**A/N This has been sitting on my computer since January! I've just gotten the nerve to actually post it. Many thanks goes to dreamkeeper77 for being such a wonderful beta.
It was raining again. It was the soggiest summer that anyone could remember. Certainly, the soggiest since she'd started Hogwarts four years earlier, Ginny thought lazily. She was sitting on a chair Burrow's living room, her head turned toward a window, chin resting on a loose fist, elbow on a padded chair arm, eyes blankly staring at a water drop as it slowly stretched down the windowpane.
She was bored. The weather made outdoor activity almost impossible. Even practicing Quidditch in such conditions had lost its appeal after a week. There was simply nothing to it but to find things to do inside and these attempts were growing increasingly unsuccessful as the days wore on. Ginny had read what seemed like every book in the house, completed all her summer assignments, owled letters - which inevitably included the line "It's raining again, and I'm bored" - to all her friends, played endless rounds of Wizard chess and Exploding Snap with Ron, and tried very hard not to worry about Harry.
And it was impossible not to worry about Harry when there was nothing to occupy her mind, or no one to talk to except Ron.
With You-Know-Who back and a war starting, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley decided that their two youngest weren't to leave the Burrow's boundaries. The twins, so useful when you wanted a diversion, were too busy at their shop in Diagon Alley to do more than sleep or shovel food in their mouths when at home. Percy, who had spoken to their father a few times after the end-of-the-year events at the Department of Mysteries, had yet to owl anyone else, much less visit. And though an adult was almost always at the Burrow, they were too occupied with – things – to ensure that she and Ron were entertained.
By this point, Ginny and Ron were so heartily bored with each other that their conversations had dwindled to "would you pass the butter" and "is that the latest copy of The Quibbler?" Soon, she and Ron would resort to grunts, Ginny thought with a laugh.
Ginny didn't so much mind the rain itself as she resented the impact it had on her thoughts. Without real activity to occupy her time, she found it impossible not to dwell on Harry more than was necessary. Harry, who was hurting and mourning. Harry, who seemed to have every bad thing happen to him. Harry, who had to endure another summer with those awful Muggles. Harry, who was stuck in the rain with no one to talk to at all. Harry, who had messy dark hair and emerald green eyes…
Harry, who is my friend! Ginny told herself sternly.
Stupid rain, she thought, and she turned from the window and slumped low in the chair. If I could practice Quidditch, or weed the garden, or toss some gnomes about, then I wouldn't keep dwelling on Harry. It doesn't do me any good to think about him too much. And it certainly doesn't do him any good. It doesn't make his life any easier, or make those Muggles any better. Or make Sirius come back.
Ginny sighed deeply and glanced at the window again. The rain certainly was an adequate reflection of the somber mood that hovered over everyone this summer.
Casting about desperately for something to occupy her mind, Ginny's eyes lighted upon the Muggle radio that her dad had enchanted to play the Wizarding Wireless Network.
That's the ticket! Ginny thought as she reached over to the table next to her chair and flipped the radio on. She turned the dial, stopping at times to listen to a snippet of song (who on earth actually likes Melvin and the Merpeople? Melvin's okay, but those Merpeople…), a Quidditch announcer's rapid play-by-play (oh, bugger the Tornados), a strident talk show host (well, yes, Fudge is a git, took you long enough to realize it). When she heard shuddering organ music, Ginny stopped. An announcer said something about an all-day marathon of As the Cauldron Bubbles, her mum's favorite soap opera.
Well, at least it's entertaining, Ginny thought as she slumped back in her chair. Silly. But entertaining.
"Oh Lawrence!" A woman was gasping over the organ music. "Please don't leave! I need you! I need you so much!"
There was the sound of sobbing.
"You say you need me, Persephone," Lawrence said softly. "But you've never said that you love me. Why? Why is that?"
The sound of sobbing grew louder.
"Is it because you love my…my…"
Lawrence paused dramatically and the organ music swelled.
Ginny snuggled down into the chair's softness, and closed her eyes, imagining the scene in her mind.
"…my former best friend?" Lawrence said savagely.
The sound of sobbing grew even louder.
"I'm right, aren't I?" Lawrence snarled. "You don't need me. You need my money. My influence. My power."
The organ music was pounding.
"But you don't love me. You see me as a platonic friend. It's Donald you love. You always have. You love him despite the fact that he's…"
There was another dramatic pause by Lawrence, and the organ ground to a halt.
"…a Death Eater."
Normally, Ginny would have laughed at the overwhelming corniness.
But Ginny had fallen asleep.
And now we rejoin "As the Cauldron Bubbles," a deep timbered voice intoned as the sound of gurgling faded into organ notes.
Ginny looked around.
She was dressed in tweed robes and sitting at a desk that was scattered with parchment and quills. A pile of newspapers and magazines were stacked beside her chair. People she didn't recognize were sitting at other desks in the room, muttering to one another in low voices.
