Driving Miss Weasley by BigFatMaybe
Summary: It should have been a simple task. Escort Ginny Weasley to her Quidditch match. But it all changes when Harry Potter rents the wrong car. What started out as a simple road trip between two friends and past lovers quickly turns into a hellish game of cat and mouse, and Harry and Ginny find themselves running away from a mysterious and deadly group of mercenaries, through a Scotland plagued by a mysterious infestation of Dark creatures.
Categories: Alternate Universe, Post-Hogwarts
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 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes: Hello. I'm back. Some of you may remember me from another story I wrote, called The Opposing Movement. This story is a bit different. It's a lot shorter, and definitely more action-packed. There's six chapters in total, it's completely finished and edited, and I'm uploading them over the course of the next few weeks. Feel free to leave reviews and any points of critique you may come up with.
My thanks go to Moon_Potato, Alresha, Selethe and NaughtyGaymer, plus all my other friends at the Reddit HPFanfiction IRC. They've been a huge help as betas and sources of inspiration, and I've had nothing but their full support while writing this. Thanks everyone.
The clouds opened up for the first time that morning, and Hogwarts, torn apart by battle, was basked in the rays of a faint, watery sun. Many of the innumerable towers lay in ruins, the blue-tiled roofs had collapsed on themselves, piles and piles of crumbled brick surrounded the courtyard, and the victors of battle had barely begun covering the battered, broken bodies littered throughout the castle. The Battle of Hogwarts was over.
Further away from the morbid scene, three young people stood, halfway across the bridge that crossed the ravine in front of the castle. The smell of dust and blood didn’t reach there. They looked on at the sunrise, and then Harry Potter snapped the Elder Wand in half and threw the remains off the bridge. For now, the three would stand by each other, and grieve for those who lost their lives that night. But Voldemort was finally behind them, and their lives could finally begin.
Thirteen years later
I love my life, Henry Gouwenaar thought. With purpose, he dipped his paddle into the foaming, cold water of the River Nevis and steered his kayak further downstream, toward the next rapids. Further ahead, he saw Iris, his girlfriend of two years, speeding up to tackle the rapids that flowed down between two sharp, rocky riverbanks. She briefly turned to smile at him before she started the descent.
The water wasn’t as high as it was yesterday, and he was glad for that. Even with lower water levels, the stream was incredibly wild and there were plenty of black rocks jutting out of the middle of the stream, ready to take down the inexperienced or unwatchful adventurer. The rapids got closer, his kayak went faster and faster and he kept pedalling as he went down one, two, and three short falls, before arriving in a calmer section. He shook his head and despite the water in his ears, he heard Iris whoop in joy. It was simply amazing. The River Nevis was fast, wild, untamed and perfect for their outdoor holiday. They had started their trek in London and had travelled further north within a few weeks. It had been exciting to slowly travel further from civilisation and English countryside, and into the true wilderness of the Scottish Highlands, where they felt most at home. This holiday was unforgettable (the price too), and he felt thrilled that he could share all this with the girl he had fallen in love with.
Time passed quickly as they tackled fall after fall, and Henry had to conclude that names like ‘Schimitar Gorge’ and ‘Legbreaker’ for some of the falls were fully deserved. The river was treacherous, fast, and so narrow that any small mistake surely meant his kayak would flip over. This wasn’t nearly the first river they’d tackled, though, and as noon arrived they steered their kayaks into a small inlet, got out, pulled the boats onto the steep and rocky bank and sat down next to each other for a lunch break.
They discussed the falls that lay ahead between bites, but most of the time they sat in silence, enjoying the thundering sound of the rapids and the mist-clad slopes of Ben Nevis further into the distance. His panini polished off, Henry stood up, gave his girlfriend a peck on her cheek and climbed down to the river to wash his hands.
He shakily made his way over the sharp and slippery rocks towards the water, but he managed to stay on his feet. He bent over, dipped his hands into the inky black water, and he promptly fell in. He briefly wondered how he could have lost his balance, but then claw marks started to appear all over the arms of his wetsuit at a frightening speed. He looked at his arms in wonder, and then he became aware of the burning pain. The claws tore through the material like it was nothing, blood immediately welled up from the gashes in his wet skin, and the searing pain spread to his legs, his groin, and his face. He heard terrified screaming in the background and the water became a foaming turmoil around him. He tried to swim to shore, but something held him back and pulled him further and further into the river. His life vest was torn from him and his unprotected torso was immediately attacked as well by an invisible mass of claws and teeth that quickly and decisively tore him apart. He tried to shout, but he was pulled under and further into the ice-cold river by the invisible beings. Water filled his nose, eyes, ears and throat and he tasted his own coppery blood in his mouth. He felt his arms being torn from their sockets, his blood and tissue were sucked out from every wound, and when his consciousness slipped away he eagerly accepted his fate, if only to escape this hell.
“What do we have here, then?”
“Grindylow attack. The sixth in the last two weeks already.”
“Bloody mess, innit?”
“We’ve seen worse than this, believe me.” A third man joined the other two.
“Auror Weasley,” they greeted him.
“Proudfoot, Bennett,” Ron Weasley said. “Head Auror’s already on another task and he’ll be gone for a few days, so I’ll assume control over this one.”
“Any particular reason why he’s personally responsible for your sister’s privacy, Weasley?” Proudfoot asked.
Ron’s ears reddened. “Cause he’s the best at that sort of job. And we’ve got work to do here. Fill me in, please.”
Proudfoot spoke up again. “We’ve got a young Dutchman completely torn apart by a school of Grindylows. There’s not much left of him. His girlfriend tried to save him, but she managed to get away from the river at least.” The three Aurors turned to look at a young girl clad in some strange black overall. She sat under an oak tree in the tall, yellowing grass with her arms around her legs, and she stared expressionlessly at the blood-splattered riverbank and the cloth-covered body of her boyfriend next to it.
“We’ll Obliviate her, obviously. The river’s supposed to be very dangerous, that’ll provide enough of an excuse,” Ron said.
“That feels… unethical,” Bennett mumbled.
Ron regarded him for a moment. “This is your first scene, isn’t it?” Bennett nodded. “It always takes some time to get adjusted to the field. I know it’s hard, mate, but we have no choice. The Statute is more important than one person, and there’re plenty of Muggles here who want to see what all these deaths are about. We can’t risk this leaking out.”
“The sixth attack in two weeks,” Proudfoot said again, shaking his head slightly. “What draws them here? I’ve never seen an infestation like this.”
“Damned if I know. But the Ministry is going to have their work cut out for them on this case. There are already a few Muggles with those big, strange recording machines here. Hermione said they’re making a report on this that will be shown on… argh, what was it called?”
“The telly?” Bennett suggested.
“Right, the telly. And then everybody knows about it and they’ll all want to come here and see for themselves what those deaths are all about. I think the longer this keeps up, the more difficult it’s going to be to keep it under wraps. Which means that we’ve got work to do,” he concluded in the business-like tone his Auror coach had drilled into him long ago. “Right, Bennett, I want you to write a report on the scene and I want it on my desk in threefold around four. Proudfoot, you’ve talked to the girl already?”
“Yes, I did. She wasn’t really that helpful, though. Poor thing.”
“Yeah.” Ron hesitated for a moment, and scratched his neck. “Erm, can you fetch the Obliviators quickly? I’ll take a closer look at the river.”
“On it. Don’t fall in while I’m away, Weasley!”
Ron tried to hide his nervousness and got to work.
The car stopped outside a small Sixt car rental along Oxford Road in Manchester, and four men stepped out. It was early in the morning, the city had only just started to warm up under the mid-spring sun, and the rental had only opened an hour ago. There were no customers in the garishly orange office at that moment, and once the manager behind the counter caught sight of the group that entered through the glass doors, he got up and greeted them with a rather skittish grin.
