Like Flames by DragonHeartstring
Summary: AU. After a disappointing year on a reserve Quidditch team, Ginny Weasley decides to change her path and join the Auror Academy. There, she learns more about magic, love, evil, and herself than she ever could have imagined.
Categories: Alternate Universe
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Chapter 10: Chapter 10 - 2 Years Later
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: Hi everyone! I wrote this story over my winter break after its been on my mind for years now. I figured now that things have settled down for the semester I am happy enough to actually publish it. Also just trying to do my part to bring something to this website!! This chapter is very much an introduction, and has a lot of set up, but the actual plot will start next. I hope you all enjoy.
An overcast sky of dark grey clouds hung over the mountains of Scotland, mirroring the equally glum mood of the entire Wigtown Wanderers team. Ginny Weasley sighed deeply from where she sat on the benches, watching the starting team dismount their brooms in the middle of the pitch. The Wanderers had officially finished last in the league, meaning that there were no matches left for them to play until the start of the next season. Even after an entire year on the Wanderers’ reserve team, Ginny had not had the opportunity to play in a single match, and she felt even less hope for her future on the team than she had when she signed with them.
The starting team joined the reserves in the first few rows of the stadium and all eyes turned to the head coach, Roland Truckle.
“What can I say?” he started, a slight frown marring his features and his hands clasped behind his back. “This hasn’t been the best season for us.”
Ginny snorted under her breath and muttered, “That’s the understatement of the century.” Cassia Larson, Ginny’s friend and fellow reserve player, hastily attempted to turn her laugh into a cough.
Truckle sent them a stern look, but continued his speech. “We tried our hardest, and we have put a wonderful team together, but it just seems like it wasn’t our year. I want you all to take a good break these next few months, and come back at the start of the next season ready to go and win the league!”
There was a smattering of half-hearted applause and cheers at the end of his talk, and Truckle smiled at them all briefly before turning and walking away toward the main offices. Ginny turned sharply to look at Cassia. “A wonderful team?” she questioned, incredulous. “The Cannon’s lineup of ’73 make our starting team look good, and that was when they changed their slogan to ‘let’s all just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!’”
“I know,” Cassia agreed, pulling her long brown hair out of its ponytail, “but what are we going to do? They aren’t going to play us as starters anytime soon, you know that.”
Ginny scowled over at the starting team and their ‘star’ player, Angus Parkin. She knew that she was better player than Parkin by far, but would never be chosen to play over him. Not on this team, seeing as his grandfather was the owner. Parkin was waving everyone over, and Ginny and Cassia reluctantly joined the rest of the team as they gathered around.
“Great season everyone,” Parkin began in his usual haughty manner. Ginny did not even bother to hide her derision. “What you do all say to a team celebration? Meet you all at the pub?” There was a general murmur of agreement before everyone headed towards the locker rooms.
Ginny showered and changed quickly, throwing her kit into a duffle bag and sharply pulling the zipper. She turned to Cassia, who had just finished neatly packing up her locker.
“Shall we go out with the rest of them, then?” Cassia said, picking up her duffle bag and slinging it over her shoulder. “Drown our sorrows in oak-matured mead?”
Ginny laughed. “Sounds fun, but I have plans with Michael tonight.”
“Ah,” Cassia said, a gleam in her eye, “I forgot. The big proposal.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Please don’t say that,” she groaned. “I honestly don’t understand why Mum is convinced that Michael is going to propose to me. I’m not even sure I want to continue seeing him, let alone marry him.”
“Well, let me know what happens,” Cassia called as she joined the rest of the team. Ginny nodded and waved, heading towards the floo, and trusting Cassia to explain her absence to the rest of the team.
She stumbled out of the fireplace and into her silent flat a moment later — clearly her roommate, Luna, was not home. She tossed her Quidditch things onto the couch and glanced at the pile of mail on the kitchen table. The letter on the top was addressed in her mother’s handwriting, so Ginny ripped it open while wandering around the kitchen and looking for a snack. The letter was a reminder to wear a nice dress and be open minded on her date with Michael, and Ginny rolled her eyes again at the thought, but decided that she should get dressed for the evening.
Ginny had been dating Michael Corner since she was sixteen, and they had just celebrated their three-year anniversary a few months prior. Michael had owled her earlier in the week asking if she was free that night to go out to dinner at a fancy new restaurant in London. He mentioned that he had something important he needed to talk to her about, and this had led her mother into a frenzy of imagining that he was going to propose. Ginny could recall her conversation with her mother as if it had just happened.
“Ginny, you have been dating Michael for years now, it only makes sense that he would be ready to take the next step. After all, he is embarking on the beginning of his career now, and he is going to want to start a family.”
Ginny cringed at the thought of starting a family with Michael, who she could not picture as a father at all. She knew that her mother would rather she settle down and be a homemaker and mum than continue playing Quidditch, but Ginny found that she could not imagine doing any of those things right now, least of all with Michael. She had been considering for a while now just ending their relationship, as neither of them were very invested in it, and then Michael had come along with this surprise dinner invitation.
Since she had agreed to meet Michael at the restaurant, Ginny dressed quickly in a nice but conservative black dress and apparated to a deserted alley in the heart of London. She found the restaurant quickly and gave them the name on the reservation, and found herself sitting at a table and waiting for Michael to arrive.
While waiting, she continued to think about her future with Michael. Her mother was right in that Michael would be beginning his career now: thanks in most part to Ginny’s pushing, he had finally decided to apply for the Auror Academy, and was accepted to start at the beginning of the new academic year. Although Ginny was happy for him, and she knew that he was excited to begin, she was not sure that he had what it takes to be an Auror. Both she and Michael had taken the requisite classes at Hogwarts for admission to the program, and Ginny had made it clear that her intention was to apply had a Quidditch team not picked her up after leaving Hogwarts. Michael had promised to wait for her, and this led to him wasting his first year out of Hogwarts while she finished her studies. Then Ginny was hired by the Wanderers and Michael was left without a plan until Ginny pushed him to begin the application process for the Auror Academy without her.
Her musings were interrupted by Michael’s arrival, and she stood to greet him with a quick kiss. Michael gave her a tight smile before sitting down across from her. It had been a few weeks since she last saw him: as she had been busy with the end of the Quidditch season, Michael had decided to visit some relatives in Canada. His dark brown hair had grown longer, and now hung into his eyes, causing him to sweep his head to the side every few seconds to see clearly. He looked deep in thought.
“Listen, Ginny, I’m glad you could meet me here tonight,” he began, playing with the edge of his menu and not looking directly at her.
“Of course,” Ginny said, watching him closely. “We have a lot to talk about. The season is finally over, and I want to hear all about your trip.” Michael flinched almost imperceptibly, but nodded. “And you had something important you wanted to tell me?” Ginny continued.
“Yes,” Michael said, visibly swallowing. “I’d better start with that.” He reached across the table and took both of her hands in his. “Ginny, we have been together for a long time, and we can share what we are thinking with one another, right?” Ginny nodded, her eyes growing wide. Maybe her mother was correct.
“Well, I have done a lot of thinking about our relationship these past few weeks, and I have come to a firm conclusion. You see, when you reach the point of your life that I am at right now, you need to look toward the future, and discover what you think will be the correct path to follow.” He paused at this, seemingly deep in thought. Michael’s speech was directed at the empty wine glass on the table in front of him, and Ginny frowned slightly. Michael’s slightly pompous manner had always grated on her nerves, but this was probably the stuffiest proposal she could ever imagine.
“And what is the conclusion that you came to?” Ginny asked, when it was clear the Michael was not going to say anything else without prompting.
Michael finally looked up at her. “Ginny, I think it would be for the best if we broke up.”
Ginny froze in shock, her eyes wide. She had definitely not expected him to say the exact thing that she had been thinking of saying to him. Michael clearly took her surprise as being upset, and squeezed her fingers slightly.
“I mean if you look back on our relationship over the past year, some of the passion appears to have fizzled out by now,” he started in an effort to explain his reasoning. Ginny nodded in agreement, but he did not seem to understand. “I know this must be coming as a shock to you, but I hope you can understand where I am coming from.”
Ginny shook herself back to attention. “No, Michael, I’m not sho-”
“Because we have been together for a long time, so it would only make sense that you start to think we were headed a different way,” Michael interrupted, clearly still thinking that she was unhappy with this development. “I hope you weren’t thinking that we would end up married.”
“Mum was on about marriage, but honestly I was ready to-”
Michael interrupted her again. “I know that is what a lot of witches think. And you talk a lot about being unhappy with your job and I figured that you might have just been waiting for me to ask you so that you could quit, but-”
“Hold it,” Ginny interrupted him this time. “You thought I wanted to quit my job and get married?”
“Well, yes,” Michael answered. “You didn’t exactly keep it a secret that you were unhappy with the Wanderers. I was sure that you were ready to settle down and become a housewitch, and start a family. Which would be fine, but I’m about to become an Auror, you see, and well, having a wife who played Quidditch… you can understand that, no?”
Ginny was still trying to wrap her mind around the idea that Michael thought she wanted to be a happy homemaker, and it took her a moment before she realized the second half of what he had said.
“Are you trying to tell me that I’m not good enough for you?” she hissed. Though she did not raise her voice, Michael flinched as if she had yelled at him, and the approaching waiter turned around completely and headed away from their table.
“I wouldn’t say ‘not good enough’…” he trailed off at the icy look on Ginny’s face.
“Then what exactly would you say, Michael?” she asked, tossing his hands away from her and leaning forward across the table. “What exactly is wrong with me playing Quidditch?”
Michael rang his hands together, griping so tight that his knuckles turned white. “Well, its not the most dignified job, is it?” he asked. “And it’s also not like you are doing a lot of playing Quidditch either. You haven’t played in a single game yet.”
Ginny stood up so quickly that her chair fell down behind her. She paid it no attention, nor did she look at the other diners who turned their attention to her at her sudden movement. “I don’t need to listen to this from you. I was going to dump you ages ago but held on because…” She broke off, unwilling to continue that train of thought. She picked her purse up off of the floor and swung it over her shoulder, just missing the passing waiter, who had clearly decided not to approach their table again.
“Have a nice life.”
“Not even playing! Not even playing!”
Cassia and Luna exchanged worried glances from their position on the couch before returning to watching Ginny pace around the flat. Ginny had come home from her failed date with Michael ranting and raving, and Luna had listened intently all night, before forcing Ginny to go to sleep. The next morning, Cassia had arrived with stories about the team ‘celebration’ the night before, but instead had been given the complete run down of what had happened with Ginny and Michael.
“But, Ginny,” Cassia interjected in a slightly timid voice. “You aren’t playing. We talk about that all the time.”
“I know,” Ginny said, finally dropping into the armchair by the fireplace. “But that doesn’t mean that Michael can just throw that in my face. And to say that playing Quidditch isn’t good enough of a career.” She threw her arms up in the air in frustration.
“For his wife,” Cassia clarified. “And you didn’t want to marry him anyway, so what does it matter?”
“It’s the principle of the thing!” Ginny responded, jumping up again and starting to pace the room. “He has always been jealous of my Quidditch ability. Just because I always beat the Ravenclaw team, and he didn’t think that was fair.”
Cassia sent Luna a desperate look, and Luna unfolded herself from the couch and approached Ginny. “Listen,” she said, placing her hands on Ginny’s shoulders and steadying her. “You wanted to break up with him, so you should be happy about this, it doesn’t matter the reason.”
Ginny sighed, the fight visibly going out of her. She looked into Luna’s wide eyes and at Cassia who was twisted over the back of the couch looking at her. “It’s just, I was thinking about leaving the Wanderers anyway.”
Luna and Cassia exchanged identical looks of shock before turning to look at Ginny. “Did you get an offer from another team?” Cassia asked, slowly rising from the couch and joining the other two across the room.
“No,” Ginny laughed, “when were they supposed to see me play to scout me? But I’m not happy with the Wanderers, and sitting on their bench is not going to help me further my Quidditch career. So I was thinking about going with my back up option.”
Cassia looked confused, but Luna understood. “You are going to join the Aurors?”
Ginny shrugged. “It was always my second choice. You know, if I couldn’t get picked up by a team right out of school then I would just join the Aurors instead. And since I am so unhappy right now, I thought maybe it was a sign that I should be doing something else instead.”
Both women watched attentively as Ginny explained her logic. “Well, I will miss you,” Cassia said, “But what is stopping you from doing it?”
Luna had answered before Ginny had a chance to. “Isn’t it obvious?” she asked, walking away from the two of them and going into the kitchen. “Ginny is afraid that if she changes her career now, it will look to Michael like she is doing it because of him. And she isn’t.”
“Exactly!” Ginny cried, watching as Luna dug through one of the cabinets before emerging with a tin of biscuits. Ginny joined her and snatched a biscuit out of the tin. “But to be honest, it would be satisfying to prove to him that I am capable of more than he thinks.”
Cassia came to join them. “Then what are you waiting for?”
Ginny looked between her two friends, who wore matching expressions of support. A smile slowly spread across her face. “Nothing. Girls, I’m going to the Auror Academy.”
“I’m so excited!”
Ginny watched her mother bustle around the kitchen, preparing lunch. She had thought it best to soften the blow of not having a wedding to plan with the news that she was planning on attending the Auror Academy.
“I knew you weren’t happy with the Wanderers,” Mrs. Weasley continued, flicking her wand and filling the kettle with water. “If they couldn’t see the talent that they were wasting, then they don’t deserve you.”
Ginny smiled to herself. Even though her mother had not been very enthusiastic at the thought of her only daughter embarking on a career in Quidditch, she had thrown herself into supporting Ginny as soon as the Wanderers signed her. Her enthusiasm had waned, however, upon seeing how little Ginny was able to do for the team.
“And now you can still be close to Michael, so maybe you two will change your minds.”
Ginny sighed. “Mum, I told you, I don’t want to marry Michael. I don’t even want to date him anymore. Joining the Aurors was my idea originally, and I talked him into it.” Mrs. Weasley hummed in agreement but did not comment and instead removed two mugs from the cupboard. Ginny knew that her mother was not convinced. “Besides, there are probably enough new students that we won’t even see one another all too often.”
“Perhaps,” Mrs. Weasley conceded, pouring the two mugs of tea and bringing them over to the table. “I just want you to be happy, dear.”
Ginny smiled at her mother and curled her hands around one of the mugs of tea. “Thanks, Mum. And I think I will be happier doing this than I was with the Wanderers. Probably not as happy as I would be actually playing Quidditch, but that doesn’t seem like it is ever going to happen for me.”
“Don’t count your owls before they are delivered,” Mrs. Weasley said sagely, taking a sip of tea. “But are you sure that you will get accepted to the Academy on such short notice?”
Coughing slightly over her drink, Ginny glanced sheepishly at her mother before answering. “Actually, Mum, I’m already in.” She laughed at her mother’s look of surprise before elaborating. “You see, when I was still at Hogwarts and got that letter from the Harpies saying that there weren’t any available spots on the team, I started to think that there was no hope for Quidditch. So I applied to the Auror Academy, and I was accepted. But after I heard from the Wanderers and decided to pursue that, I requested a deferral from the Academy for one year. Just in case.”
Mrs. Weasley looked at Ginny intently for a moment, before standing and walking around the table. She reached down to Ginny, pulling her up from her chair and into a bone-crushing hug. “I’m so proud of you, dear.”
Ginny relaxed into her mother’s arms. She was going to make everyone — including herself — proud.
Back to index
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Author's Notes: New chapter! And we first meet Harry.
September dawned bright and with a chill of autumn’s arrival hanging in the air. Ginny woke up early on the morning of the 1st, almost feeling as if she should be getting on the Hogwarts Express for the start of another school year. Instead, she gathered all of her new textbooks into her bag and dressed in a brand new set of work robes. Her mother had insisted that she buy new professional clothes, in order to make a good first impression. Ginny stood in front of the mirror and slowly assessed herself — she almost did not recognize the person looking back. Never before had she looked so clean cut and professional; she was used to looking windswept, sweaty, and slightly disorganized from practicing Quidditch. Instead, her long red hair was pulled back in a sleek ponytail, not a hair out of place. Her new robes were a deep black, without any patches or holes, and pressed neatly so that the edges stood out, crisp and clear.
To an outside observer, she looked like the perfect picture of a calm, collected, and confident career-witch. But Ginny could see the self-doubt in her own eyes, and she took a few deep, calming breaths. “You’ll do great, luv,” the mirror told her, and she sent her reflection a quick smile before turning away and gathering all of her things.
The Auror Academy was part of the ministry’s adjunct building, which housed other training programs as well as the cafeteria, an indoor flying pitch, and a small apothecary for ministry employees. Access to the building could only be gained through the Atrium of the ministry, and so Ginny found herself standing in front of the Fountain of Magical Brethren as ministry employees rushed all around her. She looked up into the face of the beautiful golden witch, and promised to donate a handful of coins if that day went well. After a few moments, she hurried off down the side hall to the fireplaces that would bring her to the classrooms.
A small queue was formed waiting for access, and Ginny got in line behind a tall man with dark brown hair. Lost in her thoughts, it took Ginny a few moments before she realized that she recognized the man in front of her, and really did not want to talk to him this early on her first day. Unfortunately, the moment she decided to get out of line and move back a few people, he turned around.
“Ginny?” Michael asked, surprise written on his face. “What are you doing here?”
Ginny tried to give him a tight smile, but was sure it came out as more of a grimace. “Hello, Michael,” she said. She watched in irritation as he assessed her appearance before answering his second question. “I’m going to class.”
Michael looked taken aback. “Class? You mean at the Auror Academy?”
Ginny nodded. “Yes,” she answered simply, hoping to leave it at that.
She watched as Michael opened and closed his mouth several times, searching for the right thing to say. He finally settled on something. “You got into the Auror Academy?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “What, like it’s hard?” she asked, knowing that for Michael, it was not easy to get accepted to the program. She gave him another tight smile and gestured behind him, where the queue had disappeared and he was the next person to go through the floo.
