Chapter 4 : Hogsmeade and Heaven
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"Hi, Ginny. Isn't Neville coming to Hogsmeade?" She looked hopefully over Ginny's shoulder.
"He'll be here in a minute," said Ginny, "Professor McGonagall is having a quick word with him."
"Oh, he's not in trouble is he?"
"No - she spoke to me earlier as well. Told me about the owls being monitored but I think she knew we'd already heard. Just cautioned me to be careful really then nodded and smiled. I can't imagine what she thinks an innocent little girl like myself needs to be careful about." Ginny grinned. She was positively beaming with anticipation of meeting Harry. Her only concern was how to get away from the others to meet Harry. Luna looked closely at her; studying her face.
"That's a very pretty dress. What colours are those?" said Luna.
"Oh, it's fawn and saffron," said Ginny, pulling her light travel cloak more closely around her. The weather was slightly cool but not unpleasant and the cloak was not essential.
"Ginny, would you do something for me?" asked Luna.
Ginny looked startled. "Of course, Luna. What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing wrong," said Luna. "It's just that - this is very rude of me but would it be possible for me to have some time with Neville? On our own I mean?"
Ginny stared. "You and Neville? Has he..."
"No. But I'm hoping that if you're not there he might." Luna smiled and took out the Spectrespecs from her bag and started to put them on. "He's very sweet don't you think?"
"Erm... Yes, well, I can't say I really... Yes I suppose he is. Yes of course he is."
"I thought so," said Luna, nodding and putting away her Spectrespecs. "Wrackspurts. Do you feel all sort of fuzzy and warm and confused and excited all at the same time?"
"Well... yes I do actually."
"Oh! Hello, Neville!" Luna waved excitedly past Ginny.
"Hullo, Luna. Everything all right?" said Neville, brightly.
"Well, Ginny's mum is meeting her later to get any messages. Parents do worry so much when they don't get an owl every five minutes don't they?" said Luna chirpily. "How long do you think you'll be, Ginny?"
"Erm... well, I..." Ginny struggled not to look astonished at Luna's fabricated story.
"Don't fret if you can't get away quickly - I know what parents are like - you'll be able to catch us up later. We've got all day," said Luna. She turned to Neville who looked crestfallen. He had been looking forward to an outing with friends.
"Sorry, Neville - you'll be stuck with just me for a while but perhaps we might take tea together or a butterbeer - what do you think?"
"Well, I..." It took Neville a few seconds for this turn of events to sink in. "No - that's fine. I mean, yes."
"I'm sorry, Neville," said Luna, looking closely at his confused and unenthusiastic expression. "It's a shame that Seamus is not allowed out isn't it? It will just be you and me on our own ... together."
"Sorry? Wh--" Neville's face suddenly brightened. "No need to be sorry, Luna. It will be nice. Better actually. We can talk later anyway, Ginny, right?"
The three linked arms and strolled down to the village together. It was difficult to tell who was the happiest: Ginny, Luna, or Neville.
It was pleasantly sunny but the road out of Hogsmeade was deserted when Ginny reached the stile. She folded up her travel cloak and shrunk it into her bag then tugged at and straightened her dress hoping she was presentable. She looked around anxiously then at her watch. Five to Eleven! He'll really be here any minute! She looked back to Hogsmeade as she had several times on her walk but no one had followed her.
"You look wonderful."
Ginny spun around. Harry was near the stile, sliding off his invisibility cloak. Ginny shrieked and flung herself at him. They stopped kissing only when the distant bark of a dog reminded them their paradise was earthly.
"Walk with me," smiled Ginny. Harry helped her over the stile but he did not release her hand when she alighted close to him. They strolled along, fingers entwined, away from Hogsmeade, away from worries and responsibilities, in soaring freedom together and, for once, oblivious of all but themselves. Their words were few while they laughed and giggled together at their blissful escape.
"I've got a confession," said Harry lightheartedly.
"Tell me!" said Ginny.
"I walked along with you for a bit before you even got to the stile."
"Yes! Couldn't speak. Just wanted to watch you. Couldn't believe you were real."
"Right! I've got a confession then too," said Ginny, squeezing his hand a little tighter.
"Mmm... You're not Romilda with a dose of polyjuice are you?"
"When I snogged Dean that time in the corridor I knew you always took that shortcut. I was trying to make you jealous."
Harry stared at Ginny for several seconds before he recovered. "You hussy! Fine - how about this then. That last time Dean pushed you going through the portrait hole..."
Ginny's eyes widened like saucers and her mouth gaped. "How..."
"That was me and Liquid Luck," grinned Harry. He pulled out a corner of the invisibility cloak from his rucksack to indicate how he had done it.
