Author's note: This was written for Aggiebell last summer. Thanks to
Sherylyn for the beta!
The white tent on the green lawn — with all sorts of wizards and witches and their families eating and drinking — should have been a welcome sight for Ginny, but it wasn’t. The Ministry Garden Party was the last place she wanted to be.
“We have to do what?” Ginny used Harry’s arm to steady herself as she wrenched her high heel out of the soft grass before she sank any further.
“Scavenger hunt,” Harry mumbled. “It’s supposed to be fun.”
“Fun?” That one word seemed to open the floodgates of resentment she had been holding back since she first found out they had to attend this garden party. “Fun? It’s bad enough that on one of the few weekends we have together this summer, we had to come to the millionth annual Ministry Madness Garden Party.”
“You know I had to come to this every summer with Mum and Dad, don’t you?”
Harry pressed his lips together and nodded.
“And we had to wear traditional dress then, too?”
Harry nodded again.
“I hated dressing up in black robes and pointy hats then and I hate it now.” She plucked at the high neckline of her robes in the vain attempt to fan herself. “And why is it always hotter than Circe’s cauldron for the garden party?”
“Uh. Dunno. Magic?”
Ginny frowned and crossed her arms in front of herself. She was not at all in the mood to make light of this latest development. She had been hoping they would put in an appearance at this party and then dash out. But now it seemed they had to be involved.
Harry ignored her frown and held up a small scroll of parchment. “So, do you want to do it? The seal will be broken at two o’clock, and we’ll have an hour to find everything. The only rule is no illegal magic and no conjured or transfigured items.”
“Do we have to?” She knew she sounded whiny, but the heat always made her cranky — so did dress robes — so did not seeing Harry for a week and then not having any private time with him.
“The winners have a thousand Galleons donated to the charity of their choice, and—”
“The Victims of Voldemort could use the gold,” Ginny finished for him, knowing there was no way out of it if charity was involved.
“Although Ron and Hermione are entering,” Harry said thoughtfully. “So they’ll probably win.”
“Wait a minute. Why do you think they’ll win? Because Hermione is always prepared and resourceful?” Ginny could feel her face heating up — not a welcome sensation on such a hot day. “Don’t be so sure of that. For one thing, she doesn’t have that beaded handbag with her since it’s not traditional dress for a witch.”
“Yes, but traditional robes have lots of pockets,” Harry pointed out. “You could carry the kitchen sink with you if you wanted.” He glanced at her pointed hat. “And maybe a coat rack.”
“Unless Hermione knew there was going to be a scavenger hunt, why would she load up her pockets?”
“Wait.” Ginny grabbed his wide sleeve. “Hermione did know about the scavenger hunt since she works for the Ministry!”
“I’m not sure if she knew ahead of time and planned accordingly — but Ron was looking rather smug when they announced the contest.”
Ron looking smug was unbearable. Ginny almost took the bait when she noticed the amused glint in Harry’s eyes. “I’m not that competitive.”
“Maybe not with one brother entering a contest,” Harry said. “But Percy and Audrey are also in.”
“He probably had the date circled in gold on his calendar,” Ginny said sourly.
“Probably,” Harry agreed with a careless smile.
George would never let her live it down if she let Percy get all the glory — and Ron wouldn’t be happy to lose to Percy, either. “Right.” She scowled. “I see I have no choice.”
“It’s only an hour.”
“If a bright blue bikini is on the list, then we’ll be ahead.” Ginny drew two flimsy pieces of silky nylon out of her pocket. “Along with my sundress, that’s all I brought with me, since I thought we’d have time to go to the beach after putting in an appearance here.”
Harry was staring at the little triangles, a feverish gleam in his eye. Then he licked his lips. “Uh.”
She stuffed the silky fabric away in her voluminous robes. “But I guess we won’t be able to go now.”
“We could still go,” he said hopefully. “It’s not like the beach is going to close early or anything.”
“You know we’ll have to stick around after the hunt is over,” she said with a sigh. “For photos with the bag of Galleons.”
