Ginny's House

A Day Off

After dinner the family retired to the parlor and Bill built up a fire. Harry and Ginny took little Molly outside where they chased gnomes in the garden. Whenever they scared one up, Ginny Stunned it and Harry heaved it over the fence into the field while Molly screamed with delight.

The sky was clear and the evening a bit nippy for the middle of spring. Stars began to come out and when it got too dark to spot gnomes, they went over to the swing set that Arthur had rescued from the rubbish pile outside a nearby Muggle home. Harry held up his and Ginny's lit wands while Ginny pushed Molly in the swing.

While Molly pumped her legs and chattered excitedly about the de-gnoming adventure, Harry and Ginny talked about the upcoming family gathering on Sunday, less than five days away. There would be a small remembrance for Fred in the morning, and in the afternoon, after dinner, everyone would Portkey to Hogwarts for the annual memorial of the Battle. Because of Molly, they did not mention Chadwick Chamberlain or the complications that could well arise when he visited the Burrow.

Molly kept asking for Ginny to push her higher. They had played this game before; she wanted to go as high as possible and let go and fly into the air. Harry would Levitate her slowly to the ground, and they would do it all over again.

"Okay, here goes!" Ginny called. She gave the swing one last shove and it and Molly flew up above the bar. Harry called out, "Wingardium Leviosa!" and Molly floated laughing into Ginny's arms.

As she ran back to the swing for another go, they heard a crash from the house followed by a loud groan that seemed to come from the kitchen. For a split second there was silence. An instant later came shouts and the sounds of people running through the house. Someone screamed.

Ginny scooped up her niece and they ran to the back door. Harry handed Ginny her wand and sprinted ahead. He threw the door open and ran into the kitchen. A few seconds later Ginny followed with Molly.

Everyone was gathered around the sprawled form of Percy, lying face down on the table. Molly and Audrey were bent over him. His hands were bound behind his back and he was covered with dust. He obviously had been flung out of the fireplace with enough force to fly onto the table, which must have been the crash they had heard.

Percy groaned again. Bill flicked his wand and the rope around his wrists fell away. Harry caught Ron's eye and gave him a hand signal. While Bill and Arthur gently turned Percy over and a weeping Audrey began wiping blood off his face, Ron went to the fireplace and Sealed it. He came to Harry and they put their heads together.

"Apparate to the Department," Harry said in an urgent whisper, "and find Saliyah, but don't tell anyone else except Popeye, if you see him. Tell Sal we need to get the local Floo Network sealed up right away."

"Should I tell her what we know about Chamberlain?" Ron asked, also quietly.

Harry thought for a moment. "Yes. It's our best hope for convincing Shacklebolt that Croaker is covering something up. But the priority is getting the Network sealed so we can trace where Percy came from."

"Do you think Croaker is working with Chamberlain?"

"I don't know. But if he is and finds out we're onto something, he might panic and expose himself. But go! We need to seal the Network."

Ron hurried out the front door. Harry glanced at Percy who was now stirring and mumbling something to his wife, who leaned down and kissed him. Harry didn't see Ginny, but sensed her in the parlor, still holding little Molly in her arms. The child was wailing and Ginny was trying to soothe her; she had caught a glimpse of her father before Ginny could turn her away and get her out of the kitchen.

Send Audrey as soon as you can, she sent.

Harry looked over Audrey's shoulder; she was cradling Percy's head in her arms and whispering to him; her cheeks were tear-streaked as she caressed his face. Molly held one of his hands, and Arthur the other. Bill and Fleur hovered next to them.

Harry went to Hermione, who was standing off to one side, and told her what he had ordered Ron to do. "Do you think we can talk to Percy?" Harry murmured.

"He needs to get to St. Mungo's," she whispered worriedly. "Besides, I think he's Obliviated. Nobody's likely to learn much from him."

Harry nodded and went around the table to Audrey. He put his hand on her shoulder and she lifted her teary face. "Oh, Harry. Where is Molly?"

"Ginny has her in the parlor. She's kind of upset, I think she got a glimpse of Percy."

Audrey looked out the door towards the parlor. She started to move from the table, but stopped and looked back at Percy.

"You go, dear," Molly said. "We'll stay here with him." She turned to Bill. "Darling, I think we need a Portkey to get him to hospital."

Audrey hurried into the parlor and Bill went outside to Apparate to St. Mungo's. Harry looked down at Percy. His face was now clean but there was a bruise under his eye, and Harry realized that his eyeglasses were missing. His head was cushioned on the table with a folded dishcloth. Molly was counting his fingers and inspecting his hands and arms. Incongruously, Percy grinned at him.

"So ends my career as a teamster," he said hoarsely. "I'm sorry, Harry."

Harry put his hand on Percy's arm. "It wasn't your fault. I think I know who did it, but don't worry yourself about that. We'll get you to hospital as quick as we can."