Michael turned around, and without another word for Ginny walked into the fireplace and disappeared in a swirl of green flames. Hoping that would be the end of their conversation, Ginny followed suit.
Unfortunately, Michael was waiting for her to emerge on the other side. “Listen, Ginny, if you are going to be here now, I think that there are a few things we need to talk about,” he began, looking anywhere but at her face. A man came stumbling out of the floo and bumped into Ginny’s back. She looked back and noticed that they were blocking the fireplace.
She began walking away down the new corridor, with Michael trailing behind her. The hall was dark and windowless, and lit only by a few torches attached to the walls. “I don’t know, Michael,” she said. They emerged into a round room with different doors spaced evenly throughout the perimeter. Ginny stopped briefly to check the directory on the wall beside her before turning sharply to the right and heading through the door marked Auror Academy. “I have class in a few minutes, and I really don’t want to be late.”
Ginny drew to a halt as she observed her surroundings. She was standing in what looked like the lobby of a building, with corridors branching off from that room in five different directions. Each corridor was lined with doors to classrooms on one side, and wide arched windows on the other. Down four of the halls bright sunshine streamed through the windowpanes, but down the fifth a thunderstorm waged. People hurried around her, some talking and laughing with friends, others rushing to find the correct classroom before the day began.
Michael came to a stop beside her. “Me too,” he said, finally looking at her, but Ginny found that she did not want to look back at him. “I have Concealment and Disguise first, what about you?” he asked. Ginny reached into her bag and pulled out the parchment holding her schedule.
“History of Magical Law Enforcement,” she read aloud. The classroom number listed beside it was 409, which was thankfully down one of the sunny corridors. Without waiting for Michael to say another word, Ginny pivoted and walked down the fourth hall. She did not look back until she reached the classroom door, but there were too many people in the hall to see where Michael had gone.
She entered the room, where a few people were already sitting, and chose a seat close to another tall window the bright morning sunshine was streaming in. Despite the fact that they were eight stories underground, the view out of the window was one of a sunny courtyard, and it reminded Ginny of Hogwarts. This relaxed her slightly, and she took a sheet of parchment, a quill, and a pot of ink out of her bag, arranging them on the desk in front of her before turning to watch the rest of the students enter the room.
There were a few students she recognized from Hogwarts, but none whom she was particularly friendly with. Most of them were a few years older than her, and she did not see anyone she knew from Gryffindor. After a few minutes, the instructor entered the room, placing a pile of parchment on the front desk and waiting for the bell to sound before turning to address the students.
He was a tall and tough looking wizard, with very short, wiry grey hair and a stern expression. “Hello, class,” he said, and his voice quickly silenced all other voices in the room. “Welcome to your first class at the Auror Academy. I am Auror John Dawlish, and I will be instructing you in the History of Magical Law Enforcement. It is imperative that you understand where we are coming from, as a department, before you are able to continue further in your knowledge of where we are going. You have all made it to this point, so I will have the expectation that you are capable of handling the rigorous course of study that I have put together. If you cannot, I will ask you to leave and return only when you are able to do so.” He looked around the room quickly, scanning everyone’s faces. “Before we begin our material, I would like everyone to please introduce yourselves.” He took a seat at his desk and gestured for a man sitting in the front row to begin.
Ginny listened carefully as her new classmates introduced themselves, usually saying what they have been doing between finishing Hogwarts and starting at the Academy. From researching magical means of protection, to developing new potions, everyone seemed to have a much more impressive résumé than she did. By the time it was her turn, Ginny was feeling nervous again.
“Hello, I’m Ginny Weasley,” she said, balking slightly at the fact that all faces in the room were turned to look at her. “Last year I played on the reserve team for the Wanderers, and then I decided to come here.” Dawlish raised one eyebrow carefully, but did not look impressed. When the introductions finished, Dawlish nodded sharply and stood up.
“Very well, with the few remaining minutes of class, we will begin. This Academy was founded for the very reason of training young people like you into capable and loyal enforcers of the law. Many people begin this program, but not everyone will complete it. It was designed for that purpose, to weed out those who think they can handle this career, but cannot. Who can tell me when and by whom this program was founded?” He did not wait for a volunteer before choosing someone. “Miss Weasley?”
Ginny flinched. “Erm, it was founded sometime in the sixteenth century, right?” she answered, trying hard to remember the inscription on the wall in the lobby. If only Michael had not been distracting her.
“‘Sometime in the sixteenth century,’ is not precise enough, Miss Weasley,” Dawlish drawled. “I presume that you did the assigned reading?” he asked.
Ginny nodded. “Yes, but I can’t remember the exact year —”
“Well,” Dawlish interrupted her, “That is most unfortunate.” He turned away from her to survey the rest of the class. “Is there anyone here who is capable of providing me with this simple information?”
A woman in the second row raised her hand. She was very pretty, with long straight black hair fastened in place with a barrette and dark eyes. Ginny recognized her from Hogwarts — she was a few years older and played on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. Ginny had beaten her twice.
“Yes, Miss Chang?” Dawlish called on her.
“The Auror Academy was founded in 1735 by Minister Eldritch Diggory.” She sounded like she was reciting a textbook.
“Precisely,” Dawlish said, turning back to Ginny. A curly haired woman sitting next to Miss Chang leaned over and whispered something in her ear, and she giggled in response. Ginny grit her teeth. “Now tell me, Miss Weasley, why one of your classmates was able to provide me with that information, and you were not.”
“Do you not believe, that perhaps you are not ready for this class?” he interrupted her again. Ginny shook her head rapidly.
“No, I -”
“I would suggest,” Dawlish continued as if she had not even spoken, “that you leave now, and return only when you are prepared.”
Ginny froze in shock, before she felt anger flood her senses. She was ready to tell Dawlish what he could do with his facts and figures, but she could see that there was no arguing with him. She looked around at the faces of her classmates, who were all turned in their seats and were looking directly at her. Some of them sent her sympathetic grimaces, but said nothing. Quickly shoving her supplies back in her bag, Ginny stood up and walked to the front of the room, steadfastly avoiding anyone else’s glances. She had just reached the door when Dawlish called out to her.
“Not everything is a game of Quidditch, Miss Weasley,” he said, his voice icy. Ginny paused briefly at the door, but did not turn around. Then she left, slamming the door behind her.
Ginny threw her bag down on the bench in the corridor, taking vicious pleasure in the resounding crash that it made upon contact. She dropped down beside it, letting out a huge sigh, and leaned her head back against the wall. Ginny closed her eyes and squeezed them tight, trying to block out the sudden and uncomfortable urge to cry. Someone cleared their throat from across the hall.
“Erm… excuse me, are you alright?”
Ginny cracked one eye open to look at the speaker. A man was sitting on the bench across from her, fidgeting with a stack of parchment and peering at her with a look of concern on his face. Ginny sighed again before answering.
“Are they all like that? Do they really just kick you out of class because you don’t know the answer?”
“Oh, you had Dawlish?” he asked, a small smile blooming on his face.
“Yes!” Ginny exclaimed, brightening at having found someone who seemed to understand. “Did he do that to you too?”
The man chucked lightly. “No, but he did once make me so angry that I, uh, accidentally exploded all of the windows.” Ginny raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Purely accidental magic,” he continued, the slight smile still on his face. “But that’s just Dawlish. Agree with him on most things and you will be fine. Who else do you have?”
Ginny pushed herself off of the wall and sat forward, her elbows on her knees. “Tonks, Scrimgeour, and Moody,” she ticked the names off on her fingers as she said them. The man looked pensive before leaning forward and copying her stance.
“Tonks will try to be intimidating at first and convince you that she is so much better at Stealth and Concealment than everyone else, but that is only because she is a metamorphmagus. She really is a nice person. Scrimgeour is a git, but his exams are straight from the book so you should be fine with him. And Moody is a complete wild card — he’s crazy, but a legend. When he asks what the most important tool of an Auror is, tell him ‘constant vigilance.’ It will impress him.”
“Wow, thanks,” Ginny breathed, genuinely smiling for the first time that day. She took a closer look at the man who was smiling back at her. The sunlight beaming through the window behind her illuminated him, making him glow. He was hunched over leaning his elbows on his knees like she was, his long limbs seemingly folded in on themselves. He had a wild mess of black hair that fell into his eyes, which were a startlingly bright shade of green. A pair of round wire-framed spectacles were sliding down his nose, and his hand shot forward to push them up before they fell. Ginny felt a sudden jolt go through her at the look in his eyes, and her smile widened. “Are you a third year?” she asked, anxious to learn more about this man.
“Actually,” he began. “I’m —”
“Ginny!” a voice from the side interrupted him, and both he and Ginny jumped up, sitting straight and turning to look at the new arrival. Classes had just let out, and Michael was hurrying down the corridor towards her. Ginny felt her heart sink at the sight of him, and glanced at the man on the bench out of the corner of her eye. He was frowning slightly at Michael, but looked back at her with a smile.
“I have to be going anyway,” he said, gathering his parchment and standing. “It was nice meeting you.”
Ginny smiled at him, slowly rising as well. “You too,” she said. “Thanks for all of your help.”
She watched him as he walked down the hall and turned the corner before spinning around to talk to Michael. “Hello,” she drew the word out, wondering what he wanted from her now.
“Hey, Gin,” he gave her a funny look before continuing. “How was your first class?” He seemed nervous, fidgeting with the strap of his shoulder bag with one hand.
Still confused about why he was talking to her, Ginny took a moment before responding. “It was… alright.” She did not want to explain the circumstances of her class to Michael.
“Listen, Gin, I still can’t believe you are here.”
The skeptical look on Michael’s face made Ginny’s blood boil. “I know that you don’t think I am capable of —”
“There you are.”
For the second time in a few minutes, Ginny’s conversation was interrupted by the arrival of someone new. The woman from her class who had all the answers had come up behind Michael, smiling at him briefly before turning to look at Ginny with a scowl on her face. Ginny glared back, trying to keep her anger at bay before she accidentally exploded a window. Michael looked back and forth between the two women, seemingly trying to decide what to say, before he turned to address Ginny.
“You remember Cho, right?” he asked. “She was in Ravenclaw, the year above me.”
Ginny tore her eyes away from Cho Chang and looked at Michael. “Yes, but I didn’t know that the two of you were friends.”
“Actually,” Cho spoke up, her scowl transforming into a grin, “I’m his fiancée.” She slid her hand over Michael’s shoulder, giving Ginny a good view of the ring on her finger. Ginny’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“You see,” Michael said, seemingly desperate to explain, “We actually ran into each other again while I was in Canada and well… here we are.”
Ginny blinked at them for a moment before both of their words sank in. She turned sharply to Michael. “You’re engaged?” she asked, incredulous.
“Yeah,” he said, scuffing his toes along the stones on the ground. “Ginny, listen, you need to understand that-”
“Oh, I understand,” Ginny interrupted him. “I have somewhere to be.” With that, she turned on her heel and walked away from both of them, not looking back.
Ginny did not even pay attention to where she was walking, and came to an abrupt halt when she realized that her feet had carried her all the way to the indoor flying pitch. She looked around in wonder: there were many wizards and witches up on brooms, some just flying around, others tossing a quaffle back and forth. Two large structures of bleachers lined the wall closest to the entrance, where even more people sat — watching the flyers, talking, or eating lunch. The room barely resembled a room at all; rather, it looked like a large grassy hill, with a view of a forest to the right and a stream to the left. The sky was charmed to be perfectly overcast, and a slight breeze ruffled the grass underneath Ginny’s feet. The only indications that they were indoors were the blinking lights stopping anyone from flying into a wall, and the door behind Ginny. She let out a peaceful sigh, feeling more relaxed than she had all morning.
Spotting a small booth with a sign that read “Broom Rentals,” Ginny hurried over.
“I need a broom,” she said, skidding to a stop with her hands braced on the windowsill. The stooped old warlock looked alarmed at first, but slowly shrugged his shoulders and held his palms out.
“Sorry, lass,” he said. He gestured to the empty racks behind him. “Just rented out the last of them. You’ll need to wait until someone turns one in.”
Ginny let out a strangled yell that further alarmed the warlock, but she didn’t care. Instead, she stomped over to the bleachers and threw herself down next to a bushy haired woman who was reading a book. The force of her body hitting the seat caused the entire structure to shake, and the woman looked up from her book and at Ginny.
“Are you alright?” she asked. Annoyed that this was the second time in the past half hour that someone had to ask her that question, Ginny went to snap a response at the woman, but saw genuine concern in her eyes, and deflated.
“No,” Ginny answered shortly, hoping that the woman would leave her alone. She didn’t.
“Can I help you with anything?” she asked, marking her place in her book with a small slip of parchment and closing it. The woman was slender and wearing fitted, professional robes, with bushy brown hair. She turned her entire body so that she was facing Ginny, and Ginny found that she could not help but answer.
"This was such a bad idea," Ginny began, and suddenly everything came flooding out of her — she couldn't stop it if she tried. "I thought that I would do better at the Auror Academy than I was doing as a loser reserve Quidditch player but this has been the worst morning! I mean who kicks someone out of class because they don't know what year the damn academy was formed? And then Michael! Is engaged to her? They met up while he was in Canada… we were still together! I just -" Ginny's rant ended in another strangled yell and she let her head fall into her hands. The woman beside her pat her back awkwardly in what was meant to be a comforting manner.
"You are just having a bad morning," she said reassuringly. "Things will get better."
Ginny peaked up at her through her fingers. "Who are you? Little Miss Optimism?"
The woman laughed. "No, but I could hardly say 'you're right, everything is terrible and it will only get worse,' now could I?"
Ginny genuinely laughed at this and straightened up. "Thanks," she said, extending her hand towards the woman. "I'm Ginny Weasley. Sorry about the theatrics."
"Hermione Granger," she said, shaking Ginny's hand with a surprisingly strong grip.
"Alright, Hermione. How do I fix this?"
Hermione turned and looked out at the people flying about on their brooms, a thoughtful expression on her face. "Well, let's break it down, shall we? Clearly you are intelligent enough to get into the Academy, you should be proud of that. And I'm positive that you were not a loser Quidditch player if you were in fact picked up by a team. Also, this Michael sounds like he isn't worth your time." She turned back to look at Ginny. "And the Auror Academy was founded in 1735."
Ginny studied her carefully for a moment before responding. "Who are you?"
Hermione laughed again, sounding a little self-conscious. "I'm sorry, I'm just trying to help." She fidgeted with the cover of her book as if about to open it again.
"No!" Ginny all but shouted, getting the attention of a group of wizards in Magical Maintenance blue robes. She waved them away. "I didn't mean to offend you. I could use a friend," she said, cringing at her own honesty.
"Come to think of it, so could I," Hermione agreed.
Ginny smiled. She realized that by now there was probably a broom available but instead of leaving, she reached in her bag and removed a sandwich made from her mother's leftovers. "But enough about my problems," she said through a mouthful of corned beef. "What are you doing here?"
Hermione glanced quickly up at the brooms in the air before answering. "I work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. But I like to come here on my lunch hour to relax."
"Do you fly?" Ginny asked.
Hermione shook her head, her curls flying around. "Oh no, I just like to watch."
Ginny hummed around another bite of food before another thought came to her. "It's strange I don't recognize you at all. You can't be that much older than me. What house were you in?"
"Oh, I don't go to Hogwarts." Hermione laughed at the look of wide-eyed shock on Ginny's face. "Everyone is so surprised when I say that. I'm muggleborn, and when I found out I was a witch, my parents did some research and found out about, well, the general climate towards my type in England." She looked carefully at Ginny, as if trying to determine her opinions on muggleborns.
"A bunch of bastard purebloods that think that way."
Hermione smiled, reassured. "Well, seeing as I have relatives in France, my parents thought Beauxbatons would be a better idea."
"Probably a wise choice overall, but it's too bad you had to miss out on Hogwarts." Ginny's attention was drawn to someone with a broom walking toward them and she called out to him. "Oi, Ron!"
Hermione turned at her call and looked at Ron, her face reddening immediately. Ginny sent her a puzzled look, but was unable to ask anything as Ron arrived in front of them. "Hey, Gin," he said, standing his broom upright and leaning against it. "How's your first day going?"
Ginny pulled a face. "Eh. Could be better." She glanced at Hermione. "Could be worse, right?" Hermione, however, was looking down at her book.
"Hermione, this is my brother, Ron. Ron, this is Hermione." Ron grinned widely and Hermione sent him a shy smile. Suddenly realizing what was going on, Ginny moved to leave, but Ron beat her to it.
"Just thought I would say hi, but I have to get back to work. Do you want this?" he asked Ginny, holding out his broom.
She shook her head. "I have class in a few minutes."
Ron shrugged. "Alright." He smiled at Hermione again. "It was nice meeting you."
Both women watched as Ron walked away, dropped off his broom and went to the door. He paused before leaving and waved before disappearing into the hall. Ginny spun around to face Hermione.
"Do you fancy Ron?" she whispered. Another thought struck her. "Do you come here to watch him?"
Hermione's red cheeks answered for her. She sniffed in a dignified manner and hugged her book to her chest. "I was going to ask you to join me for lunch tomorrow, but perhaps I should rethink that."
"No," Ginny moaned. "I won't tease you. I promise." She held one hand on her heart and the other up in the air. Hermione looked skeptical, but nodded in acceptance.
Her addition of "He is single, though!" earned her a death glare.
Fifteen minutes later, Ginny sat in the back of room 302, waiting for Auror Moody to come in and begin Dark Magic. She spent most of the time looking out the window at the snowstorm brewing beyond the glass. The good mood she was in after leaving the flying pitch was diminished when she discovered that both Michael and Cho were in this class with her. They sat together in the front of the room, whispering to one another.
