It was with great reluctance that Ginny had pulled herself out of bed the following morning. Duty had called as the wake alarm sounded and before she had known it, she'd found herself, once again, in a soothing shower. She had never before imagined that she would work for an Apothecary. She actually hadn't liked potions classes all that well when she'd attended Hogwarts but she'd blamed that on Snape and his prideful disdain for all things Gryffindor and Weasley.
She, much like her twin brothers, had had a knack for concocting new devices and coming up with inventive products. But unlike them, she'd focused her brilliant talents, not on jokes or explosives, but on medications for St. Mungo's. Her performance in potions class had always been rather mediocre, but to her surprise, she'd received an Outstanding on her O.W.L.s and earned a potions N.E.W.T. as well. In so doing, she'd opened several doors for future employment. She'd received several offers the summer after graduation with various businesses needing a potion-competent employee, but she'd chosen to work at St. Mungo's for the many opportunities to do good works. She'd liked the idea that her unique talent with plants, coupled with her patience and knowledge in potions, had helped others, particularly those who had had little hope of recovery.
During the final battle, when so many had lain dying with no hope or comfort, she'd gone to her cauldron, as though in a daze, picked the necessary ingredients (not really knowing how she knew what to choose–she'd just known), stewed and toiled for hours, and had come up with a draught to ease the pain caused by Voldemort and his minions. In those few horrible weeks after the battle, she had concocted six new remedies for pain, dizziness, loss of blood, head wounds, and most importantly, two remedies for nerve damage. All this had been done from her head and her heart; hours of painstaking precision and exactness had been spent over several different fires, wanting only to end the suffering of so many nameless faces she'd seen lining the halls of the hospital.
But not all had been nameless.
She remembered well the way her heart ached as she entered the bloody mass of bodies, broken and without hope; waiting for help, waiting to die. They lined the halls of the hospital, staining the walls with their blood, each a horrible testament to what hatred produced.
She was hit with an overwhelming sense of pain and disarray, as if she herself were lying among the physically wounded. It hurt to look at them all: hundreds, stacked, leaning, hurting.
It still hurts, after all this time.
But then her eyes had fallen upon a familiar blaze of red hair and for the first time in her life, she understood what real pain was. Percy. The small fire of hysteria that was in her belly had suddenly erupted, the focus of her pain shifting to a razor sharp sting. The countless wounded around her dissolved and all she knew was a potent hurt, an overwhelming pain at seeing her brother broken. He was bruised, caked with congealed blood; his lifeless eyes stared blankly past her and she was completely consumed with a terror she had never before known.
He had defiantly chosen to stay estranged from their family regardless of that bumbling fool Fudge and the crumbling Ministry, and sadly, they had never reconciled their differences. He had died without saying goodbye and without him knowing just how much she loved him.
It had only been a month since Ginny had run into him on the street and she'd called him such horrible things. He scarcely looked at her, walking briskly down the footpath, but she followed. How was she to know that at that time he was working as a double agent—even her family couldn't know his true intentions. She'd called him a traitor, a deserter, and a coward at the top of her lungs. That wasn't the worst of it though. She'd told him that she would never forgive him. Never. And now look….
Crying, trying her best to cradle his broken body, Ginny felt for the first time during those terrible, fear-filled months, utterly defeated. How could they survive so much unadulterated and senseless hate?
It was nothing less than a slaughter and she was powerless to stop it.
Finally the tears had faded and, still holding Percy's limp form, she was broken from her stupor by a familiar voice. It was McGonagall. She had brought in a load of freshly wounded that needed immediate care and was trying to gently pry Ginny's fingers off her brother's useless body.
"Miss Weasley...." She didn't respond. "Miss Weasley! This is most unfortunate but we need you desperately. There are more wounded arriving shortly…."
So what if more people died? What could she do? What did she care? Percy was dead.
"Miss Weasley! It's your duty!" McGonagall said, trying, once again, to peel away the fingers tightly wrapped around Percy's wrist.
"Ginny," McGonagall tried in soothing tones, right into her ear. "Ginny, there's nothing you can do for him...."
Still, Ginny was unmoved for she felt so completely helpless and small, was so consumed with regret, that she scarcely registered what she was hearing.
"We need you, Ginny…"
How could she have ever thought her brother, perfect, prefect Percy, would ever doubt Dumbledore?
"He's not the only one…" McGonagall's voice broke through the numbing stupor in her brain.
