Five long weeks had passed, each week without Harry was torture. The torture had increased, ever since she'd learned that Heidi had been sent on the same mission. Taking a deep breath, Ginny forced her jealousy away. Those feelings were unfounded. Harry and Heidi's romantic relationship was ancient history. She couldn't allow it to distract her; she had a job to do.
Ginny wiped a sweaty lock of hair out of her eyes. To her mum's dismay, Ginny had decided to keep her hair short, like Gudrun did. She liked Gudrun, who had somewhat replaced Hermione in the older sister role, ever since Hermione and Ron had become really serious. Their moving in together had changed a few things ever so subtly, and they were spending a lot of time together. Ginny had a feeling that Hermione was about to become her sister-in-law.
Ginny looked up and saw her brother coming her way, hand in hand with Hermione. She forced a smile onto her face, not liking the feelings of envy that surged up, but not being able to do anything about them. Ron and Hermione were practically joined at the hip, while Harry was stuck in Japan, away from her... and with Heidi!
Taking another moment to force her, no doubt, unfounded jealousy out of her mind, Ginny noticed there was something odd about the way Ron was strutting around, holding Hermione's hand. Hermione seemed to be glowing too… Something was definitely going on!
"Wait a minute!" Ginny said, as she lowered her working goggles over her head and stared into an open hatch on top of the Zephyrus. It was nearly ready to go. Ginny only needed to double-check these main potion conduits for hairline fractures, so she magnified the view in her goggles accordingly, and started to meticulously work her way along the tube. It was very important work…not at all like one of the first jobs Percy had ever had, namely researching the thickness of cauldron bottoms. Then, finally done, she pushed the goggles onto her forehead.
"Good Lord, look at the size of that rock!" Ginny heard Gudrun exclaim. Ginny tapped the disc she was sitting on with her wand, and the disc detached itself from the hull, taking Ginny to the maintenance bay floor. Hermione was holding out her hand, and Gudrun was examining a ring on her finger…A ring!
"Oh Ron, you proposed?" Ginny squealed, jumped off the disc and running over to Ron and Hermione. Their radiant smiles answered her question and she threw her arms around both of them. Then she released them and punched Ron in the shoulder teasingly. "Took you long enough, you prat."
Ron shrugged. "Actually, Hermione gave me plenty of hints before I caught on."
"We've lived together for a month now." Hermione smiled. "To be honest, I dreaded it destroying our relationship. I'm happy I was wrong. It only got stronger."
Ron kissed her on the tip of her nose. "Even the best of us are wrong sometimes, Herm."
The expected scolding never came, and Ginny frowned. "Wow, he can give you pet names now?"
"I never objected to Herm! And only Ron is allowed to call me that."
"Ron, this must have cost a fortune," Gudrun said, drooling over the diamond.
"Yeah, where did you get that much gold?" Ginny frowned.
"Ron asked George for a loan, but George told him to consider it a wedding gift," Hermione said. "Isn't that sweet?"
Ginny was shocked. "Ron asked George for a loan?" She couldn't imagine Ron having done that. His pride would have got in the way. "Didn't it bother you to go to George for a loan?"
"For Hermione, I'd swallow my pride anytime," Ron said solemnly. "Besides, I bet there's a catch. Susie and Millie never had godparents."
Ginny sighed. It was true. Lee and Alicia were Arthur's godparents. Angelina's older sister Beatrice, and Charlie, were Fred's godparents, and Bill and Fleur were godparents to Cassidy and Duncan. Things had been at their worst during Millie and Susie's time of birth, mere months before Voldemort's downfall. No one had wanted to assume responsibility over two infants in a time when everyone's life had been in danger.
"So what if there's a catch?" Hermione said airily.
"I'd pay any price for you, even if it means becoming those little devils' godfather." Ron smiled and bent down to kiss Hermione.
Gudrun pretended to gag. "Please, in the privacy of your own home. What are you two doing down here anyway? Need our help with something?"
"Ginny's got combat training in fifteen minutes. She was already supposed to be in the Training Hall," Ron said.
"Well, I had to finish up with the Cruiser," Ginny said defensively.
"And you completely forgot," Hermione said, smiling knowingly.