“Yeah. Probably.” Harry took her hand. “It’s for a good cause, though.”
She squeezed his hand back, feeling ashamed of her outburst. “I know.” She looked into his eyes. “I just wish we could do something fun together.”
“We can make it fun.”
She smiled slowly as she realized he was right. They were together and they were a team. It wasn’t a day at the beach, but it was a day with Harry. “Right. I’m in. Let’s win this thing.”
He grinned in return. “That’s the spirit.” Then he looked at his watch. “Oops. It’s two o’clock — we should be able to see the list.” He dropped her hand and took out the scroll. It immediately rolled open, and the instructions appeared in green script:
Ministry Madness has begun Find four things, one by one.
You have only an hour That time is dear Place your find on this page And it will disappear.
Here’s the first treasure You only have to find four May the best team win The rest will be shown the door.
Then the first item appeared.
Witch Weekly issue 945 July, 1998
Ginny’s eyes widened. “How are we going to find a five-year-old copy of Witch Weekly?”
“Dunno. Library? Er — waiting room at St. Mungo’s?”
“We can’t take a magazine out of a library.” Ginny felt the sun beating on her shoulders. “Uh. Let’s stand in the shade at least.”
Once they were in the shade of a large chestnut tree, Ginny took off her pointed hat and fanned herself with it. “What was the date again?”
“Um — July, 1998.”
She forgot about the heat. “Harry! I’m guessing that’s the commemorative Harry Potter issue of Witch Weekly! It came out on your birthday.”
“It is?” Harry stared at her. “I mean … there was a commemorative Harry Potter issue of Witch Weekly?”
She giggled. “There was — and I have it.”
“You do?” Harry looked both embarrassed and pleased.
“Of course I do. And Mum has her own copy. There are lots of photos of you.”
He groaned. “Sounds like a nightmare.”
“No, it’s a really nice write-up,” she assured him. Then she grinned. “There’s also a lovely recipe for treacle tart and tips on how to use fly agaric to keep insects from destroying your garden.”
He smiled. “So you kept it for the recipe.”
“We’ll have to Apparate to The Burrow,” Ginny said. “I didn’t take anything personal with me when I moved to Wales.”
“I thought you slept with it under your pillow.”
She giggled. “Maybe at one time I did.”
With that, they Apparated to the back step of The Burrow.
“That was the smoothest Apparition I’ve ever done,” Harry said, adjusting his pointed hat.
“It’s the hats,” Ginny said. “The point helps with Destination.”
No one was home at The Burrow, but Ginny wasn’t surprised. Since Dad had retired, her parents had been taking a lot of day trips.
“They’re probably at the beach,” Harry said, looking around the empty kitchen while Ginny Summoned the magazine.
“Ha, rub it in.” Ginny smoothed the cover of the magazine and looked at the photo of Harry dressed in full Order of Merlin, First Class regalia. Her heart turned. Harry looked so much younger — and so serious. Thank goodness so many good things had happened for him since then. “I don’t suppose you want to autograph this copy?”
He laughed and brandished a quill. “To whom should I make it out?”
“To my sexiest fan,” Ginny said promptly. “Then add: ‘I want to skip the scavenger hunt and do unmentionable things to you. Love, Harry Potter.’”
His eyes gleamed. “I always write that — so generic. Since you’re special, you should have something specific.”
Ginny laughed and felt a giddy flutter at hearing she was special. They had gone out for a long time — they understood each other — but Harry wasn’t one to say these things.
Harry put the scavenger hunt scroll flat on the kitchen table. “Let’s turn in our first find.”
Ginny placed the magazine on top of the scroll. Blue particles of light danced above the magazine and then it was gone. The scroll was blank for a few seconds and then the next item appeared in green script:
“Amanita muscaria? Isn’t that some kind of a plant?”
Ginny frowned. “A mushroom, maybe? I could look it up in one of Mum’s gardening books.”
