"James," Ginny greeted her contact as she sat down at a table outside of Fortescue‘s Ice Cream Parlour in the near-empty Diagon Alley. She placed a copy of The Daily Prophet on the table, and noted the briefcase at her feet. She looked across the table to find the blond-haired, blue-eyed, scar-less, glasses-less Harry Potter staring back at the equally unrecognisable Ginny Weasley.
Ginny suppressed the smile that was threatening to emerge. His nose was also under a glamour spell, as was his chin and cheekbones.
"Monty," Harry replied. Ginny smiled inwardly at her code-name. Harry had made it up when she first needed it years ago. Montana, or Monty as her close friends called her.
Ginny pretended to bite her fingernails as she muttered, "Is it all there?"
"Hmmm," Harry replied affirmatively. "When do you leave?"
"An hour," she said through her thumbnail, and Harry picked up the copy of The Daily Prophet and looked at the front page briefly before tucking it away in his robes. Ginny returned her hand to her lap. "Nice weather we've been having recently."
Harry nodded. "Too nice. There's a storm about to break, I'm sure of it. It's been too quiet for too long."
Ginny nodded. It had been unnervingly quiet recently. There had been very few attacks, and for the past month, Voldemort seemed to be on holiday. More than likely, he was preparing for a large-scale attack of some sort.
Ginny wondered if she would ever see a peaceful time again. The way things had been progressing in recent years, it seemed doubtful. Especially after Lucius Malfoy successfully writhed his way into the position of Minister of Magic, securing the entire Ministry under Voldemort‘s control. It was horribly amazing how he had gone from an Azkaban prisoner after Ginny's fourth year at Hogwarts, to Minister of Magic in five short years. Ginny had no doubt in her mind that it had something to do with his large account at Gringotts, as well as the fact that Lucius had most of the voters well in his pocket out of pure fear. But ever since his coup d'etat two years ago, after the mysterious death of Cornelius Fudge, the wizarding world in Britain and most of Europe was in utter chaos. Chaos that was spreading worldwide fast.
Peace seemed to be in the farthest reaches of the universe.
Yet, looking across to the blond Harry, Ginny knew she was doing the only thing she could be doing now, fighting for that unreachable peace. This was what she had been fighting for long before Voldemort regained power. She had been struggling for the end of the war, at least consciously, ever since her first year at Hogwarts. She had been an active member of the D.A. from its formation until when she left Hogwarts. She took over as leader of the D.A. for Harry after he left Hogwarts and used her experience of being possessed to help teach members how to resist said ill.
Right before leaving Hogwarts her seventh year, Ginny had approached McGonagall about becoming a member of the Order of the Phoenix. A week later, Ginny had been inducted in.
"Shit," muttered Harry, bringing Ginny back to the present. He was looking over her shoulder. Ginny knew she couldn't look, it would be too suspicious, but, no matter. She knew what she would find if she did and fear began coursing through her veins. The M.L.E.S. officers, now almost all Death Eaters, were checking papers. Nowadays everyone by law had to carry identification papers, stating their name, wand specifics, address, any particular magical talents, and details of any recent travels.
"Let's go." Ginny reached for the briefcase as Harry muttered a charm to turn that briefcase into a button, which Ginny placed into her pocket. They got up together and walked as discreetly as possible away from the ice cream parlour.
"Hey, you two! Stop!" Apparently, they had not been discreet enough.
Immediately Ginny broke out into a run, Harry right beside her. She could hear several Death Eaters following them. Ginny stole a glance behind her. There were three, and they weren't extremely close. At least she and Harry had gotten a head start.
"Come on," said Harry hoarsely, grabbing Ginny's hand and pulling right, into another alleyway. They quickly turned left and right again, bringing them into a tiny dead end. Ginny quickly pulled out her wand and changed her hair and robe colour. She noticed Harry doing the same. She silently cursed Lucius Malfoy for the Apparition wards he placed on Diagon Alley and the surrounding paths.
Harry cursed again as he pushed Ginny against the wall and kissed her forcefully. Ginny felt his hands wrap around her waist, and she immediately lifted her hands to his neck and shoulders.
She knew Harry hadn't cursed at her, and also understood why he kissed her. On both counts, it was because of the Death Eaters. Yet both the curse and the kiss managed to make Ginny feel extremely awkward. She had never truly gotten over Harry, even though she had claimed to. No matter how many boyfriends she'd had. No matter that everyone believed her crush had long been forgotten. The fact that Harry had cursed like that before kissing her, coupled with the fact that he hadn't wanted to kiss her, hurt Ginny. It hurt her more than she wanted to admit.
