Arriving for her seventh year class the next morning, Ginny sat at her desk and began her normal morning routine of brewing tea, even though she felt anything but normal. She hadn’t been able to stop thinking of Harry’s half confession that Hagrid had expounded upon and what it meant. She longed to visit Firenze and ask for his opinion, but he was currently deep in the Forbidden Forest preparing for the Autumnal Equinox. He would be nearly impossible to find and if she managed it, he would no doubt be immersed in meditation preparing for the rituals his clan performed yearly.
She was on her own with this one. She had gone to the library to research any articles there may be on Harry, but she soon found most of them to be nothing but speculation. He hadn’t emerged to the Wizarding world until the defeat of Voldemort, and had not spoken to a single journalist. Soon after he had left, as he had told her, and hunted down the remaining staunch Death Eaters who had run away to hide and perhaps cause mayhem wherever they alighted. Those articles usually were nothing more than two or three lines of how Harry and his team had apprehended another war criminal and sent them to Azkaban.
She’d left the library soon after arriving, with no more knowledge of who he really was than when she entered. Just from the two encounters she had had with him, she wanted to understand the broken and damaged man she suspected he was and not the made-up stories a clueless reporter printed.
Turning towards the grate, Ginny conjured a warm fire and filled the kettle with water before taking out her Darjeeling tea tin and jade green tea pot and cup. Setting them all on a wooden tray that sat in the middle of her desk, she then rose to rearrange her classroom.
Moving to the front of her desk, she waved her wand and sent most of the tables and chairs sailing to rest against the walls of the room, revealing a thick, circular blue rug. Flicking her wand towards a far corner, large feather pillows soared to land in a tight circle in the middle of the rug.
Ginny moved away from the desk, and stepped over the pillows until she stood in the very centre of the rug. Looking upwards she gazed at the ceiling painted with a large circle the exact diameter and circumference of the rug beneath it. A smaller circle was drawn in its middle, matching the pillows Ginny had just placed upon the rug. Both circles were divided into twelve sections with all the points of the lines meeting in the very middle of the inner circle. The outer sections contained the twelve astrological symbols for the sun, moon, eight planets, and the two dwarf planets. The inner sections contained the signs of the zodiac.
Reaching within her robes, Ginny pulled out a pale yellow scrying crystal the size of a large chestnut that hung on a leather lanyard she wore around her neck. It was perfectly round and polished smooth, and she often held it in her hand and rubbed it against her palm like a worry stone. Allowing it to dangle from her right hand on the leather strap, she held it over the palm of her left hand. It swayed back and forth above her palm in no particular pattern, before beginning to swirl in a large circle. When the conditions were right, a scrying crystal could be used to find a person if one knew enough about them, like their name and astrological sign.
Moving around the perimeter of the inner circle, Ginny positioned herself beneath the astrological sign of the lion, which was her astrological sign, and she had learned from her brief research was Harry’s, as well. Breathing in deeply, Ginny focused her energy into the small crystal ball still moving in a lazy circle above her hand. She couldn’t see Harry’s past or future, but perhaps she could view his present.
"Show me Harry," she whispered, and continued taking slow breaths in and out for several more seconds before opening her eyes to gaze at the crystal.
It glowed brightly and had come to rest, hovering in the middle of her palm. Cradling the crystal in her left hand, she lifted it up to peer within. A portly figure with a balding pate she immediately recognized as Head Auror Robards from seeing his picture numerous times in the papers was leaning across his desk reprimanding two of his junior Aurors. His mouth moved rapidly as he silently fired off a tirade towards the two men. Ron sat at attention in his chair, staring straight past Robards’ left shoulder at the wall behind him while Harry slumped disrespectfully in his chair and sullenly glared at his superior officer's splotchy red face. While Ginny could not hear what they were saying, she was certain it had to do with Daphne's case, and from the looks of things, Robards was not pleased.
It also looked as though Harry had slept in his uniform again. She was fairly certain those were the same clothes he'd been wearing when she had seen him yesterday. His thick, black hair stuck up at odd angles at the back of his head and the dark circles under his eyes were in stark contrast to his pale skin. If he had slept, it had not been well, and it was blatantly evident. Robards was now gesticulating towards Ron while yelling at Harry and Ginny wondered if he was comparing him to her brother. Ron was looking distinctly uncomfortable and shot a nervous glance towards his partner before returning his gaze to the wall.
