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Chapter 15 : Chapter 15: A Race Against Time.
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“So what’s the plan?” asked Yaxley as they finally appeared outside the Australian ministry. . “Do we attempt to find the mudblood’s parents, or intercept them on the way?” Gellert stroked his chin thoughtfully.
It was fairly early, but various wizards and witches were already heading towards the building. Rookwood slipped in easily, blending seamlessly into the crowd. Gellert and the others, meanwhile, cast disillusionment charms on themselves and mounted their brooms and kicked off, soaring into the sky.
“How do you plan to find them, Grindelwald?” called Malfoy.
“Magic leaves traces,” replied Grindelwald from the front of the arrowhead formation. “If they’ve cast protective charms over themselves on their journey, I shall know,” he explained. Malfoy seemed satisfied with this, and dropped back slightly into position.
After around half an hour, Gellert sensed something. He dived down to the ground, and stood in a small clearing, his hands raised and his eyes closed. The others stood a small distance away, looking confused. At last, Gellert turned to them.
“They’ve been here. The magic is a few days old, but it’s here. Concealing charms, that sort of thing. From the feel of it, it was cast by someone young but powerful, female I would think,” he said slowly. “Fits the description, if you ask me,” he smiled confidently and remounted his broom.
“How do you know that?” said Rowle, astounded. Gellert smiled at him.
“Experience, genius and know how, friend. Albus was more adept at it than I, but I’m rather good. Trust me,” he said, before kicking off again. The Death Eaters were impressed with Grindelwald’s newly revealed talent-that is, if it was real. He stopped twice more over the next four hours, repeating the process, stating that the magic was getting more and more recent. Finally, they stopped at a small copse of trees, just off the highway.
“They were here,” said Gellert excitedly. “A day ago, maybe less,” he declared. “Look, you can even see where their tent was pitched,” he added, pointing to small holes in the earth. “We’re catching up. Brooms are far faster than cars,” he said cheerfully.
“Grindelwald!” said Yaxley suddenly, clutching his arm. “It’s Rookwood,” A smile spread across Gellert’s face.
“Tell him to come here,” he replied, rubbing his hands together. Yaxley nodded and pressed his own mark with his wand. It burned jet black, and a few moments later, Augustus Rookwood appeared in their midst. He looked rather pleased with himself. “What news, Rookwood?” Gellert asked silkily.
“I tortured the Australian head of magical transportation,” he said with a sadistic smile. “He broke rather quickly, and revealed the location of the mudblood’s parents. She let it slip before they left. They’re in a town on the eastern side of the country, called Murgon,” he explained. Gellert clapped his hands gleefully.
“Excellent!” he said triumphantly. “Rookwood, Yaxley, go to the Grangers house and capture them. Leave them alive, we may need them later,” he said, before turning to the rest of the group as they disapparated.
“Gawain,” said Sturgis, barely looking up from his desk. He was scrawling furiously on a long scroll of parchment on his desk. “I’m having to pull a few strings for this-it’s not easy organising such a long trip on such short notice,” he said, sounding stressed.
“Apologies, Sturgis,” said Gawain, surprisingly actually sounding like he meant it. “But we have little time. When can we leave?” he said patiently.
“Any minute, we’re just waiting for clearance from Twycross, god knows where he’s got to,” Sturgis grumbled. “Oh, and Ares Flint is bringing up the Firebolt you requested,” he added.
“Excellent, thank you Sturgis,” Gawain replied. Sturgis waved his hand airily.
“Anytime, anytime,” he said offhandedly. “Actually, no, not anytime. But you get my point,” he laughed, and Gawain grunted in amusement. Harry barely listened to their conversation-he was incredibly tense. How long would it take Grindelwald and his followers to find Ron and Hermione? And what if they went for Hermione’s parents? The thought was too much to bear.
“Mr Podmore, Flint told me you needed this,” said a small voice from the doorway of the office. A small, strangely transparent looking man with wispy hair stood in the doorway, clutching a Firebolt that was actually taller than him. Harry recognised him as Wilkie Twycross, the wizard who’d taught Harry’s year to apparate in 1997. “Also, clearance has been received from Australia, they can floo over now,” he said. Even his voice was weedy and unsubstantial. Sturgis nodded.
