The Rocking Chair
After Harry and Ron returned to Hogwarts, Hermione helped Ginny clean up and then went home. The two wives had joked about sleeping alone, and Ginny smiled to herself when she considered that her best friend was no stranger to an empty bed, given Ron's penchant for aggravating the hell out of her with his uncontrollable mouth. Ginny had often teased him about the depression in the couch where his rear end often lay.
But tonight as she put on her nightgown and sat in front of her mirror braiding her hair, Ginny fretted and pondered her own empty marital bed, because it was rare for her to sleep alone; she or Harry had had to spend a night away from home only a few times over the years. There was no depression in her couch. Yet she felt an unfamiliar loneliness.
She went out into the sitting room and, feeling a little absurd, opened the casement window next to the fireplace. A few moments later Bailey and McPherson both flew in. They landed on their perch and Ginny handed out treats. Normally the owls stayed outside at night, but tonight Ginny wanted them inside. McPherson made a noise, mildly protesting being cooped up, but Bailey gave him a yellow-eyed stare and he settled on his perch. Ginny returned to the bedroom, moved the photograph of Harry that she kept on her night stand so that she could see it without lifting her head, tucked her wand under her pillow, and blew out the candle.
As soon as the light went out she knew why she was so jumpy. The room was perfectly still; the sheets were not rustling and the sounds of quiet breathing next to her were missing. Worst of all, she was alone in her thoughts because Harry was asleep.
In a way, she felt better because now she knew what was bothering her. She wasn't used to it; it seemed unnatural. Where there was nothing, Harry should be. Where there was silence, a voice should be whispering to her. Where a green-eyed smiling face should be, there was a cold pillow. Where gentle hands should be reaching out and caressing her, arousing her, there was only an unsatisfying recollection.
She sat up and re-lit the candle. The room filled with wavering shadows and she looked hopefully into each one, but Harry was not there. She got out of bed, put on her robe, put her wand in a pocket, and carried the candle into the sitting room. The owls clucked softly, and she smiled at the two pairs of glowing eyes that watched her set the candle on the table. She went to the perch and let Bailey nibble at the palm of her hand.
"Do you miss him when he's out at night?" she murmured.
Bailey turned her head to McPherson, then looked back at Ginny.
She sighed and sat in the love seat. This was not good. There were going to be too many times after Harry became Head Auror when he would not be home at night. She couldn't live her life depending on Harry's presence, either physically or in her head.
Maybe she wasn't listening carefully enough. Maybe she was just too jumpy because she was alone. She lay down in the love seat, closed her eyes and emptied her mind. The owls seemed to sense her need for stillness, and after a moment of moving about on the perch, they settled and remained motionless. Soon, there were no sounds in the room and all Ginny could hear was the beating pulse of her own heart.
With a jolt, Harry was there. He was in a dark place outside in the open air, shivering in a chilly breeze. A large open space spread before him but the darkness swallowed up any details. At least there was no danger; it was peaceful where he was. All Ginny felt from him was his worry for her.
The tension in the room evaporated as the warmth of Harry's care filled Ginny's heart. The owls shifted, and Bailey clucked twice. Ginny sat up and looked at the birds. They were ignoring her, preening and grooming themselves. And now she knew where Harry was: standing on the front steps of Hogwarts. He had left the castle because he thought she was in danger, but as soon as he had felt her heart, he knew that she was fine, she only missed him.
Ginny let out her breath and lay back on the love seat. She hugged herself and let Harry know that all was well; she was just being a silly girl. She pressed her hands to her sides and moved them down to her hips and back up. She wanted Harry, and she let him know, even though she knew he could not come to her.
I'm okay. Try to sleep. I love you. She didn't know who said that, or if they both said it. All she knew was that the darkness was not so black anymore. She got up and opened the window in case the owls wanted to go out. They shuffled around on their perch but stayed. "Thanks," she whispered.
She got into bed, blew out the candle again, pulled the covers up to her chin, and slept.