“Is the car ready?” the tallest of four asked without preamble. He had sandy blond hair, a broad posture and walked around with a casualness that befitted a man who was never rebuffed.
“Yes, of course, just like you asked,” the manager replied, refusing to meet the man’s eyes for longer than a split-second. “If you’ll just follow me, gentlemen.” The five went through the door at the end of the office and entered the garage behind it.
The blond-haired man looked around. “I don’t see it,” he said.
“No, I assure you, it’s right there, look!” The manager said. “Look there, right to the left of–”
“Is that the car we ordered you to reserve for us?” the man asked, stepping closer to the visibly cringing owner.
“Yes, it’s the Mercedes, just as you asked!”
The man put his hand on the profusely sweating manager’s shoulder, got his mouth uncomfortably close to his ear, and pointed to the black sedan. “Look at the number plate, mate,” he said, “and let me ask you again. Is that our fucking car?”
“What happened to it?” he asked, still close to the man’s ear.
“What happened to it?!” He shouted. He shoved the manager away from him, who stumbled, but just managed to stay on his feet.
“A man came in this morning,” he said. “J-just an hour ago. An’ he asked for a car, and I must’ve mixed the cars up accidentally. I’m sorry, I really am! I just wasn’t paying attention, honest!”
The four men exchanged furious glances.
“Lads,” the leader of the group eventually said. “I think it’s time we show this bloke that there’s a price for making mistakes.”
The short, saggy manager squealed in pain as he was beaten, kicked, stomped on, and dragged around the garage by his thinning hair. But no one, not even his companions, noticed the leader of the group discreetly cast a silencing charm on the garage, nor did they notice his quick Legilimency probe when he finally held the owner of the rental by his collar and pulled him close to spit in his face.
“Alright,” the blond leader said, slightly out of breath. He let go of the abused man’s collar and let him slump to the ground. “I think our friend here knows how much he’s fucked me now. Don’t you, mate?” The manager swallowed and nodded as he wiped the spit off his face. “Yeah, you know you do. You should be happy too, y’know. I don’t normally get idiots like you get away with this shit so easily. But I’ll make an exception this time, just cause I still need something from you.”
“Anything! I’ll do anything, just, please… stop.”
“Depends on your answer, mate. I need to know who exactly rented this car, and where he’s going.”
The manager nodded and picked himself up off the ground. “I can tell you that. Right this way.”
And the mountains rose on the horizon, and the Auror and his client smiled at each other in excitement.
“Not that I’m not enjoying this, Harry, but remind me again why we’re here?”
“I’ve got three words for you, Ginny: British tabloid press. Rita Skeeter was a kind and considerate woman compared to the hounds they employ these days-”
“Yes, I know that, but why this”–she gestured around the interior of the black Mercedes– “this car? Isn’t it a bit overdone? We could have just Portkeyed in, you know?”
“I’ve got my reasons, I’ll have you know. First of all, we already did that for your trainings and the previous match, and I want to maintain a bit of variation and unpredictability. Keeps those bastards guessing, you know? Second, it’s a Muggle means, and that means less chance for them to find out what we’re doing. They probably don’t even know what a car is, let alone a car rental.”
“Well, any opportunity for us to go on a road trip together shouldn’t be wasted, should it?” Harry grinned. “Seriously, Gin, we’ve hardly seen each other the past year or so, and we’re both so busy all the time. I think we deserve this. No meddling family, no press, no fans…”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she acknowledged. “And I miss you too, you know. But I’ve hardly even been in my apartment lately, with all the extra trainings, signing sessions and press moments and all that. I’m starting to think I need to turn it down a bit, you know what I mean?”
“Yeah, definitely,” Harry agreed. “I mean, I’m only 29 and this Auror job is starting to weigh on me. Remind me again why I agreed to be Head Auror?”
“Because you’re the best at your job, and it’s not even close,” Ginny said seriously. “Remember how bad it was when you first started? You came home exhausted every night, often even after I’d already gone to bed. And you weren’t even 20 years old! It was all because that git Robards had no clue about what he was doing. That whole office was a mess, and it made a complete mess of us.” She didn’t sound as bitter as she used to do when she talked about their time right after Hogwarts, but he still grimaced.
“I don’t want to talk about that time anymore, Ginny.”
They were silent, and they finally reached the foothills of the Scottish Highlands. It would still be a long drive to the Isle of Skye, where the Pride of Portree would play the Holyhead Harpies in a few days, but Harry was prepared for the long trip. That was why he’d rented the most luxurious car that company in Manchester had to offer. There was no way he was going to make them suffer in some small, stuffy metal box.
“So how are things between you and Julie?” Ginny asked tentatively.
“Oh, you didn’t know already?”
He smiled wryly and adjusted his grip on the wheel. “Strap yourself in, Gin, it’s a story and a half. You know it wasn’t going well either way between us?” She nodded. “It didn’t really click, I guess. I was getting completely sick of her constant complaining about my work hours every time I came home late after work–”
“So practically every night?” she asked.
“Just about. Anyway, I think it was about two months ago when I did finally come home on time, and what do you think? I find her in bed with someone from the Hit Wizard office, screaming her bloody lungs out!”
She gasped. “That bitch! What did you do to them?”
“To be honest, I didn’t do anything. I just cast a packing charm on Julie’s stuff and threw her and that bloke out,” he sighed. “I was just so tired of it, you know? She was more a drain on my energy than a girlfriend in the end. And I know those things aren’t mutually exclusive, but the good part of the relationship was missing, you know what I mean?” Ginny nodded. “It was awful, and finding her cheating on me finally gave me an excuse to kick her out.”
“You shouldn’t have gotten together with her, you know. I never liked her,” she said.
“Yeah, you gave her the trademark Fleur treatment last time we were at the Burrow,” Harry said, failing to smother a grin.
“Damn right! You should trust me more you know,” she said. “I am a matchmaking prodigy.”
“Oh? So you just happened to deduce that me and Julie weren’t a match?” he asked. “On first sight?”
“Yes,” she said smugly. “And before you doubt me, let me remind you who it was that brought Neville and Hannah together. And Dean and Seamus, and also Dennis and that girl from Flourish and Blotts!” She pointed to herself with both hands. “Me. Matchmaking prodigy.”
“I should never have doubted you.” he smirked. “But I suppose you’re right, we weren’t a good couple at all. She practically sucked the fun out of everything.”
“I always knew you weren’t into Dementors, Harry,” Ginny said sagely. Harry glared at her. “Oh, lighten up, you’re not the only one with your woes. Remember Mark?”
Harry nodded and tried to ignore the wave of jealousy stirring inside him. “Yeah. Never liked the bloke.”
“See? You have the gift too!”
“How is that a surprise?” he asked. “You’re talking to the man who convinced Ron to pop the question to Hermione!”
“A very good point, Mr Cupid. Anyway, about Mark. A year or so back, we were in a bit of a bad spot together, and I think he had enough of my work hours, so what did the moron do? He made the brilliant decision to drop everything, storm into the Harpies’ locker room after training and demand very loudly that I spend more time with him!” Harry snorted. “And bear in mind that this was the Harpies we’re talking about. He was lucky he came out without being hexed into oblivion, though it wasn’t for a lack of trying, I’ll tell you that. The git was completely nuts!”
“So then what?” he said, grinning.
“Well, after he reattached his hair and managed to get his eyesight back later that day, I just told him it was time for him to get out of my life, and I threw him out,” she said. “I think he still has nightmares about Bat Bogeys to this day, you know.” Harry’s grin turned into a hearty laugh. He had missed talking with her.
