Harry stopped fumbling with his tie and turned around. "Wow."
Ginny preened and turned on one foot. Her deep purple dress robes swirled around her legs, showing off her strappy high heels and shapely calves. "I've discovered the silver lining of being so ill."
"I finally lost the baby weight after Albus and I can fit into this dress again."
Harry thought that was too high a price to pay to fit into a dress. She had been so ill with Dragon Flu that she had ended up in St. Mungo's, and he had taken a month's leave to watch the boys while she recovered.
She pulled at the plunging neckline. "Although I don't remember the neckline being this low."
"I remember." He gave her an exaggerated leer.
She laughed. "Do you want me to tie that?"
"Please. Although I'm to be in the background. It's Gawain's big night, and I don't have to give a speech."
"People always notice you, Harry." Ginny untied the knot. "No wonder you can't tie it properly. It's all wrinkled." She took out her wand.
The smell of steam and fabric filled his nose. Even though he had never taken Ginny for granted, he now had new respect for how hard she worked taking care of two little boys under the age of three.
"Okay, let's try this. Hold still."
Harry lifted his chin and felt her hands at brushing against his throat. Now he could smell the soft flowery scent of her hair. Desire stirred within him. The one benefit of going to this boring retirement party was that Molly and Arthur were going to look after the boys while he and Ginny spent the night in the hotel where the party was being held.
"So who do you think is going to take over the department now that Gawain is retiring?"
Harry's stomach tightened with dread. He had been hoping he would be in the running for head of Aurors, but they had never called him for an interview in the month he had been home with Ginny and the boys. "I dunno. Maybe they'll bring in someone from the outside."
"Do you think so?"
He cleared his throat and tried to sound casual. "They might want new blood." He shrugged. "A new approach."
Ginny eyes narrowed. "Why wouldn't they promote you? You're the best Auror they've got and you're a leader — always helping out the new recruits."
"Er. I dunno." He made of show of looking at his watch. "Time to go."
"Is it because you took so much time off when I was ill?" Her eyes flashed.
"Ginny, it has nothing — absolutely nothing — to do with that." He squared his shoulders at a new painful realization. "Maybe they don't think I'm ready for the responsibility."
"That's ridiculous and you know it."
"Then since I don't know, I won't speculate." Frustrated anger flared inside of him. "So stop nagging."
"I'm not nagging — I'm just trying to find out what's going on!"
"We'll find out soon enough," he said with forced calm.
Ginny pressed her lips together and nodded.
Harry sighed. It wasn't the best start to the evening.
"Not the best start to the evening," Ron said, looking at Hermione's empty chair.
"I hope she's not really ill," Ginny said.
"Nah." Ron turned a faint pink and then smiled a little. "Nothing nine months won't cure."
Ginny squealed. "She's pregnant!"
"Er—" Ron's color deepened. "I wasn't supposed to let any Kneazles out of the bag until we told the Grangers."
"Oh, please. You didn't say anything. Throwing up as soon as they serve the starter is a sure sign." Ginny smiled. "I'll just nip out to the ladies' and see how she's doing."
Their plates suddenly disappeared to be replaced not a few seconds later with the main course — little Cornish game hens on a bed of rice.
Ron studied his doubtfully. Then he reached over to Hermione's plate with a fork and speared her roasted bird.
"Ron! You can't take Hermione's dinner."
"I'm not taking her whole dinner — just the parts that make her sick." He started to cut into the purloined chicken with enthusiasm.
Harry braced himself for an explosion when Hermione returned, but to his surprise she merely smiled at Ron. "I think I can manage rice, thank you."
Ron patted her back and leaned in close. "You all right?"
Hermione nodded wanly. "I think so. I wasn't this nauseous last time."
"Maybe you're having a boy this time," Ginny said, her eyes glowing.
Hermione's eyes widened. "Maybe. A boy. I don't know." She looked at Ron in bewilderment. "I only know about girls."
Ginny laughed. "You'll be fine."
"Ask Mum," Ron said promptly. "She had six."
"But what about sublimated gender roles? And raising a boy to be cognizant of his male privilege?"
