J.K. Rowling, for creating such a wonderful universe...and for letting us tinker in it.
This story has been a long time coming and I feel as if I have a multitude of people to thank as a result. Most importantly, I must thank Grace Has Victory for her initial insight and encouragement; St. Margarets for sharing her wisdom on Harry and Ginny; Igenlode Wordsmith who helped me tighten this up into a story that I was willing to share; and KelleyPen who reminded me just how important those ‘power verbs’ are. Hugs to you all!
“Oh, come on—”
Brushing an annoying lock of hair out of her eye, Ginny squinted up at the bright pink reflection of Twaddlers & Sproggs Boutique which was sandwiched in between the secondhand shop where she bought her school robes and Ollivander’s. It was innocuous enough—slightly too frilly and pastel for her taste—but harmless, really. They’d even been in the store not too long ago to return a set of pink porcelain unicorns that her Great-Auntie Muriel had given her for her seventeenth birthday.
She turned back to face Harry.
“What are you on about? It’s just a shop!”
“But it’s… twee…” he said, as if that explained everything.
He wasn’t too far from the truth. As she remembered it, the store did have an inordinate number of porcelain figurines, stuffed animals, woolly blankets, crocheted clothing, and collectibles crammed into a very tight space. And the total number of budgies flying about the store was slightly alarming—but that was to be expected from the two very old and eccentric witches who ran the shop.
“It’s not that bad—”
“Everything’s pink and pastel blue.”
Ginny suppressed a smile. “It’s supposed to be that way, you know.”
He shifted his weight. She narrowed her eyes. Something else was bothering him.
He finally relented under her gaze, spluttering, “Those two pinched my cheeks—repeatedly. It was humiliating—and they stuffed ginger newts in the pockets of my robes. There were crumbs for weeks. I’m not going in.”
Ginny couldn’t help but laugh.
“So, they want to adopt you as their great-grandson. Is that so bad? You did single-handedly remove the obstacle that was keeping people from shopping in Diagon Alley, you know.”
He glared at her. Or at least she thought so—she couldn’t see his eyes behind his sunglasses.
“They have a nice cat…?” Ginny offered, pointing feebly at the white Persian, obviously plump on budgies, preening on the pink pouffe in the window.
Harry’s feet were firmly planted.
“Oh, all right.” Ginny wrinkled her nose. “It did smell odd in there—like cooked cabbages or something…”
“And cabbages are definitely not romantic.”
“What?” Ginny started. What did that have to do with anything? She glanced up at his mischievous grin.
Oh, yes, right—kissing. They had just started kissing again. No, the smell of cabbage certainly wouldn’t benefit them in that department...her mind wandered to their previous night in front of the fire at Harry’s flat…
Focus, Ginny, focus…she cleared her head.
“But what am I going to get for Katie, then?”
“I dunno.” Harry shrugged. “I thought your mum was making a baby blanket.”
“Yes, but I wanted to purchase an outfit or a toy or something, as well. After all, Amelia is one of my best friends.”
“What does Amelia have to do with this?”
“She’s Katie’s younger sister.”
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny sighed. “For being the hero of the Wizarding World you really are quite daft.”
She captured his hand and pulled him along behind her.
“Why don’t we go to the joke shop—maybe the twins have something for babies,” Harry suggested, trying to turn her in the direction of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and away from yet another pastel-colored boutique.
Ginny laughed. “The twins? Yes, I’m certain Katie would love a bottle of U-No-Poo.”
His voice was suddenly more animated. “Hey, do you think they have those toy brooms?”
“Finnian is less than a week old, Harry. He doesn’t need a broom—toy or otherwise. He needs a rattle or a stuffed toy or a cute little outfit or something like that. Plus, I think the twins got him a Quidditch mobile for his cot—”
He whirled towards her. “Really? Does it have a Snitch and Bludgers, and everything?”
Ginny bit back a laugh. Harry really was quite cute and, heavens, she had missed that smile.
“It’s a spherical-shaped Pitch that hangs over his bed—” Ginny drew a picture of it in the air with her hands. “The twins charmed it so that one team is Gryffindor and the other Slytherin—the Gryffindors always win, of course.”