Ginny jumped. The voice, which was quite loud, startled her.
"Penny, come in here, now!"
A glass-paneled door that had the word "Editors" stenciled across the middle swung open, and a familiar red head appeared.
"There you are!" Fred said. "Why didn't you come…"
"Fred!" Ginny said interrupting him, and she pushed through the door. "What's going on? Is this some kind of Wheeze?"
"Fred?" Fred asked, scratching his head with one hand as he shut the door with the other.
"Wheeze?" asked the other twin. George was sitting at one of two desks in the room, peering over a newspaper at Ginny.
"George!" Ginny said, grinning at him.
"Who?" George asked.
"Have you got another lead?" Fred asked eagerly as he sat on the edge of the other desk.
"A what?" Ginny asked, chuckling harder and wondering how they had managed to slip something into her morning pumpkin juice. Her boredom must be affecting her alertness around them. Mad-Eye, she thought, would be disappointed in her.
"A lead for the story," Fred began.
"About Lawrence Grotter," George continued.
"And Persephone Banger - "
"And Donald's connection - "
"To You - "
"Know - "
They looked at Ginny expectantly.
"You-Know-Who?" Ginny asked slowly. "Do you mean…"
"Von de Tart!" A voice said.
Ginny thought she heard organ music swell somewhere outside the office.
Colin Creevey pushed past Ginny, the door slamming behind him as he threw a stack of photos on Fred's desk.
"It wasn't easy, but I did it," Colin said breathlessly. "You were right, Penny! He's alive! And in Slogsmeade!"
"Good job, Calvin," Fred said as he slapped the younger man on the back.
"Calvin?" Ginny said. "Ted?"
They didn't hear her. George lowered the paper he was holding and stood up to look at the photos on Fred's desk.
"Nice," he said, whistling. "You can definitely tell that's Von de Tart."
"I know, Marge. And it gets better. Look," Colin handed George a photo.
It was then that Ginny noticed that George was wearing stylish pink witches robes. His vivid red hair, which was normally short and straight, was now long ad tied to the back of his head in a lop-sided bun. She looked from Fred (who was wearing plain black robes) to George, who still looked like, well, George (despite the fact that he was dressed like a woman and others seemed to think he was female), to their twin desks, to the nameplates on each desk that read Ted Weekly and Marge Weekly.
"Ted and Marge?" Ginny repeated, the slightest hint of hysteria in her voice.
Fred and George looked up from the photos.
"Yes?" said the twins together.
Ginny stared at them blankly.
Fred waved a photo in the air, a grin splitting his face. "These pictures will help us prove you and Don were right."
"They'll help us free him!" George said.
"They'll help us increase circulation!" Fred added.
"We've got to talk to Lawrence. Don was set up, and it could very well be connected to him," George said. "Von de Tart doesn't do anything without first thinking about how it will hurt Lawrence Grotter."
"He had help," Colin said grimly, and he thrust a photo into Ginny's hand. He paused for a few seconds before saying significantly, "Flaco Baltoy."
Ginny thought she heard organ music again.
The photo, which had been taken at night, contained a very clear image of Draco Malfoy. He was dressed in pin-stripped robes, and was talking to a man in black with a low-slung hat that covered his face in shadow despite a nearby street lamp. The mystery man's face remained hidden until a headlight from broom passing by overhead briefly fell upon him.
Ginny gasped. Twin glowing-red snake eyes looked at her from the photo.
"Evil little wanker," George said, his tone cheerful despite the grim look on his face. "I'd love to see his face when this hits the front page of the Weekly Daily."
"Right you are, sister," Fred said, and he paused for a moment with his eyes closed, a blissful smile on his face. "I can just imagine the Baltoy Bulletin's front page headline when this comes to light."
"Scion Set-Up by Sneaky Scoundrel," George suggested.
"Researchers Find Use of Imperious Curse on Rise," Fred offered.
"Local Newspaper Run by Deranged Twins Prints Lies, Lies, Lies," George countered, then, looking at Ginny said impatiently, "Well, what are you waiting on, Penny? You've got to go talk to Lawrence!"
"Yeah, get going!" Fred said. "You'll never rise above cub reporter if you don't do any reporting!"
"An exclusive with Lawrence Grotter! It's your chance, little sister!" George said with a wink.
"Come on," Colin said, grabbing Ginny's arm as he walked to the door. "I'm heading in that direction. We can fly over together."
Ginny could swear she heard the organ playing again as Colin pulled her outside.
Before she knew what was happening, Ginny found herself alone in front of the heavy wooden door of a large stone mansion. A heavy fog shrouded all but the immediate area. Ginny shivered and lifted the heavy brass doorknocker to announce her presence.
After a few moments, the door creaked open. A house-elf wearing a tea cozy hat, over-sized maroon sweater, and unmatched socks stepped forward.