Harry had no idea what she was talking about, but Ron seemed to. "I don't know how he would miss it growing up in our house."
"Hermione," Ginny said with an impish gleam in her eye, "look how well you did raising Ron and Harry — and you had a late start."
"Hermione did not raise us—" Ron began, but he was cut off by Kingsley Shacklebolt tapping his water glass.
The boring speeches began. Harry half-listened, only perking up when one of Gawain's retired cronies told a funny story about Gawain's accidental magic that rendered him bald.
Then Gawain stood up, thanked everyone for coming and casually wished his replacement, Harry Potter, well.
It was announced so quickly that Harry wasn't sure if he had dreamed it, but then Ginny smiled at him proudly and squeezed his hand under the table. Ron leaned over and said in a low voice, "Looks like someone else let a Kneazle out of the bag."
He could only nod. People were turning around to look at him and he could feel his face warm. Maybe Gawain was mistaken. Maybe he was just the interim head until a search committee could be formed. Maybe…
Ginny squeezed his hand again and he willed himself to calm down. Whatever happened, happened. He would find out soon enough.
"It was nice of Kingsley to send us champagne," Ginny said, admiring the foil-wrapped bottle.
"He felt bad about springing the news that way — even if it was good news." Harry kicked off his shoes and untied his tie with a relieved sigh. It had been a long day — and the huge luxurious bed with its heaps of pillows looked exactly right. So did Ginny. Her shoes were off and her hair was loose and she was smiling…
"Let's try out this bed," she said.
"Yes, let's." Once they were lying down he pulled her in his arms. "Sorry about snapping at you earlier."
"It's all right." She touched his face. "I believe I've snapped at you a few times in the past."
"I know, but—"
"You were just worried about who was going to be head of the department. I can understand that."
"But it wasn't because I thought I should get the promotion necessarily. I'm not that arrogant—"
She put a finger on his lips. "No, you're not. But you don't like to follow someone you can't respect. That's what you were worried about."
He could feel his shoulders drop. "Yeah, I guess that's it."
"I know that's it." Her lips brushed his jaw line. "Now let's celebrate."
Bubbles of happiness rose inside of him. "Do you want some champagne first?"
"No, I'm still taking potions for that stupid Dragon Flu." She wriggled closer and nibbled his ear. "I've got an idea."
He laughed. "An idea? Do tell."
"Um. Maybe showing would be more effective." She began to caress him in all the right places.
"Are you sure?" he asked over the blood pounding in his ears. "You've been so ill."
"Which is why I want to feel alive again." She kissed him to emphasize her point. "We have a lot to celebrate."
"Then let's celebrate," he said, rolling her on to her back.
Hours later as they snuggled next to each other in the dark, Harry noticed a faint pink light surround the bed and then disappear.
"Was that—?" he asked.
Ginny gasped. "It was! Those potions I was taking for Dragon Flu must have interfered with my other potion."
They had seen that light twice before, the light that heralded the deepest sort of magic.
Harry's throat tightened. "Do you mind? I mean, we planned for James and Albus, but—"
Ginny's fierce embrace cut him off. "Mind? I was a little jealous of Hermione tonight, if you really want to know."
"Were you?" He kissed her temple. "I thought we were done."
"I did, too. But then I started thinking about how nice it would be to have another — maybe a girl this time."
"Well, I think you got your wish," Harry said. "That light was pink."
"What a night," Ginny said drowsily. "All kinds of accidents happening — and all of them nice."
She was asleep, Harry realized. He stayed awake for a few more minutes, thinking about the new twists his future had just taken.
Three Years Later
"Lily really doesn't like Hugo's teddy bear, does she?" Ron took the bear that was propped up next to Hugo and put it out of reach on the end table.
"Normally she likes bears." Harry frowned as he watched Lily glare and point at the innocent-looking bear. "What's wrong with the bear, Lily?"
"Baa!" She stood up on her chubby toddler legs and moved towards the object of her scorn.
"Did she say bad?" Ron asked. "I wish Rosie were here — she always interprets for Hugo."
"Ginny would know," Harry said guiltily. He had been away for a week at a conference in Brussels and it seemed like all of his children had grown and changed in that short time.