"I did!" Ginny groaned, feeling stupid. "But there's a good reason! Gudrun, came we show them?"
"I don't see why not." Gudrun shrugged. "Just don't talk about it when you're off the base."
Nearly bursting with anticipation, Ginny dragged Hermione and Ron to another smaller chamber, where her new project was standing.
"My new boyfriend," Gudrun said, as Ron and Hermione gazed at the thirty-foot tall skeletal figure. "The men in the city were such a disappointment that I decided to build a real man myself."
Ginny elbowed Gudrun in the ribs. "It's a Mech—at least—it's going to be. The idea to build one of these has existed for ages. But there was still some animation spells and power issues that had to be worked out, since you can't charm it like you'd charm a golem. See, all golem makers do is carve something out of the appropriate materials and slap a few animation spells on them, with a cognition crystal to give it some intelligence, if that's required."
"Your little sister here came with a theory. Charm several segments of the construct separately, each with its own function, and create a cognition crystal to co-ordinate the various charms. That's never been done in golems," Gudrun said, smiling at Ginny proudly. "I knew you were special from the moment I first saw you."
Ginny felt her face go red. "Well, for some reason it never occurred to the other artificers to charms several segments separately. But our limbs and organs have their each have their functions, and are co-ordinated by the brain. So what I've proposed, really, is just to re-create a human body on a large scale. I guess my mediwitch training gave me an angle that the others didn't have…But we don't know if it'll work yet," she added quickly. "It was just a theory."
"You need to have more self-confidence, my young apprentice," Gudrun said, grabbing Ginny in a chokehold and ruffling her hair.
Ginny struggled to break free, but Gudrun was too strong. Finally, Gudrun released her. "You really need that combat training…Scram! You're almost late."
Ginny glanced at her watch. "Damn, if I'm late again I'm screwed!" Then she hurried off, just hearing Ron tell Gudrun off for being a bad influence on her and giving her a foul mouth. She shook her head, not understanding why Ron still perceived her as an innocent little baby.
Not living in the Citadel, Ginny had her own little room that served as a storage room for her equipment and a changing room. She stripped off the stained coverall she'd worn in the maintenance bay and donned her all-purpose training outfit. Whether it was duelling or hand-to-hand combat, the same type of outfit was always worn, reflecting the Ranger's philosophy that the wand wasn't a wizard's only means of defence.
She finally ran into the Training Hall, clutching a stitch in her side. She really needed to work on her endurance.
"So nice of you to join us, Miss Weasley. Why don't you have a seat?" Ginny's eyes widened. It was Wolfe!
"What are you doing here?" she blurted out. "Where's Harry?"
I'm covering for Captain Faust. As for Harry, he'll head this way on the Cruiser in about an hour!" Wolfe said, the tiniest smile on his face. "You'll see him soon enough, but for now I need your concentration."
Ginny felt her face growing hot again, and her six classmates sniggered. How could Wolfe ask her to concentrate? Harry was finally coming back!
Wolfe walked up to her. "I know I'm asking a lot. I haven't seen Galatea yet either, but if you don't pay attention in this class you could get hurt," he whispered. Then he gestured to a gap in the circle.
Ginny plopped down onto the mat. She'd waited five weeks. What were a few more hours? Pure torture…
"Now we begin," Wolfe said. "Today, I will teach you about fighting multiple opponents. You will be divided into groups of four, and you will take turns ganging up on a single defender. I will be a part of one of those groups, but I'll go easy on you. You won't learn much if I stun you right away, after all."
A tall and burly Swedish wizard, Larsson, snorted derisively at Wolfe's comment. Ginny didn't like him. He was a Combat Ranger, and incredibly egotistical, even though he wasn't nearly as great as he boasted to be.
Wolfe frowned. "I take it you disagree with something I said?"
"No offence, sir, " the Swede began in a tone that suggested that avoiding offence was the last thing on his agenda. "But I think you underestimate me. Unlike these rug-rats, I've seen combat. Your reputation precedes you, but you I think I could hold my own against you for a while."
Wolfe smiled. "Really? Well, if this is the case, you're wasting your time in this group. You ought to be in a more advanced programme."
