Ginny Potter cursed, scowled, and thrust the letter across the kitchen table. The owl who had delivered the letter took her actions as a sign he should depart.
‘It’s in my contract, apparently! I have to go, or we lose all of the money Quidditch Weekly paid me for my “Flying with the Harpies” column this season,’ Ginny said. ‘This is from MacLintock, the Harpies solicitor; he’s confirmed it. The contract states that I have to write about every game I’m selected for. The England squad for the friendly was announced before we announced that I was pregnant. My name was on the original squad list and Quidditch Weekly’s solicitor says that the fact that I’ve now been deselected doesn’t matter. So either I go, or we lose all of those Galleons. I was hoping for good news when I asked McLintock for his advice. And, to cap it all, he also says that, as my Harpies contract is also being terminated, from the end of this month he can no longer provide me free legal advice.’
Harry put down his mug of tea and picked up the letter Ginny had thrust across the table at him. Leaning back in his chair, he quickly read through it. Once finished, he smiled sympathetically across the table at his far from happy wife.
‘We don’t need the money, Ginny, you know that,’ he told her. ‘What do you want to do about it? We don’t really have many options. We could fight for the money, take Witch Weekly to court. The press would love it! We’d be back in the headlines again! I’d rather not do that.’
‘Penny-pinching Potters,’ Ginny smiled. ‘I know, Harry, I’m a magazine columnist myself, these days. I know exactly how that would go.’
‘We could repay them the money and simply live with a few hundred less Galleons in the bank. Let’s face it, we’re not exactly poor, are we?’ Harry looked into his wife’s face and she gave him a wry confirmatory smile.
‘I’d thought of that, but giving them the money back means that they have won!’ Ginny was obviously unhappy about that outcome.
‘The only other option is that you go and watch the game and write the article. A short break might be good for you. You were really looking forward to going to Tibet, and you enjoy writing about the games; you’re very good at it, too.’
‘I enjoyed writing about playing the games, Harry. Writing about a game I’ve simply watched just won’t be the same,’ said Ginny regretfully.
Harry watched his wife carefully. They had both wanted a baby. They had agreed, and they had planned for this pregnancy. But it had happened immediately, not after months of trying. Suddenly, instantly, Ginny’s Quidditch career was over. It had hit her hard. Harry’s normally bubbly and mischievous wife was moody and unpredictable. According to Hermione, this was because of “hormones”, not because she’d had to stop flying. Harry wasn’t entirely certain about this, but whatever the cause, Ginny was suddenly very emotional and she was being indecisive about almost everything. Harry, who’d been used to getting a forthright opinion from his wife on almost any subject, was unsure what to say next.
‘You’ve never tried,’ he said cautiously.
‘I’m really going to miss playing Quidditch,’ Ginny said with a rueful sigh. She blew out the flames flickering on the thick slice of bread she’d been toasting. Wafting the blue smoke from the charcoaled slice she began to spread butter on it.
‘I don’t know how you can bring yourself to eat that,’ said Harry.
‘It’s your fault that my taste buds are confused, Harry; if you hadn’t led me astray…’ said Ginny. She was suddenly Ginny again and she pouted teasingly before taking a large bite of burnt buttered toast and crunching it loudly.
‘You didn’t complain at the time, Ginny,’ he said, smiling at his wife’s comment. ‘But—I know that we could have waited a few more years. Do you regret…’
Ginny leaned across the table and gave her husband a gritty charcoal kiss.
‘I shouldn’t tease you about it, Harry. We made the decision together. It’s just that I really didn’t think that I’d fall pregnant immediately, though given Mum’s fecundity, I suppose I should have. I’m not even twenty-three and my Quidditch career is already over. I’ll be four months pregnant on our first wedding anniversary.’
‘So what? George and Angelina will have only been married six months when they have their first child. We’re going to have a baby and you keep telling me that everything will change when we do,’ he said. He pushed his cereal bowl aside and leaned closer to his wife. ‘Perhaps you should go to Tibet. If everything will change in six months time then this might be the last chance for you to get away for a while.’
‘Me or us? Will you be able to get time off work, Harry?’ she asked.
Her husband shook his head sadly.
‘I’m only two weeks into the office reorganisation, Ginny. You know that.’ Harry reached across and gently brushed a crumb of charcoal-toast from her cheek. ‘To be honest, that’s one reason why I think that it might be good for you to go. If I take time off now the chances are that Robards will turn it into an office disorganisation. He isn’t happy about some of the changes and he is still my boss. If I leave he’ll make even more changes to the agreed office restructuring, despite the fact that he’s approved it. I would have to start again when we got back.’
