A/N: Thanks to those who have reviewed. Special and sincere thanks go to Kelly and to Michele. Kelly, my pre-beta, is so incredibly busy, but she somehow found the time to help me out. And Michele, my fabulous beta, who is so supportive, has made this story much better. Thank you both, kindly—
We interrupt this Author's Note for a message from the Beta:
Hi gang – it's my fault this chapter is so long in coming. Please send all eggs, frozen seafood and sharp objects my way…it's not her fault at all…
Signed, Michele, the miserable beta…
We now return you to this Author's Note, already in progress…
—That being said, I need to add a warning: this chapter and various subsequent chapters contain some graphic material that may not be suitable for younger readers. Please read and review!
It was cold, terribly cold and dark. She had no recollection of arriving to this place, wherever it was, but she did know that she had a pounding headache and her feet and hands felt frozen. She awoke slumped in a squalid corner of a small stone-hewn room, her hands fastened tightly behind her, her wrists raw and her shoulders aching. The ropes around her ankles bit into her skin as well, but she did her best to ignore the sting. A musty staleness hung in the air and on her skin, penetrating through her thick winter cloak and making her shiver.
She didn't know what time of day or night it was, as there were no windows, but she felt as though she had been there, in that position, for hours. Her neck muscles were so tender that even sitting perfectly still caused her great pain. She looked around her, trying to discern where she might be, but could find no telling features. For some reason this caused her even more alarm. Being held against her will was one thing, but having absolutely no bearings or idea of how to escape made her panic.
A dry sob caught in her parched throat. Her heart pounded wildly, causing the blood pumping through her head to throb uncomfortably. She remembered this feeling quite well, having been a prisoner once before, but it had never come about this surprisingly; at least she had started to suspect Tom Riddle before he had taken control of her completely. But this, this was very different. Who knew what was in store for her, or what her captor wanted? Was it because of Harry? Was she being held for some sort of ransom? Harry would gladly pay all that he had; she knew that he would do anything for her. But then again, that scheme didn't really make sense. Harry really wasn't all that wealthy, there were bound to be other, more well-suited financiers for such a cause.
Ginny swallowed and blinked through the darkness, trying to control her fear. As her eyes adjusted to the inky shadows, she was able to make out a wooden door with rusty hinges directly across from her. A chink of feeble light from under it cut sharply across the cold expanse she found herself in. Only a small sliver hope, the rest was chilling darkness.
Feverishly she pulled and maneuvered her hands and feet to try and free herself, keeping her eyes on that one spot of light; a totem of warmth and hope. Before long the scratch of the rope was sure to draw blood from her chafed skin, but she had to release herself. If not for freedom, then to offer her aching shoulders some comfort. She continued to twist her wrists behind her and she barely noticed the cutting pain for the numbness that had spread over her.
Ginny didn't think she had any enemies…but she knew Harry had. There were plenty of disgruntled wizards and witches who had once followed Voldemort who would be glad to hurt her husband. They would do anything to repay Harry for finishing the war and their Dark Lord—even if they couldn't hurt him physically, they would cripple him emotionally. And she was just the prop to ensure such a feat. But even as those thoughts crossed her mind, doubt surfaced.
If they hadn't taken her to hurt Harry, then there was only one other reason that seemed plausible. And suddenly she knew beyond any doubt; her captors did want her for a very specific purpose. It all seemed so blindingly obvious now, especially with the recent Death Eater attacks. Their mindless partners held back not by bars nor by Dementors, but by themselves. She knew how to restore their minds; she alone could replace what they had lost. There was Cindy, of course, but Ginny knew that she, herself, was the most obvious choice. It was she who had the reputation, for all of her many accomplishments were posted in the Daily Prophet for everyone to read. Clearly she was the one with the talent.
She felt wretched. Why hadn't she thought of this before? Why hadn't she been more cautious? Harry had warned her that Dark activities were on the rise, yet she had shrugged off his warnings. She had even promised him she would be extra careful that very morning. But through all the excitement of her pregnancy, she hadn't really wanted to dampen her buoyed spirits with thoughts of Death Eaters. It was her own fault she was in this mess, and it would be her fault if her captors succeeded in their plan to get the Memory Draught.
Fear gripped her insides, her breath coming in short, frantic gasps. She wouldn't allow herself to give in; she, nor the wizarding populace, could afford such a blow. Lucious Malfoy, the Lestranges, Crabb, Nott, Avery, Dolohov, Goyle...the list went on and on. They were safely concealed within Azkaban and their own minds, but once freed, could wreak havoc on the peace they'd all worked to restore.
Suddenly the air was filled with a grating screech of rusty hinges protesting their use as the door was pushed open. Weak light flooded the room but it brought no comfort. A figure, covered by a heavy cloak, the hood pulled over his face with only his square jaw exposed, walked into the room slowly. His heavy boots pounded loudly on the damp floor and reverberated off the walls. Drawing very near, he crouched down beside her, and she did her best not to recoil in fear. She was afraid; oh yes, terribly afraid of him, but she would not give him the satisfaction of knowing. Bravely, she jutted her chin out and waited. He stayed silent, watching her, so very close that it unnerved her beyond all understanding, but still she remained as she was. He reached a slow and deliberate hand to her face; his fingers were warm and although she knew they meant her nothing but harm, the warmth they exuded made her want to lean into them.
He stroked her cheek softly, almost lovingly, as she glared defiantly at the dark cowl concealing his identity. His hands were a bit like Harry's wide and calloused, and even gentle; his knuckles were dry and they scuffed her soft cheek. But suddenly his tenderness was gone as he struck her harshly across the face, the tinny bite of blood filling her mouth. She cried out in surprise and pain, but the ache from her cheek was soon forgotten as he pulled her roughly to her feet by her hair, shoving her against the wall. He held her there by her throat, pressing his body to hers in terrible suggestion. It was then that she recognized him as her attacker, for his low-toned, sinful chuckle filled her ears, making her shrink away despite her earlier determination to do no such thing.
"Do you think Potter will want you after we've turned you into a whore?" he whispered gruffly in her ear as he ran his free hand over her body. Tears once again blurred her vision and spilt freely down her cheeks. Harry, come and save me, she thought desperately as he continued his torture.
"Please..." she choked out softly.
He pulled her from the wall only to shove her back into place, her head bouncing against the wall, shooting violent pain all the way to the backs of her eyes.
"Please what?" he hissed. "Are you begging for more?" He tore off his hood, bruising her lips with his. His raspy tongue, thick and dank, shoved its way into her mouth. The hand around her throat tightened as she squirmed away, and his other hand, latched painfully onto her breast.