Harry came home shortly before lunch the next day, Sunday. The two Unspeakables, Amander Croaker and Julia Sprout, and three of their trainees had arrived after breakfast. Anna Remington was also back, so Harry decided that he could send some of his people home since so many skilled wizards and witches were there watching the Pensieve. When Seamus, Ron, and Parvati volunteered to stay, Ron told Harry to go home and relax for a while. Then Ernie Macmillan and Justin Finch-Fletchley showed up; it was their day off, but they decided to pop up to Hogwarts and see what was happening. When Neville appeared at the Headmistress's office it turned into a Class of 1998 reunion, at which point Harry decided he would rather spend the day with Ginny.
Ginny was standing at the owls' perch near the window when Harry turned down the lane from the High Street. She saw him and waved, then went into the little kitchen and started brewing a pot of tea. She had thoughts of a romantic afternoon in the four-poster, but Harry was exhausted. He hadn't slept well, mostly because he was nervous and tense, but also because of Ginny's earlier bout with her own restlessness. He dropped into a chair at the kitchen table and Ginny set tea and scones out.
"Merlin, what a day. What a weekend." He yawned and took a sip of tea. "Mmm." He smiled; it was one of his favorite blends, Euphoric Wizard.
Ginny sat across from him munching a scone. "Did anyone figured it out?"
"No, and I'm betting we'll have to take it back to the Ministry. Remington and Saliyah decided that we'll move it tomorrow unless they can get to the bottom of it today."
He took another sip and frowned. Ginny knew instantly that something else was bothering him, besides the Pensieve. She reached across the table and took his hand. "What?"
Harry shrugged, hesitating; Ginny retreated from his mind and waited. Finally he spoke. "You were wondering about the Unspeakables yesterday."
"Yes. It's strange, but I've never met one. Pretty much all I know is that they work in the Department of Mysteries."
Harry nodded. "They keep to themselves, and even when you meet them, they don't talk about what they do, or much else for that matter. It's hard to hold any kind of conversation with them." He chuckled. "Very mysterious. Sometimes if a problem comes up at work that we can't figure out, we ask them, but unless it has to do with a big question," he extended his arms wide to illustrate how big, "they don't like to get involved."
"So what's a big question?" Ginny leaned her chin on her fist, but kept hold of Harry's hand.
"Think about those rooms we saw when we were there. Time, space, thought, death, love. The big questions."
Ginny wasn't sure, but she thought that Harry started to put his hand to his scar. Instead, he scratched his ear and quickly dropped the hand. He fiddled with his cup and spoke without looking up.
"One of the Unspeakables is Professor Sprout's cousin, Julia Sprout. It turns out she was good friends with my mother at Hogwarts and also after she and my father got married. She got Pomona to put in the garden where we lived before Godric's Hollow, and then she planted trees behind the house to give them some privacy if the Fidelius charm was ever lifted." He paused; Ginny kept her mind quiet, but sent a gentle request. Look at me.
Harry looked up and smiled. "Sorry. What happened was kind of unexpected. We were all in McGonagall's office and Professor Sprout walked in and then the cousin got all chatty and started talking about my parents and the house and the garden and the trees." He sighed. "This is the first I've spent any significant amount of time with Unspeakables, and they don't have many social graces, at least not this one. I guess they're cooped up with each other down on the ninth level and don't see many other people. Or maybe she's getting senile; she was pretty strange. Professor Sprout tried to get her to stop, but the witch kept prattling away. And then she wanted to know about the protection, the, ah, you know . . ."
He dropped his eyes again and put the fingers of his right hand to his scar. He held them there, staring at the table, until Ginny came and sat in his lap. She put her arms around him as he blinked away tears.
She brushed a lock of hair from his forehead. "Oh, my love, I'm so sorry. I'm sure she didn't mean to be unthinking. It's like you said, she just doesn't know how to act around people."
Harry snorted. "Maybe, but she wouldn't stop, even though Flitwick was also trying to make her, and Ron started a coughing fit. She went on about experiments they've done in that locked room, the one where they study love. She said that no one ever did what my mum did, protect someone else from a Killing Curse."
"Well, you knew that!" Ginny exclaimed. "What on earth was she getting at?"
"She wants to study me. She wants to figure out why it worked, and how."
"And what did you tell her? Ah!" Ginny laughed at the epithet that Harry hadn't spoken out loud.
"Not really," he grinned. "Just then Saliyah walked in and rescued me. She saw what was going on and asked me to step outside. When I went back in a few minutes later, someone must have set the witch straight, because she ignored me after that."
