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Sink Into Your Eyes :: Sink Into Your Eyes - A Harry/Ginny Fanfiction Archive

22.07.08 11:06

The Hogs Head by MyGinevra

Summary: **2008 Dumbledore Silver Trinket Award Winner** The climax to the final battle approaches, and Ginny fears the worst. But her seventh year at Hogwarts finds Harry living in Hogsmeade as they begin their lives together. Rating: R Categories: Post-DH/AB Characters: None Genres: None Warnings: None Challenges: None Series: None Published: 2007.07.26 Updated: 2008.07.22

Series: None Published: 2007.07.26 Updated: 2008.07.22 Index Chapter 1: Faith Chapter 2: Anticipation Chapter

Index

Sink Into Your Eyes :: Sink Into Your Eyes - A Harry/Ginny Fanfiction Archive

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Chapter 1: Faith

Author's Notes: MAJOR DH SPOILERS!! I orginaly intended this fic to be a sequel to my first novel-length story, Losing Each Other. I will keep some elements of that story, but instead of creating an alternate universe, I decided to keep it totally in canon, including Deathly Hallows. As a result, there will be TOTAL 100% SPOILERS, especially in chapter one, Faith. This chapter tells the story of the last battle from Ginny's POV.

Most chapters will be PG or PG13; however, there will be some sexual situations, and a la JKR, I may indulge in some "colorful" language. Chapter One also contains a vivid description of a badly wounded person.

There are two verbatim quotes of dialog from Deathly Hallows (US edition) in chapter one. One is from page 696 and the other from page 741. There is also a paraphrase of another line from page 759. Enjoy, as much as I enjoy writing H/G fics, and please leave reviews; all of your opinions and feelings are appreciated. I like reading them and I like responding to them.

Ginny picked her way across the rubble in the entrance hall and walked out the front doors. She glanced back to make sure no one had seen her, then slipped into the shadows that extended out across the lawn.

She had to get away from the body of her brother, and from George who was holding Fred’s head in his lap, pressing his forehead to Fred’s, his unending tears bathing Fred’s bloody face; he would not move away. Nor would Percy, who was kneeling at Fred’s feet, also hunched over but with his arms extended as though trying to ward off the wall of stone that had fallen on them, crushing the life out of Fred. Her parents simply sat next to the body, holding each other, Molly sobbing uncontrollably, Arthur staring into space with tears streaming down his face. Ginny had begun to feel paralysis creeping into her heart, joining the grief there, and that was why she had to get away. She could not let herself submit to that paralysis.

She had not seen Harry for hours, ever since he and Ron and Hermione had disappeared into the Room of Requirement on their mystery mission. She had followed Tonks downstairs to the Great Hall where she had fallen in with Luna and Dean, fighting up and down the corridors until the disembodied voice of Voldemort had filled the halls with its seductive message of false peace and its lies about Harry and had called a truce.

She and her companions had gone back to the Great Hall, and then Percy had staggered in carrying the body. Ginny had screamed and thrown herself at Percy, beating her fists against him in a rage, trying to will away the death that stared from eyes that had always been laughing but now saw nothing. Bill pulled her away, and she started flailing at him but he held her closely until her screams had become sobs. That was when she had felt herself starting to fall into the pit of hopelessness and defeat, but when Ron and Hermione returned without Harry, she pulled herself up from the floor where she had collapsed next to Fred with her arms across his chest, and told herself what she had been telling herself all year: she had to be ready for Harry, at some point he would need her and she had to be ready. She walked out of the Great Hall, wiping her face and taking deep gulps of air.

Now she was moving across the lawn into the darkness. Bodies were strewn everywhere, most of them students, and she stopped at each one to see if she could do anything. Most were dead, and she began to weep again as she recognized faces and saw their wounds. She tried wiping away the blood with her sleeves, until they became soaked and could not absorb any more, and then she just wiped as much of the blood off as she could with her hands, and then cleaned them on the grass. One of two were still

Sink Into Your Eyes :: Sink Into Your Eyes - A Harry/Ginny Fanfiction Archive

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alive, but she was afraid to move them, and she could not have lifted them anyway. She called to some other students who were also out on the lawn looking for friends or relatives, and told them to hurry back to the Great Hall and get help. They did what she asked; she supposed that her role in Dumbledore’s Army and her reputation as Harry’s girlfriend lent her a bit of authority.

She left the body of a sixth—year Hufflepuff boy, Joseph Pierce, who was in her Herbology classes and a friend of Neville’s, and walked on. She was now about two hundred yards from the castle, and it was very dark, but she did not dare light her wand. There were not many bodies here, but then she heard moaning off to her left, and hurried toward it. She found a crumpled form, its limbs twisted gruesomely, lying near the path to Hagrid’s cabin. She knelt next to it, but it was so dark this far from the castle that she could see almost nothing. She moved so that she was between the body and the outer walls of the grounds, and lit her wand but kept it as dim as she could.

She cried out and turned away when she saw the girl’s mutilated face. Her stomach churned; she had to fight down the impulse to vomit that rose in her craw. She forced herself to look. There were gashes on the girl’s cheeks and forehead, and her nose seemed to have been torn away. She was gasping through her mouth with a rasping sound. Ginny thought of Fenrir Greyback, but it also looked, because of the positions of her bent limbs, as if someone had deliberately broken both of her arms and legs.

Her eyes were open and they looked up at Ginny, but they were unfocussed and glazed. Ginny steeled herself and tried to wipe the blood from her face – or what was left of it – and bent low over her. With some of the blood gone – although it kept on oozing from her nose and the gashes – Ginny recognized her. It was Elizabeth Derby, a fifth—year Ravenclaw, one of the Chasers on their Quidditch team; Ginny had not played against her because the Ravenclaw match had taken place after Ginny had been whisked from school by her father and Bill two months ago. Elizabeth’s hair had been long and blond. Ginny knew that she was very popular, and was considered one of the more beautiful girls at school; there were even rumors that she had Veela ancestors. Ginny was also quite certain that she was only fifteen, and so she must have sneaked back into the Great Hall during the evacuation of the underage students. She had decided to stay and fight, and she had ended up like this.

Ginny caressed her forehead, and leaned down closer to her bloody, disfigured face. She did not know if the girl could hear her, but she began to talk. “It’s going to be all right,” she said. “We’ll get you back inside. You’ll be all right.”

Elizabeth turned her eyes to Ginny, and they seemed to focus. The girl’s arm, which Ginny thought had been twisted into an impossible position next to her, somehow moved and her hand reached up and grabbed Ginny’s. “I don’t want to go back there. I want to go home. Mummy. Where’s Mummy?”

“It’s all right,” Ginny wiped more blood from her forehead to keep it from running into her eyes. “We’ll get you back inside. You’ll be okay.”

“But I want to go home. I don’t want to fight anymore.” Tears began running down her face and mingled with the congealing blood from her nose.

“I know,” Ginny could not keep her voice from breaking. “It’s going to be all right.”

Ginny looked up; she thought she had heard footsteps, but no one else was near. She peered into the night and then she did hear something: it was definitely footsteps, but they were moving away from her. She held her wand up, but there was nothing.

Elizabeth’s grip suddenly tightened on Ginny’s hand, and Ginny bent down over her again. The girl was

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now staring up at the sky, her eyes filled with terror. Her rattling breath cam in choking gasps. Then she turned her head to Ginny, and her hand went limp. Ginny put it down on her chest and slumped to a sitting position on the ground next to the lifeless body. She did not try to stop the sobs that racked her.

She did not know how long she sat there weeping, but she knew that it was getting close to the time of Voldemort’s deadline, when the attack would begin again. She doused her wand and stood; she knew she had to get back to the castle. She wanted to be with her family, and she wanted to see Harry, even if she could not speak to him. She had no illusions about how this was going to end; all she had to do was look down at the broken, mutilated form at her feet.

She heaved a sigh that caught the last sob in her throat and started to walk back toward the castle. She took three steps and suddenly the darkness around her vanished and there was a blinding vision in her head. She was in her Quidditch robes in a crowded common room, and she was running toward the portrait hole, but all she could see there were two emerald green points of light. She flung herself at them and kissed Harry’s lips, wrapping her arms tightly about him, and now it was not a vision but she was kissing him and her entire body was anchored to his. He started to move backward away from her, but she held onto him even more desperately, refusing to let him go. Then the vision vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, and she was standing alone in the darkness.

Ginny stood rooted to the ground, unable to move or even think. The sky spun above her, and she swayed dizzily; her heart was pounding. She could feel the wetness of the kiss on her lips. She put her hand to them, and tasted Elizabeth’s blood. She spat it out, and the euphoria vanished. Here she was, and there was the body of Elizabeth Derby, and she had no explanation for what had just happened.

She began walking again, but stopped when she heard distant bangs, and she turned to look through the darkness toward the Forbidden Forest. Spells and sparks were rising above the trees. A spell would rise into the air, and a few seconds later she could hear the bang that accompanied it. She also thought she heard far off shouts and cheers. They must be coming, she thought. She turned and started walking again, then began to run. She didn’t stop until she reached the steps to the castle, where a few people were standing and gazing toward the Forest. She passed through them and went into the Great Hall, looking for her family.

Molly Weasley was on the platform in the back of the Hall with the rest of the Order; Kingsley Shacklebolt was at the center of the group, and leaned toward Molly and said something to her as Ginny entered the room. Molly turned and jumped down from the platform and came running to her, weaving through the knots of people standing and sitting on the floor. “Ginny!” she yelled. “Where were you? We couldn’t find you! Where did you go?” She stopped in front of Ginny. She was wild—looking; her eyes were red and puffy, her hair had come loose from the clip that was holding it and strands kept falling across her face.

Molly took Ginny’s hands in hers and stared at them, horror—stricken. “It’s not my blood,” Ginny said in a strangled voice. She looked at her mother beseechingly. “Scourgify them, Mum, please, please.”

Molly cleaned the blood off, and Ginny dropped her hands. “They’re coming, Mum. I was outside looking for people on the lawn. The Death Eaters are sending up signals or something.”

“Yes, it’s almost time,” Molly said distractedly. “And no one knows where Harry is.”

Ginny looked quickly away; she did not want her mother to see how frightened she had suddenly become. Now she knew whose footsteps she had heard in the darkness. But there was a vision, she thought. Had it been a farewell? She stumbled blindly to the door and back into the entrance hall.

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There was a small crowd there, and in a minute Ron and Hermione joined her. “Have you seen Harry?” Ron asked, looking around. She looked at them wordlessly, then turned from them, also; she did not want to speak of her vision, not before she knew what had happened to Harry.

The voice of Voldemort rang out in the castle again, and it spoke of the death of Harry Potter. Ginny listened for a moment, but then began to shake her head violently; she put her hands over her ears and looked down. She would not believe it, she would not believe that Harry was dead, no, not with the claim coming from the mouth of the master deceiver, not with the feel of Harry’s lips on hers still so real. She would have to see it with her own eyes before she would believe it.

Voldemort’s voice stopped, and for another few minutes there was silence. Ginny glared at Ron and Hermione, as though she were daring them to believe what Voldemort had said, but they would not look at her. Then someone standing on the steps outside shouted, “They’re here!” People poured out of the Great Hall, moving toward the doors. Ron pushed them open, and Ginny stepped through with him and Hermione. When she came out onto the steps she saw that the Death Eaters were spreading out before the castle in a long, menacing line.

Suddenly there was a scream and Ginny jumped; it was Professor McGonagall, but Ginny had never heard anything like it from her before. Then Ginny came to the front of the crowd on the steps, at the same moment as Ron and Hermione. Before her stood Voldemort; a great snake was wrapped around his shoulders. Next to him, a waterfall of tears pouring down his face, stood Hagrid with the limp form of Harry Potter in his arms.

The world tilted under Ginny’s feet, and she, Ron, and Hermione all screamed at the same time. She thought she saw Voldemort glance at them, and his eyes momentarily gleam. But then Ginny clapped her hand over her mouth. Her mind was reeling, but she would still not believe it; she would not accept what her eyes saw. And then she flashed back to the vision; her lips suddenly moistened again and Ginny knew, beyond a doubt, with her entire being, that Harry was alive.

People around her began shouting curses, screaming at the Death Eaters, until a loud bang and a flash of light from Voldemort’s wand silenced them. He spoke to Hagrid and gestured, pointing to the ground in front of his feet, and Hagrid gently placed Harry’s body there. Harry lay still, he did not move. Ginny could tell that Ron was trembling next to her, and she could hear Hermione crying on his other side. But she did not cry. Tears were not needed, not for Harry. She would save them for those who needed them, for Fred, and for Elizabeth.

Voldemort spoke in mocking tones to the throng on the stairs, but Ginny no longer cared about his words. She did not take her eyes from Harry. There was movement around her, people shifting, taking out their wands, muttering. Someone near her shouted, and she saw out of her peripheral vision that Neville was charging forward, only to be stopped a few yards in front of Voldemort, his wand blown away. Ginny’s eyes stayed riveted on Harry.

Then, the two emerald green points of light that she had seen half an hour ago in the vision appeared again, but this was not a vision, and a shock like a magical spell jolted her body. Ron reached to hold her, thinking that she needed support, but she stood rock steady. For the tiniest instant, the two points of light had appeared where Harry’s eyes were.

Ginny knew that no one else had seen that blink of green; everyone was looking at Neville and Voldemort. Neville was shouting at Voldemort, who responded with contemptuous sneers. Then he waved his wand, and Neville stood straight and rigid, unable to move. Ginny still had not taken her eyes

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from Harry, and she saw the green points again, but this time his eyes stayed open. Voldemort waved his wand, and those around Ginny looked up as something soared out of the castle into Voldemort’s hand. Another jolt coursed through Ginny when she recognized the Sorting Hat, and the hope which had already been rising inside her, now flared into a certainty: she remembered five years back to the Chamber of Secrets, and she knew that Voldemort himself was about to deliver the tool of his own destruction into the hand of his enemy.

Voldemort walked forward and placed the Sorting Hat on Neville’s head, and Ginny, still staring at Harry, leaned toward Ron and whispered, “Watch Harry.”

Ron turned to look at her, total incomprehension on his face. But as Ginny began to say more, the world exploded around them. The Sorting Hat burst into flames, there were distant shouts and the sound of thundering hooves from the edge of the grounds, a rush of wings from the skies above, and the booms of a giant’s footsteps to her right.

Voldemort looked up, then around, and a moment of alarm passed over his face. It was instantly replaced with rage, and he looked back at Neville, but too late. Ginny had seen Harry jump up and throw his Cloak over himself, and she saw the Shield Charm come up between Neville and Voldemort. And then silver and red flashed, and a giant snake head was flying into the air.

Chaos erupted. Ginny shot a Stunning spell at Voldemort but it missed and struck a Death Eater standing behind him. People shouted and screamed. Ginny tried to get closer to where Harry had been, but there was now a mob of defenders and Death Eaters in front. A deep booming voice from behind her shouted, “Fight them! Fight them!” and spells and jinxes started flying everywhere.

Ginny was pushed back into the entrance hall and then into the Great Hall along with the rest of the castle’s defenders. She stood for a moment, uncertain what was happening as Death Eaters, too, were forced into the room, but then Hermione grabbed her. “Stick together!” she shouted over the roar of voices and the explosions of spells hitting the walls and windows. Luna was with her, and Hermione pointed her wand at a tall female Death Eater who was only a few yards away. But as Hermione’s spell shot toward her, she whirled with a maniacal screech and parried it, then sent what seemed like dozens of hexes back at them. Ginny recognized Bellatrix Lestrange, and a fury that she had never felt before rose in her. This was the witch who had killed the only family that had been left to Harry.

The three girls immediately had their hands full. “Spread out!” screamed Hermione, and in the instant that Ginny was momentarily distracted, a jet of green flame passed just in front of her, barely missing her face. She heard another scream, and thought that someone had been hit, but then a hand threw her aside and her mother was standing in front of her, shouting curses at Bellatrix and firing spells so fast that Ginny could not follow them.

She had never seen her mother like this. She was a madwoman and there was murder in her eyes. She seemed to have grown taller, and her hair was flying in back of her, a mane of flaming red. Bellatrix began taunting, and Ginny saw her mother’s face become colder as her wand became a blur. Bellatrix let out a shriek of insane laughter. Ginny heard her mother snarl like an animal, and her next spell hit the Death Eater square in the chest, and Bellatrix dropped to the floor, dead.

A shriek of rage and a loud bang came from the other end of the Great Hall. Ginny saw three bodies fly through the air and crash to the floor. Voldemort was in the center of a large circle of people. Ginny looked around and saw no Death Eaters standing, but to her amazement there were dozens of house— elves around the room, some with bloody knives and cleavers in their hands; she could also see centaurs waving their bows, shouting and stamping their hooves.

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A Shield Charm appeared in front of Voldemort, and then Harry was standing there, and the room

erupted in cries of “Harry!” and “He’s alive!” Hermione grabbed Ginny’s arm, an expression of total joy

spreading across her face. Ginny just looked at her and smiled. “I knew he wasn’t gone,” she whispered.

“I always knew.” Then the room went totally silent, and Ginny turned her head to see what was

happening.

Harry and voldemort were circling each other, wands raised. Ginny pushed to the front of the circle they were prowling, watching their dance, and she knew it was a dance of death. She watched Harry as he circled. When Harry was in front of her, his back only a few feet away, she lifted her wand a few inches, closed her eyes, and willed her love, her total love, into his body. When Voldemort was in front of her she stared at the back of his hairless head and emptied her mind of everything; she did not want to give him a hint of her presence or what she was feeling for Harry.

The dance continued, and Ginny sensed the climax approaching; she saw it in Harry’s eyes as he circled across from her, and she saw his wand come up a fraction of an inch. As he approached her again, she listened to what he was saying.

“It’s your last chance, it’s all you’ve got left,” Harry said. “I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise.” Harry was directly in front of her now, and she sent a wave of emotion toward him. He hesitated for a fraction

of a second. “Be a man

had not been there before, but then it was gone, and he and Harry continued to circle.

try

Try for some remorse.” Ginny saw something in Voldemort’s eyes that

Ginny only watched Harry. They were talking about wands, when suddenly the ceiling overhead burst into light as the sun rose, and then there was a massive explosion as red and green flames met in the center of the circle, and Tom Riddle lay dead, almost at her feet.

She stared at the body for a moment, then looked across at Harry and for an instant their eyes met, Then Hermione was charging across to Harry and jumping on him and screaming as Ron was hugging both of them, and then Ginny found herself next to Harry with her arms around him for the first time since last summer, and then they were surrounded by a mass of screaming witches and wizards and house—elves and centaurs and Hagrid.

As Ginny finally relinquished her place next to Harry, he glanced at her again, and she knew what his eyes were saying: today was for the rest of the world, but tomorrow would be hers. She smiled, but as she started to pull her hand from his, the cheering, jostling crowd pushed them momentarily together again, and his palm pressed into her thigh. He left it there for a longer moment than he had to. Ginny felt a flush of heat rise into every part of her body, radiating from the place where his hand was. Then they were separated by the mob, and Ginny moved slowly away.

When the cheers and the celebrations had died away, and the tables had reappeared and people began to sit down, Ginny found herself back with her family. She didn’t try to look for Harry; she was content to leave him for others this day. She rested her head on her mum’s shoulder and looked toward the side of the room where the bodies of fallen friends and family lay. Her eyes began to fill with tears. George and Percy were with Fred again, and Ginny knew that as today wore on and when she woke up tomorrow his death would not seem real. She did not know what the world would be like without Fred.

She saw Ron and Hermione walking toward the door, separated by a space of about two feet, and Ginny knew that Harry was between them under his Cloak. She watched them leave, and then heaved a sigh and took her mum’s hand. Molly squeezed it and then put her arm around Ginny and pulled her to her bosom; she was weeping. Ginny put her arms around her mother. Her heart had become filled with pain

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again, but it was also now buoyed by a glorious feeling of hope and anticipation. Harry would be sleeping in his room in the Gryffindor Tower, and Ginny would be sleeping in hers, only a few yards away, under the same roof. Today and tomorrow and for a long time would be days of grief for Fred and Elizabeth and all the others, but starting tomorrow would also be an endless time of rediscovered happiness. She knew that all would be well.

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Chapter 2: Anticipation

Author's Notes: I am able to post this chapter so soon after chapter one was posted because I wrote it while the queue was still closed. The next chapter will take a little longer to submit.

Readers of Professor Tolkien will recognize a reference in this chapter to a plant he described that has come down to the wizarding world from Middle Earth. It was known through the Fourth Age of Middle Earth as symbelmyne, but wizards know it by a different name. The Professor’s history does not tell us how it managed to survive so long as a magical species in Britain, and I will not speculate here. 08/07/07 - Made some small changes for smoothness.

here. 08/07/07 - Made some small changes for smoothness. The second day after the battle dawned
here. 08/07/07 - Made some small changes for smoothness. The second day after the battle dawned

The second day after the battle dawned overcast but warm. When Ginny awoke in her four—poster she was momentarily disoriented, and did not know where she was. But as soon as she looked up and saw the red and gold canopy, she remembered that Fred was gone, and it was as if a huge weight fell on her. She closed her eyes again, and everything else flooded back: swirling images of explosions, bodies, spells, blood, broken limbs, destruction. Over it all was the face of her dead brother.

But there was also another face, looking at her from the middle of a screaming, joyous mob. Even as tears for her brother spilled down her cheeks and onto her pillow, she realized she was hugging herself and wanting, more than anything except the return of Fred, Harry to hold and comfort her.

She heard low voices; she wiped her face and pushed back the hangings. Three cots lined the wall next to her bed, and she remembered that the seventh—year dorm room was unusable. The only serious damage sustained by the Gryffindor Tower was a large hole in the peaked roof, and the uppermost girls room now had an open—air skylight. The house—elves had set up cots in the sixth—year room, and Hermione, Lavender, and Parvati had moved in. Hermione’s cot had not been slept in, and Ginny assumed that she, Ron, and Harry had stayed up with the teachers and the Order, deciding what to do next, making plans for taking back the Ministry of Magic, doing whatever it was you did after you won a war.

“Morning, Gin, how are you doing?” Parvati called. She and Lavender were still in their cots, and a white bandage was wrapped around Lavender’s head.

Ginny shrugged. “Not great.”

Parvati nodded. “I’m sorry.”

Parvati’s question had brought a lump to Ginny’s throat, and she took a breath. The two girls looked at her, and Ginny noticed that Lavender’s eyes were red and swollen. “I cried in my pillow all night for ”

to the room and began crying softly; Parvati put her hand on her shoulder.

Colin,” she said, “They made him leave, and then he came back

She couldn’t go on, and put her back

“Did you see Hermione last night?” Ginny asked as she got up and began dressing. “Was she here at all?

Parvati glanced at Lavender. “Uh, no

” she hesitated.

“I heard that that Room of Requirement with the hammocks was still open,” came the voice of Sarah Brushmore, one of Ginny’s sixth—year roommates, from behind the hangings of her four—poster. “I also heard that a bunch of people stayed there last night.” Parvati sent a dirty look toward the closed bed,

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and Lavender’s sobs became louder.

“What about the prefects?” Ginny asked.

There was a giggle. “Some of them were prefects.”

Ginny looked puzzled for a moment, then a light dawned, and she looked sympathetically at Lavender, then added her own scowl to Parvati’s, directed toward the invisible Sarah. And she also smiled tightly to herself; if Ron and Hermione had slept in a hammock together last night, she would remember it, if it turned out that Ron still believed he had the right to make comments about her own love life, or bust into her room again without knocking. Of course, he had shared a tent with Hermione for nine months, but Harry had always been with them.

She finished dressing and went down to the common room, and looked around hopefully for Harry, but he wasn’t there. She hurried out the portrait hole and down to the Great Hall, passing piles of rubble and damaged furniture, portraits, wall hangings, and suits of armor. Students were wandering around looking at it; many of them were holding hands, and many had tear—stained faces. The damage to the building itself was terrible: holes blasted in walls, windows shattered, timbers splintered, bloodstains everywhere.

But the most remarkable thing that Ginny saw, in every hallway and corridor, was the house—elves. She had never seen so many outside the kitchen. They were everywhere, scurrying about sorting damaged items, carrying stones and lengths of timber, sweeping floors and cleaning walls. She did not see anyone directing them, but they all seemed to know exactly what to do. She also passed through corridors where damage had already been repaired; Hogwarts was starting to recover.

The Great Hall still showed major signs of damage: blast marks scorched the walls, and most of the windows were broken; but the enchanted ceiling was intact, and all four House tables were set up with many people eating at them. The bodies that had lain along the wall were gone.

Ginny spotted Bill and Fleur at the Gryffindor table with their backs to her. She walked over and put her hand on Bill’s shoulder, and when she saw his grim face her tears began to flow again. He took her in his arms and she sat down next to him. Fleur put her hand over Ginny’s arms that were wrapped around Bill’s neck.

When Ginny was finally able to stop crying, she wiped her face and began dishing porridge into a bowl and then attacked her breakfast; meals had been a little sketchy yesterday, and she hadn’t realized how hungry she was. Bill put his hand on her shoulder. “Harry was here,” he said. “He asked for you, but he had to go see Kingsley up in McGonagall’s office – I mean the Headmistress’s office – and he said he’d be back as soon as he could.”

Ginny nodded, thinking about the hug she had just given herself in bed, and also remembering the rush of heat through her body when Harry put his hand on her thigh in the middle of that raucous crowd of celebrants after the battle. She bit into a slice of toast and swallowed it with a little difficulty. She ”

glanced around the room. “Where are the

“They set up a big tent on the lawn, right outside the doors. All the bodies got moved last night. Mum and Dad are there.”

