Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form, own these characters. That honor belongs to the one and only J.K. Rowling. This is simply my excursion into her magnificent world
A/N: Again, I must thank my pre-betas, Cody, KD and Spenser, and my beta Jules, all who reassured me when I thought a certain section here wasn't quite up to par (and did their best to fix up what they could find. ☺)
The Prime Minister of Great Britain paced to and fro in his office, refusing to stay still. He still did not know if he really believed it; perhaps he really should have sought the psychological help he had considered after he had first been visited by the Minister of Magic. There was, of course, no such thing as magic, and pictures could not conceivably talk.
Still, the picture of the crier, a frog-like man with a white wig, had announced the imminent arrival of the Minister of Magic. The Prime Minister both dreaded and hoped for the encounter. If it was bad news, he really did not want to hear it, but if it was good news-well, good news was badly needed these days. Over the last two years, the minister's approval ratings had fallen to the point that he was the most reviled Prime Minister in the nation's history. If things did not turn around quickly, Oliver Cromwell would soon be a footnote in history to this horrendous cabinet.
Things had started off badly enough, with just enough seemingly natural disasters to make people wonder why Mother Nature hated them so much. Tornadoes and hurricanes ravaged the land, and a flood broke through the Claerwen dam in Wales, causing massive flooding. Of course, the dam breaking had been the Prime Minister's fault; apparently the large sum of British Pounds he was spending on the maintenance was not enough.
Then came the murders. The official tally stood at one hundred and thirty-seven people, many mass-murdered in gruesome ritualistic fashions. Predictably, the Prime Minister had also been made a scapegoat for this. He obviously was not spending enough on the police department, either, as his detractors were all too eager to imply.
It was enough to make the Prime Minister consider retiring, or resigning, or just doing something to get away from it all.
Still, if the Prime Minister was not crazy, he knew that none of this was his fault. Periodically (and much to the Prime Minister's chagrin), the portrait of the court crier in his office would announce the appearance of the Minister of Magic. The Other Minister, as the Prime Minister liked to think of him, would inexplicably enter through the Prime Minister's fireplace and proceed to explain that all the horrendous events had actually been the work of some evil wizard who was threatening England. Even knowing that he had nothing to do with the strange events, the news always had the strange effect of winding his nerves even tighter.
A puff of smoke issued from the fireplace and the figure of a man appeared, apparently flu-ing in, or whatever they called it.
Oh, please let this be good news, please let this be good news. I can't take any more bad news.
Out of the fireplace stepped a tall, distinguished-looking black man. His head was gloriously bald, whether from shaving or lack of hair was unclear. His spirits lifting a bit as he recognized the man, the Prime Minister extended a hand. "Shacklebolt! How nice to see you again!"
"All my pleasure, Blair," replied Kingsley Shacklebolt as he took the Prime Minister's hand and shook, his grip extremely strong.
"So, where's the Minister? It was announced that he'd be making an appearance tonight," the Prime Minister looked around warily before adding, "with good news, I hope."
"Well, I'm here."
"Are you?" asked the Prime Minister, a genuine smile lighting up his face. The title could not go to a better man in his opinion. "Congratulations! But, what happened to Scrimgeour?"
"Scrimgeour's dead. Has been for a few months now."
"Oh," said the Prime Minister, pausing. He had never really liked the man, but he had never wanted to see him dead; Scrimgeour's death was certainly sobering. "So, what news do you bring?" The Prime Minister's smile melted into a discerning scowl as he got down to business.
"Voldemort's dead, defeated by a wizard of seventeen. England should be safe, at least for the time being."
The Prime Minister's smile returned, relief overtaking him. "You mean that Harry Potter kid actually killed him?" Shacklebolt nodded, a proud expression upon his face. "That's-that's great news!"
"One more thing - the quadrennial World Cup of Quidditch is to be held this year. It is-" Kingsley began before the Prime Minister cut in, interrupting him mid-sentence.
"The World Cup of Kweedditch? What's that?" The Prime Minister put a hand to his chin, scratching the rough five o'clock shadow that had been growing even faster than normal due to all the stress in the last few weeks.