“Thanks Wilkie, good work,” said Sturgis dismissively, taking the broom from him and handing it to Gawain. Twycross nodded and left the office. Sturgis rummaged through his desk before finding the same glowing purple powder that Ron and Hermione had used at the Burrow. “Here we go,” he said. “Be careful-you don’t know what’s out there,” he warned, clapping them both on the shoulder and handing Gawain and Harry a fistful of powder. “Australian ministry for magic, remember,” he said reassuringly. Harry and Gawain nodded confidently, and stepped into the fire place.
“Australian Ministry for magic!” they both yelled clearly. There was a tremendous whoosh, and the office began to shake violently, before it disappeared from view. Harry was suddenly spinning so fast that the purple flames leaping before him were just blurs of colour. His entire body was vibrating so much Harry felt like he might fall to pieces. Fireplaces whizzed past as he span ferociously through the floo network, before finally tumbling out at the other end. He coughed up a mouthful of ash and soot and looked around. Gawain was already standing, brushing ash off himself and looking calm and composed, as ever.
“Not the most pleasant way to travel, is it?” he asked rhetorically, pulling Harry to his feet.
“You could say that,” Harry muttered darkly. “Tergeo,” he said, cleaning the ash of his robes. He felt his face-his glasses were broken. Again. “Reparo,” he added, and they snapped back into place. A woman walked into the room. She was tall, slim and powerful looking. She seemed about late thirties-her pretty face was beginning to show some lines around the eyes. She had very sharp features, and her long, light brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun. She wore square spectacles, and had dark blue eyes. She took in Harry and Gawain’s appearance quickly-it seemed she’d been expecting them.
“You the English blokes?” she said. She had a strong accent, but she sounded very grave. Gawain nodded.
“Gawain Robards, head of the Auror department, and this is Harry Potter, who is…” he paused, searching for how to classify Harry. “A trainee,” he decided upon. He extended his hand, and the woman shook it.
“Millie Finch,” she replied with a small smile. “I’m the deputy head Auror here, my superior sent me to assist you,” she explained.
“We’re tracking someone,” replied Harry quickly. “Would it be possible to speak to the Head of magical transportation?” he asked. She looked suddenly unhappy.
“Unfortunately not,” she said miserably.
“Why?” demanded Harry angrily. Didn’t this woman realise how important this was?
“He’s dead,” she said shortly. “He was murdered in his office, barely an hour ago. We’re conducting a full investigation as we speak. However, I can help you,” she said briskly. “The two you want left for Murgon about three days ago. The best way to get there by car is to take the highway to the south of the desert. If you follow it, you should catch them by nightfall,” she explained. “We gave them a red pickup, it shouldn’t be hard to find,” she added. Gawain nodded.
“Thank you for your help,” he said swiftly. “If there’s anything we can do for your investigation…” he began, but she cut him off.
“The ministry would not permit us to accept the help of outsiders such as you,” she said, although she seemed irritated at the fact. “We shall have to manage alone,” she said.
“As you wish,” replied Gawain, pulling Harry out the door. The Australian ministry, unlike the one in London, was sprawled over one floor. From the temperature, it felt as though it too was underground. Hundreds of witches and wizards were bustling around, although many weren’t wearing robes, most opting for shorts and t-shirts, although some had short sleeved shirts, slacks and ties.
“It must be under the entire city,” said Harry, awestruck.
“Pretty much,” replied Gawain. “The rock here was too difficult to build into when the ministry was first formed, so they spread it out. Personally, I don’t like it,” he said critically, eyeing the wood panelled walls and purple carpeted floors. “Reminds me of my grandmother’s house,” he added, a twinkle of amusement in his eye. Harry laughed.
“How do you know that anyways?” he enquired. Gawain looked at him sideways.
“I came here before the war,” he explained. “I was trying to recruit foreign wizards for the Order, which is why I never met you, but most were only too keen to stay out of Voldemort’s way,”
“So they’re not stupid then?” said Harry, grinning. Gawain gave a short bark of laughter.
“No, you could say that,” he admitted. “This is the exit,” he added, indicating a blue, glowing spiral staircase. He and Harry stood on the bottom step, and the staircase began to rotate, taking them up through the ministry. A few moments later, and they stood in a gloomy looking coffee shop. A sign on the window read ‘Closed down.’
