The subject of a new home was not broached in the Potter household for the next two days. Both Harry and Ginny had more than enough to occupy their time, but Harry could tell, quite easily, that it was on Ginny's mind. She wasn't ready to talk about it again, though, because the match with Kenmare was coming up, and she assumed that it would be followed immediately by preparations for the Cup tournament. On Tuesday and Wednesday, when they went down to the dining room of the inn after dinner for a few hours of socializing, Ginny had to repeat her story whenever a new customer came in and went to congratulate her. Harry's promotion was not generally known yet, so he was spared the ordeal. On Thursday, however, the day before the Kenmare match, a reporter from Witch Weekly was sitting at the bar when they came down. She glanced sideways at them but kept talking to Harriet, who was describing a potato soup recipe that Winky liked to serve on cold, wintry days.
Harry took Ginny's arm and guided her to a table at the far end of the dining room, but it was no use. The witch got up from the bar and made her way toward them, smiling and nodding to other customers who recognized her. Both Harry and Ginny ignored her as she stood next to them, but finally she slapped her mug of mead down on the table and they had to look up.
"Maggie Molar!" Harry blinked at her. "What a surprise. I didn't see you when we came in. How are things at the weekly rag?"
"They're extraordinary, Harry. Can I sit?" She pulled a chair back and dropped into it without waiting for his reply. "So, there's big things going on in the Potter family. Ginny's been called up to the National Quidditch team, and Harry's taking over the Auror Department next year. Quite a change in your life situation, isn't it?"
Harry gazed at her, and he felt Ginny put her hand on his. The contact guaranteed that whatever one of them was feeling, the other would too. And right now Ginny was feeling very annoyed. He tapped his fingers under her hand.
"I don't know, Maggie. Is it? I've never been Head Auror before. Maybe it's not so different as, oh, being a pushy reporter." A warm feeling came from Ginny's hand; she was still annoyed. He knew that she just wanted the reporter to leave.
"But," he interrupted the dark–haired witch who was about to speak, "I'll tell you what. I'll give you an interview tomorrow at the Ministry if you'll take your drink and go back to the bar. I'm sure Mrs. Shunpike has more of Winky's delicious recipes to tell you about." Ginny unobtrusively squeezed his thumb.
The reporter took a gulp from her mug. She put it down on the table and smiled. "No, she doesn't. We don't print house–elf recipes anyway."
"You should," Ginny said with a little snap in her voice. "A lot of what you print belongs in a dustbin. Winky's the best cook I've ever met except for my mother, and sometimes she gives Mum a run for her money."
Molar looked a little taken aback. "Sorry, I didn't intend any offense. It's the, uh, the rag's policy, not mine. If you let me tell my editor that they're your recipes and not a house–elf's, then he'll probably print them. In fact, being that they're from Ginny Potter, I guarantee that he will."
Ginny frowned at her for a moment, then looked away. Harry watched her brow crease and her mouth form a thin line.
"Look," he said to the reporter, "we just want to have a little quiet time for a bit, and besides, our personal lives are none of your business. I'll talk to you tomorrow at ten o'clock in my office —"
"You have an office?" Molar said with interest. "That's new, isn't it?"
Ginny's ungracious retort was in Harry's mind, so he abruptly stood. "Good evening, Miss Molar. It's been a pleasant conversation."
They walked away, leaving the witch to watch their backs. Up in the flat, Ginny went to the kitchen, but Harry stayed in the sitting room. He knew her mood and knew to leave her alone until she was ready to talk. After a minute she came in with two slices of chocolate cake on plates. Harry smiled and pulled out their magical table; it had an embossed picture of a blowfish on it, and when you touched it with your wand the table expanded or contracted to the size you needed.
"I'm sorry," Ginny said as they sat. "I'm nervous about the match and the tournament. She'll probably roast me in her magazine."
"It'll be okay." Harry took her hand across the table. "I don't think either of us said anything interesting enough to get it printed."
Ginny squeezed his hand. They were silent for an instant, then Harry sat back with a grumpy expression.
"I told Ron this morning," he said, "but he promised not to tell anyone else, especially Mum and Dad."
Ginny smiled briefly. "That's good. We'd be swamped with nappie coupons. And I told Ginger."
