Ginny woke to find Ron kneeling over her, looking quite concerned and Harry hovering behind him, looking extremely guilty and shifting uncomfortably on his feet. With her brother's aid she slowly sat up and gazed around the forest. She could hear the rain pattering on the dry leaves on the ground around them, and see the droplets streaming down the sides of an invisible shield that one of the two Aurors had erected to keep them dry.
“What happened?” she groggily asked, rubbing her throbbing temples.
“You fainted,” Ron said. “I’m sorry, Ginny. I never would have brought you out here if I thought it’d affect you this way.”
Ginny swallowed hard, unconsciously rubbing her throat with shaking hands where she had felt the phantom killer wringing the life out of Daphne Greengrass. “Was I right about it being Daphne?” she rasped, and she wondered if she’d been screaming before she passed out.
Glancing up and seeing the guarded look Harry was giving her, she had to surmise that she must have done a bit more than just scream. It was always embarrassing when her body responded to the memories she was encountering, like a mime acting out in an invisible world only she could see.
“Yes,” he confirmed, his voice sounding somewhat shaken.
Ginny nodded. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a better description of the murderer’s face.”
“You did enough,” Harry answered before taking a step towards her and kneeling next to Ron. "I take it you knew Daphne, as well?"
Ginny glanced up at him, wincing as a stab of pain lanced through her neck. She could feel a migraine quickly approaching, and the last thing she wanted was to wind up being sick in front of her brother and his partner.
She nodded. "May I have some water?"
"Oh, sorry," Harry murmured and quickly conjured a glass of water. Holding it out to Ginny, her fingers brushed the back of his hand as she took the glass. Again she felt her stomach anxiously churn, and past images of his death flashed through her mind. She shoved them aside in frustration, irritated that every time she touched him, that was all she ever saw and nothing more. She'd worry she was losing her touch if she hadn't just experienced the nightmarish images of Daphne's murder.
“I think I need to rest,” she said, attempting to rise. Ron assisted her, but all the same she stumbled, and Harry instinctively reached out and grabbed her elbow.
They silently guided her back to the car, and opening the rear door, Ron eased Ginny onto the seat. Closing her eyes, she leaned back against the soft leather. Her neck and shoulders ached with tension and she rolled her head a few times attempting to ease the stiffness. Taking deep, cleansing breaths, she tried to clear her mind of the after images of the vision and only vaguely felt the car shudder to life and distantly heard Ron's and Harry's murmuring voices. The faint vibration of the vehicle as it eased back down the lane helped lull her into a half sleep and she wasn't even aware of it when they broke free of the trees or of the tires leaving the ground as the car rose into the air.
She awoke to the sound of crunching gravel, and opening her eyes recognized the flickering torches that lined the streets of Hogsmeade ahead of them. The rest had done her some good and her headache had subsided so that it was only a dull ache in her temples.
"How did we get here so quickly?" Ginny asked, rubbing at her eyes and sitting forward in her seat.
"Flew," Harry stated succinctly.
"What doesn't this car do?" she remarked.
"Haven't figured out how to make it go underwater yet," he answered and Ron chuckled beside him, before turning around in his seat to solemnly gaze at her.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better," she assured him. "But I could really use a drink.” She glanced out the window. “Mind dropping me at the Hog’s Head? Just make a left at the next street, please, Auror Potter.”
“I wouldn’t mind an ale before we call it a day,” Ron chimed, clearly in agreement with his sister that there was nothing like a stiff drink to take the edge off. After what she had just experienced, Ginny was definitely feeling the need to dull her senses just a bit.
“What do you say, Harry?” Ron asked, nudging Harry in the arm.
“I was planning on heading back to the office and begin looking into the leads Ginny gave us,” he said, to which Ron pulled a face.
“Come on, Harry!” Ron criticized. “One drink won’t kill you.”
Ginny cringed at her brother’s macabre choice of words, the fresh look from earlier in the afternoon of Harry’s supposed death returning to her. Harry, however, didn’t seem to mind Ron’s unknowing gaffe and merely grunted his reluctant agreement to join them.
Making a left at the next lane, they bounced over the uneven cobblestoned road until they came to the grey and ramshackle building that housed The Hog’s Head. It held the reputation as a gathering place for the disreputable denizens of Hogsmeade, but really it was the pub of choice for Hogwarts professors looking for privacy and a stiffer drink than what could be found at the Three Broomsticks.