"Where's Audrey?" He squinted around the room as his mother stroked his hair, then wiped his brow and caressed it.

"She's in the parlor with little Molly, dear. She'll be right back."

In a few minutes Audrey came back carrying Molly, who started crying again when she saw her father lying on the table. Her grandmother and her aunts stood around her, clucking and cooing, and she finally calmed down enough to be able to give Percy a kiss. Then Bill was back with an old lamp for a Portkey. Audrey handed Molly to Grandmum, the lamp glowed blue, and Percy, Audrey, Arthur, and Bill were gone.

"Is it okay to clean off ze table?" Fleur asked Harry. "I know it may be evidence, but it's a big mess too."

"Go ahead," he said. "There's enough debris in the fireplace if we need it."

Fleur Scourgified the tabletop and the floor in front of the hearth. Harry and Hermione went into the parlor, where the two Mollys were sitting on the sofa, the little one on the big one's lap, clinging to her and whimpering. Ginny sat next to them rubbing the child's back and cooing to her.

"I sent Ron to the Department," Harry told them. "What exactly happened?" he asked Hermione.

"We were all sitting in here and we heard the fireplace flame, then a big thump and a crash. I think Percy made a noise, and we all ran into the kitchen and saw him."

Fleur came in and sat. "''Arry, will you be able to tell where Percy Floo'd from?"

"I hope so. At the least they should be able to tell which village or city."

They heard a pop from the front yard. Hermione got up and peered out the window into the night. "It's Ron, " she announced, and went to the front door; a moment later they both entered. Ron gave little Molly a kiss on top of her head and took a seat. Everyone looked at him.

"Sal wasn't there, she was at home," he said, "but Ernie was on duty and he sent a memo to the Floo Authority to seal off the Network in Devon for a couple of hours. They won't keep it closed longer because people will start screaming. Then he Floo'd to Sal's house, and I hope to hell Shacklebolt is with her—"

"Ronald!" His mother scowled and pointed to Molly in her lap. "Language please."

"Oh, sorry." He blew little Molly a kiss, and she smiled and blew one back. He winked at her and continued. "Anyway, I hope he starts to come to his senses. But here's the interesting part. Ernie suggested that I head down to the Floo Authority to make sure they didn't screw up—" his mother scowled again "—and when I got there they had already figured out where Percy originated. Withypool, Somerset."

"No way!" Harry exclaimed. "That's too good to be true! Nice work, mate."

"I didn't do anything, but I'll take the credit, especially since it's my day off."

"What's special about Withypool?" asked Molly. "It's not too far from here."

"It means Uncle Chadwick is a criminal," Fleur said sadly.

"What!" Molly cried, startling her granddaughter who began bawling again. She and Ginny went back to comforting the child.

"He stole a book from Hogwarts about Pensieves and mailed it to Withypool," said Ron while his mother tried to calm Molly. The elder Molly bounced the younger one on her lap and clucked at her. In a minute the child was quiet; she put her head on Molly's bosom and was enveloped in a hug.

"That's unbelievable," Molly muttered. "He's such a sweet man, and I thought you couldn't lie to a veela if she was your wife."

"We think she helped him," said Harry. "She was in Hogsmeade yesterday."

"Well, that could mean anything," Molly sniffed. "It doesn't make her a thief."

Ginny looked at Harry. Let it go, sweetie. Harry acknowledged her with a tiny nod. "They took Percy to hospital," he said to Ron. "You didn't happen to hear anything about him, did you?" Ron shook his head.

Little Molly got off her grandmother's lap and wandered over to the fire, near Harry. She started poking the embers with a piece of kindling, and Ginny came and sat on the hearth with her, leaning against Harry's legs. He put his hand on her shoulder and Ginny looked up at him with a smile. "I'm so relieved," she said as Molly crawled into her lap. "Percy is back." She sighed and Molly turned and put her arms around her aunt.

"I'm glad Daddy is back too, I missed him," Molly said.

They heard another pop, and in a moment Bill entered. He went over and picked little Molly off the floor. "Your Daddy is fine, sweetheart," he said with a smile. "He'll be home tomorrow and Mummy will be here very soon. I also was at the Ministry," he said to Harry.

"Did you see anyone?" Harry asked.

"Saliyah and Kingsley. They traced the Floo to a house in Withypool up in Somerset, but it's empty. And of course whoever was living there had all kinds of charms and wards on it, so none of the neighbors ever noticed anything. There's even a magical family around the corner, and they had no idea that other wizards lived nearby."

Molly went into the kitchen to make tea, but soon Harry and Ginny decided to go home; it had been a very long day. They decided, with Ron and Hermione, to communicate tomorrow through Hector Freeman, Hermione's assistant, so that they wouldn't attract attention. Moments later they stepped out of their own fireplace, and soon they were in bed where their embrace lasted long into the night.