She bit his lip, hard, and he pulled away with snarl, a little trickle of blood coming off his bottom lip. He wiped it off with the back of his hand and glanced at it briefly before turning his attention back to her. Ginny had expected him to hit her in retaliation, but she wasn't that lucky. Instead he threw her a lopsided smirk, his yellow pointed teeth bore in a feral sneer, and lunged at her again, ripping her cloak open so it hung limply behind her, only held off the cold ground by her tied wrists. His hands busied themselves in her long skirt as she struggled for breath.
Some time ago, back when she had been horribly violated by Tom, she had thought that being possessed was the worst thing that could ever have happened. She had felt contaminated and dirtied by the imposter, so completely defiled and raped of her identity, that she could not imagine anything more harrowing. She had worked very hard, for a very long time, to mend herself to the point of contentment. She had thought she had repaired herself enough; had thought those feelings of complete violation and self-loathing had finally been eradicated. She was wrong. They were merely buried deep within herself, and they were now resurfacing. Even as she withdrew into her own mind and detached herself from the situation, as she had learned to do so long ago when she was a young girl under Riddle's influence, she felt the hot pain of defilement spill within her, spreading to every corner or her body.
As he continued his cruelty, having torn through her blouse, the bare skin of her shoulder and left arm breaking out in goose pimples, she beseeched her God. She prayed that, no matter what happened, however horrible, the child she carried would not be harmed.
"Enough!" came a sudden drawling voice from the doorway. "You'll have your share when we're done. But for now, she needs to be left alone."
The light from the corridor wreathed the owner of this new voice in shadow, but she could tell, however, that his hood was down and that he wasn't wearing a mask.
The man holding her throat took a step away, letting her breathe freely again, and she slid the length of the wall to the floor. Her attacker's face was in full view, but it didn't do much good as she didn't recognize him. His dark eyes—black, and deep set— grated over her body. His high forehead and cheekbones dominated all other features, so much, that he seemed almost inhuman. A nasty grin spread across his face, baring his crooked and pointed teeth.
"I will have you." he promised.
"Leave us." said the man at the door making his companion exit. He threw her one more sickening smile before he disappeared and Ginny let out the breath she was unwittingly holding. Although she knew the person before her was most likely just as cruel, she was grateful that he appeared in the doorway just then, and saved her from a worse fate.
He stood motionless for a moment, gazing down at her from across the room as she shifted uncomfortably under his scrutiny.
"You know what we want." It wasn't a question but she wasn't so sure she knew the answer. Or rather, she didn't want to believe her captivity had anything to do with the Memory Draught. She said nothing, and he made no movement to command an answer from her. He stood there in silence, as though wanting to make her uncomfortable.
"I don't know what you want," Ginny finally said, pleased that her voice did not waiver.
"Yes you do," he said, "You know perfectly well why you're here."
Ginny said nothing.
"I never would have thought I'd see the day when a Weasley was worth anything. And I especially didn't think I'd ever need a favor from one."
"Favor?" Ginny said bitterly.
"Yes, a favor. You see, I need something you have. Something only you can provide me with; and you're going to give it to me." His voice was quiet and certain. Deadly.
Ginny stared at the dark figure standing across from her, something in her mind telling her that she knew his voice.
Finally he set into motion, taking lazy strides toward the center of the small room. Ginny unconsciously pulled her knees to her chest as she watched him come to a stop a few feet from her. She could see his face now, she recognized his expensive taste and pointed chin. Draco Malfoy, now a man, stood before her with cold eyes and an even colder heart.
"You give us what we want and your time here will be virtually painless. If you, however, choose to be difficult, I promise that you'll wish you were dead," he whispered, fingering his wand. He paused to let his meaning sink in and then moved toward her, his wand outstretched. She automatically recoiled even though she wanted to appear unafraid, but her pervious experience with him, three years earlier, left her with a perfect knowledge of his cruelty.
She had administered some pain-relieving draughts to what had been left of a small Muggle family those three years ago. Malfoy had tortured them beyond all belief, leaving only a mangled mess of what should have been two children. Their parents had been spared, though not out of any form of mercy; they had been forced to watch the horrid display and had later gone mad. But that hadn't been the worst. He'd tortured Remus Lupin as well, had killed him with agonizing slowness. Harry had tried to exact his revenge, but in the end, Malfoy had pleaded innocence. Malfoy swore that he had been controlled by the Imperius curse, and had been set free for lack of evidence. It had hit Harry hard, knowing Malfoy had been responsible for the death of the last true Marauder, his only link to his parents' past and a true friend, as well. Though no one could have ever replaced Sirius, Harry had come to regard Remus as a father figure and had loved him deeply. Harry, still to this day, searched for a way to convict Malfoy of the crimes he committed. Ginny knew what Malfoy was capable of and did not doubt his warning in the least.
Yet, perhaps it was because she was a Weasley, or that she was just too damned stubborn to relent, she refused to give in easily. She held her head high as he brought his wand ever closer. But he didn't use it against her as she thought he would. Instead he removed the bindings from her ankles and she immediately felt a rush of warm blood flood to her toes. She wanted him to free her hands as well, but did not want to ask for anything from him… even if it meant losing a few fingers due to the lack of blood flow. Staring at him disdainfully, she straightened herself.
"You won't get away with this." she whispered, her throat painfully tight and dry.
He laughed and shook his head. "Don't try and be brave; it's really quite pathetic."
He pulled her forward so he could remove the bindings around her wrists and she had to hold in a groan when her arms were released and her shoulders relaxed. She flexed her wrists, ignoring the rawness of her skin, before pulling her cloak over her exposed upper body.
Draco stood and stared at her, carefully examining her features, but after a few moments he sneered, making his handsome face contort to one of revulsion.
"You could have been so much more, Weasley. You, above all others, in that…pathetic litter you call a family, had potential. Instead you chose to marry that idiot, Potter, and look where it's gotten you."
"Harry will come for me," Ginny said with absolute conviction.
"Not if he's dead."
Rage rose within her, her face contorting into an ugly scowl to match Malfoy's. "Don't even think it," she spat, her voice lowered and dangerous, "as if you had it in you, you weak, pathetic excuse for a wizard! You're lucky Harry didn't kill you when he had the chance..."
Malfoy raised his wand as a warning, his face white and angry, but Ginny could not stop the tirade of fury. The insults rolled off her tongue with amazing ease as though she had been waiting to tell him just what she thought of him for years.