Ron shrugged. "Maybe — maybe not. It's hard to know what's going on sometimes." He glanced at Hugo, who was sprawled on his back on the floor, his little mouth slightly open. "Although I usually understand Hugo."
Harry hid a smile. Hugo was his father in miniature — down to the way he surrendered to sleep. How many times had he seen Ron asleep like that in the dormitory at Hogwarts?
"Baa," Lily said insistently. Her two stubby red pigtails practically bristled with indignation.
"You know, Lily might look like Ginny, but she's you all over, mate."
"She is not giving up whatever idea she's got in her head."
Harry sighed. "Ginny says that, too."
All of a sudden the bear burst into flames.
"What the—" Ron leaped up and put out the fire with his wand.
"Lily!" Harry dropped to his knees in front of her. "What did you do?"
Lily didn't flinch at his anxious tone although, to Harry's dismay, her eyes filled with tears. "Baa."
"It's just accidental magic," Ron soothed. "Is this the first magic she's done?"
"I think so," Harry said with a sinking feeling in his stomach. "Unless she's been starting fires the week I was in Brussels."
"I don't think she's a fire starter, Harry." Ron was examining the charred bear, his nose very close to one of its glass eyes — which a spider was pushing out with its long legs. "Bloody hell!" He dropped the bear and stood back as more spiders poured out of the eye of the charred teddy bear.
"Baa!" Lily shrieked, pointing at the spiders now traveling towards Hugo.
"We'll protect Hugo," Harry said with his arm around Lily's waist. He waved his wand and the spiders froze in their tracks.
"Baa!" Lily repeated.
"Ugh. There are heaps of spider eggs in here," Ron said. "I remember when Hermione bought this thing — she was excited that it was filled with organic materials — silk being one of them.
Harry shook his head. "You don't think of spider webs when you think of silk."
Ron shuddered. "Okay, now it's official. I hate teddy bears — their association with spiders is too close for comfort."
"Good thing Hugo wasn't awake," Harry said. "He doesn't need that kind of fright."
"Are you saying one person with spider-phobia is enough for one family?"
Harry grinned. "Maybe." Then he looked at Lily, who was still glaring fiercely at the frozen spiders. "You weren't scared of the spiders, were you, Lily?"
Lily turned, stared at him with big eyes, and put her finger in her mouth.
Harry's heart turned over. She had been afraid — which is why she had produced the strongest magic she was capable of. "Darling girl." He put comforting arms around her. He could feel her sink her whole body onto his chest and then he felt her heavy head on his shoulder. "You did the right thing even though you scared us half to death." He rubbed light circles on her back.
"She's right knackered," Ron said. "Don't blame her. That was quite a bonfire."
Harry carried Lily to her cot and placed her on her side like she liked. He watched her sleeping for a moment, the very picture of innocence. She was still practically a baby and yet… Fire as her first magic? It worried him.
Ron had cleaned up the remnants of the bear and the spiders once he returned.
"How do you think she knew that bear was stuffed full of spiders?" Harry asked without preamble.
"I don't know," Ron said slowly. "I was wondering that myself. We had a great-aunt who was mazed. Maybe she inherited some of that."
Ron didn't have a chanced to answer because green Floo flames flared in the fireplace. Ginny then appeared with Albus in his pushchair and James wearily hanging on to her robes.
"Hullo," Ginny said softly. "Everyone napping?"
"I'm not napping, Mummy," James said with a huge yawn. "I'm too big to nap."
"You don't have to nap, but you should lie on your bed and be quiet while the babies sleep."
"Not a baby," Albus protested from his pushchair.
"No, you're not," Ginny said. "You were a big boy and got to see the Flying Abraxans do all sorts of tricks. Wasn't it wonderful?"
James perked up enough to tell to Harry all about the trained horses and how they flew through hoops of fire and how one lucky boy got picked to ride one.
While Ginny was chivvying the boys off to their rooms, Hermione appeared with Rosie in her pushchair. Unlike Albus, Rosie was wide-awake and her curly head was bent over a copy of the programme.
"Does she read already?" Harry asked.
"A few words," Ron said proudly. "Hermione's been teaching her."