Harry parked the car by the curb in front of the establishment, clearly not too concerned at how out of place the vehicle was in the quaint, turn-of-the-century atmosphere of the small village. The flickering gas lamps along the pavement cast warm light over the car’s shiny black surface. He and Ron opened their doors and stepped out.
Taking their cue, Ginny fumbled with her own door, but couldn't figure out how to open it. Blowing her breath out in frustration, she pulled out her wand and waved it at the door, causing it to spring wildly open, the hinges groaning in protest.
"Easy!" Harry groused, slamming his own door shut and grabbing the handle of the rear door to ease its shuddering. Ginny couldn't help but notice the unconcealed concern that flashed briefly in his eyes as they swept over her after ensuring the car door was still attached.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell at you,” he muttered. “I would have gotten that for you.” He indicated her door with a feeble gesture of his hand.
"I think I'll remember that for next time," she said as she managed to step out with a bit more grace than previously. Only when she was standing and noticed the odd look Harry was giving her, did she realize what she had said. "If there is a next time, I mean."
“I hope we can catch the killer before then,” he responded, and Ginny merely nodded, needing the drink more than ever. She hadn’t been thinking about seeing him again in context of helping with the case and she couldn’t begin to explain why her thoughts were even moving in that direction. Harry had to be the most closed-lipped person she had ever met, not to mention only having shown a modicum of emotion since she had met him. He most definitely was not giving her any sign that he saw her as anything else but an asset to the case he was currently working.
Coming to her senses, she realized he had left her side on the pavement and had already entered the pub. Ron stood holding the door and apparently had been calling her name.
“Sorry,” she murmured, walking past him to enter the dimly lit building. As usual only a few patrons graced the owner, Aberforth with their presence. Ginny spotted the Astronomy instructor who had been teaching at Hogwarts for at least as long as she had attended and worked there, Professor Aurora Sinistra sharing a corner booth with the Muggle Studies professor, Joseph Blahner. Ginny had always known there was something between the two of them, despite the fact that they were polar opposites in every sense of the word. Aurora was a dark-skinned beauty with thick black hair that flowed past her waist, while everything about Joseph was pale; pale skin, hair, and eyes. Aurora was a quiet and reserved Aries, while Joseph was loud and boisterous Cancer; two signs that were usually incompatible, but somehow, their extreme differences seemed to work for them.
Ginny waved casually to them as well as Aberforth, who stood behind the bar, looking as he always did, as if he could care less whether anyone was there or not. She followed Ron, who was headed to a corner booth on the opposite side of the room from where Joseph was loudly and enthusiastically entertaining Aurora with a tale from his classes that day. Harry sat by the wall in the booth facing them, clearly so he could watch the door. Ron waited for her to slide into the booth opposite his partner before settling next to her.
“So, what’s everybody having?” he asked, looking between Ginny and Harry.
“I’d like a shot of Ogden’s,” Ginny immediately answered.
“I’ll have the same," Harry said.
“I'll be right back," Ron said, sliding back out of the booth and heading back towards the bar to procure their drinks.
Ginny clasped her hands in her lap and glanced over at Harry, who was staring fixedly down at his own clenched fists that rested on the scuffed tabletop.
"So, er, about earlier," he began, tearing his gaze away from his hands to look at her. "Sorry about that in your classroom. You just weren't what I was expecting."
"Clearly," Ginny replied, "I suppose I could say the same about you."
Harry nodded his head, knitting his long fingers together and tapping his thumbs nervously together. He looked past her shoulder towards the bar where Ron was still ordering their drinks before looking back at her.
"Do you come here often, Professor Weasley?" he awkwardly asked, clearly trying to make conversation and Ginny couldn't help the giggle that escaped her lips. She quickly covered her mouth with her hand and blinked rapidly at him. So far she had not been able to make heads or tails of him and being unable to read him was making it all the more difficult to gain an accurate sense of who Harry was as a person.
"No, I don't," she answered hoping the scowl her giggling had caused to appear on Harry's face would vanish. "And please, call me Ginny."
"Fine," he answered shortly and averted his gaze to study the dusty lamp hanging above their table. They fell into an awkward silence, but Ron arrived shortly with a tray containing three shots of Ogden’s and three goblets of Elvish Flaming Ale. Setting it on the end of the table he passed them each a shot and a goblet before resuming his seat and taking the last two drinks for himself.