When she was finished Ginny went outside. The tent was not as big as she had thought – or feared. It stood just off to the side of the drive. It was light gray, with a peaked roof and only one opening. She walked inside and saw about fifty coffins set in rows on tables. Each one had a large bouquet of white

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flowers on it, which Ginny recognized from Herbology: syntle, a small white flower that was said to grow on land where the dead were buried. Professor Sprout had only one planting of it, since it was very rare, but here, somehow, there were hundreds of them bringing a touch of beauty into a somber place.

There were many people in the tent, in small and large groups gathered around coffins. The Weasleys were standing next to one in the front row, and just behind them Ginny saw Andromeda Tonks with an infant in her arms, sitting next to a table on which rested two coffins. Kingsley Shacklebolt was with her, and another woman Ginny did not recognize: she was slender and dark—skinned, wearing white robes and a white turban.

Ginny walked toward her family; they were all there – including Hermione, who was leaning on Ron’s shoulder – except Bill and Fleur. Her mother detached herself from the group and met Ginny as she approached. Molly looked exhausted, haggard; her eyes were puffy; her hair was pulled back and tied, but it was uncombed. Her clothes looked like they had been slept in, but Ginny didn’t think her mum had slept at all. Molly took Ginny’s face in her hands and looked at her; the ferocity Ginny had seen when she had killed Bellatrix was gone. In its place was a distant confusion, as if she were lost.

Her mum embraced her, and Ginny could feel her trembling. Molly held Ginny tightly, almost uncomfortably, for a long time. Her father finally came and led them back to Fred’s coffin. George was leaning on it, his head bowed. Ginny stood on her tip—toes and kissed his cheek. He hugged her, but began to weep and turned away.

Percy, Ron, and Hermione were seated on the other side of the table, facing Ginny, and they looked up as footsteps stopped behind her. She turned to see four wizards looking at her.

“Excuse me, Miss Weasley,” the wizard who looked to be the oldest of them said. He was dressed in simple robes, and had a rough—hewn face and eyes that might have been kind except for the pain in them. His hair was graying, but may have been blond at one time. They all nodded to Arthur.

Ginny looked uncertainly at her father. “How can we help you?” Arthur asked the wizard who had spoken.

“I’m sorry to bother you, sir,” He shifted on his feet. “I know you lost your son. I’m sorry.”

Arthur nodded. “Did you want to ask Ginny something?”

“Actually, we wanted her to show us something.”

Arthur frowned, and Charlie moved so that he was standing next to Ginny. The wizard noted his muscular bulk. “If you don’t mind, that is.”

“What do you want?” said Arthur. “You know who we are. Who are you?”

“I’m sorry. My name is Jensarod Wilson, this is my brother Herlo, and these are John and James Derby. We thought that maybe –“

“You’re Elizabeth’s brothers,” Ginny said to the two Derby wizards.

“No, Miss,” the one named James answered; his hair was dark, but Ginny remembered that Elizabeth’s

eyes were blue like his. “Lizzie was my niece, we’re all her uncles. We heard that you were with her

when she

at the end.” His voice broke, and he cleared his throat. “We were hoping you could show us

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where it happened and maybe tell us something about it.”

Ginny leaned back against the table. She didn’t really want to go back there, nor did she want to talk about what she had seen. But she also saw the pain in the four pairs of eyes. “I’ll do it,” she said in a low voice.

“Ginny, you don’t have to go down there,” her father said.

“No, it’s okay, I’ll go.” She looked around at her brothers. “Can someone come with me?”

Charlie stepped forward immediately and took Ginny’s arm. As they started to walk away, she paused, and looked at Ron and Hermione. “If Harry comes, tell him I’ll be right back.”

She let the four wizards lead her and Charlie out of the tent and then she turned off the drive and started across the lawn toward the Forbidden Forest. She walked slowly, trying to retrace her steps. After about ten minutes, she stopped next to a spot where the grass was still bloodstained, as if a body had lain there. She looked at the Forest and then back at the castle. “This is it.” She pointed to the bloody grass. “She was here when I found her.”

The four wizards stared at the spot. Jensarod turned to Ginny. “What was she like?”

Ginny looked at the sky. It was still overcast, and was beginning to appear stormy; a small breeze had sprung up. She could hear birds singing in the trees at the edge of the Forest. Charlie took her hand. “You don’t have to talk about it,” he murmured.

She swallowed and forced herself to speak. “No, I want to.” She gave Jensarod a blazing look. “I want everyone to know what she looked like, what they did to her. Her face was bleeding. She had big gashes

on her cheeks and forehead. Her nose was

And her arms and legs were broken. They did what they wanted to, and then they threw her away!” Ginny’s eyes brimmed with tears and she began to shout. “She wanted her mum! She was scared and she wanted to go home!” The wizards leaned back from the force of her voice that was almost like an attack.

was gone, it just wasn’t there. It was just a

a bloody hole.

Ginny’s voice dropped. “I was holding her hand, and then it went limp. That was all.” She looked at the bloody grass, then at Elizabeth’s uncles. They looked as though they had been clubbed over the head. “Didn’t you see her before they closed the coffin?” Ginny asked.

Jensarod shook his head. “They had already sealed it. They told us they couldn’t undo the magic.”

Charlie put his arm around Ginny’s shoulders. “Come on, Ginny, let’s go back.”

“Miss Weasley,” John Derby spoke as Ginny was about to leave. “Thank you for being there. It must

have been

concerned he’s the greatest wizard who ever lived. We heard what he did, how he walked into their camp. Tell him that.”

really hard.” Ginny nodded, but he continued. “Tell Harry Potter that as far as I’m

Ginny finally turned and started walking, just as she had done two nights ago, except that now Charlie was holding her arm, keeping her from stumbling. She counted her steps, and at the third one she put her hand to her lips and closed her eyes. She had kissed Harry, even though it was a vision. She ached for him, and a sob escaped through her fingers. Charlie tightened his hold and they soon came back to the tent.

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Everyone was still there, except for Ron and Hermione. Her father told her that Harry had shown up and waited, but then Neville had come and said he needed help with something up in the Room of Requirement, and Harry had left with Ron and Hermione. “Harry said he’ll be down for lunch,” Arthur finished.

They all stayed in the tent for another hour, talking quietly, bringing Andromeda into their group after Kingsley and the dark, slender witch left. Percy told Ginny that she was Saliyah Ushujaa, Kingsley’s companion and an Auror. Ginny found Elizabeth’s coffin and saw her parents. Her mother bore a strong resemblance to Fleur, and Ginny knew then that the rumors about Elizabeth’s Veela ancestry were true. Elizabeth’s father talked to her and thanked her for trying to comfort his daughter, but his wife sat in a chair next to the coffin and did not take her eyes from it and did not speak.

“She was our beauty,” Mr. Derby said through his tears. “Now she’s gone.” Ginny could bear no more, and left the tent.

The Great Hall was filling up for lunch, and Ginny sat at the Gryffindor table, facing the door so that she could see Harry when he came in. But when Neville appeared with Luna and Dean, Harry was not with them. They all sat down across from Ginny.

“Harry and Ron and Hermione had to go into Hogsmeade,” Neville reported. “Something’s going on at the Hog’s Head between Aberforth and some goblins. Shacklebolt wouldn’t say what it was, but he wanted Harry there.” Ginny sighed and poked at her food; all of a sudden she wasn’t very hungry.

Luna glanced at the Ravenclaw table. “Let’s eat over there tonight, that would be a nice treat for them, they’d like that,” she said. “Harry was really angry.”

“Huh?” Ginny was pouring herself a glass of pumpkin juice, and she looked at Luna quizzically, then at Neville.

“Yeah,” said Neville, as he reached across Dean and grabbed a chicken leg from a serving dish. “He was really pissed off. He said you were waiting for him at lunch, but then McGonagall and some bloke from the Ministry showed up and whatever was happening in Hogsmeade was getting worse, and they really needed Harry. Dunno why, though,” he shrugged.

Before Ginny could question him further, Neville was distracted by two sixth—year Hufflepuff girls who stopped next to him. “Hi, Neville,” said one, a very pretty dark—complexioned brunette; she smiled at him. “How’s your big sword?”

Ginny gagged on a mouthful of pumpkin juice, splattering it all over Luna, who seemed only mildly surprised by the orange shower. Neville turned bright red, and Dean nudged him, then grinned at the two girls.

“It’s, uh, it’s fine,” Neville stammered, a drumstick half—way to his mouth.

“Can you show it to us?” the brunette asked in a throaty voice.

There was a thump under the table, and Neville scowled at Dean. But then he dropped the chicken leg on his plate and stood up. “Sure, you want to see it? It’s up in my room. Come on, I’ll get it.” He looked at Dean again, who nodded encouragingly, and after another second Neville turned to the girls. “Why don’t you wait, uh, wait up on the seventh floor in front of that big tapestry with the dancing trolls?”

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The one who had spoken took Neville’s arm. “We’ll wait anywhere you want us to.” They walked toward the door, but just before they reached it the girl on his arm turned and winked at her friend, who peeled off and went the other way, back to the Hufflepuff table. Neville and his new friend disappeared into the entrance hall.

Ginny watched them leave, then Scourgified Luna. “Has that been happening a lot?” she asked Dean.

“Yup. At first he ignored it, but I had a few words with him and now it looks like he’s right on top of it.” He grinned at Ginny.

“Well, I wish him luck,” Ginny said as she stood up. “By the way, did Harry know when he would be back?”

“No. Sorry, Ginny. But like Neville said, he was really ticked off.”

Ginny left the Great Hall and went back outside to the tent; she found her parents and George sitting by the coffin. She pulled up a chair and stayed with them, mostly holding her mother’s hand, occasionally weeping herself. She saw Elizabeth Derby’s uncles come in, and noticed then that there was a very large number of witches and wizards gathered around that coffin, plus a young female house—elf who was holding the bouquet of syntle. As Ginny watched, Elizabeth’s father helped her mother stand, and then one of the uncles took his wand out and the coffin rose off the table and floated ahead of the family as they moved out of the tent. John Derby nodded to Ginny as he left and she bowed her head in return. And even though she tried not to, she remembered the blood on the grass.

Ginny decided to leave, also; she followed the Derbys outside and went up to the common room. She was feeling tired and dispirited, and did not even know if she wanted to see Harry right now. House— elves were still bustling about industriously, and she was surprised at how much progress they had made. All of the windows were repaired, there were no longer any piles of furniture or other damaged items in the hallways – although none of them had been returned to their proper places yet – and she did not see any bloodstains on the walls. It was amazing, she thought, almost a miracle. Her spirits rose, and she entered the portrait hole hoping against hope that Harry would be there.

He wasn’t, and Ginny’s mood collapsed. None of her friends were there either, so she slowly climbed the stairs to her room, hoping now that it would be empty, wanting to be alone and not have to talk to anyone. This hope was fulfilled. She lay down on her bed, pulled the hangings shut, and, feeling thoroughly sorry for herself, had a good cry and fell asleep on her wet pillow.

When she woke up and opened the hangings she saw that she had slept away most of the afternoon and the sky was darkening; she could hear distant rumbles of thunder echoing in the hills. Her roommate, Christina, was standing in front of a mirror adjusting her clothes and primping her hair. “Hi, Ginny,” she said when she saw Ginny in the mirror. “Harry Potter was just in the common room looking for you.”

Ginny jumped out of bed, ran a brush quickly through her hair, straightened her blouse, and rushed downstairs. She didn’t see Harry, but Ron was standing next to a table glancing through a copy of the Prophet. He looked up when Ginny came over and showed her the headlines: Shacklebolt Takes Over Ministry read the first; and below it: Prison Conditions Worsen As Azkaban Fills Up.

“No matter what happens,” he grumbled, “no matter how good things are, they’ll always find something to complain about. I mean, who gives a rat’s ass if they pack a hundred of them into one cell?”

“Where’s Harry?” Ginny ignored his rant. Ron frowned, and Ginny’s spirits sank once more.

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“He and Hermione got called up to McGonagall’s office – again. Some stupid git found the tent we were using and got lost in it. Harry asked me to wait here and tell you he’d meet you at dinner.”

Ginny’s frustration had turned to resignation. Maybe they would have better luck tomorrow. “Come on, then,” she sighed, “let’s go eat.”

They trudged down to the Great Hall – even more damage had been fixed in the hallways – and joined the rest of the family. But of course Harry and Hermione did not show up. They all went outside to the tent after the meal and stood around the coffin in candlelight, holding hands. Bill told her that they would be taking Fred home tomorrow to be buried the day after at the Burrow. When she heard this, Ginny broke down. It was final, totally final. Fred would be in the ground; she would never see him again. She would visit his grave and cry, and that would be the closest she would ever be able to get to him, ever. Bill held her as she sobbed inconsolably, until finally, gasping for breath, she tried to pull herself back together.

Ginny knew that it wasn’t just the finality of the impending funeral that was turning her into a weeping mess. She needed Harry. She had waited almost a year, and now that he was in her grasp he kept on slipping away. She was constantly touching her lips, feeling his kiss on them, but now she wanted the real thing, not the after—image of a vision. She had never known such longing, not even in the darkest days of last winter when Harry was somewhere out in the cold world running from death and she didn’t know if she would ever see him again.

She found herself alone back in the common room waiting for Harry, curled up in a chair under a window being pelted by rain as lightning flashed and thunder rolled. The storm was perfect, as far as she was concerned; let it rain on everyone, why should she be alone in her misery? As the hour grew late, Ginny slipped lower into the chair and dozed.

A peal of thunder woke her up. She sat up and looked around; the common room was empty, the fire

almost out. She heard a noise and saw the door to the boys’ stairway closing behind someone; she thought she saw a shock of black hair and a lanky body. She jumped up, but as she called “Harry!” a loud clap of thunder drowned her voice. She ran to the door, opened it a few inches and peered up. She heard footsteps and called again, but whoever it was kept climbing.

She pushed the door open and stepped into the stairwell. She had been in the boys tower only once before, and she felt a little awkward; she did not want to run into anyone in his skivvies, even though she had long ago gotten used to it at the Burrow. She started quietly climbing. She met no one and heard no one. When she reached the top she hesitated. What if it wasn’t Harry that she had seen? Still, the worst that could happen was that she would find one of his roommates in his underwear, and she had seen worse things than that.

She knocked softly. “Harry?” she called. There was silence for a moment, then footsteps. The door opened, and Dean stood in front of her in his pajamas holding up a lit wand; behind him was Seamus also with his wand alight. Dean blinked. “Blimey, Ginny, what are you doing here?”

“I thought I saw Harry come up. I fell asleep in a chair and someone came up the stairs, and I

herself blush, and Dean smiled.

” She felt

“He hasn’t been here all day, as far as I can tell.” He turned to Seamus, who shook his head. “But if we

see him, should we tell him

?”

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“No, no, that’s all right. Tell him I’ll see him in the morning. Thanks.” She turned and started down the stairs. She stopped at a window half—way down and looked out. Flashes of lightning lit the hills across the lake; below her she could see the tent illuminated in a ghostly fashion by dozens of candles; the shadows of a few people moved around inside, still mourning, still unable to leave their loved ones. Harry was like one of those shadows. He had been moving about all day as she looked down from above, unable to reach him, unable to

She stopped herself. This was silly; she would see him tomorrow. But still, it was frustrating that a whole day had gone by, a day that she had been anticipating for almost a year. Everyone else had wanted Harry, and everyone else had gotten him, except –

The door at the foot of the stairs opened and closed and someone began climbing. Ginny turned, her heart pounding, and Harry stood in front of her, looking tired and surprised. “Blimey, Ginny, what are you doing here? I was looking for you everywhere. Hermione went up to your room but you weren’t there and ”

“And?” Ginny was trembling; she was sure Harry could tell.

He walked slowly to her. “Why did you come up here?”

“I was looking for you. I fell asleep in a chair, and I thought I saw you go upstairs, but Dean said you ”

weren’t there and

“And?” He took her hands. “And this?” He put his arms around her and kissed her mouth, and she kissed him and then he was crushing her against him and then his hands took her hair and his mouth was kissing her face, her eyes, her nose, her chin, her lips. She was digging her fingernails into his back and he was kissing her ferociously and she was beating her palms against his back, wanting to rivet their bodies together. They were on their knees, their thighs and bellies and chests pressed together. Harry’s hands were all over her and she was crying out and Harry pushed her down.

“No, no, Harry!” she gasped. “Not – not–“

“Not what?” he was breathing fast; his mouth was on her neck, his hands on her shoulders, pressing her to the floor.

“Not here. Someone might come.” She sat up and leaned against the wall, panting. Harry was on his knees in front of her. Their breathing gradually slowed.

He got up and held his hand to her and pulled her up. “Come with me,” he said. “I know where.”

They made their way to the corridor outside the Room of Requirement, and when it opened for them and they stepped inside Ginny saw dark velvet curtains all around, lit by dim candles, and a thick carpet on the floor. It was very quiet, not in a sinister way but hushed. The carpet muffled their footsteps as Harry led her along a curtained corridor, and they heard no sounds. They came to a break in the curtains, and Ginny saw a chamber, walled by more curtains, with a large hammock suspended in the air, and candles glowing with a soft yellow light.

Harry pulled her inside, and the curtain closed behind them; the world was quiet and still. “Someone found this the morning after the battle,” Harry whispered. “I guess they needed some privacy. I don’t think the teachers know about it yet.” He grinned.

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“It’s lovely. It’s perfect.” She sat on the hammock and when he sat next to her they rolled into it. It was made of a fine, soft silky material, and when they put their heads down, puffy satin pillows appeared underneath them.

Harry reached down and pulled both of their trainers and socks off. They lay back, wiggling their toes. Ginny turned to him, but before she could say anything they heard a clanking noise nearby, and high, giggling laughter. Then they heard a lower voice, and even though it was muffled, they both recognized it.

“Neville?” said Harry, a little surprised.

“Sounds like. I think he’s taking advantage of his new rep.”

“Good for him. I was thinking about doing the same thing myself.”

“Oh, so you think you have a rep?”

“I don’t know. Do I?”

“Yes. And I was also hoping you would take advantage of it.”

They did not sleep at all that night, and between caresses they talked for hours.

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Chapter 3: Best Mates

Author's Notes: This chapter is shorter than I had intended, but I got to what seemed a good place to end it, and at the same time I thought that submitting a new chapter sooner rather than later was a good thing. So here it is. I hope it meets everyone's expectations.

I also want to thank everyone who has reviewed the story so far, and everyone who has nominated it for

a DSTA. I can't tell you all how much I appreciate it.

09/24/07: edited to correct an inconsistency with a later chapter.

At breakfast the next morning Ginny noticed that two people kept looking at her. One of them, Ron, had

a crease in his brow and didn’t speak to either herself or Harry. The other, Fleur, kept smiling at her and spent a lot of time pushing food at Harry, saying he needed to keep up his strength. Ginny thought that what Fleur didn’t know might surprise her, but she said nothing. Maybe Harry’s yawns were giving the wrong impression.

As for Ron, the two—faced git could go stuff it, as far as Ginny was concerned. If all he did was throw looks at her and Harry, then things might be alright. But if he went any further, she would have it out with him, even though she sincerely hoped that he would not say anything during the next few days; neither she nor her parents nor any of her brothers, especially George, needed a family row at the present time.

But these unpleasant thoughts didn’t linger. Harry was sitting next to her, and even though his head kept drooping, he glanced at her often, offering to fill her glass from the pitcher of pumpkin juice, and not letting her serve herself; it was sweet, and also a little annoying, but he had never behaved with such determined chivalry before, so she let him do it. Her brothers and parents definitely noticed, and she saw whispers behind hands and quick smiles sent her way.

There was one other thing that especially kept Ginny from stopping Harry’s attentions: it really seemed to please her mum. She smiled at Ginny for the first time since the battle, and ate a normal breakfast, not leaving most of her food on her plate as she had been doing. Ginny just hoped that she wouldn’t find out about last night.

The plan for the day was to Portkey to the Burrow as soon as everyone could get ready. Ginny, Ron, Harry, and Hermione went back to their rooms after breakfast and packed whatever they would be needing for the next day or two, since there might be a delay in getting their trunks home because most of the house—elves were still so busy repairing the castle. Ginny said goodbye to her roommates and hugged her friends, and there were more than a few tears, not only because of the deaths of Fred, Colin, and all the others, but also because some of them were graduating and would not be back at school next year.

She gave Dean Thomas a special goodbye hug. “Maybe we’ll run into each other in Diagon Alley,” Ginny said to him as she was about to leave the common room. “Or maybe we’ll have a DA reunion at the Burrow.”

“That would be fun,” he smiled. “Good luck, Ginny. I’ll see you around.” As she was climbing out the portrait hole she looked back one last time, and saw him sit down with Parvati, Lavender, and Seamus; Parvati had her arm around Lavender who had been weeping again over Colin Creevey.

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She hadn’t seen Neville in the common room, and she kept a look—out for him and Luna on her way downstairs. She was descending a moving staircase, and as it swung into a landing, Neville appeared around the corner with the Hufflepuff girl who had spoken to him at lunch yesterday. “I’m glad I saw you!” Ginny exclaimed. “We’re leaving soon. I wanted to say goodbye. I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”

Neville stood awkwardly, his hands jammed into his pockets. “Well, I guess

“I’m Keesha Baker,” the girl held out her hand. Ginny shook it and the girls grinned at each other. “We’ve been in a few classes together, but we never talked, I guess.”

“Maybe we can next year,” Ginny said. She turned to Neville. “Take care, Neville. I’m sure we’ll run into each other. I told Dean we should have a DA reunion some time. Think your Gran will mind?” she laughed.

Neville also smiled. “Not any more. ‘Bye, Ginny.” They stood looking at each other.

Ginny threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. She was not surprised to notice that they both had watery eyes. “You were my first date,” she whispered to him.

“But not your last,” he laughed. Ginny gave him a quick peck on his cheek, squeezed Keesha’s hand, and hurried down the stairs before she started bawling. She didn’t see Luna, but she knew that she and her father would be at the funeral.

Many other families were also leaving, and there was a large pile of traveling bags in the entrance hall. Ginny went outside and found the Weasleys gathered around Fred’s coffin in the tent; Harry and Hermione were also there. Ginny gave Harry a quick kiss with all of her brothers watching. Harry glanced around, and they all looked away except for Ron; he just stared at Harry. Ginny’s mouth was about to open when Bill stepped between her and Ron; he looked at Ginny and put his finger to his mouth and shook his head.

George led the family out of the tent with the coffin floating before him, directed by his wand. Arthur and Molly came next. Ron and Hermione were behind them, and then Charlie and Percy, followed by Ginny and Harry; Bill and Fleur brought up the rear. It seemed to Ginny that Charlie had deliberately put himself between Ron and herself. When she looked at Harry he was staring ahead at Ron. She took his arm and he put his hand on hers.

The Department of Magical Transportation had set up tables on the other side of the drive where families could place the coffins; officials from the Department were processing them and scheduling Portkeys, and as each family Portkeyed away, a coffin would also blink out and disappear. George set Fred’s down, and they all walked to another table on which lay dozens of battered old shoes, dust bin lids, dented pots, and other assorted objects. An old witch with yellow teeth sat behind it; a sign next to her read, “Portkey Office. Please Form A Single Line. Thank You.” The Weasleys joined the queue. When they reached the front they saw that Professor McGonagall was also there, and she hugged both Molly and Arthur.

“We’ll see you tomorrow,” she said. “Harry,” she turned to him, “Professor Flitwick asked me to tell you that he will be there and you can discuss the matter with him then.”

Ginny looked questioningly at Harry. “I wanted some private tutoring,” he said under his breath. “We missed a whole year.”

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Ginny was puzzled. “But how will you do that? He can’t leave Hogwarts just to teach you, can he?”

Harry shook his head and smiled. “I’ll tell you later.”

The Portkey Office witch greeted them as she shuffled through a pile of parchments. She placed an old rabbit—ears antenna in front of them. They all put their hands on it, and as Hermione was trying to explain to Arthur exactly what a television channel was, they were all suddenly in the yard of the Burrow, and Fred’s coffin was on the ground next to the door. As soon as Molly saw it she stumbled over to it and collapsed, holding her head against it and sobbing.

The entire family rushed to her side. Harry and Hermione hung back, a little uncomfortable as they watched. Bill and Arthur helped Molly to her feet, and then they led her inside. The rest followed, leaving Harry and Hermione alone in the yard.

Hermione was wringing her fingers, and Harry noted the nervous twitch. “It’s going to be hard,” he said.

Hermione nodded. “Yes, I can’t imagine what it’s like, burying a

you can imagine it, can’t you, Harry? I mean, your parents and Sirius all died.”

She stopped and looked at him. “But

“Yeah, I can.” He frowned. “Look, Hermione, what is it with Ron? Ginny and I did the exact same thing you and he did. He’s starting to get on my nerves.”

Hermione’s hand—wringing tempo increased. “I’m sorry, Harry. I’ve talked to him, but he’s got this thing about his baby sister. He was always treated like he was the baby. You’ve seen F—Fred and George tease him and ridicule him. So Ginny was the only one he could be, you know, higher than. He means well, he just wants to protect her.”

“From me?”

“No, no!” Hermione was close to tears. “That’s not it. Oh, please, Harry, don’t get angry with him, not after everything we’ve gone through. I’m so happy that you and Ginny are together. Give him some time to get used it. Please?” She had started crying, and Harry put his hand on her shoulder.

The door opened and Ginny and Ron walked out. “Sorry,” Ron muttered. “We kind of forgot about you. Are you okay?” He took Hermione in his arms and held her, patting her back as she sobbed on his shoulder. “I know, I know. We all miss him.”

Harry turned away and shook his head, but only Ginny saw it. “So what’s going to happen now?” Harry asked her.

Ginny shrugged. “We have to get the house ready. There’ll be a big crowd tomorrow. And we have to dig a grave.”