"…You're a foul, vulgar man who deserves what's coming to you. And make no mistake, you will pay, Malfoy!" To make her point, she spat bitterly at his feet but he jumped away, his eyes set in anger.
"So you're choosing the painful way of things are you? How very...Gryffindor of you."
She barely had time to brace herself for what she knew was coming, but before she knew it, she was writhing on the floor in agony. Pain shot through her every pore and she could no longer hold in the scream that wanted to escape. Her throat tore and bled from its dryness, but she continued to scream under the curse he held over her. Her spine, feeling as though it would snap in two if he did not release her soon, was contorted to breaking point. Agony. There was nothing worse. It felt as though the pain were part of her very soul, bound with her body in a tight, unrelenting vice. But it did relent, just as suddenly as it had started.
Collapsed, with no strength to raise her head, a traitorous whimper escaped her lips. It had been short, but it had still felt endless. She cradled her abdomen, hoping that all was not lost. She knew it was unlikely that her baby could survive the Cruciatus curse and she clutched her stomach, crying outright, not caring that she may appear weak. She knew one thing: she could not afford for it to happen again; she would have to cooperate.
"That's just a taste to help you make your choice. And if you ever speak to me like that again, you'll be very sorry indeed. Until tomorrow then." he said, giving her a slight and sarcastic bow before leaving her alone.
The door slammed shut with a resounding bang and all became still and silent save for her gasps for air between quiet sobs.
Hours passed. She was bleeding, cold and broken, lost and without hope. Sometime after the curse had been placed on her, she'd fallen into a fitful sleep filled with terrors. She had no idea what time it was or how long she had been gone, but the small sliver of hope that she had at the beginning was now running very thin. She didn't rightly know why, in such a state, she should be angry with Harry, but she was. She had pleaded for him to come to her in her mind; begged him to save her but he hadn't. Logically, she knew that her husband had no idea where she was or how to find her, but all the same, the frustration was there. He was Harry–bloody-Potter after all, wasn't he? He had saved the entire world from a terrible fate, couldn't he save his wife? She pushed those thoughts from her mind. No, she told herself, Harry will come.
In the mean time, she had to help herself. To save herself and to save her child, she would have to do Malfoy's bidding. She would make the Memory Restorative Draught to keep from being harmed, hopefully giving herself time to plan an escape or for her husband to come to her aid. Besides, they wouldn't know the difference if she made the Draught correctly or not; she was the potions master, wasn't she?
She held tightly onto the thought of being rescued; after all, she really hadn't been there all that long. She needed to give Harry time, she told herself. He had never before left her abandoned, why would he now?
She unconsciously rubbed her sore wrists as she gazed, unseeing, at the closed door. She'd already tried to open it, hoping she'd ruffled Malfoy so much earlier that he'd forgotten to lock it. No such luck. She'd even tried her hand at some wandless magic though she hadn't been very disappointed when it hadn't worked. Harry had never really gotten her to understand how to do it, though he had tried. A flicker of a smile crossed her face as she thought of him. He could do just about anything. She knew from a very small age that wandless magic was possible, but extremely rare. The only wandless spells worth doing were practiced by very powerful wizards and witches. She had informed her husband of that very fact, yet he had been baffled… "then how come I can do it, Gin?"
Harry. He was so modest and good, yet so dangerous when it mattered. He had scared her witless once a few years back when she'd come upon him suddenly. It had been late, nearly ten o'clock at night and she had just gotten off work when she'd seen him. He had apparently just gotten home as well and was preparing to enter their house when she snuck up on him, eager to slip her arms around his waist. But she had been surprised when, instead of feeling him in her arms, she had found herself flat on her back on their porch. His wand had been pointed directly between her eyes and he had had a look on his face, so heated and… dangerous, that it had scared her. Of course when he'd realized who he'd forced to the ground, he turned bright red and sputtered apology after apology. She had never told him, but the bruises on her backside had prevented her from sitting properly for a week.
And then of course there was the Last Battle. She hadn't been there, for she had been busy at St. Mungo's, but Ginny could imagine perfectly what had happened. Hermione had told her everything she'd seen.
We were separated from Harry and we couldn't find him. But then we didn't have to see to know what had happened… everything became very still once Dumbledore had fallen. Everything and everyone stopped and turned to see him collapse…. Harry stood there, with Dumbledore at his feet, as though not really seeing him, and then he changed somehow. He was fierce, Gin… wild…completely frightful. I didn't even recognize my own best friend anymore. Harry turned toward the Dark army and he…he became a right monster; cutting through Voldemort's minions as though they were made of papier-mâché… he was glowing with power, Gin. I wish you could have seen it. There was a brilliant bright light that surrounded him as he moved toward Voldemort on the hill. And then, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself: a group of Death Eaters surrendered to him…right in front of Voldemort; they dropped their wands without so much as a fight.
A crooked smile crossed her face then. How stupid could these people be to kidnap Harry Potter's wife? He'd defeated every foe that crossed his path and had already saved her from the most evil of wizard kind. They would have to know what was coming to them.
That or they were completely stupid.
Ginny was still cold and uncomfortable, but she found that with these thoughts, came a slowing of her quickened heart. She wrapped herself tighter in her cloak and closed her eyes…waiting. Time dragged on, and she had just felt the beginnings of sleep to cloud her mind, when Malfoy came for her.
The door was thrown open quickly, making her jump.
"Your presence is requested in the western-most suite." Malfoy said with that ridiculous bow and his trademark sneer. He thought he was being very clever patronizing her in such a manner, but she didn't let it affect her, it merely solidified her theory that her captors were idiots. She could handle idiots.
"You know, for someone who fancies the finer things in life and prizes himself on the amount of gold his daddy left him, you sure are a horrible host."
He smirked at her. "And you, gold digger, should watch your mouth before I stick my boot in it. I don't want to hear anything out of you. Understand? Now, get up! I'm not going to drag your sorry arse anywhere... unless it were to your grave, of course."
"You're taking an awful risk, capturing me," she said with a note of indifference through her gravely throat. "What do you think will happen to you when Harry finds me?" she asked as he pulled her up to her feet and pushed her toward the exit.
"Fear not for my safety, Mrs. Potter," he said coolly, "when you should be worrying about your own. When Potter finds you, it will have been too late. The Draught will have been finished and you'll be far past needing rescuing. Then he'll get what's been coming to him for ages." He paused as though wistfully anticipating just how it all might come about. "It really is a shame you won't be alive to see him suffer. My favorite part will be when I tell him how I killed you, just like I had killed his pathetic werewolf friend." With that he shoved her out the door making her stumble to stay on her feet.