But she would never let that hurt show. Not to anyone. Especially not to Harry.
After a few moments, once the danger of being caught was past, Harry leaned back. Ginny opened her eyes and found Harry looking towards the entrance to the small alley. Ginny followed his gaze to find nothing there before realizing her hand was damp.
"I knew meeting in Diagon Alley was a mistake. I'm going to have a word with Dung about how to pick a better rendezvous point," Harry growled. "Can't even Apparate out of here when in trouble. Damn it!"
"Harry," Ginny gasped looking at the blood on her hand. "What…?"
Harry immediately backed up, and Ginny felt a pang of loss as his hands fell from her waist. "Nothing," he mumbled. "Minor hex. I'm all right."
Ginny sighed and let her hands fall beside her and gave Harry a piercing stare. He wasn't going to get away with that. She never let him, and there was no way she'd allow him to pull the hero act now.
Harry looked slightly uncomfortable under Ginny's unwavering gaze as he kept his eyes on the entrance to the small nook they were in. He scratched the back of his neck and mumbled, "I'll see Patricia when I get back." Ginny held the look for a moment longer until Harry looked her straight in the eye and said in a reassuring voice, "I will, Ginny. Promise."
Ginny smiled, and her mind was brought back to the task at hand. "You still got the you-know-what?"
Harry felt around the front pocket of his robes. He nodded and asked, "You?"
Hand in her pocket, Ginny nodded. She pushed off the wall, "I'll go first. Wait at least thirty seconds before following." She started out towards the entryway but stopped as she felt a hand grip her wrist. She turned and looked into Harry's now blue eyes. It was strange, even through the blue, Ginny could still see Harry shining through.
"Be safe," he whispered.
Ginny nodded and struggled for her voice, "You too." She was proud with herself that she managed to talk in a controlled, steady voice.
Harry nodded and she turned once again to leave. She managed to make her way out to Diagon Alley without attracting any attention, making Ginny feel slightly relieved. She was halfway to the Leaky Cauldron when she felt someone's eyes on her. It was probably just Harry and she turned her head slightly to make sure.
Yes, it was Harry. She knew that walk anywhere. How very like him to watch over her, making sure she got out all right. He always did that for his friends. That was something that would never change about him.
He hadn't changed so much since Hogwarts; most of his qualities were magnified over the years. He was even more introverted now. And very bitter. That seemed to be the only emotion Harry ever let anyone else see. That and anger. He very rarely smiled and never laughed anymore.
Harry was also notoriously single. It had come to be a sort of joke in the Order of how badly Harry needed a shag. Ginny didn't find that last bit funny.
Sure, Ginny wanted Harry to be happy, and that included wanting Harry to find someone he loved. Yet she knew that Harry was too busy for that now. She also knew that Harry would never want to make someone a target; and by dating, he would do exactly that. His last girlfriend had been brutally murdered four years ago. She had been raped and then bled by a pair of Death Eaters. They had let the blood run out of her veins. They hadn't allowed her to have the quick death Avada Kedavra offers. Her body had shown up in Hogsmeade just in time for several Hogwarts students to come across it.
There hadn't been another women since then. At least, none that anyone knew about.
One night last year, on one of those rare nights none of them had an assignment, Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny got completely pissed. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do in the middle of a war, when they could be called to battle at any moment, but they all needed the release. During that night, when confronted about his permanent single status, Harry offhandedly confessed that he already felt bad enough about making his friends targets to even think about dating.
Entering the Leaky Cauldron, Ginny looked around, surveying the scene before her. She recognized a few faces towards the back, none of who were threats. She made her way quickly to the exit, wishing she could stop and greet her friends, but knew her task was too important to delay further. She had a train to catch.
Ginny looked behind her and nodded briefly to Harry, indicating she was fine before walking through ticket control. He had followed her from Diagon Alley all the way to Waterloo Station. If it had been anyone else, she would have been completely infuriated, but Harry made her only partly put out by this display. The rest of her felt comforted that someone was looking out for her.
She handed her passport and ticket to the guard. Ginny held her breath for a second, waiting to see if she'd be let through. The passport wasn't exactly real, and while Ginny knew it was flawless, she was a bit nervous about it.
However, the guard at passport control waved her through after a quick glance.
Ginny stepped towards security briskly. She had to take Muggle transportation to Paris, as magical transportation was too risky at the moment. No one could Apparate, Portkey or Floo out of Britain without going through massive security. Although with certain glamours, Ginny probably could get through magically, it still wasn't safe. And so, here she was walking towards her gate to board what Muggles called the Eurostar, a train that travelled in a tunnel under the English Channel to get to France.