Suddenly, someone came and sat down next to Ginny. She turned and observed the woman: she recognized her from Hogwarts but couldn’t remember her name. She had wavy light brown hair and a friendly smile. “Ginny Weasley, right?” she asked. Ginny nodded. “I’m Mandy Brocklehurst. I think its terrible what Dawlish did to you this morning.”
Ginny smiled. “Thanks, but I guess I deserved it for not knowing the answer.”
“Are you kidding me?” Mandy asked, digging through her bag before pulling out a wad of parchment and her wand. “If he had asked me, I would have been in the same position as you. To be honest, I think he is jealous that you can play Quidditch and he wouldn’t be able to get his crusty arse off the ground.”
Ginny burst out laughing just as Moody walked into the room, and was fortunately spared most of the class’s attention. When she finally calmed down she realized that Moody had not completely entered the room, but was standing in the doorway talking to the man she had spoken to earlier on the benches. As they finished their conversation, the man looked into the room and made eye contact with her, flashing her a quick smile and a wave. Ginny waved back, feeling a jolt of excitement go through her and a rapid improvement in her mood.
Moody stomped to the front desk, his wild blue eye taking everyone in, and slammed his fist down on the table. “Constant vigilance!” he barked.
The class jumped, but Ginny just smiled.
At the end of the day, Ginny paused on her way out of the ministry, again looking up into the face of the gold witch at the Fountain of Magical Brethren. She reached deep into her bag and pulled out a handful of coins, watching with satisfaction as they breached the surface of the water.
Back to index
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Author's Notes: This one is kind of short, still feel like everything is being set up. Enjoy!
“‘…he wouldn’t be able to get his crusty arse off the ground!’ Can you believe it?” Ginny related the events of the previous afternoon to Hermione over lunch in the ministry cafeteria, where they were surrounded by tired and overworked ministry employees who paid no attention to either of the young women.
Hermione laughed over her stew. “Yes, that seems to be the common consensus on him. I asked around yesterday, and most people did not have complimentary things to say about Dawlish. Seems he grates on everyone’s nerves.”
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed, taking a bite of her sandwich. “Someone told me that as well, but he said that it’s easier to just agree with Dawlish on most things.”
Hermione appraised her carefully. “Whom did you speak to about this?”
Ginny looked up sharply. “I think he was an older student, its not that important,” she said in a rush. “Why do you ask?”
Hermione smirked. “That would be a lot more convincing if you weren’t blushing.” Ginny clasped her hands on her cheeks and could feel them heating up.
“Shut it,” she growled at Hermione, tossing a chip at her, “or I’ll have to bring up my brother again.” Hermione glared at her, but did not drop the subject.
“Why shouldn’t we talk about it? You are single, you know,” Hermione persisted, and Ginny sighed, about to answer before something in the distance caught her attention.
“Because… because he is coming over here.” She ended her sentence in a whisper, leaning over the table. Hermione whipped her head around to look and then back to Ginny, her hair flying around her. He’s fit, she mouthed. Ginny nodded fervently in agreement before he joined them.
"Hi," he said, holding a tray with a slice of tart. He looked very much as he had the day before, this time in a set of navy blue robes, his hair wild and his eyes gleaming behind the lenses of his glasses. Ginny beamed.
Hermione looked back and forth between them before kicking Ginny lightly under the table and inclining her head. Ginny hastened to introduce them before realizing that she did not know his name.
"Oh, Hermione, this is..." She trailed off and he jumped in.
"I'm Harry, Harry Potter."
Hermione greeted him normally, but Ginny froze in shock. "Not the Harry Potter?" she asked, and he turned to her sharply, his grip on the tray tightening.
"How do you... what do you mean?" he asked. Hermione looked puzzled.
Ginny bit her lip. "My parents told me... that is... I'm Ginny Weasley," she settled on, hoping that her last name would be enough for him to understand.
Harry visibly relaxed. "Oh, you're Arthur and Molly's daughter?" he asked. Ginny nodded.
"You already know of one another?" Hermione asked, scooping a spoonful of stew.
Harry smiled. "I've met her parents before," he said simply. He inclined his head toward the empty chair at their table. "D'you mind?"
"Of course!" Ginny exclaimed, anxious for him to sit down. He placed his tray down on the table and sat down, his leg accidentally brushing against hers. Hermione didn't bother to hide her smirk.
"I should have realized," Harry continued, eyeing Ginny's hair, which was loose and wavy around her shoulders today. "Arthur was always on about his brilliant and beautiful daughter."
Ginny felt her cheeks warm as she turned red. She tried to look down at her sandwich but found herself unable to look away from Harry - his bright eyes and his slight smile and the little dimple in his left cheek…
Hermione's cough snapped both of them back to attention, and Ginny turned to find Hermione standing, her previously half full bowl completely drained. "So sorry," she said in a falsely sweet voice. "But I have a very important meeting to get to." Ginny could not decide if she wanted Hermione to stay or leave as fast as possible. "It was nice meeting you," she said to Harry before looking significantly at Ginny and dashing out of the cafeteria.
Ginny watched her leave before turning back to Harry, who had started eating his dessert. She cleared her throat. "Sorry about what I almost said earlier. I didn't realize that you wouldn't want anyone to know."
Harry waved her apology off. "It's fine. It's just that most people don't know the story, so I couldn't be sure how you did. But you know, Molly and Arthur and the Order, so it all makes sense." He paused thoughtfully. "Not sure if any of that made sense, but you knowing does."
Ginny laughed. "As long as you aren't upset with me," she clarified.
"Not at all," he clarified. He rested his elbows on the table and his chin in his hand. "So tell me, how was the rest of your day yesterday?"
"It definitely improved after we spoke," she smiled. "I saw you with Moody before class."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Moody likes coming up with wild things for me to do at the last minute. I think it's his way of making fun of me."
"So you aren't a student?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No, I was sort of accelerated through the program." He shrugged one shoulder. "Prior experience counted for something, I suppose. So technically I'm an Auror, but Moody likes me to help him out."
Ginny sat in rapt attention, listening to what he said and only slightly distracted by the movement of his mouth as he talked and the slight flex of the muscles in his forearm as he played with his fork. His sleeves had fallen back, exposing his arm, and she traced the line from his elbow to his hand, interrupted only by the band of his watch that showed…
"I'm going to be late for class!" Ginny gasped, dragging her eyes away from his long fingers and back to his face. She smiled apologetically. "Sorry to interrupt you, but I'd better not be late."
"Of course," Harry agreed, standing at the same time as her and taking her trash before she could grab it. "Do you mind if I walk you to class?" he asked.
"Not at all," Ginny answered, and they hurried out of the cafeteria and towards the classrooms. By the time they reached room 211, Ginny had managed to tell Harry about her time on the Wanderers and her decision to leave and join the Aurors instead. They stopped outside the door with two minutes to spare.
"Well, I think a career in Quidditch would have been amazing, but I for one am glad you decided to come here," Harry said with a grin, setting her heart beating faster. Telling herself it was because of their mad dash to the classroom, Ginny bid him goodbye and ducked inside, noticing that he didn't leave until after the door had closed behind her.
Auror Tonks was not at all what Ginny expected. She held the record for the youngest female Auror in history, and therefore Ginny was not expecting her to look like Professor McGonagall’s long lost sister. Her lined face was pinched with severity, her dark and beady eyes watching the class with close scrutiny. Her steel grey hair was pulled back in a tight bun, which looked just as severe as her face. It took Ginny a moment to remember that what Harry had told her about Tonks being a metamorphmagus — she wondered what this woman really looked like, and if they would ever see.
The class was quiet; everyone seemed to be under the impression that they were actually in the presence of another McGonagall, and they were therefore sitting in tense silence.
Tonks waited until the moment the class was to begin before addressing the students.
“Hello, students,” she said, her voice clipped. “My name is Auror Tonks and I will be instructing you in Concealment and Disguise. Many of my colleagues forget the importance of this subject in favor of a cheap invisibility cloak or a paltry Disillusionment Charm. This is simply not good enough. Who can tell me what the biggest fault of an invisibility cloak is?” She scanned the room. A man at the front raised his hand.
“They aren’t permanent,” he said, “either the charm that was cast on it can wear out, or the Demiguise hair can fade to visibility.”
Tonks nodded. “True, but its highly unlikely that your cloak will lose its powers in the middle of a dangerous situation, particularly if you take proper care of it. Would anyone else like to take a shot?”
Ginny tentatively raised her hand. “It can be summoned.”
Tonks grinned. “Correct, Miss…”
“Weasley,” Ginny supplied.
“Weasley, huh?” Tonks appraised her carefully before nodding in approval. She rose from her seat in the front of the class and began pacing throughout the rows. “Good. Invisibility cloaks can be summoned, meaning that you could be left completely without your disguise and caught by surprise. Another thing that many people don’t take into consideration is your ability to have a disguise and still be seen. For example,” she said taking a seat at an empty desk in the second row, “none of you would have known that I was the instructor had I looked like this when you walked in.” She screwed up her face as if she was concentrating very hard on something, and her appearance slowly began to change. Her grey hair darkened to a rich black, coming out of its tight bun and stretching past her shoulders in gentle waves. The lines of her heart shaped face smoothed out until she looked no older than any of the students in the room.
The students watched in awe as the formerly austere instructor now grinned at them from a young woman’s body. “The key to using a disguise within a crowd,” she said, and even her voice sounded younger, “is to make sure that you can blend in correctly. Most of you wouldn’t have spared me a second thought like this, but you certainly would have if I had looked like this.” At that, they watched as she transformed again, this time into an exact replica of Albus Dumbledore, the late Hogwarts headmaster. Tonks grinned at the looks on her students’ faces, and scratched her long white beard lightly.
She bounded out of her seat, and by the time she reached the front desk again, she looked completely different. This time, her face remained as it had when she was posing as a student, but her hair and shrunk to a short, and hot pink, pixie cut. Tonks grinned at them all. “So, who is ready to learn?”
The rest of the week passed quickly, and Ginny found herself sitting at her mother's kitchen table on Friday evening, eating dinner with her parents.
"Now you must come for supper on Sunday, because all of your brothers will be here and they are all just dying to hear about Auror training," her mother said, loading vegetables on Ginny's plate.
Ginny highly doubted that Fred and George cared about the details of her classes, but refrained from voicing that opinion. "Of course Mum, you know I wouldn't miss that,” she answered instead, sharing a secretive glance with her father, who surely knew what she was thinking.
Mrs. Weasley nodded, pleased with both the answer and the amount of vegetables she had dished out, because she leaned back in her seat and looked at Ginny with a smile. "So tell me more about your new friends."
Ginny chuckled lightly, knowing that her mother was trying hard to find any topic of conversation that was not about Michael and his fiancée. Michael had been one of the first things she asked about when Ginny arrived, and Ginny knew that her mother still harbored hopes that they would get back together. But as soon as she heard about his engagement, Mrs. Weasley had let loose a barrage of insults and had then embarked on a campaign to talk about anything and everything else. Ginny appreciated her efforts, but found that it barely bothered her at all to think about them.
She had already told her parents about Mandy, her friend from class, and about Hermione (abstaining from mentioning her apparent interest in Ron), which whom she had had lunch again that very day. Hermione had insisted on knowing everything that happened between her and Harry, but Ginny did not have much to share. She did not see him again for the rest of the week, except from a distance, and did not get a chance to talk to him, despite how much she wanted to.
Suddenly realizing that she could tell her parents about meeting Harry, as they knew more about her than she did, she slowly cut into her roast while thinking about what to ask.
“Actually, I met someone you two know,” she said carefully, trying not to show her interest. “Harry Potter.”
Her father, who had been carefully mashing his potatoes, looked up quickly, and her mother brightened immediately. “Oh, really?” she asked, her voice thick with excitement. “We haven’t seen him in ages, he was always such a sweet young man.” Her eyes shone. “How did you meet him?”
“At the Academy,” Ginny said lightly, slicing her carrots into small pieces. “He’s an Auror, and he works with one of my instructors, Auror Moody.” She was proud of her calm voice, but when she looked up at her parents, she could tell based on the gleam in her mother’s eyes that she was not completely convinced by her nonchalance.
“He was always such a good looking boy, too,” Mrs. Weasley added. Ginny bit down hard on her fork to keep from answering. Instead she turned to her father.
“How much do you know about him?” she asked. Mr. Weasley looked thoughtful.
“Not much. He was always quiet, and kept to himself. His parents were killed when he was a baby, you know, and he was raised by his grandparents for a while before they died, and then I got the feeling he was sort of shuffled from caregiver to caregiver, and fell into his role in the Order.” He leaned back in his seat and scratched his chin. “There was something about a Prophesy, but we never got any answers. Dumbledore knew everything, but that was Dumbledore.” He said that as if it was enough of an explanation, but Ginny understood that it was.
Ginny hummed in understanding, and allowed that information to circulate in her mind. It wasn’t much more than she had already heard. Most people did not know who Harry Potter was, or the fact that he was partially responsible for Voldemort’s downfall. Due to the fact that her family was deeply rooted in the Order of the Phoenix, Ginny was privy to more information than many others. Even though both her parents and some of her older brothers knew Harry through the Order, it seemed like he was still somewhat of a mystery.
“You should invite him over here one day, Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley said, interrupting Ginny’s musings. Ginny sighed.
“We only had one full conversation, Mum, I think you are getting a little ahead of yourself.”
Ginny could tell that her mother was about to say more, but Mr. Weasley held out his hand to stop her. Harry was not mentioned again throughout the evening, but Ginny could not shake the feeling that having him over for dinner would be a good idea.
Back to index
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Author's Notes: I think this chapter was a better idea in my mind then on paper. Oh well.
September rushed by, and Ginny’s life became a whirlwind of classes, homework, and exams. She spent many lunch hours with Hermione — discussing her coursework, her classmates, and trying to convince Hermione to talk to Ron.
She spent even more lunch hours with Harry, talking about anything that was not related to her classes. She told him about growing up with her brothers at the Burrow, and he told her about his parents’ murders and being raised by his grandparents until their deaths when he was just eleven. He was subsequently raised by his godfather Sirius, and his parents’ other best friend, Remus Lupin. Sirius had died in the war, but Harry surprised her with the knowledge that Remus was married to Auror Tonks, and that their son Teddy was his godson.
She told him about playing Quidditch — her short-lived career with the Wanderers and her dreams of playing for the Harpies. She touched briefly on her relationship with Michael, and how he had ended things before she had gotten the chance to. He told her about an adolescence spent fighting the Dark Arts, and his ultimate final battle with the Dark Lord. He showed her the faint lightning shaped scar on his forehead, usually hidden behind his bangs, a relic of his first encounter with Voldemort.
As they trudged through October, Ginny found herself seeking out Harry’s company more and more often. Despite the fact that they had only known one another for a few weeks, she felt as if she could talk to him about anything, and like she was closer to him than she was to most of the people she spent years with at Hogwarts.
She found herself daydreaming about their last lunch meeting towards the end of Scrimgeour’s class on a rainy day at the end of October. They had finished all the material for the day, and Scrimgeour was reviewing what they would be covering in the new month. As the class was dismissed, Ginny listened half-heartedly to Mandy’s description of her plans to go home that weekend to celebrate her young niece’s birthday.
“So we hired a company to come and bring some magical creatures, nothing too dangerous, just things like a niffler and a crup, you know, because she loves them so much. Honestly, I’m really looking forward to it.”
“I’ve invited the entire class, so make sure you come, everyone will be there!” A different conversation caught Ginny’s attention as they passed through the doorway, and she looked to see Cho and her curly haired friend, Marietta Edgecombe, talking to another student. Marietta had spoken, and she was now giving an address of a house in Godric’s Hollow. Ginny raised an eyebrow at Mandy, who shrugged in confusion, and they both turned to look at Cho and Marietta.
“Where is everyone going, Marietta?” Ginny asked, making sure to keep her voice even and calm. Marietta and Cho exchanged a glance before she answered.
“Oh, we’re having a party tomorrow, at my parents house,” she said, pausing for a moment while she gave both Ginny and Mandy a once over. “You’re invited, of course,” she added, her voice falsely sweet, “but it’s a muggle style fancy dress party, you know, for Halloween. So make sure you come in a muggle costume.” Cho nudged her slightly, but Ginny ignored them and turned to Mandy.
“What do you say?”
Mandy grimaced. “I can’t. Mum expects me home to set up for our party. But you should go!”
“Yeah, Ginny, come!” Marietta said, copying Mandy’s excited tone. “The address is 432 Baker Street, Godric’s Hollow. Party starts at 9.” With that she pulled Cho away, and together they giggled as they walked down the corridor.
Ginny turned to Mandy again. “Do you really think I should go into the lions’ den?”
Mandy laughed. “Of course! You heard what they said, everyone will be there. I wish I could go, but Mum would kill me.”
“I don’t know what to wear,” Ginny lamented. “What do muggles dress as at parties like this?”
Mandy shrugged. “Don’t ask me, I don’t know much about muggles.”
Ginny hummed thoughtfully. “I’ll have to ask Hermione, she will be able to tell me what to wear.”
The pavement was slightly damp due to the earlier rain showers, and Ginny walked carefully to avoid slipping and falling. The red platform boots that she wore were not the most practical, and she had already tripped three times just trying to leave her flat. As she toddled carefully down the street, she readjusted the short hem of her Union Jack dress.
She had been unsure about the costume when Hermione suggested it, and even more so when she saw what it looked like, but the approving glances of some of the young girls out on the streets of Godric's Hollow reassured her that it was at least a good muggle reference.
Ginny studied the numbers of the quaint cottages on the lane, trying to find the correct one. Marietta had said number 432, and when Ginny located it, she was surprised at how calm and peaceful it looked. Disregarding that thought, she inched up the walk and to the front door. Pushing it open, she discovered a small foyer filled with a few of her classmates, all dressed in…robes.