"She's been teaching herself," Hermione said. "I don't believe in pushing children past their own curiosity."
That reminded Harry of Lily. "So what were you saying about mazed?" Harry asked Ron.
"Mazed?" Ginny moved a pile of folded laundry from a chair and sat down. "Who's mazed?"
"Lily," Harry said, not wanting to beat around the bush. "She did her first magic — at least I think it was her first — while you were gone."
"She did? What was it?"
"Um. Fire." He tried to sound matter-of-fact, but he failed miserably.
Ron snorted at his tragic tone. "Lily was trying to protect Hugo from his teddy bear. She set it on fire. Good thing, too. It was stuffed with spider eggs."
"Spider eggs!" Hermione's mouth dropped open. "I would never—"
"Of course not," Ron said. "No one knew — except Lily. She went spare the minute she saw Hugo with it this morning. That's why I think she's mazed."
"What is mazed?" Harry cut in. "I wish someone would explain it."
"If someone is mazed, it's like they've got a little something extra," Ginny began.
"Some people call it fey," Hermione added. "Lily might be a little fey — like she can sense things other people can't."
Harry frowned. "You mean like second sight?" His stomach dropped. "Or predicting the future?"
Ron snorted. "She's not going to turn into Trelawney, mate."
"I hope not." He had a sudden vision of a sixty-year-old in pigtails with lots of scarves and beads taking big swigs out of a sherry bottle while she read palms at a Muggle fair. He ran his hand through his hair. "But fire as her accidental magic? That's not a good sign."
"It's a good sign if she's trying to protect someone," Ron said. "She didn't set the bear on fire for laughs, Harry. She was trying to protect us."
"Just like her dad," Ginny said affectionately. "How many times have I told you she's all Potter no matter what colour her hair?"
"But Potters aren't fey or mazed or what ever you call it. Not that I know of, anyway."
Ginny's eyes narrowed. "And why is that such a bad thing if Lily is a bit fey? I hope you're not going to make her feel bad about this, Harry."
"Feel bad? No! I—" He looked to Ron for help.
"It was just a little shocking to see a baby do that kind of magic," Ron said. "Harry doesn't mean anything."
"No, I don't," he said. "I mean. Won't this be kind of weird for her? Being different?"
"Only if we act like she's different and that this ability is strange and alarming." Ginny's face flushed. "But it's not strange, it's rare."
"That's right, Harry," Hermione said. "There's nothing Dark about it. It's not like when you found out you were a Parselmouth and everyone was against you."
"No, I suppose not." As comforts went, it was a small one, but he was grateful for it. If he had anything to do with it, Lily was never going to feel bad about her abilities — whatever they were.
Ron stretched and let out a yawn. "What a day. Minding the children always exhausts me."
Hermione glanced at Hugo's sleeping form. "Right. If you're not too tired, why don't you pick up Hugo and we can leave Harry and Ginny in peace?"
Once they left, Harry deliberately started picking up toys from the floor with his wand. Ginny had not been pleased with him earlier and he was fully expecting her to round on him.
But she didn't.
Instead she joined him in picking up toys and putting them in the toy chest. "I forgot about the Parselmouth thing. That was my year with Tom Riddle."
Harry winced to hear that name — and the ruefulness in Ginny's voice. "When you compare the two, a touch of second sight or whatever it is doesn't seem so bad."
"No, it doesn't." Ginny put her hand on his arm. "I don't expect Lily will have the same sort of year as either one of us when it's her turn to go to Hogwarts."
"No." He sighed. "I just want everything to be easy — well, easier — for the children.
"You don't have a lot of control over that."
"Well, I for one am glad that Lily is going to be a powerful witch. It will be our job to give her confidence in her abilities."
He smiled. "It won't be difficult since that really was impressive magic."
Ginny smiled proudly. "Was it?"
"Yes — I don't know about mazed — but she is pretty amazing."
"Like her father."
He laughed. "I don't think anyone would have been impressed with my accidental magic. Growing hair after a horrible haircut isn't exactly a hero's trait."
"That's because you had to protect yourself before you could protect anyone else." She hugged him around the waist. "I hate that you didn't have a supportive family growing up."