Harry thought of the other grave he had dug only a few weeks ago, although it seemed like years. “It’s not really my business,” he said, “but I think you should dig it without magic. That’s what I did for Dobby, and it felt good.”

Ginny giggled in spite of herself. “Dad would get to use a Muggle spade.” Harry smiled also.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Hermione sniffled; she had stopped crying and was wiping her face with a

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handkerchief that Ron conjured for her. “I’d like to help, if that’s what you decide to do.” She looked at Ron.

“Sure.” He regarded the cluttered yard. “But I don’t even know where they want to put it.”

“Beyond the garden, next to that big oak,” Ginny said. “I heard Dad talk about it this morning.”

“Sounds like a good spot.” Ron looked back at the house. “I wonder what’s for lunch?”

Ginny laughed and took his arm and they all went into the kitchen. To their amazement, Molly was bustling about the room with her wand out. Dishes and utensils were flying in all directions, and a delicious—smelling stew was bubbling on the stove. The rest of the family was seated at the table. Molly’s wand flashed, and a large loaf of fresh, hot bread soared out of the oven and onto a cutting board, where a knife started slicing it.

“Hey, Mum, that’s a killer wand you’ve got there,” Ron called.

He froze as his mother whirled on him, her face red and contorted, her wand pointing at him. “Ronald Weasley, you will not joke about that, not if you know what’s good for you.” Her voice quivered with anger, and Ron took a step backward.

“Molly!” Arthur said sharply, “He was only joking. Put your wand down, for goodness sake.”

She quickly lowered her wand and slumped into a chair. The bread knife clattered to the floor. “I’m sorry, darling,” she blurted to Ron; she held her arms out. “Come here, I’m sorry.” Ron walked slowly around the table and bent down as his mother hugged him. Then he just as slowly walked back to his seat between Hermione and Bill; his face was white. Bill patted his arm.

Charlie got up and finished setting the table and putting out the food. They ate, mostly in silence. Molly left the table with her meal uneaten and went upstairs without speaking. Arthur followed, and the rest of them all looked at each other.

“I never saw her do anything like that,” Percy finally spoke.

“No one’s ever died before,” George said quietly. Again there was silence.

Ron stood and also left without a word. Hermione jumped up and followed him upstairs, and then Harry also rose. He glanced at Ginny and followed Hermione. When he entered Ron’s attic room, Hermione was sitting on the bed next to Ron with her arm around him. Ron looked up as Harry sat on his cot, but said nothing.

“It’s all right, Ron” Hermione tried to soothe him. “She said she was sorry. She loves you, you know that. You just startled her.”

Ron bowed his head; he looked miserable. “I can’t take much more of this,”he muttered. “Everything’s all a disaster.”

“Not everything,” Hermione squeezed his shoulder. “Voldemort’s dead, you and I are here together, and so are Harry and Ginny.”

Ron looked balefully at Harry. “Well, maybe that’s part of the disaster.”

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“Ron, no!” Hermione cried.

Harry stood up, then Ron did. “And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Harry glared at him.

“You know damn well what it means, mate,” Ron spat out the last word. “She’s underage. I know you spent the whole damn night in that room with her. What did you think, no one would notice?”

“Ron, no!” Hermione shouted again. “I’m sure it wasn’t what you think!”

“Yeah, right,” Ron shrugged her hand from his arm. He scowled at Harry. “It was bad enough your leading her on before we left. What if you hadn’t come back? Where would that have left her?” Ron was shouting over Hermione’s cries of protest. “And then, right into the sack as soon as you could get your hands on her! You didn’t waste any time, did you?”

Harry pointed his finger at Ron. “You’re over the line, mate, so watch it. And Ginny makes up her own mind, just in case you haven’t noticed after sixteen years.”

“And you helped her along, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I did, because we love each other. What’s your excuse?”

“Harry!” shrieked Hermione.

Harry put his hand up. “I’m sorry,” he said to Hermione, “I didn’t mean that.” He took a breath and let the scowl drop from his face. “Look, Ron, Ginny and I are together, whether you like it or not, so why don’t you just accept it?”

Ron gritted his teeth. “I told you. She’s too young. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

“Oh, come on!” Harry scoffed, his anger rising again. “She knows what she’s doing better than I do, and sure as hell better than you do.”

Ron took a step toward Harry, his face was livid. Hermione grabbed his shoulder, even though she was crying hysterically. “Please, stop it, both of you!” she shouted. “You’re both acting like babies!”

“Fine,” said Harry. “I’ll stop.” He pointed his finger at Ron again. “You just leave Ginny alone, understand? If you have any more problems, come see me. You know where I am.”

“She’s my sister!” Ron yelled. “I’ll do whatever the bloody hell I want –“

The door was flung open and Charlie and Bill strode into the room. Ron stepped back from Harry. “What in the name of Merlin is going on here?” Bill demanded. “We can hear you all over the house. Mum is in tears again. What are you trying to do, Ron, destroy her?”

Before Ron could answer, Charlie took Harry’s arm. “Ginny’s down in the parlor, Harry. Why don’t you go?”

Harry turned on his heel and stomped out of the room. He heard Hermione follow, and then the door close. He could hear Ron start to speak and Bill’s voice cutting across him, but then the voices became indistinct as Harry descended. He passed Ginny’s room and heard that door open and close as Hermione

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went in.

Percy was sitting alone at the kitchen table and stared at Harry as he went through into the parlor. There he found Ginny standing in the middle of the room, an angry look on her face. Fleur was sitting on the sofa. They both looked at him.

“‘Arry, what is wrong?” Fleur began, but Ginny was crossing the room. She took Harry’s hand rather firmly and, ignoring Fleur, pulled him out the back door. She continued past the garden and into the woods, and didn’t stop until they were well out of earshot of the house.

“What happened?” she turned to face him. “Why were you yelling? Mum’s hysterical again.”

Harry looked into her eyes and remembered how much her mother’s had reminded him of Ginny. “I’m sorry. Ron said some things, and then I said some things I shouldn’t have. He’s furious that we spent the night together.”

Ginny’s nostrils flared slightly and her eyes flashed; Harry had to suppress a smile, knowing that she had just validated everything he had said to Ron. Then she grimaced. “Harry, tomorrow is Fred’s funeral. Please don’t let Ron get to you. It’s making it hard on everyone. We don’t need this.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” He put his hands on her shoulders and Ginny came into his arms. “I won’t let it happen again. But he’s obsessed. We weren’t even talking about us and he started yelling.”

Ginny sighed. “That’s why Bill and Charlie went up. If they can’t talk sense into him, then at least they’ll make him shut it off until after the funeral.”

“But?” Harry could tell that she wanted to say more.

But

I don’t know

He’ll get over it, I’m sure he will.”

“I hope so. He’s my best mate. And my girlfriend’s brother.”

She smiled up at him. “I like the sound of that.” They kissed, then Harry absentmindedly ran his finger along her neck and inside the collar of her blouse. Ginny stopped his hand with hers. “What is it?” she asked. “Is something bothering you?”

“Now how do you know that?”

“You’re trying to say something, aren’t you?”

Harry put his hands in his pockets and started walking back and forth in front of her. He put his fist over

his mouth and coughed “I, uh, I wanted to ask

about last night.”

Ginny put her hand on his arm and stopped his pacing. “What about it? Harry, it doesn’t matter to me what Ron thinks.”

“No, that’s not it. I mean, I do care what Ron thinks, but

I want to know what you think.”

Ginny had a coy smile. “Couldn’t you tell last night?”

“Ginny, that’s not what I meant, either. I never did anything like that before, and I guess I need to know

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if it was the right thing to do.”

“I repeat, couldn’t you tell last night?”

Harry had a slight frown on his brow, but then he smiled. “How do you know so much? No, no! I don’t ”

mean it like that! I mean

how do you

He stopped. “I’m saying this all wrong.”

Ginny laughed. “No, you’re not. It’s all right. Do you think I would have sat down in that hammock if I thought it was wrong? If I had the slightest doubt? Did you have any doubts? You didn’t act like you did.”

“No!” Harry almost shouted. “No, I didn’t. And I don’t now. Damn, I don’t know how to say this. It’s just that your family were all watching us at breakfast, so maybe they know, or they figured it out. And ”

now Ron

Ginny walked to a nearby tree and sat down next to it; Harry followed. “Well,” mused Ginny, leaning against the trunk, “Fleur knew, and maybe Bill, and obviously Ron did, too. But I didn’t get the impression that anyone else knew. They all thought you were adorable, though.” She laughed as Harry blushed.

“What do you mean? What did I do?”

“You were very attentive to me. It was sweet.”

“Did you mind?”

“Well,” Ginny traced his face with her fingers, “I liked it, but don’t start smothering me.”

Now it was Harry’s turn to laugh. “How could anyone smother you? Isn’t that what Ron’s trying to do?”

“I guess you could say that. But, Harry, my whole family loves you. I don’t think it would be good if my parents found out about last night, though.”

He kissed Ginny. “You’re beautiful. Let’s go back,” he said.

They walked back to the Burrow holding hands, and just as the house came in sight they saw the back door open and a parade of the entire family emerge, except for Molly and Fleur. They were all carrying either a shovel or a pickaxe. Arthur was holding his spade straight in front of him like a flagpole; the others held theirs at their sides.

“They’re not using magic to dig the grave,” Ginny exclaimed, “just like you said!” They followed the procession to the foot of a huge oak tree about fifty yards from the house. When Harry and Ginny got there, George was taking up the first shovelful of sod. They all stood back and watched him dig methodically and without expression, until they all saw that tears were streaming down his face. Percy joined him, and then the others took turns two at a time, and the grave deepened.

When Charlie and Ron stepped into the hole, Ron began wielding his spade ferociously. He glanced up once and Harry caught his eye, but Ron looked quickly down again. Harry walked over to the grave and stood as close to Ron as he safely could, but Ron still didn’t look up. When the hole was about two feet deep, he paused and wiped his forehead. Harry moved closer.

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“Ron,” he said quietly. Ron looked up and Charlie stopped digging; all the others turned toward Harry. Ron stared at him, his face red and sweaty. It was very quiet; Hermione had her hand to her mouth.

“Ron, I’m sorry,” Harry said.

Ron nodded. “Me too.” He spoke just as quietly as Harry, then he resumed digging, but not as violently as before. Hermione let out her breath with a sigh that everyone could hear. Charlie cleared his throat and went back to work.

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Chapter 4: The Funeral

Author's Notes: Harry is starting to find himself the family that he never had but always wanted, sometimes desperately. I always enjoyed reading about the Weasleys. Nothing about them is ever dull, even in moments of great sadness.

Enjoy, thanks for all the great reviews so far, and pleas leave more.

10/07/07 - minor editing changes.

With everyone working in shifts, the grave was soon finished. Bill lifted out the last two diggers, Charlie and Ron, with Wingardium leviosa, and they all trudged back to the house. They saw Molly watching from an upstairs window; as they approached she turned away.

The rest of the day was spent preparing the house and grounds for the funeral. Bill thought that there might be as many as three hundred people coming, and since they could not possibly fit all of them into the house, they decided to hope for good weather and keep everyone outside. Arthur was nervous about this decision, since he did not think it would be a good idea to use a weather charm in the event of rain; it might draw too much attention from the Muggles in the village. But they had no choice, so Bill put Ron to work using Geminio on an old umbrella that Charlie retrieved from the ghoul’s attic.

“Six years of an overpriced education, then one year of defeating the most powerful Dark wizard in the world, and this is what I end up doing,” he grumbled. “Just because I scream at people sometimes doesn’t mean I always have to get stuck with the worst jobs.” He scowled at Bill.

“Your job is vital, bro’,” Bill patted him on the back. “Oh, and Percy will tell you when you have enough umbies. And just conjure one at a time. We don’t want to be stuck with any extras.”

“It probably won’t even rain!” Ron yelled at Bill’s departing back, after telling him under his breath to perform a certain physically impossible act on himself.

Ginny and Fleur took over the kitchen. They tried their best to keep Molly out, but when she kept on poking her head in and telling them which cooking spells to use, Fleur went and got Bill, and he stayed with his mum the rest of the day to keep her out of their hair.

Charlie attacked the huge mass of clutter in the front yard, and for a while he was having a bad time of it. Most of the old, broken Muggle objects had been hexed, charmed, and jinxed so many times over the years by his father that the lingering magic was often hard to detect and would pop up at inopportune moments. An old automobile engine that had been in the yard for decades and had no apparent source of power, started running as soon as Charlie tried to levitate it. He was so startled that instead of floating gracefully out of sight behind the old broom shed, it zoomed loudly out the gate and down the lane. It might have kept on going except that Hermione happened to spot it just before it disappeared around the curve, and she managed to hit it with Finite.

Charlie promptly drafted her into the cleanup operation, and the yard was soon cleared. The rest of the family marveled; no one remembered ever seeing it so pristine. “That was a lot more trouble than dragons,” Charlie muttered to Hermione.

Percy took charge of the funeral notices and seating arrangements. He spent all afternoon owling the Ministry workers they expected to show up, plus merchants from Diagon Alley, joke suppliers and

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manufacturers, Hogwarts staff, Fred’s former classmates, and even some of his foreign contacts. Since Hermes, Errol, and Pigwidgeon had no hope of handling even part of the load, he Apparated into Diagon Alley and rented a dozen fast owls from Eeylops. He returned to the Burrow with them – Errol was indignant when he saw them – and soon had an efficient system set up whereby, as soon as an owl returned with a response, another notice was ready for it. He ran his operation from a table next to the garden, but soon Molly came out and made him move farther from the house; the owls were perching on the roof and making a mess.

George retreated to his room. Ginny went looking for him after no one had seen him for an hour, and she found him sitting on the floor surrounded by cartons of surplus Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes items, with their contents scattered around him. He refused to tell her what he was doing, and Ginny decided that she’d better not tell either her parents or any of her brothers what she had seen. When the door to George’s room closed behind her, she heard the squelching sound of a Colloportus charm sealing it.

Harry wanted to help, but no one would let him. First, Fleur pushed him out of the kitchen when he went there simply to be with Ginny. Then he accidentally switched two invitations out of order on Percy’s master list, and he was told rather officiously that his services were no longer required. By the time he went out into the front yard it was almost completely cleared, and when Hermione told him to go clean out the spiders from the old shed, he looked at her blankly. “How?” he said.

“Your wand, Harry, your wand. Honestly,” she clucked. Harry gave her a sour look and went back into the parlor.

He found Bill and Mrs. Weasley sitting on the sofa looking through an old photo album. Molly was crying and laughing at the same time. Harry sat down with them. There were old photos of the children, and Molly sighed as she peered at each one. The ones of Ginny caught Harry’s eye; he saw a mischievous little girl looking back at him, and occasionally there was one with that blazing look that he would never grow tired of.

Molly smiled at his reaction. “You know, I don’t recall her pictures being quite so animated before, Harry. Here, look, she’s winking at you in this one. I’m sure she never did that before.” Molly handed him the album and pointed to a picture of Ginny sitting in a swing hanging from a tree; she looked to be about six years old, and was wearing shorts and a tee—shirt with the words “I’m Magical” inside a large heart—shaped design. She had a big grin, and waved as the swing went back and forth. Harry couldn’t take his eyes from it.

Molly dabbed at the corner of her own eyes, and put her hand on Harry’s arm. “Harry, I want you to know that I’m so glad you’re here. It’s a huge comfort to Ginny. And to all of us.” She looked at Bill, who grinned, and then she patted Harry’s arm again.

Harry turned the page of the album. There were pictures of Ron and Percy, but before he could get a good look at them there was a loud thud and two shrieks from the kitchen. “Mum, help!” came Ginny’s cry, and before Bill could stop her, Molly shot out of the parlor and was on her way to the rescue.

Harry flipped through a few more pages, looking at photos of the Weasley family on vacation, around the Burrow, in Arthur’s cramped office at the Ministry of Magic, and at Hogwarts. The children were always laughing and had their arms around each other; the Hogwarts pictures showed Quidditch teams and graduations, with Arthur and Molly – the proud parents – standing nearby or hugging someone. Ginny was in most of them, always smiling and hamming it up for the camera.

Bill watched Harry’s face. “You have nothing like this, do you?” he asked. Harry shook his head. “I’ve

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been talking to Fleur,” Bill continued, “and we’d like to have you and Ginny come stay with us at Shell Cottage for a week or two after the funeral. There’s enough room, as you know.”

Harry nodded; he suddenly had trouble finding his voice. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, that would be nice. I’d like to do that. Did you ask Ginny yet?”

“No, I haven’t had a chance. But it’s okay with Mum and Dad. She was cooped up here and at Muriel’s for two months, and she’s never been to the Cottage. I know she loves the sea.”

Harry didn’t get a chance to talk to Ginny before dinner; it took quite a while to remove the congealed bread pudding from the ceiling. The kitchen table was laden with the dishes and serving utensils for tomorrow, so they ate outside next to the garden. Ginny was busy bringing food in and out, so she didn’t have time for conversation.

After dinner Harry and Ginny walked down the lane to the village. Harry had never been in Ottery St. Catchpole, and they wandered down the streets and into the village square. Ginny mentioned Bill and Fleur’s invitation. “I’m not really sure I want to go,” she said. “I don’t want to leave Mum alone. And I don’t think George is planning to go back to the shop yet. I feel funny about leaving him right after the funeral.”

Harry was disappointed. He had wanted to go back to see Dobby’s grave, as well as spend time with Ginny away from the constant buzz of her family. But mostly he just wanted to be with her, so if it had to be at the Burrow, then that would be fine. “Maybe I’ll just go for a few hours by myself. I kind of wanted to visit Dobby’s grave,” he said.

“Oh.” Ginny hadn’t thought of the grave. “Well, I’ll come with you, if you want.”

Harry took her hand. “I’d really like that. I miss him.” They walked back to the Burrow hand in hand.

When they got there they found Lee Jordan in the parlor talking with George, Bill, and Charlie. They greeted him and then went out back where Hermione and Ron were sitting at the table that Percy had used as headquarters for his owl operation.

“We’re going up to London after the funeral,” Hermione announced. “George said we could stay in the flat over the shop. Ron’s going to start applying for jobs at the Ministry, and I have to see someone at the Institute.”

“The what?” asked Harry as he conjured two more chairs; Ginny had been about to do it but her father, who was sitting under a peach tree behind the garden with Molly, called out and warned her not to do magic; she pouted as she put her wand away.

“The Arithmancy Institute,” said Hermione, “They owled me with an invitation to come in for an interview. They have an intern program that I’ve been interested in for a while. It would be a fabulous place to work. They do the most advanced research in the world there.”

Harry glanced at Ron. “Yeah,” Ron said. “I’m hoping Dad can get me into the Games and Sports Department, but anything would be okay. I just want to get away.”

Suddenly Harry felt a wave of sympathy for him. Ron was the baby, as far as most of his family was concerned. Ginny might be the youngest, but she was also special because she was the only girl. Ron was just the brat, always tagging along, always the butt of insults and teasing. “That’s brilliant, Ron,” he said,

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“and living in Diagon Alley, too! That’ll be great.”

“Yeah, it’ll be good to get off on my own. This family can be a load, if you know what I mean.”

“I do know what you mean, Ron,” Ginny said and leaned across the table and took his hand. She looked at Harry. “Maybe we all need to get away for a while. Or at least a week or two,” she smiled.

Later, after it got dark, Harry and Ginny strolled down the lane again; Ginny didn’t want to walk in the back where the open grave was. It was peaceful and quiet except for insects chirping and frogs croaking. It had gotten cooler and they were wearing light jackets; Harry had borrowed an old one of Ron’s that fit him.

“What made you change your mind about Shell Cottage?” Harry asked as they looked up at the stars.

“I was thinking about Dobby, and I guess I didn’t realize how important that was to you. And I’ve never been to the Cottage. Maybe Fleur and I could even become friends.” She chuckled and leaned her back against him and he put his arms around her. “Ron’s going off also made me think. If Mum and Dad said it was okay for me to go, then they must figure that they’ll be all right.” She turned to face him, and he saw tears on her face. “I don’t usually cry this much, you know. I think maybe we won’t be so sad if we’re someplace else for a bit. I think Fred would want us to be a little happy, don’t you?” She played with the collar of his jacket. “I also got a little annoyed at Dad when he told me not to use magic. I mean, who cares? I bet there’s no one at the Ministry even bothering with Traces right now.” She chuckled again despite the tears on her face.

“We’ll come back,” Harry stroked her hair as she put her head on his chest. “We’ll spend the summer here, if your folks will let me stay, and –“

Ginny interrupted him with a laugh. “You must be joking. Mum’s already planning how to fatten you up.”

“That sounds like the summer of my dreams,” Harry grinned. “But that reminds me, there’s something else I wanted to tell you. Remember what you asked about Professor Flitwick, and how could he teach me next year?” Ginny nodded expectantly. “Well,” Harry said slowly, “I’ve decided to live in Hogsmeade when you go back to school.”

Ginny’s mouth fell open. “How can you do that?”

“That will be a surprise. You’ll find out all about it on your birthday when you’ll be old enough to know things like that.”

Ginny smacked him on his chest. “You’re mean! Why can’t you tell me now?” She tried to sound petulant but she couldn’t hide the light in her eyes.

“I knew you’d see it my way.” Harry grabbed her hand and kissed it before she could hit him again. “It’s going to be your birthday present.”

Now she was smiling. “You’ll be living in Hogsmeade

can go in on weekends whenever they want. How will I get any school work done?”

Oh, Harry, that’ll be brilliant! Seventh—years

“I’ll help you,” Harry laughed. He put his arm around her and they walked back to the Burrow.

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* * * *

Ron’s weather forecast held, and the day of he funeral was like the day before, clear with a few clouds and not too warm. Wizards and witches started arriving early; there were going to be more funerals around the land, and Fred Weasley’s was the first of the day. Percy greeted the arrivals at the front gate as they Apparated or Portkeyed in, or were dropped off by Muggle taxis whose drivers left as quickly as they could turn around; the sight of people appearing out of nowhere seemed to upset them.

Yesterday’s work of preparation was no longer there to distract the family, and the Weasley household – including Aunt Muriel who arrived before sunrise – moved moodily around the Burrow, eating, dressing, preparing themselves. Molly and Ginny already had red and teary eyes. Arthur did not look very steady and he kept staring at the coffin that was now resting on trestles near the back door. The rest of his sons stood in the parlor speaking quietly to each other. When Harry walked in, George came over to him; he was somber but calm. “Harry, I’d like you to be a pallbearer. We’re not using any magic, mostly.”

“Oh, sure.” Harry was surprised; Ginny had told him that her five brothers and Lee would carry the coffin, so he never expected to be asked. “Is there room for seven?”

“Well, Lee won’t be a pallbearer. I’ve asked him to help in other ways.”

Harry nodded, and thought about what Ginny had told him she had seen in George’s room yesterday. Harry was sure it would be memorable, whatever it was.

Percy finally came in and announced that the number of arrivals had reached the ninety—five percent threshold of expected attendees – he never explained why that number was a threshold – and that, given the tight schedule of the funerals planned for the day, they should begin.

They all proceeded to the back door. Bill, Charlie, Percy, George, Ron, and Harry lifted the coffin and carried it out. Arthur, Molly, and Ginny followed; Molly was between them and they each held her arm. Behind them came Fleur and Aunt Muriel. Even in black mourning robes Fleur was stunning; sadness seemed to make her even more beautiful. Her silver hair streamed down her back and the tears that flowed down her face glistened like rivers or diamonds.

They walked slowly past the garden, and a hush fell over the gathering that were seated in chairs placed in rows that faced the grave. Harry saw dozens of people he knew or recognized, some from the Ministry, some from Diagon Alley, and many from Hogwarts. All of the staff were there, even, to Harry’s utter astonishment, Argus Filch. Neville was sitting between his Gran and a Hufflepuff girl; a wizard and a witch who appeared to be her parents sat next to her. Luna and her father were there. Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet, and Katie Bell, already in tears, sat with Oliver Wood and other members of Gryffindor Quidditch teams who had played with Fred. There were many students from other Houses, wearing their school robes.

He saw Madame Malkin, old Ollivander, even Mr. Borgin, who gazed at Harry with an impassive, inscrutable expression. Maybe, thought Harry, this purveyor of Dark objects believed that his business was going to suffer because so many of his best customers were either dead or in prison thanks to Harry.

Many people stared at Harry and whispered to their neighbors as he walked slowly down the center aisle with the coffin. He stopped looking around and fixed his eyes on the back of Ron’s head. He also heard weeping from all sides, but he was mostly aware of the uninhibited sobs coming from Molly and Ginny behind him. His own eyes began to fill, and soon he felt his own tears running down his face.

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They came to the grave. Kingsley Shacklebolt stood there, looking more imposing and magnificent than Harry had ever seen him; he was wearing formal black robes and a high wizard’s hat. He walked to Molly and took her hands, then Arthur’s, and then greeted Ginny, Fleur, and Aunt Muriel.

The pallbearers set the coffin down next to the open grave. Harry was unsure what to do next, so he followed Ron’s lead and moved behind the grave and stood with Fred’s brothers facing the seats. Hermione was in the front row; she had her hand to her face and was sobbing loudly. At the end of the row behind her was Hagrid, also bawling. All the other dozen or so seats in that row were taken by a bereft and devastated group of young witches wearing the shop uniform of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.

Kingsley helped Molly, Arthur, and Aunt Muriel sit in chairs at the side of the grave; Ginny and Fleur sat next to them. Then the Minister of Magic stepped in front of Fred’s coffin, and silence fell. He began speaking, standing still but gesturing occasionally with his hands and arms.