It seemed as though they were walking for miles. She tried to memorize the many twists and turns they were taking - left, left again, right- but she was so tired and spent that she could not keep track of it all. Not only this, but she was having trouble picking up her feet. When they reached the stairs, and had climbed what seemed hundreds of steps, she nearly fell over from exhaustion. Her eyes had spots of black in front of them, and no matter how hard she concentrated on the stair ahead of her, it winked in and out of focus. She needed to sit and rest but Malfoy would not allow her to linger in one spot for very long. Her breath, which was coming out in quick rasps, was painful against her dry throat.
"God, you're slow!" Malfoy drawled.
Ginny didn't have the energy to glare at him, though she wanted to.
As they made their assent, she noticed a definite change in scenery. Whereas before, the walls were made up of grey, lifeless stone that emanated the coldness she felt throughout her body, now the finery she expected of Draco Malfoy shone through. Is that were I am, Malfoy Manor?
The stone walls had faded away to creamy-white panels as they found the next landing. Prepared to take the next expanse of stair, she was surprised when Malfoy grunted for her to stop. He placed his palm on the opposite wall and pointed his wand at it with the other before whispering some type of spell. A door appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and he led her through.
The hallway that met her was beautiful. It stretched on with identical heavy wooden doors lining its way, heavy crystal chandeliers above. An oaken wainscot ran from the heavily polished floor to halfway up the walls. Occasionally, as Malfoy led her at wandpoint down the long corridor, she saw dated portraits of regal-looking witches and wizards, probably family, looking down at her disapprovingly. She watched the portraits carefully as she passed, hopeful that she might spot a person she recognized. Though, she told herself, this place isn't likely to have a portrait of Dumbledore around. All the doors to the rooms were closed but one at the end, where she assumed she was being taken.
When they reached the wide doorway, which Malfoy also shoved her through, making her vie for her balance once more, she was met with even more splendor. Elaborate tapestries depicting historical battle scenes and epic love stories were hung from the deep blue walls as well as several more portraits. They were quite beautiful and seemed so out of place. How could anyone who hates so much own such beautiful things?she thought as she took in her surroundings.
The room was large and spacious with a thick red and blue oriental-looking rug under her feet. The stately chairs in the room, which would normally look imposing to her, now appealed to her and seemed to be begging for her to sit and rest her weary body. It was dark, all of it. The flames from the iron brackets on the walls, shaped into curling serpents, shone weakly in the rich black leather of the sofa. The deep rug that sat upon the dark wooden floor was plush but gave no real comfort. It was elegant and spoke of extreme wealth and somewhere deep inside her, she imagined this must have been what Grimmauld Place had once looked like. There were so many similarities between Sirius's home and this one, minus the smell of decay and the dirtiness, that it almost comforted her.
They stood there, motionless, in the center of the room with Draco's wand pointed to her heart while they waited. A large portrait hung over the massive fireplace, large enough to cover the wall up to the ceiling, but it was empty. A large, very ornate chair sat in the middle of the portrait, numerous candles blazing in its background, but there was no person to be found.
She was distracted by the sound of a swishing cloak and looked away from the empty portrait to find a rather good-looking wizard making his way toward them with a bored expression on his face. He was older than she was, probably around his mid-thirties, and was dressed immaculately. His wavy dark hair was pulled into a black ribbon at the nape of his neck showing off his broad brow and chiseled jaw.
"Morning, Draco. I assume we're on schedule?" he asked with a weak French accent, surveying him with casual indifference and not even recognizing that she was there.
"Yes, everything has gone perfectly so far, Rabastan. She hasn't caused any trouble and I don't think she will," he added as he nudged her with his wand.
"Good. Then I suggest we proceed." He walked past them both, straight to the opposite wall and pulled a torch bracket making the bookcase near him slide open with ease. She was pushed through the gaping hole in the wall into a rather drab looking antechamber with a cauldron, several tomes, and a rather impressive library of potions ingredients. It was infinitely more comfortable than the cold dungeon cell she had occupied earlier, but it didn't hold the same snobbish sophistication that the previous room had. It was small and rather cozy, much like her own office.
Rabastan lit a fire under the large cauldron and then turned to her, his dark, bored eyes, staring into her as though trying to frighten her. But she wasn't scared, or even nervous. In fact, she thought how odd it was that she should be so incredibly calm under such circumstances.
"You will make the Memory Restorative Draught for us." Rabastan said as he surveyed her. "And just in case you have forgotten the recipe, I have taken the liberty of bringing your work here," he said as he handed her a very familiar piece of parchment with her own handwriting scribbled in the margins.
"Where did you get this?" she asked, her stomach dropping to the floor, not wanting to believe what was most assuredly true. It was the recipe; this little slip of parchment, one that she had spent countless hours working with, could be the downfall of her world's work to rebuild itself.
"I paid your stupid little friend a visit last night. It's not hard to see who is the clever one, no?"
"What did you do to her?" she hissed, glaring at him. He held himself so proudly and dismissed Cindy with such ease that Ginny didn't really care if she was punished; she wanted to strike him, regardless of Draco's wand still pointed at her.
"It was easy." he said, waving a bored hand. "She struggled very little and didn't scream at all... which I thanked her for. You will be seeing her soon I presume, though probably not as you remembered her. She certainly doesn't remember you." He paused and watched Ginny as the meaning of his words sunk in. Ginny's knees felt suddenly weak; she certainly doesn't remember you. Oh no.
"Now if you will do the honor...." he said motioning toward the cauldron. "Of course if I could do this myself, I would. But you and I both know that you are the only one capable of such a difficult potion."
She wasn't listening. Ginny's mind had blocked out his voice as she contemplated just what was happening. They had taken Cindy's memory. They were going to use Cindy against her as some sort of sick motivation for her to make the draught.
"You can be sure," Draco cut into her thoughts, "that we will be watching you and if you do not perform to the expected standard, that is, if you shirk you duty and make a false representation of the potion, we will kill your friend and then you'll really know what pain feels like. It would be in your best interest, not to mention that dotty co-worker of yours, to do it correctly the first time. Once the Draught is finished, we'll test your work on her... so don't get any ideas."
With that they turned on their heels and left, the door sliding solidly back into place with a dull thud.