Ginny was as shocked as Ron and Robards when Harry suddenly sprang from his seat in the middle of the Head Auror’s tirade to poke the elder officer in the chest with his index finger and yell Merlin only knew what in retaliation to the berating. When he was done having his say, he stormed out of the office without waiting for a reply.
He stomped down the corridor and instead of heading towards his own desk he barreled past the secretary sitting in the reception area of the Auror Office. Ignoring exclamations of protest as he brusquely shoved past witches and wizards, he stepped into an empty lift and immediately shut the door, barring anyone else from entering. The glaring look he sent those who had been waiting silenced any further protest they may have had.
Harry slapped the button that would take him to the third level of the Ministry where the office of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes was located, before he slumped against the back wall and stared blankly at the floor. When the lift shuddered to a stop, he lifted his head, revealing haunted green eyes that appeared to look straight at Ginny.
Stepping out of the lift, he strode down the corridor, ignoring the greetings other witches and wizards called to him. He finally stopped outside a closed office door, knocking once before opening the door and stepping inside.
She was shocked to see the face of Cho Chang look up from a stack of papers upon her desk as Harry entered. The smile that briefly touched the beautiful woman’s lips upon his appearance in her doorway disappeared when she took in his dismal countenance.
As she came around the desk her began venting to her and she nodded her head sympathetically. When Harry was finished speaking, he slumped wearily into a chair that sat in front of Cho’s desk. Instead of responding to his rant, she reached for him. Ginny’s throat constricted uncomfortably as she watched Cho pull Harry’s head to her bosom and gently stroke his hair. His arms wrapped around her waist as he yielded to the comfort she was offering him.
Ginny released the crystal, breaking the connection, and allowed it to drop back against her robes. Immense guilt overwhelmed her at viewing a personal moment not meant for anyone's eyes. Even though she had not been able to hear anything that was said, it was an invasion of Harry's privacy to have observed any of it. All the same, it rankled her that he had said nothing yesterday of knowing Cho. Surely he must have known that she was the girlfriend Ginny had been referring to when she told him about Cedric. From the brief scene she had just witnessed, it was very clear that Harry and Cho shared some sort of close relationship.
She could no longer deny the ache in her chest that had formed when she saw the other woman and its meaning. Neville may have been correct in his assumption that she unconsciously fancied Harry, but Ginny realized her sudden feelings ran much deeper than physical attraction. She was already falling harder than she ever had before, and the alien feeling of true love sang in her veins. However, she did not have time to dwell on her discovery as the trapdoor to her classroom opened, admitting the first of her students.
It was Shelly, the most dedicated and gifted of all Ginny's seventh years. Pushing any lingering thoughts of Harry to the side she greeted the girl.
"Good morning, Shelly. How did the meditation last week go?” she asked as the young girl placed a mediation essay Ginny had assigned her class last week on her desk.
"Fairly well, I suppose. Everything is still so murky for me," Shelly replied, downtrodden.
"It will become clearer with practice," Ginny assured her. "It takes time to learn how to control what you see. I am still learning, as well."
The girl nodded, taking in the colourful pillows on the floor, "Will we be doing more meditation today?"
"Yes," Ginny answered, as more of her students began entering the classroom. "Why don't you find a seat, and I will explain what we will be doing today once everyone arrives."
It was a small class; counting Ginny they only numbered seven, but seven was a good number. At least, her mother had always said so. As the remaining five students entered, they greeted her and handed in their essays before setting their satchels along the wall by the entrance and finding a spot in the circle. They chattered quietly while she prepared the tea and set it to steep.
“Last week I asked you to meditate and write an essay on what you experienced," Ginny began, joining her students in the circle and looking around the group. "By now you should be adept at finding your inner self, and so today I want to take meditation one step further and attempt a group meditation."
The four girls and two boys in the class looked sceptical and intrigued and she had to smile at the comical effect the conflicting emotions on their faces caused.