"So... you're set on moving out of here."
"Don't you think we have to?"
Harry shrugged. "You know I don't, but if that's what you really want..."
"I want you to want it, too."
"I guess it depends on where you want to move. Why don't we stay up here in Hogsmeade?"
"Because I think our children should grow up where there'll be Muggles around, not just magical types. If they grew up here, they wouldn't get to know any Muggles at all. We had friends in the village, shopkeepers, the fire department..."
Harry laughed. "That's because Fred and George were always setting something on fire. You don't think our kids will be like that, do you?"
"You never know," Ginny grinned back. "It may be in the blood. Instead of pure-bloods, they'll be pure jokesters."
"Not my kids." Harry shook his head. "They'll be decent, law–abiding citizens, enjoy gardening..."
They smiled at each other, and Ginny came around and Harry sat her in his lap. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. "It's settled then. We'll start trying in July, and we'll start looking in September."
"And where will we look?"
There was an instant's pause, then Harry's grin faded and he pulled his head back from Ginny's arms. A frown replaced his smile.
"Ginny, you know that's impossible. I will never agree to that. Why there? There are hundreds or thousands of places we could live and be happy. Why are you bringing this up?"
He set her on the floor, then rose and walked to the picture window and stared into the darkness. Ginny came and put her hand on his arm.
"Harry, why do you get so angry whenever I mention it? Why are you so vehement?"
He turned to her. "You know why. Twice I almost died there."
"And that's why we have to live there. Love," she put her arms around him and looked up into his eyes, "I see inside you, just like you see inside me. You've buried it, but I know that you still have dreams where you hear her scream. Harry, I don't want the father of my children to be afraid."
Harry looked down at the floor and shook his head. "I won't go back there."
Ginny walked to the table. She picked up the plates and took them into the kitchen. Harry heard her put them in the sink and murmur a charm to start a scrub brush. He went to the kitchen door and stood there.
"I'll move anywhere except Godric's Hollow. And I don't understand why you're so set on it. Why don't we build near Ottery St. Catchpole? Wouldn't you like to live near your parents?"
Ginny didn't answer right away, and she kept her mind closed. She wasn't angry, exactly, but she was more than upset. She took the clean dishes from the sink and put them in the drainer. Then she turned to face him.
"Would you like to live near my parents?" she asked pointedly. "If you think getting an occasional newspaper clipping from her is funny, wait till you see what she does when I get preggers. Why do you think Fleur wanted to live on the other side of the country?"
"Your mum's not like that. She wouldn't meddle."
"Right." Ginny rolled her eyes. "She's the best mum in the world, and I love her, but when she finds out her only daughter is pregnant, you'd better stay out of her way."
"Okay, fine. So now I've made two suggestions and you've shot down both of them."
"And you've shot down one of mine."
Harry came into the tiny room and sat at the little table that took up most of the space. Ginny moved to sit across from him, but when she pulled out the chair, she hit her elbow against a bowl of fruit sitting on the counter behind her. It crashed to the floor and shattered; oranges and mangoes rolled everywhere; a few of them splattered messily.
Harry jumped up with his wand out. "Are you okay? Here, I'll take care of it."
He came around the table and Ginny stood aside. The bowl was fixed in an instant with a Reparo charm, then Harry waved his wand across the floor in the cramped room, Summoning pieces of fruit. When they were all back in the bowl, he put it in the sink and ran water over it. Then he turned back to see Ginny looking at him with a half–smile on her face.
"You didn't do that on purpose, didn't you?" he frowned, but he couldn't keep it when he saw the twinkle in her eyes. "Yes, you did! I know you did!"
"No, it was an accident," she said innocently. "There's just not enough room in here."
They stood looking at each other for a moment, then Harry fell into his chair. He ran his hands through his hair while Ginny came around to him and forced herself into his lap, just where she had been ten minutes ago. She took his face in her hands. "Dearest, let's not talk about it tonight. I need to get ready for the match. But I promise I'll be ready to talk afterward, and I want you to promise you'll listen to me."
"I always listen to you. I don't think that's what the problem is." He was about to go on but stopped himself. "I'm sorry, you're right. We'll talk later. Remember, Ron and Hermione are coming up for dinner, and I'll bet you twenty Galleons that they'll want to know when and where we're moving."