There was always the chance that there would be some magical personnel walking around watching out for exactly what Ginny was attempting, so Ginny kept the glamour she had cast in Diagon Alley and kept an eye out for anyone who looked out of place. However, she saw nothing, and she handed her ticket to another guard before climbing some broken escalators to the platform.
Harry ruffled through the papers scratched with untidy scribble that lay before him on a mahogany desk. Apart from the desk and matching chair, the tiny room was void of furniture, replaced instead by large stacks of antique books which had been hastily shoved into place by an exasperated Hermione the week before after complaining that the room was entirely too messy. However, Harry was just annoyed by this new arrangement. Before Hermione's crusade, he had been able to find whatever he needed. Now he felt as though he'd never be able to find anything useful again.
Not that he had found anything useful in months anyway.
The desk Harry was sitting at was cluttered with loose parchment and various books, in quite a similar fashion to the rest of the room, as it had been subject to Hermione‘s ‘cleaning spree' as well. Much like the rest of the room, Harry couldn't make heads or tails at what he was looking at.
When Harry, Remus and Hermione first started this project, they had made astounding progress. Unfortunately, over the last year, their progress had slowed considerably. In fact, Harry thought it was safe to say they hadn't made any new development at all for a very long time.
Harry was beginning to think this whole project was a waste and that they would never find what they were looking for. The project started five years ago, just after leaving Hogwarts, when Harry had posed the question of how Voldemort was to be killed. Harry knew he was the only one who could destroy Voldemort permanently, but he wasn't sure if Avada Kedavra would work on him. Would it be as simple as the Killing Curse? Or was there something else?
Avada Kedavra was used to kill living things. Voldemort didn't seem human enough to die from only the Killing Curse.
And so, Harry, Hermione and Remus began to research other methods of destruction. They studied the defeat of past evils, and they slowly gathered theories. About three months after they started their research they brought in Moira Glaister, a trusted member of the Order of the Phoenix who was about as skilled in problem solving as Hermione. It had been decided that their project should be extremely confidential. They didn't want it to leak back to Voldemort that they were researching ways to defeat him. In fact, the only other person who knew about their research was Ron.
However, despite all their research and findings, they still didn't know how to destroy Voldemort completely. They hadn't even been able to find the answer to Harry's original question about Avada Kedavra.
Harry tore his eyes from the blue scribble when he heard a knock on the door. A moment later Remus entered carrying a small tray.
"Harry, I thought you might like some tea. You've been up here for hours." Remus brought the tray over and placed it on one of the more sturdy piles of books near the desk. He looked tired. There were bags under his eyes and his hair was greyer than ever. The full moon was in a few days.
"Right. Thanks, Remus." Harry reached over to the tray to grab a muffin and unceremoniously shoved it in his mouth.
"Have you made any progress?" Remus' voice was hopeful, yet resigned to the probability of a negative response.
Harry sighed through his full mouth and shook his head. He swallowed, and sipped at his tea. "Not a damned thing. All I've managed to do was get thoroughly confused by Hermione's new system."
"Ah, yes," Remus smiled wearily. "Her new system that ‘would make everything amazingly clear and easy to find.' I fear that all it has done is confuse us all. It'll take a bit of time to get used to it."
"I don't see what was wrong with the old system. I knew where everything was then." Harry sighed deeply and picked up some papers and gave them a glance.
Remus chuckled. "She's frustrated with our lack of findings recently and felt she needed to do something productive. I know the feeling. You should get that looked at."
Harry glanced over at his shoulder. It didn't hurt so much anymore, it was more a dull throb of annoyance than anything. It looked much worse than it was; the sleeve of Harry's robes was drenched in dried blood, with just a tiny hole where his injury occured. Harry shrugged at Remus' suggestion and muttered, "Later."
Remus simply gave Harry a look. Harry knew that look well, and it always made his chest swell with emotion. It was the look Remus gave when he could see James through Harry, he knew it. Harry briefly wondered what Remus was reliving in his head. If the memory was a specific instance or more of an overall impression.
"I'll go soon." Harry picked up a book from the far right corner of the desk and opened to a random page.
Ginny sat, leaning against the iron grail of the metro entrance in Place Blanche awaiting her contact. She looked around at the passing Muggles, envious of their laughter. She tried to listen in on their conversations, yet, as most people were speaking French, Ginny understood next to nothing. Only once in a while an Anglophone would pass and her ears would perk to the familiar language.
"Bonjour, mademoiselle," a rough voice whispered.
Deliberately avoiding eye contact, Ginny checked her watch, hoping the man who had just sidled up next to her would leave. He wasn't her contact. Her contact would speak English. Her contact also wouldn't reek of alcohol.