"Well, you know...it's a tournament of Quidditch-you know what that is, correct?" Kingsley paused, as the Prime Minister nodded his head a bit tentatively. Whether he actually understood or not, Kingsley continued right along. "It's much like your World Cup of Footyball-"
"-Football," interjected the Prime Minister, correcting Shacklebolt's blatant error.
If Shacklebolt heard him, he paid him no mind as he kept his train of speech, "-Held every four years, it matches the best from every country in matches of Quidditch."
"Oh, very well."
"As I was saying, we are honored to be holding this year's tournament in Great Britain for the second straight World Cup, eastern Yorkshire, to be specific. It seems the committee decided at the last minute that we deserved it, what with the war having just ended and all. We are casting Muggle-Repellent Charms all over the area, so there should be no possibility of one of your people finding out about our world, but still, if you can, I'd greatly appreciate it if you can try to steer them away from the woods."
The Prime Minister reached up and streaked a hand through the streak of newly gray hair on the back of his head, grabbing on to a tuft of hair in slight frustration from this latest challenge. "All right, I'll try."
"Good, now I really must get going. Voldemort may be dead, but there's still a lot to clean up. Take care; I hope, for both of our sakes, that we will not have a reason to see much of each other for a long time."
"Take care," the Prime Minister called after Shacklebolt as the Other Minister climbed into the fireplace, cast strangely colored dust on the floor, said a few words, and vanished with a puff of smoke. He'd never get used to that form of transportation.
The Prime Minister walked over to his liquor cabinet in the corner of his office. Retrieving a nice Bordeaux 1979 and a wine glass, he retreated to his desk. Talk of a dark lord, the seventeen-year-old savior of the Wizarding World, and some game called Kwidditch; if he had not experienced it first-hand, he would have sworn he was loony.
He poured himself a glass of the Bordeaux, and, taking a sip, sat back in his chair. His gaze wandered over to the still and quiet portrait of the froggish man, and then to the fireplace which bore no evidence that anyone had just traveled through it. The Prime Minister let out a lonely, depressed sigh. Maybe he really should seek the psychiatric help he had thought about two years ago.
~^~ * ~^~ * ~^~
Three men stood on the doorstep outside a Victorian-style house that was decrepit in appearance. The tiling on the top of the house was starting to peel up from the roof--the rain drain no longer worked, causing water damage to the house where the water would pool as it tried to escape through the clogged drain. All in all, the house's appearance clearly belied the fact that it, like the development where it was situated, was only five years old.
What the house's appearance did not show was what made it different from every other house on the block. Each house, more than likely through the intentional mechanisms of some spiteful architect whose wife had left him and whose most famous building had been found with a beam in the wrong place and then promptly crumbled, looked exactly the same. Each had the same off-white, Victorian-era look to it; each house had the same exact flaws, with the rain damage and the tiling and the paint peeling. It was really quite startling.
No, what separated this house from every other house in the nearby vicinity was not its outward appearance, it was the house's inhabitants.
The three men stood by the house's door, opaque bags that kept their contents secret hanging in their hands by their sides. One of the men, a blond with spiked hair that clearly stated 'I didn't make the effort to do my hair today–in fact I probably haven't had a bath...but I know you think I'm sexy,' stepped forward and rung the doorbell. A few seconds passed nervously between them, each glancing out to make sure that the elderly woman strolling across the vacant street paid them no heed.
Finally the door opened slightly as a pair of blue eyes peered out of the crack. The door flew open, and there stood a medieval knight, silver armor shining in the light of the streetlamps outside.
The old woman stopped in her tracks and cast an appraising gaze at the house, staring for a few minutes before shaking her head and continuing her walk, muttering about the declining moral values of the younger generation.
"Come in, guys. The dungeon is ready, and battle's about to begin!" exclaimed the knight energetically. He extended a hand, motioning for the others to follow him as he made the trek through the lushly carpeted house, down the stairs, and into the damp, dark basement.
