny edged further into the house. The entire Weasley family sat in the living room; brothers, sister-in-laws and Hermione. All strangely subdued. None had slept much more than her mother if haggard looks were anything to go by. They did, however, look up expectantly and oddly guiltily.
“What?” The word left Ginny’s mouth slowly. Their expressions reminded her of times when something irreparable had been broken.
Things became even more worrying when Bill spoke. "Is it true that Potter tried to keep the Bludger from hitting you?"
It was not the first question she'd been expecting, especially since the answer seemed intuitively obvious. The words made her anxious and as any good Weasley her temper began to flare a fraction.
"Wasn't that obvious from what he did?" The harshness of the words silenced the next question on some of their lips. "The man's been suffering the entire night for what he did out there." Ron tried to speak, it only made her anger grow. "How dare you even ask such a thing? If you’d only seen the amount of blood he lost!"
The heads of all the Weasleys dropped in shame. Their cheeks burned a deep red.
"What?" This time the word sounded like a whip as it cracked. Everyone jumped at the question.
Ron received a forceful nudge from Hermione’s knee. "Tell her, Ron," the girl said anxiously through clenched teeth.
Her brother tried to look up, but could not. "We... Well, you know…”
“Get on with it,” Ginny huffed out.
Ron paled, the rest of brothers looked no better. “Ginny, it was a misunderstanding. The Bludger... Potter was muttering under his breath..."
Her fear dissolved into a cold dread. "What did you do?" Her eyes narrowed, the words whispered. “Please tell me you didn’t overreact.” Even as she spoke the horrible truth dawned on her. Harry had been bleeding the first time she’d seen him. Her lips began to quiver with rage.
"Bill broke his nose and I kicked him in the ribs," Ron mumbled quickly as he tried to hide behind Hermione.
"You... did... what!" Every window pane rattled from an uncontrolled wave of power as Ginny roared loudly enough to make every person in the room duck for cover. “He lost more blood because of you!”
Charlie recovered first, or perhaps he was just stupid enough to open his mouth. Ginny barely managed to see him as peaked out from behind the couch. "Umm... congratulations on the catching the Snitch."
Ginny inhaled deeply. Her glare made Charlie duck back behind the relative safety of the couch. The sound of something crashing to the floor broke the spell over her. If not for the distraction she might have cursed a brother or two. "Is this true, mum?" Her tightly clenched fists rested on her hips.
Her mother stuttered and fidgeted with an apron. "It really was a misunderstanding, Ginny. Everyone was so worried about you. It seemed only…"
"That's just bloody great!" Ginny turned on her heals and stormed out of the Burrow to Apparate back to the stadium before her family managed to shame her even further. "How am I ever going to apologise for my family."
"Hey, Ginny," Harry called from behind.
She shrieked in surprise at seeing him stumble about. "You're walking!"
"A bit stiff, but good to walk." He laughed while hobbling closer. "How's my favourite Quidditch player?"
Her cheeks still felt hot from venting an anger that would not dissolve. "I just heard what my brothers did."
"Misunderstanding," Harry brushed the incident aside quickly. "They must've thought I was hexing the Bludger." He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Guess my comment to Bill didn't help." The reply came with a shrug. "Tensions were running high during those moments. I can’t even remember what went through my head."
She frowned. "But, they hit you, Harry. Broke your nose and kicked you in the..."
He broke her tirade off by pressing chapped lips against hers. "Look, Ginny. I'm glad they are willing to stand up to a celebrity like me to look out for you. It only improves my opinion of them. Were they hasty? Yes. Were they wrong? Yes. But they only had good intentions at heart."
"So you really aren't angry at them?" she asked while trying hard to not get her hopes up.
"I don’t think so." He smiled while rubbing his now fixed face. “But my nose might be holding a grudge for a while yet.”
Ginny relaxed and let herself be wrapped in his arms. Slowly, the anger began to ebb away, but it would only take one look at her brothers to reignite the flame.
"I'm sorry for my over enthusiastic family." Ginny sighed eventually.
“They did seem a bit over eager to get to know me personally. You didn’t tell them about us, did you?” He grinned.
She rolled her eyes while forcing herself to step back. "Since you seem to be well enough to make stupid remarks, I’ll be going. I really need to see my family before you start making anymore ill-advised comments like that." She played with the concealed ring. "You could come with me?"
He gave a resigned shake of his head. "I'd love to, but perhaps we should just let things settle first. I’ve come into enough contact with your brothers to last a day or two." His mood shifted as he glanced up at the sky and dug his hands into his pockets. "Besides, they deserve the day with you."