"Does this mean I'm excused?"
"Let me be the judge of your skill!" Wolfe paced about in the circle. "If it takes me longer then ten seconds to beat you, you can move to an advanced class."
Larsson grinned. "You underestimate me."
Wolfe shrugged. "Maybe, we'll see, won't we?" He beckoned Larsson to follow him, and tossed his wand to Ginny. "Hold that for me. I won't be needing it."
Ginny caught it, frowning. She knew Wolfe was very good, but Larsson wasn't a rookie. He'd worked as an Auror for a few years, and apparently he'd been good too.
"Now the object of the exercise is for you to stun me. You'd better pack a lot of energy into your spell, otherwise it won't harm me." Wolfe smirked. "Just thought I'd let you know, since I have a big advantage."
Larsson sneered. "Oh, I will!"
Wolfe moved away, and stopped some twenty-five feet away from Larsson. "Knock yourself out!"
"Stupefy!" Larsson screamed immediately, attempting to surprise Wolfe with speed.
Wolfe twisted sideways with such speed that his movement was blurry, and the beam was deflected off a wand-less Shield Charm. Larsson had taken Wolfe's advice, however, because the impact of the stunner on the Shield Charm spun Wolfe around.
Not wanting to give Wolfe any chance, Larsson shifted his wand to Wolfe's new position, but a piece of cloth wrapped itself around his face. Next thing Ginny knew, Wolfe had whizzed over to where Larsson stood, and plucked the wand out of his hand. It was then that Ginny noticed that the piece of cloth that had wrapped itself around Larsson's face was Wolfe's sleeve. His muscular left arm was exposed…He must have ripped it off as he was being spun around, and guided it to his opponent's face with a Banishing Charm.
"There, that was about five seconds!" Wolfe said, twirling Larsson's wand between his fingers. "I should have stunned him to formally end this bout, but Mr Larsson won't learn anything if he's stunned. Now, who can tell me where he went wrong?"
Ginny stuck up her hand.
"He underestimated you!"
"Exactly what about me did he underestimate, Miss Weasley?"
Ginny frowned. "Your skill."
"Yes, but is that all?"
Ginny shrugged. "I guess."
"Are you sure?"
"No!" Wolfe nodded, and pulled out a little talisman that hung around his neck. "Anybody know what this is?"
"Curse Deflector," Ginny said quickly. Being an apprentice artificer, not knowing would have been a crime for her. They were very rare and expensive, and they would fetch a high sum on the black market.
"Yes, a powerful and complicated talisman that deflects all hexes, jinxes and curses, save the unforgivable ones, back onto their caster. So I just could have waited for the stunner to hit me. It would have gone right back at him. But I didn't, and in a real fight, I wouldn't. Can anyone tell me why?"
Ginny's hand shot up again, prompting another small smile from Wolfe. "Let's give someone else a chance, shall we?" He looked at Larsson. "Why didn't I just take the stunner?"
"You wanted the amulet to remain a secret, until you really needed it." Larsson said.
"Very good, Mr Larsson." Wolfe looked at the apprentices. "So, define Mr Larsson's mistakes in the broadest sense."
"Incomplete intelligence on the opposition," Pima Yadaz, a Nepalese woman with a shaven head, said. She was an aspiring Intelligence Ranger.
"Correct," Wolfe said, taking off the talisman. "Form groups of four. Larsson, Ramos…you're with me! If you're going to be Combat Rangers you'll need the extra challenge."
With visible reluctance, the aspiring Combat Rangers joined Wolfe.
"Any volunteers who want to complete this group?" Wolfe asked.
The others mumbled and shook their heads, quickly forming into a group of four and leaving Ginny alone. "Well, looks like they decided for me." She sighed. "I'm your woman, I guess."
"Really, I thought you were Potter's woman," Larsson said, and Ginny flushed red.
"Oh, shut up, you!"
Training with the Combat Rangers had been very tiring. Wolfe had really pushed her to the limit, and to her embarrassment she'd always hit the mat much earlier than Larsson or Ramos. But Wolfe had been pleased with her progress at the end of the session.