Down in the basement, the air was suffocating – it was like bread bought a week prior to this engagement and allowed to grow moldy. The smell of mildew and decay hung in the stale air.
Three tables stood in the middle of the room. On one sat three hardback books, each with gaudy, ornate covers. On another table lay a white sheet of laminated paper, about three feet on each side. The piece of paper contained a multitude of black lines, which formed a sort of checkers or chess board. On the other lay four sheets of paper, with various scribbles and pen-marks on them.
Without a word between them, the three men who had been standing on the knight's porch reached into their bags, pulling out various pieces of strange clothing and quickly donning them.
One of the men changed into a long, star-speckled robe before extracting a long blue pointed hat and a long stick from his bag. The second man strapped on a plastic breastplate, then grabbed a plastic sword from his bag. The last man pulled off his shirt, replacing it with a ragged, torn brown piece of fabric which was not fit to be called a shirt. He reached into his bag and drew out a pair of brown leather gloves with the fingers cut out, which he quickly fit his hands into.
In less than a minute these three seemingly ordinary men had transformed themselves into a wizard, a warrior and a thief, respectively.
"All right, Jayce, we're ready!" called the warrior.
The knight, Jason, grabbed one of the pieces of paper from the third table as he sat down at the head of the table containing the checkered board. He removed his helm, revealing a face that was clean shaven, with blue eyes, brown hair cut in a bowler fashion, and a face suffering from a slight acne problem.
"Cool. Okay, then, it's time. It's DnD time!"
"Dungeons and Dragons!" shouted the other three, as they sprinted to grab their papers and leaped to their seats at the table already occupied by Jason. Jason reached over to the table with the books and grabbed a rectangular leather box. Staring at it worshipfully, he flipped the lid, revealing a set of variously shaped die.
"For memories sake, why doesn't everyone state their names, info and background?" Jason suggested. "Steve, why don't you start out?"
The wizard, a man in his mid-twenties like the rest, stood from his chair. He possessed dirty blonde hair that he had let grow out; it now hung in slight wisps, crowning his head. "Well, my name is Haydn Grindleson. I'm a level twenty mage. I had a rough childhood; both my parents were killed when a renegade wizard and his minions ransacked the village of Solace. For five years, I lived in the wild, gathering food to survive before my father's brother and his search and rescue team finally found me.
"He was in the Brethrenhood, a secret society of powerful white wizards, and he trained me in their ways. When I was old enough, he trained me to undertake The Tribulation, the test where one becomes an official magus, and I passed it with flying colors during my first time taking it. Shortly afterwards I met the other guys here and we embarked upon our quest."
"Your turn, Rich," Steve said as he sat down, and Rich, the man dressed as a knight, stood up.
"I'm Kraith Hamek, a level nineteen Paladin. I was born to the brave knight Callogan Hamek and the fair Lady Genevive. Raised in the royal court life, I served as squire for my father until I began my training for knighthood. After three years of training, I went out with a hunting party, seeking to vanquish the Green Dragon that had been terrorizing the kingdom. The fight was long and brutal, but in the end, I was the one to deal the final blow, thereby gaining my knighthood. My quest for the Holy Grail united me with the two of you. Your turn, Carl."
A portly, but not necessarily fat, man stood up, the thief. In any other situation, it would have seemed odd for a larger man to be a thief; however this was Dungeons and Dragons, and nothing is odd in Dungeons and Dragons.
"My name is Hunter Trillingsley, and I'm a level twenty thief. Um...I like to steal things, always have," he finished, a sarcastic bite in his voice. "Now let's get on with the game."
"Fine, don't have to be so snappy," shot Jason, the dungeon master. "Now, you're all in the swamps of–"
A shrilling scream of terror shrieked outside Jason's house. Its feeling of utter horror sent shivers down the men's spines.
The bloodcurdling noise was soon followed by a wailing sob, a wobbling voice that could only belong to Beatrice, Jason's elderly neighbor. The four friends abandoned their game for the time being and rushed over to see what the problem was.
Once they had reached the grass outside the house and were closing the distance between them and the hunched-over old lady, they began to hear the inane babbling that had replaced the sobs.