Percy, the one who helped her so much during her first year, the brother that adored Dumbledore, who called him a genius, the best wizard in the world. She would never doubt anyone she loved again.
"Ginny, please, it's Bill…"
Yes, Bill too. She'd die before she hurt one of her family members like that again. She couldn't begin to imagine what pain Percy had gone through to uphold his secret.
"Did you hear me, Ginny? Bill—he's been badly hurt…"
The dizzying fog in her brain suddenly stilled at those words. What had she said? Something about Bill?
She pulled her eyes away from Percy with a great effort and met McGonagall's saddened countenance.
"Ginny, we're counting on you. Bill—he's been badly hurt with the Cruciatus cruse. We need some pain relieving draughts made as we're nearly out....that's it, let go—let go, now—that's it—."
It had been then, in the most desperate hours of the Last Battle, that she'd come through and aided so many of the less fortunate. She had received a Merlin First Class for her noble work and for the historical ramifications of her inventions. But she hadn't wanted it; it was in some unmarked box in the recesses of a closet along with Harry's various awards. They were meaningless in their eyes for nothing could begin to apologize or repair what they had lost.
She sighed softly at the sad memories as she toweled her hair dry. Not wanting to start the day on such a melancholy note, she forced those thoughts away and dwelled on the man just outside the bathroom door. He didn't have to work today as he just arrived home from a rather draining experience and was on a short leave.
Opening the door quietly and entering the darkened room, she saw her husband sleeping peacefully, his tousled hair even messier from sleep and ...celebration.
She had to stop to gaze at him lovingly. It amazed her sometimes just how boyish he could appear and how playful he could be at times. Even now, unconscious, he more resembled a sleeping child than the man he was. His limbs were sprawled in every direction, one bare leg poking out from the rumpled sheets. Every so often, he would change direction and flop on his other side, taking the remaining bedclothes with him.
She smiled and chuckled to herself as she made her way toward him. She had a sudden urge to run a hand through his hair and kiss him to wake him up properly.
Kneeling down at the side of the bed, so her head was level with his, she brought her finger up to gently touch his nose. She withdrew it immediately and was rewarded with a small grumble and a twitch of his nose. Her smile grew broader as she leaned in to flutter small kisses on his face, ending finally with his mouth. A new noise erupted from him this time, altogether different from a grumble, but still coming from somewhere deep within his throat.
"Good morning," she whispered before claiming his lips once more.
"Mmmm," was his only reply as he deepened their kiss, but then his eyes snapped open when she pulled away.
"I've got to go to work but I should be home around four."
"Don't go. Call in sick."
She let out a snort of laughter.
"I need you here with me," he said, putting words to action as he pulled her to him, kissing her intently once more.
She started to kiss him back with equal need, caught in his trap, but stopped abruptly and pulled away from him.
She smiled crookedly at him. "Again? I was ‘sick' two weeks ago, remember?"
He smiled, pausing for a moment as his eyes became unfocused as though he were remembering. "Oh yeah," he said, his smile growing brighter. "But it wasn't lying—you did spend the whole day in bed." His eyes focused on her, bright with happiness.
She laughed fully and stood to leave. "I'll be home around four, alright?"
He nodded sadly and waved her away. "Leave then," he said, a small smile betraying his supposed misery. "Leave me in my time of need."
"You, Mr. Potter, are always in need."
"Indeed," he said, propping himself up on one elbow and resting his head in his hand, his eyes twinkling with merriment.
She shook her head in bemusement while searching her robe pocket for her wand.
"Ginny, please be careful," he said, grabbing her hand. "I don't know if anything will happen, maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I feel like something just terrible is in the works. Please, promise me you'll be cautious.
"Constant vigilance and all that?" she asked, trying to lighten the suddenly darkened mood.
He nodded, his burning green eyes tunneling into her own. "Promise me."
"Of course." she said as she bent to kiss him goodbye one last time.
~ * ~
Ginny enjoyed her work, she really did, but she found herself completely drained of all energy as she put the last few vials away and cleaned her mess. It was certainly demanding and stressful at times, but the good points always outweighed the bad, for which she was grateful.
Cindy, her coworker and supervisor (as she'd been there the longest), was fitfully rummaging through a stack of parchment on her desk.
"What're you looking for?" Ginny asked absentmindedly.
"I…nothing." Cindy said dismissively, once again looking down at her desk.