Ginny waved at Wolfe to get his attention. "So when will Harry get here?" She wanted to know whether she had time to go home and soak in the tub for an hour, or whether she should take a quick shower.
"If all went according to plan, they should have taken off from Hokkaido an hour ago. You still have some time to prepare yourself for him!" Wolfe said, stony-faced. But the twinkle in his dark eyes revealed his amusement.
Ginny blushed again. This was not a good day, but at least her facial tissue was getting plenty of blood. "An hour?"
"Plenty of time." Wolfe nodded.
"Thank God!" Ginny sighed. She'd really been looking forward to a relaxing bath, almost as much as she was looking forward to her reunion with Harry. "So why did you come here first, anyway? Why didn't you come with the others?"
"I wanted to file a report to Commander Nomvete now, so we can discuss it with the whole team immediately after they get here. I'm just trying to save some time, since we'll be heading back out the day after tomorrow. We just came here to swap Cruisers and get supplies and some new orders. Yamato's trail has got cold anyway. There were so many false leads that we decided to try to get a different perspective. But I want to get the business part done as soon as possible, so I can spend more time with Galatea and my sister and nephew.
"Anyway, I'd better go make myself presentable for Galatea too!" Wolfe said, a big grin appearing on his face. Galatea was the only one who could make him smile like that…Galatea! Sweat broke out of Ginny's pores. How would Wolfe react to Galatea's pregnancy…Oh, she shouldn't think those things. She sneaked a look at Wolfe, but he was staring off into space, thankfully oblivious to her thoughts. He wasn't using his power, thank goodness.
"Ginny, could you do me a favour?"
Ginny nodded, trying her best to keep her thoughts away from Galatea.
"Don't tell Galatea I've arrived. I want to surprise her…" He frowned as he saw her flushed and sweaty face. "Are you all right?"
"Fine, just feeling the after-effects of training with Combat Rangers," Ginny said, trying to hide her unease behind a smile. "Sure, I won't tell Galatea," she lied. She had to give her friend every possible advantage. It was a good thing that Wolfe had his gift 'switched off' at the moment. It would have complicated matters enormously if he hadn't.
"Thanks Ginny!" Wolfe said cheerfully, as hurried away. Ginny could have sworn that Wolfe skipped a couple of steps as he strolled away…He was in an awfully good mood. Too bad the awfully good mood would probably turn into a plain awful mood once Galatea dropped the bomb on him. Nothing shocked a man more than an unexpected baby, so Galatea had been preparing herself for the worst.
She hurriedly changed into some clothes and took a Portal from the Citadel to a Portal on the sixth tier. Taking huge steps, she walked home, the heavy doors opening before her as they recognised her.
She threw her cloak on the hanger. "Galatea?"
"She's bowing to the porcelain goddess again, poor girl," Gudrun said. "You look beat. Rough training?"
"Wolfe's back in town! The others will arrive in a few hours…He wants to surprise Galatea."
"Whoa, we can't let that happen." Gudrun nodded. "Come on, let's go interrupt her toilet-bowl worship."
Taking two steps at the time, the climbed to the first floor, where the independent rooms were all located. The door to Galatea's room was closed, and Ginny knocked.
"It's open," Galatea called weakly from behind the door.
Ginny opened the door and found Galatea sprawled on her bed. "Oh dear, how are you feeling?"
Much better actually. I managed to digest those crackers you gave me before I started throwing up. This is only the second time today that I've thrown up. I think I'm getting used to the nausea. Hopefully I'll be able to hold my food next week. Can't starve the baby."
"No, you can't." Ginny smiled.
Galatea's eyes narrowed, sensing Ginny's feeling. "Why are you worried?"
"Wolfe came back a few hours ago. He filled in for Captain Faust…he's on his honeymoon with Lieutenant Cliff, remember?"
"I already know." Galatea sighed. "Hermione saw him shortly after he arrived, she told me."
Ginny heaved a sigh of relief. Of course! Ron had told her to hurry up to get to her training. He'd already known about Wolfe, and probably about Harry as well. "So you're ready for him?"
"As ready as I'll ever be. I even bought him a book!" She showed it to Ginny, who read the title, A Survival Guide for the partner of a pregnant part-Veela.