Ginny got up. "You're probably right, so I won't take that bet. Will you be willing to tell them what you just told me, about not wanting to move to Godric's Hollow?"
"Of course, and I'll tell them why."
Ginny kissed him. "I need to wax my brooms. Want to give me a hand?"
They spent the next half hour getting Ginny's broomsticks ready for the match, and Harry decided to give his own a work–over as well. It was also an Ion One, his wedding present from the Weasley family just as Ginny's was. When they finished, it was still early, but Ginny wanted to get to bed. They lay quietly in their four–poster for a while, holding each other, talking and listening with their minds and their hearts. They fell asleep, as they often did, in each other's arms.
* * * *
The Kenmare match was scheduled to begin at ten in the morning at the Exmoor pitch. "It's not too far from Holyhead," Ginny said over breakfast, "so we'll change in our clubhouse and Portkey there. And they finally sorted out that Ministry fog, or whatever they call the magic they set up to hide it. Do you remember last year when we played Tutshill at Exmoor? The magic cut in just as Ginger was taking a shot and she hit Merwyn Finwick right in the kisser."
The Exmoor pitch had experienced technical problems after its construction about fifteen years ago. The original Invisibility charm that hid it from Muggles could never be fine–tuned, which meant that magical people could not always find the stadium. The Games and Sports Department had then tried something called "Ministry Fog" to keep it hidden, but it was erratic and often cut in at inopportune moments during a match.
"I remember," Harry grinned. "Ginger was mad because she didn't score. It was an interesting save, though."
They finished eating, and Harry gave Ginny the usual pre–match good–luck snog, then they went their separate ways. Harry was going to attend the match, but he had business at the Ministry to take care of first. He met Ron in the Atrium and they talked as they went up to the second level together.
"It's kind of a strange request," Ron said on their way along the corridor to Harry's new office, a few doors down from Saliyah's. "McGonagall wants the Department of Mysteries to check out that old Pensieve of Dumbledore's. She says it's acting weird."
Harry chuckled. "How can she tell? Everything about it is a little weird. You never used it, did you?"
They entered the office and Harry went to his desk and shuffled through a stack of parchments in his in–box, then tossed them back. He took two mugs from a desk drawer, peered into them, then sniffed; he grimaced and took out his wand. "Scourgify," he muttered. He went to a coffee pot sitting on a shelf and swirled the day–old contents around. When he put his nose to it, he shook his head.
"We've got to remember to clean this thing before we leave. It's disgusting." He put it back and sat down behind his desk.
"So what does the Pensieve have to do with us?" he asked Ron, who was sitting in front of the desk.
"They want us to escort it here. They're afraid to use magical transport because they don't know if that will affect it. They asked Dumbledore's portrait, but he said he had never moved it out of the castle, so he couldn't vouch for its safety."
"So how are we supposed to get it here?"
Ron shrugged. "That's what we have to figure out. We could get a Ministry car or rent a Muggle car ourselves."
Harry frowned. "How fragile? What about the memories in it? When do they want us to bring it here? Why can't they examine it up at Hogwarts? Does anyone but Dumbledore know anything about it? And why did McGonagall think it was acting strangely?"
Ron grinned. "I don't know the answers to anything. Why don't we send someone up there?"
Harry thought for a moment. "Parvati and Anthony are free, aren't they?" He glanced at the clock. "How much of a rush is this?"
"She didn't say. Should I send her an owl?"
"Yes, let's get some answers before people start Flooing all over the place."
Ron left and Harry went through his in–box. By the time Ron returned ten minutes later the in–box was empty and the coffee pot was bubbling happily on the shelf.
"Ah, good work, boss." Ron picked up a mug and poured himself some coffee.
"It's not done yet," Harry said.
"It's close enough for government work."
Harry smiled to himself. Coming into the office every day had never been a chore; not only did he love his job, but there was nothing he enjoyed more than spending the day with Ron.
"Ginny's match is in an hour. Are you going?" Harry asked.
"Of course. They'll clinch the championship today. It's historic. Hermione will be there too. In fact, I think the whole family's coming."
