Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his universe all belong to J.K. Rowling. I only own it in my dreams.
(A.N.) Dedicated to Jeremy and Scott, my own Harry Potter and Ron Weasley
As she ran past the statue of the humpbacked witch and down the stairs farther into the lower reaches of the castle, Ginny realised that she was drawn to the dungeons for the first time in her life. The dark and the silence called to her as it had so many years ago, when she had been young and afraid. Naïve and star struck as well, how she missed that girl. She shouldn't even have been there. After Quidditch practice she had meant to go straight back to Gryfindor Tower. Instead, she had found herself running, her wet Quidditch robes sending shivers down her spine. Ginny had promised herself that she would not cry, no matter what, but when she collided with something warm and sturdy and found herself on the ground she simply collapsed.
"What the-" uttered the figure.
Ginny looked up through teary eyes, wondering why she searched for the familiar green pair to meet hers as they had that night so long ago. Instead she met different eyes, cold and sharp. Instead of pulling her away from this place, they lured her in.
"Oh, go away!" Ginny sniffed, trying desperately to wipe the tears from her face. She waited for the insults to come but instead found a hand being offered to her. It gripped her own strongly and pulled her up off the floor. Ginny's crying ceased and she instead stared up uncertainly into his face.
"It's not as if," he said steadily, gazing down at her but then shifting his eyes away to the wall beside him, "you're the only one who's lost something."
He walked away from her down the hall. Perhaps heading for his common room, back to his own world behind a mask that she had intruded into for that brief moment. Ginny was left utterly unsure of what to make of him.
An attractive witch sighed as she sat down in front of the bar in The Leaky Cauldron. She felt calm, almost. Not quite her regular, composed self, but calm nonetheless. The day had seemed to drag on for years.
"All right there, Miss Weasley?" asked the bartender.
"It's been a rough day, Tom," she murmured.
"The usual?" he asked. She nodded and he handed her a glass of Fire Whisky.
The witch fixed her black hat, which was sliding ungracefully off her head. She was dressed completely in black today, which was not unusual in the wizarding world. But it was unusual for her to dress so dully. It contrasted shockingly with her bright red hair.
"Here," said Tom, handing her a tissue. The witch wiped her eyes and smiled at him.
"Thank you," she said. He nodded and then left her alone respectfully.
She took a sip of her Fire Whisky, but the taste of it was oddly dry in her mouth. She pushed it aside, not wanting anymore. Fire Whisky was vile anyway. She didn't know why she drank it.
A clock chimed and the witch looked up. Seeing that it was noon she got up from her seat at the bar and headed towards the door.
"Goodbye, Ginny!" Tom called after her.
It had been a long day for Ginny, much too long. She hadn't planned on going to the funeral, even though she knew it was the right thing to do. In the end she had gone, to say her last goodbyes to her father. He would have wanted it, she thought. It had been very hard to see her family again, after so many years. How long had it been? Ten years, she remembered. They hadn't spoken a word to her, and she hadn't cared. They weren't her family anymore.
Now, as she got ready to Apparate to The Ministry of Magic, she wondered why she even kept up with her job. Maybe it was the fact that she just couldn't settle down. At least her job gave her reason to get away from everyone, as well as a reason to get up in the morning. She had been offered a chance to move on, thirteen long years as an Auror was enough for anyone, but she had declined the offer. It wasn't that she needed the money, it was more that she needed to leave everything behind.
The resounding pop as she Apparated into the Ministry announced her arrival. She passed by the security check without even showing her pass. None of the guards ever asked for it anymore. Everyone in the Ministry knew Ginny's face.
As Ginny walked into the Auror Office she passed silently by the cubicles of the new Aurors who were fresh out of training. Baby Aurors as they had come to be known by the seniors such as Ginny. She hoped that none of them would hear her come in and ask her about their assignments. Ginny was going to have no such luck.
"Hey, Ginny!" a man's voice called. Ginny whirled around to see a rather tall wizard standing behind her. He was grinning at her, showing his childish dimples and his usual red and blue baseball cap mostly covered his curly, brown hair.
"What do you want, Chappy?" Ginny snapped at him. She was not in the mood to discuss simple coordinate tracking with the babies today. Especially not Chappy, who was always annoyingly persistent at trying to get her attention.
"The coordinates you gave me for my new assignment are off," he stated. Ginny glared up at him and wished he would stop grinning so irritatingly at her. It was just as she suspected, the little seventeen year olds who just got out of training never knew half as much as their NEWT scores suggested. Ginny hoped that she had never been this frustrating when she had been new to the Office. She presumed that she hadn't been. The babies just got more stupid every year. Chappy was no exception.