They drove on, into the mountains. All the clichés were present today, and the farther north they went, the darker the weather turned, and pretty soon rain started to fall. Harry was very glad with his choice of car now.
“Can we take a pause soon, Harry? My arse is getting sore,” Ginny said.
He didn’t know whether to give her the safe or the risky answer. “We can. I don’t think there’s any proper service stations on these roads, so I hope you don’t mind getting wet?”
He thought he saw her lips twitch. “No, that’s alright,” she replied evenly. “What are service stations again?”
Fifteen minutes later, they stood outside the Mercedes on a small, empty parking lot next to the road, stretching their sore bodies.
“Do you have anything to eat?” Ginny asked.
“Yeah, I left some in the boot, go ahead.”
She walked to the back of the car and rummaged around in the boot for a while. Harry took the moment to admire the foreboding mountains around them. The wind blew small specks of rain in his face and his T-shirt did little to protect him from the cold. It was certainly welcome after a few hours of driving, but the scenery still left him with a strange feeling of unease, like he was making a mistake coming up here.
“What are these?” she asked hesitantly. She popped up next to the car, in her left hand a set of balaclavas, and in her right hand something that was unmistakably a very large semi-automatic rifle.
Dread seeped into his body. He cursed. “Put that away, Ginny. Now,” he said. He touched his wand strapped to his forearm and frantically looked around. No one had seen the weapons, and there was nothing nearby that looked like an ambush, but he knew how quickly that could change.
“Are there any more of those in there?” he asked after she’d put the rifle away.
“Yeah, there’s loads, come look.”
He briskly marched over toward her and peered in as well. The boot was completely stuffed with rifles, smaller handguns, ammunition cases, balaclavas and even a few grenades. He wondered how he’d missed it when he threw the sandwiches in it earlier that morning.
“I’ll explain later. Just close the boot and get in. We’re leaving.”
“What was that thing?” she asked as she sat down and closed the passenger door.
“Buckle your seatbelt, Ginny.” He turned the key, the heavy engine came to life, and he turned the car out of their parking spot. “Right. We kill our kind with deadly spells, right?” Ginny nodded. They picked up more speed. “Muggles don’t have wands, so they use other means. What you had there was a very, very dangerous and very expensive gun.”
“I’ve heard of those.” They reached the end of the parking lot and entered the main road. There weren’t many cars around them, and he hoped that none of them had seen the weapon in Ginny’s hand. “But why are you so worried, Harry?”
He glanced at his rear-view mirror as much as he watched the road ahead. The rain poured down more and more and his windshield wipers zoomed across the windscreen at full speed. Ginny seemed mesmerized by them. “Guns aren’t easy to get in this country, Ginny. Especially not the kind you had in your hands. The only ones who own those guns are the kind of people you don’t want to meet. And I don’t know how it got in our boot, but I suspect this car was meant for someone else…”
“Someone who wants to use that gun,” she said, breaking out of her trance from watching the wipers. “Shit, Harry, what are we going to do?”
He rubbed his unshaven chin in thought. “I don’t want to use magic yet, because we’re surrounded by Muggles, but I could send a Patronus to the other Aurors if we need to,” he said. “But we’re not in trouble, at least not yet, so I say we just carry on for now.”
“Okay, but,” Ginny hesitated. “I haven’t exactly kept up with my defence, Harry. At all. Not since the battle…”
“It’s okay, we’ll probably be fine. But if it does go south, just remember that you’ve got an Auror with you.” She didn’t seem too convinced. “Hey, it’s going to be okay. They’re probably Muggles anyway, so we can just use magic if they become a problem. Try not to worry too much, I’m with you.”
“That’s because you’re only in it for the money, isn’t it?” Ginny said. Harry didn’t hear much humour in her voice, though.
“That’s me,” he said lightly, and he briefly smiled at her. “Harry Potter: bounty hunter.”
She laughed softly. “I’m glad you’re here, Harry. It’s been too long.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. Something that he hadn’t felt for a very long time stirred in him, but at that point were interrupted by the highly unexpected arrival of a Patronus in between them, and the strangely emotional mood was broken. The Patronus was a large hound, floating above the gear stick and running at full speed to keep up with the car, and Harry recognised whose it was immediately.
“Bloody hell, that’s Savage, one of the Aurors!”
“Shh, quiet!” Ginny hissed.
“There’s been a change of plan, Potter. Credible threat against your protégé. Pull the car over, please.” The Patronus disappeared as quickly as it came.
“Is he mental? We’re surrounded by Muggles here, what if they saw it?!” Harry said. He doubted they would notice, driving fast as they were, but still...
“What kind of threat did he find, d’you think?” Ginny asked.
“No idea. There’s a petrol station a few miles up ahead, and we need to refill at some point anyway, so let’s go there, fill up, and then park somewhere and call him.”
When he got on the turnoff, he noticed a big, black car behind him do the same. Harry had been an Auror for long enough to know not to dismiss initial fears as simple paranoia, and he briefly touched his forearm to feel his holstered wand. The touch always calmed him down in these kinds of situations. When he pulled up to the pump, the car following them stopped next to him. Harry was ready to floor it and drive away, and then the window rolled down and it revealed Auror Callum Savage behind the wheel.
“Alright, Harry?” he called, smiling in what looked like a friendly manner. “You fill up, I’ll wait for you on the car park! I need to speak with you.” With that, he drove off.
“What’s he up to?” Harry muttered to himself. After refuelling and paying the lady behind the register inside the little shop, he got in the car again.
“Keep your wand ready, Ginny,” he said as he buckled his seatbelt. He started the engine.
She stared at him. “But he’s one of yours,” she said. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking he somehow knows where we are, he’s been driving behind me in a car that I’ve never seen him in before, together with three passengers I’ve never met before. Plenty of reason to be suspicious, I think.”
She cursed. “And what if he does something?”
He ran his hand over his face. “An Arresto Momentum could stop the car. But I don’t want this car to fall into the hands of the wrong people, not with all those guns in the boot.” He quickly made up his mind. “I’m going to try to drive away, but if he does manage to stop the car, Apparate to the car park we were at earlier, where we discovered those guns. Got that?”
He slowly drove away from the pump, past the shop and onto the car park. It was nearly empty, only a handful of cars and a few lorries were there, dotted around the drab grey field. The picnic tables were all deserted. Savage’s black SUV was parked further away, against the treeline, and the tall, blond Auror that Harry had known since his training at the start of his career stood casually next to it. He pulled up next him, and opened his window when Savage knocked on it.
“What’s going on, Savage? And why did you think it was a good idea to send me a Patronus when I was clearly in a Muggle area?” Harry asked, outwardly hiding his nervousness as best he could. He turned the engine off, even though his instincts screamed against it.
“Sorry boss,” Savage said pleasantly. “But I’ve received a credible threat against Miss Weasley here.” He nodded to Ginny. “And I couldn’t think of another way to let you know so quickly.”
“Alright,” Harry said. “So how did you get here so quickly? How did you get that car, by the way?” He matched his colleague’s nonchalant tone, but his foot hovered over the accelerator, and his hand touched the gear stick, ready to shift, reverse out of the parking spot and leave.
“That’s a lot of questions,” Savage chuckled. “It’s not really a flashy story. I live nearby, see, and this car’s mine. Never took it to London, though, so I don’t think you’ve seen it before. Quite a looker, isn’t she?”
“Harry?” Ginny whispered beside him.
“Yeah, it is! Anyway, we could talk all day, but you did say you had a reason for seeing us. What threat did you mean to talk about?” Ginny was still furtively pulling his sleeve to try and grab his attention. Harry quietly waved her away and hoped Savage didn’t notice.