“Of, course—particularly now that you’re the Gryffindor captain.” Harry beamed. He looked off for a moment, as if envisioning the mobile in his mind’s-eye. “Oliver and Katie will love that.”
Ginny smiled and reached for his hand again. Things could not be more perfect.
Diagon Alley was bustling, colorful and loud. People laughed, milled about, and crowded around vendor carts. Children ran, weaving through the adults who were moving much too slow. The market felt like it had when she was a little girl. She threw her head back and let the sun beat down on her face—relishing it. Glancing over at Harry happiness swooped through her in one great tingling rush. He was enjoying himself—smiling and laughing—and for a moment it was almost possible to forget…almost…
The clock tower struck five o’clock. Ginny jumped.
“Bugger! Hermione is going to be back at the flat any moment, and we still haven’t gone to Popplewell’s. Come on, we have to hurry…”
“Oh, yeah, right.” Harry trotted along behind her. “Neville was planning to meet us—I’m sure he’ll be there to greet her.”
“I know, but we offered to make dinner—and I’m dying to hear about her interview. Can you believe she wants to be an Unspeakable? I bet it’ll be fascinating…she’ll be really good at it, too.” Ginny wove through the mingling crowds aiming for the grocery storefront. “It was really good of you to encourage her to go for that interview, Harry.”
When she didn’t hear a response, she glanced back. Harry’s brow was furrowed and his face was taut. Damn! How had she managed to lead them right into the emotional quagmire she’d been trying to avoid all day—damn, damn, damn! She hated seeing him look like this, and they had had such a fun afternoon. She stopped walking and, failing to notice that she had stopped, Harry ran right into her.
“Harry, please don’t.”
He sighed, looking away from her. “I can’t help it.”
“She’ll be okay...she’s resilient, you know.” Ginny fought to lock eyes with him. “And you’ve encouraged her to go for a dream job that will challenge her—once she starts working and focuses her energies a bit she’ll be fine…eventually.”
Harry didn’t seem convinced.
“She needs time, Harry—and our love. That’s all.”
Harry nodded feebly.
Ginny held out her hand to him, but he shook his head and stuffed his hand in his pocket.
“Too many people…”
And as if to prove his point, witches and wizards bumped into them, jostling them where they stood still on the cobblestone street. Ginny swallowed down a retort regarding nosey parkers and the tabloid press. She knew that he was just trying to protect their newly rekindled relationship and that coming into Diagon Alley on a busy Friday afternoon had already been a stretch for him—he didn’t want anyone to know about her. So she chose to focus on the few glorious moments that had been unhampered by stress and guilt in front of Twaddlers & Sproggs instead.
Stuffing her own hand in her pocket, Ginny led the way into Popplewell’s Comestibles, which was relatively quiet. It should be easy for them to grab what they needed in order to make dinner, and then Apparate to Harry’s flat.
Ginny retrieved the list from her pocket. She scanned it while Harry gathered a shopping basket. “All right, we need an onion, ginger, garlic—tomato sauce and chicken stock—cashews—”
“We’re making a curry, right?”
Ginny nodded absently, still looking over her list as they walked. “I’ve never made this one before, it’ll be fun.”
As they turned down the aisle of tinned goods to find the tomatoes an eager scampering of feet greeted them. .
“Sir—sir! Mr. Potter, sir?”
A young boy, no older than five, came barreling toward them. His eyes shone brightly as he skidded to a halt in front of them. The boy opened and closed his mouth a few times, suddenly seeming uncertain what to say now that he had Harry’s full attention. The glowing red of his face obscured his freckles. Finally, he thrust out a scrap of parchment in a shaky hand. It looked like a shopping list.
“May I have your autograph, sir?”
“Why do you want my…?”
Harry glanced at Ginny, still not comprehending what the boy was on about. Ginny smiled encouragingly and then, suddenly, realization hit him—hard.
Harry handed Ginny the shopping basket and squatted down on his heels, his forearms resting on his thighs. The boy seemed flustered that Harry was now at his same height.
“So…erm…what’s your name?”
“Um, Eddie…er, I mean, Edmund Pevensey, sir.”