“Well, here’s to finding the killer sooner rather than later,” he said, raising his shot glass. Harry and Ginny did the same and all three of them drank the fiery liquid. Ron quickly took a large gulp of his ale as a chaser, while Ginny took a small sip of her own and Harry merely wrapped one hand around the sweating goblet sitting before him.
"Didn't I tell you Ginny was the real thing, Harry?" Ron asked, giving Ginny a warm look of praise.
"You did," Harry agreed in a noncommittal tone.
"We never would have known any of the details of the lorry without your help, Ginny," Ron stated, taking another large gulp of his ale.
“So, what happens now?” she asked.
"Well, the white lorry is circumstantial evidence," Harry said. "We only have what you saw. Robards is going to need more."
"But, I linked it to the killer," Ginny protested.
"True," Harry agreed with a nod, "but, we need to find the lorry and hopefully that will lead us to the killer. Finding the lorry will take time."
“But not tonight,” Ron said firmly, waving at Aberforth for another round and glancing at his watch as he did so. “Bloody hell! Is that the actual time? I was supposed to meet Hermione and her parents for dinner a half hour ago!”
“I’ll take you,” Harry said, beginning to slide out of the booth.
“No, I’ll just Apparate, it’ll be quicker. You two stay and finish your drinks,” Ron said, the frantic look in his eyes making Ginny snicker. He leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Thanks for your help tonight, Ginny. Be sure to get some rest.”
Ginny nodded as he strode out of the pub in a rush of billowing robes. Still chuckling, Ginny looked over at Harry who had a bemused expression on his face.
“I take it you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Hermione yet,” she commented.
“No,” Harry said with a small shake of his head. “I’ve been working abroad for the Auror Office, tracking the last of the Death Eaters and then I took a short leave of absence. This is my first case since coming back.”
“I was wondering why Ron has never mentioned you before,” Ginny said as Aberforth sent two more glasses of whiskey sailing to the table with a Levitation charm to land in front of them. Ginny picked hers up and took a small sip.
“This is our first case together,” Harry replied. “Your brother seems like a good man though.”
“He is,” Ginny agreed.
Harry nodded. “He’s a good partner, as well. I envy his optimism.”
“You aren’t optimistic?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I just mean, he seems to be able to find the positive in most things.”
“Like my vision of the lorry,” she stated.
“Your brother sees it as a positive thing, which it is,” Harry said, trying not to offend her, Ginny was sure. “It’s a definite start and more than we had before.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more to go on,” she expressed, feeling frustrated that there hadn’t been more for her to see. And after what Harry had said of it only being circumstantial evidence, she couldn't help wondering if she had really been of much help, aside from confirming to him that she actually had the gift of second sight.
“No,” Harry quickly said. “I’ll be honest, the things you were telling us tonight... it was as if you had been present at the crime scene and already knew all the details about Daphne and what happened to her.”
“So, you believe I have second sight,” Ginny said, challenging him.
“I believe you have a gift, yes,” he responded.
They sat in somewhat companionable silence for a moment, sipping at their ales. Aurora and Joseph departed, calling farewell to Ginny and Aberforth, and leaving them the only patrons left in the bar. The elder wizard glanced over at Ginny and Harry before turning to wash up the glasses the Hogwarts professors had left behind at their table.
Finishing her drink, Ginny set it down on the table and looked over at Harry. He was a blank slate inside and out, and was currently staring absently at the half-empty goblet his hands were curled around. Since coming to her senses and putting the awful murder scene behind her, the enigma of Harry had come to the forefront of her thoughts again. He didn't like seers, but had respected Ron's opinion enough to take a chance on her. Her curiosity was definitely piqued and since she couldn't read Harry the normal way, at least for her, perhaps she should try a tried and true old fashioned way and glean some insight from examining his palms.
“Have you ever had your palms read, Harry? May I call you Harry?” Ginny asked, feeling emboldened after a couple of shots of Firewhisky followed by a goblet of ale, and reached for Harry’s hands.
“Sure, but why are you asking about my palms?” Harry asked, looking up from his goblet with wary eyes.
“May I?” she asked, and seeing his look, smiled. “Just for fun,” she said lightly. She pulled his hands away from the goblet and held them palm up in her own. She blocked out the usual vision of his death before it could take root in her mind, and instead focused on examining the lines of his hands. She followed them with her eyes, and soon enough the despised images of Harry’s death faded completely.
