"Are you sure they
broke up?" Padma Patil asked Hannah Abbot, eagerly. Their desks were
next to each other in the MLES offices, and they often gossiped during
the work day.
"Well, not to say sure," Hannah said
honestly. "But they certainly weren't talking to each other yesterday,
and they didn't eat together at lunch, either."
Padma sat back
and tapped the feather-end of her quill on the arm of her chair
thoughtfully. "How serious do you think the breakup is?" she asked.
Hannah blinked, frowning in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, is this a short-term 'I'm pissed off' breakup, or is it an 'I've had it, we're through' breakup?"
Hannah hadn't realised there was more than one type. "Well, since I don't know whether it is a breakup..." she hedged.
"Mm." Padma pursed her lips. "I guess the only way to find out is to go ask."
sat up straight, panic shooting through her. "Ask?" she repeated. "You
mean, actually go to him and say, 'Harry, I understand you've broken up
with Ginny. Is that true?'"
"Well, maybe not those exact words," Padma said archly, "but that's the general idea, yes." She rose and brushed off her robes.
can't!" Hannah hissed, scandalised. "What if they haven't broken up,
and they think I've been spreading rumours about them?"
name will never be mentioned," Padma assured her. She picked up her
cup. "I think I'll just take my afternoon break and get a cup of
coffee," she said pleasantly, and before Hannah could do more than
sputter, left, heading toward Harry's desk.
He and Ron were
standing at a table beside their desks, poring over some sort of map.
Knowing that whatever it was was probably classified, Padma stopped
beside Harry's desk, where she had no hope of seeing what was on the
map, and waited patiently.
It didn't take long before they
glanced up and saw her. "Oh—hi, Padma," Harry said, clearly surprised
to see her there. "What can I do for you?"
leaning one arm against the half-wall that separated his desk from the
walkway and cocking one hip alluringly. "Just stopped to say hi on my
way to the break room," she said, flashing a smile. "How's Ginny? I've
not seen her for ages."
"No idea," Harry said unconcernedly,
looking back down at the map. "Listen, Padma, I'm sorry to be rude, but
we're right in the middle of this—"
She stood up straight and
waved off his explanation. "No need to apologise," she assured him.
"We'll talk later, when you're not so busy." She smiled again,
lingeringly at Harry, with a quick friendly flash of teeth for Ron, and
sauntered off toward the break room to give her story verisimilitude.
When she returned, Hannah was breathless with anticipation. "Well?" she said. "What did you find out?"
sat, crossed her legs elegantly, and took a sip of coffee. "I think
I'll be doing some shopping," she purred. "I'll need a new set of robes
if I'm to be seen on the town with the Boy Who Lived."
"You mean—!" Hannah was nearly speechless with shock.
not yet." There was a subtle stress on the word 'yet'. "But so far in
my life, I've never failed to get a bloke I really wanted. Harry Potter
won't be the first."
arrived home and, to her surprise, found Hermione in the kitchen. While
most young women would be thrilled to find their flat-mate hard at work
fixing dinner, given Hermione's decided lack of cooking talents, Ginny
was rather more concerned than thrilled.
"Er, Hermione," she said slowly. "D'you—I mean, can I give you a hand?" Maybe while her back's turned, I can fix things.
waved her off. "Not at all, Ginny, I've quite got this under control."
She glanced up and flashed Ginny a smile. "Not even I can mess up
Relieved—though not entirely convinced that
Hermione was correct about that—Ginny said, "Oh. Well, is there
anything I can do to help?"
"Go ahead and change out of your work clothes, and then maybe you can set the table and make us a salad."
Still wondering at this sudden flare of domesticity, Ginny went back to her bedroom to change into Muggle jeans and a t-shirt. Perhaps she and Ron are thinking of making things official, and she's practising her housewifely skills, she thought, and giggled.
in comfortable clothes at last, she headed back into the kitchen, where
Hermione was taking a bacon-and-egg pie and a loaf of French bread out
of the oven. Ginny opened the refrigerator, pulled out a head of
Romaine lettuce, and began chopping it for salad.