~ * ~
It took a long moment for him to piece together just exactly where he was through his sleep-hazed eyes, but he soon understood. The blue walls covered in drawings, pictures, and posters, the stacks of books on the shelf, and the small assortment of childhood stuffed animals in the corner were all Ginny's. An uncomfortable lump appeared in his throat at the thought; just being around so much of her, even though it was comprised of her past, filled him with fresh grief. He stared around him, the silence pressing on his ears and he could no longer stand to be there. He had to get out. He could not stand to see such an innocent place become a sick torment for him. He swallowed quickly and stood, heading for the door.
His stomach was churning, though he didn't know exactly why. It could have been blamed on myriad of different things: the helplessness he felt, the feeling of utter abandonment, the fear that Ginny would never return to him, or the anger that was buried within him, pressurized and waiting to burst. It didn't really matter why he was feeling so ill, it just mattered that he find the loo before he lost it in one of Mrs. Weasley's planted pots along the hall.
He rushed into the toilet and waited for the bile to rise, but it would not come. He wished it would; he needed some type of release - anything to shed the pain he felt. But this too, was denied him and he settled for splashing cold water on his face.
"Goodness, you look horrible. Are you all right?" the mirror asked in concern.
Harry didn't answer and looked himself over in the mirror, briefly confirming its assessment. He did look horrible. Regardless of an uncharacteristically good sleep he had had, his eyes bore all the vestiges of illness. The deep purple surrounding his bloodshot eyes was an instant giveaway to his suffering. He looked as though he hadn't slept properly in a week, though he knew quite well that he hadn't had any dreams last night. Nor did he remember having trouble sleeping at all, not to mention he couldn't remember how he even got to bed in the first place. Suddenly he understood; it was quite plain that he'd been drugged.
First of all, if it had been up to him, he wouldn't have gotten any sleep at all. For he would still be out roaming the streets and second, even if he had tired to sleep, he was sure he would have had a very restless night full of terrors. But just as mothers (or in this case, mother-in-laws) know best, Harry assumed Molly must have slipped something into his tea last night and moved him to Ginny's old bedroom. He had to admit that he would have gone down kicking and screaming had he known, and anger bubbled inside him toward his family. How dare they take it upon themselves to violate something so personal? He half wished he had seen Ginny last night in his dreams, even if they would have been filled with horrible sights. He ached to find her; he missed her, and they had taken his chance to see her from him.
He pounded down the stairs, eager to confront Molly and inform her, along with the rest of the family, that they were not, under any circumstances, to drug him again. Ever. But upon reaching the bottom of the stairs and turning into the kitchen, he found it completely empty. There was a covered plate on the table with a yellow note sitting beside it. Harry recognized Molly's curly handwriting immediately and snatched it up, glaring at it as though it were Molly herself.
Harry, dear, be sure to eat something today.
I've made your favorite: sausages!
Her cheery attitude in the note made him growl and crumple the parchment into a wad. She was acting as though nothing had happened; like he was still twelve years old, coming for a stay with Ron. He stormed out of the kitchen and into the sitting room, searching for any sign of life, not really noticing how very quiet the house was. When he didn't see anyone there, he turned sharply toward the back door in hope of finding someone outside. But as he stormed, first outside, then back into the house and up the stairs, it dawned on him that he was alone. He let out a noise of frustration and anger. Everyone had gone and left him, they hadn't even bothered to wake him so he could resume his search! Thundering down the stairs once more, he summoned his cloak to him and dug though its pockets for the map he had been using the previous night. There were sections he'd crossed out, indicating the places he'd already searched, and a few circled spots he'd thought might be promising. There were only a few of these circled spots left, and he once again reined in his bubbling frustration at having slept through the night.
He'd lost even more hope of finding her as time went on, and he'd spent the night holed up in Ginny's old bedroom. As far as he was concerned, he may have cost his wife her life. Collapsing the map forcefully and stuffing it into his pocket, he pulled his wand to Apparate but stopped short. He had heard a distinct crack from the floor above him. The floorboards had cried with a sudden weight above his head, directly above him: Ginny's room. He didn't dare believe it was Ginny, he wouldn't allow himself that hope. It would only be dashed; and he would have been right, for just as he made his way to the stairwell, someone exited Ginny's old room and made for the bathroom down the hall. It was Arthur.
Harry had never really seen Arthur upset before, as he was such a calm fellow, but he could see in his father-in-law's eyes an uneasiness that made Harry's heart stop with worry. Something must have happened.
"Harry!" Arthur said, a bit startled and eyeing him wearily. "You're up." Arthur must have felt the emotion rolling off of his son-in-law because he put his hands up in supplication and took a step back from him. "Now, don't be upset! We were just thinking of your health. You were so distraught last night and we all knew that you wouldn't have rested a wink if we hadn't done something." he said, searching Harry's face for any sign of understanding.
"Do you know how much time I've lost?" Harry said angrily. "Ginny could be anywhere, freezing cold… she could be dying, and I—I've been in bed!"
"We haven't lost any time, Harry. We've all been searching for her. The twins, Ron, and Bill have been up all night searching for her. Then first thing this morning, Ron and Hermione traced a likely path Ginny would have taken from work but haven't found any clues as of yet. Molly's now at the Ministry, trying to talk some sense into the M.L.E.S…."
Although Harry should have felt better that people hadn't stopped searching, he was still not pacified in any way. Arthur hazarded a step toward Harry, reaching his hand out to touch his son-in-law's arm. "Harry, we did what we thought was best. Ginny needs you rested and alert." Arthur's voice was soft yet firm.
"I should have been with them!" Harry said fervently.
"You were in no state—" Arthur continued quietly.
"Ginny's my wife!" Harry bellowed, as though this simple fact would make Arthur understand.
"—you would have made yourself sick, Harry. I'm sorry you're upset over it; we were wrong to do it and won't even consider drugging you in the future. Just please… please listen to me for a moment."
Harry said nothing, but stared mutely at Arthur, not ready to let his anger leave him. It was easier to be angry, he realized, rather than hurt. If he filled the fissure inside himself with anger, he could almost drown out the misery he felt. He nodded ever so slightly and folded his arms over his chest.
"Molly sent word to Charlie last night just after... just after you fell asleep, and he said he'd be here as soon as he could, but he's one of the few on patrol this week so it'll be tough for him to get here. But at least he'll be here to help." He paused. "Harry, there's something you should know..." Once again Arthur's eyes dulled with the acute distress Harry had seen when he'd first spotted his father-in-law.
"What's happened?" Harry asked with forced calm, his fingernails biting uncomfortably into the palms of his hands. "I know something's happened; I can tell."
Harry held his breath. Had she been found sometime in the night, frozen and hurting? Was she under the care of Healers? Oh, God, he silently pleaded, please keep her safe.