They allowed themselves the luxury of sleeping in the next morning. Too much had happened; they needed to be quiet for a while. Harry awoke when the sun was already well up, but Ginny was still asleep next to him. She lay on her side facing away from him; he debated getting out of bed and making breakfast, but she sighed and turned over to face him, still asleep. He studied her beautiful face for several minutes, counting freckles. Her hair had come loose from its elastic band during their activities last night, and now it was everywhere. He gently brushed it from her cheeks. He never tired of looking at her; she seemed to grow lovelier every day.

Many times in the past she had done remarkable things for him. Many times she had made sacrifices, stood with him, unasked. Her love had never wavered, not even when it appeared he might be rejecting it. She had risked her life for him.

Now she had given up the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to ply her incredible talent before a world-wide audience. At a crisis in his own life, she had decided to share it with him and sacrifice what she had dreamed of since she was a child. Harry could not imagine a greater love. How fortunate he was, and how undeserving. How many times had he done stupid, thoughtless, selfish things that had hurt her? And yet she still loved him. He felt his heart bursting with emotion, and without thinking he put his hands on her face and kissed her lips.

Ginny opened her eyes. She took his hands and kissed him back. "Mmm, that was a nice way to wake up. To what do I owe this definite pleasure?"

"Just yourself, and because I love you so much, because you're so good to me, because you are so beautiful. Just because."

Ginny moved her hips and her shoulders and smiled. "As I recall, last night you were very good to me."

"Yeah, that was really something. In fact, I feel like doing it again." Harry's lips brushed hers, then his mouth moved elsewhere. He wanted to do everything and anything that would bring pleasure to her, and soon Ginny was writhing and moaning. When they were done they lay in an exhausted tangle, bathed in sweat and the smells of love.

"We need to start more days like this," Harry said into Ginny's hair as his breathing gradually returned to normal. He had not moved from on top of her yet, and he ran his hands up and down her flanks. "Merlin, you are so good." He kissed her again.

I need to pee, Ginny sent while their mouths were locked together.

Harry laughed and rolled off. "I knew, but you didn't want me to let you go."

"Certainly not. We're on holiday." She got up and Harry watched admiringly as she walked into the bathroom.

"I know," he called to her. "And don't forget the birth control. Do you need your wand?"

"Nope," she called back. "I left it in here last night just in case."

"In case of what?"

She stuck her head back out the door. "In case you tried to seduce me again this morning. A girl can't be too careful around here."

Harry leaned back against his pillow with a pleased expression and put his hands behind his head. He heard Ginny start the shower.

"Let's take one together," he called. "I heard that the Muggle government wants us to conserve water." He got up and walked into the loo; Ginny was combing out her hair. "What do you say, let's do our civic duty."

"Fat chance there'd be of saving water with you in there with me. We'd take twice as long as two separate showers."

Harry moved closer. Ginny hopped into the shower and pulled the curtain closed. He yanked it open and looked at the water cascading over her breasts and down her thighs. He took a deep, groaning breath. "At least twice as long," he said and stepped in.

Ginny had taken in a mouthful of water and squirted it in his face. She shrieked as he grabbed her under her armpits and started tickling, but then he lifted her up and they kissed and Ginny wrapped her legs around him and the water ran and ran.

They finally made it into the little kitchen, wearing their bathrobes, and Ginny fixed breakfast while Harry brewed a pot of coffee. They decided that they would take a day off from Pensieves and parcels, from Ministry politics and egotistical Quidditch managers. They would have a picnic at the castle grounds and spend the day under the rowan tree next to the memorial fountain, or wander around the Black Lake, or maybe take their brooms and have another flying date. They felt lazy and liberated, free of the craziness of the past few days. None of it was their problem. Harry was suspended and Ginny was sacked. Let the world worry by itself, at least for a day. They had a serendipitous holiday, and they were going to enjoy it.

They went to get dressed, but as they walked through the sitting room they heard a hoot; a Ministry owl was on the sill outside the casement window. Harry reluctantly let it in and it flew onto the perch where their own owls were sitting. McPherson and Bailey moved aside to give it some room. It ducked its head at them, lifted its leg for Harry, who took the message, and the bird flew off.

"It's from Sal," he said, following Ginny into the bedroom.

"Do I really want to hear it? I want to go on a picnic with you, not fight Amander Croaker and Philbert Deverill all day."

Harry didn't answer for a moment as he read. "The picnic is still on." He handed her the note and started dressing. "She wants me to stay away from the Ministry for at least a day."

Ginny perused it, and her eyebrows shot up. "Oho! Mutiny in the ranks! And it sounds like Shacklebolt's having second thoughts."

"Hardly a mutiny." Harry took the note back and tossed it on his dresser. "But what did he expect? There would have been the same reaction if they had treated anybody like that."

"You're not just anybody, love." She took a pair of red shorts from her dresser and held them against her hips. "Do you think it will be warm enough to wear these?"