Ginny shrugged and continued to replace the vials to their respective places. She'd accomplished a lot today: three full batches of Dreamless Sleep Potion, one cauldron of Anti-Venom, and two Pepperup Potions. Now all she needed to do was work a bit on her research project. Making her way to the enchanted filing cabinet, she saw Cindy hang her head in her hands then let it fall on the tabletop with a dull thud.
"Cindy?" she asked with concern, quickly reaching her side and gently touching her shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"Oh Ginny, it's just horrible. You'll be so angry." she said, her voice muffled against the cherry wood desk.
Ginny let out a noise of confusion, completely baffled at Cindy's behavior.
"What? Why would I ever be angry with you?"
"The Draught formula…its…gone missing." she said as she finally lifted her head and met Ginny's eyes.
"What do you mean? How could it be gone?" Ginny asked, warning laced in her tone.
For a year now, they had been developing a potion involving the restoration of memories. It was difficult, high priority, as well as top secret, and involved a great deal of their time and energy. Ginny herself had lost many nights sleep over the nearly-completed and complicated recipe and had spent even more time, after hours, trying to work out the kinks. They had thought a few times that they had succeeded and had been elated to have finally reached their goal, but it had always turned out that it wasn't quite right, that something was missing. So, they would start again, painstakingly and meticulously redesigning their formula through countless hours of research and study.
Last month, though, they had reached a breakthrough and had some success with a few patients. Ginny felt that they had, indeed, created something quite exciting as well as useful. They were, however, under strict command of the Ministry, not to disclose any information pertaining to their work. If it fell into the wrong hands it could cause considerable damage to their regulation of certain lawbreakers.
Once the Dementors had fled from Azkaban to Voldemort's side, just as Dumbledore had predicted, the Ministry had been left with the difficult problem of how to contain their prisoners. Ron had been the one to mention the remedy to his father, who in turn, had informed Dumbledore. Dumbledore had been acting as a temporary interim in place of Fudge, who had been murdered fairly early in the war, presumably on Voldemort's command, to cause even more discord and interruption within the already failing Ministry.
Without Dementors to guard and very little funds during wartime, depriving the convicts of their memories had been a quick solution. Much like Gilderoy Lockheart, they had become completely confused and nonviolent, forgetting their need to fight or their beliefs involving the war, much less of anything else. Thus, Azkaban had been turned into a mental hospital rather than a prison, and had solved the Ministry's problems temporarily. After the war and after Ginny's talents became known, she had been asked to develop a potion to restore the captured Death Eaters' lost memory to put them through a proper trial. The first year and a half had been dedicated to research alone and without Cindy's help, she would have gone mad. As it were, they had come very far and had attempted several draughts, each getting better results.
Cindy had well understood why this information couldn't be leaked and they had taken every precaution before they left each afternoon to place protective spells over their findings. So when Cindy proclaimed that it'd gone missing, Ginny's heart all but stopped beating.
"What exactly is missing?" she tried in a calm voice.
"The formula! The final procedures!" Cindy said, her voice panicked.
Although Cindy was Ginny's supervisor, she was very much like a child: always misplacing items and knocking things over. It was a miracle she hadn't started herself of fire yet. Pinching the bridge of her nose and closing her eyes, Ginny tried to be levelheaded about this.
"Oh, Ginny..." she said, her large, glassy eyes pleading for forgiveness. "Ginny, I'm so sorry."
"Sorry?" Ginny said a bit more forcefully than she intended. She walked briskly over to Cindy's desk, searching for the parchment herself, but didn't see it. "Did you take it out of the lab? Anywhere at all?"
Cindy nodded ever so slightly, still gazing intently at Ginny with scared, wide eyes. "I…I took it home two days ago to work out the proportion of Pimpernel to Saw Grass…but I swear I brought it straight back, Ginny. I swear!"
Ginny closed her eyes once again and swallowed her annoyance and anger. It would do no good to get angry, what was done was done.
"Are you certain you brought it back? Is there any chance it's still there?" Ginny had no doubt in her mind that it was most likely sitting on Cindy's coffee table being used as a coaster, or other such thing, and would be returned tomorrow with blotchy spots of tea all over it.
Cindy stood and started to pace, wringing her hands violently. "I suppose. Yes, it must be." she said with a determined nod. "Yes, that's where it is, I'm sure. I suppose I've stuck my foot in it this time, eh?" she laughed nervously. "I'm really sorry! I just wanted to work a bit more on it, that's all—and I planned on bringing it straight back. Then yesterday we didn't work on it at all and, and so I must have missed it again. Oh, I feel such a fool!"