“Oh, it’s a letter we intercepted, and quite an alarming one,” the Auror said. “I’ve got it in my car, so just get out for a minute, an’ I’ll show it to you.”
“Alright. But can I ask you something, Callum?”
Savage’s cheerful expression wavered somewhat and Harry saw his hand twitch. “Yeah, of course. What is it?”
“Why are all these men surrounding our car?”
The whole atmosphere changed instantly. Any trace of friendliness left Savage and he barked something to the other men behind his car as he lunged at Harry. Ginny’s wand was out in an instant, but Harry had already put his car in reverse and he steered backwards. Someone shouted behind them and he heard a loud thunk when collided with someone.
“Go, Harry, go!” Ginny shouted. He shifted gear and sped away with screeching tires, just before Savage could open the door on Ginny’s side. Their assailants, one on his back, and the others already running to Savage’s car, steadily became smaller in the mirrors as he exited the parking lot and rejoined the road.
“What the fuck was that?” Ginny asked beside him.
“I don’t know!” Harry said. “Well, at least he didn’t cast a spell on the car. Did you recognise any of them?”
“No, of course I didn’t! Why would I recognise them?”
“I’m trying to find out what’s going on, cause something very, very bad is happening. Are they following us?”
“I don’t know, I can’t see them, anyway. God, these mirrors are useful.”
“Alright.” He paused and ran his hand through his hair. “Shit, Gin.”
“Yeah, this isn’t exactly what I imagined our road trip would be like,” she said. Harry didn’t laugh. He overtook a row of slower cars, and Ginny flinched when someone honked at them.
“Be careful!” she snapped at him.
“We’re in the middle of running the bloody hell away! We can worry about speeding tickets later,” he bit back.
“I know, but that doesn’t mean you have to get us killed in the meantime!”
“Fine, you can drive then!”
“I can’t drive for shit, Harry!”
For a brief moment they glared at each other. Then Harry breathed out, focused himself on the traffic again and slowed down a bit.
“I thought you used to drive your dad’s new car?”
“Only because it’s got loads of protective charms on it,” Ginny said. “I mean, I know how to drive I guess, but unless you really want an accident, it’s best if you stick to the driving today.”
“Shouldn’t we alert the other Aurors?” She asked a while later. “We’re just the two of us, and there were at least four of them.”
That made him pause. “No. No, we can’t alert them. And we can’t use magic either.” He cursed, his stomach feeling very heavy as the full scope of their problems sunk in. “We’re in deep shit, Ginny.”
“Let’s just put it this way: if Savage has gone rogue, and until today I reckoned he would be the last person to do so, who’s to say the others aren’t? What if there’s something going on at the Ministry as well? We don’t know anything at this point, and I’m not going to make some stupid risk by sending a Patronus to Ron or the others. And we can’t use magic, because if there really is something rotten in the Ministry, they’re bound to pick up any magic cast in Muggle areas, so we can’t risk that either.”
“So what do we do, then? Just drive? Shouldn’t we try to find out what’s happening?”
“To be honest, I was thinking that as well. But I don’t like the fact that they’re using guns. Shield charms don’t really block bullets as far as I know, so this could be really dangerous. No, I say we keep driving for the moment.”
Back to index
Chapter 2: Chapter 2For some reason, they didn’t see Savage’s car anymore the rest of the afternoon. They tried to stay alert but it was hard to do so with the steady, neverending stream of cars that passed by. But the anxiety ate at Harry, and he couldn’t stop thinking about what could have possessed his colleague to try and ambush them, and whether there was something very bad happening at the Ministry. Ginny, in an effort to keep their nervousness in check, decided to chat about Quidditch to keep him from fretting too much. She talked about the uncertain mood in the Harpies team now that Gwenog Jones, the head coach, had announced her retirement after this season. Seeing as the Harpies were still in a race for the title with the Appleby Arrows, every game counted and Ginny found herself and the team spending more time than ever on the training pitch.
“Everyone hates Gwenog at this point,” she said. “I mean, we love her–”
“Especially you,” Harry added, remembering the life-size poster that used to hang prominently in their living room.
“Maybe,” Ginny hid a smile. “But she deserves her last title, you know? She’s a club legend, she deserves it.”
“Oh, definitely. But do you think you can win it this year? The Arrows have never been better.”
“Yeah, I know. But we will win, Harry. I just know it, this year is our year,” Ginny declared.
They drove on, further into the highlands, and there was still no sign of Savage.
“How’s the Auror work going?” Ginny asked.
“Oh, well, as you can see, it’s going pretty well,” Harry said. “I’ve taken the task of escorting some pretty Quidditch player to her next game, and aside from a rogue wizard chasing after us and having illegal weapons in the boot, I’d say I’m doing fine,” Harry said. “What do you think?”
“Oh, I think you’re wonderful, Auror Potter,” Ginny said, her lips twitching.
“So how’s the Auror work going?” She held up her finger to cut Harry off. “And no jokes this time, Potter.”
“No jokes? Ginny, you’re starting to sound just like Julie!” Harry said. Ginny’s suddenly thunderous expression told him he’d definitely crossed a line with that remark. He cleared his throat.
“Anyway,” he said. “Until recently, it was going really well. The team’s finally decently competent, Ron’s a lot calmer in the field, now that he and Hermione are engaged and with Kingsley as Minister I don’t have to worry too much about politics anymore.”
“But…?” Ginny pressed.
He sighed. “It started with this odd message we received, maybe a few months back. Some wizard in Fort William, farther north from here, said he saw masses of Dark creatures swim by his house one night. Grindylows, Red Caps, even a Sea Serpent, he said. You can see why we’re a bit sceptical. It’s unheard of. Anyway, we went to this man’s house and apparently he was quite old and not exactly sane anymore. I was there with a rookie, his name’s Bennett, and we just wanted to leave, but then he became desperate. Poor Bennett was pretty unsettled by him,” he said. “So then we decided to place a few monitors around the water that would alert us if magical creatures came near it. Sure enough, when I go into my office the next morning, the Detectometer on my desk was completely stuffed with notifications. Apparently, at least a couple dozen of Dark creatures swam past the sensors that night.”
“So what next?” Ginny asked.
“Well, next thing we needed to do was find out what was making them behave like that. But that’s a bit hard to do in a Muggle area, so we didn’t make much headway in the case. And then the reports of these horrific accidents started to trickle in. Lots of tourists and some pretty well-known filmmaker from America all died in a few days along the water. All ripped apart by those Dark creatures. By the way, that rookie Bennett had to be there at every scene, poor bloke. He chose the wrong time to join us.”
“Get to the point, Potter.”
“Patience, Weasley,” he said. “The strange thing was, the first time I was there at the scene of one of those killings, something really odd happened.”
“I’m getting there,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but I suddenly really wanted to jump in the water. It was next to a river, you see. But it almost felt like I was being held under the Imperius curse. And if Ron hadn’t been so attentive, I would have jumped in the water without hesitation.” He shivered. “Given the amount of Grindylows there, that wouldn’t have ended well.”
“I’ll have to buy Ron a good lunch soon,” Ginny said. “Do you know why that happened to you?”
“That’s the mystery. We don’t know. We scanned the river for any spells or enchantments, but there was nothing. I was the only one affected too. So I went back to the Ministry and apparently someone had told Amelia Bones what happened. She came into my office just after lunch that same day and more or less forced me to stay away from the case.”
“So I’ll need to buy her a good lunch too, then. Isn’t she retiring, by the way?”
“Not until there’s a decent replacement for the head of the DMLE,” Harry said. “She’s seen what happens when you let incompetent people lead the Ministry, so I think she decided she wouldn’t resign until after her successor is appointed.”