"If you have not already done so, please cross your legs and sit erect, relaxing your neck, shoulders, and back," Ginny said in a low, soothing voice she used when guiding a novice student. "Take the hand of the person sitting next to you until our circle is linked."
She took the hands of the students sitting next to her. "We will focus on a single objective. Does anyone have a suggestion?"
"Which house is going to win the House Cup," Brian, a dark-haired Ravenclaw suggested, and the rest of the students nodded their agreement.
"All right," Ginny agreed, "that is a very specific suggestion, but not as simple as you may think. There are plenty of disparate factors that could change the outcome. However, we should be able to ease our way down a mutual path that will lead us somewhere. Whether or not we actually see the true answer depends on how focused we are as a group on our objective."
She gazed at her students ensuring everyone was in proper alignment and holding hands.
"Jacob, lower your chin until it is level with the ground. Good. Jeanine, back erect but not stiff. Roll your shoulders back and down so they aren't scrunched by your ears. Lovely. Louise, Victoria, nice even breaths, please. Listen to each other and breathe as one. Everyone rest your clasped hands on each other's knees so your arms won't tire. Now, close your eyes and focus on your surroundings. Listen to the sounds around you and allow them to guide you where they will.”
When she was satisfied that her students were relaxed and focused, Ginny closed her own eyes to join them. Immediately, the faint aroma of the Darjeeling tea filled her nostrils with the first inhalation she took. The fire in the grate crackled hypnotically and concentrating on the breathing of the students nearest her, she sank deeper within herself.
She hovered on an empty, greyish plane that had no substance or shape, but stretched endlessly in every direction. There was no up or down, forwards or backwards, left or right, it just was. Shelly’s was the first presence Ginny sensed arriving on the plane, followed by Brian and then Jeanine. They drew closer to her reassuring presence, a beacon in the disconcerting void.
“Stay calm,” she murmured, allaying the apprehension her students were feeling. “All will become clear soon enough.”
Even as she spoke, the grey was lightening, and she concentrated on viewing the final Quidditch match of the year, still seven months away. If all went according to schedule it would be Gryffindor against Ravenclaw, and promised to be an exciting and close match, as both teams were comprised of veteran players who had been playing together for three years.
Jacob, Louise, and Victoria finally arrived, their excited tremor of accomplishment at having achieved group meditation rippling the plane around them.
“Control,” Ginny counselled. “We are only observers here. Try to remain impassive.”
Glancing about the plane, she moved towards a pinprick of light that looked promising. She imagined it would lead them out onto the Quidditch pitch and even as the thought crossed her mind, the opening widened. Her students followed after her, treading carefully over the plane, as if afraid of falling.
Ginny focused on the light as it grew around them until in a blink of the eye they were standing in bright sunlight on what appeared to be a beautiful May day. Shielding her eyes, she looked up into a cloudless, cerulean blue sky. It was the perfect kind of day to fly a broom and she felt a faint longing to call her Cleansweep Twelve and take a leisurely broom ride, or chase down a Snitch. She thought of the days long past when she played Seeker for the Gryffindor team, flying alongside her brothers, Fred, George, and Ron. If she were completely honest, it had been one of the happiest times of her life. They had been unstoppable; Fred and George always deflected the Bludgers to cause the opposing team’s Chasers to fumble the Quaffle, Ron nearly always blocked their attempts at scoring, and Ginny always caught the Snitch.
A flash of red soared above her head, and glancing up Ginny saw the familiar red Quidditch robes of the Gryffindor team zooming over the pitch. A streak of blue from the corner of her eye told her Ravenclaw had entered the pitch, as well. The fourteen players criss-crossed each other as they flew through the air. She could see the red Quaffle being passed back and forth between the Gryffindor Chasers as they attempted to keep it away from the Ravenclaws. They flew towards the Ravenclaw goalposts and scored.
She and her class stood at the edge of the pitch, silent and ghostly observers of the game. Ginny was following the Chasers back and forth, admiring their acrobatics when a flutter of gold near the Gryffindor goalposts caught her eye. The whole scene shimmered, the players blurring along the edges. Squinting her eyes, a blur of red and black bolted down the pitch towards the Golden Snitch still hovering by the goalposts. A blue clad Ravenclaw Seeker with streaming black hair shot after the Gryffindor Seeker.