Ginny smiled. "I'll have to give this a read too, since I'll be taking care of you." She got up. "Now I need to take a long hot bath and make myself look pretty for my boyfriend." She sniffed the air. The scent was emanating from Gudrun. "My turn with that foam!"
"I'll go get it!" Gudrun grinned, and stalked off to her own room.
Ginny entered her bedroom and headed straight towards the door that led to her bathroom. She filled the bathtub with warm water and threw in some bath salts. Then she gathered all her bathing accessories and lined them up on the edge of the tub, before taking her clothes off and easing herself into the water.
Gudrun appeared in the doorway to the bathroom, and tossed a flask to Ginny.
"Thanks!" Ginny said, and she proceeded to open it.
The water was kept at the right temperature by a special heating charm, and Ginny felt like she could soak in her tub forever. She took her time lathering her limbs with foam that Gudrun had nicked from Heidi's room. Ginny had to admit that Heidi's expensive bathing foam was very luxurious, and it made her skin extremely soft and fragrant. She smiled to herself. Stealing Heidi's stuff was kind of tradition that all the resident witches of the townhouse indulged in. They would all pitch in to replace it, of course, but only after Heidi was annoyed by finding the empty bottle.
All good things had to come to an end, and her finger and toes were getting wrinkly, signalling that it was time to get out. So Ginny climbed out of the tub and dried herself off. Then she used a drying charm on her hair to get it to dry properly and give it some volume, before she brushed it thoroughly.
She admired her handiwork in the mirror.
"Knock out!" the mirror praised, prompting another smile from Ginny. Gudrun had altered the personalities of the mirrors throughout the house.
Next, she went into her closet to bought out her new, low-cut, forest-green dress that she'd bought on a shopping trip with Hermione, and a very reluctant Ron, who'd been dragged away from a Quidditch match for it. He'd protested loudly, saying that the dress made her look like a scarlet woman, much to her embarrassment, because it drew the attention of several other shoppers to them. She reminded herself to get Ron for that as she laced up a darker green bodice over it, which pushed up her breasts.
Lastly, she tugged the sleeves down over her pale and lightly freckled shoulders.
"Dressed to kill! Who's the victim?" the mirror asked.
A loud thud coming from Heidi's room prevented Ginny from telling off the mirror. She jumped into her slippers and darted out of her room, crossing the hallway to get to Galatea's. She found the white-haired witch bending over the unconscious form of her boyfriend.
"What happened?" Ginny gasped.
"He read my mind," Galatea replied. "I was expecting something to happen!"
"What? His reading your mind or his fainting?"
Ginny was awed. If that were true, Galatea knew her boyfriend very well. This made Ginny wonder how well she knew Harry. How would he react if he got hit with news like this? She bit her lip.
Wolfe groaned and slowly opened his eyes, locking them to Galatea's gaze.
"I'm…" Galatea began, but Wolfe's finger covered her lips.
"Don't be sorry. I can see what happened. I wasn't expecting this to happen so soon."
"It's okay," Wolfe said, sitting up. "We'll just have to make the best of things."
Ginny released her breath with relief. It was a good thing that Wolfe was a Mind Reader. Galatea didn't have to convince him of her intentions anymore. He'd immediately seen what was going on.
Wolfe smiled. "You didn't expect me to take it like this?" he asked Galatea, who must have been thinking the same thoughts that Ginny had. His gaze was still locked with Galatea's as she nodded mutely. "You expected me to get angry at you?"
"Yes!" Galatea said, wiping away the tears in her eyes.
"Oh Tea, why would I be angry? I've been dreaming of having a family with you ever since I fell in love with you. If I walked up to the Mirror of Erised right now, I'd see myself exactly the way I am."
"Damn, when did you get so romantic?" Gudrun interrupted, making Ginny feel like cursing her into the next week. She had just ruined a perfectly romantic moment.
"Shut, up, Gudrun…Get lost!" Ginny snapped.
"Hmm, it was getting good, huh?"
Wolfe cleared his throat. "Could I have a little privacy, please?"
"For what?" Gudrun asked.
"Really, Gudrun!" Ginny admonished, pulling her out of the room and closing the door behind her.