Gawain cast a wary look either side of the door. “Clear,” he muttered, beckoning Harry to follow him. They exited, and found themselves outside, in the sweltering heat. Harry checked his watch, which he found had magically adjusted itself to Australian time.
“8 o-clock. They'll still be looking for them,” he said. Gawain nodded, and they slipped down an alleyway.
“How far have we got to go?” asked Hermione as the crossed the border into Queensland. Ron checked his map.
“About three hundred miles,” he said. “If we carry on, we could be there by early morning,” Hermione shrugged.
“What good would that do us?” she pointed out. “We may as well stop for the night,” she yawned.
“Harry said we should keep moving,” Ron pointed out. “I don’t fancy bloody Grindelwald and his mates catching up with us,” he said nervously.
“It’s fine,” Hermione reassured him. “They won’t be able to get through any of my enchantments, and besides, they won’t have a clue where we are,” she reminded him. Ron hesitated, and then nodded.
“I’ll pull over,” he said, driving down a slipway. “I think we should send Harry a patronus, let him know where we are,” he added.
“Defiantly not!” said Hermione, looking shocked. “Either him or us could be being watched, it’s not safe,” she said, sounding panicked. “We have to be careful,” she said, taking a calming breath.
“How’s he ever going to find us then?” asked Ron grumpily. “Then again, I’m not sure I want him too,” he added, laughing. Hermione rolled her eyes but smiled.
"He won't be looking for us, he'll be after Grindelwald," she explained patiently.
“Why?” asked Ron curiously.
"It's Harry,” she said simply.
“You and your logic,” grumbled Ron. “This looks nice,” he added, pulling in next to a small, grassy bank with a couple of trees growing at strange angles.
“It does-Look! Kangaroos!” Hermione squealed excitedly. Ron looked across the plain, and saw the most bizarre looking animals he’d ever seen outside of Hagrid’s lessons.
“What the hell are they,” he said blankly as they bounded across the horizon as the sun began to sink.
“I could explain, but you won’t understand,” she replied, and Ron laughed.
“You’re probably right. Do the charms,” he said as he pulled the tent from the back of the truck. “Erecto,” he muttered, pointing his wand at the lumpy mass. It assembled quickly into the familiar, cat smelling tent. “How’d we get this back anyway?” he asked suddenly. “I thought we lost it when we got caught by the snatchers.”
“It did,” Hermione replied, pausing her defensive charms. “Your Dad and Charlie went and got it back, it was just where we got captured in late March,” she explained. “I suppose Greyback isn’t fond of cats,” she said, laughing. Ron smiled.
“Do you need a hand?” he asked as she returned to the protective enchantments. She shook her head.
“Almost done, go make yourself comfortable and I’ll be in soon,” she said fondly. Ron nodded and stepped inside the tent, clicking on the lights with the Deluminator. Harrys old Sneakoscope sat silently on the table, much to Ron’s surprise. He hadn’t expected it to have survived the snatchers purge. Certainly, not much else had. He changed out of his shorts into his grey ‘slob trousers’ as Hermione had christened them, and removed his shirt, before stretching out on the sofa. He had to admit, it wasn’t bad, just Hermione and him.
“Finished,” she announced briskly as she strode into the tent, her wand behind her ear in a very Luna-esc manner. Ron managed to reign in his giggles. “Do you want anything to eat?” she asked as she peered into the kitchen cupboard.
“Na, I’m not hungry,” said Ron offhandedly. Hermione turned to him, staring and looking gobsmacked.
“What did you say?” she asked quietly.
“Er, what?” said Ron blankly, confused. “Oh, I’m not hungry,” he repeated. “I’m not!” he insisted as she looked at him sceptically. “It must be the heat, it’s taking away my appetite,” he said grumpily. She laughed.
“Well some of it, you still managed bacon egg and sausage this morning,” she reminded him, and he grinned. “Fancy an early night then?” she said, grinning cheekily. Ron beamed at her.
“What the hell?” mumbled Ron groggily. He groped around in the darkness for his watch and wand. He found them both lying next to the bed, along with his sweat pants and Hermione’s clothes. “Lumos,” he muttered. It was half four in the morning. So what the hell was that bloody noise? He shone his wand light around the tent, until he spotted it-Harry’s Sneakoscope blaring madly on the table.