Ginny stared into his eyes.
‘I’m probably being a bit selfish,’ he admitted. ‘You would be away for five days, Thursday to Monday. If you weren’t here I could work late, and over the weekend. With luck I will be able to get most of the changes approved by the Minister before you get back. Then I’ll be able to relax a little, maybe even take a few days off. We will finally be able to spend more time together when you return.’
‘I don’t want to go without you, Harry,’ she told him.
‘You don’t want to go alone,’ he corrected her. ‘Why don’t you ask Hermione to go with you?’
‘It’s an International Quidditch match Harry. Hermione wouldn’t be interested,’ said Ginny dismissively.
‘What about Luna? She’s back from Peru and I’m sure that she would love to go with you.’
‘Luna doesn’t follow Quidditch, either. She’s worse than Hermione! Hermione tries to keep a track of how badly the Cannons are doing, but that’s simply in order to gauge Ron’s mood. Luna has no interest in the League, never mind an England game,’ said Ginny uncertainly.
‘England are playing Tibet, Ginny, and the league have organised transport to Lhasa for you and “a companion”. You’ve got two tickets for the game and a room in the team hotel. You could easily change the room request from a double to a twin, or even to two singles. Luna would love to go to Tibet, you know she would. And you’d enjoy her company; she always makes you laugh,’ he suggested.
Harry sat in silence and watched as the idea took hold.
‘You’re right, Harry. I’ll speak to Luna today and if she can come with me, I’ll go. But you had better be leaving before you’re late for work. We can’t have the Deputy Head Auror being late, can we?’ Ginny asked, moving purposefully around the table towards her husband.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! Think Ginny, think, and do it quickly or you’ll be dead.
Gasping for breath in the thin Himalayan air, Ginny looked anxiously across the snow-covered mountainside. She was in agony, and her wand was in her satchel. A satchel which was fifty yards up the steep, snow-clad slope from where she now lay. She could not heal herself until she reached it.
Squinting against the sun’s glare she again sought out the satchel. It was easy enough to find; her eyes simply followed the line of her tumbling descent down the mountainside. A series of scrapes and scars in the snow led up to the point where it—and she—had first hit the snow.
Ginny cautiously moved her leg. She was winded and bruised from the fall, but, worse, she had broken some bones. Her ankle was broken, again. It was the ankle she’d broken in the Department of Mysteries and in two Quidditch matches during her career. It was weak; the club Healer had told her that it would always be weak. Worse, she had broken her right arm; it was her throwing arm, her scoring arm. She’d miss her next match.
Then, in the confusion of her pain, she finally remembered that she was no longer playing Quidditch and the reason why.
The baby! I am doubly, triply, infinitely stupid.
Ginny swore and cursed and cried in frustration. She was injured and lost, which was bad enough, but it wasn’t simply her who was lost, her unborn child was also in danger.
Luna had still been sleeping in the adjacent bed when Ginny had woken. It had been very early, but Ginny had been ravenously hungry and unable to get back to sleep. She had realised that she was disturbing Luna with her fidgeting. It was their last day in Tibet so Ginny had decided that she might as well get up and go and have an early breakfast.
Despite her reservations, Ginny had enjoyed writing about the previous day’s England match from the sidelines. Her match analysis had been brutal to the point of rudeness. She had condemned the England Beaters for their lack of planning and foresight. Her own lack of planning and foresight, however, had now been brought forcefully home to her. No one knew where she was.
Her decision to take out her broom for an early morning, post-breakfast flight into the high Himalayas had seemed like such a good idea at the time. She took an early morning flight almost every day, and yesterday’s flight had been no problem. Today was her last day in Tibet and the snow-capped mountains she’d gazed at from her hotel room had finally ensnared her with their treacherous beauty.
Now, as she lay in pain on a mountainside, the realisation that she had not told anyone at all where she was going pierced and pained her more than her physical injuries. She was lost and alone in these perfidious mountains.
She could not rely on Luna. Her friend had been giddily excited the previous evening. Luna had discovered that a famous Wizarding naturalist called Scamander was in the area. He was carrying out a survey of the local yeti population. Luna had (as Ginny had known) been completely disinterested in the Quidditch match but was enthralled by the local flora and fauna. In addition to the yeti observations she’s planned, Luna was desperately hoping to meet Scamander before they returned to England. As a consequence, Luna probably wouldn’t even notice Ginny’s absence. She could not rely on anyone, and would have to get herself out of this.
She had fallen off her broom.