Harry leered at her. "I can make it warm."

"On second thought I'd better wear jeans."

They finished dressing, took their brooms and a blanket, and went downstairs. The inn wasn't crowded, but a few friends from the village were there, and Tony Trostle showed them a copy of the Daily Prophet.

"What in Merlin's name is going on down there?" he said, shaking his head. "You're suspended and Ginny's kicked off the team? They're going to catch hell for that one from the bookies, let alone from the fans. What's it all about?"

Harry scanned the paper, looking for anything about the Pensieve, but saw nothing. He handed it back to Tony. "I'd better not say anything, but that operation I ran here on Monday didn't go so well, and I'm the fall guy. Ginny wanted to take a couple of days to help me, and Deverill told her she had to be at practice today or be off the team."

"And I won't be there," Ginny declared.

"It's hard to believe," Tony said. "Will they give you your job back, Harry? You were supposed to be Head Auror, how can they all of a sudden say you're not?"

Harry grinned. "Gin and I decided to have a picnic today. If anyone comes around looking for us—" he pointed to the newspaper "—tell them to go see Kingsley Shacklebolt or Philbert Deverill." Tony smiled.

Ginny went back into the kitchen to ask Winky to prepare a picnic basket while Harry chatted with some of the other customers, and gave Stan a few more details about the past two days. Ginny returned with the basket and they left.

Sauntering down the High Street carrying their brooms and the basket, feeling free and easy, they felt like they had left their woes behind them. It had actually been a while since they had an entire day by themselves, just the two of them. Even on weekends, they usually hung out with Ron and Hermione, or else with family at the Burrow or Shell Cottage. When they didn't, it meant that Harry had to work or Ginny had a match.

They waved to friends in the village. Everyone had seen the Prophet or spoken to someone who had, and they all wanted to talk. Harry and Ginny excused themselves by saying they weren't allowed to say anything.

They walked up the lane to the tall pillars of the castle gates, which stood open and unguarded, then headed across the lawn to the memorial fountain where Harry spread the blanket out in the sun. The doves in the rowan tree paid them no attention as they dipped their hands into the magical fountain with its immortal goldfish and eternally flowering lilies. Harry held his cupped hands under the fountain and they both took a drink of cool, sweet, refreshing water.

Ginny lay on the blanket with her head in Harry's lap. She closed her eyes and let the warm sun bathe her face. Harry caressed her brow and their love filled them, taking over their hearts and their souls. Students walking down the path to Hagrid's cabin for Care of Magical Creatures class gazed at them. The girls murmured to each other and the boys snickered, but no one disturbed them; something about them said that their world was not to be disturbed.

After a while they decided to have a go on their brooms over at the Quidditch pitch, so they left the picnic basket and their other belongings on the blanket and traipsed across the lawn, past the castle, and down to the stadium. They spent an hour in the air and Harry never took his eyes from Ginny as she bent low and streaked through the skies, red tresses billowing behind her. He could not miss the sadness in her mind, believing as she did that she would never play in another Quidditch match. He thought that he also detected a twinge of resentment, but Ginny would not let him go to that part of her mind.

She was such a beautiful flyer! Harry's eyes filled as he watched her, and it wasn't from the wind. He wanted to tell her not to stay at home today; maybe there was an afternoon practice and if she were there, Deverill would relent and take her back. But as soon as that thought entered his head, he got Ginny's response: No way. She looped up to him and they hovered a few feet apart.

"I'm fine," she said. "Look, we found out so much yesterday and I'll bet by the weekend you'll have the case cracked. And if I hadn't been with you I would have worried myself silly." She reached out, took his gloved hand, and grinned wickedly. "And we wouldn't have had our shower this morning."

Harry smiled a little. "Yeah, I guess there's always time for a shower when you're not working. But . . ." He sighed. "You are so wonderful to watch when you fly. I wish there was some way to . . ."

He trailed off, squinted into the distance and shaded his eyes. "Look!" He pointed to the south. Ginny looked and saw a tiny dot climbing towards them. A minute later they recognized the same owl that had visited them in the morning. It labored upward, its wings beating hard. When it got closer, Harry dropped down to meet it. He extended his arm but it landed instead on the nose of his broom. A message was tied to its leg, but the bird didn't offer it to Harry; instead it craned its neck and peered around, as though it was taking in the view.

Ginny laughed. "I don't think they usually fly this high. He's probably never seen things from this high up before."

The owl hooted once and stretched its wings; Harry had to snap his head back to avoid being smacked. The owl had a firm grip on the broomstick, and its wing movement also caused the broom to lurch upward.

"Hey!" said Harry, clutching the broom. "Take it easy! Come on, what do you have for me?"

Finally the owl lifted its leg and Harry took the note. "It's from Sal again," he said as he read, keeping one hand firmly on the broom handle. "She wants to see me, but not at the Ministry. She'll be at the inn this evening."