Harry became silent, staring into space, but now his heart was open. Ginny kissed his cheek and brushed his face with her hand, then rested her head on his shoulder. They didn't need to speak as, after a moment, Harry led her into the bedroom.
Later, Ginny slipped quietly out of the four-poster and put on her robe. She looked back at Harry, smiling at his peaceful, sleeping face. He was on his back with one hand on the spot where she had been lying. She pulled the covers up to his shoulders and he sighed and turned onto his side. Ginny leaned over and kissed him, then went out into the sitting room, quietly closing the door behind her.
She spent a quiet day by herself, straightening up around the flat, paying bills, servicing her broomsticks, answering a stack of fan mail. Ron stopped by late in the afternoon on his way home to talk to Harry, but when he learned that his boss was asleep, he told Ginny not to disturb him. He also told her that the Department of Mysteries had decided that the Pensieve should be moved to the Ministry of Magic as soon as possible, and that the safest way would be in a Ministry lorry.
"Of course, the Ministry doesn't have a lorry," he noted, "and the Department of Magical Transportation won't take care of it because a lorry isn't magical. So either today or tomorrow morning someone has to hire a lorry from somewhere, and someone has to drive it down to London. I guess Hermione knows how to hire the damn thing, but no one knows who can drive one."
"Percy drives Ministry cars," Ginny said. They were sitting in the kitchen with the door closed so they wouldn't wake Harry. She put two scones and a slice of chocolate cake on a plate in front of Ron and poured tea for both of them. She turned to get him a fork, but when she turned back he was already shoving the cake into his mouth with his fingers.
He nodded and finished the cake. "Pretty good. Did you make it or Winky?"
"I did," Ginny smiled. "But it's Winky's recipe, the same one she used for our wedding cake. It's leftover from Friday."
He licked his fingers. "I thought of asking Percy, but he'll say yes even if he hasn't a clue how to drive one."
"How different can it be from driving a car? And why don't you get it a couple of days ahead and let him practice?"
"Because the Unspeakables said we should move it tomorrow."
"Harry told me about the one who talked about his mother." Ginny took a sip of tea and scowled. "He was really upset when he got home."
Ron rolled his eyes. "I couldn't believe it. The woman wouldn't shut up. After Saliyah got Harry out of the room, Professor Sprout started yelling at her. But you know what? I don't think she's giving up. She didn't even seem to understand that she was being so rude. When Harry came back she kept looking at him when she thought he wouldn't notice. I'm going to talk to Sal about it. Harry doesn't need that crap."
"Damn." Ginny's mouth formed a thin line as she put her cup down.
She looked up when they heard footsteps in the sitting room. The kitchen door opened and Harry stood there tucking in his shirt, his hair tousled. There wasn't enough room in the kitchen, so he stayed in the doorway.
He grinned at Ron. "Which particular crap don't I need?"
"What that Sprout witch was talking about. She was going on and on. She wouldn't shut up even though everyone else in the room could tell that she was getting on your nerves."
"She wasn't getting on my nerves. I just didn't see why it was so important."
Ron looked at him in surprise. "You can't see why they would want to know how it happened?"
"No, I can't" Harry snapped. Ron sat back startled, and Ginny stared at Harry, her cup stopped halfway to her mouth. Harry sighed. "I'm sorry, mate. I guess she was getting on my nerves." He turned back into the parlor and sat in an armchair next to the picture window.
"Hermione's waiting. I'll see you next week at the house," Ron said to Ginny as he got up. "Can I use your fireplace?"
She followed him into the other room and watched as the green flames swallowed him. She went to Harry and stood next to his chair. His mind was closed, but it was obvious from the scowl on his face what he was thinking about. Ginny put her hand on his shoulder but he didn't react.
"I'm sorry, sweetie," she said. "This is bothering you a lot, isn't it?"
Harry stared out the window. Heavy clouds looking like rain were rolling over the inn towards the hills in the east. He turned his head and looked up at her. Help.
She sucked in her breath and fell to her knees next to the chair. Their hands clenched with their fingers laced together. There were no words for several minutes until Harry rose, pulling her up with him. But then he dropped her hands and walked to the fireplace. He picked up the photograph of his parents from the mantel and gazed at it.