"She hasn't been admitted, Harry." Arthur said in a would-be calming voice. "I went to her office." He paused making Harry want to grab his father-in-law by his cloak and shake him to get it out faster. "Her co-worker Cindy hadn't yet shown up to work so I went by her flat to see if she was OK. Harry, her house was in shambles as though someone were looking for something. Everything was torn apart and there was no sign of her. I think she's been abducted."
Something in Harry's brain shouted that this was significant, but he was almost too afraid to examine why. He had been dwelling with the painful thoughts that it had been his – Harry's – fault for Ginny's disappearance ever since he'd realized she had gone missing. Of course he hadn't wanted Ginny's kidnapping to be because he was famous Harry Potter, but it had been the only reason he could think of. But now, with Cindy gone missing as well, it didn't seem to be about him at all.
"The Draught?" Harry asked, forgetting that he was angry, his stomach suddenly very heavy.
Arthur nodded, not taking his eyes from Harry. "I think so."
"How?" Harry asked, running a hand through his hair. "No one was supposed to know about it."
"You're not cleared to know about the Draught, yet you do."
Harry sat down on the top step, suddenly very weak. Arthur followed him, sitting at his side. "This means that whoever has taken Ginny and Cindy is sympathetic to the Death Eater cause," Arthur said. Harry wondered if Arthur felt as sick as he did. "They'll be using them to make the Draught."
"Who had clearance for the information, besides you?" Harry demanded, the sick feeling he had felt earlier that morning back with full force.
Arthur pursed his lips. "The Minister, of course, and a handful of others. I was the only one in the Order that knew, however. There's Robert King, Daniel Jones, Paul Lado, and Mary Lou Foulkes… all within the Covert Operations Experimental Magic Department.
"Any cleared Voldemort supporters?"
Arthur frowned and shook his head. "I'm afraid it won't be that easy."
"Who then? Who leaked the information about the Draught?"
"I don't know, but it won't be easy to find out. It could have been anyone, really. Just because they're the ones cleared to know about the Draught, doesn't mean they're behind Ginny's kidnapping. And I can't rightly go in and start questioning them all. I only know their names because of my position as the Minister's Undersecretary."
"Right." Harry said in understanding. Any of those people Arthur had mentioned could have been spied on. They could have mentioned something about it in passing to someone they had trusted… just as Arthur had informed Harry so many months ago. "So what do we do?"
"Give me some time, Harry." He put his hand up to quell Harry's response. "I know Ginny might not have that luxury, but we have to do this carefully." Harry nodded and Arthur continued, "I'll have to do some poking around."
~ * ~
It was no wonder the workers at the Ministry were scrambling to get out of Harry's way with the way he was raging down the halls. He was so angry and felt so powerless to do anything to help his wife that the very air around him crackled with the unspent energy that emanated from him. He had never before been so utterly enraged than he was at that moment. The very essence of power glowed around him yet he felt completely useless at the same moment.
He had arrived at the Ministry shortly after he and Arthur had discussed the possible reason Ginny had been taken to file a missing persons report with the M.L.E.S. Molly apparently had tried to come earlier, but Harry, as Ginny's husband and next of kin, had to be the one to supply her information. That, and Harry had been the last of the family to see her.
The plump wizard Harry had been speaking to had been sitting behind a cluttered and very dirty desk, and hadn't been helpful in the least. He'd shown Harry several three-ringed booklets of unsolved missing persons' cases, their pictures carefully attached to the upper right-hand corner of each page, with instructions to read them over. Harry had been instructed to get a good idea of what kind of information he should include in Ginny's report, but the fact that none of the people staring back at him had been found, didn't do much for his mood.
To make matters worse, the officer had been completely star-struck by Harry's presence. He'd kept stopping mid-sentence to mumble I can't believe it's really you! This, of course, did nothing to improve Harry's mood and he had found himself leaving the wizard's office rather hurriedly before he did something he knew he'd regret. Harry had been pleased that before he'd left the office, he'd managed give the officer instructions to send someone out to the Burrow later to file a report.
Once he left, however, he had to hold himself back from going to Auror Headquarters. He knew that if the reason for his wife's disappearance were known, if they knew that the Azkaban-contained Death Eaters were on the verge of being set free, the Aurors would be put on the case. This kind of thing was their job, something they were trained to deal with properly. This knowledge, coupled with Harry's lack of confidence in the M.L.E.S.'s abilities, spurred him on to go to Shacklebolt, his supervisor. But in the end, Harry had seen reason. Even he wasn't cleared to know about the Draught, and neither would his supervisor. Not only this, but Ginny was his wife, the victim, and Harry would never be permitted to be involved in the case. Shacklebolt's first act would be to remove Harry from duty, and that was something he was unwilling to have happen. He wanted to be the one to find Ginny's captors. So much, in fact, that he suddenly understood why the law stated that a family member or loved one of a victim could not be involved in the active investigation: because when he found whoever had taken Ginny, they were going to wish they were dead.
He made his way steadily out of the building, not really knowing where he was going, but just simply moving seemed to take some of the edge off. He soon found himself in the town square, though he didn't remember how he had arrived, and sat at the still fountain's edge. The water in the bottom had long since been frozen, no longer being pumped up and out of the stone figure that stood in its center. There he sat, cursing the day and the useless M.L.E.S.
He watched as witches and wizards hurried past in the light flurries of snow, his heart aching. A young couple strolled by lazily, somehow immune to the cold that bit into him so painfully. Their joined hands, covered with warm mittens and gloves, swung sweetly between them. The scene reminded him of his and Ginny's first Christmas as a married couple. They'd gone out together to shop for Ron's gift, though he now couldn't remember what they'd bought for him. He did remember, however, that once they had arrived to the square, Ginny's hat had flown off her head, carried by a gust of wind. Her vibrant hair, so bright against the surrounding grey, had flown in every direction. The wind had been so fierce that she hadn't been able to see where she was going, her hair restricting her view. Harry had Summoned her hat to him, but had wished she'd kept it off. He'd quite liked the wildness of her hair, and the little sighs of frustration that had escaped her throat.
"Mr. Potter!" a jovial call sounded to his right, and turning, he saw an elderly Mr. Foulkes, bundled up against the cold, making his way steadily toward him.
" ‘lo," Harry said, sending a brief nod his way once he arrived at his side, not wanting to talk to him in the least. It wasn't as though he disliked the old man, it was just that he was always so cheerful and Harry didn't know if he could handle that, when he himself felt as though happiness would never come to him again.