"Good," Ginny said. "We can stay out all day. Does she want you to send an answer?"

"She doesn't say, but I think I should. I have a self-inking quill in my pocket, but I'm not letting go of this broom while this bloke is perched on it."

The owl clucked, gave Harry a pitying look, and flew over to Ginny's broom. Harry penned a short acknowledgment on the parchment, and moved closer to Ginny. The owl lifted its leg and Harry re-tied the parchment. It hopped off Ginny's broom and plunged earthward, until it spread its wings and glided away. In a minute it was once again only a speck against the sky, and a moment later they could no longer see it.

They realized they were hungry, so they flew down and walked back to the fountain. Ginny took out corned beef sandwiches, two oranges, a box of half a dozen treacle tarts, and two butterbeers. Harry ate a tart first, then his sandwich. Ginny fed him orange segments while he rested his head in her lap.

A few large puffy clouds started floating overhead, and whenever they blocked the sun it became noticeably chillier. They donned jackets and sat back-to-back, leaning against each other while they finished the tarts. They could hear Hagrid's booming voice coming from the edge of the Forest where he was teaching a class, and when they saw the sixth-year students—Emma and Claire waved to them—walking back to the castle they decided to go see him.

He was out back placing flowers on the huge mound of Aragog's grave. Fang greeted them with a loud bark and the gamekeeper turned.

"Afternoon, Harry, Ginny," he said solemnly, wiping a tear from his cheek. "Did yeh come to pay yer respects to poor Aragog? That's nice of yeh. Last week was seven years since the little fella died. He was such a good friend."

Hagrid blew his nose into one of his ample handkerchiefs and gazed at the grave. "I sure miss him." He heaved a huge sigh. "This calls fer a drink."

He led them into his cabin and took out three large goblets and a bottle of firewhiskey, but Harry held up his hand. "We just stopped in to say hello. We wanted to see how you were doing after all the . . . the things that happened."

"Did you hear that Percy is back?" Ginny asked.

"No! That's brilliant news!" Hagrid exclaimed with a huge grin. "When?"

"Last night. He just came through the fireplace at the Burrow. He's in St. Mungo's, but he's okay."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that. Did he say anything about the Pensieve?"

"We didn't ask," replied Harry, "but he's probably Obliviated."

Hagrid set the goblets on the table in front of himself and filled them all. "Are yeh sure yeh won't have none? I heard about yer gettin' the sack." He scowled at Ginny. "And as fer Harry gettin' suspended, I've known the Ministry to do some addle-brained things, but this takes the cake. I tried to tell 'em that Croaker bloke done it, but no one'll listen. Here's to Aragog." He threw down the contents of one mug and picked up the second.

"Saliyah believes it," Harry said. "She's coming to see us tonight and—"

He stopped as Hagrid suddenly slammed his goblet down, sloshing firewhiskey across the table, and turned to a window. He jumped up and snatched his crossbow from its hook on the wall and went quickly to the door; Fang went after him, his tail wagging. Harry and Ginny followed the dog.

Outside, Hagrid was facing the Forbidden Forest, his bow at his side but not cocked. At the edge of the trees stood Firenze.

The centaur held up his empty hands and called out, "Professor Hagrid, may I approach?"

Hagrid leaned the bow against the side of the cabin and walked towards him; Harry and Ginny came right behind. "Are yeh okay, Perfessor?" Hagrid said loudly. "You've been missed."

The centaur approached, and noticed Harry and Ginny, partly hidden behind Hagrid. His face, which had been grim, relaxed.

"Harry Potter! And Mrs. Potter. This is a lucky chance, one I did not foresee." He laughed, a low whinnying sound. "You see, there is proof that centaurs cannot predict the future."

Harry wasn't sure what to say. He did not want to pry into a matter that had caused Firenze, a proud creature, to behave so bizarrely. If he hadn't been suspended he would have felt less uncertain asking; it would have been his duty. But without that authority, he felt uncomfortable.

May I try? Ginny's silent question caused Harry's eyes to flick to her, and Firenze caught the look. He cocked his head but said nothing.

Ginny spoke. "Were you safe in the Forest, Professor?"

"Ah, well, I avoided my old friends." His tone was a little sad.

"I'm sorry you had to do that. I'm also sorry you were so upset. The Pensieve is gone."

A cloud came over Firenze's blue eyes. He pursed his lips and seemed to consider Ginny's statement. "I was not myself, and I apologize for that. It is something I do not wish to speak about, but I thank you for your sentiment." He bowed his head. When he raised it, he looked at Hagrid. "May I speak with you, Hagrid?"

"Huh? Oh, sure. Uh, Harry, Ginny, if yeh'll excuse us fer a minute . . ."

"That's fine," Harry said quickly. "We have to get home. We'll see you later."