A slight tension in his voice worried her, but there was little to be done. After a concerned kiss she Apparated back to the Burrow.
"That was very..."
Ginny cut her mother off with an angry glare. "I needed to go apologise for my brothers’ actions." Guilt at being rude overcame her rage. "Sorry, mum, but I needed to go make things right."
Mrs Weasley's disappointment lessoned, if only somewhat. "I understand." She motioned Ginny into the living room where the entire family sat waiting.
"You guys are lucky that Harry Potter seems to be a forgiving guy." She said while holding her wand in clear view. She glared at Bill, making her oldest brother avert his gaze. "Harry apologises for saying something rash to you."
Bill's eyes widened in surprise. "He did? Why?"
Ginny glared at him. "Am I supposed to know the depths of the world's best recluse?"
"No, but you're meant to be celebrating!" Ron shouted. The tip of his wand exploded with a crack and streamers went flying across the room. "My sister won her first game!"
As if on cue they all began to cheer wildly. Ginny felt her desire to hex them grow steadily. A stray streamer hit her forehead and dropped to the floor. The hand holding her wand began to tremble, but the way Fred and George pranced about singing loudly made her pause, if only briefly.
Her parents watched the unfolding scene in horror. Something made a puffing sound and to her surprise a chicken now stood where Bill had once been. Her brother, stunned, ran into the living room table and collapsed. It could not be helped, Ginny snorted. It quickly turned into a deep laugh as Ron turned bright Orange. The anger she’d felt melted away into a deep and unmoving love for her family. They loved her and had tried to help even though they had been thick about it.
Before she could blink, Fred and George hoisted her up into the air while chanting, “Weasley! Weasley!”
She shrieked as her feet left the floor. High above her family, she could see nothing but pure pride for their sister. Even Fleur clapped and shouted along, while being careful not to trod on Bill.
The celebrations lasted all morning, but after the initial few minutes of fun, Ginny never managed to get back into the merriment. She was much too busy being angry at herself for not being angry at her brothers. Yet, looking at them and watching their celebrations in her honour, she could do nothing more than love them more, which in turn angered her even further. It proved a vicious cycle.
Eventually Ginny slipped out of the house. It was probably the only way to avoid the mass torture of her family. Once outside she made her way to a secluded corner of the garden. The fresh air and sudden quiet allowed her to regain some control over her emotions. Alone and free from noise her mind wondered back to the game and Harry's proposal.
"You seem a little out of sorts today." Hermione spoke while joining a lonely Ginny by the garden bench. The quiet was not to be.
Ginny did not look up at her brother's girlfriend. "Just a lot to process."
"A rogue Bludger, I guess, is difficult to come to terms with. Add the fact that it was your first game..."
Ginny nodded as her friend spoke. The events bothered her, but not nearly as much as Malfoy who had snuck into Harry's room. For the first time she really pondered what the man had been doing there. Had he meant to kill Harry? A sudden fear gripped her, which quickly turned to panic.
“... third division. Ginny are you alright, you've gone awfully pale." Hermione's voice broke through Ginny’s thoughts.
"I'm…" Ginny nodded. "Just a flashback from yesterday. Sorry, I really should be listening."
Hermione looked worried. "That's alright. I'll just sit here with you or I could go in if you want some time alone."
"No, that's alright," Ginny replied. "Some company would be good."
The girl smiled and a book appeared in her hand. Ginny was about to comment, but a large white owl descended down towards them. It was a majestic animal. Just before reaching the pair, the bird pulled up and landed gracefully on the arm rest beside Ginny. The owl proceeded to lift one leg so the letter could be removed with ease.
"I've never seen such a beautiful owl," Hermione said in awe.
Neither had Ginny. "It's addressed to me," she said while removing the letter. As soon as it was undone the bird nipped at her affectionately before flying away into the afternoon sky.
It was Harry's handwriting and she vaguely remembered him mention his white owl, but the bird had always been away. She opened the letter and began to read.
I've received some interesting news. Need to talk. Please come as soon as you're able.
"I need to go, Hermione," Ginny spoke hastily.
"Is it Mr Mysterious? Does he want to celebrate your victory tonight?"
Ginny frowned. "What? Oh no. Yes it's him, but he already wished me luck after the game."
Hermione’s eyebrow rose thoughtfully. "He did? When?"
Ginny decided to get moving before her friend could dig deeper. "Tell my parents that I'll be home as soon as I can." She hurried to the Apparation point and left before her friend could say anything more.
She arrived in the middle of Harry's flat. He paced up and down by the fireplace. If she’d not seen his injuries she would scarcely have believed that he’d been hurt.
"Ok, what do you want to talk about, Harry?" Ginny asked.