“And who might that elusive successor be?” Ginny teased.
“Well, me, of course, if she had her way. But could you really see me in her position? That much office work would make me barmy in less than a week!”
“Even more barmy than you are now?” Ginny asked.
“Just a bit,” Harry said, smiling slightly.
“So is that why we’re doing this road trip instead of a quick Apparition? You got kicked off your main case?”
“Well,” Harry hesitated. “I mean it does leave me with more time for now, but, erm…”
“Or is it because you couldn’t resist me?” Ginny mused.
“Erm… Yeah, I guess I can’t,” Harry said. “In a… friendly way of course!”
“Yeah, of course.”
The sun hadn’t shown itself since they’d entered the Scottish Highlands, and their spirits were dampened by the happenings of that day, not to mention the endless traffic jam they found themselves in due to an accident further ahead that blocked off the whole road. Finally, when they arrived at a town called Glencoe, they were too hungry and tired to continue. They hadn’t seen Savage ever since that incident at the petrol station, and so they thought it safe enough to escape the jammed road and seek out a restaurant in the area. They found a small, inconspicuous place just off the route, parked their car out of sight of the adjacent road, and went inside.
It wasn’t really anything special, Harry thought as he closed the door behind them. The central room was dimly lit and strewn with dark wooden tables and chairs, about half of them occupied by other guests. The small stereo set in a corner played pop songs that Harry remembered from his childhood at the Dursleys. A bar laden with whiskys and other liquors stood at the far end, and the gruff looking bartender behind it nodded at them when they entered. They greeted the man back and sat down at a table as far away from the main road as possible. A waitress arrived at their table almost immediately.
“Can I get ye some drinks?” she asked them after she’d handed them the menu.
“I’ll have a Coke, please,” Ginny said. Harry ordered the same. The waitress nodded, wrote it down and disappeared through a door behind the bar.
“So, Miss Weasley,” Harry said. He leaned back in his chair. “This has been a while.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it has,” Ginny said. She smiled at him, and then ducked behind the menu card. Harry did the same and neither said anything for a while.
“The salad looks good,” he commented eventually.
“Hmm.” Another moment of silence.
“Salmon would be nice, too.”
“Or the pulled chicken.”
“Oh, yeah, good one. Those pastries on the side sound tasty.”
Again a pause. Then they looked up at the same time.
“Steak?” Harry asked.
“Steak,” Ginny agreed.
The waitress came to their table not long after with their drinks. “Can I get yer order?” she asked.
“Two steaks, please,” Harry said. “And…”
“Extra chips, please,” Ginny finished.
“How d’ya want yer steaks?”
“Medium, please,” Harry and Ginny said. The waitress finished writing and left again.
“I’ve been thinking,” Harry said. He remembered to stop himself from casting a Muffliato around the table.
“Yes. We need to figure out what we’re going to do now.” He sipped his Coke. “Calling the Aurors is out of the question, obviously, so we’ll have to go on by ourselves for now. That was what we agreed on, but it’s not really a well thought-out plan.”
“But we can at least contact Ron, right? He won’t have anything to do with this,” Ginny said.
“We don’t know anything, Ginny. For all we know someone’s monitoring the Aurors, maybe they’re even stalking them. We can be sure that they’re monitoring us as well. But for all we know, Ron could be watched, he could be poisoned, he could be Imperiused, or worse. The Auror handbook actually covers a scenario where one of your colleagues turns on you. And that chapter concluded that you should consider the entire office compromised until you’re absolutely certain it’s not.”
“Yeah, but you wrote that handbook just about singlehandedly,” Ginny said. “I know you and Ron were both assigned to it, but I know my brother well enough that he didn’t write a single page.”
“Ron helped!” Harry protested. Ginny gave him an exasperated look. “Okay, I wrote it, and Ron gave helpful suggestions. Happy?”
“Yes,” Ginny said sweetly.
“Anyway, regardless of whether I wrote it or not, I still think it’s best not to try to contact anyone, not even Ron or any of your brothers.”
“You’re the Auror,” Ginny said. “So we just drive on to Portree and see what happens once we get there?”
“I guess so. I don’t really know what else we can do.”
“We can eat those incoming steaks, for starters,” Ginny said, nodding at the waitress approaching their table. The restaurant may have looked a bit uninspiring, but the sight and smell of a steaming, juicy steak on the table in front of him made Harry’s mouth water. They tucked in immediately.
“Oh, it’s been too long,” Ginny moaned after the first bite. Harry fully agreed with her. They didn’t say much during their meal. Ginny occasionally stole a chip from Harry, despite the extra portion she’d ordered for herself, and all too soon their plates were empty. Outside, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and sleet whipped past the small windows of the pub. The hilltops in the distance were fully hidden behind low-hanging, iron-grey clouds, but inside, Harry and Ginny, to the voice of George Michael, leaned back in their chairs to give their bulging tummies more space. But Harry didn’t allow himself to feel drowsy, even though the smooth saxophone in the background was making it very difficult for him not to.
“I wonder what Savage is up to,” he said.
So I’m never gonna dance again…
“Mmm?” Ginny obviously was obviously too busy with the afterglow of their meal. As much as Harry enjoyed the sight of her, blissfully content as she looked, they had a serious problem they needed to address.
“I said I was wondering what Savage is up to.”
“Mmm, don’t ruin the moment, Potter.”
We could have been so good together…
Harry decided on another tactic. “I want to ask you something very important, Ginny,” he whispered, feigning nervousness. That did the trick. She finally opened her eyes, and for a moment Harry couldn’t look away from her tender gaze, and her soft, warm, and so inviting smile. The saxophone wept dreamily in the background, and a glow spread through his chest as he gazed at the woman he should have moved on from so long ago.
“Are you going to talk?” she asked amusedly.
“Hmm? Oh right, yeah.”
“You were saying you wanted to ask me something very important?”
“Yeah. No, I didn’t,” Harry stammered. “I just wanted you to wake up.”
“Well, it worked,” Ginny said. She leaned forward and put one elbow on the table. “Are you sure you don’t have anything to tell me?”
“Are you disappointed?” Harry asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“I might be, Potter,” she said. Then she seemed to wake from her drowsiness. Her playful look noticeably disappeared again and she leaned back in her chair, away from him. “So why did you want to wake me up?” she asked.
Harry leaned back as well. “Well, I don’t know if you’ve forgotten, but we’re being chased by a dangerous wizard. As much as I want to stay here a bit longer, we need to get a move on.”
Ginny sighed. “You’re right. I mean, I’d love to take a quick nap here, but that’s not the best idea right now. Who’s paying?”
“That’s a perk of this job: the Ministry’s paying for us,” Harry said. The room didn’t seem so toasty warm as it did a minute ago, and Harry wished Ginny hadn’t stopped her teasing. He scooted back his chair, stood up and moved to the bar at the far end of the dimly-lit room to pay for their meal.
A little while later they walked across the car park towards their car, both lost in their musings. The spring evening was quiet, and the rain seemed to have finally stopped. Harry wondered why Ginny stopped her flirting just now. Did she not like him anymore? Or was it because she didn’t want a relationship? Should he even read that much into it? But he stopped himself from pondering those questions too much; they had more important things to think about at the moment, after all.
“I asked the man at the bar about the traffic,” Harry said, breaking the silence between them. “He said the whole road’s blocked due to the accident. We’ll have to follow the nearby loch all the way to go around it.” They reached their car and stepped in.
“How long will that take?” Ginny asked after closing her door.
“At least an hour.”
“And how long until the road opens up again?”