"Reginald–you've come-you've come back to me. I always knew you would, but–please–please stop banging on my walls! It sounds like your claws are scratching my walls–oh, Reginald," rambled the woman.
"Mrs. Treanor, what's the problem?" asked Jason, as the four men finally came within speaking distance of the woman.
"It's, it's my Reg." Sadness and loneliness welled in her eyes, manifesting itself in tiny droplets of water that began to flow down her cheeks. "I can hear him. He's dead, but I can hear him. I think he's one of those polting. No that's not it, polterghosts. No, that's wrong too, plotergasts. No, not that, either pol–"
"Poltergeist?" Carl offered skeptically. Mrs. Treanor nodded her head. "Ma'am, no offense, but there are no such things as ghosts."
"Yes there are, he's come back by magic–"
"Ma'am, there is no such thing as magic, either."
"Yes, well, then, explain the scratching in my walls, the noises in the night."
"Ma'am, it's probably just squirrels," stated Carl, whose face furrowed as he began to get quite annoyed by this line of conversation. "Do you have a hole in the side of your house anywhere?"
"No," replied the old lady in a huff, as she turned away. "If it's not Reginald, then how does he know to scratch the area in the wall above where he used to lie in bed?"
"And just what is the old ghost using to scratch on your walls?"
"His claws, of course."
Carl burst out laughing in a fit of skepticism. "You have to be kidding me! His claws? Lady – men don't have claws."
"Not while they're living, but ghosts do!" Mrs. Treanor shouted, her face wrinkling and her brows angling themselves as she grew infuriated.
"Ma'am, even if ghosts were real, they couldn't scratch–"
"That's enough, Carl," interrupted Steve, bringing Carl back to the realization that there were three men standing around with wide eyes, just having witnessed him blow up at this elderly woman. "Mrs. Treanor, would you like us to check this out for you. Make sure that if your husband is really a ghost that he moves on?"
"Y–yes. I'd like that," responded the old lady gratefully.
"All right. Come on guys, we've got a ghost to hunt!" Jason called excitedly, motioning with a flick of his wrist for the others to follow him to Mrs. Treanor's house.
"Ghost my ass," muttered Carl as he belligerently followed, mumbling various unmentionable words under his breath as he went.
~^~ * ~^~ * ~^~
Draco Malfoy was a mess.
His life was in shambles. His manor, his family, his reputation, they were all shattered remnants of the life he once had. They were reminders of the life he had inherited – the life that had cost him everything. His parents were in Azkaban and, knowing the current public outcry against the Death Eaters, they wouldn't be released anytime soon. His house was merely ashes now, as far as Draco knew. Burning it down had been a brash and incomprehensible move in hindsight. At the very least, it certainly would have earned quite a lot of money if put up for auction. Indeed, it was a miscalculated move, but it wasn't Draco's fault. It was Harry Potter's.
If it wasn't for Harry, Draco knew he would be dead or in Azkaban, but that could not remove the shame it caused him. Twice in the same night he had let his sworn rival save his life. Wasn't it nobler to die for the cause? To die for Voldemort? That was what Draco had been told from the day of his birth. Draco had entertained second thoughts many times, and he was never quite certain if he truly agreed with all of Voldemort's doctrines, but the idea of serving his Dark Lord had been drilled into Draco's mind for as long as he could remember.
Still, Harry Potter had been the one to cause all this, to put his parents behind prison bars, to defeat Voldemort, and now he was the one who was treated like a hero. The mere thought brought Draco's blood to a boil.
Perhaps the word "mess" was an understatement. Draco Malfoy's life was a wreck.
Draco continued his mental venting as he walked calmly down the dark street. Trees and brush shadowed by the night heavily lined both sides of the road, making nothing other than the road and the vegetation visible. It was midnight and, in order to blend into the night, Draco wore a black cloak that he had saved from the manor. He cast a glance at his suitcase. It was the only reminder of the time when he, Draco Malfoy, had been on top of the world.