"Good. I invited Andromeda and Teddy; he and Victoire are funny as hell when they're together."
"Has he proposed yet?"
Harry laughed loudly. "It wouldn't surprise me. She's a beauty, that's for sure."
An hour later they were sitting in the grandstand at Exmoor, the newest and most up–to–date Quidditch pitch in Britain. It had an elaborate magical score board and a giant, magical instant–replay screen. The latter, however, could be erratic, and sometimes the players shown on it would decide to do something different instead of showing a replay of what had actually happened.
The stadium also had luxury sky boxes that floated in the air and could move around just outside the walls. They were controversial because more than one Seeker had crashed into one of them while pursuing a Golden Snitch. The Games and Sports Department had built the boxes in order to make more gold, but then had been forced to install special charms that jolted the occupants with a sharp electric shock if they got too close to the pitch. In addition, Beaters occasionally conspired to direct Bludgers into the sky boxes, which also provided a deterrent to their wandering inside the stadium.
The stands were packed. Everyone wanted to see the Harpies make history by winning their third straight championship. There was also a great deal of interest in Ginny. She was closing in on the scoring title, and now she was also a starter on the National team. The press section was crowded, including even some foreign writers and photographers.
Harry and Ron found the rest of the Weasleys sitting in two rows near the top of the stands. George and Lee Jordan had arrived early and hexed the seats so that anyone who sat in them except a member of the family or their friends would have to get up immediately and visit the restroom for an extended period. Harry gave Molly a kiss and shook Arthur's hand, waved to everyone else, then sat next to Andromeda Tonks.
Teddy Lupin was on her other side and he pushed past her legs. The five–year–old was wearing a tiny version of a Harpies green uniform, complete with a golden talon on the chest.
"See, Uncle Harry?" He pointed proudly to the crest. "I'm like Aunt Ginny. Grandmum wouldn't let me bring my broom, though. When you come to visit, can we go flying again?"
"Sure." Harry tousled his godson's green hair, which was the exact same shade as his robes. "As long as your grandmum says it's okay."
"Yay!" Teddy jumped up and down and clapped his hands.
"Ouch." Harry picked him up and lifted him onto his lap. "You stomped on my foot. You're getting so big now, you need to watch where you put your feet down."
"I'm sorry." Teddy looked chagrined for almost a full second, then he put his mouth to Harry's ear and cupped his hands around it. "I have a secret to tell you," he whispered. "I'm going to marry Victoire when we grow up." He pulled back and nodded solemnly. "Don't tell anyone, okay?"
"Your secret is safe with me," Harry said just as solemnly. "And it's a wise decision. You'll be very happy together."
"I know," Teddy said. He slipped off Harry's lap and went back to his seat between Andromeda and Victoire, who was sitting next to her parents. Harry grinned at Fleur and waved to Bill. They smiled back, and Harry thought he detected a gleam of perception in Fleur's eye. He stared at her for a moment, caught in her gaze. She knew, Harry was certain, she knew that he and Ginny had decided to have a baby.
He didn't know how she knew, but he was used to the mysterious veela magic that somehow let her see into his heart. She probably also saw into other people's hearts, but ever since he and Ginny had become lovers, a year before they got married, Fleur Weasley had taken an extraordinary interest in them. She seemed to take special delight in their love, and she had helped it along. Harry had proposed to Ginny at Shell Cottage and they had honeymooned there. It was one of their favorite places to visit and spend weekends. It had many attractions — memories, a beautiful view of the sea, Dobby's grave — but mostly it was imbued with the love that Fleur radiated like the sun.
Harry glanced back at her, but she was now looking the other way, talking to Bill. His brother–in–law's scarred and disfigured face no longer seemed shocking or even strange. Except for Ron, Harry was closer to Bill than any of Ginny's brothers. He was more like an uncle than a brother–in–law; he and Harry had talked on many occasions about things that were irksome or troubling to Harry. He had advised Harry about purchasing the inn; he had listened to Harry when uncertainty struck him about his choice of a career; and he had always made sure that Harry felt that he was a full member of the Weasley family.
Harry blinked and looked out over the pitch. At this moment, when Ginny was about to make history flying for a team she had supported since she was a little girl, when she was about to go into the Quidditch record books, he could feel the enveloping love of her family surrounding him. It was a palpable sensation. He wondered that no one outside the family could feel it, the emotion was so strong.