"It's no good," he said in a low voice.
"What?" Ginny followed him; his back was to her, and she hadn't heard him.
He turned. "It's no good. I thought it was all gone, but it's not. First you brought up Godric's Hollow, then this. I was angry that you started talking about living there, and then that stupid twit wanted to study me." He carefully put the picture back on the mantel. "Why did you do it, Ginny? I really don't understand. Why do we need to live in the place that almost destroyed me? In fact, it did destroy me. Not only did I lose my parents, but then I had to live in a hell-hole for ten years with three idiots who hated me."
He stopped and bit his lip. "I'm sorry. It's not your fault, it's no one's fault but Tom Riddle's. But why do you want to live there, Ginny? I really don't understand."
"Maybe I don't understand either, but it just seems right." Her voice was calm. She glanced at the photograph. "I think they would like it."
Harry stared at her, fearing that somehow she was right. Things like this had occurred before. Ginny seemed to understand and see things that he couldn't or wouldn't. She had never met his parents, except perhaps as an infant, but then again, neither had he, really. There was no way she could know what they might have thought about their son living in Godric's Hollow, but Harry couldn't deny that something inside him was telling him it was true.
He looked from Ginny to the photo. His father had a quiet smile, his eyes crinkled behind his glasses as they usually were. His mother's grin was much more animated, and she kept glancing at her husband while waving at the camera. In the background was the house in which, a few short months after Sirius took this picture, they were to die. Harry took a deep breath, turned and walked to the love seat. He sat and Ginny joined him.
He didn't speak at first, and knew that Ginny was waiting for him. "I'm not my parents," he finally said. "Even if they were alive and wanted me to live there, it would be my decision. And you still haven't told me why you think we should live there."
"Well . . . for one thing it's a nice village. It's not that far from the Burrow, and it's not too close. But mostly I believe that if you do nothing about that house, the one that's standing there falling apart, it will end up like the Shrieking Shack. And then, when you and I are dead and gone, it will be a curiosity and silly strangers will walk through it and stick their noses into it, and start telling silly ghost stories about it, just like the Shrieking Shack. It will be a place where children go to play games, to see who can frighten who the most." She took a breath. "The place where your parents died should be more than that."
"It's only a house, a building. I don't want it to be a shrine."
"But that's what it is now. People are still writing slogans and messages on the gate and on the sign out front. Did you know that?"
Harry shook his head and his brow creased. "How do you know? When were you there?"
"I've been there a couple of times with Ginger. Do you remember two years ago when she was looking for a flat to let for her and Dean? She didn't want to live in Holyhead any more, so she asked me if I knew of anyplace. I told her about Godric's Hollow, and I went with her to check it out."
"And you went by the house?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
Harry didn't answer. He was totally torn inside. He felt discomfort at the idea of seeing that house, his parents' house, get torn down, but Ginny's prediction of it becoming the Shrieking Shack of the West Country also disturbed him. In one room his father had been murdered in cold blood. In another shattered room his mother had died standing in front of him. Did he want those rooms to become playgrounds for total strangers who knew nothing about the reality of his life?
"I could just tear it down," he said.
Ginny shrugged. "You could do that. Then it would be a vacant lot. That's a perfect place for a shrine."
"I can't stop people from doing what they want to do. If they want a memorial to . . . to . . ." He stopped and looked at Ginny in confusion. She took his hand and kissed his fingers.
"It's a lovely spot, you know. There are woods in back and a stream with a little waterfall. I was there in the wintertime and the snow looks very pretty on the rocks. Our children would love a place like that."
"That's not fair!" He frowned, but paused thoughtfully for a moment. "You actually walked around it? How much ground is there? Are there any—" He suddenly stopped and looked accusingly at Ginny.
She laughed. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I didn't mean to be tricky. But it is a beautiful piece of land." She gave him her best smile, the one she knew he could not resist. "We could go see it right now, if you want. There's still plenty of daylight."
"Well . . . I don't know."
"Whatever you want. I haven't heard from Coach Deverill yet, so as of now I don't have to get up early tomorrow. It's up to you."
"Well . . . What exactly did you have in mind?"
"I know where we can Apparate near the house, and there's a very nice pub on the square where we could have supper." She smiled again.