“Let’s ask Neville,” Harry said. “We don’t have a lot of time to be looking things up in books — and he would know where to find something like that.”
Harry sent a Patronus, since they didn’t know if Neville would be indoors or out. Within minutes, a green flame roared in the fireplace.
“Hi, Harry, hi, Ginny.” Neville’s head floated in the green flame. “I got your message.”
“So, Neville, Amanita muscaria?” Harry asked. “Do you think you can get one for us?”
“Sure. It’s just a common magic mushroom. Are you going to use it in the garden or—” He looked at Ginny’s pointed hat. “Or are you doing one of those historic reenactment things from the middle ages? Hectate’s ritual involves mushrooms, but—”
“No,” Harry said, cutting him off. “We have to dress like this for the Ministry garden party. And we’re in a charity scavenger hunt — so if we win —”
Neville’s eyes widened. “Oh! Ron and Hermione are doing that hunt, too. I just got breadfruit for them.”
“You did?” Ginny asked in dismay. “What number were they on?”
“Dunno,” Neville said. “They were in a hurry.”
Ginny glanced at Harry and could see her impatience mirrored on his face. Still, this was Neville and he didn’t deserve to be ordered around. “So — er — can you get us one of these mushrooms?”
“You should have some at The Burrow,” Neville said. “Your mum planted them around the garden a few years ago — I remember her telling me about them after my Order of Merlin ceremony.”
Ginny groaned at her own stupidity. “Is fly agaric the same thing asAmanita muscaria?”
“Yes. They’re the red ones.”
Harry was out the door before Ginny could say anything. Ginny turned back to Neville’s head in the fire. “I should have known that. Why do plants always have twelve different names?”
Neville smiled. “You always used to say that when you were doing your Herbology homework.”
“And you never answered.” Ginny smiled back. “And now that you’re going to be the Herbology teacher at Hogwarts next year, what are you going to say to your students?”
Neville frowned thoughtfully. “I’ll probably ask them what they think. It’s a good way to review the category systems that the Latin names point to, and also explore some of the folklore about plants.”
Ginny snorted. “Or you can just be like Snape and say, ‘ten points from Hufflepuff for cheek.’”
“It would probably be easier,” Neville said with a faint smile. “Although I don’t think I’ll adopt that teaching strategy.”
Neville would never say anything against Professor Snape — not after what Harry had told him about Snape’s torturous past. “You’re going to be a wonderful teacher, Neville.”
“Found it,” Harry said, bursting in through the kitchen door. “Is this the right one?” He held out his hand and showed Neville a bright red button mushroom with white spots all over it.
“Looks right, Harry.”
“Thanks. We’ll give you full credit if we win.”
Neville smiled. “Glad to help.”
“’Bye, Neville,” Ginny called as the flames died down.
“Okay, two down,” Harry said watching the mushroom disappear. “And we’ve only used twenty minutes of our time.”
“You could have chatted with Neville a little more,” Ginny scolded.
“I’ll pop in and see him next time I’m in Hogsmeade. Neville understands we’re in a hurry.”
“Uh-oh. Looks like we’ll be going to Hogsmeade sooner than you think,” Ginny said. “The scroll wants a glass from the Hog’s Head.”
“The Hog’s Head?” Harry raised his eyebrows. “That’s easier said than done. You can’t sneak a glass out since Aberforth has them all charmed.”
“I don’t know why he bothers. Who would want to steal a dirty glass? Unless it was to give it a good scouring.”
Harry shrugged. “It’s his pub.”
“Maybe he would give you one. You are Harry Potter, and he knows you and…” Ginny trailed off at the look on Harry’s face. There was no way would he use his notoriety for something small like this.
“Famous people are not high on Aberforth’s list,” Harry said. “The only way to get something out of Aberforth is to earn his respect.” Harry tapped his nose in thought. “I think I’ll wager him that I can drink an entire glass of Giggling Gin in one go. The other day, one of the Aurors was talking about trying to buy one of Aberforth’s goats and losing that chance because he couldn’t stomach the stuff.”