"But I do now."
"You do. And so does Lily."
"So does Lily," he agreed. "That's all that's important."
Ten Years Later
"The eyeScroll, Mrs. Potter. The latest in knowledge-gathering magic."
Ginny took the snow-white piece of parchment from the clerk and looked at its shiny surface. "I don't see how this could work."
"Ah, it's amazing what they're doing at Macmagic these days. You can read any book from any library with a flick of your wand. The eyeScroll will see it for you."
"What's this for?" She pointed to a googly-looking eye at the bottom of the scroll.
"That eye will search for you. People, places, things."
"So if I ask the google eye about my husband, what would come up?"
"Only all the books and articles written about him. As well as photos and public appearances." He smiled at her. "Go ahead. Tap the google eye with your wand and ask about your husband."
Ginny shivered. There was so much magic emanating from the eyeScroll, that she was almost nervous to touch it with her wand. But she did anyway, whispering, "Harry Potter."
For a breathless second nothing happened and then a jagged hole of whirling magic appeared in the eyeScroll. Before Ginny could ask what was happening, she was sucked into the vortex.
Harry strained his eyes towards the noise, but he could see nothing in the stygian darkness of the cave where he was trapped.
Someone groaned and then swore.
He gasped in surprise. "Ginny?"
"Harry?" To his relief, she sounded unhurt. "Where are you? My wand doesn't work."
"I'm right here. Don't move."
"Where are we?"
"We're in Yorkshire — the Dales," he answered briefly. "Start talking so I can find my way to you. I don't want you to fall down a crevice or anything."
"And what do I do if you fall down a crevice?" she asked tartly.
"Just keep talking." He was on his hands and knees, trying to feel his way across the jagged stone floor of the underground cave.
"Keep talking? Okay — well, first I'd like to know how you got here. When you left the house this morning you said you were going to do paperwork in the morning and then you were going to check on some of the new recruits."
"All true," he said. "Keep talking. How did you end up here? You said you were going shopping in London."
"I did go shopping in London. I went to the Macmagic store to find something for Albus's birthday. The assistant was showing me this new thing — an eyeScroll. When I said your name and tapped the google eye, I ended up here."
Her voice was closer. "Talk some more," he said, trying to ignore the cut in his knee.
"Well, that's it. Whatever happened was accidental magic." He heard her take a deep breath. "Harry, I don't like the feel of this place."
"It's not a good place for witches or wizards — and I think it's by design." He stopped. "Ginny, say something."
"No, it's your turn to talk. I know you're getting closer. So it's my turn to come to you."
"I don't want you fall into a crevice like I did."
"I won't. So where in Yorkshire are we exactly?"
"Just a little way from Malham Cove. I met one of the recruits there and I decided to take a walk. We camped around here once and I wanted to see it again when I wasn't terrified."
"Ginny you don't need to cut up your knees. I can come to you."
He knew better than to argue. "Anyway, I strayed from the Pennine Way because I remembered something from History of Magic about certain underground caves being used as goblin hideouts during one of the wars."
"And then?" she prompted.
He felt something graze against his leg. "Ginny — was that you? Put your hand back where it was."
"Oh! There you are."
Her arms wound around his neck. "Ginny." He held her tightly, revelling in her warmth and the fresh scent of her hair. He was so caught up in her familiar embrace, that for a second he forgot how precarious their situation was. Then fear struck him with sharp swiftness. He dropped his arms. "Damn it. Why are you here? I don't want you here. You're in so much danger, Ginny, you don't even know."
"I do realize I'm in danger," she said sharply, "but you're stuck with me." She took her arms away from his neck. "I don't know why you're angry at me, anyway. You managed to get yourself stuck down here, I just followed."
"I'm not angry at you." He gritted his teeth against the despair welling up inside of him. "I'm angry because this is really not the way I wanted to die and I certainly didn't want you to die along with me."
"Die?" she gasped. "Harry, what are you talking about? We're lost. So what? Someone will find us soon."