He took Ginny's arm and they went back to the fountain. On their way a group of third-years passed them. Harry stopped and watched them approach the cabin. He saw Firenze go out the back door and quickly disappear into the Forest.

"Thanks for that, sweetie," he said to Ginny as they packed up their picnic. "I wasn't sure what to say."

"Neither was I, but he was always nice to me, especially my sixth year. I just tried to be nice to him. He did look better, didn't he?"

"Maybe now that the Pensieve is gone, whatever was wrong is gone with it."

Harry balanced the picnic basket on his shoulder and put his arm around Ginny as they strolled back to Hogsmeade. The Hog's Head was crowded with the late afternoon crowd, so instead of going in through the dining room they went around to the back door. Harry dropped the basket off in the kitchen and went upstairs to join Ginny in the parlor. She was leafing through a pile of messages on the mantel.

"One from Hector, but it's really from Hermione; one from Percy, he's at the Burrow; one from Professor McGonagall, she saw us out on the lawn; and five from Mum."

Harry smiled and took the parchment from Hector Freeman. Hermione had found another copy of Thanks For The Memories at Borgin and Burkes' shop in Knockturn Alley and was going to meet with Professor McGonagall early tomorrow morning before she went in to work. Also, Ron would be with Saliyah when she came to see Harry this evening.

"How is Percy?" he asked Ginny and joined her on the love seat.

"Still a little shaky. He got a new pair of glasses too. He's staying there for dinner but they'll all go home tonight. He doesn't remember a thing about the trip, Harry. The last thing he remembers is stopping in Hogsmeade when you saw Mundungus."

"I figured. Well, what say we eat downstairs? We can relax and wait there for Sal."

"Don't you want to know what Mum has to say?"

Harry smiled. "Of course, but I can imagine."

"She actually went to see both Kingsley and Coach Deverill."

Harry groaned. "I didn't expect that. Did she sack them?"

Ginny smiled briefly. "I'm sure they both were afraid she would. She said that Kingsley was embarrassed, but Deverill . . ." Suddenly she stopped and turned away.

Harry put his hand on her shoulder. "Ginny, I'm sorry."

She shook her head, and tossed it in a spasm of anger so that her hair whipped through the air. "The hell with him. By tomorrow you'll be back in your office. Nothing else matters."

Yes it does.

Ginny was silent, but after a moment she put her head on Harry's shoulder and let her mind open up completely. Harry was flooded with sadness, anger, bitterness, resentment, grief, self-pity, and love. He put both of his arms around her and moved her into his lap as her tears began to fall. He said nothing, but held her as she sobbed into his chest, her body heaving, her balled fists striking his back in frustration.

They sat for a long time until Ginny's sobs gradually stopped; she looked up at Harry and he wiped her face and kissed her wet cheeks. "I love you so much," she whispered. "I'm so sorry this is happening to us."

"I love you," he whispered back. "I'm so sorry too."

"I got your shirt all wet," she sniffled, patting his chest. She put her arms around him and they kissed deeply.

Both of their stomachs growled at the same time, and they broke apart, laughing. After Ginny went into the loo to wash her face, they went downstairs to the dining room and sat with Tony and his wife and ate a delicious broiled chicken dinner. They passed the next hour chatting with their friends, but avoided talking about the events of the past week. Just after seven o'clock Ginny tapped Harry's shoulder and he turned to see Saliyah, Ron, and Popeye approaching their table. "We'll be going," said Tony, as he and his wife rose to leave. "Good luck."

They moved to a quieter table farther back, away from other diners. Harry ordered firewhiskey for Popeye and butterbeers for everyone else. "Have you been to the Burrow?" Ginny asked Ron. "We heard that Percy was there."

"He already went back to London with Audrey and Molly," Ron said. "Mum loaded them down with food, of course. She wanted to go with them, but Dad convinced her she had to stay to get ready for the weekend."

"He couldn't provide us with any information," Saliyah said. "Whoever Obliviated him did an excellent job."

"What about that house in Withypool?" Harry asked.

"It was purchased a year ago from a Muggle couple who were moving to Essex. The purchaser was a mysterious gentleman who looked nothing like your Mr. Chamberlain. The neighbors said a couple lived there, but stayed inside during the day and only came out at night. Because of that, and because of the spells they used to protect the house, no one ever got a good look at them." Saliyah took a sip of butterbeer. "They were probably the Chamberlains, but there's no proof. The house was thoroughly cleaned out. It looks like they had a very well thought-out plan that they began implementing several months ago."

"A plan to do what, besides steal the Pensieve?" Harry asked.

Saliyah shrugged. "They tampered with it somehow to get us to move it out of the school, where security was too tight, at least around the Headmistress's office. It seems that they planned to take it to the safe house in Somerset and then . . ." She sighed. "We don't know what they planned after that. Like I said, it was Scourgified down to the floorboards. They didn't leave a shred of evidence behind."