Panic instantly gripped him. Did that mean they were here already? He pulled on his trousers and his t-shirt and stepped outside the tent. The morning light was beginning to spread across the land, and he could just about make out three figures, standing on the roadside. He raced back inside the tent, shaking Hermione awake.
“No Ron, not again,” she mumbled grumpily, opening her eyes blearily. Suddenly, she noticed Ron’s chalk white face. “What’s wrong?” she said urgently.
“STOP!” roared Grindelwald suddenly. Malfoy and Rowle both overshot him, before circling back to re-join him.
“Grindelwald?” Malfoy drawled, but Grindelwald held up his hand.
“Below us,” he growled. It was around four in the morning, and the sun was just beginning to rise. “It’s very recent, I can sense it up here. If I’m correct, they’re still down there,” he explained. Comprehension suddenly dawned on Malfoy and Rowle’s faces, and they followed Gellert down into a steep dive. They landed next to the empty road, in front of a small, grassy bank with some trees scattered about on it. “They’re here,” Gellert whispered excitedly.
“Can we get to them?” asked Rowle eagerly, drawing his wand and stepping forward. There was a crackle of energy, and Rowle glowed bright blue for barely a second, before being flung back around twenty feet, landing in a crumpled heap in the middle of the road. He got to his feet with some colourful language.
“No, Thorfinn, we can’t, but thank you for making sure,” said Gellert sarcastically.
“We could destroy it like we destroyed the wards surrounding Hogwarts during the battle,” Lucius suggested. Gellert shook his head.
“What do we do?” whispered Hermione frantically, as she and Ron watched the three silhouetted figures crouching just beyond their wards protections.
“I don’t know,” said Ron, fighting to keep his voice calm. “We need to contact Harry,” he added.
“How?” snapped Hermione, before suddenly adopting a dreamy expression, the expression Ron knew to mean that Hermione had had an epiphany.
“What is it?” he said, unable to help himself from sounding a little excited.
“Before we left, he gave me a package. I never opened it…” she said, trailing off as she ran inside. “Accio Harry’s package,” she said, and Ron snorted loudly. “Oh grow up,” she grumbled, returning to his side with the wrapped package clutched in her hands. She opened it, revealing a mirror and a small note in Harry’s scruffy handwriting.
This Sirius’s mirror. I asked Aberforth for it back, and I’ve charmed a new one with Dad’s help. Anytime you need me, just say my name and I’ll answer. Just in case.
“Brilliant!” said Ron triumphantly, taking the mirror. “Harry Potter,” he said clearly. The mirror turned black for a moment, before there was a flash of early morning sky, and a vague outline of a person was visible. “Harry?” Ron asked uncertainly.
“I’m disillusioned,” Harry said quickly. “Gawain and I are in mid-ish Australia, where the hell are you?” he demanded. “And why didn’t you send us a patronus?”
“Not far from Murgon, we’ve stopped for the night. But Harry, we have a problem,” he said, ignoring his second question and speaking fast. “They’ve found us. They’re here,” he said. There was a small pause, as Harry had a quick word with someone next to him, most likely Gawain.
“I need your exact position,” he said, suddenly sounding nervous. “Gawain’s going to apparate us there,” he explained. Hermione quickly cast a charm to show their coordinates, and Ron relayed them to Harry.
“Wait there,” said Harry.
“Do you have a plan?” asked Ron nervously.
“Of course,” replied Harry.
“Will it work?” Ron said, raising an eyebrow.
“Probably not, I’ll improvise,” Harry replied, before disappearing.
“What did he say?” Hermione said. Ron gave her a surprised glance.
“Couldn’t you hear?” he asked. She shook her head.
“I guess it’s part of the charm,” she replied. “So what’d he say?” she repeated.
“He’s on his way, and he has a plan,” Ron explained. “But he says he’ll end up improvising,” Hermione snorted.
Harry and Gawain apparated silently behind the small grassy bank, just out of sight of the three wizards and Ron and Hermione, mere seconds after Harry had finished talking to Ron using the mirror. Gawain held up a finger to his lips and shushed Harry silently, before dismounting his broom and putting it into his rucksack. Harry did the same and tucked it safely into his moleskin pouch. Still under the cover of their disillusionment charms, they crept to the stop of the grassy bank. There were three figures crouched beside the road opposite them. Gawain pointed to the on one the right.
