A/N: Ms J.K. Rowling owns the characters, Mr J. Banville owns the concept of a physics trilogy. This story appeared as a short challenge submission on SIYE, hence the awkward ending.
It was about five o’ clock when the telephone rang. Dudley, still enormous but at least easing gently away from the title of ‘world’s most balloon-like human,’ surprisingly answered the device before bellowing Harry over.
‘It’s your lover, I expect,’ Dudley sneered. ‘Whatsis name, Cedric. Or is it...’
Harry’s cousin had no opportunity to finish the jape as the dark-haired young man glowered menacingly at the rotund monster. Ever since his experience with Dementors the previous year, Dudley had taken greater care around Harry when the latter was in a particularly foul mood. Successfully rid of his aunt and uncle’s pet whale, the only wizard in his part of Surrey found himself faced with a daunting mystery: who might be trying to ring him? Anxiously, he picked up the receiver, never guessing who was on the other end of the line.
‘Hello?’ Harry enquired, his voice rising slightly in suspicion, holding the earpiece a short distance away in case it was Ron who had tried to ring him again for whatever reason. Harry doubted his nerves, still frayed from his godfather’s passing, would have been able to withstand Ron’s dulcet roar. Unfortunately, this otherwise clever preventative measure caused the quiet voice on the other end to become completely inaudible. Yet it did sound like someone familiar. Holding the earpiece closer, he received a shock.
‘Harry? Harry is that you?’ Ginny Weasley’s voice tremulously pleaded, likely uncertain whether the Muggle contrivance could transmit her words. Harry, who had been expecting either Ron or perhaps even Remus – who, strangely, hadn’t contacted him all summer – to have been his collocutor, now panicked as to what might have happened to her as well as the rest of the Weasley family. Judging by the terror in her tone, something dreadful.
‘What is it, Ginny?’ he spluttered, imagining despite himself a host of horrors each more calamitous and miserable than the next.
‘Er,’ she answered with a nervous little laugh, ‘I’m in gaol.’ She said the last bit so quietly it took a moment for her words to register in Harry’s brain.
‘What, why, where, huh?’ he finally blethered so quickly even Hermione would have been astonished.
‘I can’t tell you why at the moment, but I’m in London.’
London. It wasn’t a terribly great distance from Little Whinging, but Dumbledore had extracted a promise from Harry that he would not to leave the relative security of the Dursleys until the Order retrieved him. Besides, perhaps it was Voldemort setting an even cruder trap for him.
‘How do I know it’s you?’ he demanded.
‘You’re Fred and George’s primary investor, your Patronus is a stag, your favourite dish is Mum’s treacle tart,’ she began, her voice regaining much of the vigour with which he was familiar, ‘and if you don’t get me out of here...’
Harry laughed, amazed at her ability to make light of her plight. ‘So, how much is bail?’
The line rustled momentarily as if she had just been jostled. ‘...fifty, er, quid?’
Harry had never had that much Muggle money in his entire life, or if he had, neither Aunt Petunia nor Uncle Vernon had let him touch it. However, unless Ginny’s story about Dean was true, with Hermione gone on holiday with her parents and the Creeveys likewise, Harry was probably the only person in the vicinity with close Muggle relations, relatively speaking. Ginny told him where she was staying at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and begged him to hurry. ‘I’ll try to be there as soon as possible,’ he said with far more confidence than he felt.
He saw just the top of his uncle’s hair over the chair in the sitting room, grumbling at the news on the telly, droning incessantly about how the Government was ruining the country. Best to get it over with quickly, Harry thought with a leaden heart.
‘Uncle Vernon, I need you to take me to London,’ Harry requested calmly, belying the trepidation he truly felt.
‘Take the bloody train like a normal person,’ Vernon muttered, suddenly pleased with himself.
‘I haven’t the money for the fare, as you well know.’ Even without having to look at his miserable relative’s face, the young man knew his uncle was smirking in a most un-avuncular manner. ‘But I do know that if necessary I can bring a host of very unsavoury, very odd-looking people to your front lawn…’
Vernon Dursley burst from his chair, his face reddening menacingly. ‘You dare threaten me?’
‘No, Uncle Vernon,’ Harry admitted, ‘I am threatening you.’ His voice cooled the air between them. He could tell from the throbbing veins in his uncle’s neck that the moustachioed bully was seriously considering thumping him, but wasn’t in the least concerned.
‘Why?’ the heavy man demanded.
‘To break another relative out of prison,’ Harry countered. While it pained tremendously Harry to think of his deceased godfather, even in death Sirius would have enjoyed the role he was about to play on his godson’s behalf. ‘You remember about my mass-murdering godfather, of course.’
Uncle Vernon made a peculiar noise that sounded an awful like ‘Wibble.’
