So many things to tell herBut how to make her seeThe truth about my past? Impossible! She'd turn away from me
(Disney's The Lion King)
"Your… your wife?" Ginny breathed, feeling that her heart had suddenly sunk into her stomach.
"Yes." Harry nodded. "My wife, whom I told not to come after me, but I'm not surprised that she did. She's as stubborn as a mule."
"Harry Potter, don't talk about me as though I weren't here!" Phaedra snapped. "Of course I've come after you, I can't let you leave the Circle so easily!"
"Phaedra…" Harry sighed. "Didn't I make myself clear when I said that I quit?"
"Oh, it was clear, Harry, but I can't let you quit just like that!" His wife replied irritably. "You're too deep into it to leave, and don't forget that if you quit, I'll have to quit, too!"
"Then find yourself another partner." He shrugged.
"Hah! Easy to say, Harry!" She stamped her foot. "As though it were so easy to replace you!"
Ginny was turning her head from one to the other so quickly that she felt she was watching a table tennis match. She had absolutely no idea what the other two were talking about.
"I don't care whether you replace me or not, I said I quit!" Harry shouted.
"But the Circle! You can't let them down! And you can't let me down!"
"And why, if I may ask?" he growled with his hands balled into fists. "The Circle pretty much let me down when Daffy was kidnapped, and you didn't seem to care about freeing her too much either!"
"What?" The dark haired witch hissed, her eyes blazing with fury. "Are you blaming me now? I tried to help you, Harry, and if you remember, I was there too at the end!"
"At the end, yes!" Harry's emerald eyes flared up. Ginny had never seen him this angry before. "You got there when it was already too late!"
"To hell with you, Harry!" Phaedra spat, tears running down her cheeks. "Don't you ever dare blame me for being late! It wasn't my fault and wasn't your fault either! And don't you ever think that it's not hurting me just as much as it's hurting you! I'm suffering, too!"
For a moment Harry regarded her with his black eyebrows furrowed and his lips pressed tightly together. Then he nodded. "Sorry. You're right. But I still can't go back with you. I no longer want anything to do with the Circle. Find yourself a new partner and forget about me."
"Forget about you?" Phaedra's lips trembled. "How could I? After all we've been through together? Why are you leaving me, Harry? Just because of Daffy? Was she the only link between the two of us?" She wiped her tears away, sniffing. "Tell me, Harry, have you ever loved me?"
A minute of silence ensued and Harry looked away from his wife, glaring into the fire.
Ginny didn't know what to do – back out of the room and leave the couple to themselves, or clear her throat? She had the impression that the Potters had both forgotten about her presence.
When the silence started to become awkward, Harry spoke up, his voice barely audible.
"I don't know, Phaedra. I no longer know anything." He turned around to look at his wife who had dried her tears and was now looking at him with the dignity of a princess. "I've never told you I loved you, have I, Phaedra?"
"No. Now that I think of it, you haven't," she replied icily.
"Then I have never lied to you. I owe you nothing and you owe me nothing. You're free."
"Am I?" She drew herself up and stepped to him. "Then what do you think this is?" She showed him her right hand with her wedding ring on it. That was when Ginny's eyes shifted to Harry's right hand, but saw no wedding ring on it. Harry must have got rid of it.
"This, Phaedra, is a symbol," the young wizard said. "And our marriage has been just symbolic, too."
"It never meant to you more than a symbol, did it?" she asked sadly.
Harry shook his head. "I'm sorry."
"All right, then." Phaedra held up her head. "I understand. And now, if you don't mind, I'll find myself a room in this big house."
"If you want to." Harry shrugged and watched her leave.
"Why is she staying?" asked Ginny after the door banged shut.
"Because she's not the type to give up this easily," he replied, sinking back into an armchair.
Ginny was surprised by his nonchalant inflection… as if he hadn't been surprised to still see her here. Ginny had expected him to shudder at her words as though he had just realised that she was still there… but no. Obviously he hadn't forgotten for a single second that she was there and yet he didn't mind having a husband-and-wife row in front of her. Even if he had been embarrassed about it, he hid it well. Perhaps Ginny hadn't been right to think that he could never hide his feelings – apparently he had learnt to, or at least partly learnt to.
"But… you have told her your opinion quite clearly, haven't you? Is she that slow on the uptake?"
"No." Harry leant back into the cushions. "Actually she's quicker on the uptake than any other woman I've ever known, save perhaps for Hermione. She's just a bit hard to persuade. I told her I quit days ago and yet she refused to accept it, came after me, and will be following me around until I give in. But that will never happen."
Ginny wanted to ask ‘Will she then follow you around as long as you live?', but thought better of it.