"So, why do you suppose he wanted to be alone with her?"
"They haven't seen each other for a while…" Ginny felt a flash of envy as she said that. She was still waiting to see Harry. "We should give them some space."
She looked at Gudrun, who was frowning at her. "You okay?"
Gudrun shook her head. "I may not be a Mind Reader, but I can see right through you. You're worried about something…Your relationship with Harry?"
"Ginny!" Wolfe's alarmed voice rang from behind the door.
She quickly opened the door, and saw an unconscious Galatea hanging in Wolfe's arms. From the looks of things he'd managed to catch her right before she fell off her bed.
"Good Lord, Tea! What happened?"
"We were talking, and then she fainted. Is she sick?" Wolfe asked worriedly.
"Put her on the bed," Ginny said. "I think this was all a bit too much for her. She was very anxious about how you'd react." She checked Galatea's breathing and pulse. "I don't think there's anything wrong with her. She'll wake up in a minute or two. What happened anyway? She's been experiencing the normal pregnancy symptoms, but she hasn't been prone to fainting so far…"Her eye fell on a little box that lay on the floor. It was opened and revealed a sparkling ring. She looked at Wolfe. "You proposed?"
Wolfe blushed and nodded.
Ginny smiled. "I guess that explains it. She's been under a lot of stress lately, worrying about how she'd tell you. I guess the emotions got to her."
"Are you sure that's all?"
Ginny nodded, and Galatea indeed woke up after a minute or two, consented to marrying Wolfe with a kiss, before beginning to cry at the top of her lungs.
Wolfe gave Ginny a bewildered look. "What…What did I do?"
Gudrun chuckled and picked up a book from Galatea's nightstand and handed it to Wolfe. "You'd better read this. She was going to give it to you…It might save your life! Anyway, I gotta fly. I have a date!" She left the room.
Wolfe read the title and paled. "I heard about part-Veela pregnancies but I thought the stories were all a bit exaggerated."
"They're not." Ginny said, feeling slightly sorry for Wolfe. She decided to change the subject to one of her favourite ones. "So, when will Harry arrive?"
Wolfe checked his chrono. "If you leave for the Citadel in half an hour you'll get there with some time to spare. There's no rush."
"All right," Ginny said, sitting down in an armchair. "How is he doing?"
"He's fine," Wolfe said, a frown appearing on his face. "I was too tough on him, though. I blamed him for something he had no control over. He was never trained to handle such situations, so he wasn't really to blame…I am." He sighed. "I don't know why he was paired up with me. I'm a terrible teacher. What kind of teacher vents his frustration on a student?" he asked morosely. "I pounded his self-esteem in a vulnerable moment."
"Can't talk about it here," Wolfe said. "We could talk about it at the Citadel." He looked at Galatea. "Unless you want me to stay?"
"I'll come along," Galatea answered. "Just give me a moment." She dragged herself into her bathroom and shut the door.
"Err, Ginny?" Wolfe asked uncertainly.
"I was wondering…Galatea and I haven't even set a date yet, but I want to ask you…Do you want to be part of the ceremony?"
The request caught Ginny by surprise. "Why me?" Wizarding weddings had plenty of supporting roles, but close friends and relatives usually filled those.
"Well, I was thinking about both you and Harry sharing a role. Both of you saved my life, and you forgave me when I really couldn't expect any forgiveness. You're a really good person, Ginny. I'd be honoured…"
Ginny felt her face heat up for the hundredth time that day. "All right then, provided that I'm available, at the date of the wedding, of course. Who knows, I may be out on a mission."
"Don't worry about that. If you are, I'm sure the Commander can arrange for you to be present. Besides, Galatea and I will only get married after things have quieted down a bit." He chuckled ruefully. "Who knows when that will be, though. But I just felt that this was the right time to propose to her, to show her that she's the one I want to be with."
Ginny rubbed her finger where Harry's ring used to be. Malfoy probably still had it. Why hadn't Harry given her a new ring? Not that she needed it…She knew that Harry loved her, but a symbol of that love would have been nice.
They waited for Galatea to get ready, and together they set off for the Citadel.
Harry was glad that he was finally returning to the Citadel.