"So," Hermione said with false brightness, "how are you and Harry doing recently?"
stopped chopping and looked at her best friend in surprise. "We're
doing fine, Hermione," she said, a questioning note in her voice.
"How's this break you're taking?" Hermione continued.
it's fine. It's kind of nice not to have someone hog all the covers."
Ginny grinned fondly. "Though I must admit there are things that I
"I hear there's illness going round the Ministry,"
Hermione continued, setting the pie down on top of the cooker to cool
while she sliced the bread. "Some sort of stomach bug."
was now thoroughly confused. She'd never known Hermione to bounce from
subject to subject so quickly. "I hadn't heard anything," she said at
last. What is going on here?
"Oh." Hermione flashed an opaque look at her. "You've not been feeling—er—unwell lately?"
"Hermione," Ginny said in exasperation, "what are you on about?"
about? Nothing. I'm just making conversation." She cast a quick Cooling
Charm on the quiche so it was set enough to cut, then quickly sliced it
and brought it out to the table. "Is the salad ready?"
handed her the bowl of lettuce—Hermione was particular about what went
into salads, and so they'd decided after moving in together that they'd
have plain lettuce, to avoid dinnertime quarrels—and as Hermione put it
on the table, reached into the fridge and pulled out two bottles of
Butterbeer. She brought them to the table and put one in front of
Hermione, then sat down and opened her own.
"Ginny!" Hermione's eyes were wide.
Ginny stopped just before taking her first sip. "What?" she asked, confused.
"It's—you're—I mean—should you be drinking Butterbeer?" Hermione asked, a little flustered.
brow furrowed. "Why shouldn't I?" she asked. This was moving beyond
odd; this was coming well into the territory of bizarre.
"Well, you're—that is—it's not very healthy," Hermione said lamely.
groaned and rolled her eyes. "You're not on at me about my health
again, are you?" she demanded. "Because it's just fine, thanks, Miss
"It's just—well—there've been some studies done about witches drinking Butterbeer, and—"
"Hermione, you're a witch, and you're drinking Butterbeer," Ginny pointed out through clenched teeth.
"Well—yes—I know—but it's not the same."
slammed the bottle down on the table, making Hermione jump. "Hermione,"
she said fiercely, "if you have something to say to me, would you just
bloody well say it and quit talking round it? And if there's nothing,
do you think we could eat? Because, frankly, I've had a long day, and
it's going to be a long week, and I really could do without having you
hanging over my shoulder commenting on my nutritional habits!"
Hermione stared at her, open-mouthed and silent. Finally!
Ginny thought, and reached for the food. She filled her plate and began
eating, completely ignoring Hermione. After a moment, Hermione began
filling her plate as well.
looked down to see his girlfriend in the fireplace. He glanced about to
be sure Harry was nowhere to be seen, then knelt down. "Well?" he
asked. "Did she say anything?"
"No, she's not told me a
thing," Hermione sighed. "But I'm more convinced than ever, Ron. She
nearly bit my head off over nothing at dinner tonight."
Ron raised an eyebrow. "Love, we are talking about my sister," he reminded her. "She'll bite your head off over nothing any day of the week."
She does not!" Hermione hissed. "Most of the time she's a perfectly
amiable companion. But tonight, I was just making conversation—you
know, asking her about work and such—and I thought I'd make up a story
about a stomach flu going round the Ministry to see if she'd say
anything about vomiting in the morning—"
"Hermione!" Ron said, shocked.
I thought it was a good way out, because if she thought I'd heard her
throwing up, she might use that as an excuse, mightn't she? But she
said she didn't know anything about it. And then—" She leaned closer and dropped her voice so much that Ron had to bend to hear her properly. "—she took out a Butterbeer! And drank it!"
looked at Hermione as though she'd gone mad. "'Mione," he said slowly,
"have you forgotten all those years at Hogwarts when she used to go to
Hogsmeade with us and drink Butterbeer at the Three Broomst—"
"She's pregnant, Ron!" Hermione interrupted. "Pregnant women shouldn't drink alcohol!"
alcohol, yeah," Ron said fairly. "But Butterbeer? C'mon, Hermione,
there's more alcohol in a Cough-Suppressing Potion than in a bottle of
"But you only take a teaspoonful of the potion at a time; you don't drink the whole bottle!"