No one (except Harry) could ever know that she’d fallen off her broom. Ron, especially, must never find out. She had fainted and fallen. High altitude, thin air, pregnancy and morning sickness had combined to make her faint. No one (except Harry) could ever know that she’d fainted, either. She had never fainted before.
And she never would again, she decided.
Ginny squinted across the sun-bright snow. The satchel, which contained a flask of Himalayan sweet tea and her wand was about fifty yards away, uphill. It would be a struggle to reach them. An uphill struggle, she realised, smiling wryly. Her broom had landed a hundred yards downhill from where she lay. Downhill might be easier. She’d ridden with injuries often enough. It would not be difficult to ride one-handed back up and collect her wand, and everything would be all right. There was nothing to worry about, she reassured herself.
Then she saw them.
She saw the snow moving first, because they were almost invisible. They were white fur on a white backdrop in bright sunlight. Yetis! There were at least four of them, all coming from slightly different directions, and all racing rapidly uphill towards her. Each was desperate to be the first one to reach her, to be the one to kill her.
She rapidly assessed her options. Downhill led to her broom, but also towards the yetis. The broom was further away than the wand. But was it easier to reach? How painful would rolling downhill be? If she passed out from the pain, then she would definitely die. Could she drag herself uphill to her wand before the yetis reached her? They were moving very quickly, each trying to outdistance their rivals. All four wanted reach her first! What alternative did she have?
She checked her surroundings before making her final decision and spotted a dark hole no more than ten yards to her left; a cave! She abandoned any thought of trying to reach either broom or wand. There was more than one life at stake. Ginny would have tried to reach her wand, but she wasn’t only Ginny; she was Ginny and baby. Ignoring the pain in arm and ankle she rolled and dragged herself towards the darkness, cursing every inch of the way.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! Think Ginny, think. You’re still alive, but how can you get yourself out of this?
The yetis were huge, much bigger than she’d expected them to be. She had slithered and squirmed to the back of the cave and she was now curled uncomfortably up against the back wall. She was in total darkness, because the hole through which she’d entered was filled by the shoulder of a yeti. Its outstretched arm was scrabbling around the cave, trying to grab her. Claws clattered as they raked across rock. It couldn’t reach, not by at least a couple of feet, but the stupid beast was not giving up. There seemed to be no way out.
Move and get mauled, or stay and starve. Was that really the only choice that she had? There must be another way.
Suddenly, the flailing white furred arm was withdrawn and a shaft of sunlight pierced the cave. Ginny heard the angry roar of the yetis and wondered if they were fighting amongst themselves.
She was wary of reminding the yetis of her presence, but risked whispering an angry curse.
‘Really, Ginny, there is no need to swear…wear…ere,’ Luna’s voice sang out in an odd harmony as it echoed eerily around the cave.
‘Lumos,’ said Luna. The cave was instantly illuminated and Ginny watched as a fur hood poked through the hole. Luna Lovegood pulled back the hood and gazed at her with wide and worried grey eyes. Luna looked around, assessed the situation, smiled in satisfaction, and pulled herself into the cave.
‘It’s good to know that you’re both all right, but you shouldn’t swear in front of your baby, Ginny,’ said Luna.
‘Both all right?’ Ginny queried. Her friend’s words of comfort battered their way through her suppressed worry for her unborn child and brought tears to Ginny’s eyes. She fiercely fought them back and asked, ‘How can you be sure, Luna?’
‘Homenum Revelio, of course,’ Luna said with a smile. She crawled closer, conjured some warming blue flames, and then began passing her wand over Ginny’s injuries in order to gauge their severity.
‘I knew that there were two strong and determined people in this cave, one inside another. You’ve been a bit silly, haven’t you, Ginny? I was worried.’ Luna spoke softly and sorrowfully.
At this Ginny burst into tears. Luna, having identified Ginny’s broken bones, pulled Ginny into a careful and surprisingly powerful hug.
‘It will be all right, Ginny. You are safe now. I know that you don’t like to cry, but it’s not a sign of weakness, you know,’ Luna whispered.
‘Thank you,’ Ginny sobbed.
‘You are safe now. We have your broom and your wand outside. I will mend your broken bones and we can go back to the hotel,’ said Luna calmly.
‘We?’ Ginny asked. She wiped her tears on her sleeve while Luna gently lifted her other arm and carefully mended the painful break. Luna then turned her attention to the ankle.
‘Mr Scamander came with me. He helped me to find you. He’s been here for weeks putting magical markers on the yeti population in order to track their movements,’ explained Luna.
‘Tracking yetis? Why?’ Ginny asked. With the breaks mended and the pain subsiding she began to regain her composure.