"Chappy, I have no time to explain something so effortless to you. The coordinates are not off, your brain just seems not to be able to comprehend the basic things you learned in training," retorted Ginny, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have an important meeting with the Chief."
"But you're Secretary in Chief, you're supposed to help the juniors. It's your job," said Chappy, "Can't Morrison wait?"
"My job is not to help the babies, it's to make sure you do your grunge work jobs," said Ginny, "And Chief Morrison can't wait. It's a matter of wizarding security importance."
"Babies," thought Ginny exasperatedly, "They never learn any respect until they get sent out in the field." Once they saw the things that were out there, they never disrespected their superiors because there were things out there that made their blood turn cold.
"I'm not one of the babies," replied Chappy, "I'm on Track Force Seven."
Ginny almost laughed to herself, everyone knew that the higher numbered track forces were only a small step up from the babies.
"Don't waste my time, Chappy," said Ginny haughtily. She turned on her heel and walked towards the Chief's office. The security desk in front of the double oak doors was being watched over today by Ms Petrich. She was a grouchy old widow and Ginny had never heard of anyone who'd ever had a friendly conversation with her. She was also the one person Ginny had sworn never to be anything like.
"Chief Morrison is expecting you," said Ms Petrich, not even bothering to look up from her book. She waved her rickety wand and the doors opened.
"I'll have to inform the Chief of what good security we have at the Ministry," thought Ginny to herself, walking through the doors and into the spacious burgundy office. Chief Wilbert Morrison was sitting behind his desk in a large leather chair, looking somewhat like a king. He was wearing neat robes of grey today, which matched his carefully combed grey hair and short beard.
"Hello Miss Weasley," said Chief Morrison, then motioning towards a chair in front of his desk he added, "Please, sit down."
Ginny sat down promptly, looking across the desk at the Chief expectantly. This had to be big news. The Chief almost never met with her in his office, despite the fact that she was the Secretary in Chief of the Auror Office. He usually communicated with her by a secure owl post.
"I have an important job for you, Miss Weasley," said the Chief, staring her straight in the eye, "I'm sorry for it to have come at such a sad time for you. I would like to express my regret about your father. He was well respected here at the Ministry."
Ginny mumbled a small, "Thank you."
"Now, you know that we have been tracking a known Death Eater across the globe for several months now," said the Chief, "He calls himself Dragon Fang."
Ginny nodded. D.F. had become a common acronym in all wizarding households these days. He was known to have been one of the top Death Eaters in Voldemort's ranks. Some said he had been like the Dark Lord's right hand. He had killed so many people Ginny couldn't even name them all. Even after Voldemort's destruction, he still continued to instruct former Death Eaters and to kill Muggles. He was quickly becoming a new leader for them, and the last thing the Ministry needed was another uprising.
"We think we have a lead on his whereabouts," continued Chief Morrison, "and I'd like to send you and a partner to infiltrate what we think is a Death Eater base in Geneva, Switzerland to see if you can find him. If we can capture him, then he might lead us to finally catching all of the old Death Eaters and ending this prolonged war. Think you're up to the job?"
"Yes, Chief," replied Ginny enthusiastically, suddenly excited over the prospect of a new mission. Capturing D.F. could win a much-needed victory for the Ministry. Ginny felt like she had on her first mission on the field, eager and ready to go.
"Excellent," said the Chief, giving her one of his rare smiles, "I know you'll make us proud. As you know, our department needs to catch D.F., some people these days have been highly critical of how we're doing our job."
This was an understatement, Ginny knew. Almost all of the wizarding population thought that the Auror Office was losing its ability to protect them. Some thought that the Ministry should replace the department with a better one that could get the job done. However, the minister refused to replace the Aurors, instead giving them more funding and making the wizarding world more distrustful of him each day. With the next election coming soon, the people were not in favour of the current Minister Nerse.
"Thanks, Chief," said Ginny, "So, who's my partner on this?"
"He's a level one mole. Goes by the codename of Scar. Maybe you've heard of him?"
Ginny shook her head. She knew that mole was the term in the Auror Office for the Aurors who infiltrated Death Eater's bases. A risky job altogether. They even had to use codenames to protect their identities. Most of them died on their missions in the field. The only people who worked as moles were hooligans or nut cases. Even most of the higher ranking ones were somewhat hoodlums.
"Ah, well maybe you'll know him by his real name," said Chief Morrison, "Miss Weasley, have you ever met Harry Potter?"
Harry walked back to the Chief's office with a glass of water in his hands. He had had a long talk with the Chief earlier about this new assignment, but frankly, he wasn't overly excited about it. Like most of the leads they got in the Auror Office, it was probably false. As for working with a partner on this mission, well, needless to say, Harry wasn't exactly thrilled.