Ron said, grimly holding onto his patience, "Ginny is a well-educated
witch who knows a good deal about pregnancy and childbirth, because Mum
forced it on all of us when we were younger." He shuddered
involuntarily at the memory. "She knows what she's doing. If she drank
a Butterbeer, it must be because she thinks it's safe."
"But—" Hermione began.
buts, Hermione. Leave it be. You concentrate on trying to get her to
confide in you, and I'll keep on with trying to get Harry to talk to
me. One of us should be able to get some information in the next three
Memos between Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter:
you sure you don't want to come over tonight? I noticed a definite
change in the way you've been walking. If you've not been sleeping
well, I can certainly do my part as your boyfriend to fix that as well
as I may.
If I'm walking differently, it's
because I've not had to carry your over-inflated ego with me for the
past few days. I do think we'll both survive another couple of nights.
Besides, there's always Saturday.
Over-inflated ego??? Ouch. Well, that took all the air out of it.
love, I've missed you the past few days. Are you sure you don't want to
give up this silly game and get together before the weekend?
You could always beg.
It'll take more than a few nights' celibacy to make me beg, wench!
Oh, really? Perhaps I'll just have to find out how much 'more' it'll take.
was a well-known fact, though kept hidden from the younger generation,
that Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions possessed a set of back
rooms, into which underage wizards and witches were never allowed, that
catered to a more 'adult' clientele.
It was to these back rooms that Ginny went after work on Wednesday.
had a few such 'outfits' already, but Harry had, of course, seen those.
She wanted something new—something that would floor him utterly. She
didn't really expect him to beg—it just wasn't Harry—but the
concept of making him sweat a bit was immensely appealing. And, of
course, it would make Saturday night so much more fun.
I'm so evil.
back rooms were accessed through a cupboard at the back of the shop;
the rear wall was selectively permeable, rather like the entrance to
Platform 9 ¾ at King's Cross Station. The difference here was that it
wasn't enough simply to be magical to pass through the wall; one had to
be of age, as well. It was impossible to go through the wall if one was
between the ages of two and seventeen. (It had originally been
impossible for everyone under seventeen, full stop, but as the
establishment had run into problems with pregnant witches,
modifications had been made. This also allowed parents of very young
children to come through with their children, as those under the age of
two were believed to be too young to be affected by the type of
clothing sold there.)
Ginny, being well over seventeen, walked
through the wall with no problems and found herself in a department
full of naughty lingerie. She grinned widely and began perusing the
stock, keeping Harry in mind the whole time.
This one? ...
No. Too obvious. He prefers to have something left to the imagination.
Maybe this one? ... No; the colour would look hideous on me. Hm.
been there the better part of twenty minutes, working methodically
through the racks, when she heard a familiar voice say, "Ginny?"
Ginny spun and saw Padma Patil. "Padma!" she said, smiling. "Fancy meeting you here."
I was just thinking that as well." Padma fingered a black
leather-and-lace outfit, the first one Ginny had looked at. "They do
come up with some—er—interesting creations, don't they? I rather like
"I looked at that," Ginny said. "But I think it
gives too much away." A dark-green outfit behind Padma caught her eye,
and she reached around to pluck it off the rack. It was a teddy, which
covered all of the essentials with perfectly opaque satin while leaving
other parts, like her midriff and her back, partly visible through
dark-green lace. "Now this," she said, admiring the outfit and noticing
the dark green stockings that went with it, "is much more the thing.
Leaves some to a bloke's imagination, you see."
She glanced up
and saw a flash of—was it satisfaction?—in Padma's eyes. "Yes, indeed,"
she said. "I do see. But I rather like the black, myself." She gave a
small smile. "Different men, different preferences."
yes." Ginny looked down at the teddy again, biting her lip as she
considered. It wasn't horribly expensive as these things went, but it was rather a lot of money. Still, she thought with a purely internal grin, it'll be worth it to see Harry's expression when he sees it.