Ginny sighed in pity for her. "I'm sure it's fine, Cindy. Just bring it tomorrow, alright?" There really was nothing she could do and she certainly didn't want to spoil her evening so she consigned to work on something else until it was time to leave.
~ * ~
The sound of crunchy snow filled her ears as she tramped through the town square. Ginny frowned at the cold wind that bit at her uncovered face and hands. Not that it would do much good if they were covered – even though her winter cloak was thick and heavy, the chill still cut through her, making her shiver. She always disliked how the sun set so early in the winter as she was already straining her eyes to read the little shop signs through the dark. She had a couple stops to make on her way home: one to pick up a book she'd ordered, and the next to pick up some dinner for later.
She walked the familiar road to her favorite bookshop in haste to get out of the cold. Passing a handful of people she knew, she nodded her "hellos" but continued on her way.
Finally reaching the small shop, she felt her mouth curve into a smile. She loved this bookstore. It was cozy and homey and smelled slightly of mildew. Although she now had money that she could spend on new ones, she still preferred to buy books secondhand. She loved the smell of old books and spent all of her time in the used sections rather than the ones containing the latest editions.
A bell tinkled its merry tune as she opened and shut the heavy oak door, letting her eyes become accustomed to the dazzling light inside.
"Ah, Mrs. Potter! How lovely to see you again!" chimed an elderly man dusting the shelves.
"Hello, Mr. Foulkes," Ginny said happily as she rummaged for her handkerchief to wipe at her runny nose.
"I've got your order for you behind the counter."
"Take your time, I'm in no hurry."
He nodded and continued his work as she found the section she was looking for.
She was slightly surprised to see so many books on pregnancy and motherhood in this small business, but was nevertheless very pleased. Flipping through various books, she saw snippets of phrases that made her giddy with excitement: "determining the sex of the baby," "choosing names," and "ready for delivery."
She pursed her lips in thought, trying to decide which she should purchase. One had a lot of colorful photographs of the baby's stages, while the other had a lot of information on what to expect after it was born. Wetting her lips, she made her decision and brought both to the front of the store.
"Ready?" the old man asked.
Ginny nodded, still smiling brightly at what lay ahead of her. She and Harry were going to be parents and she couldn't think of anything she wanted more.
Mr. Foulkes pulled her ordered book, Properties of Magical Fungi, from an unseen shelf under the counter. It was superbly wrapped in heavy brown parchment with the store stamp, Reader's Rapture, in one corner, finished with green twine, as was his custom.
"These too, please." she said happily.
He took the books from her and looking up from their titles, gave her a knowing smile. "Are there congratulations in order?" he asked, his heavy white brows raised.
Just as last night, she could not contain her smile and she nodded.
He chuckled softly as he wrapped the book carefully. "I'm happy for you both. There's nothing more beautiful than a new mother—why, I don't' know why I didn't notice before with the way you're glowing."
Ginny could only smile broader still as he handed her her purchases.
"There you are m'dear. Have a pleasant evening and send my regards to Mr. Potter."
"Thank you." she said sincerely as she turned to leave, her books nestled in the crook of her arm.
Outside, the bitter wind continued to swirl, but she didn't feel as cold as before. She was so happy, so excited at telling her family and learning what lay ahead of her that she didn't notice the cold's harsh chill, the bite of the wind against her cheeks, nor the dark figure sneaking from the shadowy eve to her side.
She'd barely opened her mouth in surprise when a gloved hand covered it and she was unceremoniously pulled into the nearby dark ally, her books falling onto the icy pavement.
She struggled and pushed against her attacker but could not get away. Nor could she scream, her attacker's hand tasting of bitter salt against her lips. She thrashed with all her might but her captor merely chuckled wickedly, making the hairs on the back of her neck and arms prickle to life. Her wide, terrified eyes scanned the empty street through the darkness of the narrow lane, desperate for help. It seemed as though a line was painted in the snow where the dark and savage alley floor met the sparkling snow at its mouth, lighted by winking lanterns and warm shops. She could hear the faint echo of a door tinkling somewhere around the corner and her effort to get away doubled. If she could only attract some attention….
She felt him clamp something like a bracelet onto her wrist and before she knew it, she felt the familiar tug of a Portkey just behind her navel, the street long gone.