"No, no one will ever find us because these caves are Unplottable. The crevice I fell through has already vanished. If there's another opening, I haven't found it yet." He ran his hand through his hair. "The goblins used these caves as bolt-holes and as prisons for the witches and wizards they were ransoming. There's all kinds of goblin magic surrounding us and—"
"Is this why my wand doesn't work?"
"Yeah." He didn't trust himself to say much more. He wanted to scream out his frustration, but he had to stay as calm as possible for Ginny.
"What about wandless magic? Can you do any?"
"I tried," he said wearily. "Nothing."
"The Aurors will notice we're missing," Ginny said stoutly. "Ron won't ever give up. And Hermione —"
"Ginny, the odds are so slim. I don't—" He didn't want to tell her about all the water he had discovered in the other direction. He had a horrible feeling the caves filled with water when there was a good downpour.
"Don't what? What aren't you telling me?"
"Water. I think these caves fill with water when it rains and the forecast for the next few days isn't good." There, it was all out.
"So we don't have magic."
"And this cave is Unplottable and is probably sealed off from above."
"So what would a Muggle do? I doubt the goblins included magic to repel Muggle innovations."
"What would a Muggle do?" he repeated blankly. "I dunno. If I had a torch or a rope or—"
"Well, how do Muggles get light?" Ginny asked suddenly. "Surely they didn't stumble around in the dark before they invented those torches."
"Um. I dunno. Fire?"
"Fire! Of course. How do the Muggles make fire?"
"Matches. Friction. If we had two sticks of wood—"
"We do have two sticks of wood!" Ginny said. "Your wand and my wand."
"But you have to have fuel for a Muggle fire," he said. "Things that burn — like more wood, or paper, or—"
"I have paper! In my cloak pocket. The shop assistant gave me all sorts of brochures."
"And I have that recruit's paperwork. And once we have some light maybe we'll find something else in the cave that will burn." Warmth flowed in his chest. It was the first bit of hope he had felt since he found himself stuck here. Maybe they could even find their way out. "All right," he said. "Let's give it a go."
"All right," Professor Longbottom said. "Let's give it a go. You're going to burn your patches with a controlled fire." He gave Patrick Finnigan a stern look. "Controlled fire, with the emphasis on control."
Lily licked her lips and took out her wand. Her patch was full of mallowsweet, aconite, and belladonna. Once they had burned the foliage, they would wait a week and then plant orchids in the ash. Lily hoped her flowers would be pretty.
"Okay. Now!" Professor Longbottom called. He had his wand out — probably to fight any fires that got out of hand, Lily thought.
She waved her wand and, to her great satisfaction, a merry, crackling fire appeared at one end of the small patch and slowly moved towards the other plants.
The scent of mallowsweet filled her nose. Lily coughed and then stared in amazement. The flames were shifting and taking on forms.
Dad, in some sort of cave, sitting by a small fire amongst some ragged stones.
Mum sitting next to him with her head on his shoulder. Both of their faces were grim as they occasionally glanced at a pool of water that was off to one side. As Lily watched, the water appeared to be rising.
Lily didn't know what she was seeing — she didn't know if it was a vision from the past or something that was going to happen. Whatever it was, it felt very, very real.
The sickly smell of the mallowsweet turned her stomach. She had to do something — anything — to help them. They were in trouble. She could feel it in her bones.
"Patrick! What did I tell you? We don't need six-foot flames to burn a patch of vegetation. It's no wonder you burned your eyebrows."
"Professor Longbottom!" Lily rushed to his side. "Professor, something has—" She stopped abruptly. The professor was a friend of her parents. He was a kind man, but would he believe her? What she had seen was so weird and random — and no one else in the class seemed to be caught up in a vision.
"Lily? What is it?"
She had to risk the ridicule of her classmates. This was for Mum and Dad. She had to be brave for them. "Mum and Dad," she blurted. "Something's happened to them. I just know it. We have to do something."
Professor Longbottom raised his eyebrows. "How do you know something has happened?"
Her face burned with embarrassment. "I saw it in the fire."
"Ah." Professor Longbottom nodded. "Mallowsweet causes visions."
"You don't think it's true?" Lily asked in dismay.
"I don't know — Divination isn't my strong suit," he said. "Just tell me what you saw."