"You have no scruples," Harry said, standing. "I'm putty in your hands and you know it."
"Oh, no, no, no." Ginny also got up and put her hands on his chest. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. "No one melts like I do when you look at me with those green eyes."
Harry rolled his green eyes and returned her kiss.
They Apparated into a woods next to a short but steep hill, at the bottom of which ran a small stream, no more than three feet across. The water flowed swiftly over small rocks and a few larger ones, all smoothly rounded and glistening in dappled sunlight filtering through the new leaves of spring. Underfoot lay a tangle of low shrubs and a thick carpet of dead leaves from countless autumns. The woods had the look of an area gone wild.
Harry let go of Ginny's arm. He had Side-Along Apparated since Ginny knew where she wanted to take him: behind the house in Godric's Hollow. The water babbled pleasantly as it rushed over the rocks, and Harry saw, a few yards upstream from where they stood, a waterfall about five feet high. Flashes of bright sunlight reflected from it as the leaves overhead moved in a soft breeze and their shadows flitted over the falling water. Across the stream the gully rose to the same height as the side they were standing on. Through the trees he could see the back fences of a row of cottages. The fences were slatted and high; only a few dormered windows and peaked roofs were visible.
"The property goes up to those fences," Ginny said when she saw where Harry was looking.
Harry turned to her in surprise. "How do you know about the property line?"
"I asked some of the people who live there."
He frowned a little. "Why did you do that?"
Ginny looked away at the houses and shrugged. "I was curious, but . . . it seemed like it would be good to know." She turned to him, and their conversation went inside, communicated more as feelings than as thoughts. It lasted for barely a second.
"It's okay." Harry moved to her and put his arms around her. He kissed her as they stood amongst the trees. "You know me better than I do. I'm starting to like this place."
Ginny grinned and hugged him tighter. "Come on." She took his hand and moved away from the gully. "Let's go see the house."
They started to make their way through the trees and undergrowth. Before them was a row of yews, thick and tall enough to completely block the house from view. The Potters' house was for all intents invisible from the back. The yews weren't quite as tall as the house yet, but they would be in a few years.
"They must have been lower when we lived here," Harry observed.
"Yes, I think they were the ones Professor Sprout planted. Oi!"
They both stopped. They were only feet from the yews and were looking for a way through. There was a tiny gap right in front of them, and they both saw through it and through a window, movement inside the house. They froze for an instant. Then wand light flared briefly and for those few seconds they could see a cloaked figure move past the window. It paused and seemed to be looking at something on the floor.
Harry's wand flashed and an opening appeared in the hedge-like barrier. He plunged through with Ginny right behind. He pointed his wand, intending to send a body-binding spell through the window, but at the violent movement of the yews, the person inside looked up and vanished with a pop that was clearly audible outside.
They rushed to the window and peered in, seeing a small sitting room. A small couch faced a fireplace, and there were a few other pieces of furniture—an easy chair, a coffee table, and, off to one side a tiny wooden rocking chair, only about eighteen inches high.
Harry sucked in his breath, and Ginny looked at him fearfully. She started to pull back from the window, but he grabbed her arm. "No, I want to go in."
He took her hand and they walked around to the front door. He paused there. He had seen the front of the house from the gate six years ago. The weeds didn't seem much higher now, as best as he could recollect. The hedge along the lane that led past the house was also about the height he remembered.
"We just stood at the gate," he said as Ginny moved next to him. "Then Bathilda came. . ."
He abruptly turned and gazed at the door. "I know what's inside. When we escaped from Riddle he had a flashback to the—the night that—that it happened. I saw everything, my dad . . . everything."
He leaned his arm on the jamb and rested his head against it with his eyes closed. Ginny put her hand lightly on his shoulder but there was no need for speech; Harry's mind and heart were open. After a long moment he took a breath, stood erect, and pushed the door open.
They entered a small vestibule. A flight of stairs in front of them went to the upper floor. A door on their right opened into the sitting room they had seen through the window. The vestibule was empty, and the floor was covered with a thin layer of dust; footprints led into the door on the right. A small crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling and swayed slightly as the air moved with the opening of the front door; the crystals were oddly dull and colorless.