~ * ~
Cindy struggled, barely managing to open her door with the two bags of groceries in her arms. Although her house was completely dark, she knew the way to her kitchen like the back of her hand, and steadily made her way to the wooden table to deposit her goods. She immediately started a roaring fire in the grate as she could feel an icy chill begin to overtake her, and then lit the candles with a wave of her wand.
When the light flooded the dark recesses of the room, her mouth dropped in surprise. The entire room was in shambles and it was a miracle that she hadn't tripped over the obstacles that had lined her path into the kitchen. Chairs had been overturned, papers littered the room from the emptied drawers, and all the knickknacks on her mantle lay shattered on the floor.
"What on earth..." she said, confused. Suddenly she was hit over the head and she knew no more.
~ * ~
Harry was in a hurry to get home. Although he'd thoroughly enjoyed his romp on his Firebolt, the winter-chilled air was almost too much for him. Even with a warming charm his fingers felt frozen and seemed permanently stuck to the handle of his broom. It had been fun, though, falling from great heights at break neck speed. But as much fun as it was, it had gotten increasingly darker by the minute and before he'd known it, he couldn't see the ground. Deciding that it was in his best interest to quit, he landed and was now making his way steadily home from the park down the street.
Ginny would have had kittens if she'd seen the stunts he was pulling – things he hadn't done in years. It was good for him, he thought, as it relieved his stress and anxiety and even Mrs. Weasley couldn't find a fault in that. Checking his watch, he was surprised to see how late it was – nearly six – and Ginny had gotten home around four. He'd completely lost track of time. Realizing she was probably pacing the kitchen in worry, waiting for him, he cut his stroll short, hastily pulled his wand from his pocket, and Apparated home.
Prepared to offer his sincere apologies for making her worry, he was completely surprised at what met him. It was dark and cold in the house, no sign that she'd even been home.
Strange, Harry thought as he lit the candles and started a fire. But strange or no, he couldn't help but feel relieved he had beat Ginny home. It was far past four and she was still out. Probably shopping, he decided as he put on some tea.
Making his way upstairs to change into dry clothes, he decided that he'd take Ginny out tonight to celebrate their new parenthood. He'd been inattentive all day, so distracted by thoughts of becoming a father, that he couldn't help the glazed look he was accused of having.
Earlier today when he'd gone to the Ministry for a few books and files, a very pregnant witch had waddled onto the lift and he'd found himself surreptitiously glancing her way every few moments. Edwin Morris, a fellow Auror, had been on the lift as well and was speaking very seriously about recent Dark activities but Harry could not make himself pay attention. He really had tried to listen, but he couldn't help but be fascinated by the woman to his left. He imagined that Ginny would soon look like her: a round, protruding belly poking up through billowing robes, the heavy material much longer in the back than the front. He found the sight oddly attractive.
Morris sent him a few strange looks, but didn't press the subject, for which Harry was grateful. Needless to say, by the time he'd left the Ministry, both Shacklebolt and Tonks had asked him if he was all right and if he needed any extra time off.
He couldn't wait until Ginny got home so they could tell the family together. Molly, above anyone else, would be very pleased as she'd been the one harping them about starting a family for over a year now.
Harry found his way into the kitchen again and poured himself some tea, glancing at his watch. It was half passed six now, and a shadow of worry began darkening his mind. He knew Ginny could take care of herself, she always had; and the fact that she'd promised to be careful gave him some comfort, but all the same, he'd feel much better if she were home.
Determined not to keep glancing at his watch, he made his way into the small library just off of the front entryway, tea in hand. That room alone had been the house's selling point for Ginny. She'd loved the large picture window, the dark walnut floors, and the stately fireplace; but above all, she'd cherished the little window seat that overlooked the front garden. He'd often come home to find her cuddled, fast asleep, in the window seat, a book nestled somewhere between her chest and her knees.
A small smile tugged at his lips as he passed her usual spot. There were books stacked neatly on the floor next to the padded bench, as well as a few lying open on the seat itself. Walking over, he picked up an open book, and glanced at the title. Poetry. Merlin, how he hated it; he didn't know how she could stand to read about fairies and rainbows and frolicking imps. In reality, he didn't think Ginny would like to read about those things either, but ever since primary school, he hadn't been able to shake his initial impression of verse. To him, all poetry consisted of cutesy scenes and agonizing elusiveness.