"I think I'm done here for the evening," she said. "I'll just go pay for this. Bye, Padma; I'll see you at work tomorrow."
Ginny," Padma said, still with that odd glint in her eyes. Ginny hardly
noticed; she was too intent on her plans for Harry tomorrow.
Just you wait, Potter. You haven't seen the type of mischief I can get up to when I put my mind to it.
Now, where did I put my camera?
came through the wall as Ginny was paying for her teddy. Padma was
still standing in the same spot, a small smile playing around her lips.
Hannah came quickly up to her friend. "Ginny's here?" she squeaked.
"Yes," Padma said with satisfaction.
"Well—but—doesn't that mean that she's—"
turned to look at her. "Oh, Hannah," she said pityingly. "Do use your
imagination. She's buying a teddy, not long after she and Harry
quarrelled. That means either she's trying to get him back, or she's
moving on to a new boyfriend."
Hannah frowned. That didn't
sound at all like the Harry and Ginny she knew. "I still don't
understand how you're so convinced they've broken up," she said. "I
mean, I know they've not eaten lunch together all week, but there could
be other reasons for that."
Padma sighed. "Trust me, all
right?" she said. "I've had a lot of experience with getting men on the
rebound." Her grin turned feral as she watched Ginny head back into the
main part of the shop, her purchase wrapped in brown paper. "It may not
last all that long," she purred, "but that's all right. I've wanted
Harry Potter as long as I can remember, and now's my chance to get him.
Even if it's only for one night."
had spent a long, sleepless night, tossing and turning, unable to get
comfortable. He knew very well what the problem was: for over a year,
now, he'd not spent more than a few days total sleeping alone, and
whenever it had been necessary (when he or Ginny were on assignment,
for instance), it had been of such short duration that the lack of
sleep wasn't debilitating.
It had now been four nights he'd slept—or, rather, been unable to sleep—alone, and it was beginning to take its toll.
sat at his desk, trying desperately to concentrate on the report in
front of him, but the words kept running together. He took his glasses
off and rubbed his eyes. Sleep, he thought. Merlin, I need sleep. But damned if I'm going to beg Ginny to let me sleep with her before Saturday. I will win one prank war before we get married!
interoffice memo fluttered over to him and hovered in front of his
face, flapping desperately. Sighing, he put his glasses back on and
caught hold of the thing, unfolding it. A small envelope fell onto his
desk; on the back of it was written Read the memo first. It was Ginny's handwriting.
With a sensation of imminent disaster, he turned the memo right-side-up and read:
Is this enough?
P.S. Don't open that envelope around Ron. Trust me.
Oh, Merlin. Now what? Harry glanced round, then picked up his coffee cup and the envelope. "Back in a minute, mate," he said to Ron.
"Mm," Ron said in acknowledgment, scowling at the diagram on his desk.
Harry headed for the break room, as much because he needed the caffeine
as to provide him with at least some privacy. Half the department was
at a training today, and most of the high mucky-mucks were in a
meeting; it was his best chance. He poured himself a cup of coffee,
then, heading over to the usually-deserted corner farthest from the
coffeepots and self-filling kettles, he sat down in one of the chairs
and opened the envelope. A photograph fell into his lap; he picked it
up and looked at it, then nearly dropped it again.
stared at the image of his girlfriend, wearing only a few scraps of
dark-green lace and satin, curled like a cat on her bed, her expression
predatory. Harry swallowed. Suddenly the desire to win this prank war
had nearly disappeared.
Bloody hell. That's a new outfit, that is. Does that mean she went out and bought that just to take this picture?
He jumped, startled. "Oh! Er, hi, Padma," he said, flushing. "I didn't realise you'd come in."
looked rather ... involved ... in your memo," she said, smiling as she
made her way over to him. Quickly he fumbled the picture back into the
envelope before she sat down beside him, curling her legs underneath
herself so she leaned toward him. "Anything I can help with?"
thanks, Padma," he said, willing his body to calm down. "It
was—erm—classified. I was just looking for someplace quiet to read it."