As they gazed around, they saw that the walls were dark but in some places darker. Then they both saw it at the same time: a rectangle on the wall behind the stairs where the paint was lighter than the rest of the vestibule. "What's that?" Harry whispered, pointing to the rectangle.
They stepped inside and Harry pulled the door closed. They both lit their wands. Ginny walked to the stairs and peered up, then looked back at Harry. He was still staring at the rectangle.
Suddenly he went pale, and Ginny sprang to his side. She grabbed his arm as he staggered forward towards the wall, pulling her along. When he was a foot from the wall he reached out and touched it. "This is wallpaper." He moved his hand along the wall until it touched the blackened part. "This is burnt."
He turned to Ginny, and she instantly knew what he knew. They were looking at the reverse shadow of a piece of furniture, perhaps a wardrobe, which had stood in the vestibule. Now that they were close, they could see that the walls had been scorched and the wallpaper turned black. The Curse that had killed James Potter had left its mark. It had burned the walls but not what was behind the wardrobe. Later, someone had taken the piece of furniture away and the undamaged wallpaper was exposed.
Harry stepped back. He looked at Ginny with a sick, grim face.
"Love," she said, tears in her eyes, "maybe I made a mistake. Maybe we shouldn't be here."
"Maybe." He looked through the door to the sitting room and indicated it with a nod.
Inside, they quickly found what the cloaked figure had been looking at. A thin cylinder of wood lay on the floor in front of the small couch. It was about three feet across and about two inches high. It was not attached to anything; Harry shoved it with his trainer and it slid a few inches across the floor. It was not painted or stained in any way, but was covered with runes etched or carved into it. It had not been here long because they could see when it moved that there was dust underneath it.
"Very odd," said Ginny.
"Can you read the runes?"
She bent down with her wand held close to the cylinder and peered at it for a minute. "This is a different language from what I learned. Some of the runes are similar to ones I studied, but it's been so long . . ." She stood and shook her head. "I can't remember half the stuff I learned in Ancient Runes. I haven't used any of it since then. Not much need when you're playing Quidditch."
Harry turned from it and looked at the little rocking chair. It was next to the fireplace and it too was covered with dust. He squatted down and brushed one of the arms clean. Ginny raised her wand, but he pushed it down. Let me do it.
It was painted deep green, and as Harry swept the dust off with his hand, they saw that it was decorated with pictures of wizards and witches on broomsticks and gesturing with wands. One of them, a wizard with a very long beard and a tall, pointed hat, moved his hand feebly.
"It must have been charmed," Ginny whispered, once again putting her hand on his shoulder.
He nodded and stood, picking the chair up. Ginny saw that his hand trembled slightly.
"You'll keep it?" she said, still in a whisper.
Harry sighed deeply. He gazed at the child's chair for a long time while Ginny held her breath. When she let it out, he glanced at her and set the chair down. "No." He did not look at Ginny, but glanced around the room. "What do you think? What was he doing here?"
Ginny didn't answer. She closed her eyes and bowed her head. Love, it was a miracle to find it. Our child could—
Harry cut her off with a quick gesture. "No," he repeated.
Ginny didn't answer. For the moment, she had lost the argument and she knew not to pursue it. His pain had been growing ever since their realization that the burn-flash of Riddle's Killing Curse was still present in the vestibule. And the rocking chair only made everything from that long-ago, murderous night even more real. She could think of nothing that would change his mind, but even if she could, it would be wrong of her to try.
After a long silence she pointed to the wooden disk. "It's a puzzle. Maybe you should bring Ron here and have him check it out. Did you get a look at that person's face?"
"His hood was up. All I really noticed was that his cloak was blue."
"Lot's of cloaks are blue. What about getting Ron?"
Harry shrugged. "The only suspicious thing about it was that someone was here at all. We didn't actually see him do anything."
"Then why did he Disapparate when he saw us?"
Harry looked at her keenly. "I still say you should become an Auror. But . . . maybe we just startled him. Okay!" he laughed shortly when Ginny opened her mouth again. "I'll send Ron to sweep it . . ." His voice trailed off.
It will be hard, Ginny spoke with her mind. Aloud she said, "That man should not have been here. If he was up to no good, then you'll find out what it was."
"I suppose . . ."