"I'm glad I spotted you," Mr. Foulkes said, taking a seat next to him.
Harry glanced in his direction, wondering if he ignored him, if he'd go away.
"Mr. Potter," the old man began. "Did your wife get home all right yesterday?"
Harry's head snapped up so quickly that pain shot through his neck. "What?" he asked loudly.
Mr. Foulkes was slightly shocked at Harry's sudden movement, but he soon turned pensive as he pulled three objects from a bag he had been holding. They were books, Harry noted, that were loosely wrapped in brown, wrinkled paper.
"I found these on my way to work early this morning," he said, his white, bushy brows furrowed as he pulled the brown paper away. The edges of the books were warped from water damage and they looked rather grungy. Harry was about to open his mouth to question what these books had to do with his wife, when Mr. Foulkes turned them over, exposing the titles. The first book, a text on magical fungi, seemed like something Ginny would need or be interested in, but the second book, only confirmed his suspicions. A Witch's Pregnancy by Maria Foster lay before him, and suddenly he understood.
"Mrs. Potter came by my shop yesterday afternoon—‘round five o'clock— and bought these books. It's lucky I spotted them this morning… they were covered with snow and I nearly tripped over them. Could you give them to her?"
It seemed that all the breath had left Harry's lungs, and it took him several seconds to find his voice. "Ginny came to your shop yesterday?" he asked, his heart in his throat. The news that someone had indeed seen Ginny was good, but seeing her abandoned books only confirmed what a large part of him hadn't wanted to believe. Harry swallowed and took the books from the old man.
"Yes, she did, though I can't for the life of me understand why she left her books in the snow." Mr. Foulkes looked greatly concerned, even at his own words, as he pulled a slightly yellowed handkerchief from his pocket to wipe his nose. "When I saw them, lying there," he continued, "I got worried. Who leaves books in the snow?" He placed his kerchief back into his pocket and finally turned his gaze to Harry, who was looking at him with keen interest. This was like an answer to his prayers; someone, finally, could provide him with some useful information.
"After Ginny left, did you hear a scuffle or anything outside?" Harry asked quickly.
Mr. Foulkes pursed his wrinkled, dry lips as he remembered. "No. Can't say that I heard a single thing," he said carefully. "But mind I don't have the hearing I used to."
"What did she say when you saw her? Was she acting differently… in any way?"
The elderly man paused for a moment, gazing intently at Harry. "You alright, m'boy? You look rather pale."
Harry waved a dismissive hand, "I'm fine." he said quickly. "Yesterday, when Ginny was in your shop, did anything seem out of sorts?" he tried again.
"She seemed fine to me. Not acting any differently, except if you're counting how happy she was. Mind, she's always cheerful when I see her, but she was much more so then."
Harry nodded. If she had been happy, she probably hadn't been aware that she had been watched or followed.
"Mr. Potter, what is all this about? Is your wife all right?"
Harry ignored the question, too eager to get answers to give them. "Did she say anything to you… say anything about where she was going after she finished at your shop?"
The old man shook his head, a worried frown on his face. "No, didn't say where she was headed. We discussed her books," he said as he motioned with his hand to the pile of tomes in Harry's lap. "Lad, why all the questions?"
"Something terrible has happened," Harry said, feeling sick. Mr. Foulkes, while being very helpful, hadn't given Harry anything substantial. The shining moment of hope he'd felt at the mention of his wife's name was now gone, replaced by more worry and fear. He'd just have to delve deeper.
"What's happened, Lad?" he asked in soft tones.
"Ginny, she's gone missing. I… I can't find her." The simple admission brought a painful lump to Harry's throat, and he had to look away from the old man's silvery-blue eyes.
Mr. Foulkes' weathered face twisted into sadness, his mouth dropping open slightly as he let out a shaky breath. "Oh. I'm… I'm so sorry, Mr. Potter. Very sorry." He placed one gnarled hand on Harry's knee, though it did nothing to console him.
"You said she'd seemed happy." Harry said gruffly, finally looking up from the snow-packed ground. "Did she say why?" Harry hoped that perhaps her happiness was due to meeting someone, an old friend, out on the street. If she had mentioned it to Mr. Foulkes, then he'd have someone else he could question.
Mr. Foulkes nodded. "We discussed her…delicate state."
Harry paused. Delicate state? Then comprehension dawned. "You know she's pregnant?" Harry felt his heart twinge painfully. This reminder that Harry could lose twice as much, a child and a wife, made his grief suddenly much more acute.
"Aye." he nodded, still looking at Harry. "I guessed when she purchased those books on motherhood. She was in a right state, glowing with happiness." He paused, looking directly into Harry's sad eyes. "When did this all come about?"
Harry shook his head, feeling lost. "I haven't seen her since yesterday morning. You're the first person that I've spoken to that has seen her after she got off work."
Mr. Foulkes stared at Harry, his kind hand still rested on his knee. "I'm sorry, I wish I could be of more help…. What do you think happened to her?"
Harry paused and swallowed, not wanting to say it out loud. For some reason, speaking with the kind, old gentleman made Harry feel even more helpless. Like he was a child, telling an adult his problems in hopes they would make it all better. Harry's breath became very shallow as he considered what might have happened to his wife. He pictured her leaving Mr. Foulkes' business, hurrying through the cold to get home. Had she been oblivious to the situation or had she cottoned on? Had she been scared and frantic for help? Had she tried to contact him somehow, but he'd been—it hurt his heart physically to think it—flying in the park? How could he have been doing something so unimportant, so…irresponsible when she could have been desperate for his help? Had they hurt her? He envisioned a tall darkly-robed figure striking her cold-flushed cheek and the ache inside his chest intensified to a barbed sting. It hurt to think it. He didn't want to consider anything happening to her that caused her any pain, but he knew…he sensed that she was being sorely mistreated. A strike to the cheek was probably mild compared to how she was being treated.
"Mr. Potter?" the old man asked, concerned. "Are you all right?"
Harry bit his bottom lip, hard, and closed his eyes. The crushing pain in his heart, coupled with the overwhelming sense of urgency he felt, was blistering inside of him. "No." Harry said, not even aware that he'd said it out loud.
"I'm sorry," Mr. Foulkes said again. "I…you don't think that she's somehow just been detained or…." He trailed off, not sounding very convinced of his own words.