"That was quick. Didn't expect you for hours still." He did smile broadly, however. "But I'm not complaining."
She gave him a quick kiss. "So what’s this all about?"
They sat down and Harry fidgeted with his fingers. "Um... the Cannons' Seeker took a knock at practise this morning. Heavy knock to the head and has been ruled out for months. Something to do with eyesight and coordination."
"So they've asked if you would like to play again." Ginny added when it looked like Harry felt unsure of what to say next. "But you're injuries from yesterday?"
"Minor." He grinned. "I'll be fine in a day or two and there are still two weeks before the next game."
"But you quit at the end of last season. Why play now?" He frowned slightly. "I'd love for you to play again." Inside her stomach did flips, she would love to play against him for real. "I'm just trying to understand why you would want to play now."
"I should probably start with everything." He stood. "Would you like some tea?"
She nodded and followed him into the kitchen. He began to talk as the water began to heat.
"My story begins when I was a little over a year old. My parents fought in the first war against Voldemort." Ginny gasped at the name. "It's just a name, Ginny."
"I know, but honestly could you use something else."
"No," Harry said. "I gave up too much to let the name be some kind of taboo." Ginny could only nod. She could tell it meant a lot to him.
"One night Voldemort came to our home and murdered my father and my mother. My father died protecting my mother and me. My mother gave up her life to take a killing curse for me." His voice became thick with emotion and Ginny felt her own chest ache for him. "He came for me. He stood over my crib and laughed. I can still see it happening in my nightmares. Then he raised his wand and the Avada Kedavra struck me on the forehead."
"Wait!" Ginny stood shaking her head. "You expect me to believe..." Harry's face said it all. There was nothing but the truth in those words. "Alright," she said taking her seat again, prepared to listen.
He nodded as if in understanding. "You can go ask Dumbledore. He was the one who found me after the attack." She only stared at him in open wonder while he busied himself preparing tea. "After that night Voldemort was gone. His body had been destroyed but he lived on."
"The middle years," Ginny whispered in awe. "You destroyed him as a child. How did he come back from the grave?"
Harry shrugged. "Sort of, but like I said, he lived on. While he was still at school, Voldemort started creating things called Horcruxes. They are the most evil objects formed by the most hideous dark magic." She shivered at the tone of his voice. "He split his soul into pieces and placed each portion of himself in a object of some kind." Harry looked up into Ginny's eyes. "You once said that you understood the darkness in my eyes and that you had seen it in your own at times."
Ginny leaned closer towards him. "Yes, I've never experienced that with anyone else. It's dark like I would expect from a Death Eater, but even they never had that look."
"They wouldn't." Harry laughed nervously. "There is a reason for the look. We both share a similar past."
"You were cursed by a magically diary too?" Ginny asked in shock.
His head shook faintly and he rubbed at his forehead, as if feeling for something. "No, not by a diary." His hand waved before his face and a small zigzag scar became visible. She gasped and reached out to touch it. It was pale white from healing.
"Why hide it?" Ginny asked.
"Too much of a reminder," he said. "You see, I got this scar on the night my parents were killed. At first we thought it cursed because it was formed by the Avada Kedvra. Then we found out about the Horcruxes."
Ginny's hand froze where it touched the scar. "You mean a piece of V...Vol... Voldemort’s soul was trapped inside the scar."
"Was, yes." He smiled at her. She felt proud for not flinching, but she did feel a bit insecure knowing what had been in him. It took all the strength she had and more to remind herself of her own past and its haunting effect on her.
"But, how does this relate our pasts? I was never hit by a curse or implanted with a soul."
"There is something that very few people know about. Voldemort is not You-Know-Who's real name. The name he was born with, the one he used at Hogwarts was none other than Tom Riddle."
Ginny's blood drained away from her face. She began to shake. Immediately Harry's arms were around her. "You were so strong in your first year. To have resisted him for a full year. You are a strong woman, Ginny." She let him hold onto her as she tried to make sense of it all.
"Vol.. demort... possessed me?" she asked.
"Briefly, but you fought him off long enough for me to destroy the Horcrux."
"The diary," she said in disgust. Her stomach became unsettled and she rushed into the bathroom. Her right hand kept her long red hair out of her face and she steadied herself with her left. Lunch did not taste so good the second time. Harry crouched beside her and placed a gentle hand on her back.
"It was destroyed and the hold it had on you with it. You have nothing to fear from Tom just like I have nothing to fear from Voldemort."
"But the other Horcuxes?" Ginny asked. Her trembling body leaned back against the cold wall.
"Have all been destroyed." Harry settled back against the bathroom wall beside her. "I was the last Horcrux to be destroyed."