“Hi, Eddie.” He smiled. “I’m Harry.”
The boy beamed.
“My brother’s going to be so jealous. He’s with my dad at Quality Quidditch Supplies—I came here with my mum, I didn’t wanna…but my mum made me. People were talking, said they saw you over by Gambol & Japes. So I kept my eyes open. I thought maybe you might show up at the Quidditch shop, you know…not here, of course, it’s just a grocery…”
Harry relaxed. “Well, I do have to eat. It’s tedious, but I find it useful from time to time.”
The boy bounced on his heels. He pointed up at Ginny. “Who’s that?”
“I’m Ginny.” She held out her hand for him to shake. He snapped his attention back to Harry so fast, that Ginny almost laughed.
“Do you still have your Firebolt?” Eddie asked, still glowing.
Ginny placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder, interrupting him mid-breath. “I’ll just go and get the tomatoes, shall I? It was nice meeting you, Eddie.”
Eddie nodded, but his eyes never left Harry.
As Ginny started further down the aisle a harried woman rushed to meet her halfway. Ginny could tell by the freckles and pointed nose that she was the boy’s mother.
“He’s not bothering him, is he?”
“Eddie? No, certainly not.” Ginny smiled.
“Ever since we heard that Mr. Potter had been sighted in Diagon Alley today—well, Eddie was all a flutter to get his autograph. It took forever to pull him away from the Quidditch shop.” She bit her lip as she watched Eddie talking and waving his arms enthusiastically. “He’s such a jabber-nut when he’s excited—I should retrieve him—”
Ginny placed a hand on her arm. “Don’t worry—he’s fine. Go about your shopping, he’s safe with Harry.”
Ginny turned to glance down the aisle. Harry was still squatting on his heels by Eddie, smiling at something he’d said, when she felt a tingle in the air and the growing pulse of magic. Harry looked up, a frown forming between his eyes. He felt it too.
Wizards Apparated in front of her, surrounding Harry…towering above him…three in black robes…hoods…masks…oh, dear God…NO!
Her basket fell to the floor with a clatter as she fumbled for her wand. Fingers tight around its handle she aimed and shouted, “Petrificus Totalus!”
She immobilized the Death Eater closest to her before he knew what had happened. A second whirled toward her, arm outstretched. She barely had time to push Eddie’s mother to the ground before yelling, “Protego!”
The wave of the Death Eater’s curse pushed Ginny backwards against the shelves, knocking boxes and tins to the floor, but it did not break her shield. She righted herself, fighting to focus her fear. Her eyes frantically searched out Harry, who was no longer kneeling, but pushing Eddie behind him to cast a curse at the Death Eater who had attacked her—immobilizing him immediately.
Eddie, clearly shocked, flailed backwards in an attempt to get out of the way but ran right into a jet of green light cast from the third Death Eater advancing down the aisle behind Harry.
Harry wordlessly put up a shield at the same time, spinning to face an oncoming curse. Taking aim, he successfully cast a full body-binding charm. Harry then advanced, knocking the Death Eater roughly to the ground, confiscated his wand and bound him with magical rope. He did the same to the other two in quick succession.
Ginny wasn’t certain how she moved, perhaps she flew, but she didn’t stop until she had Harry wrapped tightly in her arms. His shoulders heaved; her muscles shook. What had just happened…they were in Popplewell’s of all places!
And then a blood curdling scream tore them apart.
It was Eddie’s mother. Eddie was dead.
“Mr. Potter! Mr. Potter!”
An entourage of jabbering reporters and flashing cameras followed them through the lobby of the Ministry of Magic like a gaggle of pigeons waiting for their next hand-out. Ginny fought to keep stride with Harry who pushed his way through the jostling mass, her elbow gripped firmly in his hand.
A reporter shouted right by Ginny’s ear. “Mr. Potter what does it feel like to know that even though You-Know-Who is gone his Death Eaters are still out there and are apparently intent on killing you?”
She glared at the reporter; the flash of light was blinding. Ducking her head she thrust forward, winging her way through with slightly more force.
“Ginny! Ginny! Harry!”
Ginny started, recognizing her father’s voice. Twisting her neck she saw him bobbing his way through the pandemonium, his expression relieved but haggard.