“Fred Weasley fought for his family, for freedom, for life. You’ll notice that I did not say that he died for any of those things, because I don’ believe that. He wanted to fight, oh yes, he wanted to fight, but don’t tell me that he sacrificed his life. I knew him too well to believe that.

“He was willing to risk injury or death, but he did not want to offer up his life as a sacrifice. Do not insult him or what he fought for by believing that, at the instant before he was murdered, he was happy to be giving up his life for a cause or even for his family.

“He joined the battle against evil and malice because of what he believed in, because his mother and father, his brothers and his sister, and he himself, were a family that lived for love and idealism. They strived always for everything that is good and worthwhile in this world. Fred was fiercely loyal to his family, but not blindly. Blind loyalty to a cause or to a family or to a person or to a country is false loyalty. Do you think that the foulest man or woman who attacked Hogwarts was anything but loyal to the cause of darkness? That kind of loyalty led to acts of the most awful cruelty. No, if we give our loyalty, we must be loyal as Fred was. We must decide in our hearts what is good and beautiful, and then give our loyalty and every ounce of our strength to the good and the beauty that our hearts have shown us.

“If you want to honor a life that was full of love and joy and a spirit that was willing to fight for love and joy, then this is what you must do. You must look inside yourself and find one thing, one thing that you could have done differently that would have made it harder for evil to come to such power that it could take the life of Fred Weasley. Even those of us who did fight alongside him, who lost loved ones, who were injured or even maimed, we also must look inside ourselves to find that one thing that would have made a difference.

“The world is what we make it. To honor Fred we must make a world where the values that he fought for will triumph. And then there will be no more funerals like this one.”

When Kingsley stopped the only sounds were that of weeping; a few people shifted in their chairs. The Minister turned and nodded to Molly and Arthur, then to the brothers standing behind the grave. With his back to the seats he took out his wand, flicked it, and the coffin rose, then descended into the grave. Harry watched it disappear, and he saw in his mind the body of Fred, inanimate, cold, lying inside it in the dark. He felt Ron shaking next to him, and he saw Ginny and her parents holding each other. He wiped the tears from his own face with his hand.

George stepped forward, a spade in his hand. He dug into the mound of earth, lifted it into the air above

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the grave, and turned it over. The soil dropped very slowly into the grave and hit the coffin with a rattling sound. For a moment afterward all was silent.

A low rumble, then a louder roar came from the direction of the house. People in the seats turned their

heads; the family around the grave all looked up; Harry braced himself.

A huge flock of white birds rose over the Burrow; there were hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Each

one trailed a colored streamer, like a small banner. As they climbed into the sky, the birds began to swirl

and the banners to merge. The flock climbed and then moved toward the grave, and as the thousands of birds hovered above, a gigantic image of Fred Weasley formed from the streamers. He was grinning and holding a firecracker.

First gasps, then shouts, then cheers rang out. Angelina, Alicia, and Katie were on their feet, jumping up and down and screaming. Hagrid had knocked over all the chairs around him as he also leaped up. The Wheezes witches were picking themselves off the ground and pointing at the image, shrieking at the tops

of their lungs.

Harry looked at the family. Ginny and her mother both had their hands to their faces in identical gestures. Ginny was laughing; Molly’s mouth and eyes were wide open and she looked to be almost in shock. Arthur peered up with a small smile on his face. Fleur was pointing at the image and laughing like Ginny, but Aunt Muriel was glaring at it as though she wanted to shoot it down.

Ron nudged Harry. “Great sendoff, huh? Promise you’ll do me like that.”

“Deal and ditto,” said Harry. “Just leave off the scar.”

Charlie and Bill were clapping George on his back. Only Percy – along with Aunt Muriel – disapproved, but when Kingsley turned to George and lifted his thumb upward, Percy’s look softened.

George himself gazed up in silence. Then he smiled briefly at his parents, dug another shovelful of earth and dropped it again into the grave. When it hit the coffin the image and the streamers vanished with a thundering “whoosh!” and the flock of white birds soared off into the sky, turning and swirling like the current in a river running over rocks.

The crowd fell silent once more. George stepped back, waved his wand, and the pile of earth fell into the grave and formed a perfect mound over it. There was another rushing sound, and a gray stone slab came hurtling through the sky from the Burrow, soared high into the air, then fell straight into the ground at the head of the grave. George pointed his wand and these words were chiseled into it:

Fred Weasley 1978 — 1998 He Is Ours

Again there was silence for a few minutes, punctuated by the sounds of crying and noses being blown. Finally, George went to his parents and hugged them, then came around to the front of the grave, shook Kingsley’s hand, and started back down the aisle. Arthur and Molly stood – Molly a little unsteadily – and followed him. The brothers filed past the grave and Bill took Fleur’s hand, Charlie and Percy took Aunt Muriel’s arms – she glared at them – and Ron walked to Hermione and took her arm and they went after the others.

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Ginny had waited in her seat; she and Harry were the only ones left at the grave, except for Kingsley who was waiting for them to leave. Harry felt scores of people watching him as he walked to Ginny and took her hand. Her eyes were brimmed with tears, but they also had a strange look. She gripped his hand tightly, then took his arm. They nodded to Kingsley and started back down the aisle. There were unabashed stares and not so quiet whispers around them. Harry tried to ignore them, and he sped up slightly, wanting to get away from the attention. But Ginny held him back and slowed down. Harry peeked at her from the corner of his eye; her head was high and her eyes were blazing. She turned to him, and Harry saw, mingled with grief, a radiant happiness that startled him so much that he almost stumbled. He put his hand on hers and their fingers intertwined. They walked on.

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Chapter 5: The Light

Author's Notes: A lot of people said in reviews that Fred's funeral affected them quite a bit. I guess there's a lot of unspent grief out there (I mean that seriously). His death was a shock, but it was almost like it didn't really register because the battle was still raging, and we didn't have time to mourn.

Here's the next chapter. I'm glad to be able to submit it so soon after the last one. Chapter 6 might take a little longer because my family and I will be out of town at a pig roast this weekend (yum).

And thanks again so much for all your reviews and your DSTA nominations. SIYE fans are the best.

10/07/07 - minor editing changes

Harry and Ginny followed the rest of the family into the house and found everyone gathered in the parlor. Several witches and wizards from the Ministry had also come inside, along with Lee Jordan, Minerva McGonagall and Filius Flitwick. Aunt Muriel was ensconced in the middle of the sofa complaining to everyone about George’s “disrespectful prank.” When she saw Ginny walk in with Harry, she stopped and called loudly, “Ginevra! Come here!”

Ginny either did not hear or pretended not to. She hugged George, then went to stand with her parents in front of the fireplace. Molly was saying to Arthur, “I knew he would do something, but I suppose it could have been worse. That firecracker could have exploded.”

“Father!” Percy called; he was looking out a window into the front yard. “The Muggle police are coming up the lane.” He scowled at George. Two of the Ministry wizards hurried outside, and everyone watched through the window as they waved to the officers in the car, which had stopped in front of the gate.

“They’re from the Muggle—Worthy Excuse Committee,” Lee said to Mr. Weasley. “I asked Minister Shacklebolt to bring them along, just in case. I told them what we were planning and they said they could pass it off as a weather anomaly, whatever that is.”

“Humph!” Percy grunted, and peered out the window again, but everyone else turned and took up their conversations. Molly was now looking out a different window toward the back yard. People were standing in knots or gathered around the food tables. “We should go out,” she said reluctantly. “We shouldn’t leave all those people for Kingsley.”

“Ginevra!” Aunt Muriel called again sharply, and this time Ginny couldn’t pretend not to hear.“Yes, Aunt Muriel?”

“When you marry that young man there – it’s Harry Potter, isn’t it? We meet at last, Mr. Potter – you will have my tiara. It’s goblin made, you know.”

Percy turned from the window and stared at Muriel; George and Charlie exchanged glances and then grinned at Harry, as did Fleur; Bill shook his head; Hermione poked Ron who was about to say something but instead cleared his throat; Lee noticed that the ceiling was very interesting; Molly pulled on Arthur’s elbow and he sighed. Everyone else – the Ministry wizards and witches, and the Hogwarts professors – appeared bemused. Harry didn’t dare look at anyone, so he let his eyes un—focus on the blank wall behind the sofa above Muriel’s head.

Ginny smiled sweetly. “That’s very kind of you, Aunt Muriel. We have no plans to get married, though.

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I’m still a little young, and I have another year of school left, so –“

“I know all that,” Muriel snapped. “But it’s quite obvious that you two will marry, whether sooner or later. And do you understand my meaning? You shall have my tiara and then you will pass it on to your own daughter when the time comes.”

“Let’s go back outside,” said Arthur. He took both Molly and Ginny’s arms and led them out. Bill put his hand on Harry’s back, waking him from his trance, and steered him toward the door; Fleur trotted after them. “Au revoir,” she trilled to Aunt Muriel. “See you at ze wedding.” Everyone else quickly left. Only Percy stayed behind; the police car had driven off, and he sat down next to Muriel and they began discussing wedding logistics.

The family moved out among the guests. Some had already departed, others had wandered back to the chairs or to the grave, carrying their plates of food and goblets of drink. Harry, still a little stunned, didn’t know what to do; he did not really want to mingle with celebrity hounds, and he wasn’t sure what to say to Ginny after Aunt Muriel’s pronouncement. He sought out his friends from school; Neville introduced him to Keesha Baker, and everyone pulled chairs around and talked about Kingsley Shacklebolt’s eulogy.

Ron and Hermione joined them, and Ron sat next to Harry. “Sorry about the old bat,” he apologized. “She says all kinds of crazy things.” Harry was afraid of protesting too much or too little, so he took refuge in silence.

Parvati Patil was describing the repairs to the roof of the Gryffindor tower, and how house—elves had been climbing on the outside and startling everyone who happened to look out a window, when Harry saw Ginny staggering into the house under a load of dirty dishes. He got up, intent on helping her; if she couldn’t do magic herself, then at least he could do it for her. But as he made his way through the crowd, ignoring all the curious looks sent his way, he had another idea. He looked for Bill and saw him off to one side talking to a witch Harry did not know; Fleur was standing next to him, attracting the surreptitious glances of all the wizards in her vicinity. She saw Harry approaching.

“‘Arry, Ginny says zat you will be coming to stay wiz us. I am so ‘appy. We can remember Fred wiz a bottle of ze best Bordeaux gold can buy.”

Harry grinned at her, then put his hand on Bill’s arm.”Sorry, can I ask you something?”

Bill stepped away from the witch, who stared at Harry. “What’s up?” Harry explained what he wanted to do. Bill thought for a moment, then nodded. “Sure, I don’t see why not. It’s only for today, right? Go ahead.”

Harry went around to the front of the house and out the gate. He walked down the lane until he was out of sight of the house and stopped. “Kreacher!” he called, “I need you!”

The house—elf appeared with a loud crack!. He bowed low to Harry and his locket on its chain dangled to the ground. “Master Harry Potter, it’s so good to see you well. How may Kreacher be of service?”

“Kreacher, I need a big favor.” He explained what he wanted, and Kreacher smiled.

“It will be an honor to help the noble Weasley family in their hour of need. Kreacher lives to serve.”

Harry led Kreacher into the kitchen. Ginny and Charlie were piling fruit into a large bowl, but they

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stopped when they saw Kreacher. “Merlin’s beard!” cried Charlie. “Who brought a house—elf in here?” He looked at Harry. “What’s he doing here?” He sounded a little hostile, and Ginny frowned.

“It’s Kreacher,” Harry said. “I asked him to help out. He’ll be happy to, won’t you?” He looked down at the elf.

Kreacher bowed to Charlie and then to Ginny. “Kreacher has heard many tales about the brave and honorable House of Weasley. Kreacher considers it a great honor to serve them, as he does Harry Potter and also the House of Black, rest in peace.”

Charlie and Ginny looked at each other. “We’ve never had a house—elf,” Charlie said. “We don’t really want one.”

“But I asked Bill. I don’t understand,” Harry felt annoyed. “It’s just for the day. I saw Ginny carrying all those dishes, and I thought she could use some help.”

“Harry, it’s okay,” Ginny said before Charlie could answer. “Kreacher, you’ll be a big help. We really appreciate it.”

“Ginny Weasley is a beautiful and perceptive witch.” Kreacher croaked. “Yes, Harry Potter has done the correct thing.”

Ginny took Harry’s hand and pushed Charlie out of the kitchen in front of them. They avoided the parlor where Percy was holding forth with Aunt Muriel about the best source of wedding invitations, and went out back. She pulled Harry to the garden where no one was standing, and she turned to him. “That was nice, Harry, I know you were trying to help, but I really didn’t need it.”

Harry felt deflated. “But I saw you with those dishes. I wanted to do something.”

“Remember I asked you not to smother me? You need to ask before you do something like this.” She saw his crestfallen look. “It was really sweet, Harry. Just ask me first.” She took his hands and glanced around; several people were watching them. “I shouldn’t kiss you now,” she whispered, “but I really want to.”

Harry perked up. “I just thought it would help.”

“It will. But the other thing is that we never wanted a house—elf. Mum doesn’t believe in using them the way most people do. She’s a little like Hermione.” Ginny giggled. They stood holding hands. “What is it?” Ginny asked when she saw a hesitant look on Harry’s face.

“I wanted to ask you something. When we were walking away from the grave you kind of held me back. You had a weird look on your face, too. Happy. It was strange.”

Ginny smiled. “I remember. One minute I was so sad, and the next minute we were walking together in front of all those people and I had my arm in yours, and it just felt so good!”

Harry couldn’t help himself; he kissed her. She pulled away, startled, and looked around quickly; more people were staring. “Harry! What was that for?”

“You said the same thing once before, remember?”

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Ginny blushed. “Oh. Yes. I remember.”

“I’m sorry I just kissed you. I hope I don’t need permission to do that.” He didn’t really look sorry, and Ginny laughed.

“Never.” She kissed him quickly, and then they both turned as Ron and Hermione approached.

“Don’t let us interrupt anything,” Ron said, “but we’re cutting out soon.”

“How come?” Harry asked. “I thought you wouldn’t be leaving until this evening.”

“Hermione’s parents are coming back today, and we want to meet them at the Muggle portair. Then we figured we might as well just pop back down to the flat. We’ll see you tomorrow at the Tonks’s.”

Right,” Harry nodded. “We’re going to Shell Cottage for a couple of weeks, so I guess we’ll be going to the other funerals from there.”

“Listen,” Ron looked down and scuffed the ground with his shoe. “There’s another room over the shop,

so if you guys feel like it

I mean, we could have a good time in town together. What d’you think?”

“Sure,” Harry mumbled, and he stared at Ron’s scuff mark. “That would be great. Maybe we’ll do that.” Ginny and Hermione grinned at each other.

Ron and Hermione said goodbye, but as they were walking away Kreacher came trotting around the corner of the house carrying, somehow, three large serving dishes filled with dessert cakes, fruit, and whipped cream; a case of butterbeer; and two full pitchers of pumpkin juice from which not a drop was spilling. Hermione’s mouth fell open. “What on earth! Kreacher! What are you doing here?”

The house—elf nodded to her and said, “Good day to you, Miss Hermione Granger” without breaking stride and continued on into the back yard.

Hermione watched him go, then turned to Harry. “Where did he come from?”

“I thought he could help out,” Harry said defensively. “Bill said it was okay.”

“It’s a great idea!” Ron exclaimed. “Now no one in the family has to clean up. I’ll even bet he knows how to get rid of two hundred eighty—five useless umbrellas.”

Hermione laughed. “I think it’s a good idea, too. Your mum will have one less thing to worry about.” She and Ron hurried off to say goodbye to the others.

Harry glanced at Ginny, who looked at him wryly. “I guess it is a good idea,” she admitted. “Thanks, Harry.”

“Well, it’s not me, it’s Kreacher. Thank him.”

“I will. We all will.”

More people were leaving, and Harry and Ginny went to say goodbye to the Hogwarts students, who were Portkeying back to school together. They also agreed to have a Dumbledore’s Army reunion later in the summer. “I can’t wait,” said Luna holding up her message Galleon. “I’ll have Dad print up the

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owls, and we’ll make it a memorial service for Colin, too.” She suddenly started crying, and both Neville and Dean put their hands on her shoulders.

“She’s been kind of weepy,” Dean said to Harry, “but it doesn’t last long.”

“Why should it?” Luna looked puzzled. “I’ll be able to cry again any time I want.”

“That’s true,” Dean agreed. “Everything you say is true, Luna.” She stopped crying and beamed at him.

Harry told Ginny that he had to find Professor Flitwick before he left, and he went to look for him. The Professor was usually hard to locate, being so short, so Harry listened for his squeaky voice and looked for anyone who was peering at the ground. But he found him sitting on a stool talking to a Healer from St. Mungos who introduced herself as Hestia Derwent, an old friend of the Weasleys’. She thanked Harry for helping at the funeral service, then left him with Professor Flitwick.

“Now, Harry,” Flitwick began, “If I understand what you want, I’ll be tutoring you in Charms on an advanced level.”

“That’s what I’d like. Can you do it?”

“The question is, can we do it. I can’t very well leave the school, even on weekends.”

“Well,” Harry looked around; no one he knew was near. “I’m planning to live in Hogsmeade, at least for the school year, so I could come up to the castle pretty much any time.”

Flitwick was surprised. “You’ll be letting a house or a flat?”

“No,” Harry looked around again and lowered his voice. “I to fix it up. But please don’t tell anyone.”

I bought the Hogs Head Inn, and I’m going

Now the Professor looked very surprised. “Aberforth sold it? Why? Well, I don’t’ mean to pry. I’m sure he had his reasons.”

“He just wanted to get away from

it back to some goblins who used to own it, and then I bought it from them.”

from things. I think he’s going abroad for a while. Actually, he sold

“From goblins

goblins, but I heard you have some experience.”

Flitwick gave Harry a thoughtful look. “Have to be careful when you’re dealing with

“I do, but it didn’t help very much. I’m sorry Professor, but I’d rather not talk about it now. Can we start the lessons, say, around the middle of September? I should have the inn up and running by then.”

“That’ll be fine, Harry. And I’m looking forward to it.”

They shook hands and Harry went through the thinning crowd looking for Ginny; he found her sitting with her family in a circle of chairs near the garden. They were talking, and also watching Kreacher who was clearing off the serving tables.

“I understand that is your house—elf,” Aunt Muriel said to Harry; he wasn’t sure if she was angry or not, her expression was always so stern.

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“Yes, ma’am,” he answered, sitting next to Ginny. “He was my godfather’s family’s elf, and I inherited him.”

“Yes, the Black family. A very mixed bag, politically. I’m sorry about your godfather, though.” Harry nodded.

Aunt Muriel went on. “And you brought him here to help with the catering and cleaning. That is a very thoughtful gesture.” She turned to Ginny. “Ginevra, this one’s definitely a keeper,” she pointed at Harry.

“Actually, Aunt Muriel, he’s a Seeker,” Ginny said before she could stop herself.

When everyone had stopped laughing, even Molly and Aunt Muriel were smiling. Only poor Harry did not know what to do with himself; he sat looking befuddled and wishing he was someplace else. Ginny took his hand, and Charlie, who was sitting on his other side, put his arm around his shoulder and said sympathetically, “Welcome to the family, Harry.”

By noon all the guests were gone. The house and the grounds seemed very quiet. George and Lee were sitting by the grave; Bill and Fleur had gone up to their room; Percy was organizing the condolence cards that people had left; Charlie was sitting by himself near the garden looking toward the grave; Aunt Muriel was asleep on the sofa; and Ginny and Harry were sitting in the kitchen with Ginny’s parents. Occasionally they heard sounds from around the house, and Molly glanced at the stairs.

“What is he doing?” she asked. “I thought he would leave when everything was cleaned up.”

“I think he’s straightening up the house, dear,” Arthur replied.

They heard furniture scraping the floor above, and Molly looked at the ceiling. “He cleaned off the pudding!” she exclaimed. “There was a big stain after we got it down, but it’s gone!” They all stared at the ceiling, and at that moment Bill came down the stairs and stopped as he saw them looking up. “What is it?” he also peered up.

“Kreacher’s sanitizing the house,” said Ginny.

Bill chuckled and sat down. “Well, Dad, what did you think of Kingsley’s speech? It was pretty political for a eulogy.”

“That it was, and deliberately so,” Arthur said. “He asked me before we left Hogwarts if I minded. He’s saying more or less the same thing at all the funerals.”

“What’s he up to? It was a lot different from what Rufus Scrimgeour would have said, let alone Fudge.”

Harry spoke before Arthur could respond. “I’ll tell you something. Everyone from school was talking about it, and everyone thought it was brilliant.”

Arthur looked pleased. “That’s also his idea, or maybe I should say his hope. He wants to change things, Harry, but it’ll take a long time. It’s going to be up to you and your friends to see it finished.”

“That’s great,” said Harry, “but all I want to do right now is recover from sleeping for a year in a tent.”

“You’re staying here,” Molly declared as though it had been decided long ago. “You’ll have Ron’s room all to yourself. The house will be too empty.” She stared at the wall, lost in her thoughts; Arthur took her

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hand, but then she stood up. “It’s all right, Arthur. This day has been too long. Let me be alone for a while.” She went into the parlor but almost immediately came out and went upstairs.

“I wanted to leave for the Cottage right after Remus and Tonks’s funeral,” Bill said to his father. “Are you sure Mum’s okay with it?”

“She will be, She really wants all of you to get away from this for a while, and she needs some quiet time herself, too. She has other things on her mind besides Fred,” he added grimly.

Bill nodded and Harry looked at Ginny; in his mind he saw a green flame pass within an inch of her head, and then he saw her mother’s face with a look of murderous fury on it. Ginny stared at her father, then she stood up, too. Before Harry could say or do anything, she was gone up the stairs after Molly. Harry rose half—way from his seat.

“Leave her be for a bit,” Bill said. “She’ll be okay. She’s the strongest one in the family, you know. She had to be to survive us.”

The rest of the day passed very slowly. Harry managed to avoid Aunt Muriel and any more comments about him and Ginny by spending most of his time in Ron’s room getting ready to leave for Shell Cottage. When he wandered downstairs again Muriel was gone, escorted home by Charlie and Percy. Arthur, Molly, and Ginny were at the grave and Harry went out to join them; they were sitting on a blanket between the grave and the oak tree. Ginny had picked a bouquet of wild flowers that lay in front of the headstone. Harry sat next to her and they stayed there until the sun began to set beyond the river.

They walked back to the house in the dusk and found Kreacher standing in the kitchen; Bill and Fleur were sitting at the table. Kreacher bowed to Harry and then to Molly. “Kreacher’s work here is done,” he said. “He must return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to help finish what was begun three days ago.”

“Thanks, Kreacher,” said Harry and Ginny at the same time; Ginny giggled. The elf bowed to her, then Disapparated.

“That was very considerate of him to help out,” said Molly. “Thank you for thinking of him, Harry.”

Bill cleared his throat. “Mum, you’ll want to take a look around the house. He cleaned everything. Every room is spotless, he cleaned all the dirty clothes and put them away, changed all the linen, cleaned all the windows, straightened up everything in the kitchen –”

Molly jumped up and began opening cabinets. “I didn’t want anything in her touched!” she said angrily. ”

“Someone should have told him

dishes. She looked back at Harry. “I’m sorry, Harry. It’s all in perfect order. Amazing. Well, time to fix dinner.”

She stopped; she was staring into a cabinet filled with stacks of

Ginny leaned toward Harry. “That was so special,” she whispered in his ear.

After dinner Ginny went to pack for Shell Cottage, and Harry went up to the attic, feeling the melancholy effects of the day. He was tired, and the stairs seemed steeper and longer. When he opened the door, though, he wondered for an instant if he was in the right place. Kreacher had cleaned and organized it to the point of being unrecognizable. There were no clothes scattered on the floor or the beds, all the Quidditch magazines were stacked neatly on the dresser top, and all of Ron’s textbooks were put away in the rickety board—and—brick bookcase, arranged by subject and year. The floor was

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swept and scrubbed, the beds were made, and the windows sparkled in the dim light of Harry’s wand; gone were the streaky dust and cobwebs.

He went to the window at the end of the room and peered through it into the darkness, then he turned. As he did so he bumped his head against a chain that hung from a hook in the ceiling. He grabbed the chain to stop it from swinging, and suddenly he remembered that he used to hang Hedwig’s cage from it whenever he stayed at the Burrow.

He went back to his cot and fell into it. He covered his eyes with his hand, and saw a still, small, white form in the falling side—car of Hagrid’s motorcycle as it explode into nothingness. He saw Fred and Dobby and Mad—Eye and Colin and Remus and Tonks, and all the others in a blur. He couldn’t remember when any of it had happened. He himself had been dead once – that sounded almost funny, but here he was, breathing, staring up at Ron’s orange walls. It could have been him in the coffin today, aware of nothing, not even the blackness around him, just not existing. He suddenly felt utterly spent, yet he had done nothing today; he had sat and eaten and wandered around, talking about dead people.

He was a wanderer, lost, rootless. He looked at Ron’s posters, Ron’s books, Ron’s furniture. What did Harry have that was his own? A run—down derelict of a house in a London slum? A filthy, rat— infested hang—out for drunks and petty criminals in Hogsmeade? What good were they? He had no home, no room of his own with garish walls and posters of his boyhood heroes. He had no boyhood heroes; he wasn’t even sure if he had had a boyhood. Maybe he should find the Dursleys, at least to tell them that their lives were no longer in danger and they could go back to their home and forget about their seventeen—year nightmare. Forget that Harry ever existed.

He had just spent months and months as a fugitive, unable to stay in the same place for two nights in a row. When he had found a place with friends where he could sleep in the same room for more than one night – even if it was on a sofa – he still might have ended up being murdered on the spot. He felt like a loose stone inside a tin can that was rolling downhill, tossed and banged against the sides, never able to rest, never knowing when he would hit bottom.