They looked around the room for another minute, after which Harry led the way back into the vestibule. He turned and gestured with his wand; the door to the sitting room sealed and disappeared.
He glanced up the stairs, but Ginny knew even before she felt it that he would not go up. They went outside into the early dusk, and Harry walked to the front gate. He put his hand on it and they looked back into the yard. The same sign which he had seen that Christmas day with Hermione popped up from the weeds. They gazed at the words engraved on it—the memorial to Harry's family—and the graffiti covering those words. The good wishes and words of support were still sharp and clear, but something new had been scrawled over everything: Thank You Harry Potter.
Harry told her that he didn't feel like eating supper at the pub in the village, so after checking to make sure no one was in sight, they Disapparated straight back to the Hog's Head.
The next morning, Monday, Harry left for Hogwarts and Ginny waited in the flat to hear from the National team. She didn't have long to wait. An owl arrived shortly before ten o'clock bearing a parchment from the Department of Magical Games and Sports, her official invitation to join the English National Quidditch team. If she was interested in doing so, she was requested to attend a team meeting tomorrow morning to be followed by a press conference in the afternoon.
After she had danced around the room twice, whooping and waving the parchment in the air and causing the poor Ministry owl to retreat outside the window in alarm, she scribbled her acceptance, gave the parchment back to the owl, and debated whether to go see Harry. She was certain that he was aware of her exhilaration, but she wanted to share it with him in person. She dashed off a note and gave it to Bailey, who, along with McPherson, had ignored the Ministry owl with haughty indifference. Her owl returned shortly with Harry's reply telling her to meet him in the entrance hall at noon.
It was only ten o'clock, and Ginny was too excited to sit still in the flat. She thought about Flooing to the Burrow for an hour, but remembered that her mother would be at work at St. Mungo's. So she went downstairs, waved at Harriet behind the bar in the dining room, and walked up the lane to Zonko's. But George wasn't there. Chico, the Argentine immigrant who worked as an assistant while learning English from Claire Athair—Ginny wondered what Claire was learning from Chico—was minding the store. He managed to convey in halting English with help from a Spanish-English dictionary, that George and Angelina were home and would be at work in a couple of hours.
She ended up in The Three Broomsticks, sitting at the bar in back chatting with Madam Rosmerta. The proprietress listened patiently with an amused smile while Ginny went on about Quidditch, the team, and the tournament, until it was almost noon. She left and hurried past the train station and up the lane to the tall pillars, but stopped suddenly when she saw Susan Bones and Padma Patil in their Auror robes sitting on chairs just inside the closed gates.
They stood when they saw Ginny and waved at her to approach. "Harry said you'd be coming," Padma told her. "You just have to tell us what the tattoo was that you said was on Harry's chest during your fifth year. Sorry," she giggled, "we're supposed to ask everyone a question just in case they're Polyjuiced or Imperiused."
"How on earth did you find out about that?" Ginny asked, wide-eyed. "I don't remember telling anyone except Hermione, Ron, and Romilda Vane."
"Harry told us," Susan laughed. "He said only those three knew about it."
"He told you? I'll have to talk to him about that." She looked at them thoughtfully. "How do you know I'm not Romilda?"
"Because she works for the Ministry now, and I know for a fact that she's in London." Susan grinned wickedly. "Come on, Ginny. What was the tattoo?" Padma, standing beside her, was also grinning.
"Okay, okay. A Hungarian Horntail."
The gate swung open and she walked through, glaring at the grins on the Aurors' faces. "By the way, where in the Ministry does Romilda work? I'm going there tomorrow and I'll want to avoid her."
"Games and Sports," said Padma cheerfully. "She's a groupie—er, I mean a publicity assistant. I figure she took the job so she can meet famous athletes. As long as they're men," she added, giggling.
"Sounds like her," Ginny grumbled, not pleased at the prospect of meeting the woman at the press conference tomorrow. "So," she frowned, "why are you keeping the gate closed? Did anything happen in the castle?"
"It's a precaution," Susan said. "They're getting ready to move the Pensieve and since no one knows anything about it, everyone's nervous."
Ginny hurried up the drive, but stopped short again when she saw something that she had never seen before. Parked in front of the steps leading to the front doors was a white Muggle lorry, about fifteen feet long. The blue lettering on the side read, Nationwide Vehicle Rentals.