They looked at her outfit in shock, some with jaws dropped open, but Ginny turned away and peeked into the sitting room. It was full of partygoers - all laughing and talking and drinking and wearing regular robes. She scanned the scene until she noticed Marietta and Cho against the far wall, whispering to one another and laughing. She stomped towards them as fast as her boots allowed.
"Nice outfit, Ginny," Marietta said as Ginny approached them, her voice loud enough to attract everyone's attention. "I don't know why you didn't just wrap yourself up in a flag."
"I like your outfit too, Marietta," Ginny shot back. "But you are a bitch - I mean a witch - all the time, didn't you want a change?" She didn't wait to see Marietta or Cho's reaction, but spun on her heel and marched away more confidently than her platforms should have allowed for. By the grace of Merlin she was able to get out of the house without falling flat on her face, but she didn't slow her pace as she continued toward the town square and the alley she had used to apparate.
"Oi, Ginger," someone shouted from across the street, and Ginny’s already simmering temper exploded and she whipped around.
“Honestly what kind of person are you that you think you can just call someone…” she trailed off as the figure approached her, realizing her mistake. “Damn, I keep forgetting that’s my name in this outfit,” she said by way of an apology, but gasped when the streetlamp illuminated the face of the approaching man. “Harry?”
Harry smiled at her as he drew to a stop in front of her. He was dressed casually in jeans and a leather jacket, and he gave her outfit a good once over. “Interesting outfit,” he commented, his eyes lingering momentarily on her dress before settling on her face. “But where is the rest of the group?”
Ginny sighed. “I knew this was a bad idea,” she grumbled, internally cursing Hermione for suggesting it and herself for listening to Hermione.
“I like it,” Harry said softly, as if he didn’t realize he was saying it out loud. “But why are you wearing it?”
“Oh,” Ginny said, leading him over to a bench by the war memorial in the town center. “Marietta threw a party for the whole class tonight, and she told me that since its on Halloween, it would be a muggle style fancy dress party. The problem is, she seems to have forgotten to tell everyone else about the dress code.” She shivered slightly in the chilly October air, and without a word, Harry shrugged off his jacket and draped it around her shoulders. Ginny made to protest, but stopped herself when she decided that she liked how it felt.
“I see,” Harry responded, a frown on his face. “She seems like a lovely person.” Ginny hummed in agreement but didn’t comment. They sat together for a moment in companionable silence, watching a group of young kids in costume walk through the square and towards a busy restaurant down the street.
After a while, Ginny decided to break the silence. “So what are you doing here? Surely you weren’t going to Marietta’s party.”
Harry sat in silence for a few moments, so long that Ginny did not think he was going to answer. He fiddled with the cuffs of his solid black button down shirt, a far away look in his eyes. “My parents were killed on this day 19 years ago,” he said shortly. Ginny didn’t take her eyes off of his face, but he was staring out into the distance. “They are buried right over there,” he gestured towards the church in the distance, and the cemetery that Ginny assumed accompanied it. “I always come and visit on Halloween.”
Ginny waited for Harry to elaborate, but it seemed like he was surprised he had shared that much. “I’m sorry, Harry,” she said softly, hesitating before leaning forward and resting her hand on his arm. He finally turned to look at her.
“It’s alright,” he said, his eyes bright but not teary. “It always upsets me more on Halloween, mostly because I realize I don’t think about them as much as I should. Sometimes I feel like I miss my grandparents more than I miss my actual parents.”
Ginny recalled what he had told her about his childhood with his grandparents. “That makes sense, you have more memories of them than you do of your parents.” Harry hummed softly in agreement before giving her a sad smile. A moment of silence hung between them. “I guess you win for worst Halloween,” Ginny said in a sad attempt to lighten the conversation.
Harry laughed anyway. “If it’s a contest, I probably win worst adolescence as well,” he joked.
Ginny paused, biting her lip and considering whether or not she wanted to say what was on her mind. She eventually decided to share, knowing that Harry, unlike some other people she had encountered in her life, would understand and not judge her.
“Well,” she began in a quiet voice. “I was possessed by a diary when I was eleven, that must count for something.” She heard Harry’s sharp intake of breath, and could feel his eyes on her, but kept her gaze focused on the street lamp across from their bench.
“That was you.” It was more of a statement than a question, and Ginny was not surprised that he knew what she was talking about. She nodded, still not looking at him.
“You see, I was kind of lonely when I first started Hogwarts and I had found this diary in my secondhand textbooks, so I started writing in it. And Tom wrote back. And he was the best friend I could have asked for — until he had me trying to kill my classmates.” She felt a pressure on her hand, and realized that Harry had reached over and grabbed it. Finally turning to face him, she saw remorse and guilt in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Ginny,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.
She smiled softly. “Thanks. But I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad.”
“I know,” he said. He was frowning, a deep wrinkle between his eyebrows. “But I can’t help it. You know who Tom Riddle was, right?”
She nodded again. “Voldemort,” she said, with only a slight shiver. Harry must have mistaken it for cold, because he released his tight grip on her hand and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him.
“When I was seventeen,” he began in the same quiet voice she had used, “I found out that a piece of Voldemort’s soul was inside of me.” Ginny turned towards him as much as she could while making sure his arm stayed around her. “It happened when he tried to kill me as a baby, and the only way to get rid of it was to let him cast the Killing Curse at me.” His green eyes were bright, and the light reflecting off of his glasses added to the shine. Slowly, Ginny leaned her head down and rested it on his shoulder. He tightened his grip on her arm.
“We’re messed up, aren’t we?” he asked. She hummed. They remained in that position in silence for a while, watching as the few leftover stragglers walked through the square.
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Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Author's Notes: We're halfway through this story! I actually really like the scene in the middle of this chapter, so let me know what you think!! :)
“What is the harshest punishment that a criminal can receive?”
Ginny paced around the sitting room of her tiny flat as she answered. “Life imprisonment in Azkaban is the usual punishment, with the Dementor’s Kiss reserved as the sentence for any criminal who is deemed too dangerous to keep mentally aware.”
Hermione consulted Ginny’s notes before nodding and asking her next question. “Prior to the Dementor’s Kiss, what was the ministry’s harshest punishment?” Ginny took a second to think about it before answering.
“They used the death potion. A pool was filled with the poisonous potion, and the condemned prisoner was lured into it by use of their happy memories, which attracted them to it in a trancelike state. In 1934, the International Confederation of Wizards deemed the use of the death potion too inhumane, and decreed that all nations who used that method must decide on a new one. Our ministry decided that life imprisonment was enough, but had the exception of the Dementor’s Kiss for extreme cases.”
“Yes!” Hermione exclaimed. It was Friday evening, and Hermione had agreed to come over and help Ginny study for her exam in Dawlish’s class. After a few hours of reviewing, Ginny finally felt like she was remembering the material. Most of it was boring dates and names, which is why Ginny knew that she needed help if she was going to be able to learn this properly.
Ginny flopped into the armchair by the fireplace, her legs swinging over one of the arms. “Can we please take a break?” she pleaded, looking longingly towards the kitchen, where Hermione had left bags of takeaway Chinese food that she had brought over for dinner.
“No, Ginny.” Hermione gave her a stern look. “If you want to prove yourself and your intelligence, you need to be able to recite this to me in your sleep. Now, tell me about the role the Auror Office played in the War of 1644.
Ginny let out a deep sigh before beginning. “The war started in Eastern Europe, as a clash between two different nomadic magical clans. The British Ministry stayed out of it until their ambassador was attacked by a horde of giants who were being used by —”
Her description was interrupted by the floo flaring to life, from which her brother Ron emerged.
“Hey, Gin, I wanted to ask you-” he stopped talking abruptly when he noticed Hermione sitting on the couch, surrounded by parchment. “Hello, Hermione,” he said, his voice significantly lower. Ginny tried hard not to laugh. “I didn’t know you were here.”
Hermione smiled, her cheeks slightly pinker than usual. “Hello, Ron,” she said softly, looking at him briefly before looking down at Ginny’s notes, carefully stacking them into a pile. Ron turned to Ginny with a bewildered look on his face.
Ask her out! Ginny mouthed at him. Ron’s eyes grew wide and he shook his head frantically. Ginny sighed audibly.
“I, erm, I just came to ask you if you wanted to come with me to the Harpies/Cannon game with me this weekend. My boss gave me tickets.” Ron worked for the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and he often received complimentary Quidditch tickets. Even though she would love to go to the game, Ginny looked incredulously at Ron.
Hermione still was looking down at the stack of parchment in her lap, so she felt safe to mouth to him again. ASK HERMIONE TO GO! Ron looked nervous, so Ginny rolled her eyes and took matters into her own hands.
“I would love to go with you, Ron, but I have a rather nasty exam on Monday and I just need to spend all of my time studying.” She gave an overdramatic pout before pulling a pensive face. “Wait, I have an idea!” She sat up straight in her chair and turned toward Hermione. “Hermione, you don’t have plans this weekend, do you?” She paused just enough to watch Hermione look up in alarm before continuing. “Why don’t you go with Ron?”
Hermione narrowed her eyes and glared at her, but her expression softened when she turned to Ron. “I would love to,” she answered softly. “That is, if you would want me to come.”
Ron nodded emphatically. “Yes! I mean… I’d love that… I mean, that would be great.” He grinned widely.
Ginny watched with a smile as they arranged for Ron to pick Hermione up at her flat the next day, before Ron stumbled back to the fireplace and disappeared in a rush of green flames. Hermione spun around to face Ginny.
“I can not believe you just did that!”
“You didn’t have to say yes,” Ginny answered, getting up and walking to the kitchen. She started removing the cartons of food from the plastic bags Hermione had brought.
Hermione joined her in the kitchen. “I didn’t say I don’t want to go, I just said I can’t believe you did that.” Ginny laughed. “You really are pushy, you know that?”
“Yeah, I am.” Ginny opened a carton of lo mein and slid a pair of chopsticks out of their paper sheath.
“If you are so pushy, why aren’t you with Harry already?” Hermione asked. Ginny glared at her, but she just smirked back, popping a dumpling in her mouth.
“I’m not going to push Harry,” Ginny said slowly, chewing her noodles thoughtfully. “I think he is really cautious because of my history with Michael. He keeps bringing him up randomly to see how I react. Honestly, it’s kind of endearing.”
Hermione looked at her skeptically for a moment before nodding in acceptance of her answer. She summoned the stack of parchment from the couch. “You were in the middle of the War of 1644. Start with the giants.” Ginny groaned.
The crack of Moody’s walking cane against the stone floor immediately silenced the chatter throughout the classroom. He stomped over to the front desk, his magic eye turned around facing the back of his head, making it appear completely white. Harry slid in the door behind him, closing it softly and drifting towards the back of the room. Ginny waved to him, and he smiled in acknowledgement.
“The Imperious Curse,” Moody growled, drawing Ginny’s attention back to him. “As you all know, this is one of the three Unforgivable Curses. While it is against the law to cast any of these curses on another wizard, Aurors are granted permission to use such force only when absolutely necessary. Therefore, you will all be expected to be able to perform all three Unforgivable Curses by the end of your first year qualifying exams. Equally important is your ability to resist these curses. It is impossible to block any of them: no shield charm has been invented that has enough magical power to resist the force of an Unforgivable. Therefore, nothing more than wits and agility will help you avoid the Killing or Cruciatus Curses. The Imperious Curse is a different story.” Moody paused for a moment, and both of his eyes roamed the class, focusing on each student in turn.
“Resisting the Imperious Curse requires a certain amount of mental fortitude. I will not pretend to believe that all of you possess this. But you must learn, and there are things that I can teach you — tips and ticks, you may say — that will help you to achieve this.” His regular eye looked down at the class roster before him, but his magical eye continued roaming the class.
“Today, I will place you all under the Imperious Curse,” he stated, causing murmurs to break out across the room. “If you would rather not, I suggest you leave.” The murmurs stopped.
"As I was saying, I will place each of you, individually, under the curse, and you will attempt to resist my commands. I do not expect anyone to succeed on the first try, but I would like you to defy my expectations."
The class had grown deathly silent. Ginny exchanged a worried glance with Mandy, and then looked over her head at Harry, who was standing in the opposite corner. He smiled reassuringly, and she felt herself relax somewhat.
Moody began going down the list alphabetically, and Ginny watched as her classmates did remarkable and ridiculous things. Mandy completed a series of spectacular somersaults that Ginny was quite sure she was incapable of normally. Cho performed a rather elaborate and lengthy stepdance across the room.
Harry had come to stand next to Ginny by the time Michael was crawling around the room on all fours. "Seems appropriate," he commented, crossing his arms and leaning against the window. Ginny was already laughing along with the rest of the class, and didn't have to try to cover up her amusement.
"Let me guess," she said, turning toward Harry, "you are so good at it that you feel you can make fun of everyone's struggles?"
"Not to brag, but," he lowered his voice and puffed out his chest, "I did overthrow it on my first try. And I would never make fun of everyone, I just happen to think that him acting like a baby is appropriate."
Harry remained next to her while the rest of the class all took their turns. By the time Moody called out "Weasley!" no one had been able to resist the curse and Ginny's nerves had returned full force. She avoided Harry's eyes as she walked to the spot by the door where everyone started. She barely had a moment to prepare herself before Moody cast his curse. "Imperio!"
Ginny's mind went blissfully blank, all her worries about embarrassing herself in front of the class and not being good enough washed right away. She felt completely at peace, thoughtless and mindless, like she was floating in the clouds. Moody's voice growled softly from the emptiness. "Climb on the desk."
The idea sounded good, and Ginny started forward, wondering why she had not realized earlier that climbing on the desk was a great idea. Suddenly, another voice came like a whisper, one that was unwelcome and all too familiar. "That's right, Ginevra, you don't have to think at all."
Ginny froze, her hands pressed against the side of the desk. She still felt thoughtless, but her heart was pounding in her chest. The whispering voice continued. "I'll tell you what to do, Ginevra, you just follow along."
Moody's voice sounded again, more insistent. "Climb on the desk!"
A third voice chimed in, this one sounding reassuringly like herself. "He doesn't have control anymore, Ginny," it told her. "You're stronger than that." She could feel other thoughts coming back and her pulse was pounding in her temples.
"Climb on the desk!"
"Just do what I say, Ginevra!"
Ginny didn't realize that the last word did not come from the voice in her head, but out of her own mouth. She felt a rush in her head as the clouds cleared, and a burn in her hands where she had forcefully pushed the desk away. Her eyes had been tightly shut, and Ginny slowly opened them as she stood panting as if she had just finished a Quidditch match.
The class was looking at her in shock, but Harry was beaming. She turned toward Moody, who looked pleased. "Look there everyone, Weasley did it!" The class cheered, but Ginny barely heard it. Tom's voice was still echoing in her mind, and her head was throbbing. "If you looked in her eyes, you could tell she was fighting it. A few more tries, Weasley, and you will be able to throw it off before you even start to move."
"Again?" Ginny asked weakly, but Moody didn't hear her. Fortunately, the bell rang before he had a chance to cast the curse.
"We'll pick up here next time," Moody said by way of dismissal, and limped out of the room. Ginny slowly made her way back to her seat, listening half-heartedly to the congratulations from her classmates, her mind elsewhere.
As she slowly packed up her things, the class filtered out, until only she and Harry remained in the room.
"Are you alright?" he asked, his voice low.
Ginny turned and looked out the window, contemplating her answer. The enchanted sky earlier in the day had shown threatening storm clouds, but now there was just a dazzling sunset on the horizon. The entire color spectrum was on display, with the burning orange sun the focal point, and the rich navy already trickling in towards the east. If she tried really hard, Ginny could make out the North Star.
"No," she answered eventually. "But I will be."
She turned away from the window to face Harry, the light reflecting on his glasses making it difficult to read his eyes. "I could hear Tom in my head, telling me not to think and let him take control." Harry didn't say anything. "And I almost listened again. But I'm not eleven years old anymore, and no one will ever control my mind again. I'm not that weak," she finished, her voice determined.
Harry reached forward and wrapped his arms around her, and Ginny leaned into his hug. "No, you certainly aren't," he spoke into her hair.
Ginny felt the tension leave her body, confident in her knowledge that she was able to protect herself. She slowly pulled away from Harry and looked up at him. "Thank you," she whispered. He looked at her seriously, his eyes blazing, and Ginny shivered with anticipation.
"Do you want ice cream?"
His question surprised her. "What?"
"Florean Fortescue makes the best sundaes." He leaned down and picked up her bag, draping the strap over his shoulder.
"It's November," she reminded him. "It's cold out."
"So we can put hot fudge on them. Come on." He grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the room.
The next Dark Magic class began with Moody placing Ginny under the Imperious Curse three consecutive times before she was able to throw it off almost immediately. He seemed pleased with her ability, and she was glad she could be rid of the mindlessness before Tom's voice had a chance to return. For the remainder of the class, she sat and watched the rest of the students attempt to do the same, most of them failing. She was disappointed that Harry was not there to keep her company, but she had to remember he had his own job and could not spend all of his time in her class.
When the bell rang and Moody dismissed them, he called for a few of them. "Chang, Corner, Weasley. A minute."
Slightly worried about why she was part of that group, Ginny bid goodbye to Mandy and approached Moody's desk. Michael and Cho stood together on the other side. Moody waited until the rest of the class had left before addressing them. "This doesn't happen often, but I need some extra help on some of my cases, and I want you three. You don't have class tomorrow, correct?" All three of them shook their heads. "Good, come to the Auror Office tomorrow morning at 8, and I'll fill you in." On that note, he stomped out of the room.
Cho turned to Michael with a grin. “Do you realize what a great honor this is?” she asked. “Moody is the most respected man in the Auror Department, and he thinks we are the best!”
“Yeah, amazing,” Michael agreed, his voice flat. “Who would have thought, eh, Ginny?”