"They're trapped in a cave. And water's rising — and…" She swallowed before she burst into tears.
"Lily, are you sure?" he asked gently. "I've never known you to tell stories."
"No, I'm not sure — I mean, I can't prove anything." She shivered. "But something is wrong and I have to do something."
To her great relief, he nodded. "I'll send a message to Auror Headquarters. They'll know where your dad is."
"An owl will take too long," she said, thinking of that cold black water rising in the cave.
"I'll send a Patronus." Professor Longbottom took out his wand and a shimmering, golden toad shot out of the end.
Lily wrung her hands together and avoided the staring eyes of her classmates. "What's going on?" Violet Parkinson asked loudly. "Is Lily in trouble?"
"Mind your fires," Professor Longbottom said.
Within a minute a Patronus returned. It was a Jack Russell terrier — Uncle Ron's. Lily felt her stomach clench in fear. The dog jumped and turned in excitement. "Neville, can you bring Lily to Malham Tarn?"
Professor Longbottom frowned and stepped away from Lily, this time conjuring several Patronuses.
"Bel, do you know where Malham Tarn is?" Lily whispered to her friend who had edged over from her burning patch.
"It's in Yorkshire," answered Bel Yew. "In the Dales."
"Are there caves?"
"Oh, yes. Loads."
It hadn't been a vision. The cave was a real place, and this was truly happening. Lily's stomach dropped. What now?
Professor Longbottom strode over to her. "It's all right, Lily," he said. "We're going straight away." He waved his wand at the burning patches, extinguishing the flames. "Class is dismissed," he said through the smoke. "Er — no homework."
They left with the student's cheers ringing in their ears.
Lily knew about Thestrals, of course, yet she had never expected to ride one in the middle of a school day with Hagrid on one side of her and Professor Longbottom on the other. What if she was wrong? Her heart sped up at the thought of explaining to the Headmaster after all this fuss.
Her breath caught. But what if she was right?
Concentrate. Where are they?
She didn't know. The vision had vanished along with the mallowsweet fire. She couldn't think of anything except how cold she was and how bony the Thestral's back felt under her legs.
Hopefully she wouldn't be this useless when they arrived.
It was raining when they arrived. Aurors in uniform were walking in pairs across the limestone pavement looking for the crevice that had swallowed her parents.
"Careful," Uncle Ron said, helping her off the Thestral. "The limestone's slippery because of the rain."
Lily's legs felt like jelly and her heart was somewhere near her mouth. She didn't dare move.
"Lily?" Uncle Ron said. "What do you see? What can you tell me?"
"Nothing," she whispered. "I could only see them in the fire. I can't see them now and I don't know what that means."
"Okay, breathe. Just relax." He took her hands and started to rub them.
She was so cold.
"Just take a minute and look around. This was the last place anyone saw Harry — er — your dad. Can you see anything unusual?"
Lily looked through the rain at the bleak stony landscape. "Um. There's smoke coming up from that crevice, but you probably knew that."
"Smoke?" Uncle Ron's blue eyes lit up. "Where?"
She pointed to a thin plume of smoke coming from the rocks. "There."
"All right," Ron called. "Everyone cast detection spells for smoke. Now!"
Bright blue waves of magic cris-crossed over the limestone pavement. In the blinding light, the white smoke showed clearly.
"I can see it!" Hagrid called. "The crevice. I'm goin' in."
Lily couldn't see how such a big man could fit in such a narrow slot. "How's he going to do that?"
"He's got giant's blood," Uncle Ron said. "They know caves."
To Lily's inexperienced eyes, it seemed that Hagrid was widening the crevice with his bare hands. "Harry! Harry! Can ye hear me?"
"Help Ginny first, the water is rising."
Lily's knees buckled. That was Dad's voice.
Hagrid dropped on to his stomach and put his head and arms in the crevice.
Lily held her breath. What if they had been swept away by the water? What if Hagrid couldn't reach them?
She barely had time to form a few worried thoughts before they heard Hagrid roar and then pull back on his knees. His head appeared and then his arms — Mum was clutching one hand and Dad had the other.