“We don’t know. But Ginny, it’s late, we’re both tired and in danger, and we don’t know what’s happening. We could also find a secluded area and stay there for the night.”
“Trying to get me all alone, I see,” Ginny quipped, but without much conviction. “Would we sleep in the car?”
“You underestimate me, Ginny,” he said, and with a dramatic flourish he conjured from under his seat a small plastic bag with a drab logo on the side. Ginny regarded it with a disenchanted look.
“I had Hermione do her Undetectable Extension charm on this,” Harry continued. “There’s a tent in here I loaned from a colleague in the office. I haven’t seen it on the inside, but he said it’s big enough for the two of us.”
“And that colleague of yours wasn’t called Savage by any chance?”
“No, don’t worry. It was some young bloke from another team. It should be safe, I think. Besides, we won’t have to use any magic to set it up, so as long as we stay hidden from the main roads, there’s no way Savage will find us that way.” He kept the fact that the tent was originally made for that bloke’s honeymoon to himself. He hoped the interior wouldn’t be too mushy.
“Alright then,” Ginny said. “Where do you want to set it up? I didn’t see many forests when we drove here.”
“No, me neither. But I asked the man at the restaurant, and he told me there’s plenty of forest further around the loch.”
“So let’s go there, then.”
“Let’s just hope Savage doesn’t have the same idea,” Harry mumbled, and he started the engine.
In the end it took them more than half an hour to find a suitable area. Eventually though, Ginny spotted a dense birch forest further up the hill, and after some careful manoeuvring, Harry managed to bring the car up the fairly steep hillside and into the cover of the trees. When they finally managed to set up their tent, the sun had long disappeared behind the hills at the seaside end of the loch, and the cold gusts of wind spilling over the hilltops made them glad to finally be able to enter their tent.
“Fancy place,” Ginny commented, looking around the modest living room and kitchen. “Not much worse than my apartment.”
“I’ve grown too used to Grimmauld Place myself,” Harry said. “I’ve become a snob.” He walked into the kitchen.
“Do you think there’s something in the fridge?” Ginny asked him.
He opened the fridge. “No, there’s nothing here. I did find some tea bags and a kettle, though. Would you like some tea?”
“That’d be lovely, thanks,” Ginny replied.
Harry busied himself with the kettle, and a while later the two sat next to each other on the black leather couch, a candle peacefully burning on the small coffee table in front of them.
“What a day,” Ginny commented.
“Thanks for the tea, by the way.”
Harry hummed in response.
“It’s hard to imagine that I’m still playing a game in two days,” she said thoughtfully. “Seems so far away now, doesn’t it?”
Harry didn’t reply.
“Are you awake?”
“Only because you can’t shut up,” Harry joked.
“Never lost your tact, I see,” Ginny tutted. She seemed to consider something for a brief moment. Then she leaned over and set her mug on the table. She shifted in the couch and slowly settled against him, her head leaning on his shoulder. That same, familiar warmth settled in Harry’s stomach, and he wrapped his arm around her middle.
“I’ve missed you,” Ginny murmured, her eyes closed. A lump formed in Harry’s throat.
“I’ve missed you too.” He tightened his grip slightly, and felt a faint glimmer of hope inside him. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all lost yet.
“Come on,” she said, halfway through the candle and long after their mugs were empty. “Let’s go to bed.”
Harry felt a reaction in his groin instantly. “You mean…”
“What?” She sat up and turned towards him.
“You mean, um…”
Ginny continued to stare at him quizzically, but then the penny dropped. “Oh! Harry, I didn’t mean…”
“No! No, me neither,” Harry said quickly.
They got up, blew out the candle, set the mugs in the kitchen and moved towards the bedroom, but Ginny froze in the doorway.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked.
“Well,” Ginny began. “The interior choices are… special.”
“How so?” he asked.
“Take a look,” she said, and she moved aside to let him in.
Harry didn’t know exactly what to expect from the tent when Samuel from the Auror office lent it to him, but he didn’t expect the bedroom to be furnished as a marital suite that was far more extravagantly decorated compared to the living room. The carpet was soft and white, the walls were plastered and painted in a light, heavenly blue colour, and white see-through curtains hung in front of the luxuriously paned windows. On the bedside desk lay a box of ornately decorated chocolates, but the large, two-person bed, covered with red and white linens and countless pillows caught Harry’s attention the most.
“Stylish,” he said.
“You could say that,” Ginny said, her voice brimming with anger. She pushed him outside the bedroom. “Did you know about this, Potter?” she demanded, putting her hands on her hips in a scarily accurate imitation of her mother.
“No, I didn’t! I hadn’t even looked inside this tent before today!” Harry protested.
She advanced on him. “Right, and I’m supposed to believe that? Is that what this ‘road-trip’ is about?”
“No!” He stepped back and gripped the armrest of the couch in anger. “Ginny, that’s absolutely not what this is about!”
“Did you think this was a funny way of trying to get us back together, is that it?”
“What? Come on, you know me better than that! How could you think that of me?”
“Yeah, I thought I did too when we moved to Grimmauld Place together! Turns out you loved hunting Death Eaters more than anything else.”
Harry huffed in annoyance. “I did what I had to do! Or did you want those Death Eaters to walk around freely? Killing more Muggles? Didn’t you want the Carrows locked up immediately, after their year at Hogwarts?”
Ginny’s eyes widened for a moment, and took on a dangerous glint. “Don’t you dare use that on me, Potter. And I know what you did was important, in fact,” she poked him in the chest, “I completely agreed with you! I still do! It just didn’t work out between us, and I moved on.” Her voice promised imminent violence. “We broke up years ago, and I moved on. I thought you were smart enough to do the same.” Alarmingly, she grabbed her wand from her jean pocket.
“I did!” Harry said. “Or has it escaped your notice that I had a girlfriend until very recently? And don’t point that wand at me!”
“Oh yes, and you were blissfully happy together, weren’t you?” Ginny argued, her voice rising, and her wand still loosely pointing in his direction, occasionally shooting out sparks. “Is that why she cheated on you? Honestly, anyone but you could see that the bitch was completely wrong for you, and you broke up months ago, so don’t give me that shit about a bloody girlfriend!”
“Enough about Julie!” Harry roared. “This has nothing to do with her! Besides, you don’t hear me talking about that annoying git Mark either, do you?”
If possible, Ginny’s expression became even more furious. “You’re damn right I don’t, and you’ll never mention him to me again if you know what’s good for you! I decide who I go out with! Not my parents, not my brothers and least of all you, with this bloody tent of yours!”
They stood there, panting at each other. Harry felt heat rising in his cheeks, and he breathed in deeply to calm himself down.
“Ginny,” he said, harsher than he intended. He took another breath. “Ginny, I promise you that I didn’t know about this. I should have asked Samuel about it, but I honestly didn’t think of that.”
Ginny sighed, and she shook her head. “Right. Well, think better next time. I’ve got a game to play in a few days, remember, and I just can’t deal with this now.”
He wanted to argue about that, but he stopped himself before he opened his mouth. “I can sleep on the couch if you want to,” he suggested instead.
“That thing is not nearly long enough for you,” Ginny said. “Honestly, it’s fine. The bed’s plenty big enough for us two, so let’s just get this over with.”
Brushing teeth had never been more awkward. The romantic furnishing apparently continued into the bathroom, and even though the tent wasn’t so luxurious that it contained a Jacuzzi, the slightly pink sinks sprinkled with rose petals, and the large walk-in shower did enough to create a very romantic mood. Obviously the majority of Samuel’s bed had gone into the two rooms the newlyweds spent the most time in. Harry tried not to meet Ginny’s big brown eyes in the ornate mirror above the sink, and decided to closely inspect the specks on the ceiling instead.