“You’re right, Michael,” Ginny said after a moment. “This must mean a lot to you, especially after that disastrous N.E.W.T. in Defense Against the Dark Arts.” Michael’s eyes narrowed, but Cho looked like she was biting her cheek in an attempt to keep from saying anything — or possibly from laughing. Instead of entertaining either of them, Ginny turned on her heel and left the classroom, waiting until she was halfway down the corridor before breaking into a wide grin and letting out an excited squeal.
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Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Author's Notes: posting at midnight because i forgot it was saturday :))))
Ginny walked into the ministry the next morning a half hour early, wearing professional black robes and a determined expression. The lift deposited her at the entrance of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and she walked down the short corridor to the Auror Office. She stopped in the doorway and surveyed the scene before her.
She had never before visited the Auror Office, and she wanted to take some time to observe what was going to be her future place of employment. It was not exactly what she was expecting; rather it was a mess of cubicles, cluttered and stuffed to the brim with parchments and books and photographs. It seemed like each Auror had made an effort to personalize their cubicle, and therefore the entire office screamed in a series of clashing colors — the moving figures of Quidditch players on the posters adorning some of the walls added to the confusion and created a slight dizzying effect.
Scanning the heads of the Aurors at their desks, Ginny tried to find Harry’s shock of messy black hair, but was unable to. She was disappointed — she had not had a chance to tell him about her new position and wanted to surprise him before meeting Moody. She reluctantly asked the nearest Auror where she could find Auror Moody, and he pointed her to a large conference room off of the main floor. Upon entering, she saw that Michael, Cho, and Moody were already inside, and she took a seat at the oblong table opposite of her two classmates. Moody was pacing the floor next to a window displaying an overcast and stormy sky. He paused for a moment to acknowledge her.
“Good, you’re here, Weasley.” He nodded, his magical eye looking over Ginny’s head and through the wall behind her. “We are just waiting on one more person, and then I can tell you all why you are here.” Moody resumed his pacing, the alternating clatter of his wooden leg the only sound in the room. Ginny looked down into her lap, sensing that Michael was trying to catch her eye and reluctant to give him the opportunity to do so.
After a few minutes of silence, the door opened and the person they were waiting for entered. Ginny glanced up quickly to see Harry ducking in, one hand reaching up to flatten his hair. “Sorry I’m late, I was…” He trailed off as he looked around the room, his eyes landing on Ginny. He grinned at her in excitement, and slid into the seat next to her.
Moody did not appear concerned by his lack of a proper explanation of his tardiness. “Everyone, this is Harry Potter. You may have noticed him lurking around class sometimes, he likes to help me out.” Ginny nudged Harry under the table, she could see he was trying to hide his laughter. “Potter, this is Weasley, Chang, and Corner. I asked them to join me and help with a particularly interesting case.”
He came to a halt at the head of the table, throwing a parchment file onto the surface. A photograph slid out and landed in front of Ginny. She looked down, shocked that she recognized the man pictured. “Parkin?”
“That’s correct, Miss Weasley. This is Boyd Parkin. You may have read in the newspaper that he died yesterday.” He slid the photo further into the center of the table. Parkin blinked up at the ceiling. “We will be investigating it.”
“What?” Ginny asked in shock. “You think that his death is suspicious? He has been sick for years now.”
Moody turned to Ginny, both of his eyes focused on her. “How do you know so much about this, Weasley?” he asked.
“Parkin owns the Wanderers, and I was on their reserve team all of last year,” she answered, slightly defensive. Moody looked at her intensely for a few moments.
“Interesting, and might come in handy,” he finally said, turning away from her to look at his file of information. His bright blue magical eye remained resting on her face.
“Miss Weasley is correct in her statement that Parkin has been sick for years, but it was not an extended case of spattergroit as was reported. Rather it seems he was being poisoned for years. Post-mortem tests show that he was ingesting low doses of a slow acting poison. Someone wanted to kill him, and we want to know why.” He tossed some of the sheets of parchment into the center of the table for them to pursue.
“Chang, I want you to start looking into financial information, see if there was any sort of blackmail. Strange balances being removed or added to his Gringott’s account.” Cho nodded. Moody summoned a large stack of parchment folders from the other side of the room. They came to rest on the table in front of Michael. “Corner, these are files on all of Parkin’s known associates. I want you to learn about them, and see if there is anything suspicious there.” He turned to Ginny. “Weasley, I had something else in mind for you, but this will be better; look into the Quidditch angle. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that ownership of the Wanderers has been passed down in the Parkin family for ages, no?”
“The team was founded by a Parkin in the 15th century,” Ginny responded.
“Exactly. It’s not common, but people have been murdered over professional Quidditch before. If there is anything we should know, find it.” Moody looked at Harry. “Potter, go to St. Mungo’s will you? Ask your friend for more information about the poison. They won’t tell me, but surely you can find out more.” Harry nodded absentmindedly, his attention focused on some of the parchment in front of him.
Ginny thought of something important, and cautiously pulled Moody’s attention back to her. “Sir, Parkin’s funeral is this weekend, and I received an invitation. Do you want me to go, and see if I can find out anything?”
Moody’s magical eye fixed on her again, making Ginny slightly uncomfortable. “Yes,” he said after a significant pause. “Potter, go with her.” Harry looked up sharply from his reading, before nodding and turning to Ginny with a smile. “But keep in mind,” Moody continued talking, and both Harry and Ginny turned their attention to him, “that we do not want any information getting out about our investigation. We haven’t told the press that there is evidence of poisoning, and we have no intention of doing so until we have concrete information. So go, but as a Quidditch player, not as an Auror. Do you understand?” He waited for Ginny’s affirmative answer before leaving them alone in the conference room, each with their own task to do.
The morning of the funeral, Ginny stood in front of her mirror, waiting for Harry to come and pick her up. The invitation had indicated that it was a formal ceremony, and therefore traditional mourning robes were required. She had to purchase a set, as she had never before had a need for mourning robes, and they were large and bulky, but surprisingly flattering. The body contained a fitted corset but a large and heavy bustle, and a thick cloak that Ginny was grateful for because of the cold weather. Ginny adjusted her wide-brimmed veiled black hat, her reflection blurred by the thick lace hanging over her eyes. She pulled the veil up and behind her, so that it draped down her back, covering her bright red mane of hair instead of her face.
Her research for Moody that week had not resulted in any evidence; and she could not see any reason why someone would want to slowly poison Parkin because of a Quidditch rivalry. The Wanderers ended the previous season the last in the league, and they were not performing very well at the beginning of the new one either. That seemed to be more so because of Parkin’s grandson’s lack of talent as a chaser than any sort of murderous rivalry.
Cho had not found anything strange in his bank accounts, and Michael was still sorting through information about his known associates, but nothing had appeared. Harry had spoken with his friend at St. Mungo’s — Horace Slughorn, his mother’s old potions professor and a close friend of his grandfather — who had said that the poison was rare and not one that could be found in a local apothecary, but needed to be brewed with particular care and rare ingredients. The fact that it was most likely home brewed was not helpful as they could not track the purchase, and did not know where the ingredients were purchased.
Ginny was hoping that they would be able to hear something at the funeral, because otherwise it seemed like their investigation was over before it began. She heard a knock on the front door but she did not move, instead listening as Luna answered. Soft sounds of a conversation drifted into her room, but she could not distinguish any words. She hesitated another moment before leaving her room, wanting to give Harry a chance to meet Luna and form an opinion of her.
She exited her room, the tail of her dress trailing along on the ground behind her. Harry and Luna stood in the kitchen, and based on her hand motions it appeared as if she was explaining to him about wrackspurts. Harry followed along with a puzzled but attentive expression. He was wearing a set of mourning robes that were almost indistinguishable from regular black robes.
“Why is it,” Ginny asked as she walked towards them, “that men’s mourning robes look normal but I look like I just stepped out of one of Mum’s tawdry Elizabethan romance novels?”
Harry grinned and raised an eyebrow as he looked her over. “I happen to think you look wonderful, even in mourning robes.” Ginny blushed, but didn’t comment.
“Come on, we don’t want to be late.” They both bid goodbye to Luna, and walked out of the front door. Ginny grabbed hold of Harry’s hand and apparated them both to Wigtown.
It was cold and misty when they arrived in the southern Scottish town, and a crowd of mourners was queuing to find seats for the service. It was being held in an open area right outside of the Wanderer’s stadium, and Ginny felt a slight nostalgic tug when she looked out over the flags of the stadium. Turning aside, she showed her invitation to the guard she recognized from her time with the team, and led Harry over to the seats.
They had purposefully planned to arrive just as the service was scheduled to start, so they would not have to worry about speaking to anyone before it began, and just after. They chose seats close to the back, and after a moment an old warlock in a large ceremonial robe motioned for silence. Ginny took a moment as everyone settled down to look around. A large tent had been erected around the seats, with blood red hangings embossed with an image of a silver meat cleaver. Harry leaned towards her. “Isn’t that a little tasteless for a funeral?” he whispered.
“It’s the Wanderer’s symbol,” she breathed back, “I don’t think the Parkins own anything without it.”
“But still,” Harry grumbled, just as the man in the front began speaking. Ginny listened for the first few moments, but her attention started to wander as he spoke about how great of a man Boyd Parkin was. She had only ever met him one time, at the first game of the one season she played with the team, and he had seemed nice, if a little standoffish.
Ginny looked out over the crowd, spying Boyd’s widow, Isobel, at the front of the crowd, crying softly into a handkerchief. Seated next to her was her grandson, and Ginny’s former teammate, Angus Parkin. He was staring resolutely ahead of him, not even looking at the speaker. Off to the right, Ginny spotted other members of the starting team, and behind them most of the reserves. She saw Cassia, and made a note to remember to talk to her first as soon as the service ended. Ginny recognized other important figures in the crowd — many from other Quidditch teams as well as political figures and members of some of the older wizarding families.
As the warlock continued rattling on about Boyd, Ginny turned her attention to Harry. He was sitting up straight, listening intently to what was being said, and probably trying to puzzle out who wanted to kill the owner of a Quidditch team. She only just realized that she was still holding tight onto his hand, but she made no movement to let go. Instead, she sat and studied his face — the long line of his nose and his high cheekbones, his strong jaw. She longed to reach out and run her hands through his messy mop of hair, but resisted the urge. A funeral was not the best place for that. Sensing her gaze on him, Harry squeezed her hand, repositioning his grip so that their fingers were laced together. Ginny smiled and turned her attention to the front, trying to focus on what was being said.
After the warlock finished speaking, Angus stood and made a speech about the greatness of his grandfather, and the greatness of the Parkin legacy. It was a passionate and rousing speech, but there was no expression in Angus’s eyes. Ginny felt bad for all the times she complained about him, seeing as how he was clearly struggling with this loss.
Angus’s speech was short, and after he finished there was a sharp thud and the coffin at the front changed from solid black to blood red. This was apparently the signal for the end of the ceremony, and the guests at the front started to stand up. Ginny turned to Harry.
“What do you think?”
He sighed, running his free hand over his face. “Pretty standard procedure for a funeral, if an odd choice of decorations. Nothing interesting to hear in the speeches, and I didn’t notice anyone who looks suspicious, did you?”
“No,” Ginny confirmed. “But do you really think the —” she lowered her voice, “— murderer would come to the funeral?”
Harry shrugged. “It depends on their motives.” He didn’t elaborate. “Who do you want to talk to first?” He was clearly waiting for her to lead, and she was about to answer when she heard someone squeal her name.
Ginny and Harry looked up to see Cassia rushing over towards them, and Ginny stood just in time to receive Cassia’s hug. Harry stood as well, but reluctantly let go of her hand. “I’m so glad you are here, it’s been so long since I saw you,” Cassia gushed before turning to Harry. “Who’s this?”
“Oh, I’m Harry, I’m…” he trailed off, unsure how to introduce himself. Ginny’s mind whirled, trying to think of an excuse of why she had brought an Auror to the funeral. She said the only thing on her mind.
“He’s my boyfriend.” Harry’s eyes widened slightly, but he didn’t show any other signs that this was not the complete truth. Instead, he slid his arm to rest comfortably around Ginny’s shoulders. Cassia looked between the two of them, smiling at Harry and glaring at Ginny, and she knew that Cassia would be mad that she hadn’t told her in advance.
“How has everything been here?” she asked in an attempt to head off questions about her relationship with Harry.
Cassia sighed. “Horrible. Everyone’s been in a stupor over Parkin, and the playing has gotten even worse, if that’s possible.”
“Did anyone say anything about how Parkin died?” Ginny asked. She cringed at how direct the question was, but didn’t know how else to ask.
Cassia didn’t seem to notice anything strange about it. “Yeah, I mean, who dies of spattergroit anymore? It’s crazy, isn’t it? Angus’s been going on about starting a fundraiser to do research, but I don’t know.”
“How has he been?”
“Devastated, really. Honestly I was surprised, I didn’t realize they were that close, but I guess that’s just what happens. But tell me about you, how’s everything?”
“Oh, great,” Ginny said. “Listen, Cassia, maybe we can get together this weekend and talk. But first we need to go and pay our respects to Mrs. Parkin.” Cassia agreed and wandered off to find the rest of the team, and Ginny turned to Harry. “I think we should go talk to Mrs. Parkin, and see if she says anything. I mean we can’t say much while we are here, but maybe we can get a feel of what she is going through.”
“Maybe,” Harry said in agreement. He grinned at her. “Boyfriend, eh?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Oh, shut up. Moody told me not to say we were Aurors and I needed an excuse.”
Harry held up his hands in surrender. “You don’t hear me complaining, do you? I will say, this is some crappy first date, though.” Ginny started walking down the aisle towards the crowd around Mrs. Parkin.
“You call this a date?”
“No,” Harry agreed as they inched forward. “But I’ll call it a date if you agree to dinner later.”
Ginny bit her lip to keep from grinning at the hopeful expression on his face. “I’d love to, Harry,” she said, completely sincere. They didn’t speak again as they waited on line to give their condolences to Mrs. Parkin, but occasionally looked at one another and grinned.
They finally reached the front. Isobel Parkin had remained in her seat at the front of the tent. If Ginny thought her mourning robes were ridiculously large and cumbersome, it was nothing compared to Mrs. Parkin’s. The skirt of her robes had a built in hoop, and it surrounded her chair in a three-foot circumference, making it impossible to completely approach her. A veil covered her face and trailed on the floor.
“Mrs. Parkin, I’m so sorry for your loss,” Ginny began.
Mrs. Parkin nodded. “Thank you, Miss Weasley. It is good to see you again, my dear.” Ginny started, shocked that this woman had remembered her. “It was such a pity when we lost you as a player.”
“Oh, thank you, Mrs. Parkin. I hadn’t realized that you…”
“Yes,” Mrs. Parkin interrupted her. “Many people don’t. My husband was very devoted to this team, and after a while I came to feel like it was a part of me as well. I would love it if you would come around some time, and we could talk.”
“Of course, Mrs. Parkin, I would love to,” Ginny responded. Mrs. Parkin nodded, and knowing she was dismissed, Ginny shuffled to the side as the next person started talking to Mrs. Parkin. Ginny turned to Harry in shock. “Can you believe she remembers me?”
Harry was preoccupied. “She doesn’t seem too upset by her husband’s death. Do you think she had anything to do with it?”
“Seriously?” Ginny asked. “Of course not! She is an older woman, whose husband has been ‘sick’ for years. She is upset but she is not in shock.”
Both of them turned to find Angus Parkin standing behind them, his arms open wide. “I’m so glad you could come.”
Ginny fought down all of her ill feelings toward the man and answered him with honest sympathy. “Angus, I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Yes, yes, we did terribly in that match against the Tornadoes, but I think we are picking up…” he trailed off at the look of shock on Ginny and Harry’s faces. “Oh, you mean Grandfather. Yes, it’s terrible, isn’t it? Grandfather was always there for me after my parents died, and now… well… it’s even worse. Grandmother alone, struggling. I don’t know what we are going to do.”
“Please let me know if there is anything we can do to help,” Ginny said.
“Thank you. You should come to our next game, Ginny. It’s been a while. I’ll be sure to send you tickets.” A man came up behind him and clapped a hand on his shoulder, and Angus turned to talk to him.
Harry turned to Ginny. “Strange family. Let’s ask around, see what we can discover.”
“Sure,” Ginny said. “But then I believe you are buying me dinner.”
Two hours later, Ginny discovered that it was rather difficult to open her front door with her back pressed up against it and using only one wandering hand. This information was not discouraging, however, because her other hand was buried deep in Harry’s hair, and her lips were fused to his. Her drifting hand finally found the doorknob and twisted it, and they stumbled together through the doorway, still kissing furiously.
“Harry,” she whimpered as he slowly started dragging his lips down her neck, his hands fumbling to pull her closer despite the ridiculous bustle on her formal mourning robes. Harry hummed in answer, but did not pull away. Instead, he found a particularly sensitive spot by her ear and latched on.
Ginny dragged him backwards through the dark flat until she felt the back of her legs hit the arm of the couch. She had just fallen back, Harry above her, when she felt something alive and fleshy beneath her and screamed.
Another scream came from underneath her, and in a tangle of limbs and robes, they all tumbled off of the couch and onto the floor. Ginny shielded her eyes from the bright lights that burst to life all around her. Looking up, she saw that Harry had sprung up from the floor, looking adorably disheveled but fully alert, his wand extended in front of him. She turned to look at what she had crashed into and found Luna, completely naked, sprawled on the floor beside her.
“Luna!” she exclaimed, looking into her roommates wide eyes before looking back at Harry, who seemed to have determined there was no immediate threat and was attempting to look everywhere else except at Luna. “What are you doing?”
“Right now?” Luna asked. “Lying on the floor. Before that, sitting on the couch.” Ginny sighed from her position on the floor, and Harry extended his hand to help her up. She grabbed hold and he hoisted her off the floor, and he kept his hand wrapped around hers even after she stood. She smiled at him briefly and he smiled back, before whispering to her.