“Harry, no! That much Giggling Gin could kill you!”
“I don’t know if it would kill me,” Harry said, “but it would make me sick. Luckily Aurors have prophylactic antidotes we can take before we eat or drink anything.
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Those always have side effects. Remember all the ear hair and eyebrows you sprouted after you had dinner with those spies?”
Harry shrugged. “This is just alcohol. What could possibly happen?”
Ginny watched Harry as he put the empty gin glass on the scroll. His eyes were a little brighter and his cheeks were ruddy, but other than that, he looked normal. The glass disappeared and the fourth item appeared.
Marriage advice from a happily married couple.
“I wish I knew where Mum and Dad were,” Ginny fretted. “They could give us good advice.
“What about one of those self-help books?” Harry asked, steering her out of the Hog’s Head. Luckily, the pub had been empty of customers, so the press couldn’t start a rumor about Harry Potter’s drinking habits ‘spiraling out of control,’ or some other rubbish.
“It has to be from a happily married couple, not one of those so-called experts,” Ginny said.
“True.” Harry put his hand on her waist and affectionately patted her.
Ginny was surprised at this unexpected display of affection, but didn’t think anything about it until he moved his hand lower. It wasn’t as hot in Hogsmeade as it had been in London, but it was still annoying to be touched like that through her heavy robes. “Harry! What’s got into you?”
He giggled. “Uh. Gin.”
She stopped in the middle of the street and faced him. “You’re drunk!”
“Tipsy.” He giggled again. “I guess the antidote could only do so much.”
Her sentence was cut off by Harry sweeping her into a passionate kiss. She was so surprised that she didn’t kiss him back, but instead pushed on his shoulders. “Harry!”
“What?” He stopped kissing her, but he didn’t let her out of his tight embrace.
“Stop kissing me in the middle of the street,” she hissed.
He grinned. “Okay. We’ll go somewhere private.”
“Harry! Snap out of it! We’re on a scavenger hunt, remember? We have to find Mum and Dad or Bill and Fleur or some other couple that’s happily married.”
“Maybe we should be happily married,” Harry said, nuzzling her neck.
Now she knew he was drunk.
“Harry,” she huffed as she finally pulled free and then straightened her hat. “Now isn’t the time to talk about getting married.”
“Can we talk about the honeymoon?”
Ginny was fed up. Not only was she hot and tired and thirsty — they had to finish this scavenger hunt with Harry acting like an idiot. “Harry.” She pointed her wand at him and tried to look steely-eyed and determined. “Back off or I’ll hex you.”
“So sexy when you’re angry,” Harry said with a playful gleam in his green eyes. “And that hat.” He stared it in fascination and then touched the end. “It’s so pointy.”
She tried not to laugh. “Harry — isn’t there something you can do to sober up?”
He giggled. “Nah. This should wear off in an hour or two.” He looked her up and down. “You know those robes — yeah — at first glance they’re a tent — but then I think about what’s inside the tent and I just—”
With a swirl of her wand, she put a Silencing Charm on him. Harry tried to talk and then frowned at her with accusing eyes.
She didn’t feel a bit guilty. “It’s for your own good. You’re soon going to say something you’ll really regret. You’ll thank me later, believe me.”
Harry continued to frown at her, but she ignored his doleful, puppy dog eyes. She took his arm. “I’m Side-Along Apparating us to Shell Cottage. Hopefully, Bill and Fleur will be there and we can get some marriage advice from them. Merlin knows Fleur loves to dish it out.”
But it wasn’t Fleur who opened the door of Shell Cottage.
“Mum? What are you doing here?”
“We’re minding Victoire while Bill and Fleur take the afternoon off to go to the beach,” Mum said. She smiled at Harry. “How are you, dear? You both look so nice in your traditional robes. Percy told me about the scavenger hunt. Is it over yet?”
Harry giggled and shook his head.
Mum looked at him suspiciously.