"Maybe there's another safe house somewhere nearby," Ginny suggested.

"We thought of that, but there's an awful lot of houses in the West Country, assuming they did stay in the neighborhood."

"Did you know that Chamberlain and his wife are supposed to be at the Burrow on Sunday?" Harry asked.

Saliyah gave a tight-lipped nod. "I will be very surprised if they show up. He has to know by now that lots of evidence is pointing at him."

Popeye spoke for the first time. "On the other hand, if he doesn't show it's an admission of guilt. But I wanted to say something else, Sal. There has to be an inside man or woman who knew what we were doing. How else would they know that we were taking the Pensieve to the Ministry in a lorry?"

Saliyah's eyes flashed. "Are you suggesting that an Auror—"

"Of course not!" Popeye snapped back. "I'm suggesting someone in the Department of Mysteries."

"I don't want to go over that again," Saliyah said just as sharply. "He's a nasty little sod but I'm not starting an investigation of Amander Croaker just because he gets on your nerves. Besides," she looked at Harry, "that's not why we're here."

"You have a way for me to get my job back?" Harry asked.

"You haven't lost your job. You're still on the payroll, you're still accumulating holiday time, and you're still going to be promoted to Head Auror in fourteen months. If Kingsley tries to renege on that, he'll have more than a few Aurors revolting."

"A few?" Popeye snorted. "More like every single damn one."

"I appreciate that," Harry said quietly, nodding to the old Auror. "But why are you here?

Saliyah pressed her lips together for a moment, and plunged in. "We need for you to go to your parents' house in Godric's Hollow."

Harry did not move. Ginny made her mind very still. "Why?" Harry asked.

Saliyah leaned forward and said almost in a whisper, "Do you know if anyone has been in that house since your parents died?"

Harry was surprised. "Of course. Ginny and I were there last week and Ron was there yesterday. What do you mean?"

"I mean did anyone ever go up to the second floor, specifically the room where your mother was killed?"

Harry reached out to Ginny with his mind, which suddenly felt as if it might start spinning out of control. He wanted to keep it away, keep it from drowning him under a wave of violent feelings. Earlier this afternoon Ginny had deluged him with an almost overwhelming tide of feelings about losing her place on the National team. Now he was about to drown in his own sea of emotions.

He tried to think. "Hagrid was there. He picked me out of the rubble. I think Sirius was there too, but I'm not sure if he came up to . . . to that room, or if he got there after Hagrid brought me out." He paused and thought again. "I think Dumbledore may have gone back, but . . ."

"So no one has been there for over twenty years," Saliyah finished for him. "Harry, something is up there and no one can get in. I know how painful it is, but we need you to try."

Harry stared at her, but suddenly put his hand to his throat; he felt as if he was suffocating, and Ginny looked at him in alarm. He drew in a deep, rasping breath, and she took both of his hands.

Suddenly he cried out. He tried to raise his hand to his forehead, but Ginny held it and would not let him. Ron put his hand on Harry's shoulder, fear on his face. Saliyah and Popeye half rose from their chairs. Customers turned, and from the bar Stan and Harriet peered at them.

Ginny stood and took his shoulders. "Harry, look at me. I'm here. Dearest, you don't have to do anything. It's all right."

He closed his eyes and let Ginny in. There, inside him, she knew everything.

I love you. Neither one knew who said it, or if it had been both of them.

Harry opened his eyes and blinked at Ginny, whose face was only inches from his. He took a clear breath. She knew what had just happened, what he had just felt, but she had not let him be terrified by it. She had taken it into herself and put it where it could not hurt either of them, and she would keep it there until later, until they could be alone and face it together.

Harry stared up at her, his eyes not completely focused; he swayed in his chair and Ron sprang up and held him. "He can't do it!" he said to Saliyah. "We'll find another way."

"No!" Harry forced his eyes to focus. He looked across the table at the Head Auror. "No. Tell me what you did, what you think is there."

Saliyah's worried, almost frightened eyes went from Harry to Ginny. "Go ahead," Ginny said, sitting down but keeping one hand on Harry's shoulder and the fingers of her other hand laced with his. Ron also sat.

"Are you sure?" Saliyah said to Harry; he nodded. She paused, looking at him intently. After a few seconds she continued. "We were able to climb the stairs from the vestibule, and we were able to examine all the rooms upstairs, except the one in the front corner where Riddle attacked you and your mother. The door is ajar, and we could see in, but when we tried to go in there was some kind of repelling jinx. It's very strong and very strange, because as you know, part of that room is visible from outside where the walls are blown out." She paused again. "Anyway, Harry, I hope you don't mind, but I talked to a few people who were in the Order of the Phoenix—Molly and Arthur, and Minerva—and we all think it might have something to do with the protective magic from your mother's sacrifice. I also wanted to talk to Julia Sprout, but Croaker said she was busy."