Ron was on his right, talking to Hermione. Harry was about to say something to them about dinner, when a great roar went up. He looked out and saw the Harpies emerging from the dressing room tunnel. As each one appeared, she kicked off in a streak of dark green. Ginny liked to be the next–to–last one out, just ahead of Maura Robinson, the Keeper. When she appeared the roar doubled, and all of the Weasleys stood clapping and shouting. Teddy, Victoire, and her sister Dominique jumped up and down, screaming at the tops of their lungs.
Ginny gave a quick wave of acknowledgment to the crowd and kicked off. She soared up into the sky, then dove and circled the stadium. She passed over the Weasleys and gave another wave. Her eyes locked on Harry's for an instant, as they always did when he was at her matches, and in that blink of an eye Harry saw himself looking up at her with a huge grin on his face, and he knew that she had seen her own face through his eyes.
Then they both closed the connection. They would not reconnect until the match was over. They had been doing this since Ginny's first match five years ago, because they did not want the slightest hint that Harry was helping her. At first they had been afraid that their awareness of each other would prevent Harry from attending any of her matches, but Harry had learned how to put a wall up in their minds, and it had worked perfectly. Ginny zoomed away, circling the pitch, weaving in and out with her teammates, passing a practice Quaffle with Ginger and Samantha, taking practice shots at Maura.
The Kenmare Kestrels emerged from the tunnel and took to the air in their emerald–green robes. Hundreds of people in the stands stood and brandished small Irish harps, and soon the stadium was filled with the beautiful strains of "Our Beloved Kestrels," the team's fight song. The Harpies fans were silent for a few minutes, but then they began to chant, "Harpies! Harpies!" and soon the Kestrels' song was drowned out.
The referee came out onto the pitch and walked to the center where the box of balls sat. He blew his whistle, the teams flew down to join him. He went through the pre–match preliminaries, released the balls, blew his whistle again, and the match finally began.
The crowd noise was deafening; Teddy and the other children put their hands over their ears and scrunched up their faces. Most of the crowd were Harpy fans, and there was great anticipation of another first–place finish. But Ginny was the center of attention. It almost didn't matter what the other players did, whenever Ginny had the Quaffle the noise level jumped. She was leading the second–place scorer, Farnham Flagrant of Wimbourne, by fifty points, and it was generally thought that if she scored at least three goals she would have the title locked up.
The Holyhead attack was relentless; they were taking no chances in case the Kestrel Seeker caught the Golden Snitch. Ginger scored two quick goals, then Ginny scored on a brilliant set–up pass from Samantha. The stadium erupted; the entire Weasley family were on their feet screaming, and Ron pounded Harry's back until he tumbled into the row in front, almost smashing the harp of the Kestrels fan sitting there.
Ron and Andromeda helped him back into his seat while Fleur placated the offended wizard with her ample supply of charm. Everyone in the family was watching the incident when the crowd roared again; Ginny had scored another goal. Molly, sitting behind Ron, swatted the back of his head with her program because she had missed the goal. "Leave poor Harry alone!" she yelled. "Stop distracting me!"
Ron grinned at Harry as he rubbed his head, but Harry was watching the match. He had never seen Ginny fly so beautifully. She couldn't be stopped; Bludgers missed their target and several crashed into the sky boxes, forcing the people inside to dive out of the way. One of them, an obviously intoxicated wizard, fell out and plunged toward the pitch fifty feet below. He would certainly have been killed, but a thousand wands caught him with various Levitating charms that caused him to shoot up a hundred feet into the air. The referee blew his whistle, pausing the match while the poor bloke floated to the ground. Several Healers who were in the crowd ran out to attend to him, but when they remained bent over him, delaying the match, the crowd began to whistle and jeer, so they Levitated him to one side and left him there to sleep it off.
The match resumed, but the interruption didn't slow down the Harpies or Ginny. She quickly scored two more goals, then her teammates each scored. The score ran up, and it was 110 to nil before Kenmare finally broke through. But that only served to motivate the Harpies even more, and by the time their Seeker, Velda Vermeer, captured the Snitch, Ginny had eight goals. The Harpies won the match by two hundred ninety to thirty.