Harry stopped walking and turned to face her, lowering his head he looked her straight in the eye. The familiar brilliant green was swirling with browns, and the world was fuzzy around the bubble of atmosphere that was just the two of them.
“Ginny—go with your father.”
“Go with him—I promise I’ll find you later.”
She opened her mouth to protest again, but before she could say anything her father was there, protruding into their private bubble of space—the cacophony of chatter and flashing bulbs filling her ears with a rush of sound. With nothing more than a significant look from Harry, her father took her proffered elbow and pulled her out of the bevy of reporters just as Harry began to walk in the opposite direction. The reporters lurched after him, continuing to jounce and shuffle down the length of the atrium.
Ginny stumbled after her father, her head twisted back to watch as Harry disappeared around the corner followed by a flock of swirling cloaks.
She paced the length of the balcony, waiting. The cool breeze of the night air penetrated through her thin shirt and tangled her hair as it danced about her shoulders and cheeks. The sound of buses lumbering slowly and cars honking impatiently on the busy streets below jarred her ears, and the pungent smell of diesel cut through the much more palatable scent of lemon dittany which sat in fat pots along the balcony railing. The city lights twittered on the dark horizon and all combined, these things reminded her that she was very far from home. Ginny shivered, feeling minuscule in a world that was suddenly incredibly large. She wrapped her arms around her middle in an attempt to preserve some semblance of warmth.
Harry had said that he would find her, but rather than spend time worrying about whether he would actually come to The Burrow or not she had Apparated back to his flat in London. It was going on midnight and Harry still wasn’t home. Hermione had retired already; her interview at the Ministry had been successful but she was exhausted. She had waited up for quite a while, anxious for Harry to return, but when Hermione fell asleep on the sofa Ginny made her go to bed despite her protests.
Ginny stopped pacing and gazed out at the treetops of the square and the neighboring rooftops that surrounded her. Usually she loved the view from Harry’s balcony—she thrived on the independence that she felt when she was in London coupled with the energy of city life—but tonight, as she waited, his flat felt like a prison. The feeling was familiar and haunting. She wasn’t certain if it was because of this dredged up memory or if it was actually just her instincts, but the same thought had been tormenting her all evening, cycling through her brain on a repetitive loop.
Harry was going to leave again.
She knew it like she knew the back of her hand. It was Harry. It was who he was. Bad people were still out there, and they had to be captured, contained—dealt with—and Harry would be involved in this somehow. Ginny knew this, but it made no difference to her because in this fleeting moment she resented the fact that every man she loved was a Gryffindor—specifically, this man.
Brave of heart, daring, nerve and chivalry—pshaw!
She hated this man. She loved this man. And as her heart swelled, she suddenly found herself rubbing away the beginnings of a piercing headache. She loved this man because he was brave, daring, full of nerve and chivalrous…all of these things…despite the fact that he would leave her again. Dropping her hands she began pacing again. Bugger all!
She had been miserable when Harry had left her behind while looking for Horcruxes. Although she hadn’t known the details of what he, Ron and Hermione were planning to achieve the previous year, she had known that it somehow involved Voldemort. And because of this it had been impossible to sit idle … impossible to wait, not knowing … hanging onto every thread of news as if it was her only lifeline.
Hogwarts had been her prison, and she had loathed it. She abhorred feeling trapped and weak, and that year had been one of her worst even though she had thrown herself into the reorganization of Dumbledore’s Army and her role as captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. She had worried more than she wanted to admit, was tetchy with her friends, and got very little sleep. And this upcoming year, which would be her last at Hogwarts, would be no different if Harry left again.
Ginny jumped when she heard the front door swing shut, the force of it rattling the window panes on the balcony. A wash of calm rolled over her as she heard the clatter and clink of the protection spells being lifted over the entry—it was Harry. She took a deep breath, quelling the flutter of her stomach. Brushing her hair behind her ears, she picked up her drink and walked through the glass door that led to the sitting room, immediately relishing the warmth of the air that cascaded over her.
Harry entered the room from the front hall, throwing his loose change onto a desktop before he turned to see her standing there.