‘Because he’s an eccentric, like me, and he’s trying to track them in order to learn more about their social habits,’ Luna said seriously. ‘Everyone say’s they are solitary, but they cant stay apart forever, they must mate, you know.’
‘He’s eccentric, is he?’ Ginny laughed in relief. ‘I bet you two have a lot to talk about.’
‘He’s not eccentric, Ginny; he’s an E.C.C.E.N.T.R.I.C.. He’s a member of the European Cryptozoological and Cryptobotanical Explorers, Naturalists, Technicians and Researchers Institute and Collegium. We use the acronym E.C.C.E.N.T.R.I.C. because, as Im sure you’ve realised, the Collegium has a very long name,’ Luna explained patiently. ‘I was worried about you. When I woke, you were gone, and so was your broom. These mountains are very dangerous.’
‘I’ve managed to find that out all by myself, Luna,’ announced Ginny with sarcastic self-mocking pride.
Luna again hugged her friend.
‘I’m sure that you have. Sometimes remote observation is better than direct experience; that’s why Mr Scamander is tracking the yetis. They really are much too dangerous to approach. Luckily I found him at his hotel and asked him to check his map. There were half a dozen yetis clustered together. They are solitary creatures, so we decided that they had probably found someone. Mr Scamander thought that you would be dead, but I knew that you weren’t. I was right,’ Luna concluded matter-of-factly.
Ginny shivered. Her furs and mittens had protected her from most of the chill, but now that she was safe she was shaking and not only from the cold. She felt very cold and rather clammy and was suddenly and violently sick.
‘Sorry, Luna, Morning sickness doesn’t usually last into the afternoon,’ Ginny apologised when she’d finished retching.
‘It’s not morning sickness, Ginny. You were cold and frightened and you nearly died and Harry would have lost his wife and child and that would make him very, very sad, and you don’t want him to ever be unhappy again. It’s perfectly understandable,’ said Luna. ‘I would have been very sad, too. You have always been a very good friend and I think that I would miss you more than anyone else in the world, except Daddy.’
Ginny sobbed and pulled her friend into a tight hug. Despite the cramped space she pulled open the fur coat she wore, grabbed Luna’s right hand and placed it on her only slightly swollen belly.
‘If this little person in here is a boy, Luna, he’s going to be James Sirius. That was decided over a month ago. If it’s a girl, she’s going to be Lily—something. Harry and I have dozens of alternatives for a middle name, but we can’t decide. What would you think about Lily Luna Potter?’
‘That would be lovely, Ginny, but what will Harry think?’ Luna asked, beaming happily.
‘After I tell him about how stupid I’ve been today, and what you’ve done, Harry will agree, I’m absolutely certain of that. Now let’s go outside and you can introduce me to your new boyfriend,’ said Ginny, smiling.
‘Mr Scamander is older than Daddy, Ginny. He is certainly not boyfriend material,’ scolded Luna as they prepared to leave.
‘Though he is a widower,’ she added thoughtfully. ‘And he’s very clever. Shall we get out of this cave and go home?’
Luna turned and led the way out through the narrow gap. Ginny followed her out into the blindingly brilliant sunshine. Blinking rapidly, she looked around.
Scamander was a short and rather overweight man with a lot of grey hair on his chin and none at all on the top of his glistening head. He was sweating in the heat being generated by the ring of fire surrounding the cave mouth. Beyond it, partly hidden behind a fog of steaming snow, a dozen angry yetis still snarled and raged.
‘Ah, Luna my dear, I trust that your friend is well,’ he shouted over the din of the yetis. ‘I suggest Apparition back to your hotel, would you agree?’
‘Yes, Mr Scamander,’ replied Luna as Ginny picked up her satchel, wand and broom from the cave mouth. ‘Ginny and I will Apparate on three. One—two—three.’
Ginny concentrated on their hotel foyer, twisted and Disapparated.
The foyer was almost deserted when Ginny and Luna arrived. Ginny was grateful. Had the Quidditch team or, worse, some of the other journalists, been there, a detailed explanation would have been required.
Fortunately, the lobby’s only occupant was a skinny fair-haired youth of about sixteen. He had, Ginny realised, recognised her. He was already on his feet and approaching them nervously, his arm outstretched in greeting, when Mr Scamander arrived with a pop.
‘Mrs Potter…’ the boy began eagerly.
Mr Scamander interrupted him. ‘Allow me to perform the introductions. Miss Lovegood, Mrs Potter, I’d like you to meet my son, Rolf. He’s a Harpies fan and an enthusiastic cryptozoologist and he’s been desperate to meet you both.’