What should he do? Where could he go? He couldn’t pretend, like the Dursleys, that seventeen years had not happened. Too many people were dead. There were going to be more coffins, all cold and dark inside. He didn’t know if he could face more funerals, more weeping, more grief.

He closed his eyes. He was exhausted, but he was afraid to sleep, afraid that the morning would come and those seventeen years would still be there.

There were light steps on the landing outside the door and someone knocked. “Harry? Are you still up?” Ginny peeked in. “Let’s go out,” she said.

They walked to the tall oak tree in the back. There was no moon, and Harry lit his wand. They stood looking at the grave for a few minutes, then Ginny turned to him and put her arms around him. “Why are you trembling?” she whispered.

Harry doused his wand and put it in his belt behind his back. When they kissed, Harry could taste salty tears mingled with the moisture of her lips. Ginny leaned her head back. “I’m not crying for Fred,” she said. “I’m crying because I’m so crazy for you.”

Harry pulled her back to him almost violently. It had been too long since he had kissed her like this, too long since he had felt her heart beating against his, too long since he had felt her body pressed to his.

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By the time they left the grave the half—moon had risen, but the light that showed Harry the way was coming from the girl walking beside him.

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Chapter 6: By The Sea

Author's Notes: I got this chapter done a little early, and the first draft of chapter 7 is done. I'm going to try to submit it before next Friday (8/31) because I'm going away for the Labor Day weekend and won't have access to a computer. This chapter also got longer as I wrote it, for which I thank Harry and Ginny. I also have been meaning to thank the wonderful wizards and witches who run the Harry Potter Lexicon. They have saved me countless hours of research time and helped me stick to canon. It is a fantastic site. Enjoy this chapter, and please keep sending me your reviews. I love them. :-)

10/07/07 - minor edits

The weather turned, and the next morning was cool and cloudy, promising rain. The Weasleys and Harry Portkeyed to the Tonks’s house and joined Ron and Hermione who had arrived earlier. The graves and the funeral were in a large field behind the house, and there were almost as many people there as at Fred’s. Kingsley’s eulogy made the same points: look into your heart to find what is right, and act on it. He also spoke about accepting differences as something that could enrich the wizarding world, not divide it. Ginny nudged Harry and pointed to a few people sitting together off to one side; they had the shabby, hang—dog look that Remus often wore.

“Werewolves,” Harry whispered, and Ginny nodded.

When the ceremony was over Andromeda Tonks intercepted Harry as he was leaving his seat. She was holding her grandson swaddled in blankets; the baby was sleeping. Harry looked at Andromeda, unsure what to say or do.

“Your godson,” she said. “I thought you might like to hold him for a minute.”

Harry looked in panic at Ginny. “Here,” she said, “you take him like this.” She took the bundle from Andromeda and handed it to Harry. “Don’t drop him.”

“I think I figured out that part.” Harry looked down at Theodore Lupin; the baby sighed and rubbed his mouth with his tiny fist. Suddenly an old emptiness seized Harry. This baby was an orphan, and even younger than Harry had been when he became one. What would this one’s life be like? Surely not as brutal as Harry’s. He looked at Andromeda and blinked away his tears.

She smiled. “He’ll be fine, Harry. Ted had lots of relatives. The little one will have a family around him, maybe not a perfect family, but he’ll be loved.”

Harry nodded. “I – I’ll try to see him, too, whenever I can.”

“It’s all right. Don’t worry about it. You have plenty of things going on yourself.” She smiled at Ginny and took the baby back. “Here we go. So sweet.” She walked away, gently rocking the bundle in her arms.

Ginny took Harry’s hand and they joined Ron and Hermione who were standing nearby watching. Ron put his hand on Harry’s shoulder as Harry wiped his face on his sleeve. “I’m fine,” he mumbled. “Let’s get something to eat.”

They stood holding platters of tasty cooked vegetables and cold cuts and goblets of pumpkin juice. “Things are already picking up in Diagon Alley,” Ron reported. “Lee came by and said he was trying to

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get George to come back to the shop as soon as possible, but meanwhile he’s going to run it with the witches, the ones who were at the funeral. They all went back to the shop yesterday afternoon. I think each one of them thought Fred was in love with her.” He looked over at the two fresh graves in the middle of the field, and started to say something, but then he looked quickly away, as though he was hiding something from the others.

“Anyway,” Ron continued after a few moments, “the flat’s really nice. When can you blokes come up?”

Harry looked at Ginny. “I guess after we get back to the Burrow, in a couple of weeks.”

“If Mum and Dad let me,” Ginny grumbled. “If George is there, maybe it’ll be okay, but I don’t know if you’re their model of a chaperone,” she said to Ron.

“Now why would that be?” Ron chuckled. “But you can tell them I never touched Hermione once while we were cooped up in that tent.” Hermione scowled at him, but also blushed.

You can tell them that one, Ron,” Ginny snorted.

They spent the rest of the morning talking with Lupin’s old students who had come from school, and with Kingsley Shacklebolt and his Head Auror, Saliyah Ushujaa. She was a native of east Africa, and also a dancer – very accomplished, according to Kingsley – and performed in a Wizard African dance company. She invited them all to her next performance which was scheduled at the end of he summer in London. “It will be a celebration of the lives of all those who died,” she said. “African dance is very emotional, as all dance is. I think you will enjoy it.” They agreed to come.

Kingsley asked Harry what his plans were. “We’d love to have you join one of our intern programs. We’ll be reorganizing all of them and putting some good people in charge. What do you say?”

“It sounds like you’ve been busy,” Harry grinned. “I also wanted to tell you that a lot of my friends thought your speech was brilliant. I did, too.”

Kingsley smiled. “You didn’t answer my question, Harry, but being the consummate politician that I am, I won’t press you. But the offer is there if you change your mind.”

Hermione and Ron cast looks at each other as Kingsley and Saliyah walked away, and Ginny looked at them suspiciously. “What’s going on?” she poked Ron in his ribs. “You know something that I don’t.”

“I told you it would be your birthday present,” Harry came to Ron’s rescue. “You already know that I’ll be living in Hogsmeade. Ron and Hermione took an Unbreakable Vow not to spill the beans.”

Ginny scowled for a brief instant, but then she sidled up to Harry, batting her eyelids at him. “So you think you can resist me while we’re alone in a little cottage by the sea for two weeks? I’ll bet you ten Galleons that you can’t keep it from me.”

“You’re probably right. I’ll have to keep Bill or Fleur nearby all the time to protect myself.”

“Well, then I’d rather not try to squeeze it out of you,” Ginny yielded. “Three’s a crowd.”

Ron had stopped paying attention to Harry and Ginny and was watching people. “Look,” he indicated with a nod, “Shacklebolt’s talking to those werewolves. I wonder what they think about all this. Remus was always complaining about their attitude.”

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“They’re like the rest of us,” said Hermione, “wondering what’s coming next, what Kingsley’s going to do. It all happened so quickly, if you think about it. One day Volde— I mean Riddle, has a complete grip on power, and the next day he’s dead and someone from the Order of the Phoenix, for goodness sake, is Minister. It takes some getting used to, and it’s only been five days. Everyone’s wondering about you, too, Harry. Did you notice? They’re all watching you.”

Harry made a face. “Yeah, but I’m so used to it, I really don’t think about it. What am I supposed to do, anyway? Lot’s of people fought him.”

“But not like you, mate,” Ron said. “You killed him. That makes you kinda different.”

“Let’s not talk about it, okay?” Harry said a little peevishly. “It doesn’t bother me when people look at me.”

“They’re also looking at Ginny,” Hermione said.

“So let them,” Ginny tossed her head. “Maybe they’ll leave Harry alone.” Harry gave her an appreciative smile as Charlie walked up; he had come from a conversation with a wizard in Ministry robes

“That’s Gawain Robards,” he told them. “He’s acting Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Do any of you know him?” They all shook their heads. “He just told me some bad but not surprising news. They found eight bodies in Malfoy Manor, all dead by a Killing Curse except – “ he looked at Harry “ – Peter Pettigrew. He was strangled, apparently by his own hand, or what used to be his hand.”

Ron whistled. “Eight? Who were they?”

“He wouldn’t tell me. But he thinks there were more than eight. They found the belongings of Charity Burbage, the one the Prophet said had resigned from Hogwarts.”

Hermione turned pale. “Oh, no! She disappeared, but no one knew

eyes as well as anger, and her fists were balled. “She was just a nice person! Why?”

Damn him!” She had tears in her

Ron put his arm around her. “She taught Muggle Studies and she wrote that article about them,” he told Charlie. “I guess it figures that Riddle would go after her.”

“They’ll probably find bodies all over the country,” Charlie said, shaking his head. “Sorry to bring you more bad news.” He left them all in a somber mood.

“That won’t be too good for Malfoy,” Ron said, and he didn’t seem all that unhappy at the prospect. “But who cares? We saved Draco’s ass twice in the castle and I don’t remember being thanked for it.”

“His mum saved mine,” Harry murmured, looking at the ground.

Ron grunted dubiously, but Hermione nodded. “It’s got to stop somewhere, Ron,” she said. “At the end, Lucius cared more for his family than for Riddle.”

“Okay, okay,” Ron gave up, and grinned. “I’ll let him live this time, but after this, no more mister nice guy.” They all laughed, then looked up at the sky as it began to rain.

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The Weasleys returned to the Burrow in the early afternoon, and soon afterward Harry and Ginny Disapparated to Shell Cottage with Bill and Fleur. They came out on top of the cliff, and Ginny exclaimed in delight when she saw the pink and cream—colored shells embedded in the walls. It was not raining there, but the skies were spitting and a damp breeze was blowing in from the sea. They hurried inside with their bags, and Fleur threw back the curtains and opened some of the landward windows. “It gets so stuffy. I suppose it will be very cozy in ze winter, but I like a breeze to come in now. Come, I will show you your rooms.”

Harry had the room that Ollivander and Griphook had stayed in, and Ginny was in the room that Hermione and Luna had shared. Ginny and Fleur took her bags inside and Harry went downstairs, where Bill had started a fire.

“I think we’ll eat lunch soon. This time you’ll experience some really good French cooking,” he grinned. “I’ve been totally spoiled. She even makes some of my mum’s food seem ordinary.”

Harry went to the front window and looked out at the water. He had spent a lot of time sitting and looking out at the sea when he stayed here before their foray into Gringotts. Was that only a week ago? What a difference a few days make, he thought, and he turned and watched Ginny come down the stairs.

“Let’s go outside,” she said, and took Harry’s hand. “Fleur said she’ll call us when lunch is ready.”

It was raining lightly and they took cloaks from hooks near the door. They walked around back and stood at the foot of Dobby’s grave and Ginny read the epitaph that Harry had chiseled into the stone with his wand. “Oh, Harry, you didn’t tell me you had written that. It’s beautiful.” She went to it and ran her hand over the words. “Poor Dobby, I never really knew him. And he was killed at his old master’s house.” She shook her head.

Harry stared at the grave. “I’m glad Bellatrix Lestrange is dead,” he said quietly. “I don’t think I could have come back and stood here if she was still alive.” Ginny walked back to him and put her arm through his and leaned her head on his shoulder.

In a few minutes they heard a window open, and Fleur called to them, “Lunchtime! Come inside!” They went back in and found Bill already seated at the table. There was a steaming meat pie at each place, and a basket of biscuits and a bowl of greens in the center of the table.

“I am so sorry, but I have not got ze candles out yet,” Fleur apologized as she sat. “We will ‘ave zem at dinnertime. It will be very romantic.” She smiled at Ginny, then handed Bill a bottle. “Do ze honors, darling.”

Bill uncorked the wine with a flick of his wand and poured the ruby red liquid into their goblets. He filled and raised his own. “To our family, to our best friends –” he nodded to Harry “– and to our brother and our friends who are gone.” They clinked their goblets in silence.

Harry had never drunk wine before. He took a sip; it tasted very smooth and fruity with a touch of earthiness. He took another sip and looked at Ginny. She was holding her empty goblet up for Bill to refill.

“Take it easy, Sis,” Bill laughed. “It’ll put you right out unless you’re used to it.” He poured her a half— goblet.

Harry poked his fork through the crust of his meat pie and a delicious aroma wafted up. He took a fork

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—full. “Mmm! This is fabulous,” he said to Fleur.

“Oh, it is not’ing,” she waved her fork in the air. “I just t’rew zem in ze oven for a few minutes. Zey are not’ing special. Ginny, would you like me to show you ‘ow to make zem?”

Ginny looked at the beatific expression on Harry’s face, and he nodded enthusiastically. Ginny laughed. “Sure. My mum makes them sometimes, but this is delicious.”

It started to rain during lunch, but it let up later in the afternoon and Harry and Ginny took a walk along

the cliff. They looked out over the sea and listened to the waves crashing on the rocks below. About a quarter of a mile from the Cottage they found a path through a cleft in the cliff that led down to the water and a beach about twenty yards wide that continued into the distance. The wind was blustery and there was a heavy overcast. They took their shoes off and walked in the cool sand with their cloaks and Ginny’s hair billowing behind them. Waves broke a few yards out, and Ginny ran into the wash but came shrieking right back out. “It’s freezing!” she cried. Harry laughed, and he bent down and lifted her right foot and started rubbing it. She grabbed his shoulder to keep from toppling over. “Use a warming charm,” she said. “It’ll work faster.”

“This is more fun,” Harry grinned up at her. He kissed her foot, then took the left and rubbed it. He put it down, then rose and took her in his arms and they stood together in a long, long, deep kiss.

Harry put his hands inside her cloak and moved them down her back, then lower. Ginny took them, though, and held them in both of hers between herself and Harry. She looked down and shook her head. “Harry, no, not here. I don’t feel right about it, not while we’re staying in their home.” She put her forehead against his and they were silent.

“It’s okay,” Harry said after a moment. “You’re right. I’m sorry I did that.”

“No, no,” Ginny still looked down at the sand. She brushed her toes against his instep. “Don’t be sorry.” She finally looked at him. “That night in the hammock wasn’t a mistake, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do only because I just spent a year and a day waiting for you. It was a whole lot more than that.”

“It was for me, too. You know that, don’t you?” She nodded. “So when I do something like I just did, ”

said, without looking up, “Ginny, there’s something I didn’t tell you. It’s sort of the same as this, and it’s

a little embarrassing.”

when I think about you that way

I mean

He peered at their feet and put his toes on top of hers. He

“It’s fine, love, you can tell me anything and I won’t laugh.” Harry looked at her, startled; Ginny had never used that word with him before. He tried to think of a response, but came up blank. She grinned. “What didn’t you tell me before?”

He took a very deep breath. “When we were out there in that tent in the middle of winter, sometimes I would take out my map and look for you on it. It was usually at night, so I knew you would be in your room. There would be a little tag next to your bed with your name on it. I know it sounds stupid, but it helped keep me going. A lot.”

“Why is that embarrassing?”

“That’s not it. There’s more.”

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Ginny giggled, and turned a little pink. “I wasn’t in the bathroom, was I?”

“No, no! Of course not. I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t have told you.”

Ginny kissed him. “Don’t tell me if you don’t want to, but I’m glad you had that map and it makes me feel good that you were watching me.”

“Well, what it is

I would also imagine myself in that bed with you,” Harry said in one rush of breath.

Ginny pulled him closer. “Ooh, now I do like that! Maybe next year when you’re in Hogsmeade you can do it again, but let me know before,” she laughed wickedly.

‘You are a shameless witch,” Harry also laughed. “And you drive me crazy.”

It was starting to get dark and the clouds seemed to be lowering, so they walked back to the Cottage.

They were going into the wind and they put their heads down and leaned into it. They climbed the path up the cliff and saw the lights of Shell Cottage in the dusk, and hurried toward them.

Dinner rivaled anything they had ever had at Hogwarts. Course followed delicious course: soups, fresh bread, salads, poultry, fish, pasta, desserts. Harry drank a little more wine this time, and he felt better and better with each course and each goblet. Ginny also had more than one goblet of wine, but Harry noticed that her face wasn’t flushed, as his felt like.

The small table was set with white linen and a beautiful silver candelabra; the candles burned with a silvery, shimmering glow. “It belonged to my gran’mama,” Fleur said as they ate triple chocolate cheese cake for dessert. “She was Veela, you know. Zat is why I am so beautiful, it all comes from her. And zis candelabra is magical, Veela magic. It inspires love.”

“I heard that Veelas like to bewitch men into loving them, and then they leave them heartbroken,” Harry said; he was feeling very talkative.

“Oh, zat is nonsense!” Fleur’s eyes flashed. “Men are saying zat because zey fall in love wiz us but we are not always falling in love wiz zem. So zey blame Veelas for zere own foolishness.”

“Ah.” Harry looked at Ginny.

“What are you looking at me for?” Ginny asked innocently. “You were the one who kissed me after the Quidditch match, not the other way around.”

Harry giggled. “I thought you kissed me back.” He leaned over and kissed her. “Yes, you did kiss me back, I remember it very clearly.” He grinned at everyone.

“Hah! You see, ze candelabra, it’s working,” Fleur proclaimed triumphantly. “Or maybe it is ze wine. Who knows?”

After dinner Bill stoked the fire and it became very warm and cozy in the small cottage. Harry dozed in

a love seat, leaning on Ginny’s shoulder and snoring quietly. When Bill and Fleur got up from the sofa and went upstairs, Ginny nudged Harry and whispered into his ear, “Wake up, love, it’s time to go to bed.”

He opened his eyes.“Did you just call me that again?”

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Ginny put her arms around him. “Yes, and it won’t be the last unless you object.”

“No objections from this quarter.” Harry stood up, stretched, and then pulled Ginny out of the love seat. He kissed her softly and caressed her hair. “‘Cause I feel the same way.”

They climbed the stairs and Ginny paused at her door and looked at him, then she blew him a kiss and went into her room.

Next morning at breakfast both Ginny and Harry looked tired. “Did you sleep okay?” Bill asked Harry. “You look a little peaked.”

“New bed, I guess. I’ll get used to it.” He glanced at Ginny who was yawning. “Are you okay?” he asked her.

“I couldn’t fall asleep for a while. I was thinking about Fred, and

other things. What about you?”

Harry looked quickly at Bill; he was immersed in the Daily Prophet and Fleur was busy at the water basin. “I was thinking about other things, too,” he said in a low voice.

Bill left for work after breakfast. He hadn’t been at Gringotts for quite a while and was uncertain about what he would find there and what kind of reception he would get. “They’ll know it was my brother who helped you break into the vaults,” he told Harry as he was about to leave. “They won’t be too happy about it.” Harry felt a pang of guilt; he didn’t want to be responsible for Bill’s losing his job.

“Will they let you back?” he asked anxiously. “Maybe you can tell them that the Hufflepuff goblet was stolen, and we were trying to get it back for Hogwarts.”

Bill laughed mirthlessly. “They won’t care about the goblet. If they ever find out what it was, then they’ll probably be glad someone took it. No, what’s going to upset them is that you broke in so easily.”

“It wasn’t so easy. We almost got killed, more than once.”

“And they won’t care about that, either. To them, it was easy because you succeeded. But don’t worry, Harry. I won’t lose my job because they know how close I am to Kingsley Shacklebolt. When you killed Riddle, the world went topsy—turvy for goblins, as well as everyone else. They won’t want to antagonize me, at least not until they know which way the wind is blowing.”

Harry shook his head. “Too much politics for me. I’ll walk on the beach and sit by the fire until it all goes away.”

Bill laughed loudly. “That should be everyone’s philosophy. You do that, Harry, you and Ginny. That’s why we invited you here.” He kissed Fleur goodbye, stepped outside, and Disapparated.

Ginny spent the morning in the kitchen with Fleur cooking up the menu for the rest of the day. Harry looked in on them once, but left after being ignored for five minutes while Fleur was teaching Ginny the French names of the ingredients for a cheese and bacon souffle. He had already finished the copy of the Prophet that Bill had left, so he went up to his room and started reading Theory of Advanced Spells which Bill had lent him.

He was napping when Ginny came to get him for lunch. She served the souffle she had made, which was

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delicious, and then they went out for a walk. They decided to visit a small Muggle fishing port about two miles up the coast that Fleur told them about. “Very quaint, at least for an English village,” she said dismissively as she gave them some Muggle money to spend. “Oh, and ‘Arry! Bill sent an owl. He is coming ‘ome a little early. He wants to talk wiz you, but he didn’t say why.”

It was still overcast and cool, but the breeze had died down. They pulled on their cloaks and set out along the cliff—top to the path down to the beach. They walked barefoot in the sand again, and stopped often to watch gulls dip into the waves for fish, to pick up shells, and to chase each other in and out of the frigid wash. It took them about an hour to reach the village, which was set back from the beach on a low bluff. Just past it, under sheltering cliffs, was a cove where small boats were moored to a few piers. They wandered through the village, looking into the shops that sold fishing tackle and boating supplies. The Muggles looked at them curiously, but were friendly and nodded or briefly wished them good day. They bought two chocolate bars in a tiny grocery, then headed back.

They had finished the chocolate and were almost at the path that led up the cliff when they saw, ahead of them on the beach, a small fire burning in a shallow pit in the sand, and six young Muggle men standing around it. As they drew nearer, they also saw several cases of beer lying nearby, one of which was open, and empty beer bottles scattered about; each of the Muggles had a bottle in his hand. They were talking and laughing loudly, but they fell silent and turned to watch Harry and Ginny as they approached.

Harry nodded as he and Ginny passed within a few feet of them between the small fire and the waves. One of the Muggles, a large, muscular arrogant—looking blond fellow who was about six inches taller than Harry, took a swig from his bottle and belched loudly; the others laughed. “Hey, reds,” he called, leering at Ginny, “your boyfriend’s kinda scrawny. Why don’t you try something more manly?” His mates laughed again, and one of them whistled.

Ginny tensed and took Harry’s hand. Harry glanced at the man, but kept walking. The man stepped in front of them, blocking their way. Harry put his hand inside his cloak.

“Don’t, Harry,” Ginny said, “he’s just drunk.” But she tightened her grip on his other hand.

“Harry is it?” the man folded his arms on his chest and looked over at the others. “Looks more like Harriet to me.” There was more guffawing. He leered at Ginny again. “Why don’t you lose the fairy, reds, and we’ll show you how real men do it.” The others moved toward them, hemming Harry and Ginny in along the water’s edge.

Harry put his arm around Ginny and looked at the Muggle. “I’ll give you some advice and you’d better take it,” he said quietly. “Shut your mouth and move and let us pass.”

Harry could sense the men behind him moving closer, and he could feel Ginny pressing herself against him. The Muggle in front of them took another swig of beer and his eyes narrowed. “Move for you, you little faggot? I think we’ll see how well you swim and how well your girlfriend –“

Harry’s wand was out. There was a loud bang! and a flash of red light. The man flew up in the air toward the cliffs and landed with a heavy thud in the sand; he did not move. Harry whirled around and the five behind him backed away, incomprehension and fear on their faces. Ginny was also pointing her wand at them but Harry pushed it down. He drew Ginny back, and the Muggles did not see several dozen bottles of beer rise out of the cases and hover over their heads. They did, however, hear them all burst simultaneously and they looked up at the shower of pale ale that completely drenched them.

”Stupefy!” Harry shouted, and all five slumped into the large, sudsy pool of beer they were standing in.

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He pointed his wand at the Muggle lying unconscious near the cliff, and he rose off the sand, then toward his five inert companions. Harry let him drop from about five feet up, and he fell with a splash and another thud into the beer bath. Harry pointed his wand at the pile of Muggles. ”Obliviate!” he called, then he started to pull Ginny toward the cliff. “Come on, I’ll clear our tracks and no one will be able to figure out what happened.”

Ginny had an angry, blazing look, and she shook off his hand. “Wait a minute,” she said curtly. She walked to the blond Muggle and pointed her wand, but Harry yelled, “Ginny! No!”

She looked back at him, and scowled, but then she lowered her wand. “You do it, then, or else I will.”

“No problem, love,” he grinned, and in an instant the Muggle’s face was covered with small brownish lumps that had large, fiercely beating bat wings attached. Ginny looked down at him. “That’ll improve his looks for a while,” she said between clenched teeth. “Bastard!”

They climbed the path and at the top they turned. Harry raised his wand and all of the footprints within fifty feet of the inert Muggles disappeared. He raised his wand once more. ”Finite!” he called, and the Muggles began to stir in the puddle of beer. Harry and Ginny watched for a moment, then Harry put his arm around her and they started back for the Cottage.

Harry sauntered along, laughing and joking about how the six morons would have to explain their bruised, beer—soaked, and befuddled condition to their families and maybe to the Muggle police. But Ginny was silent, and after a few minutes she pulled away from Harry and walked in more silence, ignoring his banter, looking straight ahead.

“What’s wrong?” Harry said; he tried to take her hand, but she wouldn’t let him. “Ginny, if you had done magic there would be an owl from the Ministry waiting for you at the Cottage. And they’d want to know why you used it on a Muggle.”

She strode along without answering. Harry grabbed her hand and forced her to stop. She turned and glared at him. “I asked you to stop protecting me, Harry. I’m getting tired of it. I can take care of myself, even from scumbags like them.”

“But – but –“ Harry stammered, then had to run to catch up with her. “Ginny! What are you talking about? I kept you from getting into big trouble. Please, don’t –“

She ignored him. In a few minutes they were at the Cottage, and Ginny brushed past Fleur who was waiting for them inside the door. She watched Ginny stomp up the stairs, then she turned to Harry.

“Mon Dieu, ‘Arry, what ‘appened?” She put her hands to her cheeks. “Why is she angry?”

Harry, looking confused, told her what had happened. Fleur took his hand. “But you are not ‘urt? Or Ginny?”