“He’s mine,” he breathed, barely loud enough for Harry to hear. “Pick one of the other ones, and stun him. No mistakes,” he whispered. Harry nodded, and shifted, pulling out his wand.
“Stupefy,” Harry muttered, just as Gawain cast the spell nonverbally. The two beams shot through the air, before suddenly disappearing with a loud crack and a flash of blue light. The three wizards leapt up in surprise.
“The wards!” cursed Gawain, panic etched onto his face.
“Lumos Maxima!” one of the wizards yelled. An enormous ball of glowing light floated into the air, illuminating the area with its blinding glow. “Finite!” came the same voice, and Harry felt a sharp pain, before realising his disillusionment charm had been removed. “IT’S POTTER!” yelled the voice, which Harry suddenly recognised. “He is mine!” Grindelwald roared.
“MOVE!” yelled Gawain, showing Harry aside, knocking him out of the way of a killing curse. “STUPEFY!” he yelled, firing it beyond the wards protecting Ron and Hermione. Lucius Malfoy deflected it with a quick parry, shooting back his own killing curse, forcing Robards to dive aside.
“Expelliarmus!” Harry yelled, aiming for the enormous figure of Thorfinn Rowle, stopping him from killing Gawain. He blocked the disarming charm, and turned to face Harry, his face full of fury. He raised his wand-
“No!” snarled Grindelwald. “He is mine!” he yelled, throwing another killing curse into the trees, which Harry had to throw himself to the floor to avoid. “STAY STILL POTTER!” he roared angrily. “Fight!” he demanded as Harry scrambled to his feet.
“Impedimenta!” Harry yelled, and the jinx hit Rowle in the chest, sending him flying across the road for the second time that day. “STUPEFY!” he yelled, throwing himself aside once again to avoid another curse from Grindelwald. Meanwhile, Gawain was duelling both Malfoy and Rowle at the same time, his face fixed in concentration as he whirled, ducked and dodged, sending spells at the pair of them with frightening accuracy, but he couldn’t finish either of them, the pair of them just matching his power. Once again, Harry faced Grindelwald alone.
“You will not get away this time, Potter!” Grindelwald proclaimed triumphantly. “It shall be mine, and you won’t be there to save the world again!”
“Oh I will be,” replied Harry quietly. “Flipendo!” he yelled, and the blue ball of light rocketed across the distance between the two of them, shattering Grindelwald’s shield charm and throwing him to the ground. Harry was about to stun him before he disappeared. He heard a crack from behind him, and whirled around, only to see the bright green light flying towards him. And he knew then that it was all over. He closed his eyes, only to be thrown backwards by a small explosion, landing flat on his back, utterly winded, his hands scorched badly from protecting his face.
“Stupefy!” yelled Hermione, whirling her wand and attacking Grindelwald. Apparently, it was her spell that had saved Harry’s life. Ron was charging over towards Malfoy, a look of cold fury and pure hatred etched onto his face. Hermione was now duelling Grindelwald, looking hard pressed to avoid his attacks. Harry pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the stinging pains from all over his body.
“Protego!” he yelled, shielding Hermione from Grindelwald’s attack. It deflected the powerful purple fire curse away from her, and she shot a stunner at him before he could attack again. With a simple flick of his wand, Gellert blocked the stunner, then he flourished his wand.
A blue slash of light streaked across and hit Harry in the chest before he could react. He sat up groggily, only to see Hermione be disarmed by Gellert, who raised his wand once more, preparing to deliver the killing blow. “NO!” Harry screamed, and his wand dragged his hand up, as the strange sensation he’d felt in Godric’s Hollow suddenly tore through him again. But this was different, he felt exhausted as it seemed to suck all his energy away.
Golden flames shot from the Phoenix wand, as they had in the Battle of the Seven Potters, and Grindelwald was thrown from his feet once more, astonishment in his eyes. There was a crack, and a flash of light, and he disappeared, obviously having disapparated. Rowle and Malfoy, now outmatched, both did likewise.
“Harry!” Hermione screamed. His vision was fading, Hermione’s voice was distant, even though he could see her running towards him. Ron and Gawain were nowhere to be seen…lost in the blackness. He fell to his knees, before feeling Hermione grip his shoulders and prop him up. “Harry!” she said urgently, her voice still so distant.