While Ginny was still staring with astonishment, Harry continued.
"When we played Quidditch in the orchard with Ron and Hermione that time when you thought I'd broken my wrist - I was just trying to impress you with my dive."
"How could you? You didn't even like me then!"
"I always liked you Ginny--"
"I mean you didn't fancy me then so--"
"No, I only thought I didn't," said Harry. "I mean I didn't know I did."
"What's that mean?" laughed Ginny.
"I mean it was only recently I was thinking of that and I remembered. I just did it. I didn't really hurt my wrist much at all but when you looked so concerned I... I kind of... liked it. Without knowing why I mean. So I went along with it. Then Hermione spoilt it by mending my not-broken wrist," said Harry then he added hastily, "Don't tell her I was pretending!"
Ginny became silent for a while. Harry waited.
"I did some pretending myself," she said eventually. "Sometimes when I snogged Dean I pretended it was you"
"Yeuk!" Harry poked a finger in his mouth and mimed vomiting. "Only sometimes?" Then, sensing Ginny's seriousness, he became thoughtful himself.
"That time when you were kissing him... afterwards I tried to imagine it was me."
"Oh, Harry. I wish I'd never--"
"So you owe me big time," grinned Harry.
"Well, you owe me for the wrist thing. Not only the wrist - when you crashed... for a second I..."
"I didn't fake the crash! That really was an accident! I'm not going to deliberately dive into the ground just to impress a hussy who likes to make boys jealous, am I?"
"You didn't know I was a hussy then!" laughed Ginny, "and anyway, you crashed because you were showing off to impress me."
"Did it work?"
"Did it work?" Harry persisted with a laugh.
"Of course it did. You always did."
For the next hour they walked leisurely along, their chatter punctuated with noisy laughter and silent kisses, but as midday came and went their thoughts were inevitably drawn to when their time together would end.
"When do you have to go back, Harry?"
"Another hour. I told Hermione and Ron I needed some time to myself. They think I've gone for a walk through the-- Gone for a walk."
"You have to be careful where you go - well, you know that. You were right about Hogsmeade - it's not safe. Wish we could go back for a pasty or something."
"Oh don't!" moaned Harry, clutching his empty stomach.
"Why? You hungry? Oh, Harry, you're hungry! What are you... Wait!" Ginny dived into her bag. "I was in Honeydukes earlier with Luna and Neville. Here's a monster chocolate bar - here, tuck in - but don't eat the eyeballs - they're gross!"
"Thanks, Ginny! This'll be appreciated. Perhaps I can arrange..." Harry hesitated then offered the chocolate back. "I can't take it Ginny."
"Course you can! I can get more!"
"No, I... I can't. I simply can't. Not while... I couldn't face..."
"It's Ron and Hermione isn't it? ... And you can't share it with them?"
"How would I explain it? They can't know about us being in touch. Ron would kill me. Nobody should know anyway. It would put you at great risk." Harry felt something grand stir within himself. Like a majestic stag on a harsh, stony slope it struggled to climb to the surface of his attention. He let it fall back into the darkness.
"But Hermione knows."
"Not now she doesn't."
Ginny stared at Harry then slowly put the chocolate bar back in her bag.
"The other day... Whatever you did - just tell me... Was it... successful?" she said.
Harry nodded emphatically but remained silent.
"Good. Be encouraged by that," said Ginny firmly. "And what about Ron?"
"He'll be alright. Splinched - but he'll be OK."
Ginny raised her medallion, sailing ship uppermost. "You're on the move - last few days. Will you be able to find food?"
"We'll manage." Harry looked up and smiled earnestly." We really will make do. We're finding our way. Don't worry, Ginny."
They came at last to a fast stream that flowed from the hills and they sat on its bank, quietly watching the water twinkle and flash by, spraying up gentle droplets as it leapt and dodged the softened rocks strewn along its bed.
"Harry, did you manage to get..."
Harry looked at Ginny, then remembered. "Sorry, Ginny, there's no way I can get my picture taken where I am now but I brought you some other things, look. I brought what I could."
He drew a few small items out of his rucksack; inconsequential things, a tiny bottle, a small, weathered book, a piece of old parchment, not his precious image which she wanted so dearly. He held them up, about to explain, earnestly seeking her approval.
For a few moments, Ginny's eyes seemed to capture the bright sparkles of the nearby waters but she blinked several times then reached down for her bag lying on the ground where she sat.
"I went in Wizzages earlier." She took an envelope out of her bag and pulled out a photograph which she handed to Harry. She watched him intently as he studied the portrait, saw him smile when her picture did, tilt his head with hers.