"Hi, Harry!" called a high-pitched voice. Harry cringed, painfully recognising the voice. He stopped walking and turned around to see a young lady with blonde hair and a delighted expression on her face.
"That's Mr Potter to you, Miss Hearthrite, and would you kindly fix your Auror uniform? It's against regulations," said Harry, eying her very short blue skirt disapprovingly.
"Oh please, Harry, you make me sound old," she giggled flirtatiously, "Call me Amanda. I'm sorry if you don't like my skirt. I'll do my best to find a shorter one tomorrow." Amanda gave him a seductive smile.
"Longer, Miss Hearthrite. Your skirt should be longer." replied Harry irritably, "I'd suggest you get back to the baby's section unless you have an appointment with Chief Morrison."
"Alright then, Harry," said Amanda, and then added with a wink, "I think I'll need some help with this mole work though; it's a bit difficult. Maybe you could help me with it over dinner sometime?"
"I don't think so, Miss Hearthrite," said Harry, "and I'd prefer if you stopped asking me to go on dates with you. May I remind you that I am thirty-one to your seventeen?"
"Oh, it doesn't matter to me, Harry," replied Amanda, "I prefer your rugged good looks any day."
"Those are the kind of comments that are going to get you fired, Miss Hearthrite." said Harry, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have an important meeting to get back to."
He walked up to the secretary's desk and waited for her to let him in. He couldn't hear any screaming coming from inside the office, which was surely a good sign. However, they could have put silencing charms all around the office for protection. Last time Harry had been sent on an assignment, it had been with a rambunctious and highly annoying 17-year-old girl, straight out of training. She had been about as bright as a candle under water, and had made a habit of screaming whenever she saw him or heard his name. It had gotten so bad that Harry had taken the authority to put a silencing spell on her. Dumb obsessed fans, they treated him as if he was some sort of super man. Harry hoped that his partner this time would be a little easier to deal with.
"Go ahead in," mumbled Ms Petrich, waving her wand to open the doors. Harry checked that his uniform tie was on straight before stepping inside Chief Morrison's office. The doors swung shut behind him.
"Ah, Mr Potter, excellent timing," exclaimed the Chief, motioning for Harry to come over to his desk and take a seat, "I would like to introduce you to your partner on this mission."
Harry had stopped walking as he saw who was sitting in front of the desk. A red haired witch with soft, good looks, who appeared to be about his own age, was staring at him with wide eyes. Harry blinked a few times. Her face looked so familiar he could have sworn he had seen her before, although he couldn't quite remember where.
"Mr Potter, this is Miss Ginny Weasley, my Secretary in Chief. She'll be your partner for this assignment. I trust you'll work well together," said Chief Morrison.
Harry nearly dropped the glass of water that was still in his hands. Instead his jaw dropped wide. No wonder the face had looked so familiar! This was little Ginny Weasley! Although she was hardly little any longer. It had been ten years since he had last seen her. Could it really have been that long? They hadn't spoken or seen each other since then, and he could quite clearly remember why.
"Well, she sure has changed since I last saw her. It's no wonder I didn't recognise her." thought Harry to himself, looking her over. Her black attire reminded him vividly of why he and her family had broken off contact with her. Harry was surprised that she had even bothered to go to the funeral.
Chief Morrison cleared his throat, "I think the polite thing to do right now would be to shake hands? Miss Weasley? Mr Potter?"
"I'm sorry." muttered Harry, offering her his hand stiffly, "Hello Miss Weasley."
Ginny shook his hand awkwardly. Harry could see the faint trace of anger in her eyes that she was clearly trying to hide. "Hello Mr Potter." she said, somewhat coldly.
"So do you two know each other, then?" asked the Chief, looking at them bewilderedly.
"Oh, yes," mumbled Ginny, "Old school acquaintances."
"Yes, acquaintances." said Harry.
"To hell with that!" he thought, "We were best friends until she went and deceived us all."
"Ah, good. I trust you will have no trouble working with each other then?" asked Chief Morrison. Harry and Ginny both paused before shaking their heads. Harry wasn't going to let an old grudge stand in the way of him making a good impression in front of his boss. That was hardly professional. He couldn't tell the Chief that he couldn't work with Ginny just because he didn't like her. He would sound childish. Their disagreement had waited ten long years. It could wait a few more minutes until they were out of the Chief's presence. However, as he saw Ginny standing there glaring at him, he couldn't help but remember that this was Ginny Weasley, with whom he'd been so angry for ten years.He felt a sense of regret, knowing that things hadn't always been this way. They'd been far from it, in fact. Times had changed. They had changed, and there was no sense denying it. Ginny was a different person now, and if he was going to have any chance of working peacefully on this assignment, they had to come to some kind of truce. He just hoped that Ginny would be so obliging as to even speak to him.