"Quiet, in the break room?" She laughed gently. "This is usually the last place to find quiet."
"Yeah, well, I, er, thought it might be different today with so many gone." Bloody hell, why hadn't he just gone into the loo?
see." She propped her chin on her hand, her elbow on the arm of his
chair. "I've not seen you at lunch the past few days; have you and
Ginny been eating out?"
"I've—that is—I've had a lot of work.
I'm not sure where Ginny's eaten." He had to get back to work, get that
bloody photograph off his mind! He picked up his coffee cup and rose.
Padma rose as well. "Speaking of which, I should get back to my desk.
Loads to do. Stack a mile high."
"Of course." Padma stepped
close to him again and put a hand on his arm. "Do let me know if
there's anything I can do to help, won't you?"
course." He turned to leave, then pulled up so quickly his coffee
slopped all over his hand. There was a new figure in the doorway.
"Hello, Harry," Ginny said, smiling.
gulped. "Er—hi, Ginny." Hell. Now he was going to picture her dressed
in that teddy all day. He switched his coffee to the other hand and
shook the damp one surreptitiously.
"Has your in-box been as
swamped as mine?" she asked, lounging against the doorframe. "I swear,
I've hardly been able to draw breath all week."
has." Why wouldn't she just get out of his way? No, scratch that, he
knew why; she was there to torment him. He had to pull himself back
together or he'd lose all the momentum he'd gained so far in this prank
war. "I've hardly had time to do anything, and once home, I've simply
collapsed in exhaustion."
"Well, I've had time for a little
more than that," she said, looking up at him with eyes of limpid
innocence. He knew better than to believe that, but damn, she was good
at it. "I managed to do a bit of shopping yesterday. And I've started a
new hobby—photography. It's always fascinated me, you know."
It was all he could do not to react outwardly. If this is going to be my life for the rest of my time on earth, he thought, at least it'll never be boring! "Photography certainly has its uses," he agreed gravely. "I know I'll be putting some of mine to good use shortly."
blinked, then pressed her lips together in an attempt not to giggle. He
could tell she knew precisely what he meant. "I should leave you to it,
then," she said, and stepped out of the way. "I'll see you later,
"See you," he said. He'd taken three steps before he
remembered Padma had been in the break room as well. "Bye, Padma!" he
called over his shoulder, as he headed back to his desk.
Score one for Potter, he thought smugly. Bloody but unbowed! She's not made me beg yet!
I wonder what Padma wanted?
"Ron," Hermione said, "we've got to do something."
rolled his eyes. They were back at the same Muggle restaurant they'd
gone to on Monday. "I don't see what there is to do, 'Mione," he said
reasonably. "For one thing, they're both legal adults. For another, if
Ginny's pregnant, there's no way Harry would ever abandon her or his
child, so there's no need to worry on that account. And finally,
they're going to tell us all tomorrow!" He looked down at his menu. "Why don't we just let it go for now, and let them tell us in their own time?"
"I thought you were the one who wanted information so badly!" Hermione sniffed.
do, but it hasn't worked, has it? And we know we'll get our information
tomorrow, so why don't we just quit worrying over it? Frankly, it's
giving me a headache, the whole thing."
"Well, I'm not ready
to give up just yet," Hermione said, closing her menu and leaning back,
her face set. "I've still got an ace up my sleeve."
"Don't try to force it, 'Mione," Ron warned. "You know how Ginny is. If you piss her off, she'll never confide in you again."
she can't try to do this alone, Ron!" she said sharply. "It's too
much—it's overwhelming. I've just finished my obstetrics rotation, and
let me tell you, there are so many things that could go wrong—"
held up a hand. "And I don't want to hear about any of them," he said
firmly. "Just wait until tomorrow, Hermione, then you can lecture her
to your heart's content."
Hermione sighed. "But if she needs my help—" she began.
"Twenty-four hours won't make that much of a difference. Come on, love."
Hermione bit her lip in consideration, but said nothing.