Harry shook his head. “No. But I don’t understand. I was afraid if she did magic she would get into trouble.” He thought about how Ginny had moved closer to him as they were standing in front of the ”

blond Muggle. “I don’t understand

He turned away, looking out a window. Fleur turned him back and put her hand gently on his cheek. “You were very brave, ‘Arry. I will speak to ‘er. I t’ink I know why she is angry,” she patted his shoulder. Harry looked back out the window and heard her climb the stairs, then a soft knock, low

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voices, and a door opening and closing.

When Fleur opened the door to Ginny’s room, Ginny was also looking out a window and did not turn or acknowledge her. “Ginny,” Fleur said gently, “why do you treat ‘Arry like zat? He was just trying to protect you from ‘arm.”

Ginny let out her breath. “I asked him not to do that, to stop smothering me,” she faced Fleur. “I don’t like it when –“

“When a man acts like a man?” Fleur finished the sentence.

“What do you mean?” Ginny said angrily. “All I want him to do is let me make up my own mind. If I want help I’ll ask for it!”.

“Ginny, ‘Arry was right. If you do magic against a Muggle you will get into a lot of trouble. And ‘e was doing what any man does when ‘e loves a woman. ‘e is not trying to smozer – ah, smo—ther – you. He is showing ‘ow much he loves you. Zere is a difference between not letting you pour your own pumpkin juice, and fighting a bully who wants to ‘urt you.”

Ginny’s face softened, and she sat down on the bed. She thought back to the beach, and remembered the bolt of fear when the blond Muggle had looked at her with nothing but evil in his eyes, and then she remembered Harry putting his arm around her just at that moment; it had felt very good.

She looked at Fleur. “Is he okay?”

Fleur smiled, and a feeling of magical delight filled the room. “If he isn’t, I t’ink ‘e will be when you ask ‘im zat.” She opened the door and stood aside as Ginny went out.

Harry turned from the window when he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. Ginny stopped at the bottom. “Are you okay?” she said.

Harry nodded and smiled briefly. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“For what:?” Ginny walked toward him.

Harry shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Ginny put her arms around his neck. “What you did was brilliant. What I did was stupid. I’m sorry.”

“Oh.” Harry could not say more because Ginny had put her mouth over his. Before he closed his eyes he saw Fleur slip into the kitchen and quietly close the door behind her.

slip into the kitchen and quietly close the door behind her. Back to index
slip into the kitchen and quietly close the door behind her. Back to index

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Chapter 7: Hidey Places

Author's Notes: This chapter went really well, so here it is a few days sooner than I expected. And chapter eight is almost ready and I'll post in on Wednesday or Thursday.

Thanks for all your wonderful reviews. It's great to write to other H/G lovers.

10/07/07 - minor edits

great to write to other H/G lovers. 10/07/07 - minor edits Bill came home a half—hour
great to write to other H/G lovers. 10/07/07 - minor edits Bill came home a half—hour

Bill came home a half—hour later and found Ginny sitting in front of the fireplace and Harry reclining with his head in her lap. Harry was holding his wand, examining it and turning it between his fingers. They both looked around when Bill came in.

“Don’t get up,” Bill grinned. “I’ll be right back.” He hung up his cloak and went into the kitchen, where Ginny and Harry could hear him talking to Fleur. They both came out into the parlor and Harry sat up.

“Fleur said you ran into some Muggles this afternoon,” Bill said. “I think I know who they were. We’ve seen them along the cliff a few times.”

“But zey never bozered us,” said Fleur. “I t’ink zey are scared by Bill’s face.”

“There’s one big blond—haired bloke who’s the worst troublemaker,” Bill continued as he ran his finger over his nose. “Derrick Roach. His father’s a magistrate in the local Muggle government and owns quite a bit of property, so his kid gets away with a lot.”

“Not this time,” Harry declared. “He opened his mouth one too many times and said a couple of things to Ginny. He now has a face—full of bat wings.”

Bill looked at Ginny in alarm. “You didn’t use your bat—bogey hex, I hope.”

“Not to worry,” she said cheerfully, “Harry did the honors for me. But I was thinking that I’d come back after my birthday and cut off his ba–“

“Okay!” Bill laughed. “I get the idea.” He turned to Harry. “Did you get an owl from the Ministry? They usually want to know when someone uses magic on Muggles.”

“Not yet,” said Harry. “But Fleur said you wanted to talk to me?”

Bill frowned. “I overheard some things at work that I wanted to ask you about. A goblin who works in the Property Office mentioned that –“

“Wait!” Harry held up his hand. “Can we talk about it somewhere else? It’s how to cover up what Bill had almost said.

it’s

He couldn’t think of

“I think it has something to do with my birthday present,” Ginny said drily.

“I didn’t say that,” Harry replied, trying to sound testy. “Uh, it probably has something to do with the mess that dragon made.”

“Right,” Ginny said. “Go ahead and talk. I like rubies, I never had any, you know. Oh, and chocolate

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cake.” Harry grinned at her and then he and Bill went outside. As they walked around the side of the house Bill asked Harry about his wand. “Is something wrong with it? I saw you looking at it.”

“I don’t think so, but it acted a little differently this afternoon. I haven’ done any big magic since the battle, and I did something to it afterwards that might have affected it. It’s fine, though.” They were in the garden and sitting down on the low stone wall near Dobby’s grave, and Harry changed the subject; he did not want the matter of the Elder Wand to come up. “What about the goblin?”

“I heard that you bought the Hogs Head Inn,” Bill began, and he looked at Harry keenly. “The goblins are all talking about how they got some revenge for the theft, as they’re calling it. What happened?”

Harry was momentarily nonplused. “Yeah, Aberforth sold it to the goblins the day after the battle, and –“

“Why did he sell it?” Bill cut in. “That really surprised me. He’s owned it for years.”

“I think he wants to get away for a while,” Harry said. “He said he was going abroad. The goblins used to own it and they were arguing with him about the price. They said that goblins had built the place, so it was rightfully theirs.”

Bill snorted. “That’s garbage. Every building in Hogsmeade was built by an old family of wizard carpenters that lives right outside the village. I did a research paper when I was a student,” he explained when Harry gave him a questioning look. “Professor Binns was teaching a course on the history of magical places.”

“Must have been interesting,” Harry replied. “Well, anyway, apparently they had gotten pretty steamed about it, and then they started talking about wizards attacking Gringotts and stealing their dragons and breaking into vaults. They mentioned me, of course, so someone went and got Kingsley, and then he went and got me. So I was kind of stuck in the middle.”

“Huh.” Bill sat thoughtfully. “The last thing Kingsley would want the day after the battle would be a mini goblin rebellion. They probably realized that, and thought they could pressure him and Aberforth into giving the inn away.”

“More politics,” Harry said with some distaste. “But then I had an idea.” He glanced at Bill. “I had already decided that I wanted to take some classes at Hogwarts next year, even if I couldn’t do my ”

seventh year again. And I also had some ideas about, um

well

he hesitated.

“You wanted to be near Ginny,” Bill grinned.

Harry nodded, thankful that Bill understood. “Yeah, I thought she’d like that. I know I would,” he said softly.

“Everyone in the family would, Harry.” Bill looked over at the Cottage and Harry followed his gaze; they could see Ginny and Fleur through the kitchen window, sitting at the table and talking. “I don’t

think I’m giving anything away by telling you how much she worried about you all year” Bill said. “And

Fred

I think she’s taking it almost as hard as George. She needs lots of comfort.”

Harry was not surprised to hear this from Bill. He had seen how Bill had become like a father to both Ginny and Ron since Fred’s death while Arthur was preoccupied with Molly’s grief. But Harry had started to feel that Bill was also filling a need for himself, a need that he was quite familiar with. He had lost Sirius, then Dumbledore, and Remus had stepped in; now Remus was gone. It felt good to talk to

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Bill, to have someone who understood him. It was quite different from talking to Ron, even though Bill was only ten years older.

Of course, it was complicated by Bill’s being Ginny’s brother, but Bill had none of the possessive protectiveness that Ron had shown. It never seemed to occur to Bill that Harry would ever do anything to hurt Ginny. In fact, Harry sensed that Bill expected that, someday, Harry would become the one that Ginny looked to for shelter in any kind of storm. It made Harry feel part of the Weasley family, like Ginny’s love and Ron’s friendship.

“Well,” Harry picked up his train of conversation, “I kind of blurted out that I’d like to buy the inn. So we went into another room, and I asked Ron and Hermione to come with me because there were five of them and only one of me. I think I still ended up paying too much, but what the hell, it’s only money.”

Bill laughed. “It’s great that you can say that. No one in the Weasley family can, although I suspect that

George

And that won’t make the goblins feel any better about wizards. But I’ll go out on a limb here, since somehow I can’t see you as a barkeep for the rest of your life. My guess is that you’ll sell it back eventually, and if you do, remember that you have a few cards of your own to play.”

yes, you did pay too much, at least as best as I can tell.

” He trailed off and sighed. “Anyway

“Like what? Goblins can be pretty intimidating when they want to.”

“And they know that. It sounds like they pulled that act on you. But there’s two things you need to remember. First, you have a substantial fortune stored in their vaults, and they wouldn’t like to see it go someplace else.”

“Like where?”

“Like to another wizarding bank, even a bank overseas. Fleur has relatives who own a bank in France, did you know that? The goblins do.” Harry nodded and glanced at the Cottage again; Ginny and Fleur were still sitting at the kitchen table and Harry saw vegetables and chunks of meat flying off the table toward the stove.

“The other thing you need to remember,” Bill went on, “is that you are Harry Potter, the nemesis of the Dark Lord. A lot of goblins expected Voldemort to win. They would have ended up regretting it, but they’ve been treated so badly by wizards in general that they were receptive to his lies.”

He paused and looked off into the distance. “Kingsley wants to change that. I think that’s why he got involved when he found out that Aberforth wanted to sell. He saw a chance to open up a dialogue.”

“And I blew it,” Harry said ruefully. “I told you I’d never understand politics.”

“You could have done better, that’s true,” Bill said, but kindly. “But many, many others have done worse. Don’t undersell yourself, Harry. You are somebody. Don’t over—reach, but don’t under—reach, either.”

“Why are you telling me all this?” Harry asked. He had always gotten advice from Dumbledore, Sirius, and Remus, but Bill’s frank, friendly, and warm style was a little different; it felt good.

Bill grinned. “I have a very dear sister who is head over heels in love with you. And I think she has very good taste.”

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Harry went scarlet and Bill laughed again. “I thought only Ron could turn that color,” he teased. “Sorry, Harry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” He stood up. “I think we should see how dinner is coming along.

I don’t want that meat to get overcooked. And don’t worry, I won’t tell Ginny anything about the inn.”

After dinner of beef stew and mashed potatoes Harry and Ginny were sitting outside on the edge of the cliff, watching the waves, when an owl from the Ministry finally arrived. They didn’t see it until it literally fell out of the sky and plopped at their feet. It lay sprawled on the rocks, looked up at Harry with

a pathetic hoot, and lifted its leg in the air.

“No wonder it took so long,” Harry said as he removed the parchment. “This one’s more decrepit than Errol.” His remark seemed to upset the owl; it clucked a few times and struggled to its feet, flapping its wings erratically.

“There, there,” Ginny stroked its head feathers. “Don’t listen to nasty old wizard. I understand.” The owl took heart and managed to flap up to Ginny’s shoulder, where it perched contentedly, nibbling on her ear and pecking at Harry whenever it thought he was getting too close.

Harry began perusing the parchment, and Ginny transferred the owl to her other shoulder and read over Harry’s. It was an Official Notice from the Improper Use of Magic Office. It read:

“Dear Mr. Potter. Greetings. We are advised that you performed five (5) or six (6) charms and/or spells and/or jinxes and/or hexes upon as many as six (6) Muggles on the current date, at a location along the Channel coast in Essex.

“In addition, we are advised that you may have performed a combination levitating and separating charm and/or spell and/or jinx and/or hex in the presence of said Muggles on said date and at said location.

“While there is no evidence at this time of any violation of Magical law on your part, this Office is nevertheless conducting a routine investigation to determine whether or not additional action by the Ministry of Magic may be required with respect to the events alluded to herein above.

“We are, therefore, respectfully requesting that you provide us with any information you may possess about the events alluded to herein above, including the names of any non—Muggle witnesses, and the specific charms and/or spells and/or jinxes and/or hexes you may have used during the events alluded to herein above.

“Furthermore, we respectfully request that you provide the information requested herein above within thirty days of your receipt of this Notice.

“Respectfully yours,

“Priscilla Pompard

“Improper Use of Magic Office, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Ministry of Magic”

“Boy, does Kingsley have his work cut out for him,” Harry remarked.

“Yeah,”said Ginny. “First throw all the lawyers into Azkaban.”

Harry chortled. “Well, I might as well do it now. Come on, bring the bird inside.”

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They went back into the Cottage – the owl still perched on Ginny’s shoulder – and into the kitchen, where Fleur was cleaning up from dinner. They sat at the table and the owl flew up to the top of a cabinet and peered down at the room.

“If zat bird makes a mess in ‘ere, I will cook ‘im for dinner tomorrow,” Fleur said darkly and pointed a large cleaver at it. The owl squawked and hopped along the cabinet away from Fleur’s menacing knife.

“Fleur, do you have a quill and some ink?” Harry asked as he lay the Notice on the table; the Ministry had conveniently left space at the bottom for Harry to write his response. Fleur fetched the writing materials from a drawer while keeping an eye on the owl. Harry and Ginny reviewed the events of the afternoon, and Harry wrote down the details.

“Don’t forget the bat—bogey charm and/or spell and/or jinx and/or hex,” Ginny said.

“I won’t,” Harry laughed, “but that’s the one most likely to get me in trouble. They’ll have to send someone from the reversal office or whatever they call it to sort him out.”

“Then why don’t you wait the whole thirty days,” Ginny suggested.

“Hmm, that’s not a bad idea. But we’d have to keep the owl here so we’d have a way to send it back.”

“Non, non, non!” Fleur waved the cleaver in the air, and the owl squawked again and hopped along the cabinet as far from her as it could get. “Absolutely not! ‘e must get out of zis ‘ouse, now!”

“Okay,” Harry laughed. “Here, it’s ready.” He rolled up the parchment and took it over to the cabinet where the owl was perched. He reached up to take the bird down, but it pecked at his hand. “Ouch! Damn bird! Here,” he handed the parchment to Ginny. “He likes you. You do it.” Ginny took the parchment, and the owl flew down to her shoulder; it lifted its leg and Ginny tied the Notice on. They walked outside and the owl flew off, wobbling a bit but on a steady course to the southwest. It disappeared into the dusk.

They went back to the wall where they had been sitting watching the sea. The horizon was shrouded in darkness but they could still see the white caps on the waves as they crested near the shore. Harry put his arm around Ginny and she moved closer. The door of the Cottage opened and Bill stepped out holding a small rug. He waved at them, then tossed the rug into the air; it floated there and Bill pointed his wand and dust flew off and wafted away. He grabbed the rug and took it back inside.

Harry thought about his talk with Bill earlier in the day. “Bill’s a great guy,” he said.

Ginny looked up at him. “He is. Why do you say that?”

“He makes me feel like I’m part of your family.”

Ginny put her head back on his shoulder, but she didn’t say anything. When Harry turned his head and kissed her brow, she put both arms around him and held him tightly. “I’m glad,” she said into his chest. “He does have a way of making you feel welcome, if that’s the word. Maybe wanted is the right one.” She looked up at him again and Harry could see her smile in the candlelight glowing through the windows of the Cottage.

“Yeah,” he agreed, “that’s how I feel.”

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* * * *

Several days passed and the weather turned warmer and sunnier. Harry and Ginny spent most of their days on the beach, talking, reading, napping on a blanket, building magical sand castles. They never saw Muggles again. They took several long walks to the fishing port and beyond, and became acquainted with the owners of the grocery where they bought candy. Once they overheard a conversation between two other customers about a strange rash that one of th local youths had come down with. The clinic in the nearby town had not been able to treat it and had sent him down to London to see a specialist.

“They better send him to a specialist at St. Mungo’s,” Ginny chuckled as they walked back. “Or else to the bat house at the zoo.”

“I wonder why they haven’t sorted him out yet?” Harry said. “I hope that owl got back to the Ministry.”

“It’s probably lost in someone’s inbox and/or trash bin.” They both laughed.

Although their days were fine, they both were waking up every morning tired and not well rested. Bill commented on their drowsiness at breakfast and suggested a sleeping potion, but Fleur just shook her head and smiled to herself. In fact, both Harry and Ginny were both lying awake almost every night thinking about the person just on the other side of the wall separating their tiny bedrooms. But neither one said anything. Harry did not want to go past the limit that Ginny had set, although it was becoming harder and harder for him to stop himself. Ginny did not want to put Bill in the position of having to confront her about a rule that her parents might have insisted on before allowing her to come to the Cottage with Harry, although it was becoming harder and harder for her to stick to her conviction. In the small quarters of Shell Cottage, always in each other’s presence, they thought and dreamed about each other.

They took naps on the beach and also in front of the fireplace in the parlor, their heads on pillows. Fleur would come in from the kitchen and find them both asleep, curled up together with Ginny’s back to Harry’s front.

Eleven days after they arrived at Shell Cottage an owl arrived before lunch from Hogwarts addressed to both of them. Ginny read it sitting at the kitchen table while Harry was brushing her hair. “It’s from Professor McGonagall. This explains why we haven’t heard anything about Colin’s funeral. His parents are asking his friends to have a memorial service for him at school. They buried him a week ago but the service was for family only.”

“They didn’t want any wizards or witches showing up in weird clothes,” Harry guessed. “It’s okay with me. I wasn’t fancying another funeral.”

Ginny rolled up the parchment. “Me neither. I was thinking that we could have a DA reunion at my birthday and make it a memorial for Colin, too. Luna suggested it. I like the idea.”

“Yeah.” Harry continued to brush. He loved to do it; he loved the silky feel and flowery smell of her hair. And when he was finished, Ginny always turned around for a long and enjoyable snog.

This time was no different, but just as their tongues were becoming involved and their breathing becoming heavy, and Harry’s hands beginning to stray down her hips, the kitchen door opened. Their

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tongues and then their mouths disengaged; they were surprised, since Fleur always left them alone when she knew that this activity was occurring. They turned and saw Ron standing in the doorway, his hand on the handle, and Hermione behind him peering around his side.

Ron stared at them; his mouth worked but nothing came out. Harry started to pull away from Ginny but she tightened her hold and wouldn’t let him go. Hermione glanced apprehensively up at Ron’s face. Ron finally put his fist to his mouth and cleared his throat. “So, how are you blokes? We can wait in the parlor if, uh, if you’d like.”

Harry could feel Ginny relax, and she gave him a quick squeeze, then she flew to Ron and, with a big smile, gave him a sloppy kiss on his cheek. “We’re fine! It’s great to see you.” She hugged Hermione and pulled them into the kitchen. “Why are you here?”

“We both had some time off,” Hermione explained, “so we just decided on the spur of the moment to pop up here!” She sounded as though it had been a momentous decision. “It’s so much –“

“I got hired at the Ministry!” Ron couldn’t contain his news. “It’s not the most exciting job, but it’ll be a regular paycheck and, Harry, get this. Shacklebolt’s setting up a whole set of courses for anyone who wants to take the Auror exams! It’s three years, but they don’t care about all those Acceptables I got at Hogwarts, or any of that crap. Pass the exams and the practicals and you’re in!”

“Don’t be so restrained, Ron,” Hermione said as Harry grinned at Ron’s enthusiasm. “And don’t be surprised if the exams are a lot harder than O.W.L.s.”

Ron waved his hand dismissively. “Yeah, but this time I won’t have all that other school stuff to distract me.”

“No, just a shop—full of free jokes right underneath your feet. But you’re right. I think it’s a brilliant program. Harry, you should really consider it. You would ace it.”

“Maybe later,” Harry shook his head. “I have other plans for the immediate future.”

“Right,” said Ron. “Well, what have you two been up to, aside from imitating thrashing eels?” He grinned at Ginny who stuck her tongue out at him.

“Not much, aside from that,” replied Harry, and he had to fend off Ginny’s punch. “Walks along the beach, naps, meals, naps, walks along the beach, you get the idea.”

“Busy schedule,” Ron chuckled. He looked around the kitchen. “How’s the food?”

“Much better than last time. I think Fleur was pretty unprepared when we showed up and she also didn’t like having to feed Griphook. And Ginny’s learning French cuisine. She knows all the French names for everything,”

Oui,” said Ginny. “Le fromage, le vin, la viande, les pommes de terre. What else does a young witch need to know?”

They decided to take a walk down to the beach, and Ginny went to tell Fleur who was up in her bedroom and hadn’t heard Ron and Hermione come in. She came downstairs and hugged and kissed them both; Ron only blushed a little. “Do not be too long,” she said. “I will ‘ave lunch ready in an hour.” They decided to stay near the Cottage and to take a longer walk afterwards. They went out and sat near

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Dobby’s grave; it was covered with sprays of flowers that Harry and Ginny had put on it. They talked about Colin’s funeral – Ron and Hermione had gotten the same owl from Professor McGonagall – and liked Ginny’s idea of a DA reunion. Ron told them that Dean, Neville, and Neville’s girlfriend Keesha were frequent visitors to Diagon Alley and talked about getting the DA back together somehow. George had also shown up at the shop once, but didn’t stay long.

“I don’t think he’s ready for it yet,” said Ron. “Lee and the witches are keeping it going, and we help out in the evenings.”

Harry asked him about his new job in the Ministry. “The International Magical Office of Law,” Ron said pompously, and laughed. “I wanted Games and Sports, but so did everyone else, and they had all finished their seventh years.”

“You mean all the boys wanted it,” Hermione corrected him.

“Well, some girls, too. Angelina Johnson’s already there.” Hermione shrugged.

“So what does that office do?” Harry asked.

“Haven’t a clue, and I’ve been there for four days already. But I might get to travel.”

“They help set up conferences and coordinate legal activities,” Hermione said. “They liaise with other magical governments.”

“Okay, that’s what they do,” Ron said. “Maybe I’ll even get to go to America.”

Ginny turned to Hermione. “What about you? Have you started at that institute yet?”

“You’ll be sorry you asked,” Ron grinned.

“Oh, it’s fabulous!” Hermione ignored him, and jumped up excitedly. “You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing. I’m working directly under Septieme Geneva, she’s the witch who wrote all the Arithmancy textbooks. She’s world famous, and she’s brilliant. And Kingsley Shacklebolt asked her to set up a special project, and she put me on it!” Hermione beamed, her arms outspread, and she looked at them expectantly. Her face fell when Ginny and Harry just stared at her blankly.

“Tell them what the project is,” Ron prompted.

“Oh, right. What it is. Yes. Kingsley wants to set up an office in the Law Enforcement Department that can trace every use of an Unforgivable Curse. He wants to know who used it, when, where, and who it was used against. I think he wants to abolish them somehow, eventually. Isn’t that brilliant?”

She gushed on without waiting for an answer. “So we’re doing all the theoretical groundwork for it. It’ll take months, maybe years, but it’s so exciting. I’m doing exactly what I’ve dreamed of doing for years and it’s going to make such a difference!”

“It’s not like she loves the job,” Ron said. “I have to check her every morning before she leaves to make sure she didn’t forget to put on her shoes.”

“That’s not true. I did forget to tie them once.”

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At that moment Fleur called them in for lunch. Afterward they walked along the cliff to the path down to the beach. Ron wanted to see the fishing port, and as they traipsed over the sand Harry and Ginny told them about their confrontation with the Muggles.

“Hey,” Ron interrupted Harry when he was describing the bat—bogey hex, “I heard about that bloke. They had him in St. Mungo’s for two days. So that was you?” He peered at Harry and then Ginny. “I wish I had known. I would have gone and cut off his ba–“

Uh, uh!,” Ginny interrupted. “I have dibs on them. After my birthday.”

“You are one ferocious family,” Harry observed. “Hermione, we’d both better be careful.”

You’d better be careful,” Hermione corrected him. “I don’t have those.” Harry and Ginny both laughed and looked at Hermione in surprise; she had never joked like that before. Harry noticed that Ron was looking at her with an amused expression, and decided that they were both becoming a good influence on each other.

The village was quiet as usual but they attracted a little more attention this time. The locals had gotten used to seeing two teenagers wandering around in cloaks, but here were two more, and one of them another redhead. It was good for gossip, though, so everyone was still friendly, especially the grocery proprietor after he sold out his entire stock of chocolate candy to Ron, who borrowed all of Ginny and Harry’s Muggle money.

The sun was shining brightly, and low waves were breaking off—shore as they walked back. There was a warm breeze coming from the land, but it dropped as the cliffs on their left gradually rose. They climbed the path in the cleft and were only a few hundred yards from the Cottage when Ginny noticed a figure coming toward them.

“Bill’s home,” she said, shading her eyes. “Something’s wrong.” They hurried to meet him, and saw his worried look when he got closer.

“Good, you’re here,” he said; he looked around nervously as he spoke. “We’ve got to get back. Ginny, Mum wants you home.”

“What! Why? What’s happened?” Ginny exclaimed anxiously. “Is anyone hurt?”

“No, no. Everyone’s fine. But Fenrir Greyback has broken out of Azkaban.”

They were silent for a moment, then Ron swore. “What the hell is going on? Did the dementors screw up? The Ministry was supposed to have this under control.”

“I don’t know,” Bill started shepherding them along. “There’s all kinds of rumors in town. But everyone’s freaked, especially Mum.”

Fleur was waiting just outside the door. She had a small traveling bag with her, and she looked worried. “I started to pack your t’ings,” she said to Harry and Ginny. “Do we put ze Fidelius back on ze ‘ouse?” she asked Bill. He thought for a moment, then nodded. “No point in taking chances. Go pack,” he said to Harry and Ginny. “The charm is going to take a while and I want to get going.”