Ginny was hungry. Her mother had gone out to Diagon Alley in search of a new hat, and as a result Ginny had the house to herself. She wandered into the kitchen. James Potter was snoozing gently in his frame, his carelessly handsome face resting on his wife’s shoulder, who was wide awake.
“Hello Ginny,” she said brightly. “Everyone else out?”
“Yeah,” replied Ginny as she searched for something to eat. “The boys are at work, and Mum’s gone shopping,” she explained from in one of the cupboards.
“I thought so. That’s a bloody brilliant clock you’ve got there,” Lily said, indicating the old grandfather clock with eight hands on, each referring to one of the Weasleys. “Tell me about Harry,” she said suddenly. Ginny looked at her quizzically.
“What do you mean?” she asked, confused.
“I barely know him,” Lily sighed. “I want to know what he’s like.” Ginny looked at the woman in the portrait. She looked thoroughly miserable, while James was still snoring gently on her shoulder. Ginny sat down at the table, abandoning her search for food.
“Harry is…brilliant,” she said, after a deep breath. “He’s flawed, yes. I mean, he has a hell of a temper sometimes, and he might lash out if anyone tries to comfort him when he’s like that, but then nobody’s perfect,” she said with a small smile.
“He gets that from his father,” said Lily, smiling. “Only person who James would talk to when he was down was Sirius.”
“For Harry, it seems to be Hermione,” said Ginny, unable to keep the tiny note of jealousy out of her voice. Lily didn’t miss a trick.
“Remember Ginny, I was married to a Potter. Whenever James looked at me, from fourth year until the day we died, he always looked at mine in the same, soppy adoring way. I’d probably not have noticed had Remus not pointed it out,” she said, smiling. “Harry has the same look when he looks at you, he adores you. Don’t worry about him and Hermione, they’re more brother and sister.”
“You remind me of Hermione,” said Ginny grudgingly. “You both know everything,” she sighed. “I know he loves me, but I’m always worried someone will take him away, you know?” she said sadly.
“Harry wouldn’t let it happen. Not if he’s anything like his father,” Lily replied, ruffling her sleeping husband’s hair affectionately. “It sounds as though he has his father’s hero complex,” she added, grinning. Ginny laughed.
“You could say that. Half this family would be dead without him for one thing,” Ginny said. “Including me,” she added thoughtfully.
“I don’t know if you know, but James even saved Severus’s life. And James hated Snape. He was as bad, if not worse, than Harry,” she said. “Bloody Potter men,” she added, laughing. Ginny joined her, and the two girls giggled for quite a while.
“So when did you learn James was an animagus?” Ginny queried. To her surprise, Lily snorted in laughter.
“It’s a funny story, actually,” she laughed. “It was his stag night, ironically,” she explained, and Ginny giggled.
“Appropriate,” she said, and Lily grinned and nodded.
“Naturally. Anyways, I was hungover horrendously from my hen night, which was the day before, so you can imagine I was far from pleased when there was a tapping at my door at five in the morning. So I went downstairs, with my wand out, and I opened the door to find a huge, wobbling stag standing there,” she chuckled. “I screamed my head off, and it didn’t run away, it just looked at me. Which was when I noticed it had James’s eyes, and markings that looked suspiciously like his glasses,” she said, again fondly ruffling James’s hair. He grunted and shifted slightly, but remained fast asleep. “I’d have still cursed him, if he hadn’t got a bunch of roses tied into his antlers,” she said affectionately. “All the same, I was bloody annoyed he’d woken me. It was probably Sirius’s idea,” she added thoughtfully.
“Did you never ask?” Ginny said, smiling. Lily laughed again.
“I did, the next day. James didn’t remember how he’d even got to my house,” she explained, and Ginny burst into laughter again. However, her laughter was interrupted by a flash of silver light. Lily gave a shriek of fright, causing James to yelp and topple over, out of sight. Ginny leapt up and drew her wand, before seeing the silver ball of light reform into an otter.
“Harry’s hurt,” came Hermione’s voice. “He’ll live, but he’s going to be in hospital for a while. Tell the family,” it said, before fading. Ginny sank into the chair, her knee’s buckling.
“Ginny?” said Lily gently.
“Harry…” she whispered.
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