‘And I suppose I’m to pay this person’s bail as well,’ Harry’s uncle growled.
‘Fifty pounds, yes,’ the young man averred, watching the spectacular colours rise to the elder Dursley’s face once more.
After an agonising few minutes when Harry wondered whether Uncle Vernon was experiencing a fit, the large man finally spluttered, ‘Fifty pounds?’
Deciding to tempt fate, the raven haired young man uttered, ‘Is that so much to pay for maintaining the veneer of respectability amongst your neighbours?’ It was a cruel argument, but within ten minutes the pair were heading north towards London.
‘Where, exactly?’ Vernon enquired.
‘Er, Upton Park, I think,’ Harry noted, which produced a shudder from his uncle. ‘The police station on Green Street and Shaftesbury Road.’
‘This relative had better bloody well be worth it,’ the older man chuntered. ‘And if anything happens to this car, I shall, I promise you, take it out of your hide.’
The rest of the car ride passed without further threats, other conversation, or a notable incident of any sort. Harry introduced himself to the desk sergeant and asked whether he could see Miss Weasley first. The policeman scowled at the young man alarmingly before directing him to follow a constable to the cells, forcing Uncle Vernon to deal with the bail. The constable herself gurned at Harry with something he thought was a confusion of irritation and dismay as he accompanied her.
He had no idea what to expect as the heavy door swung open, but he grimaced in shocked disbelief when he saw Ginny in jeans and a black pullover to counter the odd chill in the air, sitting with her knees up and her feet on the bunk, slumped with her back against the wall, a sheepish look of misery on her face. Regrettably, he wasn’t able to stifle an involuntarily nervous laugh before Ginny noticed him.
‘Very funny, Potter,’ she grunted.
The constable shot Harry an odd look as she stood by the door to allow Harry inside. He decided to ignore that reaction for the moment as he sat down on the bunk just out of Ginny’s reach. Her eyes were bloodshot and she smelled faintly of Sirius during that horrid Christmas (shudder) or of Trelawney. ‘I don’t think it’s funny, Ginny,’ he protested. Another involuntarily reaction took hold, albeit a more appropriate one, as his face contorted itself with worry and sympathy. ‘What happened?’
She muttered something to her knees Harry didn’t quite catch. ‘Huh?’
‘Got nicked for underage drinking, all right?’ Ginny barked. ‘And assaulting a pleaseman,’ she added in a murmur.
‘Policeman,’ he corrected to avoid snickering. He couldn’t explain why he felt like chuckling, although the constable’s own snorts of amusement didn’t help matters.
‘Ha bloody ha, Harry.’
‘What were you doing?’ he finally managed.
Ginny then proceeded to relate her wretched day. Sick of doing nothing at the Burrow, she secured from a very distracted Mrs Weasley some vague permission to see her present boyfriend, Dean Thomas, in London. Harry inexplicably felt a pair of cold fingers draw themselves down his spine as well as some burgeoning fraternal concern. George was to be their chaperone, causing both Ginny and Harry to roll their eyes.
‘How distracted was your mother?’ Ginny, however, only answered, ‘Very,’ although she promised to be more forthcoming later.
As Ginny continued her story, she related how George himself was distracted by a pretty young woman working the till at the café to which the three had gone. Her brother was, therefore, completely unaware of the row that was developing behind him. Ginny had, in fact, become so furious with Dean (at which Harry felt oddly buoyed) that she stormed out without telling her brother.
‘I then went to a pub…’ The fraternal panic made its resurgence.
Ginny, unaccustomed to drink, and armed only with a little Muggle money in any case, only had a few bevvies, which was enough to concern the barman, particularly as a few shady patrons were starting to take an unwelcome interest in the pretty young newcomer. ‘So, in comes this whatsit, and he tells me I have to come with him,’ she said. ‘I don’t know who or what he is, just that he’s in some sort of strange suit – we don’t have too many…’
‘Bobbies.’ Ginny gave Harry a puzzled look at the expression, but continued.
‘Er, whatever, in Ottery St Catchpole. And when he tried to help me up…’
‘You hit him.’
‘Right uppercut to the jaw, knocked him flat,’ she admitted with some pride. Even the constable snickered despite herself.
‘That’ll serve Parkhurst for underestimating the women’s boxing team,’ the policewoman said.
‘Anyway, another one came in and she carted me off to gaol.’
‘That’s some tale, Ginny,’ Harry smirked.
‘Mum and Dad will kill me,’ Ginny groaned.
‘Only after they recover from the worry and laughing themselves to death,’ he muttered, leaning towards her and smiling sympathetically. ‘Why didn’t you call Dean, though?’
Ginny refused to answer the question, merely replying, ‘Thanks, Harry.’