Suddenly snapping him out of his thoughts, Draco saw the tiniest bit of movement in the bushes about ten feet to his right. Sensing danger, he immediately turned towards the movement, wand drawn.
Draco's entire body burst out in pain. The agony was unbearable, like knives piercing and tearing away entire chunks of flesh repeatedly. For the first time in his life, Draco experienced the sheer and utter torture of the Cruciatus. Still, he wouldn't scream, he resolved. No, he wouldn't scream. No...he wouldn't.
A loud bestial cry erupted from Draco's stomach as the pain overtook him. Tears ran their rivulets down Draco's cheek, leaving a wetness that he had not felt in years.
It was the Death Eaters, it had to be. The ones who escaped had been hunting down the others, vowing to take any step necessary to keep their identities secret. Anyone who could turn the Death Eaters in, anyone who knew their true identities were in danger.
A bitter, mocking laugh rang in the air as Draco's tormentors came into view. Although Draco's vision was blurry with pain and tears, he could still make out the general features of the man and his two companions. The man stood about six feet high with brown hair. His nose was crooked, and his eyes were drawn back and distant. He may have been handsome once, but he was unkempt and surely could not be termed handsome now. The two children at his feet bore striking resemblances to the man, one of the children wearing the same look of hatred as the man.
These weren't any Death Eaters that Draco knew of.
"Daddy, just kill 'im!" cried one of the children, a girl at the man's left.
"No. He needs to suffer," the man said callously, a slow speech pattern belying the weariness evident in his voice. "He needs to pay for what they did."
"But Daddy, those Death Eaters weren't him, let him go!" argued the other child, an older boy who Draco really found himself liking at the moment.
The pain tore at Draco, ripping him apart from the inside. Still, he needed to know who his attackers were; the only thing he was sure of was that they weren't Death Eaters.
"No, they weren't," he responded to his son. Then he turned his attention to Draco. "Boy," he spat, "you're Lucius Malfoy's, aren't you?" He lowered his wand, ending the spell and sending Draco crumpling to the ground.
Draco weighed his options, quickly deciding that he couldn't afford to alter the truth. "Y-yes," Draco responded feebly, using up much of his energy in the simple response.
"Do you know what the Death Eaters have done?" Draco remained silent. He knew they had done evil, but now wasn't the time to open his mouth, if he even could. "About two month ago, the Dark Mark appeared in the air over my village. I tried to hide my family, but they broke in...they murdered her. They took the Muggle-borns and they killed them all! They killed her! My Marissa!" Anger mixed with anguish took over the man, who raised his wand once more. Draco cringed, fully expecting another dose of the Cruciatus.
"But you, you're not even a real Death Eater, are you, boy? Real Death Eaters aren't cowards like you; real Death Eaters are animals. How many have you killed, boy? How much blood is on your hands?"
For the first time, through the fear, Draco knew what it felt like on the other side. Knew what it felt like to be a victim. For once, he was the one being targeted because of his parentage. For perhaps the first time, he realized just how wrong the ideology of the Death Eaters had been.
This was the other side, though; those opposed to the Death Eaters were made out to be defenders of the light. How was this light? Draco wondered through the waning pain still coursing through his body.
And yet, history will say that the Death Eaters were the only ones who wronged others, Draco thought as a boot came down on his stomach as the man took Draco's wand from his limp hand, snapped it in two and walked away with his two children, leaving Draco to rot.
~^~ * ~^~ * ~^~
"Harry, you're back! How did it go?" asked an excited Ronald Weasley, before Harry even had a chance to step through the door to the Burrow.
"Give Arthur and Harry a chance to enter before bombarding the poor boy!" admonished Mrs. Weasley from across the kitchen, turning from the food she was preparing.
Harry smiled as Ron backed away from the door. He raised his hand, in which he held a rectangular piece of plastic - his Apparition license. As his favorite Weasley walked into the room, noticed the license and gazed up at him proudly, Harry's grin only grew wider.
"Oh, I knew you would do it, Harry," Ginny told him, a smile lighting up her face and magnifying her beauty "I told you, you were worrying over nothing!"