“I want to get up early tomorrow,” Harry said as they exited the bathroom again. “We should be in Portree before noon if we do, and then we’ll still have plenty of time to poke around and maybe try and find out what’s going on with Savage.”
“Fine by me.”
“I’m just saying it so you know you can’t sleep in tomorrow.”
Ginny grunted in response, but didn’t say anything further. Their argument from before still fresh in their minds, they changed into their nightclothes and stepped into the oversized bed, each on their own side and with a considerable distance between each other. Harry wanted to wish her goodnight, but it didn’t feel right after their argument. He switched off the lights without further comment. He placed his glasses on his bedside table, turned his back to Ginny, sighed deeply and quickly slipped into a deep sleep.
Before he opened the front door to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, Harry looked at his watch again. He wished it was lying, that it was somehow broken and that it wasn’t really almost nine in the evening. But the battered gold watch Mrs Weasley had given him for his seventeenth birthday had never missed even a second, and that wasn’t any different now. Harry really was in deep shit, and no fluke would help him out this time. With a dreadful feeling in his stomach, he pushed the key inside the keyhole, turned it, and slowly opened the door.
The corridor was dark and empty, which wasn’t too unusual, given that Mrs Black’s volatile portrait still hung here, but the whole house seemed more quiet than usual. He hung his coat up, and the door closed behind him on its own accord with a soft click. He felt like there was something about the atmosphere in the house tonight that made him feel on edge, like he was an intruder in this eerie quietness.
He stepped into the kitchen and looked around. None of the lights in the large room were on, but Harry couldn’t bring himself to turn them on. Only a small fire burnt in the hearth to his right, but instead of giving off warmth it seemed cold, dead. Near it, in her favourite sofa and with her back turned to him, sat Ginny.
“I left you some supper,” she said without looking up from the fire. “It’s still on the stove, you’ll have to reheat it.” Harry heard his own sadness reflected in her voice.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said. His voice cracked.
Now Ginny did move. She unfolded her legs, stood up, and slowly walked towards him.
“You’re late again,” she said softly. She stopped right in front of him and crossed her arms.
The fire reflected faintly in her brown eyes, but her look was as cold as the house felt. He turned to the stove, just so he wouldn’t have to meet her gaze anymore, waved his wand to turn on the small kitchen light and started to reheat the simple potato dish that was still in the pan.
“It’s the damn case, Ginny,” he said. Ginny scoffed in annoyance behind him. “No, seriously, we’re so close to finally catching Yaxley, but he’s smart. We’re doing everything we can to at least get a window of opportunity to track him down, but that just takes a lot of time. I’m sorry.”
“Are you?” Ginny asked softly. Harry stirred the dish one last time, let go of the ladle and turned back to her.
“Am I what?”
“Are you really sorry, Harry?” she asked again, louder this time. “Cause showing up this late so many times is a very funny way of showing it.”
“I am doing everything I can, Ginny,” Harry said in a controlled voice. “I hate this just as much as you do. Fuck’s sake, I’m up to my neck in this mess! I asked Robards for more Aurors but he refused, and the longer we wait, the less likely we are to catch the last of those bastards!”
“You keep talking about your case, Harry, but what about us? When are we finally going to have a night where we don’t talk about your paperwork, or the Death Eaters? When are we finally going to have a night when you’re even there for dinner?”
“After we catch Yaxley! I promise you, Ginny, after we’ve caught him, I’ll… I dunno, I’ll take a week off.”
“Not likely, Robards is too much a dictator for that.” Ginny spoke his thoughts.
“Maybe,” Harry said.
“Definitely.” Her look of controlled anger was then replaced by a more uncertain one, and that only made Harry’s trepidation grow.
“But say that you do get a week off. What happens after that, Harry?” she asked. “Another case? Maybe a snatcher who escaped punishment? One of Voldemort’s cronies who fled to the continent?” Harry began to smell the potatoes behind him, but he ignored them for now.
“I have to do this,” he said plainly. “There are Death Eaters still out there, and I have to find them.”
Ginny nodded. “I know you do, and for some stupid reason that’s part of why I love you,” she said, and her eyes grew misty. “But I’m so goddamn tired, Harry. I’m tired of never knowing when you’ll be home, I’m tired of having to tell everyone that I’m fine, just because everyone expects us to be this amazing power couple who are always happy together. But I’m not fine, and I’m just so fucking tired of us fighting. I… I can’t do this anymore.” A single tear slid down her cheek and landed on her green Harpies sweater.
Harry said nothing, and he leaned back against the counter. He was stunned at this much emotion coming from her usually so strong girlfriend, and he genuinely didn’t know what to do.
Ginny took a deep breath and straightened herself. “I talked to Ophelia, from the team, and she said I could sleep at her place for a while,” she continued. “I’ve packed already. I’m sorry, Harry.”
Harry woke up with a jolt. For a moment he didn’t know where he was, or why he woke up so suddenly. He reached for his glasses next to him and put them on. The room slowly came into view the more he blinked, and then he remembered the tacky honeymoon bed they were lying in. He shifted to look at the woman next to him. The pale moonlight shone on her fiery hair fanned around her, and she looked adorably innocent in her sleep. He leaned on one elbow and simply watched her as he listened to her quietly whistling breath.
Then he heard the voices.
“Well, there’s the car,” he heard someone say outside their tent. “I’ll be damned, blocking the road actually worked.”
“What the fuck is this tent? Looks like a bloody house on the inside or summin’!” Another man said.
“Does it matter right now?” Harry recognised him as Savage. “We’ve got little time, so let’s go in. We can discuss interior designs later. Oh, and one last thing, lads: no fuss, no fight, and no killin’. The less bodies we leave behind, the better this thing goes. Now move it!”
Harry then realized he had only a few seconds left to act, and he sprung into action, throwing his covers off him and grabbing his wand as he got up. No time to get dressed. He soundlessly summoned his cloak and his old Firebolt, and he laid them on the bed. A crash from the other side of the tent made him look around, but the door to their bedroom hadn’t opened yet. He looked back at the bed and blinked in surprise. Ginny, the cloak, and the broom were gone. And then the door burst open. In a blur of shouting, running, and a sharp hit to the back of his head, Harry found himself dragged by his shoulders outside the tent. He’d lost his wand in the struggle before he had the chance to cast a single spell. He felt raindrops land on the top of his head and in his neck as they exited the tent.
“Try anything and you’re dead, Potter,” Savage snarled, walking ahead of them.
“You know this bloke, Cal?” one of the men dragging him along asked.
“Yeah, he’s another copper, know him from work. Cocky little shit, this one,” Savage replied. “Where’s your girlfriend, Potter?”
“Long gone,” Harry grinned despite a splitting headache and a bleeding lip. He was pushed into the back of one of the cars parked in front of the tent. As they slowly descended the steep hill towards the road below them, Harry was bound, blindfolded, and had a tape stuck over his mouth by the men on either side of him. At least Ginny’s safe, he thought. The car sped up, and Harry leaned back in his seat.
Back to index
Chapter 3: Chapter 3Up above, Ginny floated in the air. When she’d woken up moments before, heard voices and saw Harry place his broom and invisibility cloak right in front of her nose, she hadn’t hesitated. She was glad the cloak also hid her from any detection spell, because she was quite sure she saw Savage cast a Homenum Revelio around the tent as she snuck outside behind them. That he did it silently and covertly made her wonder who his sidekicks were, and if they even knew about magic.
Now she looked down on the convoy of big, black cars as poor Harry was roughly pushed into one of them by the group of men. She felt guilty. Guilty for leaving him in the hands of them, and guilty for arguing with him over that stupid bedroom. But she couldn’t help it; the man just had an exceptional ability to get under her skin. And now he was kidnapped, and the last talk they had was an argument.