He returned the book to where he'd found it and, with a flick of his wand, brightened the candles that were placed around the room. He set his steaming mug of tea down on the desk that was located in the corner, and sifted through a stack of bills and letters until he found what he was looking for: his latest subscription to Quidditch! magazine. Apparently there was a new Comet prototype that promised to be even better than any of the Firebolt series. Ron swore by Comets, saying they were far more durable than the Firebolts because their handles were made of Spanish oak, instead of ash, which was softer. "After the diamond-hard finish wears off, you've got nothing better than a Cleansweep with too much acceleration," he would say, "and I'd hate to be going 150 miles an hour on something as flimsy as that."
Of course Harry knew where Ron's affinity to Comets stemmed from. The fact that his first broom had been a Comet and that he'd won his first ever Quidditch Cup on one, had everything to do with his stance, but all the same, it was a topic they'd beaten to death but refused to let die.
Harry thumbed through the magazine until he found what he was looking for and leaned keenly over the high-gloss centerfold of the new Cleansweep Three-Eighty. It really was a beautiful broomstick, and he'd have to work extra hard to find something he disliked about it to argue over with Ron.
As though his best friend had been reading his thoughts, the fire's dull flame sprang to life, and Ron's head appeared in the middle, a green glow befalling his features.
"Harry?" Ron called, looking around until his eyes rested on him. "Mate, did you see the new Comet?"
"I'm looking at it right now, though I haven't read the article yet."
"Its state of the art, Spanish oak, streamlined, and goes from zero to 160 in eight seconds," he breathed, his eyes alight with excitement. "Not even you can find fault with that."
"Hmm. I don't know," Harry said, moving down to sit in front of the fire, Ron's eyes following him. "My Firebolt from way back from third year had all that and more."
"No way! Yours only had an acceleration of 150 in ten seconds, this one far surpasses the Firebolt, mate."
"Yeah, but that was ten years ago, Ron. You'd think Cleansweep would have caught up long ago. I mean, they're just now getting a clue and correcting that slipstream problem."
"There is no slipstream problem."
"Not anymore there isn't…after they recalled all those from two years ago, at least."
"Oh don't start that again, Harry. Firebolt's had a lot worse problems in the past than slipstream. Hold on…." Ron pulled his head from the fire briefly and Harry could hear a mumbled conversation.
"Right," Ron said as he face reappeared. "Hermione wants to invite you and Ginny over for dinner tonight. You in?"
Harry shook his head a bit apologetically and gazed at his friend's fallen expression. "Ginny's not home yet and we sort of have plans already."
"Ginny's not home? How late does she work?"
"She's not working late, at least I don't think so," Harry said slowly, as if he were just remembering he was worried about her. "She was supposed to be off at four."
"She's probably just working late or out visiting a friend." Ron suggested.
"Yeah," Harry said, distracted and looking at his watch. "I've got to go. Tell Hermione hello for me."
Harry's worry grew the more he thought about the situation. She'd said that she would be home at four, and if she'd had plans for after work, wouldn't she have told him? If she had to work late, he was sure she'd have let him know. She always had in the past, at least. Fighting back his uneasiness, he decided to Floo Cindy, her coworker, but her fire was closed. He proceeded to call the rest of her family, fear creeping in and taking hold of his insides with each negative response, the hour growing later and later. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley weren't home yet so he made a mental note to check back, but he was now terribly worried.
He wasn't completely panicking because he knew that sometimes Ginny would have to stay late at work or that perhaps she had to run some errands, but the sickening pang of concern crept into his heart no matter how he tried to ease his fears.
He couldn't Floo her office directly as she simply didn't have a fire. With all the many different potion ingredients lining the walls they had to be careful about Floo-flame and other such things that could cause deadly chemical reactions. He would try the receptionist but he loathed speaking to the rude, self-absorbed woman who inhabited the desk there. Every time he called on his wife, she would act completely put out that he had interrupted her long winded fire discussions, and always got his messages to her wrong. Besides, she had probably gone home by now.
If he wanted to find her, he'd have to go there himself, he resolved as he pulled his cloak from the hook by the door.
The coldness of the November night caused him to shiver uncontrollably as he made his way down the nearly empty sidewalks. Apparently, people were too smart to be traveling in such horrid weather, he told himself as he passed the many shops that lit his path. He finally reached the visitors entrance to St. Mungo's, a sole purpose in mind, and made his way through the twisting hallways. He was soon standing in front of the very desk of the woman he hated, all hopes of her being gone for the day completely dashed. She smacked her gum loudly and surveyed him unpleasantly.