A large crowd waited outside the dressing room after the match, and a loud cheer went up when the team walked out to greet their fans. The Weasleys were in the back, and when Ginny and Ginger finally made their way through the well–wishers they were surrounded by a sea of red hair. Harry stood aside with Dean Thomas, who had joined him, until finally Ginny stood in front of him carrying Dominique on her hip and holding Victoire's hand.
Harry kissed her and picked up Teddy who was clamoring for attention; his hair was half green and half red. "You look like a Christmas gnome," Harry told him.
"This is for the Harpies," he pointed to one side of his head, "and this is for Aunt Ginny. She's the champion, Uncle Harry!"
"That she is."
They chatted with Ginger, Dean, and the rest of the family while the children ran around pretending to score goals with imaginary Quaffles. Ginny and Ginger were still flushed with excitement, and while Ginny talked to other people, she and Harry were having a constant exchange of feelings. They both loved the moment when they opened their connection after a match; no words passed, only emotions. He had his arm around her shoulders and held her close so that everything they felt in their minds was magnified by their physical contact.
"I'll be home by five," she told him when the Harpy's head coach, Happy Field, called from the dressing room door. "See you then, sweetie." She gave him one last kiss, hugged her nieces and Teddy, said goodbye to the rest of the family, and followed Ginger back inside.
"Dinner will be at one o'clock Sunday week," Molly announced before they all began to leave, "but I'd like everyone to get there by ten."
In nine days was the sixth anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts and the death of Fred. Harry knew that Molly wouldn't — couldn't — say it, but she wanted everyone to arrive as early as possible to help her get through the day.
"We're coming early in the morning, Mum," he said as he kissed her goodbye. "I just hope they don't call a meeting of the Cup team."
"How could they do that on the anniversary of the... the battle," she scowled. "If they do, I'll just have a little chat with Philomena. She works at the hospital, you know." After Ginny had started her last year at Hogwarts, Molly had become a Healer's Aide at St. Mungo's Hospital, and apparently the wife of the National team's manager was a colleague.
Harry gave hugs to the children, then he, Ron, Hermione, Percy, and Arthur Portkeyed back to the Ministry of Magic.
Professor McGonagall's reply was waiting in Harry's in–box. He and Ron read it together, Ron peering over Harry's shoulder as they stood in front of his desk. "She doesn't know anything. So it's basically a big mystery," Ron said.
"Hence her request to have the Department of Mysteries check it out," Harry observed as they headed out to the cafeteria. "But it means that someone will have to spend some time researching it. I don't want to send anyone up there without knowing everything ahead of time. If so many people know so little about the thing, then there's bound to be a surprise."
The corridor was not crowded because the lunch hour had already begun. Harry punched the lift button, but when it came, he paused while Ron held the grille open. Harry looked at him thoughtfully.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Or, more accurately, are you thinking about the same person I am?"
Ron grinned as they entered the lift. "She won't be in the cafeteria. She always eats in her office."
"I know," Harry grinned back. "Let's grab some take–away and surprise her."
Hermione was indeed in her office in the administrative section of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, at the other end of level two from the Auror Department. She glanced up from a parchment she was writing when Harry and Ron walked in, but then put her head down and went back to writing.
The office was large, as befitted the Chief Researcher and Executive Officer of the Department, but there was not much room to maneuver in it. Book shelves jammed to the limit took every inch of wall space, and the overflow spilled onto tables, chairs, sofas, and the floor. One whole side of the room was taken up with an assortment of magical objects, charmed Muggle objects, a large collection of wands, and a beautiful silver samovar which Ron always scowled at because it was a gift from Viktor Krum.
"I'm busy," she said without ceremony, still bent over her desk. "I lost a couple of hours this morning at the match and I need to get this done right away. It's that Polyjuice Paper." She continued writing.
"You mean the inventory for Kingsley?" Ron asked. About a year ago Saliyah and Kingsley had told Hermione to quietly survey the stocks of Polyjuice Potion ingredients kept by various departments of the Ministry. Kingsley wanted to have better control over the Potion since experience showed that immense damage could be done, and almost undetectable crimes committed, by someone using it.