“Why is she naked?” he asked, his voice low in her ear. Ginny shivered.
“Luna,” she called to her friend who was slowly climbing up onto the couch. “Could you cover up some, you are making Harry uncomfortable.”
“I’m not uncomfortable,” Harry insisted, clearly uncomfortable. Luna repositioned herself on the couch, her legs folded like a pretzel, and looked intently at Harry, who in turn looked over her head at the Wanderers team photo on the wall.
“I can see that,” she said. “He won’t look at me. I wonder what it is about the human body that upsets him.”
“I’m trying to be polite,” Harry muttered under his breath. Ginny squeezed his hand.
“Quite curious,” Luna continued as if Harry had not spoken, her eyes still fixed on his face, “especially seeing how you two were clearly planning to have sex.” Harry spluttered in response, but Luna continued. “An aversion to the naked body surely wouldn’t bode well in that situation.”
Harry turned to Ginny, his eyes wide with worry behind his glasses, but she was doubled over in silent laughter. “I wasn’t planning… that is I wasn’t thinking of… well of course I’ve been thinking of… but not necessarily tonight…” he trailed off, sounding increasingly worried. Ginny regained her composure enough to reach up and press a kiss to his cheek.
“I know,” she murmured in his ear.
Luna continued talking as though their interaction had not taken place. “Weren’t you two at a funeral?”
Seemingly resigned to the fact that Luna was not going to put on clothes, Harry sat heavily in the armchair by the fireplace and stared into the empty grate. Ginny perched on the arm of the chair, her hand still intertwined with his. “Yes, we were, and then we went out to dinner,” she answered. “What were you doing, naked on the couch in the dark?” she asked lightly.
“I was doing a prayer for a peaceful path to the afterlife for Parkin,” Luna answered as if this was obvious. She rolled her head and looked up at the ceiling. “This is the best time of night to do it.”
“Ah,” Ginny acknowledged, exchanging an amused glance with Harry. Harry stood and cleared his throat.
“I should get going anyway,” he said, and Ginny stood up with him.
Luna pivoted her head around to watch as they approached the door. “Don’t let me interrupt your plans. Although I will say that coitus in the same dwelling as a prayer for a peaceful path to the afterlife could result in disastrous side effects.” Harry tripped over his shoes in his haste to reach the door.
Ginny pulled Harry to a stop before he could leave. “Sorry about that,” she said, her voice low so that they would not be overheard. Luna, however, had resumed her position looking at the ceiling and had started humming melodically. “Luna can be…” she searched around for the right word, “…eccentric.”
“I could see that,” Harry agreed. “Not that I was looking,” he hastily added, patting his hair in an attempt to flatten it. Ginny giggled. “What?” he asked.
Ginny reached up and knocked his hand aside, ruffling his hair until it was properly messy again. “You’re adorable when you are flustered.” She pulled him down for one final kiss. He moved to wrap his arms around her waist, but she put one hand on his chest and pushed him away. “Go,” she whispered, leaning her forehead against his. “Before we disrupt Parkin’s path to a peaceful afterlife.”
Harry chucked and pecked her briefly on the lips. “See you tomorrow,” he said, opening the door. Ginny waved him off before closing the door and leaning hard against it, letting out a deep sigh. She stayed there for a moment before pushing herself up and heading to the loo for a cold shower.
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Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Author's Notes: This chapter starts with a bit of a time jump - I skipped over December and went directly to the start of the new year.
Ginny crouched behind a low wall, her wand at the ready and her eyes alert. A flash of red light on the other side indicated that someone had been discovered, but she didn't know if it was someone on her side or on the enemy side.
Red light flashed again, and Ginny heard the muffled groan that meant someone had been captured. A bell clanged, and she glanced up at the tally floating a foot below the ceiling. The large blue number flashed 5, and the yellow number changed to 2. Ginny cursed under her breath, there was only one person left standing with her on her team.
As a treat for their first class back in January, their Stealth and Tracking classroom had been completely transformed into an obstacle course of sorts, and the class had been divided into two teams. The objective Scrimgeour had given them was to hide within the room, taking out members of the opposing team until only members of one remained. The room was lined with a series of low walls, as well as a copse of trees and a small ramshackle wooden hut.
Ginny looked down at the yellow mesh that she wore over her robes. It was not the best to wear if she wanted to remain hidden, but it was important that they were all able to immediately identify a teammate from an enemy.
A slight movement from behind one of the trees caught Ginny's attention, and she twisted her body to face it, her back against the wall and her wand raised in front of her. Cho peeked out from behind a branch, her long black ponytail swinging, and pointed her wand out. Ginny spotted the yellow mesh on her outfit and stopped herself from casting a spell at the last second. She pinched her own yellow indicator between her thumb and index finger, showing Cho that they were on the same team. Cho nodded in understanding.
Ginny glanced up at the tally above them, realizing that she and Cho were the only ones on their team who were still active.
Cho signaled to Ginny to cover her, and Ginny nodded, raising herself up enough to look over the wall. She didn't see any signs of the enemy, so she waved Cho over. Cho ducked down low and ran at a crouch over to Ginny, throwing herself down on the ground next to her, her back against the wall.
"We're the only ones left," Cho stated the obvious. "I watched them get Brian."
Ginny cursed again. "Do you know where they are?"
"It looks like they went around to the hut. I think they're regrouping there." Ginny twisted again to look over the edge of the wall. The hut was on the other side of the room, but she thought she saw movement inside through a small hole in the wood. She pointed her wand over the wall and cast a spell.
Ginny felt five pulses in her wand. "Yep, they're all in there," she confirmed.
Cho glanced up at the tally. "They outnumber us, two-to-one. Have any thoughts?"
Ginny chewed her lip as she thought over the idea that had been forming in her mind before voicing it. "Parkin's Pincer. Modified, of course, because there's only two of us." She looked at Cho's confused look. "Wanderers’ patented chaser move." She picked up a twig and started drawing in the dirt. She drew a square to indicate the hut, with five crosses inside. "That's the target. We need to come at it from different sides, take them by surprise." She drew them in, with lines to the front of the hut and the back of the hut.
"I don't think the hut has a back door," Cho frowned.
Ginny waved her aside. "I'll make one. You come from the front. Stay low, or they will see you. We'll coordinate, and both go in when I send up green sparks. Okay?" Cho nodded.
They exchanged whispers of luck before parting ways around the low wall. Ginny kept low to the ground and darted to the far wall of the classroom, looking back in time to see Cho reach the shadow of the trees. Keeping her back to the wall, Ginny made her way around to the back of the hut, stopping when she was directly behind it.
From about 10 feet away, she could tell Cho was right in her guess that there was no back door. Raising her wand and making sure her arm was steady, she began casting a mild cutting curse, moving her arm slowly in the shape of a door. They were under strict orders from Scrimgeour not to use spells that could cause injuries — otherwise Ginny would have just blasted the wall away. Instead, she just had to hope no one inside was looking to closely at the back wall.
As soon as she was sure the door would come off, Ginny took a deep breath and raised her wand to the ceiling. Hoping that Cho was in position, she sent up a spray of green sparks, and then vanished the door she had created.
"Expelliarmus!" she cried as she sprinted into the hut, and she heard her spell echoed by Cho from the opposite side. Red light filled the room, and Ginny let out a series of identical disarming spells at the figures in the center of the room. When the light and smoke cleared, she found five wands scattered around the floor, and five people in blue with their hands up in surrender.
Cheers broke out around them as the walls of the hut disappeared and the entire scene faded back into their classroom. The yellow team was hollering with applause, the blue team shocked that their five remaining players had been brought down by just two witches.
"Excellently executed, Miss Chang, Miss Weasley," Scrimgeour said from the head of the room, leaning heavily against his walking stick. "Why did you choose that plan of attack?"
"It was Ginny's idea, sir," Cho stated. Ginny looked at her in surprise. "It was a modified Quidditch strategy."
"Well, it certainly worked." He turned to the entire class. "Your homework is to catalogue all of the moves you did during today's activity, and indicate what you did right and what was wrong." The class groaned as one, but moved toward the front to collect their bags.
Ginny turned to Cho. "Thanks for saying that."
Cho looked slightly uncomfortable. "Well, it was the truth. You were good back there."
"Thanks, you too," Ginny answered, smiling genuinely at Cho. She smiled back. Marietta approached them, removing her blue mesh with a look of distaste. She turned to Ginny with the same look before speaking to Cho.
"Great job, Cho!" she exclaimed. Cho looked embarrassed by her friend's behavior, but didn't say anything about it. Marietta started dragging her out of the room.
"See you tomorrow," Cho called out to her as she left.
Ginny hurried through the Atrium of the ministry. Because they were not getting anywhere, Moody had halted their investigation for the holiday break. Now that they were all back to class, he had asked Ginny, Cho, and Michael to join him again in the Auror Office. Not wanting to make a bad impression by arriving late to their first meeting of the year, Ginny squeezed into the waiting lift right as the grills were about to close.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Ginny barely had a chance to catch her breath before someone called her name. “Weasley!” She turned as best as she could within the crowded confines of the lift to see Gwenog Jones, captain of the Holyhead Harpies, looking at her expectedly.
“Oh, hello, Ms. Jones,” Ginny responded, trying to contain her excitement. The Holyhead Harpies were her favorite Quidditch team since she was a young child, and Gwenog Jones was one of the legendary players that she had worshipped while growing up.
The lift jerked to a stop at Level 7, and Gwenog stepped out, motioning for Ginny to follow. “Could I speak to you for a moment?” Even though she was definitely going to be late, Ginny followed her. “Weasley, I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while now, so I’m glad I bumped into you.”
“What can I do for you?” Ginny asked, unsure what Gwenog Jones would want to talk to her about.
Gwenog looked her up and down before answering. “Veronica Sheikh is pregnant.”
“I’ll pass on the message,” Gwenog said. “But that’s not why I told you. She is going leave at the beginning of next month, and we will have to play one of the reserves. The problem is, I don’t think any of our reserve chasers has what it takes to play starting, particularly at the beginning of next season. But I think you do.”
Ginny froze. “I do what?”
“You have what it takes, Weasley. I know that you didn’t play much with the Wanderers, but I came to see you play when you were still at Hogwarts. You’re good, Weasley, and you are what I am looking for.” Ginny remained standing still, her jaw dropped slightly open. Gwenog laughed. “Listen, can you come sometime this month to the stadium and fly for me? I want the rest of the team to see you.”
Ginny shook herself back to reality. “You know I quit playing, right? I’m at the Auror Academy now.”
Gwenog waved her aside. “A natural player like you? Nothing will keep you from the field. Think about it, and come see us soon.” Ginny watched Gwenog walk down the corridor towards the British Quidditch offices. She stood in shock, her mind reeling, before realizing that she was definitely late for work and jamming her finger on the call button for the lift.
She remained preoccupied all the way up to Level 2, and all through Moody’s debriefing about what they would get started on in the new year. Harry sent her a concerned look from his seat next to her, but she just shook her head, not wanting to talk about what had happened yet. In an effort to think about something else, she focused on Harry.
Ever since Parkin’s funeral in November, she and Harry had been together. They spent most of their time together in Harry’s flat, despite having had a rather normal dinner with Luna. Harry had decided to stay with his family — Remus Lupin, Tonks, and their young son Teddy — for Christmas, but joined the Weasleys at the Burrow for New Years Eve, much to Mrs. Weasley’s delight.
Caught up in her thoughts of their New Year’s Eve celebrations, Ginny barely listened to Moody’s voice, but kept her gaze away from Harry, as she could feel his eyes on her. She longed to reach over and grab his hand, but they had decided right away that it was best to keep a professional relationship when they were in the Auror Office. Out of the corner of her eye she could see his fingers drumming against his knee, and she knew that he was resisting the same temptation.
Moody finally finished his update, even though there was nothing to update them on, and released them to their own activities. Ignoring Cho and Michael, Harry motioned for Ginny to follow him to his cubicle. She trailed along behind him, waving hello to some of the Aurors she had come to know in the past few months. When they reached his cubicle, Harry sat in his chair, and Ginny hopped up on the corner of his desk, her legs swinging.
Harry’s desk was a mess of parchment and files, with very few personal mementos. He had a picture of himself as a young child with his grandparents, and a picture of little Teddy. He had expressed his desire to have a Wanderer’s poster of her, but was disappointed to learn that her status on the reserve team had never earned her a position on a poster.
“Are you alright?” he asked, looking at her carefully. Ginny considered telling him about her encounter with Gwenog, but decided she wanted to think about it more before sharing.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she answered, kicking his chair lightly with her swinging foot. “What are you looking at?” she nodded at the stack of parchments on the top of the pile, trying to change the topic.
Harry did not look entirely convinced, but went with it. “There’s not much to do for Moody right now, and when he lets me do my own thing, I do this.” He pulled one sheet of parchment toward him, and Ginny repositioned herself on his desk so that she could read it with him. There was a list of names, most of them crossed out, and with Harry’s messy scrawl around the names and the margins. “I want to make sure that all of the surviving Death Eaters are put in jail. Most of them were killed or captured when the war ended, and so the ministry sort of lost interest in finding the rest of them. I haven’t.” His voice was soft, as if he wasn’t even aware he was speaking that thought out loud. “Plus,” he said, raising his voice again, “I’ve heard some things lately that make me think they might be trying to reorganize, and I want to put a stop to that before it has the chance to get started.”
Ginny leaned over his shoulder, her long hair falling into his face, as she dragged her finger down the list. “Bellatrix Lestrange — dead, Rodolphus Lestrange — dead, Rabastan Lestrange — whereabouts unknown, Alecto Carrow — Azkaban, Amycus Carrow — dead, Barty Crouch — dead… Since when was Barty Crouch a Death Eater?”
“The son. He was actually arrested years ago, and he died in Azkaban.”
Ginny shook her head. “Crazy world.” She continued down the list. “Antonin Dolohov — whereabouts unknown, Fenrir Greyback — dead, Igor Karkaroff — dead, Corban Yaxley — whereabouts unknown,” Ginny stopped reading. “So do you have any leads on the ones who are missing?” she asked.
Harry looked around at the surrounding cubicles to make sure no one was paying attention before casting a privacy spell. “I can’t be sure, but I think that they might have something to do with Parkin’s death.”
“What?” Ginny gasped. “Why would Death Eaters want to kill Boyd Parkin?”
“I don’t know, but I have heard before that they could be involved in black market potions trading to raise money,” Harry said. “And from what Slughorn told me, most of the ingredients that are needed for the poison that killed Parkin would be found on the black market. Had they come from a real potion distributor or apothecary, we would have been able to trace the purchases.”
Ginny exhaled slowly. “Have you told Moody about this?”
“I tried.” Harry shook his head and started pulling other sheets of parchment into a pile. “He seems completely convinced that Parkin’s death has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with Quidditch. He won’t hear anything else.” Harry looked around again before lowering his voice. “I don’t like to say it, but maybe everyone is right about him.”
“What do you mean?”
Harry sighed. “Moody has been around for a long time, and people like to throw around that maybe he has lost it — his abilities and his sanity.” He shrugged, his fingers tracing the grain of the wooden desk dangerously close to her thigh. “I usually don’t agree but, lately he has been stubborn and angry and… maybe it is time for him to think about retiring.” His wandering hand finally reached her leg, and he slid his hand up and over her thigh to where her own hands were resting in her lap. He griped her hand, intertwining their fingers together, unconcerned with what anyone else saw.
Harry’s list of Death Eater’s preoccupied most of Ginny’s thoughts that week, but Gwenog’s proposition also remained in the forefront of her mind. Ginny finally broached the subject with Harry late one night that week. They were lying in bed, her head against his shoulder, just able to see through the curtains of his tall windows at the waning moon in the sky. She felt relaxed and light, ready for sleep, but her mind could not get off of the conversation she had with Gwenog. “Harry,” she whispered, unwilling to break the tranquility of the moment.
He leaned down and kissed her on the top of her head. “Yes?”
She kept her eyes on the moon as she spoke, the fingers of her left hand playing with his right. “I saw Gwenog Jones the other day, at the ministry,” she began in the same soft voice. “She told me that one of her players was leaving and she wants me to come by sometime this month and try out for the team.” She didn’t turn to look at Harry, unsure of what she would see on his face.
“Does she know you are at the Academy?” he asked after a moment, his left hand slowly running up and down her spine, his fingers tickling the bare skin of her back.
“Yeah, I told her, but she said she wanted to extend the offer to me anyway.” When Harry didn’t say anything, she picked her head up and looked down at him. His eyes were unfocused without his glasses, but Ginny still shivered at the intensity of his gaze. “What do you think?” she asked him.
Harry thought about it for a moment, his hand continuing its path up her spine. “Are you considering it?” he asked, looking into her eyes. He asked another question instead of waiting for her to answer. “Are you happy at the Academy?”
“I guess so,” she answered slowly. “It’s just not exactly what I was expecting. And I always dreamed of the Harpies, but…” she trailed off, looking at Harry. His expression was blank and impossible to read in the dim lighting of the room. His black hair was a mess against the crisp white of his pillowcase, tousled even more than usual. She could just make out the faint line of the lightning bolt scar on his forehead.
“I think you know what you want,” he said.
Ginny watched him, waiting for an obvious reaction. When he didn’t show anything, she asked, “What would you think of me if I quit?”
Harry pulled her down flush against him, wrapping both of his arms around her waist. “It’s not quitting when you are pursing what makes you happy. If you are happier playing Quidditch, I would never think anything bad of that.” Ginny looked into his sincere eyes before pushing herself up and kissing him, slow and languid. “Ginny,” he said when she pulled away, “I know you can do anything you want to. And please know that I will be proud of you no matter what.” Ginny grinned down at him, her mind set on at least going to see Gwenog at Harpies’ stadium. Harry grinned back at her. “Besides,” he said, flipping her over quickly so that he was hovering above her. Ginny suddenly wasn’t tired anymore. “I really need a poster of my gorgeous girlfriend to hang in my cubicle.” Ginny reached up and kissed him, ending all of their conversation for the night.