For some reason she didn't even feel jealous of Harry's wife – he didn't love that woman, did he? At least they were both living in unhappy marriages; she with Draco, Harry with Phaedra. Not that Harry's unhappiness should have made her happy, but she couldn't help feeling some sort of satisfaction.
"You know," she spoke up, "I didn't understand much from what you two were talking about. What have you quit? What is this circle? Who's Daffy?"
While asking the first two questions, Ginny saw nothing on Harry's features, they were totally indifferent. However, when she asked her last question, a dark cloud ran across his face.
"None of your business," he replied. "Perhaps you should leave."
But she wasn't this easy to get rid of. "I offer you a deal, Harry."
He arched an eyebrow at her.
"Let's put our cards on the table. Tell me about these things and I'll tell you how Draco forced me to marry him."
For a while Harry's eyes seemed to be scanning her features, invisible cogwheels whirring in his head.
"All right. Ask away."
"What sort of circle have you quit?"
"It's called Circle of Hermes. Smaller than the Order of the Phoenix, but more effective… at least most of the time," he added bitterly. "Anyway, it's a Greek organisation against magical crimes."
"Is it working against You-Know-Who?" Ginny asked.
"Just partly. It deals with all sorts of magical crimes like a police force, but it's not exactly… authorised."
"A freelance organisation?"
"Yes, also a non-profit one, working for making the world better." He gave her a sarcastic smile. "As though the world deserved to be made better… Not that I'm complaining, it still beats Dumbledore's pathetic Order of the Phoenix in every respect."
Ginny didn't know how to react to his cynicism. "In what respect does it beat the Order?"
"It has better connections and better security. All members sign a magical contract and if one of them betrays it, he'll —"
"…get SNEAK written all over his face?" She guessed with a grin.
"No. He'll be struck by lighting as soon as the traitorous words leave his mouth. It's called the Zeus Curse and it's pretty efficacious. After the first time someone tried to ignore it and got reduced to ashes, no one tried again."
Horrified, Ginny gasped for breath. "And… if you're talking to me about this Circle, aren't you betraying it?"
"No, because I'm not talking about the Circle's plans and secrets. Also, it's not exactly a secret that the Circle exists, and if I just talk about its activities in general, I'm not betraying it. Even the Greek Ministry of Magic knows about it and tolerates its actions. The Ministry folks aren't too happy with the Circle when it rounds up the criminals quicker then their Aurors, but they let the Circle do it as long as it helps them keep the magical world clean of the scum."
"Does it operate only in Greece?" she asked curiously.
"No, all over the world, but its headquarters are in Greece. Phaedra and I have been on missions in the U.S.A., Brazil, Egypt, Italy, Norway, Guatemala, China, Mongolia, Australia, Hawaii… and many other places."
Ginny gave him a surprised look. "How could you fulfil your missions when you don't speak the languages of those countries?"
"Easily." Harry shrugged. "There's a charm that enables you to understand languages and makes the listener understand you when you're speaking in your language, even if the listener is a Papuan. The spell was invented by a member of the Circle about five hundred years ago, but not many wizards know about it. I don't know whether Dumbledore knew about it at all… at least, I doubt it."
"Why?" asked Ginny, who couldn't imagine that Albus Dumbledore wouldn't know about something.
"Because Hagrid had quite a difficult time when he went to the giants. You know, most of them didn't speak English. Hagrid was lucky to have someone translate for him. I expect if Dumbledore had known about this spell, he would have cast it on Hagrid and Madame Maxime to spare them the trouble. Anyway, I think that the idea for the charm originates from the Bible."
"The Bible?" She blinked. She couldn't imagine what the Bible could have to do with magic
"Yep." Harry nodded. "New Testament. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, they could preach in their own language, yet be understood by people from all countries."
"You know, you scare me again," Ginny said. "Being a secret agent, knowing spells not even Dumbledore knew…"
"I wouldn't call myself a secret agent." Harry shook his head. "But yes, in a way I know more than Dumbledore did. Special vision without a magical eye, wandless magic in certain cases, etc, etc…"
"You opened the door for me without a wand?" Her eyes widened.
"I did. Shut Mrs Black up, too."
"Saw it." Ginny chuckled. "Did you conceal your scar as well?"
"Had to. I wasn't supposed to be running after wrongdoers with my famous scar, was I? Without it no one knew who I was. It was rather pleasant to live without people gaping at me all the time."
"Why, didn't they recognise you from your name?"
"Not likely, since I was using pseudonyms, of course."
Ginny couldn't help but feel some kind of admiration mixed with concern. Harry here was talking about things that almost frightened her, and he was doing it so nonchalantly as though being a secret agent or a self-appointed policeman was the most natural thing in the world.
However, she didn't want to show him her emotions about the matter and decided to act as casually as possible. "I like the sound of this Circle, it must be great," she said contemplatively. "But why did you quit, huh? And why did your wife say that if you quit she also has to?"