Ginny stared open-mouthed. It must be for transporting the Pensieve, she thought, but why did they need such a big one? She walked slowly towards it, and was not surprised to see her brother Percy sitting in the driver's seat inside the cab, wearing a chauffeur's cap and reading the Daily Prophet.
"Oi, Percy!" she called as she approached. He looked up and smiled.
"Ginny, how are you? I was hoping to see you. Congratulations on the Quidditch selection. You must be very excited."
She returned his smile. "I am." She stood on her toes and Percy leaned out the window and she gave him a kiss. She stepped back and looked up and down the lorry. "What is this?"
"A Volvo FL." He patted the steering wheel. "She's a beauty, isn't she?"
"What's a Volvo effell? It looks like a lorry."
"That's a Muggle car company. They make lorries too. Hermione helped me hire it last night in London, but I drove it here by myself."
"It's huge." Ginny walked around it, examining it carefully; there was a fairly large smear of black paint on the left front bumper. She opened the passenger door and climbed up into the cab, blinking at the shiny dials and buttons, the mirrors and levers. "How on earth did you drive it? It looks so complicated."
"It is," Percy said a little smugly. "But basically you step on the accelerator and turn where you want to go."
"I saw a smudge of paint on the side. Did you hit something?"
Percy frowned. "There was a stupid Muggle driver who got in the way. Fortunately I was able to repair his vehicle without stopping."
Ginny gazed at him, but he wouldn't look at her. She nodded. "I guess it was lucky there were no Muggle policemen around."
Percy grinned. "I guess so. But at least I got here on time. They're bringing the Pensieve down now."
Ginny gave him another kiss, jumped down from the cab and ran up the stairs. Parvati and Justin Finch-Fletchley stood at the top in front of the closed doors. Parvati greeted her and let her in.
Half a dozen Aurors, but no one else, were gathered in the entrance hall. Two Aurors, Seamus and Popeye, stood with their backs to the closed doors of the Great Hall. Ginny could hear a low rumble of voices from behind the doors, and guessed that the entire student body were sequestered there while the Pensieve was being moved. The other Aurors stood at the foot of the marble staircase looking up.
As Ginny watched, a group of people appeared at the top of the flight. She saw Harry, Saliyah, Professors Flitwick and Maxime, several Aurors including Ron, and a witch and wizard she didn't know, but assumed were the Unspeakables who had come to examine the Pensieve.
The Pensieve itself was being carried by Hagrid. His massive arms encircled it, and a heavy blanket covered it; a thick dragon-hide strap was wrapped around the basin and held the blanket in place. It was clear that no one was taking any chances.
Hagrid moved slowly to the top step. Professor Flitwick stood on one side, his wand at the ready. Harry was on his other side with his wand out. Madame Maxime hovered just behind Hagrid, her arms outstretched, ready to support him if he stumbled or tripped. The others stayed back a few feet, following behind.
Harry looked down into the entrance hall. He caught Ginny's eye briefly, but turned his head to the two Aurors standing in front of the Great Hall. Popeye glanced back at the doors, and nodded to Harry. He said something to Hagrid and the gamekeeper started down the stairs.
He took the steps one at a time, not letting the Pensieve tilt. Professor Flitwick talked as they descended, guiding Hagrid with each step. In a few minutes they were at the bottom and Hagrid gently lowered the Pensieve to the floor. He steadied it, then took one of his huge handkerchiefs from his pocket and mopped his brow. Madame Maxime took it from him and, with a smile, wiped his whole face. No one except Ginny, who had to suppress a laugh, saw the Athair twins peek around the balustrade at the top of the staircase.
Harry walked over to Ginny. He had a stunned look, and as he opened his mind Ginny's eyes widened.
"How can that be?" she whispered when he was standing in front of her. "Do the others know?"
Harry nodded. "Flitwick was the first to notice, and then Dumbledore confirmed it."
"And it was like the one we saw in the house?"
Harry didn't have to say more; Ginny saw it all in his mind. An hour ago in the Headmistress's office, when Hagrid cautiously lifted up the Pensieve, they had for the first time been able to examine the wooden disk underneath it. It was identical to the one on the floor in Godric's Hollow, but this one was not covered with runes; it was blank.