Harry helped Ginny up from the bunk, gave her a quick hug, and escorted her – with the constable’s permission – from the cell. Ginny’s reluctance to talk about her refusal to ring Dean both worried and strangely amused Harry.
Noticing her benefactor snickering again, she rounded on him with a smirk. ‘Mocking me now?’
‘I was just thinking of what your mum’s going to do to George if this gets out,’ he lied.
Ginny peered into his face. He could tell she didn’t believe him, but she playfully behaved as if she did. ‘Ah, I shan’t be alone in misery tonight.’
Uncle Vernon, in his bizarre bid to win over the desk sergeant in a deluded effort to reduce Ginny’s bail, was in the midst of regaling the policeman with his Japanese golfer joke, entirely ignoring the rather prominently displayed photograph of the sergeant grinning with his wife below a large banner announcing ‘Happy Anniversary Phil and Miko!’ as well as the muscular man’s furrowing brow. A whispered word from the constable and a few speedy glances at an uneasy Harry and Ginny later, the sergeant’s frown became a malicious grin. As Mr Dursley continued to ramble on, the policeman motioned for the two teenagers not to worry, yet given the awkwardness of the situation, neither Harry nor Ginny felt especially relieved. Still, they smiled politely in return as the smirking constable guided the two to sit and watch the fun commence.
Only when he delivered the punchline to absolute silence did Uncle Vernon realise his terrible mistake. Which was when the sergeant opened with one of his own. ‘That will be £250 for the young miss,’ the straight-faced sergeant stated.
Though all of the blood in Mr Dursley’s face seemed to have pooled in his head and neck, it took several minutes before he regained the power of speech. ‘The boy said it was fifty!’
‘You’re lucky I’m not putting you away for criminal neglect considering his emaciated condition,’ the policeman averred. ‘As it is, I might send someone ’round to ensure the young man is being properly fed and housed from now on.’
Mr Dursley stuttered, enraged that a common policeman would tell him how to raise that, that dangerous freak. His consternation swiftly became horror when the sergeant connected him with Dudley. ‘You’re that poor excuse for a human being’s father?’ the sergeant howled in amazement. ‘I ought to run you in for reckless endangerment as well!’
Ginny, Harry, and Uncle Vernon eventually emerged from the station. Mr Dursley felt as if the policeman had boxed his ears and considerably poorer. The sergeant had held the two young adults back for a brief while as Uncle Vernon used his credit card to pay Ginny’s bond.
‘I’ve spoken with the constable, and he’s said he won’t press charges,’ he smiled avuncularly. ‘You,’ he nodded to Harry, ‘ring us if that idiot mistreats you any longer. I’ll not hesitate to go round personally if necessary.’ Then he turned to Ginny. ‘You, young miss, no more hard drinking before you’re of age, all right?’ Ginny, seemingly chastised, nodded. ‘And try to pick a better bloke next time, OK?’ the sergeant added, winking encouragingly at Harry. The two looked at each other and smiled nervously, determined to say anything that would expedite their departure in spite of the sergeant’s demonstrated kindness.
Yet Uncle Vernon’s misery hadn’t ended with paying Ginny’s bond. Someone with a concealed whirling electric blue eye was waiting for them in the front passenger seat. ‘Potter, Weasley, Walrus,’ growled Moody. ‘Since you forgot to inform us where you were going in such haste, I decided to escort you three to the Leaky Cauldron, where your father and brother await, Weasley.’
Following Moody’s recommendation, and their own inclination when faced with Moody and soon Mr Weasley’s wrath, Harry and Ginny sunk down into the back seat. They cast sidelong glances at one another, smiling at they did so, but, oddly, neither could think of what to say.
In that silence, Harry took Ginny’s hand in his and squeezed it reassuringly, comforting her that she wouldn’t face what was to come all alone. Her face bright with hope, she grinned back at him, which became a stifled giggle as Uncle Vernon began to mutter darkly about London traffic.
When they arrived at the Leaky Cauldron, Ginny slid out behind Harry, bumping into him as he stood aghast at Mr Weasley’s expression. Worry and fury battled there, with each claiming victory. Even the normally unflappable George was quailing. Ginny placed her hand on Harry’s shoulder. ‘You know Dad, all hellfire and brimstone now, but as long as he doesn’t tell Mum, we’ll survive.’
And then she kissed him on the cheek.
Only to be rudely awoken by Moody barking, ‘Come on, boy!’ from the car’s passenger seat.
By the time Harry had turned back around, all three Weasleys had disappeared into the pub. Alone once more, Harry realised that his own worries and concerns, beyond the inevitable conflict with Voldemort, were not justification enough to wallow in self-pity as if he was the only one that suffered. Vaguely he was beginning to grasp that he, and that perfidious prophecy that had been his star, did not exist as the fixed point within his universe, but that he and it revolved around something infinitely grander.