“We’re doing the scavenger hunt, too, Mum,” Ginny said quickly, “and the last item we need is marriage advice from a happily married couple.”
Mum forgot all about Harry’s strange behavior when she heard what they seeking. “Oh, what fun. Come into the kitchen. Dad is having a cup of tea.”
When Mum turned her back, Harry tugged at Ginny’s arm to get her attention and then pointed to his throat.
Ginny had cooled down enough to realize that she should release him from the spell — it wasn’t like Harry was going to reveal government secrets or anything. And if he said anything too stupid, she would just explain it all to Mum and Dad. “I’ll release you, but you have to behave.”
Harry looked down at her with a daft grin.
“Try to behave,” Ginny said after he playfully touched her nose with his finger. “Or at least let me do all of the talking.”
He nodded and kissed her forehead.
Ginny sighed and lifted her spell. She could be enjoying this fun, demonstrative side of Harry if they didn’t have to do this stupid scavenger hunt.
By the time they got to the kitchen, Mum and Dad were already discussing the perfect advice for a happy marriage.
“What about never go to bed angry?” Mum said. “That’s good advice.”
“But we’ve gone to bed angry and we’re still married,” Dad pointed out. “I think we need to be less specific and more philosophical.”
“Yes, you’re right, dear,” Mum said, lifting the teapot. “Harry, sit here next to Ginny and I’ll pour you a cup. Biscuit?”
To Ginny’s relief, Harry answered normally. “I’m not hungry, Mrs. Weasley — at least not for biscuits.” Then he moved his hand under the table and touched Ginny on the knee.
Ginny could feel her eyes widening at this brazen behaviour, but she pinned a smile on her face. “I think something general sounds about right, Dad.” She grabbed Harry’s hand and moved it away.
“What does make a happy marriage?” Dad said thoughtfully as he stirred milk in his tea. “Mutual respect?”
“Love. I think it just boils down to love,” Mum said firmly.
“But what about the arranged marriages in the past? A lot of those couples didn’t even know each other before they got married and yet they stayed married. Take my grandparents, for instance. Why, I remember…”
While Dad reminisced about his grandparents, Ginny was fighting off Harry’s roving hands.
“I think you just have to marry the right person and then stick it out.”
Everyone looked at Harry in surprise.
Harry hiccupped and then blinked as if he couldn’t believe he had just said such a thing.
Dad nodded. “Harry, I think you’re right. Commitment is key.”
“Yes,” said Mum eagerly. “Some days you might not feel like you’re in love — even if you are, deep down — but it’s that commitment that sees you through the dark times.”
“Let’s tell that to the scroll,” Dad said, “and see if it likes it.” He looked at his watch. “You don’t have much time.”
The scroll must have liked that advice, since it rolled itself up and disappeared with a small pop.
“Must have gone back to the organizers in London,” Dad said. “Perhaps you should go, too.”
Ginny was reluctant to return to the garden party with Harry acting so strangely, but there didn’t seem to be much choice.
“Thanks for the tea,” Harry said, standing up.
“You’re welcome,” Mum answered. Then she gave him a quick hug. “You’re looking pale, dear. You really should try to get to the beach and relax.”
Ginny caught Harry’s eye. “That’s what I keep telling him.”
“I’m okay, Ginny,” Harry said once they rejoined the garden party. They stood under the same shade tree and watched the milling crowd. “The effects are wearing off.”
“You’re still holding my hand.”
“I like holding your hand — tipsy or not.”
“Oh.” She didn’t quite know how to answer that.
“There you are!” Hermione rushed toward them, with Ron trailing behind. “We wondered if you were still on the scavenger hunt.”
“You’re already finished?” Ginny asked Ron in dismay.
“About five minutes ago,” Ron said. “We would have been here sooner, if that monkey hadn’t run away.”
“Monkey?” Harry asked. Then he shook his head. “I don’t want to know. So you two won? Well done.”