"Uh, we're closed, Mr. Potter," she said in discourteous tones, raising a heavily penciled eyebrow his way.
He smiled none-too-brightly, clenching clenching his teeth with the effort it took not to knock that smacking jaw loose off its hinges.
"I'm here to see my wife. Is she available?"
She shook her head and looked at him as though he were stupid. "She was off at four." she said, smacking her gum once more.
"Yes, I'm aware of that." Harry was finding it increasingly difficult to restrain himself, and he noted with slight satisfaction, that his clipped tones were having some effect on her. "But since I'm here, she's obviously not at home. Now, will you please check to see if she's here, or shall I?"
"No need to get snippy with me, Mr. Potter." she said as she rested her hands on her hips in apparent indignation. "I saw her leave myself a bit after four."
"What about Cindy? Has she left yet?" he asked, his brow furrowed.
"Not that it's any business of yours, but Cindy left shortly after Mrs. Potter. And now it's my turn, so if you'll excuse me...."
Harry could hear her huff her way out of the hall, muttering about rude people, but he wasn't really listening. He was concerned about Ginny. He checked his watch, and seeing that it was after seven, the panic rose within him once more. He glanced around him and finding himself alone, made his way to Ginny and Cindy's office.
It was dark inside and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was very organized and clean but the smell of lingering potions burned in his nostrils. He blew out an exasperated sigh and left, shutting the door behind him. Everything seemed to be in order but he couldn't displace the feeling that something was amiss. But he made up his mind that she was probably at home now, after running an errand or two, wondering where he was. Why didn't he leave a note?
He made his way hurriedly out of the office and headed for home. Many of the shops were already closed for business and he checked his watch quickly to see how much time had gone by. He had to strain his eyes to read his watch as his path was dark due to the recently closed shops. It was a quarter after eight. Harry quickened his pace, sure that, by now, Ginny would be home.
But she was not there and there had been no sign that she had been.
~ * ~
The Weasleys, along with every other person Harry knew, had been contacted and were searching for her. He was beside himself with worry; terrible thoughts of what could have happened were running though his mind. Cindy had been one of the first people he tried to contact but her Floo was closed and there was no answer at her door.
The M.L.E.S. had been contacted sometime around ten, but since they could not dispatch a search party until a person had been missing for 24 hours, he had been out in the cold, searching the streets himself. Sadly, he'd found nothing.
Although it had felt like he was giving up on her, Molly, who had been out searching with the rest of the Weasley family, had forced him to return to The Burrow with threats of throwing hexes, and bringing him in unconscious if need be. You've got to sleep, Harry. Look, you're nearly frozen solid. No, I won't take no for an answer. The clock struck midnight just as they all entered the kitchen, drawing his attention.
Harry thought that he had handled the situation rather well up until then, but when he saw the clock, he lost the small amount of control he had. An anguished sob escaped him as he fell to his knees right in the middle of his in-law's kitchen, his beloved wife's clock-hand pointing to "Mortal Peril." He gripped his hair tightly, not believing what he was seeing. A desperate wail rose from his throat and tears overcame him as Ginny's family attempted to comfort him through their own cries of fright. Tears spilled freely down his cold cheeks, leaving burning trails behind them.
She was in danger and he had wasted so much time thinking she'd gone shopping. He should have known. He should have done more.
His heart was physically pained, feeling as though it was in a tight vice. He couldn't breathe. His world, his Ginny, was somewhere in pain, in desperate need, and he was powerless to help. And their child...he couldn't bare think it. He couldn't stand the fresh stab of grief that filled him.
He suddenly stood, tears clouding his eyes but he didn't care, so what if he couldn't see? Ginny was gone.
He screamed and overturned the scrubbed wooden table in an angry rage, those around him jumping away in surprise.
"What else?" he shouted. "What more can be taken from me?"
He kicked the leg of the overturned table before dissolving once more into despair.
How could he have let this happen? How could he go on without her? The answer was quite simple: he couldn't, nor would he want to.
To be continued...
A/N: Thanks need to go to my wonderful new beta, Michele, who is a brilliant writer. I bow humbly before your feet! She's made this chapter infinitely better and I will be forever grateful.
If you still don't know where the Blakeney's come from, I've given you two more hints in this chapter.
Also, I should mention that Edwin Morris isn't mine. The name belongs to the great poet Tennyson who described him as, "All-perfect, finish'd to the finger nail."