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Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Author's Notes: Almost at the end now; thanks for hanging in with me :)
Lighting flashed outside of the window of the small cottage in Stinchcombe, and Ginny looked around curiously. The room they had flooed into was small but homey, and it reminded Ginny of the Burrow, despite the slight sense of neglect that hung in the air. The furniture was plain and very old, and it was easy to tell that the house had not been lived in for many years. The house was quiet, magnifying the sound of rain pounding down on the roof and Harry’s footsteps from the hall. He came through the doorway to the sitting room, levitating a stack of boxes in front of him. They landed with a crash on the area rug, a small cloud of dust rising around them.
Ginny wrinkled her nose in distaste and cast a few quick charms to at least rid the place of the settled dust. Harry smiled in appreciation. “Thanks,” he said, taking a seat on the rug in front of the fireplace and pulling a box towards him. “I think we should start with these boxes before we move on to the larger stuff.”
“Remind me why we are here,” Ginny stated as she settled down next to him, peering over his shoulder at the contents of the box.
“A few years ago, I moved all of my grandparent’s things from their house to this one. I don’t like going back there, but this place has no real meaning for me, it has always just sort of sat here.” He looked around at the room they were in, illuminated by the fire behind them and the occasional flashes of lightning through the window. “It has been in the family for ages, it originally belonged to my ancestor Linfred.”
“I meant why are we here today,” Ginny grumbled, reaching into the box and pulling out a photo album. She was excited at the prospect of helping Harry go through his grandparent’s artifacts, but she did not appreciate the early start to the day.
Harry flipped the photo album open. “I thought it would be a good rainy day activity.”
Ginny smiled at a picture of a couple who she recognized as Harry’s parents, holding a baby Harry. “So is staying in bed all day,” she added.
Harry laughed, and turned to press a kiss against her temple. “We can go to bed early, if you’d like,” he said, his voice teasing. Ginny nodded, satisfied, and pulled the photo album into her lap.
She ran her finger down a clearly old picture, in sepia color, of a young boy in old-fashioned robes. He had a wild mess of hair and a familiar nose. “Is this your grandfather?” she asked. Harry looked away from a figurine he had removed from another box and at the picture. He nodded.
“Yeah, he must have been about five years old there.” He turned towards Ginny, flipping through the photo album with her, pointing out particular pictures. There were many of his grandparents when they were young, and then eventually pictures of a young James Potter. The newest photo they could find was of Harry as a baby, and Ginny expressed her frustration of not seeing any more pictures of him as a child.
“Those are probably all in another one,” Harry said, digging through the first box. He pulled something else out. “You’ll like this,” he said, handing her a book before diving back into the box to search for more photo albums. Ginny turned it over in her hands.
“Your grandparents’ Hogwarts yearbook? I used to love looking at Mum and Dad’s when I was little.” She flipped it open and went straight to the Gryffindor pages, running her finger down the page until she found Fleamont Potter. He winked up at her. “You look just like him!” she exclaimed, taking in the state of Fleamont’s hair and the shape of his face. She looked over at Euphemia. “Actually, I think you have your grandmother’s smile.” She grabbed Harry’s chin and turned his face toward her, breaking his focus on the photo album full of baby pictures that he had finally unearthed.
Harry grinned at her, and she nodded in confirmation. “Yes, your grandmother’s smile.”
She turned back to the yearbook, flipping idly through the pages and looking for more pictures of Harry’s grandparents. He would occasionally distract her with a picture that he was looking at, and she had just finished smiling over a photo of Harry riding a hippogriff at his fifth birthday party when something in the yearbook caught her attention. She looked closer at the picture of the Potions Club, rolling her eyes at Fleamont’s name as the leader, and focused on the young woman standing next to Fleamont.
“Hey, Harry, look who this is.” She pointed to the picture and Harry looked, a confused expression on his face.
“Do I know her?” he asked.
Ginny nodded. “It’s Mrs. Parkin. She looks exactly the same.” Ginny pointed to the names listed as the club members. “See, Isobel Mulpepper.”
“Mulpepper? Like Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary?” Harry asked.
“Probably, how common is the name Mulpepper?” Ginny answered. She heaved herself off the floor, intent on making a pot of tea. “That’s a pretty big apothecary, you know, they have a store in Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley.”
She had just reached the doorway when Harry's voice called her back. "Ginny?" She turned to look at him; the room was shrouded in shadows due to the black storm clouds outside, and the backlight from the fire illuminated Harry in a slightly ominous way. He was frowning. "A place like that would have lots of rare potions ingredients, wouldn't it?"
Ginny quickly realized what he was thinking. "You don't think Mrs. Parkin has anything to do with Death Eaters? Or her husband's death?"
"You never know," Harry answered. "There are lots of cases of spousal murder." Ginny stood still, watching Harry. She tried to imagine the frail old woman she spoke to at the funeral as a murderess and Death Eater. She couldn't, but she could see Harry's point.
"Maybe I should go talk to her," she finally said. "She invited me to anytime, and I think it would be a good way to find things out without storming in as Aurors."
Harry stood slowly and walked towards her. "As long as you keep it light. I don't want you finding out the hard way that she is actually a murderer."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "I can handle myself against an old woman, Harry," she said. "It will have to be next week though, I'm going to see Gwenog tomorrow." With that settled, she shivered slightly, suddenly eager to leave this house. "Could we take this back to your flat? This place is starting to creep me out."
A few days later, Ginny found herself at the front door of the Parkin ancestral manor in Wigtown. The elegantly carved 'P' on the door was in stark contrast to the handle shaped like a meat cleaver. Suppressing the thought of bloody weapons, Ginny adjusted her plumb colored robes and knocked tentatively on the door. She had written ahead that she was coming to tea, but there was no sign of preparation for her arrival. As soon as she knocked, however, the door cracked open and a tiny house elf appeared.
"Please follow me, Miss Weasley," the elf squeaked, and Ginny stepped into the house and followed the elf down the hall. The house was large and elegantly decorated, but not ostentatious. A large crystal chandelier hung over the two-story foyer and old paintings looked curiously at Ginny as she walked by.
They entered a large parlor where Mrs. Parkin was sitting, looking out a wide widow at the shore. The house elf announced Ginny's presence, and she found herself seated across from Mrs. Parkin at a low table.
The woman smiled at her. "I'm so glad you came to visit, dear," she said as the house elf began bringing in trays of tea things. Ginny smiled back, suddenly nervous. While she had originally believed it was not possible for this woman to be involved with murder, she had let Harry's paranoia get to her over the past week to the point where she was now second guessing herself.
She picked up the teacup in front of her and brought it to her lips, about to take a sip, before she thought of poison and murder and what Moody would say to her if she accepted a drink from a possible suspect. She brought it back down hard, and the cup rattled on the saucer.
"Mrs. Parkin," she started, intent on getting some answers, "how have you been holding up?"
"It's difficult, but that's life. You come to understand that at my age," she said, picking up a scone and biting into it.
Ginny decided to get to the point. "You know, Mrs. Parkin, I was looking through some old Hogwarts yearbooks and I saw a picture of you in the potions club."
Mrs. Parkin seemed startled at the sudden change in conversation, but laughed. "My, that was a long time ago," she said, taking a sip of tea. "I'm surprised you recognized me."
"You look exactly the same," Ginny said, "but I noticed your maiden name was Mulpepper. Is that any relation to the apothecary chain?"
"Yes, indeed," Mrs. Parkin answered. "It was my grandfather who started the store. He always said I had a particular proclivity for potions. It would have been fun to continue that that business, but it wasn't to be."
Ginny was startled. "You mean you don't own the apothecaries?"
"Own them, yes, but I have nothing to do with them. Back in my day, dear, it wasn't appropriate for a witch to get into business, so I could never get involved in the day to day. Of course I helped Boyd with some of the business for a while, but when he got sick it was too much. And my health had been declining as of late. We made the best decision we could with those stores."
"What decision?" Ginny asked.
"Why, Angus takes care of them. He has for years now." Mrs. Parkin smiled, and gestured to a picture frame on the table beside her. Ginny looked to see Angus Parkin, looking much younger than she had ever seen him, in Hogwarts graduation robes. He was standing with his arms around a few classmates, the one to his immediate right looked slightly familiar, but Ginny couldn't place him. He had short brown hair parted neatly to the side and a serious expression. There was a darkness in his eyes that made Ginny uncomfortable, even through a picture.
"You know Angus," Mrs. Parkin continued, "he is such a good boy. We have the elves here to cook, but he comes by each week with surprises. He never forgets to bring along some crystallized pineapple, it's my favorite." She picked up an unopened package and held it out toward Ginny. "He just brought this one this morning. Have a piece."
Ginny was about to politely decline when she suddenly realized who the man in the picture was. She grabbed the entire package of pineapple, startling Mrs. Parkin. "I have to go," she said, jumping to her feet. "Can I take these?" Mrs. Parkin looked alarmed, so Ginny tried to think of a reason for her behavior. She said the first thing that came out of her mouth. "I just realized it's my boyfriend's birthday, and I didn't get him a present. He loves crystallized pineapple. Do you mind?"
She knew her excuse was weak, but Mrs. Parkin seemed to buy it. "Of course not, dear, but -"
Ginny didn't let her finish. "Thank you. I'll be sure to come again." With that she rushed out, clutching the package of crystallized pineapple to her chest and almost knocking over the small house elf.
Ginny rushed through the Auror Office, still holding tight onto the crystallized pineapple. She hurried to where Harry sat at his cubicle and unceremoniously dropped the package down, trying to catch her breath. Harry looked from her to the package before speaking.
"I prefer Pumpkin Pasties."
"Good," Ginny said, still gasping for breath. "I don't think you want to eat these, because they are poisoned."
Harry's joking expression vanished. "Parkin?" Ginny nodded. "Come on, Moody's got the others in his office." Harry levitated the candies in front of him, and together they walked to Moody's office.
Cho and Michael were already inside, going over files, and Moody was pacing the floor behind his desk. They all looked up as Ginny and Harry entered.
“I know who killed Boyd Parkin,” Ginny said without preamble. “It was Angus Parkin, his grandson.” She looked at the four shocked faces before her. Moody recovered first.
“What makes you think that?” he asked, his voice even.
“Well,” Ginny began, “I went to see Mrs. Parkin this afternoon and she said…”
Moody slammed his walking stick. “Why am I not informed of your actions? If you decided to go see someone related to my case, why aren’t you telling me?”
Ginny flinched, but Harry answered for her. “I knew that she was going.” Moody grunted in acknowledgement.
“So tell me this, why the hell would the grandson want to kill his grandfather?” he asked, his voice angry. His bright blue magical eye was fixed unwaveringly on her, and Ginny swallowed before answering.
“I…” she looked at Harry, unsure if he wanted her to share his theory about the Death Eaters.
Moody scoffed before she had a chance to decide what to say. “Just as I suspected, it’s a load of nonsense. Weasley, you are supposed to be focused on the Quidditch angle, not on the Quidditch players.”
“But, sir,” Ginny pleaded, “these candies are poisoned. I’m sure of it.” She gestured to the package of crystallized pineapple still held aloft by Harry’s spell.
Moody banged his walking stick against the floor once more, and the package crashed down. “I don’t have time for this,” he grumbled, pushing past them all out of his office door. Ginny looked around at the other three.
“Ginny,” Harry began, “what happened with Mrs. Parkin?”
“She said that Angus is in charge of the apothecaries, and that he has been bringing them those candies for a while even though they have house elves. Harry, she said she hasn’t been feeling well either, I think he has been poisoning her too. There’s another thing… she has a picture of Angus from his Hogwarts graduation… he was friends with Barty Crouch Jr., so he might also be a…”
She gave Harry a significant look, still unsure if he wanted her to mention the possibility that Death Eaters were involved. He nodded. “I’ll get these tested, see if they match the poison, and we can take it from there.” He summoned the package and levitated it out the door in front of him, and he squeezed her shoulder on his way out.
“I can’t believe someone would kill their own grandfather,” Cho said, her voice quiet.
“I don’t believe someone would kill their own grandfather,” Michael snapped. Ginny turned to him. “I mean, come on, Ginny, don’t you think this is a little far fetched?”
Ginny narrowed her eyes. “No, Michael, I don’t. Why do you think I would make this up?”
Michael laughed coldly. “Because you are jealous of Angus Parkin, everyone knows that. You don’t need to be catty just because he is a better player than you.”
“Why else would he be on the starting team and you were only on reserve?”
“Michael!” Cho exclaimed.
Ginny was unable to keep the anger out of her voice. “Maybe because his grandparents own the team, Michael. But maybe I don’t owe you any explanation.” With that, she turned on her heal and stormed from the room.
Harry was not at his cubicle, so she just kept walking, entering the lift and considering finding Hermione in her office. Hermione was probably busy with work, so Ginny just kept walking, not paying attention to where she was going. She found herself once again in the doorway of the indoor flying pitch, which was mercifully quieter than the last time she had visited. There wasn’t a line at the broom rental stand, and Ginny quickly got one, kicking off into the air.
It was nearing the end of the workday, and there were only two other people on brooms, flying around the far side of the room. Ginny shot upwards, letting the artificial wind blow against her face, her hair streaming out behind her. Normally when she was flying she felt all of her troubles melt away, but Ginny’s thoughts wouldn’t leave her, they swirled around in a mess of poison, and Death Eaters, and Quidditch players. She flew lazy circles around the sky, watching as the other two people left and she was alone with the gradually setting sun.
“Ginny!” A small figure with long black hair was waving her down, and she flew lower until she recognized Cho.
“Come on up,” Ginny called back, “and bring a quaffle with you.”
She watched as Cho got a broom from the stand and flew up a little unsteadily, with a quaffle tucked under her right arm. They hovered at the same level, watching each other, the wind moving around them.
“I want to apologize for Michael, he shouldn’t have said that.” Cho finally said.
Ginny waved her off. “You don’t have to do that. You weren’t the one who said anything. Besides, I’m used to that from him.”
“Still,” Cho continued, “he shouldn’t talk to you like that. It’s because he’s jealous of you, you know.”
Ginny scoffed. “Why should he be jealous of me?” She held out her hand and Cho tossed her the quaffle underhand. Ginny juggled it in her hands.
“Oh, please. You were good enough of a Quidditch player to get signed by a professional team, and you were good enough to get into the Auror Academy.” Ginny started slowly flying towards the rings, and Cho followed her. “Michael wasn’t even able to get in here on his first try.”
Ginny pulled her broom up short, stopping quickly and spinning around to face Cho. “Are you serious?”
Cho nodded. “He had to retake his Defense Against the Dark Arts N.E.W.T.”
Ginny’s jaw dropped. She looked at Cho, trying to gauge her sincerity, but couldn’t find a reason to suspect her of lying. The sun was setting behind her, casting the enchanted sky in a fiery glow. “Here,” Ginny said, tossing her the quaffle.
Cho caught it, a little clumsy, and together they flew toward the hoops. She tossed it, and it bounced off the edge of the hoop. Ginny caught it on the rebound, and threw it through the hoop.
“Harry was looking for you when I left,” Cho said. “Is there something going on between you two?”
Ginny looked up to see Cho’s smile, and couldn’t stop the laughter from bubbling out of her. They stayed there, laughing and occasionally playing with the quaffle, until the sky grew dark around them.
Back to index
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Author's Notes: This is it! Just a short epilogue left now! Let me know what you think!
When Ginny finally left the ministry that evening, she went directly to Hermione's flat. While Hermione was incredibly blind in some areas - she was still denying a relationship with Ron despite going out with him a few more times and joining them for New Year’s Eve - she was very good at giving professional advice.
Ginny spun out of the grate to see Hermione sitting at her kitchen table, surrounded by large books and piles of parchment. "Hermione?"
"Come in," she answered without looking up. "I'm writing a new draft of my house elf bill."
Ginny plopped into a chair across the table from Hermione and frowned. "Shouldn't you leave work at work?"
Hermione let out a deep sigh, gathering her hair into a messy bun on the top of her head. "What's wrong?"
"What makes you think something is wrong?"
"You're cranky. And you are spending an evening with me." Hermione closed the large book she was reading from and leaned her elbows on it. "So?"
Ginny bit her lip, considering what she wanted to say. "Gwenog Jones offered me a contract as a starting chaser for the Harpies for next season," she said in a rush.
Hermione looked taken aback. "Congratulations!" she said. "So are you going to take it?"
"I'm considering. It's what I've always wanted, you know. But if I do, does that make me just a dumb Quidditch player?"
"Where are you getting that from?" Hermione asked.
"Well, earlier today Michael said something about-"
Hermione jumped out of her seat. "I can't believe you are still letting what Michael says get to you!"
Ginny shook her head. "It's not just him, Hermione. I know that a lot of my classmates think that of me. Hell, Dawlish still does!"
"Who cares what they think!" Ginny had never seen Hermione so incensed about something that was not house elf related. "If that makes you 'just a dumb Quidditch player' then I am 'just a lowly ministry worker.' You need to make your career decisions based on what makes you happy, not what other people think of you."
"You sound like Harry," Ginny mumbled, watching as Hermione began opening cabinets, seemingly at random.
She spun around. "You would do better listening to him than to Michael. Ginny, are you happy now?"
Ginny took a moment to think. "Sometimes. I thought I would like working on this case, but it's mostly paperwork. And now that I think I figured something out, Moody won't even listen to me."
Hermione finally unearthed two wine glasses and picked up her wand, summoning a bottle of wine. "First of all, you need to make him listen to you." She jabbed the bottle with her wand, and the cork flew out. "Second, would you be happier playing Quidditch?"