“No, we didn’t win.” Hermione’s face was very red and she looked as hot and irritable as Ginny felt. “Melinda Bobbin’s team won. Next year, the committee should look into the rules and prohibit house-elves from being involved. It’s not too difficult to win a scavenger hunt in ten minutes if you order your house-elves to find everything for you.”
Ron shrugged. “They did follow the rules — so we really can’t complain.”
“No, I guess not.” Hermione bit her lip.
Suddenly, Harry yawned and swayed on his feet.
“What’s wrong with you, mate?” Ron asked.
“He got into some Giggling Gin and an Auror’s antidote,” Ginny said, alarmed at Harry’s pallor. “Do you think he’s okay?”
Ron waved his wand over Harry’s head. “I don’t detect any toxicity. He just needs to sleep it off — like a real hangover.”
Ginny nodded. “I’ll take him back to Grimmauld Place.”
“I can still hear you lot,” Harry mumbled, his eyes half closed.
“Feel better, Harry,” Hermione called as Ginny Side-Along Apparated them away.
While Harry slept, Ginny decided to shed her heavy robes and put on her pale blue sundress. Once she’d splashed cold water over her face and brushed her hair, she realized she was exhausted. All that Apparating in the heat was draining. Grimmauld Place was cool and dim and quiet. Maybe she should lie on the bed with Harry and have a little nap, too.
When she awoke, Ginny realized that she was no longer in bed, nor at Grimmauld Place. She was lying on a blanket at the beach with Harry sitting next to her, his arms propped on his knees. He was looking out at the sea. Ginny followed his glance and gasped in pleasure. The setting sun cast a pinkish glow on the calm water.
Harry turned his head. “You’re awake.”
“I am.” She sat up and brushed her hair off of her face. “So we did make it to the beach.”
He smiled. “We did. I had Kreacher make us a picnic.” He shook his head. “I don’t know why I didn’t think to have him help us with the scavenger hunt.”
“Because you’re not like that — always taking the easy way out.” Ginny moved closer to him and he put his arm around her. “This is beautiful.” The sea was now a mix of faint pink and pearly light blue in the fading light. “I think I like the beach better at sunset than I do in the middle of the afternoon.”
“Not so hot,” Harry agreed.
“Sorry I was so cranky today.”
He laughed. “Sorry I was so obnoxious today.”
“You had an excuse — you were a little tipsy.” She smiled up at him. “I’m glad you’re an affectionate drunk.”
“I did mean what I said, though.”
“You said many things today.” She grinned. “So you really do like my pointy hat?”
“I meant what I said about getting married.”
She pulled away to look at him. “Harry, is this a proposal?”
“I’m mucking this up, aren’t I?”
Her heart started beating faster. They were on a solitary beach with a picnic. She was wearing a pretty blue dress and Harry had on a crisp white shirt. It was a warm summer evening and the sound of the sea whispered in the background. “No, you’re not mucking it up.”
“So, will you? Er — Marry me?”
Her mouth went dry at hearing those words. “Why?” she whispered. “Why now?”
“I think I’ve known for a while — but today, when I saw that date on that magazine and realized that it’s been five years together—”
“Well, yes, but Harry—”
“And I want another five years together — and another five — and another five — and —” He broke off and smiled. “You know what I mean.”
She looked into his eyes. “I do know what you mean.”
“You do?” he asked, relief in his voice.
She laughed from sheer happiness. “I think you’re the right person and I want to stick it out with you.”
Harry groaned. “I said that, didn’t I?”
“Not very poetic, but rather profound.” She moved on to her knees and put her arms around his shoulders.
His eyes flashed with emotion. “Since I’m an Auror, we’ll probably have to go to more Ministry Madness Garden Parties.”
“And I’ll probably be cranky every summer from the heat.”
“I’m not worried. We’ve had marriage advice from the best.”
“We have.” Then she laughed. “What a day. I do like it when you’re a little tipsy and silly.”
He kissed her. “We’ll have a happy marriage, Ginny.”
“I’m holding you to that promise.” She touched his face. “Forever.”