“That’s not April,” Brian muttered, and Ginny knew he was referring to the Ravenclaw Seeker, April Hoosang, who had curly, chestnut brown hair.
“No,” Ginny agreed, “That’s Cho Chang, she was the Seeker for Ravenclaw when I attended Hogwarts.”
Ginny knew it was her even though all she could see was the back of her head. After playing against the Ravenclaw Seeker for four years, and just seeing her in the scrying crystal, she would recognize her form anywhere.
“Is this the past then?” Shelly asked.
“Perhaps,” Ginny said, thinking on her past matches and attempting to place the one this scene could be recreating. Then it came to her; her first year on the team, and she still had been nervous, even with three winning matches under her belt. Cho had been a savvy Seeker, she shadowed the other Seekers, which usually resulted in throwing the opponent off their game. Ginny recalled feeling intimidated by the beautiful fourth year, who had exhibited such calm and grace on her broom, but she had been determined she was going to catch the Snitch before the Ravenclaw did.
While Ginny remembered her first match playing against Cho, something about the visual appeared off. It kept shimmering around the edges, distorting the images and try as she might, she could not gain a clear view of the Gryffindor Seeker who continued to barrel down the pitch towards the Snitch.
As she and her students observed the scene, Cho’s blue and bronze Ravenclaw robes morphed, the colours blending together and fading to a solid Robin’s egg blue. The goal posts she and the Gryffindor Seeker were headed towards faded, exposing an open plain beyond them that Ginny did not recognize. The Quidditch stands disappeared along with the goal posts and the once red and black robes of the Gryffindor Seeker transformed as Cho’s had into navy blue.
Pulling up on the handle of the broom, the navy robed figure looked back towards his pursuer, his wind-swept raven hair revealing the silvery lightning bolt scar and his brilliant green eyes. Ginny was so startled to be seeing a vision of Harry that wasn’t of his death she nearly lost the connection, but her rapt students, completely engrossed in the scene playing out before them, grounded her.
He was laughing, his eyes twinkling merrily as he held the Snitch he had just caught aloft for Cho to see. She pulled up next to him, lunging for the Snitch and promptly lost her balance in her haste to grab the fluttering golden ball from him. Harry’s quick reflexes caught her before she could plummet to the ground. He deftly caught her around the waist, his hand still clutching the Snitch, and pulled her onto his ebony broom.
Several of the female students sighed in relief and envy, while Ginny could easily sense Brian and Jacob’s annoyance at being treated to what they clearly saw as a scene taken from a romance novel.
“What happened to the Quidditch game?” Brian petulantly asked.
“Group meditation is difficult,” Ginny replied, trying to ignore the couple drifting slowly downward. She was pleased to see dark shadows creeping over the ground, obscuring the scene as she wasn’t keen on seeing what would have happened when Harry and Cho reached the ground themselves.
Her pleasure quickly diminished when a blood-curdling scream rent the air and she and her students were suddenly submerged in the cold darkness that had banished the vision. The panic of her students was evident and she was about to reassure them and suggest severing the meditation when a bright, silvery light emerged out of the void, galloping directly towards Ginny.
She automatically reached her hand out as a majestic stag cantered over to her. Its silvery glow enveloped her, but as her hand made contact with its etherealness, it quickly faded into a grey mist that swirled around her and her students’ feet.
“Help!” a female voice croaked from somewhere in the darkness in front of them.
“Professor Weasley,” Jeanine whimpered.
“It’s all right,” she reassured, even though she wasn't sure that it really was. Heading towards the sound, she peered into the darkness that surrounded them.
The creak of something metal could be heard and Ginny moved towards it, the trepidation her students were feeling causing her heart to anxiously thud in her chest. A rusted roundabout appeared in the darkness, slowly spinning and creaking with every revolution.
A cold, unforgiving wind gusted over the ground, whipping her hair about her face and shoulders. Swings beyond a see-saw swung back and forth on their chains.
"Help me," the plea was louder and Ginny moved around the roundabout.
"Professor Weasley," Shelly called. "Please be careful!"
"It's only a vision," Ginny reminded her. "We can't be hurt. Don't let your fear cause you to lose focus."