“You have air hands,” she said, studying the alabaster skin of his rectangular palm, and his long, slender fingers.
“What’s that mean?” he asked, and Ginny looked up, noting his strong, aquiline nose and his thick, black lashes casting long shadows over his cheeks as he looked down at his hands upon hers.
“It means you are curious, intellectual, and hold your feelings close,” she said, slipping her left hand out from underneath his right to examine it closer. “We’ll start with your left hand. This is the hand that shows what you were born with.”
Harry snorted. “I already had a seer tell me once what I was born with. I was marked.”
Ginny could hear the bitterness in his voice and glanced up at him again. His square jaw was clenched and she could feel the tension and nervous energy radiating off him.
“I don’t see that here,” she said softly, tracing the lines on his hand. “Your fate line isn’t deep until later in your life.” She paused, and examined Harry’s lifeline. His hand was warm in hers, he was alive as much as she was, despite what her vision kept telling her. His lifeline was broken in two places, while not unheard of, it was something she had yet to see in her years of study. After the second break it continued uninterrupted, where his fate line ran just as deep, running parallel to it.
“I think I’m fairly certain what my fate entails by now,”he said acidly, attempting to withdraw his hand, but Ginny gripped it tighter.
“I’m not done,” she firmly said, looking up to meet his smouldering green eyes. She swallowed, his eyes were amazing. The photos that had been printed in the papers right after the end of the war didn’t begin to do them justice. It was incredibly nerve-wracking to still not be able to sense anything from him. Usually, she could open her channels and be able to read anyone in her vicinity. Still holding his hand, she eased her mind slowly open, blocking out Aberforth’s annoyance that they were the only ones left and preventing him from closing up shop early. Nothing. She couldn’t even gain a sense of Harry’s obvious bitterness or where it stemmed from.
“Why don’t you like seers?” she asked.
“Who says I don’t?” he countered.
“I can tell,” Ginny calmly replied, knowing from how he reacted earlier when she informed him that Ron had told her they didn’t have any leads, he would not like the fact that her brother was sharing more of his secrets.
“Did you ‘see’ it?” Harry asked.
“Maybe.” She definitely didn’t want him to know that she couldn’t read him aside from what his palms were telling her, and quite honestly, that was only the basics.
“I’ve had some bad experiences,” he cagily said. “I think, for the most part, most seers are frauds.”
“But you’ve decided I’m not a fraud,” Ginny softly reminded him.
Harry gave her a surprised look. “I’ve never seen anything like what you did in the forest tonight. I don’t think that is something you can fake, so no, I don’t think you are a fraud. I think you are the real deal.”
“Good,” she said.
He didn’t look like he wanted to continue the conversation and Ginny reflected upon his hands again, examining his right hand in conjunction with his left.
“I’ve already told you your left hand shows us what you were born with,” she said instead. “Your right hand shows us what you have done with your potential.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m not sure I want to know if I am living up to my potential or not.”
“Relax,” she soothed. “Just for fun, remember?”
“Right. Just for fun,” he agreed, his hands twitching in hers and she had the distinct impression he wanted to run them through his already tousled hair.
“Let’s look at your heart line,” Ginny said, lightly tracing the line that ran from beneath his index finger past the edge of his palm, both good signs. Not that it mattered to her, she mentally kicked herself, even if she decided she found his dishevelled look extremely attractive. Which was odd, since all the blokes she had fancied in the past had been well put-together.
Neville, for instance, had always been meticulous about his grooming and her boyfriend after him, Michael Corner had always dressed smart; his hair perfectly coiffed, his tie perfectly knotted, and his shirt, pants, and robes precisely pressed. She should have known from the beginning they would never work out. In hindsight, Michael reminded her quite a bit of her older brother, Percy, who had always been and still was uptight. They had not lasted long.
Then there had been Dean. He had been the perfect gentleman and hadn’t even tried to hold her hand until their third date. He kissed her for the first time on the train back to Hogwarts after a summer of exchanging letters. The kiss was as warm and sincere as Dean and Ginny finally felt a tiny spark flare within her. She had been satisfied for a time, but he treated her as if she were made of glass, especially after she had a spell from a vision. At first she appreciated his attentions, but after a while they became cloying and the small spark that had briefly flamed between them died.