"Why does that sound ominous?" Ginny mumbled. Her head rested against his shoulder and her arms wrapped around her shins.
"Because I died." He answered the question so calmly that it took her a moment to fully comprehend the reply.
"How's that even possible?"
"Only one soul died that day. It was his, mine was allowed to choose between the next big adventure or life. I came back, Gwenog would've killed me otherwise.”
Ginny snorted. "She'd have gone to hell to bring you back just to send you there again."
Harry nodded. His fingers stroked through her tangled red hair. "What happened then?"
"I killed him at the battle of Hogwarts," Harry whispered. "The students were kept away as much as possible and I fought with a slight disguise." Ginny nodded as she relaxed under the ministrations of his fingers. "You're taking this much better than I expected."
She breathed out slowly and then her mind began to settle. “Strangely, you've just helped ease a lot of my burdens, Harry. I've always thought that I was some pathetic girl who'd been deceived by a simple spell. Instead, I know now that I survived a mental battle with a part of the greatest dark wizard to have lived in centuries. We both have." She tried to smile up at him. "I should really be freaked out. I was for a moment, but now I'm glad I know the truth."
He kissed her forehead. "So you still want to marry me, Miss Weasley?"
"If anything, it just makes my love stronger." They sat on the cold stone floor. His arm wrapped around her comfortingly. "I just have one more question. Why did you stop playing?"
"There was a Death Eater that escaped the battle. He had this belief that Voldemort will rise again like the first time. He's been trying to track me down for years. We had hoped he would never learn my true name."
"And he did?"
Harry nodded. "At the start of my fourth year at the Cannons. We increased the protection around the ground and even added some security."
"Like the two guys with Gwenog last night?"
Harry nodded. "They're old Order members. Two of the few who knew who I was."
"So?" Ginny urged.
"Things got a bit too close for comfort and so I quit in the hope of being able to capture him without being distracted by Quidditch." He ruffled his hair angrily. "What happened to you was what I had been fearing."
"You want me to quit!" Ginny roared.
"If you hadn't stunned Malfoy yesterday then it might have come to that." Harry replied honestly.
"But?" Ginny asked with calm she never knew she had.
"Malfoy and his followers are finished." Harry grinned. "All of them have been marched off to Azkaban."
"You went hunting Death Eaters this morning?" she asked in a dangerously low voice. Harry nodded sheepishly. "And that day when I arrived at the pitch and you were injured." He nodded again looking increasingly guilty. "Harry James Potter!" She began to shout. "You will never do something like that again without telling me!"
He stiffened only to break out into a smile. "I promise, but they're all captured, Ginny. Every last recorded Death Eater is either dead or captured." He laughed and she could hear the relief and joy in it. "I'm free, Ginny. For the first time ever, I'm free to do what I want."
His mood was infectious. "Like meet my parents."
The laugh died in his throat. "Yes, I can certainly do that."
"Tomorrow night?" she asked and he nodded. "And we're telling them about our engagement."
"Merlin, from being forced into hiding to be bossed around by my girlfriend."
"Fiancée," she corrected as the charm on her finger vanished. "Big difference, Mr. Potter."
"So… can I play for the Cannons?" Harry pleaded. "I really really want to play, fiancée."
She laughed, pushing him away playfully. "Umm... well..." His green eyes were as innocent and cute as he could make them. "Still thinking Potter." She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I think that I cannot allow you not to play."
"I love you, Ginny Weasley!" Harry shouted. "Have I ever told you how much?"
"Not that I can recall," she replied. He jumped to his feet and pulled her up with him and his arms encircled her waist.
A few hours later Ginny crawled out of the warm bed and crossed the room to Harry's writing table. She scratched a quick note and then summoned Kreacher. She asked him to deliver the letter to her parents. While he was gone she scribbled another. Kreacher returned as asked and she gave him the second.
Harry's hands rested on her shoulders as he kissed her the top of her head. "What are you up to? Taking over my household already?"
"This place needs a feminine touch, Potter." She laughed, feeling excited. The idea that she might be starting her own home soon felt exhilarating. "Just don't start thinking about little Potter's just yet. I need to kick your backside in the league first."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Harry laughed. "I have to trounce you at least once in the public eye."
Ginny groaned. "Isn't thirty games to love enough?"
He shook his head. "Nope."
Thank you for reading and supporting the story. Every comment helps put a smile on my face.
I’m sorry that there was no Weasley bashing, torturing, etc, but they are adults. Well as mature as a bunch of Weasleys can be I think.
And finally, Ginny gets the full picture or at least the abbreviated full picture. We’ll leave the details to them.
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