Even as she said it, she could see the scene was blurring around the edges. The erratic breathing of Louise, Victoria, and Jacob informing her that they would be breaking the meditation soon.
Quickening her pace, she ran to the other side of the roundabout and saw another dark haired woman, bleeding profusely from deep gashes all over her torso. Her face was obscured by her long, curly hair, as well as large amounts of blood, and bruising. Her eyes were swollen to mere slits, her nose broken, and her lips split and swollen. She reached a bloody hand for Ginny, feebly brushing at the hem of her robes, and her mouth worked, trying to speak.
Jeanine's shriek of terror drowned out whatever the poor woman was attempting to say, and immediately she felt the girl withdrawing, followed by the others. The vision began breaking apart, as Ginny knelt beside the dying woman.
"Who are you?" Ginny urgently asked. "Who did this to you?"
Blood leaked from the corner of the woman's mouth as she tried to form words with her ruined lips. "Ermihda An. K Rehfy."
"What?" Ginny pleaded. "I don't understand."
She reached for the woman's hand just as her image began dispersing into a black mist that swirled around them. Her students’ startled exclamations pulled her completely from the vision. With her eyes still closed, she swayed on her pillow attempting to get her bearings, even as her stomach churned with the disconcerting visions they had just experienced.
“It’s the stag!” Brian’s voice exclaimed.
“What does it want?” Victoria asked, her fear evident in her voice.
Ginny opened her eyes fully at the sound of Harry’s voice and stared at the ghostly life-size stag standing just inside the window, pawing nervously at the floor. Rising slowly to her feet, she walked over to it, her students’ protests becoming nothing more than the annoying sound of buzzing bees as she neared the stag. She reached for it as she had in the vision, but instead of disappearing, it gently nuzzled her hand before it began to speak.
“There’s been another attack. We could use your help again.”
As soon as the last word had been uttered, the stag faded. Ginny could not be certain how long the Patronus had been standing there waiting for her class to emerge from the meditation circle, but she could sense Ron’s presence nearby. From the angle of the sun through the window, her class had been immersed in the vision for the full two hours of the class, giving Harry more than enough time to send the Patronus and arrive at the castle with her brother.
Quickly dismissing her class, she left them to gather their things and climbed down the ladder, ignoring their questions. As she had surmised, she found the two Aurors waiting for her at the bottom.
“Sorry to bother you,” her brother said without preamble, his dismay that they were involving her again very clear in his aura. She wondered about it as he continued, “We weren’t sure if Harry’s Patronus made it to you or not, but Professor McGonagall said we weren’t to disturb your class.”
Ginny nodded. “We were meditating, but yes, Harry’s Patronus was waiting when we emerged.” She glanced over at Harry, meeting his eyes. She was sad to see the twinkle they had held in the vision was gone, replaced by a dark storminess.
“Good,” he said. “Can you accompany us now?”
Ginny had another class that afternoon, but the case and her need to follow it to its end was far more pressing than teaching her first years Palmistry.
“I can, just give me a moment,” she answered, turning away from them as her students descended the ladder.
“Shelly,” Ginny called as the blonde girl emerged in the trapdoor, “May I see you?”
Nodding, Shelly hurried down the ladder, glancing nervously over at Harry and Ron, her eyes lingering upon Harry, no doubt recognizing him from the vision.
“What is it, Professor Weasley,” she asked, averting her gaze as Harry scowled at her.
“Would you be able to proctor my afternoon class?” Ginny asked.
Shelly’s face brightened immediately and she smiled. “Of course, Professor! I’d love to.”
Ginny returned her smile. “Great. Set them to read the chapter on Palmistry and then have them take a pop quiz on the material. You’ll find the quiz in my desk.”
“Yes, ma’am, I can handle that,” the girl assured her.
“I know you can,” Ginny replied. “If Headmistress McGonagall should ask, please inform her I am aiding Aurors Potter and Weasley on a case. She will understand.”
Ginny turned her attention back to Ron and Harry who both wore grim looks. She wondered if they knew who the second victim was yet, as she had already deduced the answer. It was Romilda Vane, another beautiful, dark-haired woman.