The mission in Japan had come to a grinding halt when they found the person who had supposedly known something about the people behind the attacks on Gavin, and possibly Harry, facedown in the woods near one of the many Fire-creature Farms on Hokkaido. Salamanders and Ashwinders were bred there, and their products were exported throughout the world, making it them a key pillar in the wizarding economy of Japan, or so Heidi had said. Harry didn't understand what that had to do with their mission, though. Wolfe had been right all along…Heidi shouldn't have been sent on that mission with them. All she'd managed to do was get on Wolfe's nerves.
Harry had been awake for thirty-eight hours, first watching Gavin and Doc's backs as they looked for clues left behind by the killers of Yuriko's contact. Then he and Wolfe had met with Yuriko to discuss the results.
During their meeting with her, they'd also learned that the princess was being kept in a well-guarded castle at a secret location. Even Yuriko didn't know where it was, since all travel to and from the unplottable fortress was done by Portkey.
Harry wished they'd just used Portkey mode to instantly travel to the Citadel, but this energy-consuming feat was reserved for emergencies only. His impatience must have been written all over his face, because Gavin offered him a weak smile. "You miss your girl?"
The small Welsh wizard raised his eyebrows at Harry's answer.
"Okay…" Harry corrected "A lot!"
"I know how you feel." Gavin sighed. "You're lucky that you get to see Ginny at the Citadel, though. Mayumi's out on a mission of her own, so I'm going to miss her, again. I haven't seen her since July."
Harry looked away, a bit embarrassed by this. Gavin hadn't seen his girl for over two months, but he was handling it well, while Harry was practically falling apart after three weeks of Ginny-deprivation. "I'm sorry."
Gavin shrugged. "It's a sacrifice you have to make for a relationship with a fellow Ranger. There's no telling when you'll see each other again. Make the most of your day with Ginny tomorrow."
"Don't mention it. And you'd better get a bit of sleep. Commander Nomvete wants a meeting with us upon arrival. We can't have you dozing off then."
Harry got up and headed towards the sleeping quarters. He found Heidi sitting up on one of the beds, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. "Have we left for the Citadel yet?"
"Yes. Done sleeping?"
Harry threw himself on another bed. "Wake me up when we get there, okay?"
"Sure." Heidi said, straightening her uniform. "Sleep tight."
"Thanks…" Harry yawned, before almost instantly falling into an uneasy sleep.
He found himself in an empty room, with a spotlight shining onto him. He was reminded of an interrogation chamber.
"Why didn't you trust my judgement? The great Harry Potter feels like the rules don't apply to him!" Wolfe said, stepping into the edge of the light.
"But…How could I have known?"
Ironheart came intro the light and stood next to Wolfe. "I don't know what I was thinking. You seemed so promising to me. I reckon it was a false promise, eh? I thought something as simple as this wouldn't be beyond you!"
A woman with long, raven hair stepped into the light.
"Carey!" Harry cried out, immobilised by her penetrating gaze. "Carey…I…" He looked away, unable to meet her sorrowful gaze any longer.
"How many more mistakes are you going to make?" she asked, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Isn't the grief you've caused me by leaving bad enough?"
"I'm sorry…I didn't know. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Aren't you the great Harry Potter?" Wolfe sneered. "You're supposed to be perfect. Don't you have all the answers?"
"I'm just a man!" Harry croaked, forcing the words past the lump in his throat.
"Harry…Harry!" a disembodied voice called. "Harry, wake up!"
His eyes shot open. His eyes immediately met Heidi's concerned gaze.
"Harry, you were having a bad dream! Are you okay?"
"Fine…" he said, the dream already fading from his memory.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "Do you still have many bad dreams?"
Harry frowned. What did she mean by that? "Still?"
He could still see Heidi's blush in the dim light. "You had them when, when we were…"
It was Harry's turn to blush. Of course! They'd slept in the same bed a few times. "Why didn't you tell me then?"
"I didn't think you'd want to be confronted with them."
"Thanks," he said awkwardly. "Uh, are we there yet?"
Heidi shook her head. "Another hour. You should use it to sleep. I'll wake you up when we get there!"