"Penny Weekly!" Dobby said. "It has been a long time since you have been to visit master! Slobby is so happy to see you!"
"Dobby?" asked Ginny in a rather feeble voice.
Dobby looked behind him.
"I mean, Slobby," Ginny said a bit more firmly. "How are you?"
"Oh Miss Penny," Dobby said as he twisted his hands together. "You are so kind to ask about a lowly house-elf. Such a wonderful, generous witch! But you should be more concerned about Master Lawrence! He is not doing well. Not doing well at all."
"Can I see him?"
Dobby stepped aside and motioned Ginny forward into a house that, while dark and gloomy, did not appear to be the home of a dark wizard. The little house-elf lead Ginny into what appeared to be a study. Shelves filled with books and magical objects lined one of the walls, and heavy velvet curtains covered the windows. A massive wooden desk stood at the far end of the room, and Griffin-footed chairs flanked a marble fireplace in which glowed the faint embers of a fire. Light from candle sconces filled the room with a soft glow.
"Penny," a familiar voice said from behind her.
As Ginny turned around she heard more organ music.
Harry Potter stood in the door, a dark cloak encircling his thin frame. He looked as though he wasn't sleeping well, Ginny thought, and she began to step toward him, her face filled with concern.
"Why have you come here? I thought I told you to stay away from me," Harry said coldly.
Ginny stopped and stared at him.
"I…I…" she began as she tried desperately to remember why she was there. Great Merlin, but even pale and thin and angry, he looked so good. His eyes were dark and burning, and his hair fell softly over the back of the cloak's collar. There was a tense energy radiating out from him that was mesmerizing, pulling her toward him. Ginny stopped her train of thought. He's my friend, she told herself sternly. And this isn't real.
"Fred and Geo--" Ginny began, then stopped to shake her head ever so slightly as she came to her senses. "Ted and Marge asked me to give you these."
She pulled the photos from her pocket and handed them over. Harry glanced down, and his eyes widened in surprise.
A slight shock ran through Ginny as Harry brushed past her to stride toward the desk. She marveled at her reaction to the slight touch and wondered if the faint organ music she heard could be blamed on the buzzing in her ears.
"Von de Tart," Harry breathed as he spread the photos on the desk. Bracing himself on spread arms, he leaned over and studied the photos intently. "And Baltoy."
Ginny remained still, riveted by the way the cloak flowed over Harry's shoulders as he leaned forward.
"Where did you get these?" he asked suspiciously.
Ginny paused for a moment as she tried to remember what they called Colin.
"Calvin took them."
That seemed to satisfy him. Harry grunted and looked down at the photos once more.
"Why are you here?" Harry asked. He stood up and put his hands on his hips, but his gaze was still on the photos. His cloak had parted to reveal a plain black t-shirt that stretched across his chest.
Ginny gave her head another slight shake. "Oh…oh. Um…"
Harry looked up at her then, his eyes intent upon her own, and the organ music grew louder.
"I think I'm supposed to be a reporter, Ha…Lawrence," Ginny said uncertainly. Then, gaining confidence, she nodded. "Yes. I'm a reporter. That's why I'm here. Ted and Marge want me to interview you. About the pictures."
"Interview me? Is that all?" Harry asked a bit roughly. He grinned slightly, but it didn't reach his eyes. "You always called me Larry before."
"Oh," Ginny said. She didn't know what else to say. "Well…well, I suppose I can still call you Larry, if you want."
"Don't," Harry said, and something flashed over his face so quickly that Ginny couldn't identify it.
Harry was looking at the photos again. Not knowing what to do, Ginny stuck her hands in her pockets.
Ah, she thought, as she felt something inside of them and pulled out a bright yellow quill and some parchment. I'm a reporter. Maybe I should get a quote or something.
"So, um, Lar, um, Lawrence, do you mind answering a few questions? About your reaction to the photos and such?"
Harry looked at her as though she were mad.
"You're serious," he said slowly.
Ginny didn't answer. She thought she heard more organ music.
"No. Ted and Marge sent you here knowing what this," and he motioned to the photos, "will mean to me. You're the bait. They know I don't want talk to you. I'm surprised you even suggested it. But they think I'll get so angry at you or feel so guilty that I'll run down to their office, and then they'll get me to talk."
Harry was talking to himself more than to her, Ginny thought.
"They want me to spill my guts publicly about how I stole my best friend's fiancée, how I believed that my best friend was a Death Eater. How we were all fooled by a petty childhood enemy and the man who killed my parents. We were all fooled. Everyone but you." His eyes were burning into hers.
The organ music grew louder. Ginny looked around for its source.
"I'll talk off the record," Harry said, a closed expression on his face. "To Ted and Marge. But not to you."
The organ music reached a crescendo. Then it stopped.