They went upstairs and were back down in a few minutes. Ginny was biting her lip, looking worried, and Harry took her arm. “We’ll be fine,” he told her. “There’s no way he can get into the Burrow.”

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“I know, it’s just that I thought we were finished with this. I thought it was over, and all we had to worry about were drunken Muggles on the beach.”

Harry smiled. “Well, we’ll all be together.”

Ginny nodded and gave him a quick kiss. “And this time you’re with us.”

“We’re coming, too,” Ron said. He had his arm around Hermione who was pale, and trembling noticeably.

“Good,” said Bill; he was facing the Cottage and casting the complicated spell. “Mum and Dad will appreciate that.” He glanced at Hermione, who was now looking ill. “Are you all right?” he said.

Hermione just shook her head, and Ron said, “That’s why we’re coming.” Fleur quickly came over and also put her arm around Hermione’s shoulder. “Zat monster t’reatened you, didn’t ‘e? Don’t worry, darling, no one will let zat ‘appen again. You are safe wiz us.”

Hermione nodded. “Thanks,” she whispered. She put her hand over her eyes and Ron put both of his arms around her. They all stood next to her as her body shook and muffled sobs came from Ron’s chest, where her face was buried. She lifted her head. “I’m sorry,” she said in a choked voice. “It – it all just came over me again.” She looked at Ron as though pleading. “But she’s dead. I saw Bellatrix die, right? She’s dead.” Ron nodded and stroked her hair. She wiped her eyes and looked at them. “If I see him I’ll kill him.”

“Hey, we all will,” Ron said, half—smiling. Harry put his hand on Hermione’s shoulder and squeezed it.

“Okay,” said Bill. He set a battered copper kettle on the ground and they all knelt and put a hand on it. In seconds they were in the lane just outside the gate to the Burrow. They hurried toward the house, and Charlie opened the door. He was almost bowled over by Molly who charged past him and ran to Ginny. She hugged her so hard that Ginny grunted. “Mum, you’re strangling me!” She extricated herself and Molly went down the line, hugging and kissing the others.

When they had all gone inside she sat back down next to Arthur, who took her hand; he looked drawn and tired. “Thank goodness, now we’re all here, and we’ll stay here until they catch him,” Molly said in a no nonsense tone. “I don’t care,” she glared at Charlie, “he has as good a reason to come here as anywhere.”

Charlie looked at Bill and raised his eyebrows. “He probably went into hiding. Every Auror in England must be looking for him, plus dementors.”

“No,” said Arthur quietly, “no dementors. Kingsley’s not using them for that kind of thing anymore.”

“Well, he should be!” Molly snapped. “People’s lives are at risk.”

“Does anyone know what happened?” Harry asked. “Bill said there are rumors, but do we know what really happened? How do we know he really got out? Maybe that’s a rumor, too.”

Everyone started talking at once until Percy shouted, “Quiet!” and the room went still and everyone turned to him. “Gawain Robards sent me an owl fifteen minutes ago and –“

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“Why did he send it to you?” Bill interrupted, somewhat incredulously.

“I’ve been helping him straighten out the mess that Rufus Scrimgeour left when he was in charge of the Department,” Percy said testily. “I never worked there myself, though”, he added smugly. “In any event, Robards owled me. He said that four Death Eaters disguised as Aurors showed up at Azkaban this morning an hour before Greyback was to be picked up and taken to the Ministry for his trial. They bluffed their way past the guards and took him. Neither the imposters nor Greyback have been seen since.” He paused and looked around. “Anything else you hear is unofficial and probably a false rumor.”

“Okay,” said Bill into the silence,”what about protection? What about the house and the grounds? We Portkeyed in without any problem.”

“Taken care of,” George spoke from the back of the room. “We’re as safe as can be without a Fidelius.”

“I don’t think we need one,” said Charlie. “Can’t we wait for some more information before we go whole hog and keep anyone from finding us? For Merlin’s sake, it’s only one man.”

“It’s at least five men,” Molly snapped again. “And they could be right around the corner of the lane, just waiting.”

Arthur put his hand on Molly’s shoulder. “Dear, we have ten excellent wizards and witches here. No one would be so foolish as to –“

“Wait!” Fleur, who was standing by the window, held up her hand. “I just ‘eard somet’ing.” She peered out the window and most of the others crowded around to see. Two people were standing outside the gate: Head Auror Saliyah Ushujaa and another witch, also in Auror’s robes.

“That’s Canopia Castlereagh,” Percy said. “I know them both quite well.” He started to open the door.

“Percy!” Molly shrieked, and everyone jumped. “Be careful!”

“Yes, Mum,” he shook his head at Bill, who was standing next to him at the door. They stepped out, along with George and Charlie, who motioned everyone else to stay inside. “Auror Ushujaa, my apologies,” Percy called, “we need to be certain that you are really you.” He shook his head again and muttered under his breath, “That sounds intelligent.” He called out again, “What is Department Directive Number Eighty—Seven?”

The Head Auror stared at him. “Percy, this is nonsense. We’ve come with news. Let us in. Oh, all right,” she said crossly, as Percy shook his head once more. “There is no Directive Eighty—Seven. The last one was Forty—Two.”

Percy nodded to George, and he waved his arm and his wand in a wide circle. There was a loud ringing sound, and the gate swung open. The two Aurors crossed the yard, and Percy shrugged apologetically as Ushujaa glared at him. Charlie opened the door and they entered the crowded kitchen. People moved and shuffled around to make room, and Harry found Ginny and stood next to her. Some of the family were sitting, the rest stood around the table. Hermione was staring at the Aurors with a look that Harry thought resembled that of a cornered rabbit, except that a rabbit could never be that terrified. Molly was glaring at the Aurors. Percy was trying to arrange people into some kind of order, but everyone ignored him.

Finally, Saliyah Ushujaa found a spot next to the stove where everyone could more or less see her. She

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looked around at each face.

“Fenrir Greyback is dead,” she said simply. There was total silence, and then Molly and Hermione both began to cry.

“Just a moment,” said Arthur, who was sitting in front of the Auror; he turned to face her. “Why in Merlin’s name would the Head Auror come here to tell us that? An owl would have been perfectly sufficient, and if that wasn’t secure enough you or Kingsley could have sent a Patronus.”

“Because there is a crime involved,” replied Saliyah, “and we think some of you may be able to help us.” She looked directly at Ginny, and all the others followed her gaze.

“Me?” Ginny said, startled and perplexed. “I think I only saw the bast– the bloke two or three times, ever.”

“Yes,” said Saliyah, “but let me explain. Greyback’s body was found this afternoon, about two hours ago, in one of the dumpsters next to the public entrance of the Ministry. Fortunately, we found him before the Muggle authorities did. He was mutilated. His face was gone, there were large gashes on his forehead and cheeks, and we found his nose in his pocket.” There were noises from around the room. “Sorry,” she said, “but we don’t know if that’s significant. But all of his wounds were made by a knife, not by fangs or claws or a wand. Also, both of his arms and legs were broken, crushed actually. He probably suffered horribly before he died.”

Ginny had put her hand to her mouth. Harry felt her shaking and put his arm around her. The Aurors

were watching her. “Miss Weasley

who was killed in the battle, Elizabeth Derby, did this. Greyback may have deserved everything they did to him, and more, but if they did it, they committed a murder themselves. Can you tell us anything about it?”

Ginny,” Saliyah said, “we think that relatives of a Hogwarts student

Ginny shook her head and glared at the Auror. “I was holding her hand when she died. It was horrible.” She put her face on Harry’s shoulder and he turned her away.

“Does anyone else know anything?” Saliyah asked, looking around the room. “Minister Shacklebolt asked me personally to come here because he knows what you have gone through. I’m asking for your help.”

There was silence for a long moment. Charlie gripped the back of the chair he was standing behind that George was sitting in. Others shifted on their feet. Then Percy spoke.

“I know you all think I’m a pompous stuffed shirt,” he said, “and at times I do, too. But I wonder if you were listening to Kingsley Shacklebolt when he spoke at Fred’s funeral. Do you remember? He said we’ll never have a better world until we make it better ourselves. If we don’t help bring murderers to justice, no matter how deserving of death their victim was, then what is there to keep someone whose motives aren’t as noble as ours –“ he looked at Ginny “– from protecting another murderer, maybe a murderer as vile and terrifying as Fenrir Greyback?”

Again there was silence. Harry looked at Ginny; she was staring at Percy, and then she glanced at Harry. Her eyes were troubled, but she was no longer angry, as she had been a few seconds before. She looked at Charlie and he nodded briefly. She turned to Saliyah. “Yes, that’s how Elizabeth died. She had identical wounds, that’s what it sounds like.” The Aurors looked at each other, and then Saliyah put her hand on Arthur Weasley’s shoulder.

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“Thank you, thank you all.” She looked at Percy. “Minister Shacklebolt will give all of you his personal thanks, I’m sure. Ginny,” she looked at her, “I doubt that anyone will need to talk to you again about this. We’re fairly certain of the names of those who did it. And if they are caught and tried, frankly I can’t see any jury of witches or wizards sending them to Azkaban. They’ll probably get Ministry detention, maybe for a few years, but it would be nothing like a sentence to Azkaban.”

The family moved out of the way and into the yard as the Aurors left. Saliyah Ushujaa spoke quietly to Percy who nodded solemnly. Then they went out the gate and Disapparated. Bill patted Percy’s back and smiled at him, and then they all went inside.

Dinner at the Burrow that evening was a quiet affair. Afterward, Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione walked down to Fred’s grave and Ginny took the flowers that were lying on it. “I’ll pick fresh ones tomorrow,” she said. Ron and Hermione left to bid goodbye to the others before their return to London. Later, Bill and Fleur came down and told them that they were staying for the night. Harry and Ginny walked back in the darkness and decided that they would stay at the Burrow and not return with Bill and Fleur.

“You know what?” Ginny said when they stopped near the house and looked up at the stars. She leaned against Harry and he put his arms around her and pulled her close so that her back was against his chest; ”

he kissed her neck and she giggled.“I’m really glad we’re home. I loved it at the Cottage, but

“But what?”

She paused for a moment. “Do you know what you discover when you live in the same house in the countryside for sixteen years?”

“That’s totally out of my life experience. What do you discover?”

“You discover lots of places where you can go and hide and no one can ever find you.”

Harry felt his pulse speed up for some reason. “And do these hidey places have room for more than one person?”

“Just,” Ginny whispered, and she turned her head and kissed him.

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Chapter 8: Summer Of Peace

Author's Notes: As promised, here's chapter 8 on Thursday. The next chapter probably won't be posted until later in the week after Labor Day, because I won't have access to a computer this weekend. How I will survive is anyone's guess :-) I wish everyone who celebrates Labor Day a great holiday, and a great weekend to everyone else.

A warm breeze carried the aroma of a baking peach pie out the open kitchen window of the Burrow and into the pleasant early August afternoon. The fragrance wafted across the garden, where a dozen very ugly gnomes looked up from their grubbing and began to salivate. They gazed mournfully at the house, around which, they knew, lay a highly unpleasant – to them – anti—gnome jinx, cast by the Burrow’s newest resident, a very talented young wizard with a tricky wand. They smelled and they yearned, but they could not have it.

The fruity fragrance drifted on its tantalizing way past the garden and the drooling gnomes, over the lawn, and into the nostrils of that young wizard. Harry was lying on a plastic Muggle—made lawn chair recliner in a sunny spot near the very tree from which, that morning, Ginny had picked the peaches – while being levitated by Harry – that were now baking in the kitchen.

The chair in which Harry was sleeping on his stomach had been plucked a few days ago from a rubbish bin in front of a nearby Muggle house. Arthur Weasley had thought, when he picked it out of the heap of trash, that it would prove a handsome example of traditional Muggle furniture that he could proudly display in the Burrow’s parlor. But Molly had forbidden its presence anywhere inside her house, and Harry had told him that it was supposed to be used outdoors, anyway.

Harry was dressed the way he had been dressed for most of the summer: in a pair of cut—off jeans, shirtless, and barefoot. His hands dangled down off the chair onto the ground; his wand was tucked through the back of his belt. He was occasionally aware of voices coming from the kitchen, but the warm sun on his back and the indolent mood of the day – in fact, of the whole summer – kept him from waking up completely. He turned his head toward the house when the smell of the peach pie reached him, but only to get a better sniff at it during the brief moments when he drifted up out of his nap. He sighed, and began snoring quietly into the webbing of the chair.

The voices from the kitchen stopped, and for a while there were no sounds but the peaceful rustling of trees in the light breeze, the buzzing of small insects outside the repellent spell Harry had cast around himself, and the bird songs from the woods near the house. Then something began to tickle his left hand, and he reluctantly opened one eye and peered down. A fuzzy, green caterpillar was inching its way up his wrist, looking fuzzier than it really was because he did not have his glasses on. He flicked his hand casually, turned his head, closed his eye, and sighed again.

He felt the tickling again, looked, and flicked the insect off his hand once more. But before he closed his eye, he saw, even without his glasses, the caterpillar rise through the air and disappear over his head. He felt it land in his hair, and at the same time someone behind him giggled. He reached up and took the caterpillar out of his hair, picked his eyeglasses off the ground and put them on, and sat up. Ginny, wearing shorts and a halter top, was peeking out from behind the peach tree, a grin on her face and a wand in her hand pointed at the fuzzy bug. She was barefoot like Harry, and her hair was pulled back and gathered with a red and gold clip in the shape of a griffin.

“You’ve got a hair—piece now,” she said.

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“You’re not supposed to be doing magic,” Harry wagged his finger at her and stood up, trying to look stern. “Your birthday’s still a week away. Levitating insects will get you six months in Azkaban, and no time off for good behavior. As if you knew what that was.”

“Why don’t you come and arrest me, then?” She put her hands on her hips and swayed them seductively.

“I’ll do better than that.” He put the caterpillar in the grass and started walking toward her, grinning.

“Catch me first!” she laughed and turned and ran. She went flying around the garden, past the house, and down the lane. Harry went after her, but as he turned into the lane he suddenly yelled and pulled up, hopping on his left foot and holding his right with both hands.

Ginny came running back. “Stub your little toe?” she was still laughing as Harry hopped around the lane, swearing and trying to rub his foot.

“I stepped on a rock. Dammit.” He fell over and Ginny knelt next to him.

“Here, let me see it,” she said. Harry lifted his foot and watched as she brushed his sole off and examined it. “Whatever you stepped on wasn’t sharp. There’s just a little bitty mark here.” She pulled her wand from the waistband of her shorts and touched the ball of his foot. “Livor est,” she said softly.

“Hey, what did you do?” he exclaimed. “It stopped hurting!”

“I’ve got the magic touch,” Ginny laughed. She stood and took Harry’s hand and pulled him up.

They walked fifty yards down the lane, then Ginny pushed aside the branches of the thick hedgerow that lined it. They bent low and came out the other side in a large, overgrown field. They walked into the middle and Harry conjured a blanket and they sat down in a small cleared space, surrounded by waist high grasses and flowers; they were invisible to anyone who was more than a few yards away. While Harry lay with his head in her lap, Ginny wove a garland of grass and flowers; she did not use magic, but made it with her own hands. For a while they talked, but when Ginny leaned over to kiss him, he pulled her down and they made love under the open sky with a gentle breeze whispering around them.

Molly Weasley and Saliyah Ushujaa stood in the open front door of the Burrow, watching as Ginny and Harry disappeared down the lane. They had stepped out of the parlor where they had been sitting and talking when they heard Harry’s cry as he trod on the stone. When she saw Ginny touch the sole of Harry’s foot with her wand, and the smile on his face that followed, Molly sighed.

“I wish she wouldn’t do that. Arthur gets a note from the Improper Use of Magic Office every time she does magic here. Well, it’s only for another week.”

Saliyah had a smile on her face. “I’ve never seen two people their age like that,” she said. “They’re always together, and they’re always having a good time. Ginny’s aglow every time I see her.” Molly glanced at her, then her eyes went back to the lane, which was empty.

“So how is the party coming along?” Saliyah asked as they returned to the parlor. Preparations were almost complete for a grand bash on the Saturday after Ginny’s seventeenth birthday. The guest list was long, and included all the Gryffindor students from last year, all the members of Dumbledore’s Army, and everyone from the Order of the Phoenix.

“Well,” said Molly, “I hope the house is still standing the next day. And it’s going to be a problem

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keeping the Muggles from noticing. Someone’s bound to use some kind of loud magic. I’ve warned George, but you know him.” She thought about his parting farewell to Fred.

“It’ll be fine,” Saliyah assured her. “Kingsley and I will help keep it down to a dull roar.”

“That will help, I suppose. But you know that Ginny invited the entire Order, and that unfortunately includes Mundungus Fletcher. I don’t like the idea of him wandering around the house with those sticky fingers.”

“Why don’t you get Harry to put a spell on everything lighter than the sofa,” Saliyah laughed. “I heard that he can do some interesting things with his wand.”

“I don’t want to bother Harry,” Molly waved her hand. “It’s as much his party as Ginny’s. We gave him one last year, but things were so unsettled and uncertain. Alastor had just been killed, and Harry’s poor owl. And Ginny’s going to want him to be with her most of the time.”

“Yes, it’s like they’re Spellotaped together.”

Molly looked out the window which gave a view down the lane; Harry and Ginny were nowhere in ”

sight. “Sometimes I think they’re too close. She’s still so young

“But Molly, they’re in love. What were you and Arthur doing when you were seventeen? It’s sweet and its beautiful. And I’ll bet you ten Galleons that the next big to—do you have here will be a wedding.”

“A wedding? We just had one last year.” Molly pulled a lace handkerchief out of the air and dabbed at her eyes. She cried easily these days. The weeks since Fred’s funeral had been hard ones, and the house felt empty even with Ginny and Harry spreading feelings of young love. George had decided that he needed to stop spending hours every day at Fred’s grave, and went back to work; Charlie had left for Romania for a few weeks and would return for Ginny’s birthday; Percy was in London, his career apparently rehabilitated under Saliyah’s sponsorship; Ron had left home right after the funeral and seemed to have time for nothing but Hermione and the joke shop; and Bill and Fleur came to visit only on weekends. Molly was coping, but barely. Saliyah tried to come down to see her as often as possible, but her duties were heavy and her free time scarce. Molly missed Tonks the most at moments like these, when an empty nest loomed and the only child left at home would be the one in his grave.

Saliyah wanted more details about the party, and Molly described the food, catered by Madam Rosmerta from the Three Broomsticks; the entertainment, supplied by a band that had been started up over the summer by a group of Hufflepuffs, the lead singer of which was a friend of Neville Longbottom’s; and some of the presents they had bought for Ginny. Molly had tried to restrain her husband, but Arthur would not be denied the pleasure of completely spoiling his only daughter one last time.

“I think he’s afraid that Harry will outdo him,” she smiled, adjusting the knitting needles that were hovering next to her; they had just begun the first of a platoon of maroon sweaters for this year’s Christmas presents. “His little witch has found her wizard.”

“Well, here they come,” Saliyah glanced out the window, and a few minutes later the front door opened. They could hear a chair being pulled up at the kitchen table, and then Ginny poked her head into the parlor.

“Is it pie yet?” she asked. “We’re hungry.”

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“Goodness, you just ate lunch,” declared Molly, getting up from the sofa. “What on earth were you doing to give you such an appetite?”

“Absolutely nothing, Mum.” Ginny turned away so that her mother would not see her roll her eyes. Molly looked at Saliyah, who just shrugged.

Saliyah and Ginny joined Harry at the table; he was wearing a garland of yellow flowers on his head. Molly peered into the oven, then, with her wand, directed the pie plate off the rack and onto a trivet in the center of the table. A knife cut it into slices that then whisked themselves onto plates which had flown out of a cupboard to a spot in front of each person. Saliyah observed Harry’s crown of cowslip, but took her cue from Molly and did not remark on it; it seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary to Mrs. Weasley.

Molly watched approvingly as Harry immediately dug in. Her supreme and distracting pleasure of the summer, in addition to observing the happiness of her daughter, had been feeding Harry. Harry, for his part, was enjoying the bounty of Molly Weasley’s home cooking as his second—most pleasurable part of the summer, the first being the company of Molly’s daughter. He finished his piece of pie and waved his hand at the dish in the middle of the table; another slice floated to his plate. Saliyah observed with professional but slightly awed interest. “What was that, Harry? How did you do that?” she asked.

Harry grinned. “Magic.”

“But your wand is

Where is it?”

Harry pulled his wand from his belt in back. “As long as it’s touching me I can do things. It’s very convenient,” he smiled. “I think Dumbledore could do it.”

“And Voldemort. But how did you learn it.”

“When Riddle used the Killing Curse on me in the forest, he transferred some of his power to me again, like when he gave me my scar.”

Harry was not telling the truth. Even though he didn’t mind if people knew that he had acquired some unusual powers, he did not want anyone except Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to know the real reason. He had begun to notice earlier in the summer that his wand could do some interesting magic. It had first happened when he and Ginny encountered the six unfriendly Muggles on the beach. Harry had only pictured in his mind a shower of beer, and the bottles had risen into the air and burst seemingly of their own accord. The only reason he could come up with for it was that his wand had been repaired by the Elder Wand. And even though many people were aware that there was something unusual about the wand that Harry had taken from Riddle, he did not want to advertise it and give people reason to think about it.

Saliyah frowned. “Really? So what can you do besides summon a piece of pie?”

Harry grinned mischievously. “So far that’s the most important thing.” He summoned a third piece as he finished the second. “So,” he changed the subject, “how are the Death Eater trials coming along? By the way, Mrs. Weasley, this pie is beyond delicious.” She smiled appreciatively.

“They’re coming along,” said Saliyah, but she was still looking at his wand. “They’re all claiming the Imperius of course. And we don’t – Merlin’s belly! That’s your fourth piece, Harry! Where are you putting it?”

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“It’s those new powers I was talking about,” Harry said. Ginny, whose mouth was full, burst out laughing and had to catch chewed up peach pie in her hand to keep it from splattering all over herself and the table.

“It’s all right, dear,” Molly said to her. “There are plenty of peaches left. Harry, would you like another pie?”

“Mrs. Weasley, you are spoiling me rotten,” he sighed. “Not now. I’m stuffed.” He sat back in his chair and looked at Ginny. “You woke me up from my nap with your bug trick. Peach pie must make me sleepy, I think I’ll go lay down again.” He stood up, but Ginny pouted and folded her arms on her chest, although there was a glint in her eye.

“You’re no fun. All you do is eat and sleep, eat and sleep. You’re turning into an old man.” She stood up, then bent over from the waist and moved haltingly across the kitchen. “Old man wizard, that’s you, Harry Potter,” she said in a cackling, screechy voice. “I guess I’ll have to become an old hag meself before you’ll pay me any attention.” She took out her wand. “Now, what was that spell to turn me into a hag? Oh, dearie me, my mind must be going, I can’t remember a thing.”

Harry and Saliyah were roaring with laughter at this performance, and even Molly was smiling. “Okay, okay,” Harry wiped his eyes. “Don’t turn into a hag, at least not yet. I want to waste my youth on you first.” He turned red, and glanced at Mrs. Weasley, whose eyebrows were raised, “Uh, I mean, we

mustn’t waste our youth on

quickly led her out the door. Saliyah and Molly soon heard their laughter as they headed down the lane again.

uh

Sorry.” He ducked his head at her, then took Ginny’s hand and

“Give it up, Molly,” said Saliyah, “They’re both happy, and isn’t that what you want? What we all want, a little bit of normality?” Mrs. Weasley nodded, but her eyes teared up as she waved her wand and the plates and dishes floated off the table and into the sink.

* * * *

A hundred and fifty miles away in London, on level two of the Ministry of Magic, Arthur Weasley sat in his cramped, cluttered office, frowning at an official Ministry of Magic parchment that had just been handed to him by the short, stout wizard standing in front of his desk. The wizard was nervous, and had an apologetic smile. Arthur was reading the parchment, on which was written a long list of magic that had been performed illegally at the Burrow in the last two months by an underage witch.

The wizard was Ferdinand Forthfield. He was the same age as Arthur, and in fact they had been classmates at Hogwarts and had entered service in the Ministry at the same time. He worked in the Improper Use of Magic Office, on the same level as Arthur Weasley’s Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. After the death of Tom Riddle, Arthur had returned to his old job, but had kept his higher salary grade at the insistence of Kingsley Shacklebolt.

“I’m really sorry, Artie,” the wizard said, and brushed his hand over his nearly bald, sweating head. “Everyone knows who she is and who she’s with, and that her birthday is next week, but sixty—one violations in fifty—one days – we just couldn’t ignore it. I was able to get Hopkirk to let me hand it to you in person, rather than send an official owl to your home. She’s sympathetic, too, but it wouldn’t look

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good, it would seem like we were playing favorites, and on a pleading quality.

He trailed off, and his apologetic smile took

“Of course, of course, I quite understand, Ferdie, it’s quite understandable, and I appreciate your

handling it this way, I really do.” He shook his head as he ran his finger down the list. “You know how

kids are these days. And she

sympathy, and Ferdinand nodded in agreement.

well, she had a rough year, you know.” He looked up, hoping for

“Like I said, Artie, everyone understands, but we had no choice. Sixty—one in less than two months!” He chuckled. “Rather extraordinary, actually. She’s quite a talented witch already, judging from this, uh, this activity,” he indicated the parchment in Arthur’s hand.

Arthur was frowning again as he re—read the list. “What are these, here at the top? ‘Medical charms?’ What exactly does that mean? My goodness, there are more than a dozen of them. I know she’s used a few healing spells, she’s quite good at them,” he added proudly. “I mean, in the proper context, of course. Certainly not outside the confines of Hogwarts.”