Harry knew it was much more than a simple problem of being detained. "It has to do with her work," Harry found himself saying, unaware of what he was tumbling out of his mouth. He just knew that he felt a sudden urge to tell the man sitting by his side everything, to explain the urgency. "She was making this Draught. It's really important and difficult and…Ginny's the only one who can do it." He paused and took a deep breath. "The remaining, uncaptured Death Eaters want it; they need it to break their friends from Azkaban."
Mr. Foulkes stared at Harry, not saying anything.
"You see?" Harry said, forcing himself to breathe normally. "I'm afraid it's rather serious."
Mr. Foulkes' weathered hand came to rest on Harry's shoulder.
"Look," Harry said, "I appreciate all your help. Really."
"Of course," Mr. Foulkes said after a pause, blinking as though he'd been interrupted from his train of thought. "If there's anything I can do, please let me know."
Harry nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Foulkes…. Actually," he said, an idea popping into his head. "Do you think I could have a look around your shop?"
~ * ~
"When did you last see Mrs. Potter?" the M.L.E.S. officer asked Harry.
He sighed. "I've already told you. It was yesterday morning around eight thirty... just before she left for work."
The M.L.E.S. had finally sent an officer to the Burrow for further questioning, and had been pelting Harry with countless questions for the past hour; questions that seemed completely useless.
"And where is Mrs. Potter employed?"
"Mmm hmm. Now, what was she wearing when you last saw her?"
Harry tried to think back. "I don't know… a black skirt and a red blouse."
"Describe them for me, please."
"Er… her skirt was long," Harry said, incensed. He didn't understand what her wardrobe had to do with anything.
Was her blouse long sleeved? What about her hair? Was she wearing a cloak or a scarf?"
"Look!" he said, fed up with the officer's questions. "I can tell you everything I know about her, but I doubt it will help you find her."
"Mr. Potter, these questions are important for her file…"
"You mean the file that'll get placed in a ring binder with all the countless others?" Harry asked angrily.
"Maybe you should take a break, Harry," came Hermione's soft voice as she entered the Burrow's kitchen. "You need to eat something or you'll have no strength left."
The officer nodded, closed her notebook, and left the room at Hermione's quiet suggestion. But Harry didn't want to eat. He didn't feel like he could bring himself to do something as normal as chewing or swallowing when he was sure Ginny was being mistreated.
He shook his head. "I don't want to eat, Hermione."
"I know…me neither," she sighed as she took a seat across from him.
Harry didn't want to meet her eyes. He didn't want to see the pity he was sure was there. Instead, he focused his attention on his dirty glasses that he'd taken off. He was so drained of energy and his eyes were aching. He wiped the lenses with the tail of his wrinkled shirt. He felt so misplaced… an emotion he hadn't ever felt so strongly before. He didn't feel comfortable at home or at the Burrow; alone or with friends.
"Harry…" Hermione said, trying to get his attention. He didn't want to look at her because if he did, he knew that the lump that was quickly forming in his throat would somehow swell until he could no longer swallow it.
"Harry, look at me."
Harry slid his glasses onto his nose and stared hard at a dark knot in the wooden table.
"What am I supposed to do, Hermione?" Harry said quietly. He was desperate for answers and Hermione, one of the smartest witches he knew, would certainly be able offer some answers.
She didn't answer him, but Harry felt her small hand slide into his own and give it a squeeze. The lump in his throat was getting bigger, he noticed, and he opened his mouth to speak. Perhaps if he spoke, it would go away. "Did you know we were going to have a baby?" he asked in a hollow undertone. He was afraid if he spoke any louder, his voice would quaver.
Harry saw Hermione shake her head in his peripheral vision. He felt that he had to keep him mouth moving to keep from breaking down. He wouldn't do that. Not again. "I was so happy when she told me," he continued. "It's what we've both wanted for quite some time. I can't explain what it felt like when she told me; my entire outlook on life changed in only a matter of seconds. I felt so content and..." he paused, looking for the right words, staring off into the distance.
"Like your life had a greater purpose?"
He nodded. "But now I wish she wasn't... and it makes me feel like such a monster!" He finally met her eyes, and he could see unshed tears resting on her lashes. "It's so much harder to know that I could lose twice as much."
Hermione found his hand again and, giving it a squeeze, threw him a watery smile. "You'll make a wonderful dad, Harry. And I know that they'll be safe; Ginny's smart and can take care of herself. She's done it before and she'll do it again."
Harry nodded silently. "Yes," he said gruffly, "she'll surely put up a good fight. But no one can know she's pregnant," he said gravely. "Can you imagine what they'd do to her if they knew she was carrying my child?"
Hermione didn't respond, but Harry could see her lips tighten into a thin, white line.
A tapping at the window distracted them both and Hermione let go of his hand to open the frost-covered glass. A grey barn owl swooped in and dropped the letter that was in its scaly claws in front of Harry and swooped out of sight once again.
He quickly unrolled the parchment, hoping it was a message from his dear wife, but found it was from Auror Division Headquarters.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We have received news that you have been informed of and have disclosed information regarding a high-security project involving the prisoners now contained in Azkaban Mental Facility. This information is confidential and meant for certain personnel only. Once disclosed, the offender(s) will face prosecution and possible apprehension. At approximately twelve twenty-seven PM on this day, 22 November 2003, one Harry J. Potter disclosed top-security information to Mr. Glen Foulkes, regarding case number 42779: Memory Restorative Draught. A hearing is scheduled for 25 November, 2003 at eight o'clock AM to determine the Ministry's action against said offender in Level two, room three. Thank you for your cooperation.
Merle K. Orgill
Wizengamot Administration Services
Ministry of Magic
"What's going on, Harry?" Hermione asked as she read the letter upside down from the other side of the table. "What does all this mean?"
Harry gritted his teeth. Truth be told, he wasn't entirely certain he knew what was going on, but whatever it was, it didn't look good.
"Harry— who's Glen Foulkes and what's this about a Draught?"
"Where's Arthur?" Harry asked, ignoring Hermione's questions.
She huffed noisily. "Harry…"
But Harry was already getting up from the table, glancing at the Weasley clock. Ginny's hand was still pointing to "Mortal Peril," while Arthur's clock-hand was pointing to "Work," even though it was far past working hours.
"I've got to go, Hermione," Harry said, grabbing his cloak and the Ministry letter. The last thing Harry saw was Hermione's confused and slightly angry face melt from his view before he arrived at the Ministry.
A/N: In Michele's defense, she's been very busy with other PS.net business, something which I'm sure you're all very pleased with. And it doesn't help when I give her thirty pages of nonsense to wade through (I promise it won't happen again!), or when I repeatedly send her the wrong files. Thank you, Michele for your continued patience.