“You weren’t at The Burrow.” He smiled thinly, looking as tired as Ginny felt.
Ginny shook her head. “No, I wanted to be here.”
“Sit with me?” He held out his hand.
She cast her drink aside and reached for him.
“You’re freezing!” He pulled her close, his arm around her shoulder. “Were you outside?”
“I had too much energy to sit…but that doesn’t matter now.” The words seemed to tumble out of her in one breathless rush. “What happened at the Ministry?”
“A lot of things I don’t want to talk about.” He sighed, sinking onto the couch and pulling her with him. She tucked into the crook of his arm, resting her head on his shoulder and her arm across his chest.
“They’ve taken the three Death Eaters to Azkaban.” He rubbed his eyes and then continued, “The Ministry wants to give me another bevy of bodyguards and, apparently, an award for bravery…”
Ginny remained silent, knowing if she waited he would say more. Her head rose with his chest as he took a deep and filling breath.
“I ran into Tonks. Well, technically—I think she ran into me—anyway, she said that these were the first of the remaining Death Eaters to be brought in since the battle with Voldemort…apparently there are a lot of them still out there…”
As his voice dropped off, Ginny closed her eyes, trying to stop the trickle of panic that threatened to erode away her calm facade.
Harry cleared his throat, but his voice was still rough. “I told Mr. and Mrs. Pevensey that I would attend Eddie’s funeral…’
Her heart lurched as she fumbled for his hand, squeezing it firmly.
“They thought it would be on Monday…” he paused, playing absently with the fingers of her hand. “You leave for Hogwarts on Wednesday…”
There was another swelling pause. Ginny focused on the even rhythm of his heart in her ear. Inhaling the scent of him, memorizing it…silently willing him to stay…all the while knowing that he wouldn’t…
“I’m going to see if Neville will come and rent my room…and then…then…I’m leaving London.”
So there it was…he had said it. She swallowed the lump that immediately rose in her throat. Blinking rapidly she forced herself to speak.
“Where will you go?” Her voice sounded as if it came from a very long way off.
“I don’t know yet.”
With sudden clarity she sat up to face him, the potential well of tears subsiding.
“I’ll come with you, then.”
Harry immediately began to shake his head, avoiding her eyes. “No, you have school—and it isn’t safe.”
“When will it ever be safe?” Ginny said. “I belong with you.”
“If only it were that easy…”
He dropped her hand and stood abruptly. Walking toward the fireplace, he picked up her discarded drink and after a moment took a sip. The droplets of condensation ran down the glass and fell to the carpet. “You can’t come with me…I have to go alone…”
“Are you going after the rest of the Death Eaters?”
He studied the glass in his hand, agitating the liquid within in fast rotations.
His silence was telling her everything she needed to know. Ginny stood, fear for his safety churned in her stomach not allowing her to sit still any longer; it propelled her forward.
“Then, I’m going with you.”
She saw the muscles in his back tense, and the repetitive circling of liquid ceased. He returned the glass back to where she had placed it earlier and turned to face her—his face was swirling with fear, anger…love.
“I can’t tell you what I’m doing, and no—you can’t come with me. It isn’t an option. I don’t have a choice in the matter…and you need to be safe…at school.”
Ginny was genuinely confused. “What do you mean you don’t have a choice? Everyone has a choice.”
And as she studied his tightening expression, understanding came upon her like a crashing wave, rocking her backwards. He was hiding something from her. Details…like the Prophecy…like the Horcruxes…details hidden in deep dark pools and far away from her. Fighting against the undertow of distrust, she took an unsteady step toward him.
“Harry…what…what’s going on?”
Exhaling a deep sigh, he looked off toward the balcony. She watched as a torrent of emotion chased across his face, all the while trying to decipher what it all meant.
“Look, Gin, please, just trust me,” he implored, turning to face her. His voice was even and steady. “I have to go; I can’t stay here. But I promise if you need me, write; and I’ll come home as soon as I can.”
And despite all uncertainty, all burning questions, all of her insecurities and mounting frustration—she did trust him, implicitly.
This was Harry. She knew him.
And with this realization the undulating swells around her calmed as she stood there, ebbing into the certainty of what was required—of her and of him.