The Aurors cheered as Dad scrambled on to the rock. Lily couldn't force a sound past her dry lips.
Once she was on her feet, Mum scanned the crowd as if she were looking for someone in particular.
"Mum!" Lily broke away from Uncle Ron to run into her arms.
"Lily, darling." Mum held her tightly. "You found us, didn't you?"
"No," she said. "Not really. It was an accident. I saw you in the fire."
"We never would have seen that crevice if it hadn't been for Lily," Uncle Ron said firmly. "We knew Harry was in the general area, but—" He shook his head.
Then it was Dad's turn to hug her while Mum talked to Professor Longbottom. "I'm glad you had another accident, Lily."
He smiled down at her. "This is your second rescue. You probably don't remember the first one."
She wanted to protest and say that she really hadn't done anything, but he looked so proud and happy that she didn't see the point in arguing. "I hope I don't have to do a third."
He laughed and hugged her again.
The hardest part was leaving Lily so she could go back to Hogwarts. Harry wanted nothing more than to take her home with them so they could be sure she hadn't suffered any ill effects from the cold ride on the Thestral or the strain of knowing her parents were in danger.
But Lily needed to go back to a routine as soon as possible and she was loath to draw any more attention to herself by missing more classes.
Harry could understand that, but he made her promise she would use the Floo to let them know she had arrived safely back at Hogwarts.
She did call a few hours later, with James and Albus crowded around her in the hearth.
"She's back, Dad," James said before anyone could get a word in edgewise. "Got to skip quiet hour so she could have a hot bath."
"I should hope so," Ginny said. "You don't have a chill, do you, dear?"
Lily shook her head. "I'm fine."
"What about you and Dad?" Albus asked anxiously. "Lily said you were trapped all day."
"Your father was, but I was only there a few hours." Ginny shuddered. "That was long enough."
"So — um — why were you at the Macmagic store, Mum?" Albus asked.
James reached over and smacked the back of his head. "Because, Captain Obvious, your birthday is coming up and she was looking for your gift."
"James!" Ginny scolded, but she didn't deny what he said.
Albus looked pleased at the thought of an eyeScroll. He elbowed his brother in the ribs. "You're just jealous because it's not your birthday."
"I don't care. It doesn't matter how many birthdays you have," James said. "I'll always be older than you."
"And I'll always be smarter than you," Albus shot back.
"All right, that's enough," Harry said in a stern voice, even though he wanted to laugh.
"So are you still coming for Parents' Weekend next week?" Lily asked.
"We are," Ginny said. "We'll take you all out to the Three Broomsticks for lunch."
"No can do, Mum," James said. "I signed us up for the father-son pot-holing expedition."
"James — that's not funny after the day your father's had!"
Harry laughed. "You should all be in your dormitories in five minutes if I remember the rules correctly." He winked at James. "I don't want you to miss out on your chance to go pot-holing."
"Lily, go right to bed when you get there. You've had a big day," Ginny said.
"I will, Mum."
"We'll watch out for her, Mum," James said.
Lily rolled her eyes before the flames abruptly died down.
"Bye," Ginny said to the cold hearth.
Harry put his arms around her. "We'll see them all in a week."
"I know." She sighed and leaned against him. "But I miss them."
"So do you really want to give Albus an eyeScroll? What about accidental magic?"
"I'm starting to think accidental magic isn't such a bad thing." She grinned up at him. "Although he'll probably end up using it to play Angry Hippogriffs like every one else who's got one."
"Angry Hippogriffs?" Harry shook his head. "I think I can go through life without an eyeScroll."
"Oh, I don't know. I liked that google eye feature — it obviously thinks we should be together."
Harry snorted. "I don't need magic to tell me that."
~*~ End ~*~
Author/Artist's Notes: I was thrilled to get emmacmf’s
prompt for the takingitinturns fest on live journal. She asked for
“Harry as an Auror; Harry and Ginny with young children; a strong Harry
and Ron friendship; feisty, independent Ginny.” I hope this story
fulfills all of those elements to your liking and I hope you enjoy
reading this story as much I enjoyed writing it. Thanks so much to
Sherylyn and to tdu000
for the beta and the help with Yorkshire.