"Thanks, Heidi!" Harry said, closing his eyes. Soon, sleep overtook him again, and this time it was a bit more peaceful.
Wolf-whistles emanated from all over the maintenance bay as Ginny walked in. It took her a while to realise they were all directed at her.
"Hey there, sweetheart." Matt Kelly grinned as he dropped a crate and swaggered over to her. "I've been looking for you my whole life."
"Yeah? Well, that must be because I've been hiding from the likes of you," Ginny replied coolly.
"Crash and burn, Aussie!" Ethan Johnson, a field Intel Ranger, and no relation of Angelina's, said. He was a friend of Gudrun's and Ginny had seen a lot of him during her time in Concordia. "Don't mind him, Ginny. What are you doing here, all dressed up?"
"Harry's coming back today!" Ginny said shyly. She looked at Matt and a few other Rangers loading the Notus. "Where are you off to?"
"Standard patrol. It's a bummer, though. It wasn't scheduled, but Command decided that extra patrols are needed."
"Hold on, Ron was supposed to go on a standard patrol mission too!" Ginny remembered.
"Yeah, he's coming with us. He should be down here any minute…He should have been here already, helping us load!"
"Probably pashing it out with Hermione in some dark corner." Matt sniggered.
"Get back to work, you!" Johnson said. "Anyway, I'm disappointed because I was hoping to go visit my folks in Detroit and work on a car I'm restoring. I wanted to bring I with me so I could work on it here, but no Muggle technology is allowed in Concordia unless there's a special Muggle artefacts show."
Ginny's eyes lit up as she remembered spying on her dad as he put all sorts of charms on the old Ford Anglia. "Really, and you're going to charm it too?"
Johnson laughed. "Not allowed, unless I'm donating the car to the Ministry of Magic. They're the only ones who are allowed to have magical automobiles, technically." He winked. "So yeah, I might slap on a charm or two…"
"Hey…Johnson!" Ginny cringed as she recognised Ron's outraged voice. "What do you want with my sister!"
"Honestly, Ron!" Hermione huffed. "They were just having a friendly conversation."
"Men don't have friendly conversations with girls dressed like scarlet women!"
That was it! Ginny's anxiety over wanting to see Harry, along with a growing annoyance towards Ron's overprotective brother act, made Ginny snap. She pulled her wand out of a long and thin pocket hidden by the folds of her dress. "Furnunculus!"
With Ginny's reflexes sharpened by her training with three Combat Rangers, Ron never stood a chance. Ugly green boils started breaking out of his skin. Everyone who'd been witnessing the scene burst out laughing.
"Ginny…you're not allowed to curse fellow Rangers!" Hermione admonished, raising her voice so it could still be heard over the laughter. "You'll get in trouble!"
The female Weasley smirked. Some things never changed. "I wasn't cursing Ron as a Ranger. I was cursing him as my brother. He had it coming!"
"He did, didn't he?" Hermione giggled.
"Hermione!" Ron complained. "These things itch…There's pus all over my clothes!"
Hermione performed the counter-curse and the boils began to fade slowly. Then she waved her wand and the puss disappeared off his robes. "Come on, let's go someplace where I can give you a more thorough examination."
"More thorough examination indeed!" Matt Kelly teased, causing Hermione to turn a nice shade of pink as she pulled Ron along, towards a corridor that lead to the equipment storage area.
Ginny watched Matt and Johnson loading the Notus, occasionally helping out by levitating a crate too. Then, a loud humming sound filled the bay, and a seconds later the Cruiser that was producing the sound dropped its invisibility. It hovered a bit further, before landing gently behind the Notus
Ginny hurried over to the Cruiser and jumped onto the loading ramp before it had completely lowered. She nearly knocked over Gavin Carey.
Ginny scowled. "I meant, where's Harry?"
The small wizard smiled. "Sleeping quarters."
Ginny took a levitation disc up to the next deck, and hurried toward the sleeping quarters. Her heart skipped a beat, as she saw Harry sleeping peacefully on his side. She pushed him onto his back and ran her hand through his unruly black hair. Then she bent down and kissed him on the lips. "Wake up, sleepy head!"
Harry gave her a confused smile as his eyes fluttered open. "Heidi?"