At the mention of the Unspeakable Harry's eyes narrowed, Ginny scowled, and Ron muttered something under his breath that drew a look from Saliyah. Popeye, however, smiled slightly at their reactions.

"She's a piece of work too," he said, but sat back when Saliyah turned her glower on him.

"Regardless of her personality, she's an expert on that kind of magic," she said. "That's why she was so interested in you, Harry."

"Was it interest or was it a red herring?" Harry asked.

"Good question," Ron muttered, this time loud enough for everyone to hear.

Saliyah looked around the table. "Fine, if you all think she's worthy of investigation, we'll do that. Meanwhile, tomorrow I'd like to see what's in that room. Are you okay with that, Harry?"

"I think so." He held Ginny's hand even tighter. "What time?"

"Ten o'clock?"

"I'll be there. But . . . what does it have to do with the Pensieve? If no one can get in, how can there be anything there?"

Saliyah hesitated, and Popeye put down his glass hard, so that the drink slopped onto the table. He took out his wand and cleaned it.

"She thinks that Amander Croaker used Sprout to get in," he said, glaring at Saliyah. "Or maybe she willingly helped him."

"That's your opinion." Saliyah stood and so did Popeye. She gave him a hard look. "We'll find out tomorrow. Meanwhile, get some rest, Harry. I know this is hard for you, but maybe by tomorrow evening you'll be back in the Ministry."

Harry, Ginny, and Ron watched them leave; a moment after the door closed behind them they heard the pops of two Disapparitions.

"Let's go upstairs," Harry said, getting to his feet. Ginny and Ron followed him through the dining room and into the kitchen. As soon as they entered, Harry saw Kreacher and Winky standing close together near the stove. They both looked terrified.

Harry stopped. "What is it?" he asked.

Winky seemed unable to speak. She glanced at Kreacher and he said in a voice even shakier than usual, "Is you all right, Harry Potter?"

"I'm—well, I'm not fine, but . . . why? What's wrong?"

Ginny stepped past him and bent over so that her head was on the same level as the elves'. "It's okay," she said. "There's nothing to worry about. It was just something from the past, it's not here."

Both elves visibly relaxed. Kreacher bowed his head and picked up a tray of desserts from the counter. "That is good," he croaked. "Kreacher is sorry that Harry Potter is not fine." He bowed his head again and shuffled into the dining room with the tray.

Winky gave Ginny and Harry a nod and climbed onto a stool in front of the stove and began stirring a pot of melted chocolate.

"What was that about?" Ron said as they went up the stairs to the flat.

Ginny said nothing, and finally, inside, Harry said, "We'll tell you later."

Ginny turned to her brother. "Ron, would you mind if Harry and I were alone right now? I'm sorry, but there's something we have to talk about."

He looked puzzled, but said, "Oh, sure. I guess I'll see you at Godric's Hollow tomorrow?"

Once again Ginny hesitated and looked at Harry.

"We'll be there," he said.

Ron studied his friend for a moment. "Okay. 'Mione will be there too, after she sees McGonagall." Harry nodded and Ron Floo'd away.

Harry walked to the love seat. He stood facing the fireplace, and turned as Ginny came to him and put her hands on his chest. He pulled her close and they held each other for several minutes. Finally they sat on the love seat, holding hands.

"What do you think it was?" Ginny asked.

"I wish I knew. I can't remember the last time it hurt."

Ginny slowly reached up and put her fingertip on his scar. They never talked about it anymore because it was not a factor in their lives. When they were out among people who weren't family or friends, occasionally someone would glance at it or even stare, but Harry always ignored them. Tom Riddle was dead five years, a long time. The Horcrux was gone. The scar was not connected to anyone or anything.

But for an instant when Saliyah had talked about something being in the room where Voldemort had tried to kill him, the scar had burned. It wasn't as bad as it had often been when Harry was in school or when he and Voldemort were contending for the Elder Wand, but it was more than a mere twinge.

He had cried out as much in surprise as in pain; it had been totally unexpected. And now he had agreed to go there, to the place he had not been for more than twenty years, and which he had been consciously avoiding for almost five years. Not only didn't he know what he would find in that room, he didn't know if just being there would cause his scar to split his head in pain, as it had done so often when Riddle was still alive.

"I don't know if I can do this," Harry murmured into Ginny's hair; she was now in his lap with her head on his chest. He breathed deeply, pulling her almost unbearably lovely fragrance deep into his lungs.

When she lifted her head there were tears for him in her eyes. "I know. I'll be with you, love. I'll be here and here." She touched his temple and his chest. "And I want you to promise me something."


"Promise that you will be in me."

Harry looked into her soft brown eyes and saw his reflected torment. He felt the heat and solidity of her body, felt her weight on his thighs, her breathing, in and out, her life that was his life.

"That's where I always am."

They kissed, and their day ended the way it began.

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