"Tu es très belle," the man continued. Ginny turned, giving the man her back.
The man only laughed, making the hairs on the back of Ginny's neck stand on end. She gripped her wand, not wanting to use it.
"Tu es très fière. J'aime beaucoup la fierté."
Ginny turned slowly, carefully pulling out her wand so that no Muggle could see.
"Ça coute combien pour une demie heure?"
Pointing her wand, Ginny muttered a Memory Charm and a Distracter Spell. Immediately the man's eyes blurred and he turned away muttering something in French.
Quickly concealing her wand once more, Ginny sent out a wish that her contact gott here soon.
Someone must have heard her; a minute later she heard someone else speak to her, this time in English. This time it was the phrase she was waiting for.
"Isn't Paris a magical city?"
Ginny smirked and turned around. "It's certainly a dirty city. Magic, I have yet to see."
Her contact smiled. She had blonde hair that went just past her shoulders and hazel eyes. She was pretty, Ginny thought. Her contact gestured to Ginny to walk with her. They walked across the street, dodging cars and motorbikes.
"I wasn't sure it was you for a moment," her contact whispered. "Your glamours are fantastic. However, when that man simply left, I knew. They don't usually leave so abruptly, or willingly."
Her voice sounded familiar. Not very familiar, but there was something about it that made Ginny sure she'd heard it before.
"Do I know you?" Ginny asked, glancing at the girl.
"Yes. And I know you. I've got glamours on as well." Her contact linked arms with Ginny and lead her down another street, away from the neon of Boulevard de Clichy. "I'm sorry you had to wait there. I hate this area; it's extremely seedy, even during the day. However, since Le Chemin de Traverse is nearby, we need to be nearby."
"Le Chemeh de Travers?" Ginny asked, perplexed.
Her contact turned down another street. "It's the Parisian equivalent to Diagon Alley. The entrance is right over there." She pointed at a building across the street. Then, pointing to another building on their side of the small road, she said, "And this is where we're going. We like to be able to keep an eye on Le Chemin de Traverse. Although, we do have to be very careful when we go in and out."
They stopped in front of a six-story building, and the girl punched something into a key pad. The door clicked open and they rushed inside. Past the doors, Ginny was amazed to see a beautiful courtyard filled with flowers and flowering bushes. Her jaw dropped in awe.
"I know," the girl said. "You wouldn't think that something so beautiful would be in here, but…." She shrugged. "Over here."
Ginny followed the girl to a wall behind a bush.
"Here," the girl said, giving Ginny a folded piece of paper.
Opening the paper, she felt her heart pang as she was reminded of Dumbledore and the first time she went to Grimmauld Place. Her mother had given her that note.
Sure enough, the note was almost exactly the same as the one she had been given then.
The Headquarters of La Secte can be found at 6 Square de la Galette, Escalier B.
Ginny memorized the note and handed it back to the girl who burned it immediately with her wand. Ginny looked at the previously blank wall just in time to see a door appear. Quickly the two girls went through the door.
They climbed up one flight of stairs before coming to a door.
"Here we are," the girl said as she opened the door.
The first thing Ginny noticed was that the room was void of any furniture save for a few tables. She turned around to ask a question, but was amazed to see Parvati Patil standing where the blonde had been standing moments before.
"Parvati!" Ginny exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
Smiling, Parvati laughed and walked over to a table. "I moved here about four months ago and I've been dying for news from home ever since. International communication is very limited, especially in and out of Britain."
Ginny quickly removed her glamours and followed Parvati into the apartment. "Why though? Why Paris, of all places?"
Parvati blushed slightly. "Well, there were a few reasons. Firstly, La Secte needed help getting organized. As you know, La Secte is sort of the French equivalent of the Order of the Phoenix, but it was practically falling apart. So I volunteered to help re-establish order and help connect it to the Order of the Phoenix. Would you like some tea?"
"Er, yes, thanks." Together, they walked into the kitchen. Ginny eyed Parvati suspiciously; she had changed the subject rather abruptly. "You said there were a few reasons, Parvati."
"Yes." Ginny watched, amused, as her blush deepened. She had never known Parvati to be a blusher. "The other reason was Henri."
"Henri?" Ginny questioned, eyebrows raised.
"Henri Étain." She smiled and sighed gently. "Do you have the briefcase?"
"Yes." Ginny reached into her pocket and produced a button, which she promptly transfigured back into a briefcase.
"Good," Parvati said simply. "I need to send you back with something as well. How long are you staying for?" She offered Ginny a mug filled with steaming tea.
Taking the mug, Ginny took a deep breath. Jasmine. "One night."