"Still, it feels good to have it," Harry said, walking over to Ginny, taking her hand and walking out of the room as a proud Mr. and Mrs. Weasley looked on. "So, how was your day?"
"Boring. All I did around here was clean. Clean this! Clean that! Is that all Mum thinks about? She's been doing this since that night," Ginny sighed, "I know she misses him. I do too, but cleaning isn't going to bring him back."
"Neither will George's spending all day at the joke shop," Harry agreed as they entered Ginny's bedroom and sat down on her bed. The familiar settings surrounded Harry, the bright room, the posters plastered on the walls, and everything else that made Ginny unique. Behind them hung a poster of Gwenog Jones, the star of the Holyhead Harpies.
Harry turned his head to his right, looking directly into Ginny's eyes, sending her an unspoken message. She didn't have to suffer in silence like her mother or her brother. If she needed anything, he was there for her, and Harry needed her to know that.
Harry felt the bed shift a bit as Ginny adjusted her body, sliding her small, slender hand into Harry's and giving it a soft squeeze. Gazing at Harry, she shot him a smile. "Check out the newspaper!" Ginny said excitedly, reaching behind her and lifting the latest edition of The Daily Prophet from her bed.
Ginny unfolded the paper and pointed to an article below and to the left of the title of the main article – Fifty Years Later, Unsolved Muggle Murders Still Not Forgotten. It was an article written by the famed Quidditch reporter David Voller, entitled Veeck Williams – Perfect Choice or Embarrassment in Waiting? Harry read on.
Today, the England National Quidditch Board (NQB) made the endlessly-speculated rumor official. Veeck Williams is officially England's coaching representative in this year's World Cup of Quidditch. As the manager of Team England, Williams will be expected to maintain the respectability of the nation, while performing both in a professional manner and with a high quality of results. I guess one out of three isn't shabby in the twenty minds that comprise the NQB.
To the manager of the Falmouth Falcon's credit, no one can argue that the man is a genius in Quidditch tactics. Falmouth's four League Cups in the last ten years, not to mention the two championship losses to the Holyhead Harpies and Puddlemere United in the same time span, should speak for itself. From a pure Quidditch angle, it's nearly impossible to argue with the naming of Williams, especially considering why England lost in the last World Cup.
Williams brings a more physical style of play to the England national team than they have had previously. Team England's downfall in the last Quidditch World Cup has been chiefly attributed to the lax play of their Beaters. That is sure to change this year. The famous brother tandem of ex-Falcon Beaters Kevin and Karl Broadmoor, assistant coaches of William's Falcons, are sure to be approached by Williams to train England's group of Beaters. The brothers are most known for their brutal play and pinpoint Bludger accuracy, which they have successfully taught to the current Falcons' Beaters, one of whom, Brutus Edwards, has already been named to Team England. One can almost be assured that the Falcons' motto, "Let us win, but if we cannot win, let us break a few heads," will be drilled into the heads of the players on Team England.
Despite all of the positives that England stands to gain from the appointment of Williams, the negatives perhaps overshadow those gains. Williams, frequently pegged as a showboat manager, has never been one for subtlety. Despite the meek and unassuming persona he displays to the press, he has been known to, on occasion, enter into shouting matches with as they attempt to leave the stadium, usually disputing a call. Still, the tenacity of Williams is not the ultimate downfall of this great manager.
Williams' criticizers have continually pointed to the sometimes-embarrassing antics and publicity stunts that the Falcons manager has pulled in the past. The myriad of exploitations this man has executed are sure to continue to haunt him, regardless of his team's actions in the World Cup.
While tactically sound, one cannot deny that Williams surely has his demons. In the past few years, he has not executed one of his stunts, but the question must be raised - was that merely to land the national team job? In the big picture, will Williams represent England in a professional manner? Ultimately, however, if Williams does indeed bring the Cup to England, all will be forgiven, undoubtedly. In the meantime, countless discussions and controversy will continue to surround this announcement.