"Yes," Hermione said without looking up. "Like I said, I'm busy."
"Sorry," said Harry as he and Ron stood in front of her desk, holding their sandwiches. Ron took a bite from his and Hermione sighed.
"Okay." She waved her wand and two chairs appeared in the small space in front of her desk that wasn't occupied by a stack of books. "What do you want?"
"And a gracious good afternoon to you, my darling," Ron said, sitting.
She looked at him and Harry in for a moment while her face softened. "I'm sorry. I was totally distracted." She indicated the parchment on her desk. "I didn't mean to be so rude. I know you wouldn't drop in just to say hello. What's up?"
"What do you know about Pensieves?" Harry asked.
She looked at him in surprise. "Not a thing. There's only one in Britain, as far as I know. Why?"
Harry explained the Headmistress's request, and repeated the questions that he wanted answered. Hermione listened with interest. "I wonder what's wrong with it," she mused. "Mixed up memories? Lost memories? You're right, you need to have all those questions answered before you can plan anything. Do you think there's a security risk?"
"I've been thinking about that," Harry answered. "It depends on which memories are still stored in it. If all of Albus Dumbledore's memories are there... well, I wouldn't want some of them to fall into the wrong hands. And I have no idea if anyone's used it since he died, except me, of course."
"But," Ron said, "even if the damn thing is empty, if a bad guy only thinks that there are valuable memories in it, he might want to nick it."
"True," Harry nodded. "So, what do you think?" he asked Hermione.
"There's one question Professor McGonagall could have answered, but she didn't. She didn't say why she thinks it's broken."
Harry's eyes narrowed. "It sounds like she didn't want to put it in an owl. Something's going on up there. Why is she being so mysterious?"
They sat in silence for several moments, each one considering the question, then Hermione spoke. "You're reading too much into this, Harry. I understand why we should be careful about a Pensieve that used to belong to Albus Dumbledore, but what could possibly be going on, as you say?"
"I don't know, but either she's becoming forgetful or she has a reason for not answering the question, and I've seen no sign of the former. I saw her two weeks ago at Hogwarts, and she was perfectly fine. I think I'll go see her tomorrow and try to get to the bottom of this."
"That's an excellent idea," Hermione said. "Meanwhile, I'll start looking into it, or maybe I'll give it to Hector and Orla, they're not too busy —"
"No," Harry shook his head. "Please don't do that. I don't want this becoming general knowledge. At the least, when we move it we'll want it to be as quiet as possible. And if there's more going on than you think, we may not want a whole lot of people to know."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "If you say so. You're responsible for security, so I defer. But if you don't mind, I'll wait until you see the Professor before I start taking up my time to research it."
Harry got up. "Okay, we can bat it around tonight, if we want to."
He and Ron left; Hermione gazed at the door for a moment, then went back to her parchment.
"She uses a lot of Ravenclaws," Harry remarked as they walked back to his office. Hector Freeman and Orla Quirke were two Ravenclaws; Hector was from Ginny's year and Orla was two years younger. There were several others, as well. Hermione had collected a group of them to work for her in the Law Enforcement office, just as Harry had surrounded himself with veterans of Dumbledore's Army.
"She goes for brains," said Ron. "That's why she married me."
"Right," Harry said with a straight face, "and that's also why you're working for me."
Ron seemed to be at a loss for a response, but when they entered Harry's office he went directly to a cupboard along the side wall. Inside on a shelf was large tin. He took it to his chair in front of the desk, sat, and pried off the lid. He reached in and came out with a fistful of popcorn. "When you can't come up with a quick comeback, eat. That's my philosophy. Want some?" He offered the tin to Harry.
"I bought it for you," Harry said, not looking at him. He was reading a parchment from his in–box, and frowned. "McGonagall sent another owl. She wants to see us at Hogwarts on Monday."
He looked at Ron, who had just stuffed a handful of popcorn into his mouth. "Thmm, mmm," Ron said, then he swallowed. "I mean, that's interesting. And it means you're right, something's going on."
"Yeah." Harry sat and put the parchment on his desk. "And when we see her, I want Hermione there."
"Don't we have to ask Saliyah if we want to bring in someone from outside the Auror Department?"