Neville's job on the Committee for Experimental Charms was actually to work on experimental potions,
an irony that he was sure had not been lost on Severus Snape, wherever
the man's soul now resided. Though the fact that Neville held that job
wasn't as surprising as one might think; his affinity for plants meant
that he was able to advise the Potions Masters on their recipes for
experimental potions before they ever got to the brewing stage. More
than once he'd prevented nasty reactions before they could occur; there
were some plants that just did not work well together.
Though how one could become a Potions Master and not know that was beyond Neville. Even Snape had known that much.
he'd had to come to Hogwarts to collect some of the more obscure herbs
that flourished in their greenhouses. He spent a pleasant hour or so
with Professor Sprout as he did his collecting, then wandered down into
Hogsmeade to Apparate back to the Ministry.
A pair of
identical ginger-haired men came out of the Three Broomsticks just
ahead of him, and he waved to them. "Fred!" he greeted. "George! Nice
to see you!"
"Good to see you, too, mate," Fred said, coming up to shake his hand.
"Yeah, marriage certainly agrees with you," George said, shaking his hand in turn.
"Have you seen our new Hogsmeade shop?" Fred asked. "Just opened it."
"No, I haven't," Neville said, a bit surprised. "I don't think I even knew you were going to open a shop here in the village."
"Yes, well, we kept it under wraps a bit," George said.
we'll be having a grand opening just in time for the first Hogsmeade
weekend at Hogwarts," Fred said, rubbing his hands together gleefully.
Neville laughed. "Well, show me, then," he said. "I'm dying to have a look."
taken over Zonko's premises," said Fred, as they headed off toward the
edge of town. "It seemed easier than building our own."
since it was your Diagon Alley shop that's widely credited for putting
them out of business in the first place," Neville grinned.
"Well, there's that," George said modestly.
had clear memories of Zonko's Joke Shop from his time at Hogwarts. He'd
never have believed the crowded, cluttered shop could have been turned
into this open, brightly-lit, clear-aisled place. "Wow," he said,
stepping inside and looking round with big eyes. "You certainly have
done amazing things with this place. I'd be surprised if you didn't
double Zonko's profit in your first year."
"Cheers," Fred said, grinning. "Just our little home-away-from-home."
shook his head in amazement. "Looks like your sister isn't the only one
in the family who can keep surprises under wraps," he said wonderingly.
The sudden stillness in the room warned him that, once again, he'd said too much. "What?" Fred asked.
Neville swallowed. "I—that is—I mean—I didn't—"
"Is something going on with Ginny?" George demanded.
"I—not that I know of—honest—"
"Oh, stop it, Neville," Fred said. "We're not going to hex you or anything."
George said. "We got an owl from Mum earlier in the week saying that
we'd better be at the family dinner tomorrow because there was going to
be some sort of announcement. You don't know what that is, do you?"
we've been trying to find out what it could be," Fred said. "Only Mum
isn't telling—says she doesn't know either. And she won't tell us which
of our siblings is making the announcement."
"Which makes us nervous," George said. "Bill and Charlie haven't answered our owls, and of course Merlin knows where Percy is—"
"And we figured it probably wasn't Ron, because our darling baby brother can't keep a secret to save his life—"
"So if it's Ginny, well, that narrows the playing field a bit."
don't know," Neville said, finally managing to get a word in edgewise.
"I truly don't. But she and Harry have been acting as though—well—as
though something's up, if you know what I mean. I haven't talked to
her, but it's definitely different from their usual behaviour." The
twins exchanged glances, and Neville said, nervously, "You won't tell
anyone that I said anything, will you?"
"Not a soul," George said.
"Your secret's safe with us, Neville," Fred said.
"Right," Neville said, taking a deep breath. "Well, I'd best get back to the Ministry; they'll be wondering where I've got to."
twins said their goodbyes distractedly, and Neville Disapparated with
relief. He hoped he wouldn't end up with Ginny or Harry angry with him;
but after all, Fred and George were her brothers, weren't they? He couldn't just hide things from them, could he?
Fred looked at his twin. "You do know what this means, right?"
"Oh, yes," George said.
went to the fireplace and George threw a handful of Floo powder onto
the fire. Together they chorused, "Ronald Weasley!" before walking into