"You look glorious - you look just like you do now which is great!"
"Well, since I only had the photo taken an hour or so ago that's not surprising!" laughed Ginny. "Here - let me put it away to keep it clean - it's getting spots of water on it."
"How come Colin couldn't do it?" said Harry, as he handed it back.
"He's Muggle-born, Harry, him and Dennis. They're probably on the run. I hope they are anyway."
Harry stared into the racing waters, lost for words. He was thinking of the prisoners he had seen at the Ministry. How many other Muggles-born were in hiding? Ginny, seeing him deep in his reverie, slid the picture back into its envelope and carefully put it away in his rucksack.
Harry was still holding his pitiful bits and pieces, too caring about her feelings to either offer them or put them away.
"What'd you bring, Harry?"
"Oh, might be of use... there's a polyjuice - we had loads but we've... anyway, doubt we'll need it again - we can spare one easily."
Ginny took the small bottle and feigned pleasure which did not deceive Harry for a moment.
"And I... I duplicated this story book of Hermione's. She seems to like it but... Well anyway, I wanted to bring you something but we're... miles from anywhere really." He felt rather small now as he offered the book.
"It's great! And a souvenir - to remind me of..." Ginny knew the book; had read it hundreds of times. Every witch child knew The Tales of Beedle the Bard but she thought probably Harry would not know that. She opened it. It was written in runes, totally obscure to her, so she closed it quickly before he noticed but she saw the flash of recognition in his eyes. "Thanks. It's lovely."
"And this should be helpful. No use to me now." He opened up the parchment and Ginny knew before he activated it that it was the Marauder's Map.
"No, Harry!" she said firmly. "I won't take it. You already told me you liked to see me safe on it."
"You still do, don't you?"
"With all my heart," said Harry miserably. "I just thought..."
Ginny saw then what he had tried to give up.
"I'm happy knowing sometimes you are seeing me on it, Harry. That's more important than using it for some escapade isn't it?"
Harry smiled and nodded and folded the map away in his rucksack.
"You just take extra care though - moving around Hogwarts and--" Harry stopped, caught by some thought, then continued, "What about you now? What's it like with Snape as head?"
"Horrendous. We've organised the D.A. again, starting... Well, not a lot we can do yet but we're making protests - graffiti and suchlike. We're practising again - Neville's great! He's teaching duelling to the younger ones! We both are - and Luna too. We have to be careful though..."
"What do they do, Ginny? Are they doing that Blood Quill thing again?"
Ginny remained silent.
"Worse. Punishment spells in detention. Different things."
Ginny looked into the flowing waters but she knew he was searching her face with his eyes.
"Speak to McGonagall - what's she say?"
"There's not much the other teachers can do. Nothing really. She's warned us to be extra careful..."
"Ask... Ask Flitwick."
"No, I mean, he's a good sort. Ask him if there are any charms that might offset what they do... And Madam Pomfrey! Ask her if there are any... What about potions? Who's teaching that now? Is it Slughorn still?"
"Ask him. Ask him if there... Tell the teachers exactly what's happening. Ask if they can provide any spells, charms, potions - anything to... You see it might be possible... I'm thinking of like a sedative or a pain-suppressant or... Depends what they do..."
Ginny gazed with admiration at Harry. "That's a great idea! We might be able to fake it! In detention I mean. Pretend the punishment is worse than it really is. There are no-feeling charms and daydream spells and... there's loads of things we might try!"
She became quite elated as she pondered the suggestion. "Why didn't we think of this before? I wish I could tell them about you Harry - the D.A. would be so thrilled if they knew you were still behind us... Well, anyway..." She sighed.
They parted sadly yet each uplifted by the other's support. Harry was so grateful that Ginny didn't pester him with questions he could not answer nor become all weepy and inconsolable; Ginny for her part relied stoically on her own interpretation of the Prophecy - she felt sure her man was destined to win through. Yet she hoped fervently she might find some way to help him carry that burden.
When Ginny, on her lonely walk back towards Hogsmeade, crouched down beside a scruffy thorn hedge and wept bitterly she did not know Harry had invisibly followed her to make sure she was safe. She did not know he smothered his own sobs when he saw her suffering. She did not see the pride in his eyes when she finally struggled to her feet, dried her eyes and said aloud to herself. "OK, Weasley? Finished have you? Right - let's get on with it then." and marched off, head high, to join Luna and Neville.
As Harry prepared to apparate back to Ron and Hermione he pushed his invisibility cloak deeply into his rucksack and felt something very large and hard at the bottom. It was the photograph envelope and beneath it was a bar of monster chocolate.
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