"One night?" Parvati sounded disappointed. "And I was hoping to get all the juicy gossip from home. Oh, well. Next time."
Ginny nodded, sincerely hoping there could be a next time.
Hermione was restless. She didn't want to be here, and didn't want a reason to be here. Yet here she was, and it was pointless to try to leave; she would be rushed back into her pristine white bed by the hospital matron, Patricia Curie. However, even if she was able to get past Patricia, she wouldn't leave.
She looked to the bed beside her. Ron's unnaturally pale face was almost luminous, and a stark contrast to his vibrant hair. Hermione suddenly felt extremely nauseous.
"Patricia?" she called out.
A small flimsy head appeared from behind a curtain where Patricia kept her desk. "Yes, dear?" the head replied.
"How long did you think Ron will be like this?" Hermione focused on folding and refolding the sheet on her bed, afraid of Patricia's answer.
Patricia walked over to Ron's bed where she put her hands on her hips. She scrunched up her face in concentration and blew at her fringe. "Hopefully not long, dear."
Hermione sighed. That had been her answer for the past three days. "How long is ‘not long?'" she asked as politely as she could, hoping she didn't sound as irritated as she felt.
Patricia pursed her lips together, reminding Hermione deeply of McGonagall. "Dearie, he'll wake up when he wakes up. You can't rush healing." It was Patricia's usual response, and Hermione could feel tears rising to her eyes in her usual reaction. They had danced through this same routine for the past four days, and Hermione had tried to be patient. However, today was the fifth day Ron had not woken up and her patience was running thin.
Lip trembling, she wiped away the tears from her face. "Thank you Patricia."
In an instant, Patricia lost her stern façade and let loose a sympathetic face. That was not part of the usual routine, and it caught Hermione off guard. "I understand, my dear. I really do, but there really is nothing more we can do than wait."
"Wait for what?" Hermione mumbled, reaching for a tissue. "For him to wake up?" She blew her nose messily. "For him to die?"
She looked up at the matron and saw something indistinguishable flash in her eye. "Child, he is still strong. He lost a lot of blood and suffered a horrid concussion, but he will wake up. You have to believe that. Don't ever lose that hope."
Hermione nodded, incapable of saying anything else. Patricia nodded and backed out of the curtained area. Immediately, Hermione threw down her used tissue and buried her head in her hands, hoping to somewhat muffle her sobs. It wasn't the first time she had cried during these past few days, far from it. Yet this time seemed to be the most truthful in some way.
This time, she sobbed for herself.
A sudden vulgar exclamation rose Hermione from her trance. She looked up to find a very uncomfortable looking wizard with a white bandage covering his shoulder staring back at her. "Language, Harry," she muttered.
Harry looked over at Ron, his green eyes wide behind his glasses. "Is he…"
Hermione wiped at her probably blood-shot eyes. "He's been like that for about five days now with no change. Patricia says he'll wake up soon; whenever that is."
"He'll be all right though?"
Hermione bit her lip and thought for a moment. "She doesn't know." The two remained in silence for a deafening moment before Hermione spoke again. "What happened to you?"
Harry rubbed his shoulder. "Scuffle in Diagon Alley."
Harry grinned sheepishly. "Just me. Although I did get a few Death Eaters pretty good. When do you get out of here?"
Hermione raised her eyebrows at Harry's not too subtle change of subject. "Officially, I can leave tomorrow."
She looked Harry dead in the eye. "I'm not leaving until he wakes up."
A/N: There's a part of this chapter that was very much inspired by one scene in the French film ‘Bon Voyage.' I'm quite sure I've seen a similar situation before that film, but I can't remember where exactly. In any case, the scene I've taken almost directly from ‘Bon Voyage' was the inspiration for this entire fic - everything grew from that one scene and situation it took place in. Ten points to anyone who knows what scene I'm talking referring to here.
And here's the translation for those French phrases in the chapter:
"Bonjour, mademoiselle" - Hello, miss.
"Tu es très belle" - You are very beautiful.
"Tu es très fière. J'aime beaucoup la fierté." - You're very proud. I like that in a woman. (loosely translated, but it works for these purposes.)
"Ça coute combien pour une demie heure?" - How much for a half an hour?
‘Le Chemin de Traverse' is taken from the French translation of the Harry Potter books. It's the French translation for Diagon Alley.
And if you were wondering, ‘La Secte' is French for the Order. Yes, I know - so creative ;)
Many thanks to those who've helped me out with getting this thing off the ground – Aggiebell, Lady G, Gaineewop, Aria, and my fabulous beta, Jner. Thank you all, so much!