"Because in the Circle we work in pairs. The two people in a pair know each other very well, and when they form a pair, they cast a Tracking Charm on each other, which helps them to find the other if they split up in a mission. Since I left the Circle, the Tracking Charm between Phaedra and me has been weakening, that's why it took her a day to find me. Anyway, now that I quit, she has to find a new partner soon, and if she doesn't, she has to leave the Circle too, because no member is allowed to work alone for security reasons."
"But why have you quit?" Ginny persisted.
A shadow appeared on Harry's face again and Ginny wasn't sure she had done the right thing when asking it again. However, Harry – though seemingly reluctantly – started to speak:
"It happened a week ago…" he said in a wavering voice. "A Sicilian criminal Phaedra and I were after kidnapped Daffy to get back at us for having caught his brother. Vendetta, you know…" Seeing Ginny's bewildered expression, he added: "Daffy is short for Daphne… our daughter."
"Your daughter?" she breathed.
He nodded. "I found the criminal first, before Phaedra did, and fought the bloke…" His eyes seemed to be watering for a second, but he blinked back the tears. "He was a lunatic, Ginny… he… he tortured… tortured my daughter… a little four-year-old… when I saw her tiny body curled up on the ground, heard her whimpers, my mind got clouded with an all-consuming anger, and I… I cast the Cruciatus on him… for the first time since casting it on Bellatrix Lestrange…" he paused, looking for words. "This time… I managed to do it properly. Bellatrix had told me that I needed to mean it, to want to cause pain, and this time I meant it. I… I went on torturing him for minutes and enjoyed his screaming…" He gulped and looked into the fire, not daring to meet Ginny's eyes. "I had never felt anything like this Ginny… I felt evil, sadistic, inhuman… but I felt he deserved it. Then… then… I killed him."
The young witch clutched at the armrests of her chair.
"Yes… I'm a murderer, Ginny. I had never before taken the life of anyone. I was chasing them, I used to stun them, petrify them, but… never kill. I… I had been standing over his dead body for minutes when I heard Daffy's whimper again and realised what I had done… I rushed to her and took her into my arms… she looked up at me with those huge green eyes of hers and said ‘It hurts, Daddy'…" Now Harry was no longer trying to hold back his tears, they were flowing freely down his cheeks. "She died in my arms, Ginny, and Phaedra arrived with the other Circle members too late… they only found me kneeling next to a dead body, holding the other dead one in my arms… they couldn't help. No matter how wonderful they were, they couldn't save my daughter… I possessed all their knowledge, and still couldn't save her…" He stood up and started pacing the room. "I no longer felt I had a place among them. Especially because Phaedra had drawn me into the Circle, and the only reason why I stayed with Phaedra was that Daffy existed…"
"Did you… did you marry her because —"
"…she got pregnant, yes." He nodded. "I believe she did it deliberately, to ‘chain' me to herself, but I was never mad at her for it. I had wanted that child so badly… to have someone to love, love as much as my own parents must have loved me while they lived… Daffy was my sunshine, without her my life is pointless…"
Ginny stood up and reached out to squeeze his hand, which he received gratefully.
Now she understood what Harry had meant when he had said that there were worse things than not being able to bear children… seeing your child die must have been much, much worse…
"I'm sorry, Harry," she whispered.
"Don't be… not your fault." He shook his head. "It's all mine."
"Yours?" She breathed. "What do you mean? You tried to save her, didn't you?"
"Yes, but… it would have been easier not to have this child at all…"
"What are you talking about?" She furrowed her brow.
"The truth," he replied. "When… when I got to know about Phaedra's pregnancy, she offered to terminate it. Certainly I knew that she only conceived to keep me around, and if I hadn't wanted to stay with her, she would have terminated it. But… I didn't let it. Couldn't let it… I didn't want to lose this one, too…" He ran his fingers nervously through his unruly hair, chewing his lower lip. "But now I wish I had let Phaedra get rid of it, then my heart wouldn't have broken into pieces."
"Harry…" Ginny said in a hushed voice. "What did you mean by ‘losing this one, too'?"
Harry looked at the window that opened, presumably with wandless magic, since he hadn't drawn out his wand, neither had he touched it. As the shutters opened, light flooded into the dark room, myriads of tiny grains of dust dancing in it, gleaming like some golden rain.
Harry felt a little bit of its brightness filter into his heart, encouraging him…
"There's another one, Ginny."
"Another?" She frowned. "From Phaedra?"
"Then…" Her eyes widened as the realisation struck her. "Then the Girl-With-No-Name?"
"Yes." Harry nodded, leaning onto the windowsill, bathing his face in the radiant sunshine, his mind wandering back to his sixth year at Hogwarts...