Brightly colored posters adorned the walls and windows of a small shop in Diagon Alley. The rising morning sun lit them as a sweltering heat descended on the Alley, as it had for the past week, slowing down the usual bustle of people coming in and out of shops.
It made it hard to think properly, which was a problem for Ginny Weasley, who was standing outside of her brothers’ insanely decorated shop, preparing herself to enter. One never knew what to expect when visiting the twins. The last time she had been in there, an hour later her hair had unexplainably turned bright pink and started emitting large, equally pink bubbles with a deep burp. She hoped that the twins might be more helpful, now that the matter she had come to talk to them about was serious. The memory of the prank still made her cringe.
“Droobles bubbles should never be used that way,” muttered Ginny, crossly.
“What was that, dear sister?” asked George, poking his head out of the door to her left, smiling.
“Nothing,” she replied before following him inside where the air was considerably cooler. George flipped the tiny Open sign on the door to Closed and led the way to the back of the shop, where they found Fred labeling a crate.
Ginny raised her eyebrow in question at the box, which was full of large eggs that were letting off a misty smoke.
“Trade secret,” said Fred.
“Or rather,” added George, “We don’t want Mum to know.”
“I wouldn’t tell her anything,” said Ginny in outrage.
“No, you’d use it,” started George.
“For leverage,” finished Fred. He winked. “And we can’t have that.” He finished marking the box and slid it back into the large pile with a flick of his wand.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” asked George, “We could barely read your note. It looked like you were in a hurry when you wrote it.”
Ginny scratched the back of her neck nervously. “Can we sit down first?”
They led her up a set of wooden stairs that creaked under her feet with every step. At the top of the stairs was a locked door leading to the twins' flat. A sign printed in neon green warned all trespassers that they would be, Unmercifully pranked and subjected to product testing.
“And if that doesn’t stop them, then nothing will,” Fred had remarked the first time she had been to see the flat.
Unlocking the door with a spell, Fred led them inside, revealing a cramped kitchen with a table at its center, a small off-white fridge and a pile of dirty dishes lying in the sink. Beyond that were the bedrooms, which were always kept shut, as well as the living room, which consisted of a small fireplace that offered a private Floo and a tiny, light-blue sofa.
Moving a stack of papers off of one of the chairs placed randomly around the room, George motioned for Ginny to sit down.
She did so and waited for the twins to do the same. Fred sat down, while George leaned against the table. She took a deep breath before getting right to the point. “I want to know where they are. Harry, Ron and Hermione, I mean.”
Fred and George glanced at each other, visibly unsure of what to say.
“Please. I know you know where they are. You’re supplying them with your defense products, aren’t you?” Her brown eyes flickered between the two. Slowly, they relented.
“Well, yes. We have been giving them our products,” said George reluctantly. “But we don’t know exactly where they are or where they’ll be.”
“Tell me what you know,” said Ginny without hesitation. “Consider it an early birthday gift to me.” Tomorrow was the eleventh of August: her birthday. She would turn seventeen.
“And just why do you want to know?” asked Fred.
Her thoughts briefly flew to Harry. He was out there, fighting for his life, for everyone’s, while she was forced to remain in her family’s house, despite the fact that Hogwarts had not reopened the past year. Besides helping her mother with the cooking and cleaning, the only thing she had left to do was spend countless hours pouring over dusty old tomes that she had found in the attic, learning complex spells in hopes that someday she would get the chance to actually use them.
It killed her that people thought she was too young to fight. Had she not proven herself over the years? She had been to the Ministry in her fourth year and faced Death Eaters with the trio. She had faced Tom in her first year and had done so alone. Where had everyone been then?
She had tried to prove this point to her mother, but it had only ended with her mother in tears, sobbing that she had thought that she had done her best.
A familiar feeling of helplessness overwhelmed her. There seemed to be no escape from the redundant and useless way she was forced to live everyday. She felt like a prisoner in her own home.
“I can’t stand it any longer!” shouted Ginny. “I can’t just sit around, waiting for them to come home. I’ll be of age soon and I’m going to find them and help.” She stared down the twins. “Please, I need to do this.”
“What about Mum?” asked George, “She’s going to be very upset.”
“It can’t be helped,” said Ginny.
“Look, Gin, we know you want to fight, but think about the family for a moment. No one wants to have to worry about you. Isn’t that why you didn’t leave with Harry?”
“It wasn’t because of that,” she said angrily. “It-it…”
“Was it because of Harry?” asked Fred quietly. George looked at him quickly in surprise.
Ginny let out a shaky breath. “Yes.” Harry thought that she was too young to fight. He didn’t want to worry about her not being able to take care of herself. He was the one person she couldn’t willingly cause pain, by refusing to listen to his pleas for her to stay. But she was older now.