“Well, those, Artie, those are something we usually let the parents deal with. I, uh, I don’t know much about it.” Ferdinand had suddenly turned red, and became interested in a poster hanging on the wall only inches behind Arthur’s head. The poster showed a man with a moustache, wearing a band—director’s hat, and the entire poster was in numerous garish colors. Across the top were the words, “Sgt. Pepper.”

“Well, what do you tell the parents to do?” Arthur asked, a little annoyed.

“They, uh, they usually contact a Healer. It’s a medical charm, you see.” He pointed to the parchment. “Well,” he looked quickly around the tiny office, “I’ve got to run. That’s a nice poster you’ve got, but I never heard of that wizard. It’s been brilliant talking to you again, Artie. Must try to stay in touch a little more, righto?” He backed out of the door – there wasn’t enough room to turn around – and was gone before Arthur could open his mouth.

He sighed and looked down the list of violations again. There were two at the bottom that were dated today, just this afternoon, in fact. One was a levitating spell and the other a healing charm, but the latter was different from the dozen—odd ones listed at the top. They had a strange name that he had never seen before, and there were one or two of them each day for the first week and a half that Ginny had been home after she got back from Shell Cottage. After that, though, they did not appear on the list again. He rubbed the bridge of his nose, sighed again, then stood and peered out the office door to a wizard sitting at a desk in a room across the hall that was even tinier than his.

“Perkins!” he called to his assistant, and the wizard looked up. “Send an owl to St. Mungo’s for me, will you please? Send it to Healer Derwent, and ask if I can come see her this afternoon, preferably right now.”

Perkins departed, and Arthur gazed at the parchment and shook his head. But he couldn’t help smiling a little. He went down the names of the magic Ginny had done: levitating, vanishing, transfigurations, tickling, a few healing ones. It was the record of a young witch having a good time – except for the mysterious “medical” charms at the top. He couldn’t figure those out. Well, he thought, how bad could they be? Obviously, no one was hurt.

In a few minutes Perkins was back and handed him a small parchment. “Come any time,” it read, “my office is on the fourth floor. Just come right up.” Arthur thought for a moment, then got up and took his hat from a hook on the door. “I might not be back today,” he told Perkins. He put the parchment from

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the Improper Use of Magic Office inside his robes and left.

In fifteen minutes he was standing in the waiting room of St. Mungo’s. There were only a few people there, and only one of them had a particularly bizarre affliction – a witch who was barking loudly and whose bushy tail was wagging vigorously as she scratched herself behind the ear with her foot. Arthur went up to the Welcome Witch’s desk.

“I’m here to see Healer Derwent,” he announced when the witch failed to look up from her magazine. She waved vaguely at the doors to her right. “Fourth floor,” she said.

“Thanks,” Arthur muttered as he walked away. He went up to the fourth floor. It took him a minute to find the room with a metal nameplate announcing “Healer Hestia Derwent.” He knocked and entered when the witch inside called out, “Come in.”

Hestia Derwent was sitting behind a desk in her Healer’s robes studying a medical chart. She was an attractive, motherly, middle—aged witch, an old friend of the Weasleys’. She rose with a smile and came around her desk. “Arthur, it’s good to see you. How is everyone? How is Molly doing? I hope this isn’t a medical visit.”

They shook hands and Hestia led him to a sofa under a window, and they sat down.

“We’re all fine,” he said. “All of the boys have gone, but Harry Potter’s staying with us. It’s been a real

boon, especially for Molly after

after what happened to Fred.”

“Yes. That’s a wound that may never heal, unfortunately. But it sounds like she at least has something to distract her a bit.” They talked for a few more minutes, exchanging gossip about witches and wizards they both knew. Finally, Arthur drew the parchment from his robes.

“We’ve been having sort of a problem with Ginny this summer. Not really a problem, she’s just been a little rambunctious with her magic. She’ll be seventeen next Tuesday, but she’s been doing some extra— curricular magic at the house. Nothing serious, but quite a bit of it.” He laughed nervously. “I actually just got handed this at the office. Oh, I don’t think there’ll be any trouble,” he assured Hestia, who

looked concerned. “But there is something on the list

Ministry, seemed reluctant to explain it. Here, these,” he pointed to the charms listed at the top of the parchment as he handed it to her.

The wizard who gave it to me, someone from the

Hestia began to read, and her eyebrows immediately rose and a look of surprise came over her face. She glanced at Arthur over the top of the parchment, then smiled briefly and bit her lower lip; she seemed to be trying not to laugh.

“So you don’t know what this is?” she asked. Arthur shook his head. Hestia perused the list again, counting as she read down, then took a breath and looked at him. “It’s a birth control charm. She used it fifteen times in eleven days.”

Arthur’s eyes bulged. “Fifteen?! In eleven days?! Merlin’s ba–!“ He closed his mouth and stared at her. He swallowed several times, trying to comprehend what the Healer had said. “Does that mean that she

and Harry

fifteen times in eleven days?”

Hestia nodded. “Probably. It’s a simple charm, very effective,” she added and Arthur looked relieved, “but not long lasting. It’s the one they teach all fifth—year girls at Hogwarts just before they turn sixteen. Very smart of them, if you ask me.”

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But Arthur was barely listening. He looked angry, terrified, bemused, and astounded all at once. Hestia put her hand on his. “She’s not the first sixteen—year—old witch to fall in love, Arthur, and she obviously knows what she’s doing. She’s being careful. Didn’t you suspect anything?”

Arthur nodded, then shook his head. “They’re off by themselves all the time. Fifteen?”

Hestia laughed. “I’m sorry,” she patted his hand again. “I shouldn’t laugh, but it is quite something, don’t you think?”

Arthur scowled and took the parchment back. “No, I don’t think it’s ‘something.’ She’s not of age, and Harry’s our house guest, for goodness sake. How could he do this to us?”

“Pardon me, Arthur, I know it’s none of my business, although you did come here and ask me to explain this to you, but Harry didn’t do anything to you.” Her voice softened. “Think about his life, about what he’s had to do just to keep from being murdered. Now, suddenly, he’s no longer in danger and he’s found someone who’s bringing out all the love that he could never show to anyone before. It’s almost a miracle.”

Arthur looked at the parchment again. On one level he knew that Hestia was right, and that Ginny was both smart enough and capable enough to make her own choices, even if she was a week short of seventeen. But on another level he wanted to lock her in her room forever. He didn’t know what he should do. “Do you have any daughters?” he asked.

“Two,” the Healer replied. “Both married. And I have three grandchildren.”

“We don’t have any grandchildren yet,” said Arthur. “I can see them coming, though.”

Hestia burst out laughing. “I’m sorry again,” she said. “But what I see every day, all day long, is suffering. Hearing about happiness is a tonic.”

“I suppose. Still

handle. “She stopped using it after eleven days, though.” He looked at Hestia, puzzled, “Surely they

didn’t stop doing – I mean

Arthur stood and started walking toward the door. He paused with his hand on the

what do you think happened?”

She thought for a moment. “Maybe she taught it to Harry. It wouldn’t register on the Trace if he did it.” She got a faraway look in her eyes and a small smile on her face.

But suddenly Arthur turned pale and put his hand to his head. “Good God, I just realized, what am I going to tell Molly? She’ll go berserk.”

“I can’t imagine she doesn’t already suspect something, but can I make a suggestion? Don’t say anything. In a week it won’t matter, and why ruin a perfectly good birthday?”

He stood thinking about it, and then chuckled. “That would be the peaceful way out, wouldn’t it? I don’t

know though

you doing a week from Saturday? It’s going to be a stupendous party, assuming we’re all still talking to each other.”

Well,” he came back to Hestia and took her hand, “I appreciate the advice. And what are

“I’ll try to be there,” she laughed. They shook hands and Arthur left.

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* * * *

Since they had come back to the Burrow, Harry and Ginny had created an internal world of their own. They did not deliberately exclude anyone from it – they interacted with the rest of the family and house —guests – but things happened between them that only they were aware of, and it simply did not occur to them to tell other people what was going on.

They anticipated each other’s needs without being asked. Ginny would get up in the middle of a conversation and bring Harry a butterbeer from the kitchen, and he would take it and smile at her, and everyone else in the parlor would glance at each other, wondering how Ginny knew. Then Harry would get up while describing how Professor Flitwick was going to give him advanced tutoring in Charms this fall, and he would walk over to Ginny and start scratching her back, and when he was finished Ginny would take his hand and give it a pat.

These kinds of things went on all the time between them, and Molly and Arthur had gotten used to them. But it was new to Saliyah and Kingsley Shacklebolt; the latter had come down from London that evening with Arthur to join Saliyah as the Weasleys’ dinner guest. After the meal and after Molly’s second peach pie of the day had been devoured, Arthur and Kingsley went outside and sat near the garden, sipping butterbeers. Kingsley watched Harry and Ginny – who had gone to the field down the lane – soar above the treetops on broomsticks; their whoops and laughter could be clearly heard from the backyard of the Burrow.

“What is it about them?” Kingsley wondered aloud. “I’ve never seen a couple like that. There’s some kind of magic going on, don’t you think?”

Arthur wasn’t listening and didn’t answer. He was sitting in the Muggle lawn chair – which he had forced into an upright position after a titanic struggle – watching the two flyers. He was also thinking about what he had learned that afternoon from Hestia Derwent. He had not told Molly about the list of violations, in fact he had used an Unnoticeable charm on it and had hidden it under a pile of old work shirts in his dresser. He had trouble looking at Harry, though. He was uncomfortable, but not angry; how could he be, after all? At dinner he could see the Weasley family clock on a counter right behind Harry, with it’s hands pointed at normal activities – At Home, Traveling, At Work. He remembered that only a few months ago they had all pointed to Mortal Peril, and it was thanks to Harry that it was no longer doing so.

And if he had any thoughts at all about cracking down on Ginny, all he had to do was look at her. He had never seen her so happy in her life. Molly always liked to say that she and Arthur were made for each other, but Ginny and Harry made that observation look like an overstatement. He knew that he did have to talk to her; he was her father after all, and he had a responsibility. But then again, watching the two of them together had been a pleasure of his and Molly’s all summer. They spread good feelings, somehow; he always felt happy when he was around them.

“It’s contagious,” said Arthur, watching Ginny do three quick barrel rolls over Harry. “The boys used to

bring girlfriends home, but they were never like that, and it never made me feel He laughed self—consciously.

well, I don’t know.”

“Younger?” Kingsley suggested with a smile, and took a swig of his butterbeer. He was glad to be out of town, if only for an evening. The war might be won, but the effort to move the Ministry of Magic off

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of its bureaucratic rear—end in the direction he wanted it to go was often frustrating and always tiring. But tonight he was relaxed; it was a beautiful evening in the middle of a peaceful summer, and he enjoyed watching Harry and Ginny together as much as he enjoyed the company of the Weasleys.

‘I heard that Ron and Hermione Granger went to France with Bill and his wife,” Kingsley said. “When will they be back?”

“Saturday. They want to be back in time for Ginny’s birthday and the party.”

“That’ll be a blow—out.” Kingsley finished his butterbeer and stood up. “Can I get you another one?” Arthur shook his head, and Kingsley walked back to the house and went inside.

At that moment Harry and Ginny appeared around the side of the Burrow with their brooms slung over their shoulders. They were both still barefoot and in tee-shirts. They stopped underneath the window of Ginny’s room, leaned their brooms against the side of the house, and then Ginny pointed her wand. Two sweatshirts flew out the window of her room and dropped into her hands. She gave one to Harry and they turned and continued across the lawn toward the woods in back of the house.

“Ginny!” barked her father. “Where are you going? Don’t stay out late! And no magic! How many times do I have to tell you?”

“Oops. Sorry, Dad,” she called as she and Harry passed the gate at the end of the lawn. “I didn’t see you there.” They now had their arms around each other, and soon they disappeared down a path that led into the woods.

“Sixty—two,” muttered Arthur, frowning.

Kingsley reappeared as Harry and Ginny were walking out the gate. He watched them go and sat down. “You’re right,” he said thoughtfully. “They make you feel younger.” They sat in silence for a moment, then Kingsley stood up again. “How about we go see what the witches are up to?.” Arthur grunted, and they went into the Burrow.

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Chapter 9: The Heirloom

Author's Notes: This chapter is a little shorter than the others, but making it longer would have messed up chapter 10, which is in an advanced draft already, so I'm hoping to submit it in a few days.

I apologize to all French speakers and language students for the name of a magical object which appears in The Heirloom. The object was inveneted (if that is the word) and named centuries ago by an English witch who's knowledge of French was limited, to say the least. She named it by putting two French words together in a completely un-grammatical way. I decided to keep the original name in order to avoid confusion.

10/06/07 - made minor editing corrections.

avoid confusion. 10/06/07 - made minor editing corrections. Arthur lay awake most of the night, worrying
avoid confusion. 10/06/07 - made minor editing corrections. Arthur lay awake most of the night, worrying

Arthur lay awake most of the night, worrying and thinking about Ginny. He had decided to talk to her in the morning – he knew that Harry would not be there – and the more he thought about the list of illegal magic, the more he realized that it was silly to think that he could keep it from Molly. She was bound to find out, and it was wrong anyway to keep her in the dark about something so important. But he was unsure of what to do about the birth control charms. So, at three—thirty in the morning, after endless tossing and turning, he lit a candle and woke Molly. After she finished grousing about the hour, he showed her the parchment from the Improper Use of Magic Office; next to the first “medical charm” he had written “birth control.”

To Arthur’s surprise, all Molly did was sigh and hand the parchment back to him with barely a glance at it. “It’s what I expected,” she said. “They spend so much time off by themselves. How could we not ”

expect something like this to happen? Although, so many

the charms, then put her hand over her mouth and suppressed a giggle. “Thank goodness they teach that at school. They certainly didn’t when we were there.”

She took the parchment back and counted

Arthur snatched the notice back. “That’s fine,” he said peevishly, “but what do we do now?”

Molly shrugged. “What do you think we should do? What would you do?”

“It can’t continue,” he grumbled. “They can’t use our house for this.”

“For what? Don’t you remember what we did when we were seventeen?”

“As I recall, we were both seventeen.”

“That’s a technicality. The issue is

That it’s wrong? How can it be wrong for two young people who feel like they do, as long as they’re careful? I don’t know what the answer is, Arthur.”

I don’t know, what is the issue? That it makes us uncomfortable?

“Well, the magic has to stop. At least admit to that.”

Molly pushed the covers back and sat on the edge of the bed. “Yes,” she said with her back to him, “I agree. That’s a violation of the law, and it’s embarrassing you. But,” she turned to face him, “we’ve known about it for weeks and haven’t done anything. If we don’t handle it right, she’ll just throw it back in our faces.” She got back into bed. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I was about to get up and make breakfast, so how can I know what I’m saying? I’m half asleep. It’s way too early or late or whatever it is to be talking about this.”

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She lay down and yawned, then looked thoughtfully at Arthur, who still had a small crease on his brow. “There’s something about them, something different.” She put her hand on his. “I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s some kind of magic there. I don’t mean just the romantic kind. Ginny acts like a giddy teenage witch, but there’s a power underneath it. Sometimes it frightens me, but it’s a wonder to behold.” She squeezed his hand and pulled the covers up. “Dearest, she’s your own little witch, but now she’s about to become a grown—up witch, and someone else’s grown—up witch at that. I know how hard it is, believe me. I nursed her, I changed her nappies, I watched her grow. But just think of who she chose, and how happy she is.” She yawned again and smiled, then reached up and put her hand on Arthur’s face. “They make me feel good.”

Arthur put out the candle and sat in the dark, letting the images of Ginny that Molly had evoked run through his mind. He turned to her and was about to speak, but she was asleep.

He settled down and dozed until the sun came up. Molly awoke and went downstairs to make breakfast, and Arthur followed a few minutes later; Molly was clearing Ginny and Harry’s breakfast dishes. “They’re already outside,” Molly said as she dunked two small bowls in the sink. “He’s leaving.” She nodded her head toward the window over the sink and Arthur joined her. Ginny and Harry were standing near the gate. Ginny had her hands on his chest, and Harry was holding a tiny silver cylinder that was hung by a silver chain around his neck. He pressed the cylinder to his lips, then closed his eyes and smiled. Ginny kissed him, and they talked for a moment, and then Harry said something that made Ginny grab his hands and jump up and down while her face broke into a gleeful grin.

Arthur turned from the window. “He’s wearing it,” he said to Molly as he sat down. He took the parchment from his shirt pocket and placed it on the table, and looked up. Molly was watching him. “I don’t know what to do,” he muttered.

“You’ll do the right thing. You always do,” she said. Arthur smiled wanly and gave her hand an appreciative pat as she sat down next to him. They waited for Ginny to come inside. They did not speak as the minutes passed. He gazed at the door, and remembered the first time he had shown the silver cylinder to Ginny, almost seventeen years ago

The little cylinder was an ancient and magical heirloom, the Bouquedelle of the Weasley family. It had been passed to Arthur from his father, and he had given it to Ginny, as was the tradition, on the day she was born. He had put it, along with the other family heirlooms that would be hers, in a magical chest that was kept under her crib and then under her bed. It was to be worn by her beloved, but only when they were separated, and whenever he pressed it to his lips, it gave off her unique scent. Since no female had been born into the family for hundreds of years, the Bouquedelle had not been used for scores of generations, and it carried no scent since the aroma always faded away upon the death of its wearer.

When Ginny was seven, Arthur took the Bouquedelle from its chest and explained to his daughter that some day she would gift it to the love of her life, and he would keep it with him always, to remind him of her when she was not near. She held it up to the light, letting it swing back and forth on its chain. "What if I never fall in love, Daddy?" she asked.

"You will, darling," he smiled. "And whoever the lucky wizard is will have no choice. His heart will be bewitched, and you will give him this and he'll be yours forever. And you will be his forever." They solemnly put the silver cylinder and its chain back into the chest and put the chest back under her bed. Then, seven years later, when Ginny was fourteen and about to leave for her fourth year at Hogwarts, Arthur told her to take it out again.

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"It's yours now, to do with as you please," he said. "Remember, it will be your true love's until he dies, and then it will come back to the family, and it will be passed on to the next Weasley daughter."

Ginny examined the heirloom, turning it over and holding it up to the light; she had not looked at it since putting it away seven years ago. It was made of loosely woven, finely filigreed silver threads that bent slightly when she pressed them between her thumb and forefinger. They were flexible, yet the cylinder kept its shape even when the threads were bent. Through the threads she could see the pink stone that filled the space inside.

So Ginny had put the Bouquedelle in her dresser drawer and left it there almost three more years, and the day after she and Harry came home from Shell Cottage at the end of June she went to her room and opened the dresser. The Bouquedelle was lying on top of a tangled pile of brassieres, and Ginny stared at it for a moment; she was sure that she had left it under the bras. She picked it up and swung it on its chain, and it flashed in the sunlight that was coming in her window. She watched it swing for a minute, then closed the drawer and went to find her father.

He was sitting near the garden reading the Daily Prophet, and looked up when Ginny stood in front of him. "What is it, honey?" he asked, putting down the paper. She glanced around to make sure no one was watching, then opened her hand to show him the Bouquedelle. Arthur leaned forward and looked at her closely. "I've been wondering when you would bring it to me. Ginny, I have to ask you this. Are you absolutely certain? The magic won't work unless you are."

"I've never been anything but certain, Daddy," she replied . "I want to give it to him on his birthday.”

Arthur looked at her intently and she met his gaze. Finally he smiled and held out his hand. "I'll take care

of it. It will only take a day or two." She passed it to him, then, without thinking, she jumped into his lap

and hugged him tightly. He laughed and patted her back. "Let's go upstairs," he said. "We need a few

strands of your hair. I think your mum's up in our room."

Molly wasn't upstairs, but alone in the kitchen. She looked up from the bowl of vegetables she was washing in the sink, and then beamed at Ginny when Arthur held up the Bouquedelle on its chain. "Darling!" She wiped her hands on a towel that flew from a hook on the wall. "Are you sure? Oh, silly question!" She threw the towel down and pulled Ginny into a smothering hug. "Come, I'll cut a lock of your hair. Oh, my, this is wonderful. We've been talking about it for a year, at least. Some good news at last! Just wonderful!"

She bustled up the stairs, pushing Ginny ahead of her into the bedroom while Arthur trailed after them. Molly took a pair of scissors from her sewing chest and, as Ginny held up the hair at the back of her neck, snipped off a few strands at the root. She held them up, bright red and silky. She twirled them tightly around her finger, then put them into a little brass box that she retrieved from a jewelry case on her dressing table. She snapped the box shut and handed it to Ginny.

"This is so important to your father," she said, glancing at Arthur. "I know you realize that, Ginny, but your Bouquedelle has not been used for hundreds of years. This is a very special moment for the Weasley family." Ginny hugged her.

Arthur took the silver cylinder and the brass box to the Ministry the next day, and when he gave the Bouquedelle back to Ginny two days later, the pink stone inside was now darker, almost red, and the cylinder was slightly heavier. Ginny put it back in her dresser – under the bras – and left it there.

A month later, on July thirty—first, as the sun was rising, Ginny tip—toed up to Harry’s room, quietly

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went inside, and awoke him with a kiss. He sat up with a start when he saw her. “Get dressed,” she said and giggled at his obvious disappointment. She waited for him on the landing, then led him outside and down to a small clearing in the woods near the river that was enclosed by thickets of yew; it was one of the many places in which they had spent hours together, hidden from the rest of the world. She gave him the Bouquedelle while they were sitting on the short grass facing each other.

Harry started to put the chain around his neck, but Ginny stopped him. "No," she put her hand on his. "It's only for when I'm not with you. Put it to your lips, you'll see."

Harry somewhat self-consciously pressed the cylinder to his mouth, then drew back, startled, as Ginny's magical fragrance – the one he had first inhaled in a Potions class two years ago – filled the air of the little clearing. He held the cylinder up, then looked at Ginny in wonder.

Ginny leaned toward him. "This is yours to keep forever."

"It's going to torture me," he said. "Whenever I smell that, I want you."

"Do you now?" she whispered, her eyes bright. She leaned back on her hands, and Harry came to her. "Happy birthday," Ginny murmured into his ear as he put his hand behind her back and lowered her to the grass.

The sun was higher, sending flittering beams of light through the branches of the trees that sheltered them. They were lying on their backs listening to the wind in the leaves. Harry fingered the Bouquedelle, rolling the cylinder between his thumb and finger. "Where did it come from?" he asked.

Ginny told him how it had been in her family for generations, and how it had become hers. "It's yours for the rest of your life. Then it comes back to the family until the next girl is born."

"What if you have a daughter?" He gave her a suggestive grin.

"No. It goes through the male line. If one of my brothers has a daughter who isn't married when you when you're gone, she'll get it."

"And she'll give it

to

?"

"The love of her life."

Harry sat up. The breeze ruffled the hairs on his chest and Ginny reached up and ran her fingers through them. Harry took her hand and held it. "Is that what you did?" He leaned over her, and his head was haloed by the sun shining through an opening in the branches above them.

"Of course," Ginny smiled

Now, on another early morning five days later, out in the yard, Ginny watched Harry walk through the gate and Disapparate. She whirled around, hugging herself and laughing. Not only was Harry wearing her Bouquedelle for the first time, but he had told her that this was the last mysterious trip he would be making by himself. He had gone away every Wednesday for most of the summer, without telling her where. But next week, the day after her birthday, he would take her with him and give her his birthday present. And, Ginny thought to herself, she would be able to go without asking permission; she could Apparate there with Harry, she could fly there, she could do whatever she wanted. She felt a tingling, excited anticipation, and she laughed aloud again.

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Smiling happily, she walked back to the house, thinking that today would be a good time to start sorting her clothes for school to see what needed mending. She opened the kitchen door and saw her parents sitting at the table; her smile faded when she noticed the official—looking parchment in front of her father and the frown on his face. When she looked at her parents closely, she could tell that neither one had gotten enough sleep.

She knew that the parchment had something to do with underage magic; he had yelled at her about it just yesterday. Her mind raced, and she thought back to the early summer, when in her stupidity she had done the birth control charms herself. But it didn’t matter; she didn’t care what they said, she was not going to stop loving Harry. She would be seventeen in six days, so what difference did it make? And from all the stories she had heard about her parents, they had certainly done the same thing when they were her age. She stood in the doorway, waiting for them to speak, balling her fists and clenching her jaw, her eyes shifting from the parchment to her parents. The morning’s tide of joy had receded.

Her father passed his hand over his eyes. “Ginny,” he sounded weary, “I got this notice yesterday while I was at work. It says that you’ve committed sixty—one acts of illegal magic this summer – sixty—two, counting the summoning spell yesterday evening. That’s got to stop.”

Ginny’s hands unclenched. Was that it? Maybe the birth control charms hadn’t registered before Harry started doing them. If that was all, then no big deal.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll stop. I’m sorry, Dad, I didn’t mean to cause you trouble.”

Her father nodded. “I know you didn’t, honey. It wasn’t really any trouble. But

the parchment, and Ginny’s insides flipped. “There are some spells on this list that your mum and I have to ask you about.”

He looked down at

Ginny swallowed and looked from one to the other. Her jaw tightened again, and she felt her temper rising. “Harry and I are in love,” she said defiantly, “and we’re not going to stop. It’s none of your business, anyway.”

Arthur scowled. “It’s our house and it’s our business, Ginny. You may not do –“

“We never did anything in the house!” she yelled. “What do you think we are, stupid?”

Molly spoke for the first time. “Ginny, that’s the last thing anyone thinks of you.”

“Then let me make up my own mind! Why are Harry and I different from you and Dad before you were married?” Her eyes flashed at