"So," Harry began, drawing the word out, "what has Williams done that's so bad, it doesn't say?" He smiled, knowing full well what Ginny wanted him to absorb from the article.
Harry's smile was returned by a soft punch in the arm, "No, it's about the World Cup, Harry! That's this summer!"
"When is it?"
"Next month. We've already got the tickets, but I don't think Mum and Dad are going. Dad says Mum isn't in any position to go – too many memories from the last time. So it'll just be you, me, Ron and Hermione."
"Sounds like fun," Harry responded, smiling. He placed a hand on her leg and looked deeply into her eyes. In the last year, he had realized how much he needed her presence in his life. The last few weeks since the showdown with Voldemort had been especially taxing with him. His burden lifted, there was no place he'd rather have been than with her, and yet the world seemed to conspire to keep them separated for as long as possible. Barraged with media interviews and Ministry reports that needed filing, among other things, Harry had barely had time to leave Grimmauld Place for an hour or two to visit the Burrow.
Now that was all over and he and Ginny could finally focus on themselves; they could finally focus on their relationship. Since Voldemort, they had been taking it slow; mostly just hand holding and other similar shows of affection. Harry wanted more, but he knew that he couldn't just reenter her life and expect it to be the same as he left it. He was willing to rebuild everything they had, and he had been willing to wait the couple weeks to get the relationship to where it was now, on the verge of what they had had in the past.
"Dinner's ready!" Mrs. Weasley called from the kitchen. Harry and Ginny quickly made their way to the table, where Ron, Hermione and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were already seated. A simple glance at the clock confirmed Harry's thoughts on George's whereabouts, his hand still pointing to 'At Work.'
As it had been since Fred's death, the dinner was fairly silent. Each time one member of the family would attempt to speak, they'd end up closing their mouth before ever really saying anything. The loss of Fred was causing them much more strain than any of them would really care to admit.
Harry looked at Hermione, sharing a look of sympathetic concern for the family. Hermione had recently been spending much time at the Weasleys', even with her family back in England, their memories returned. Harry supposed he always knew that it would come to this. Ron and Hermione had always just seemed destined for each other.
Finishing his dessert of treacle tart, Harry excused himself from the tense silence and exited the house, lying down on the grass outside the burrow and staring up at the stars. It was a particularly balmy night, not necessarily hot, but humid. The air felt stuffy, and the smell from the dinner wafted faintly through the air.
Looking up at the heavens and emptying his mind, Harry lost track of the time until he felt a body next to him join him, lying down on the soggy grass, still wet from the night's earlier rainfall.
"What are you doing?" Ginny asked, reaching out for Harry's hand as she did so.
"I was never fond of Astronomy, but before he died, Lupin told me something. You see that star?" Harry asked, pointing a finger to the Northeast. "The brightest in the sky?"
"Yes, I see it," Ginny responded after searching for a moment.
"Lupin told me that the star is called Sirius, the Dog Star. It was in existence for millennia, but that doesn't mean that Sirius isn't there, looking down on us. Whenever I get lonely or I miss him, I'll go outside and just stare at that star. While it will never bring him back, at least it's something I can use to remember him."
"Harry," Ginny sighed, turning her head to look directly into his eyes. Harry tried his hardest to let her see through his eyes, to allow her to peer all the way to his soul. Slowly, they both leaned in towards each other, closing the gap between their bodies. Their lips met for the first time since the wedding, and their hands instinctively went to each other's backs.
It was a kiss unlike Harry had ever had, full of their passion for each other, full of the hurt the year apart had caused both of them, and full of the promise that they would be together from now onward. Reluctantly, Harry broke the kiss, keeping a hand on Ginny's back while stroking her hair with the other. "I love you, Ginny Weasley."
A content smile slowly curled its way onto Ginny's face. "I love you too, Harry Potter." She shifted her body, crawling into Harry's lap, where he placed his arms around her stomach. "Promise me you'll never leave me again."
"I won't, Ginny," Harry pledged, savoring the feel of the soft body in his arms. Relaxing, the two soon fell asleep, entwined with one another under the watchful eye of Sirius.