“Look, we trust you, Gin. If you want to join them, we won’t stop you,” said George.
“But we can’t tell you where they are,” added Fred.
Ginny stood up, angry with them for leading her in circles. She turned towards the door, prepared to storm out.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said George.
She stopped, her mouth set in a thin line.
“Because Harry’s going to be stopping by any minute now. He Flooed earlier. It seems that he needs more Instant Darkness Powder.”
Nearly a year earlier, the Weasley family clock ticked as its hands slowly crept through the night. Ginny sat with her head on her knees, tucked into her mother’s rocking chair, her brown eyes glowing as she watched the time pass until sunrise. Today had been Bill and Fleur’s wedding and all the excitement had left her feeling restless. Unwilling to lie awake in her bed for hours, she had crept down to the living room after her parents had gone to sleep.
The sounds of footsteps coming from the stairway above her made Ginny turn her head quickly. Harry looked at her awkwardly, making no attempt to hide the knapsack slung over his shoulder. It was stuffed to the brim with odds and ends.
Going somewhere? It seemed like the correct question, yet somehow she couldn’t bring herself to say it.
He stopped short, unsure for a moment, then continued down the stairs and sat in the chair next to her.
“I’m leaving,” he said.
“You can’t come.”
She opened her mouth to protest, but he looked at her pleadingly, and she remained silent. They had had nearly this same conversation before and both were growing tired of fighting.
Ginny unfolded her legs onto the floor, sinking her toes into the soft carpet. Harry leaned closer to her and took her hand. She turned to him and let out a small sigh.
“You’re only sixteen,” he said, trying to make an excuse.
Seizing on the opportunity, Ginny quickly replied. “So when I’m of age, can I come with you?”
His eyes flickered around the room as he tried to think of a way out of the predicament he had got himself into and, finding none, he sighed. “Yes,” he answered simply.
She smiled. “I’ll be seeing you then.”
Not even a month after that, the darkened hollow near the Burrow, under which he had hid, held little else than a tiny wooden bench, a towel, and a bottle of water, which he held in his hand. It was hot and cramped, yet still he made no move to leave. His mouth felt as dry as parchment, and the heat was making it hard to think properly. Pushing his black hair off of his forehead, he took a swig of water and made a face as it slid down his throat, as hot as it would have been if it had been boiled.
Harry put down the water bottle and picked up the towel, holding it to his face and breathing in a familiar flowery scent. He had stolen it from her wardrobe earlier that morning.
“Resorted to stealing my bath towels, have you?” asked an amused voice. “Well, at least they’re not my knickers.”
Harry choked and a red tinge appeared on his cheeks. Peering out from behind the towel, he saw Ginny Weasley standing before him, her hands on her hips in a startling good impression of her mother, but with her own signature smirk firmly planted on her face.
“-ello Gin,” he said hoarsely, “What are you doing back here?”
“What am I doing?” she said incredibly. “Harry, I think you need to be the one to answer that question. Mum had to tell me you where out here.”
He sighed and turned, sliding over on the bench so that she could sit down if she wanted to. She flopped down beside him.
“Things aren’t going very well with the…well, what we left to do.” He stumbled with his words, trying to explain without revealing too much. “And…”
“You missed us,” she said.
“No, I missed you.”
Can it get any hotter? Harry wondered to himself, as he walked through Diagon Alley under his Invisibility Cloak, easily picking out the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes from all the other shops surrounding it. He tried the door and found, to his surprise, that it was locked. There was a Closed sign on the doorway, and the lights in the shop were off. Hadn’t he Flooed Fred and George to tell them he was coming? He pulled his wand out of his pocket and held it tightly in his hand. Using one of the many spells he had learned in the past year from the books Hermione had brought with her, he bypassed the wards and unlocked the door.
Lighting his wand with a flick of his wrist, he scanned the empty room carefully for any sign of movement. Finding none, he turned and headed up the stairs to Fred and George’s flat. He could tell that the lights were on in the kitchen and he could hear the twins’ familiar voices. Hesitantly, he knocked on the door.
The voices instantly hushed and he could hear the sounds of someone pushing a chair back as they stood up, making a loud scraping noise. The door was flung open and he was faced with the Weasley twins, who were wearing identical grins.
He was about to ask what was going on when he caught sight of another redhead.
“Ginny?” he asked in disbelief.
Fred and George passed a stunned Harry and headed back down to the shop to give the two some privacy. Ginny stood and made her way over to him. He raised his hand and carefully brushed it against her cheek.
“Missed me?” she asked breathlessly.
He didn’t bother to answer, but kissed her instead.