Ginny had given up on dating completely after that, contenting herself with the close friendships she had developed and focusing completely on honing her skill with Firenze.
So, here she was, reading the palm of an Auror who detested seers and with whom she had a working relationship, of sorts, she supposed. The gnawing, anxious feeling was back in the pit of her stomach and she recognized it for what it was - desire. Her cheeks flamed, and she was thankful for the dim light from the dingy lamp that hung on the wall by their table.
“So, what’s the heart line tell you?” Harry was asking, and Ginny took the opportunity to bend her head lower over his palm, allowing her long, fiery braid to fall over her shoulder.
“Well,” she said, swallowing. “Yours is long and wavy which means two things.” She paused, suddenly not liking what his hand was supposedly telling her. “A long line means you are content with your love life.” She wasn’t sure, but she thought she heard Harry emit a faint snort.
“What’s the wavy part mean?” he pressed, and she could feel his eyes boring into the top of her head.
“It means you haven’t had any serious relationships, but a lot of lovers,” she finished, and Harry chuckled. She glanced up to see the corner of his mouth curled up in a half smile. It was the first time she had seen him smile all evening. “Is that funny?”
Harry shook his head. “That’s what you see in my hands?”
“Yes,” Ginny answered.
“What do you see in your head?” he asked, studying her carefully.
“What do you mean?” she inquired, suddenly feeling like this entire scenario had been another test she had fallen into without realizing it.
“I mean,” Harry began, “I have heard most of this before, but it doesn’t tell me anything. So, I’ll ask you again, what do you see in your head about me? You saw a lot tonight, and I am assuming that was only residual psychokinetic energy you were reading.”
Ginny found herself caught in his burning green gaze, his eyes hard, yet pleading for her to tell him something no one else had been able to in the past.
“Your future is murky,” she admitted. “I can’t ‘see’ it or ‘read’ you at all. I’m sorry.”
Harry was silent for a moment. “At least you are honest. All the others made up a bunch of lies or told me what they thought I wanted to hear.”
“Is that why you don’t like seers?” Ginny asked.
“It’s part of the reason, but it’s more complicated than that, and I’d rather not talk about it,” Harry said candidly. He pulled a small pouch from his pocket and dumped a handful of galleons into his palm. Spreading them on the table, he stood abruptly. “This was 'fun'," he said, throwing her words back at her, "but I really should go. You did get something right, in a way, I do have a lot of lovers. It’s my work, and right now Daphne needs her murderer found. Thanks for all your help tonight. I have a white lorry to track down.”
For the second time that day, Ginny was caught unaware at how quickly he could shift gears, but rose to stand with him.
“Please, let me know if I can be of any further help on the case,” she stated sincerely, to which he nodded.
“Well, thanks again.” he said in a final farewell before departing. Ginny remained standing by the table, watching him disappear out the door. Faintly the sounds of the car door opening and closing and the engine turning over could be heard. Lights flared briefly through the front windows, rising up as the car lifted off the ground.
“All right, Ginevra,” Aberforth barked, breaking into Ginny’s stupor.
“Sorry,” Ginny said, shaking her head. “Mind if I use the back entrance?”
“No,” Aberforth said, walking towards the door that led to his personal chambers where a portrait of his departed sister hung. Ginny followed and returned the smile the young, blonde girl in the portrait gave her as she entered the room. It swung open silently and with Aberforth’s help, Ginny hoisted herself up into the damp, dark passage.
“Harry’s a nice bloke,” Aberforth said gruffly. “Hopeless, but nice.”
“What do you mean, he’s hopeless?” she asked, staring down at the old man from the passage.
“He doesn’t see much sense in his life outside of his work,” Aberforth replied.
“Not that I haven’t already gathered that, how exactly do you know that?” Ginny asked.
“Me and Harry go way back,” he stated. “Not many people realize that, but it’s true. My brother, your former Headmaster, was his mentor. He tried to keep Harry a secret for as long as he possibly could. I always told him it was wrong to shelter the boy that way.” Aberforth eyed her for a moment. “You keep doing what you’re doing. You might crack him yet.”
Ginny shook her head. “I doubt I’ll have much opportunity to see him again.”
“I don’t know about that, Ginevra,” the older wizard said, beginning to close the portrait after her. “I saw a light in young Harry’s eyes tonight I haven’t seen in a long time.”