But Harry didn't answer. He was staring off into the distance, his eyes unfocused. Ginny was sitting in a small room, her hand over her eyes, and even though it was a happy occasion, tears of loss and finality were pouring down her cheeks.
* * * *
Ginny Portkeyed with the rest of the team back to Harpy Heaven, as they called their clubhouse. Someone popped a bottle of Muggle champagne and Ginny had a sip, but she sat off to one side with Ginger and watched the raucous party without joining in. She felt content and satisfied, but also sad because she knew she had just played her last match as a Holyhead Harpy. Her Quidditch career had been a dream come true, especially with the team finishing first for three years in a row and her winning the scoring championship twice. And now, the World Cup. She had made a name for herself in the Quidditch and wizarding worlds, but it was time to move on. Five years was enough.
Ginger sat next to her, nursing a butterbeer, watching her. "When are you gonna say somethin'?" she said in a low voice.
"I should do it soon, I expect, but it's hard," Ginny answered. "The team has been so good to me."
"You're not lettin' anyone down, if that's what's botherin' you. You've given us everything you 'ad to give, plus a lot more. These last five years'll be the Ginny Potter years for the 'arpies. I'll bet they retire your number."
"We don't have numbers," Ginny laughed.
"They'll make one up for you and retire it." Ginger took a swig and looked up as Gwenog Jones pulled up a chair and sat.
"Not joining in the fun, girls?" she smiled. "Don't tell me you're used to it. I never get used to it. You should savor every championship. You never know when it'll happen again."
"This is my last one," Ginny blurted. "I'm retiring after the Cup tournament."
"No!" Gwenog stared at her. "Don't joke about that, Ginny. Wait." She leaned forward so that she was only a foot from Ginny's face. "You're serious. Are you...?"
Ginny grinned. "Not yet, but maybe soon." She grabbed the captain's hand. "Please don't say anything. Only a couple of people know, and not even my parents. Promise! If you blab I'll jinx your broom, I swear."
"Okay," Gwenog laughed. "Your secret is safe. But everyone's going to guess that's the reason. It's happened before, you know, quite a few times, just not with someone who means so much to the team."
"I'm sorry," Ginny said, "but Ginger is staying, and Samantha will be fine as Second Chaser. You'll win a few more matches, I'm sure."
Gwenog smiled and shook her head. "It won't be the same team without you, Gin. I know you want to get on with your life, and who wouldn't with a man like Harry around. When will you make the announcement?"
"How about right now?" Ginny looked around the clubhouse. The party was winding down and players were starting to move toward the locker room. She stood up.
"Hey, guys!" she yelled, and everyone turned to look at her. "I want to say something."
The room fell silent. Ginny suddenly felt self–conscious and wasn't sure what to say. She felt Ginger's hand on her shoulder and smiled at her. She turned back to face the room.
"I'm not sure how to say this, so I'll just say it. I'm retiring from Quidditch as soon as the Cup tournament is over. It's been a great ride with all of you, and I'll never forget it, but there's things I want to do, and..."
She felt herself blush, and she turned her head. The room was quiet, until Maura Robinson said, "I'll bet it'll have green eyes and red hair."
Everyone laughed while Ginny held up her hands in protest. "No, no! It's not that, it's just that Harry and I want... I mean, we need to do some things... Oh, crap." She sat down and grinned at Gwenog. "I just hope my mum doesn't hear about it in the papers."
"We're a very discreet bunch," Gwenog laughed. "If you tell her within the hour I'm sure it'll be your own scoop."
More players gathered around Ginny, along with Coach Field. "It's the best way to end it," the coach said. "You're doing the right thing. Have your kids when you're young, then you'll still have time for a good career, if that's what you want. We will miss you, though."
"Thanks." Ginny was starting to get choked up, and she wiped her eyes. "I'll miss all of you, too."
Someone called from the back of the group, "When you have a girl, bring her here and we'll make her an honorary Harpy."
"Sure," Ginny smiled as tears started running down her cheeks. "She'll be a Harpy, too." She got up and walked into the dressing room. She closed the door behind her, and while her teammates in the clubhouse pondered the future of their championship team without its star player, Ginny sat on a stool in front of her locker, sobbing her heart out.