As she watched Hermione pour the glasses of wine, she thought about it, but it didn't take long for her to realize she didn't need to think too hard.
Ginny was waiting in the crowded hallway outside of Dawlish's classroom the next morning when she saw Harry pushing his way towards her. He came to a stop in front of her, his eyes searching her face.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
Harry shook his head. "Cho told me you were upset yesterday, I wanted to make sure you were okay." Ginny smiled.
"I'm fine. I actually talked it through with Cho."
"Really?" Harry looked skeptical.
She checked to make sure no one she knew was near. "Yeah, and you wouldn't believe what she told me about Michael… I'll tell you later." She finished quickly, seeing them walking towards the classroom.
"Alright," Harry said. "But I also wanted to tell you that I got the results back from the crystallized pineapple, and you were right, they were poisoned. And the same poison that killed Boyd Parkin."
Ginny resisted the urge to cheer, given the somber subject matter. "So Moody will have to listen to me. I'll go tell him after class."
"I figured you would want to tell him," Harry clarified, running a hand through his hair. "I’d better get going," he added, kissing her quickly. Ginny could feel her classmates' eyes on her, but didn't acknowledge them.
"I thought we were being professional," Ginny whispered, trying to hide her smile. She had been trying to convince him for weeks to drop the professional act, but he had been scared of how everyone would react.
Harry shrugged. "In the Auror Office. And I was getting sick of being professional, anyway."
Ginny watched him walk away, steadfastly ignoring the curious eyes of her classmates as they filtered into the room. She sat distracted throughout the entire class, barely paying attention to what Dawlish said and thinking about her upcoming encounter with Moody. By the time class ended, her nerves had escalated to the point where she couldn’t think of anything else. Brushing off Mandy and her obvious desire to ask about Harry, Ginny hurried out of class and to the Atrium, pushing her way past ministry workers headed for lunch break and into a lift.
The Auror Office was quiet when she arrived, and she marched through the maze of cubicles to the offices along the far wall. Moody’s door was closed, but there was light seeping out from underneath. Taking a deep breath, Ginny knocked. When her hand made contact with the door, it swung open and Ginny peeked her head in to see an empty room.
There was no response, and Ginny was about to leave and come back after lunch when a soft gurgling noise caught her attention. She walked into the office, and located the source of the noise emanating from a cauldron in the corner, simmering on a low flame. Ginny approached, her footsteps loud in the otherwise quiet room, and looked deep into the cauldron at the bubbling potion. It resembled dark mud, and Ginny recognized it instantly. “Polyjuice Potion?” she wondered out loud. Moody’s hip flask rested on the table next to the cauldron, empty. It seemed that Moody had not yet added a bit of another person, and the potion was just sitting, ready to be used. It was not unheard of for Aurors to have a supply of Polyjuice Potion, although it was difficult for Ginny to imagine Moody transforming into anyone for any reason.
A sudden rattle from the other side of the room had Ginny spinning around, her wand at the ready. Her eyes locked on Moody’s trunk, tucked against the wall, now sitting innocently still. It was an old, rusted trunk, with seven keyholes in a row. Unlike every other time Ginny had been in this office, a key was resting in the last keyhole, and the lid of the trunk was propped slightly open. It was being held aloft by two metal hooks that descended into the trunk.
Although everything about the situation was telling Ginny to leave as fast as possible, her curiosity got the better of her, and she walked cautiously toward the trunk. She opened the lid even further, peering carefully inside. A thin shaft of light emanating from the torch on the wall slid through the opening, illuminating what looked like Moody’s wooden leg inside. Ginny angled herself to get a better view of what Moody was doing inside the trunk when a bloodcurdling scream echoed from its depths.
Ginny jumped back, letting the lid fall back into place with a thump. Silence fell, and Ginny heard the sound of footsteps from inside the trunk. She hurried out of the office and was halfway across the main floor before Moody’s voice boomed out behind her.
Ginny considered continuing as if she hadn’t heard him, but instead she stopped, took a deep breath, and turned around to slowly face him. He was livid.
“What were you doing in my office?”
“I… I’m sorry, sir,” Ginny stammered. “I just wanted to talk to you about Parkin.”
Moody growled and Ginny recoiled. “I don’t want to hear what you have to say about him, Weasley. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to hear anything you have to say at all. Get out of here!”
The rest of the Aurors in the office had stopped what they were doing to watch the fight. Ginny stood frozen in the middle of the sea of cubicles, unsure of what to do. Moody waited across from her, both of his eyes fixed on her face, the rough angular features of his face standing out more prominently than usual. Ginny looked around at the other Aurors, but none of them seemed willing to help her out. Instead, she nodded and spun on her heal, walking out of the Auror Office.
She walked along the hall in a fog, her mind reeling, and she bumped into someone as she made to enter the lift.
“Ginny! There you are; you wouldn’t believe what I found out about Barty Crouch… what’s wrong?” Harry had grabbed onto her arm to stop her, and Ginny fought to focus her attention on his face.
“Moody said… what about Barty Crouch?” she asked, suddenly alert.
Harry was practically buzzing with energy. “After you mentioned that Angus Parkin was friends with him in school, I wanted to look into more of their shared associates. I told you that Barty Crouch Jr. died in Azkaban. What I didn’t realize was that his mother died shortly after, and then Barty Crouch Sr. died a few months later. I went to talk to their old house elf, and she revealed that Barty Crouch Sr. swapped his son out for his wife, as per her request.” Ginny’s eyes grew wide with shock. “But after Crouch Sr. died, the house elf lost track of Barty Crouch Jr. Ginny, he is alive, and he is out there somewhere!”
Ginny felt like the world was spinning around her, and the answer was just out of her reach. She stood there, in the middle of the corridor of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, looking at Harry’s face but seeing past him. Barty Crouch Jr.’s face from the photograph at Mrs. Parkin’s house floated into her vision. She squeezed her eyes shut, Harry’s hands tight on her arms, and her mind filled with crystallized pineapples and magical blue eyes and trunks with rooms underneath them. When the final piece of the puzzle fell into place, Ginny felt as if the floor had opened up underneath her.
“I know where he is.”
She grabbed Harry’s hand, leading him back the way she had come, through the Auror Office where workers turned their heads to look at her, shocked that she had returned so shortly after being ordered away. The door to Moody’s office sprung open as she approached it, and she and Harry drew to a stop in the doorway. Moody spun around to face them from where he stood in front of the cauldron. He made a sudden movement, but Harry was faster, drawing his wand and disarming Moody before he even got his wand out.
Harry cast binds around the man, and then turned to the cauldron in the corner. “Polyjuice Potion?” he asked, surprised. “Looks like you needed a new batch, so we should be seeing who you really are any minute.”
Ginny hurried over to the trunk against the wall, thankful that the key was still in the lock. She threw the lid open, casting a quick “Lumos!” before peering inside. A man was lying at the bottom of the trunk, missing a leg and an eye but obviously Alastor Moody. “Moody’s in here,” she called back to Harry.
By the time she turned back around, a crowd of Aurors had gathered at the door, and the Moody in front of her began to transform into a different person. They all watched in horror as he began to twitch, his face thinning. The wooden leg fell away as a real leg grew in its place, and the magical eye popped out, spinning around the floor as a second beady eye appeared on his face. The group looked down on Barty Crouch Jr., who was panting heavily.
“That answers a lot,” Harry said, keeping his wand trained on the man. “Tonks,” he called, and Tonks pushed her way into the office. “Do you mind taking over with this one? We have something else to take care of.”
“I would love to,” Tonks answered, looking more serious than Ginny had ever seen her usually jovial instructor. Harry gestured to Ginny to follow him out, and together they squeezed through the crowd as the Aurors began to swarm inside in an attempt to reach the trunk with the real Moody inside.
Harry turned to Ginny once they were alone in the Auror Office. “I think we need to go get Angus Parkin. Care to join me?”
“Of course,” Ginny agreed, “but first we need to get Cho and Michael. This is something they have to see.”
Storm clouds hung ominously over Wanderers Stadium when they arrived. Ginny barely listened as Harry explained their presence to the security wizard, but she pushed ahead once they were given clearance and she walked out onto the pitch first. The team was still practicing, and most of the starting team was in the air. Ginny noticed the reserves sitting in their usual place on the benches.
Ginny scanned the sky, spotting Angus almost immediately. The players were performing chaser drills, and he was at the head of the formation. She took in his carefree posture on his broom, realizing that he had not been tipped off about their arrival.
After a few minutes, Coach Truckle blew his whistle to end practice, and the players began floating down to earth. Harry, who had been waiting patiently beside Ginny, stepped forward.
"Angus Parkin?" he called, his face angled toward the sky. Angus turned on his broom, his smile dropping at the sight of the Aurors. "Please come down here, we would like to speak with you."
Angus looked at Harry and Ginny and then at the rest of his teammates, who were all looking at Angus in surprise. He was frozen for a moment, suspended ten feet in the air, before he spun his broom around quickly and sped off across the field.
Harry raised his wand, but Ginny moved forward without thinking, grabbing a broom out of the nearest player’s hand and taking off.
She leaned down over the handle of her broom, keeping her eyes on the tail of Angus’s broom as he zig-zagged through the sky. She dimly heard screams coming from behind her, unsure if they were calling her back or not, but she did not stop to see. A bolt of red light zoomed toward her, and she ducked down, closer to the handle of the broom as the spell shot over her head, just grazing her hair. Ginny moved to pull her wand out of her robes, but was forced to stop as Angus sent spell after spell at her over his shoulder. She swerved through the air, dodging each of the spells, having to do a tricky barrel roll to avoid a nasty Cutting Hex.
The wards around the stadium prevented either of them from flying past its walls, and so Angus circled around, flying through the center hoop on the far side of the pitch and back toward the benched players.
A bright red spot on the grass caught Ginny’s attention, and she broke from her course of trailing Angus and dropped into a steep dive. Just as she was about to collide with the earth, she reached one arm down, scooping up the quaffle, and pulled up on the handle of her broom, rocketing skywards.
Tucking the ball under her right arm, Ginny bent low over her broom, finally feeling comfortably armed. She sped toward Angus, who was still flying at a neck-breaking speed. Just as he flew through the tallest hoop, Ginny reared her arm back, tossing the quaffle toward him with all of her might. The quaffle collided with Angus’s head with a dull thud, and his broom pitched forward. Ginny, along with the rest of the crowd, watched as he slid almost gracefully from the broom, falling a few thousand feet before Harry’s spell caught him and slowed his process. Ginny floated down almost lazily, coming to join the small knot of people on the field.
The Auror Office was a flurry of activity when they returned from the stadium. Parkin’s arrest was overshadowed by the more important apprehension of a Death Eater within the Ministry’s own walls, but Ginny didn’t mind. She stood in the middle of the chaos, not sure what to do first. On the far side of the room, Harry was talking with Tonks. Ginny considered joining them, but stayed where she was, turning around slowly to survey the rest of the room. The real Mad-Eye Moody stood at the entrance to his office, leaning heavily on his walking stick and scowling, but overseeing the team that was examining his possessions. Dawlish was talking to Cho, who looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there; when they saw Ginny looking, Cho smiled and Dawlish frowned. Ginny smiled back, but her amusement quickly faded when she noticed Michael walking towards her.
“Ginny,” he started, looking directly at her, “can we talk?”
Ginny took a deep breath. “What is it, Michael?”
He shifted his weight from foot to foot, looking unsure of himself. “I wanted to tell you I was wrong.” Ginny raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. “About everything. You were right about Parkin, and you are a good Quidditch player. And you deserve to be here.”
Ginny laughed out loud. “Did Cho tell you to say that?” she asked.
“She certainly had some opinions about you. And then she gave me this.” He took the engagement ring that had been on Cho’s finger for months out of his pocket, looking forlornly down at it. He didn’t expand, but Ginny found that she really didn’t care what he had to say.
“Michael,” she started, but he cut her off.
“There’s something else I was wrong about: us.” That declaration effectively quieted Ginny, and she stared at him in horror. “I shouldn’t have been so rash last summer, and I think we should give it another go.”
Ginny stared at him in disbelief, unsure if she was actually hearing what he was saying. “You have got to be kidding me.” When Michael shook his head, she closed her eyes for a moment, gathering her thoughts before responding. “There’s something you need to understand Michael. I wasn’t upset when we broke up, because that is what I really wanted. You see, I didn’t come here for you. I came for myself.” She took a deep breath and continued. “I felt like I had something to prove to myself, do something that would show that I was more than ‘just a dumb Quidditch player,’” she said, echoing the words that she had uttered to Hermione.
She looked around the room for another moment, letting Michael wait to hear the rest of what she had to say. “But the thing is, I don’t need to do anything to prove myself, I just need to do what makes me happy. And I have figured out what makes me happy. I don’t want to be an Auror, and I certainly don’t want to be your wife.”
With that, she spun on her heal and walked out, not in the mood to explain herself to yet another Auror, or to fill out paperwork, or to speak to anyone else. She finally had a plan for her future, and she wasn’t about to sit around and wait any longer.
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Chapter 10: Chapter 10 - 2 Years Later
Author's Notes: This is the final chapter. I know it's short, but it's really just an epilogue to tie up loose ends. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed this story, I really hope you enjoyed it!
Perfectly patchy clouds hung in the sky over Harpies Stadium in Wales, and Harry wound his way through the crowds towards the Friends and Family box. He had been held up at work with a mound of paperwork on his latest arrest and therefore he was running a little late, but he noticed a sea of bright red hair in the box and hoped that they had remembered to save him a seat. He squeezed through the door, showing the security wizard his ticket, and threw himself down into the empty seat beside Ron.
“What are they saying?” he asked.
Ron grinned. He was dressed head to toe in Harpies attire, half of his face painted dark green, the other half a bright gold. His jersey said WEASLEY on the front and back, a popular knockoff of Ginny’s robes that was sold at the merchandise stands on the lower levels. “10-1, Harpies was the best I’ve heard. Too bad I didn’t place any bets, but Hermione wouldn’t let me.”
“It isn’t right,” Hermione said, leaning around Ron to talk to Harry. Like Ron, she was wearing a replica Weasley Harpies jersey, but had not painted her face. “He shouldn’t be placing bets on his sister’s performance.” She glared at Harry as if he did something offensive.
He held up his hands. “I’m not betting, don’t worry.”
Hermione studied him for a moment as if trying to gauge his sincerity before nodding in approval and sitting back in her seat. She turned her attention to the program in her lap, on which Harry could see the three Harpies’ chasers zooming across the page, and Ron turned to Harry and rolled his eyes. Harry grinned back. Thanks to Ginny’s incessant pushing, Ron and Hermione had finally gotten together, and Harry found himself growing closer to both of them.
The crowd below them was starting to grow restless, waiting for the game to start, and Harry swiveled in his seat to look at the other people sharing the box with him. The entire Weasley family was there. Mrs. Weasley smiled at him from the other end of the row before eyeing him critically, and Harry was sure that she intended on feeding him the moment they returned to the Burrow after the match. From a few rows behind him, Cho waved, and he waved back, smiling while he took in the awed look on the face of her new muggle boyfriend.
Harry thought about the changes in his life over the past two years. After the arrest of a known Death Eater — who was believed to be dead — the ministry discovered a newfound interest in finding and capturing the rest of the Death Eaters. Harry, along with Mad-Eye Moody, headed the investigations, and he had just finished the paperwork on the final capture. Burning his list of Death Eaters was a cathartic experience. Ginny had always been willing to help him, whether emotionally or through actual research and brainstorming, but she had left the Auror Office behind without a second glance. Since joining the Harpies, Ginny’s career had skyrocketed, and she had become something of an overnight celebrity. In her first season with the team, she was able to help bring the Harpies to the playoffs, and this year had contributed to them reaching the finals, as well as the overwhelming odds in their favor.
Cheers emitted from the crowd and pulled Harry out of his musings. He turned back to face the field, ready to watch the game. Below him sat a sea of dark green and gold, as most of the witches and wizards in attendance were supporting the home team in this all-important Final Match. The excitement in the air was palpable.
“Welcome to the Quidditch League’s Final between the Holyhead Harpies and the Tutshill Tornados!”
The announcer’s voice echoed across the stadium, and the supporters erupted in cheers.
“The winners of today’s game will be the recipients of the League Cup! Also at the conclusion of today’s match, we will be announcing the team that won this year’s Josef Wronski Award for Excellent Pitch Skills and which player is given the Dangerous Dai Llewellyn Commemorative Medal. Now please put your hands together for the Holyhead Harpies and the Tutshill Tornados!”
From opposing sides of the stadium, seven players in bright blue and seven players in dark green shot to the sky, a deafening cry emerged from the crowd. Harry scanned the sky, his eyes immediately drawn to Ginny. She was sitting astride her broom, looking more confident than he could have imagined possible, talking lightly to one of her fellow chasers. The wind was somewhat strong, whipping the tail of her robes around her, but she remained steady on her broom. Harry looked closely at Ginny’s face, at the smile that lit up her face and the glow in her eyes. She looked happy, and like she was at home, and he knew that she never would have felt this way about working in the Auror Office.
The referee’s whistle drew the players to the center of the pitch, and the quaffle was shot up into the air. Ginny was the first to reach out and grab it, tucking it underneath her arm and shooting forward. The crowd cheered as Ginny bent low over the handle of her broom, her bright red ponytail dancing behind her and the gold WEASLEY emblazoned on her back gleaming in the patchy sunlight. She feinted left and threw to the right, and the quaffle flew through the hoop.
As more screams from the crowd rang out around him, Harry reached into his pocket and felt for the small velvet box that he had been carrying around for the past few weeks. He had been waiting for the perfect moment to come along, but was slowly realizing that any moment could be the perfect one if he just went for it. He rolled the box around in his hand, watching as Ginny scored yet another goal.
It would be the perfect moment, tonight.
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