“Focus, Ginny,” she muttered to herself.
The three cars one by one started rolling down the hill, and they rejoined the small road down near the water, their head- and taillights illuminating the slightly worn asphalt and the spindly trees next to the road. Ginny made sure the invisibility cloak still covered all of her, and then guided her broom a bit lower, in chase of the cars.
The flight was miserable. When she first lifted off, there were only a few specs of rain here and there. But as the night progressed those specs turned into true Scottish downpour. Having forgone Harry’s warning of not using magic, she cast a warming charm on herself about once every five minutes. Not that it was of any use; her pyjamas didn’t protect her from the rain and wind at all. After what felt like a few hours of uninterrupted flying, she was convinced that she’d never been colder than she was now. But she never lost track of the cars as they drove down the same road she and Harry had taken on the way there, only in the opposite direction. The thought of seeking help did cross her mind, but she remembered Harry’s wariness of everything magical earlier that day, and decided against it. Besides, she was afraid she’d lose track of him if she did that, and she wasn’t about to let that happen.
The unfortunate consequence of having to fly all alone for such a long time was that her thoughts started wandering. Horrifying images crossed her mind of what the men were planning to do to Harry. She knew what those guns and all the other macabre weapons she found in the boot of their car could do. She’d seen it in the movies she and Harry used to watch. That was before their relationship derailed so badly, though. She stole another glance down below, but nothing had changed. The cars were still calmly driving along the road.
Before today, if anyone were to ask Ginny how she was, she would have told them she was doing fantastically. Her flying was better than ever, now that she didn’t have any demanding boyfriends on the side, she was happy with her role in the team, and her Quidditch career was still flourishing. She was a regular in the national team, she competed for the Golden Quaffle every year, scoring as many goals as she ever did, and there was still no sign of her body slowing down, even after the countless injuries she’d had. A healthy mind in a healthy body, as her team doctor always told her. Other than the trainings, matches, interviews and signing sessions, she went out with her teammates from time to time and she regularly visited the rapidly expanding Weasley family. Yes, Ginny knew that she was a girl who had her life sorted out.
There was a downside, of course. The unwanted attention she received from creepy fans, but most of all from the tabloid press, was surely getting out of hand. A few weeks ago, the body guards from the stadium caught a “journalist” trying to sneak into the dressing rooms, apparently with the intention of writing a story about Harpies’ star player Ginny Weasley’s fitness (a thinly veiled excuse to photograph her in the nude), and Gwenog decided for her that it was time for extra security.
And that was when Harry had stepped into her life again. When she first heard he would be her chaperone, she flat-out refused. When she saw just how incompetent the second choice Hit Wizard was, she admitted defeat. Since then, Harry had been escorting her to and from her trainings, six days a week. It was incredibly awkward at first, mostly because her teammates never stopped teasing her about Harry, the Vanquisher of Evil, Witch Weekly’s most eligible bachelor three times in a row (the streak was only broken because he started dating Julie), and her ex. But one of Gwenog’s patented stern lectures quickly helped calm things down again.
Until this week, that was. Harry announced a few days ago to her that they would forgo the Floo network, Apparition, Portkeys and broom rides, and instead travel to her match in Portree by car. The prospect of spending the entire day alone with Harry left her nervous and restless all week, and she hated the git for that. All she wanted was enough time to prepare for her match as best as she could, and she had no time for drama like this. But after today, even with the threat of being chased by a rogue Auror and his three big, menacing sidekicks, she had to admit that it had been the most fun she’d had in ages. Their trip was exciting, Harry was perfect company, and during their dinner she felt herself simply glow with happiness. Not because of a win, not because of a cup title, but because of Harry. When she found herself sitting on that couch in the tent a while later, with Harry’s strong arm around her and his warm body next to her, it was all she could do to not tear his clothes off and show him exactly how much she’d missed him.
She wasn’t sure how much time she’d passed with her introspection, but it felt like ages before the car finally turned off the highway and onto a small country lane. They all turned off their lights. She slowed down and ducked a little bit lower, straining her eyes to keep sight of the black cars through the thick canopy. The small road had no lampposts, as it followed the carved out path of a small mountain stream up the steep hill. The higher they went, the less trees there were. They were getting close to their destination now, and that thought filled Ginny’s soaked and frozen body with dread. She had no plan whatsoever. She was up against four men, one of which a qualified and skilled Auror, she was cold and tired, and her wand skills were rusty from lack of practice. This was a very stupid idea.
The cars stopped next to a run-down farm. The house, sheds, and stables looked old, with walls made of stone and roofs made of wood. In the darkness she could still make out the holes in the roofs of some of the sheds, and Ginny guessed that the complex hadn’t been used in a very long time. It reminded her of how the Burrow looked to Muggles, because of all the repelling charms. The car doors opened and the four men stepped out. They grouped up briefly and then entered the central building, dragging Harry along.
Ginny stayed there for a while, plagued by indecision. She heard a faint buzzing that she thought was blood flowing in her ears. Her stomach sank as she saw five more cars drive up the small road and park by the farm, next to the cars that were already there. Ginny counted a dozen men stepping out and entering the farm house. The buzzing grew even stronger. Her mind was racing. Who were all these people? What were they doing out here? What did they want with Harry?
She was abruptly torn from these thoughts when an unbelievably bright light shone in her face, and she almost fell off the broom in shock. The buzzing had now turned into a deafening roar, and in the chaos of the moment she was sure that she was discovered. Then she remembered that she was still under cover of the invisibility cloak. Taking a deep breath to settle her racing heart, she steered her broom higher to get out of the glare of the strange light. It looked a bit like a spotlight in a Quidditch stadium, she thought. But now that it wasn’t blinding her anymore, she could see that the light belonged to a strange machine that hovered in the air and looked a bit like an enormous insect. It emitted a strong wind that constantly kept her off balance. Again she remembered the movies she and Harry used to watch, and she tried to recall the name of the flying thing. Holly, helly… copter? Whatever the thing was, it slowly descended into one of the fields next to the farm and landed softly in the wildly billowing grass and weeds.
Ginny watched from above as a handful of men jumped out from the side, their clothes and hair flapping in the gusts from the machine. Two of them then opened a door at the front of the helicopter and helped a third out. She immediately knew that this one was different from the others. Instead of a simple black shirt and dark jeans, he wore white pants and a purple sweater with a strangely high neck that extended all the way to his chin. The clothes looked very out of place in the run-down, overgrown farm. She couldn’t quite see his face in the dark, but she caught a glimpse of long grey hair waving in the wind. But the most notable thing about him, she thought, was not his appearance, but rather the way the other men treated him: the helping hands as he stepped out, the nods and attentive postures, and the way they all grouped around him as they led him from the flying machine to the farmhouse. She garnered that this person must be the leader of the mysterious group. The man paused briefly at the entrance, and then entered the farm, with his followers trailing behind him.
Seeing no other option, she pushed the nose of her broom down and descended towards the complex. She landed close to the flying machine and pocketed her broom after shrinking it. Now she had to decide where to go. She loitered around the buildings, tramping through the long, dew-covered grass in her pyjamas and slippers, looking for a safe entrance, but it felt more like she was avoiding her fear by staying outside. Her bare feet were wet and dirty, and she shivered all over.
“Get it together,” she muttered. Casting a spell that muffled her footsteps and praying for luck, she finally entered one of the wings of the central building through a small door. The door closed with a lot more creaking than she’d hoped for, and the sound of the wind blowing through the long grass died down. Now inside, she heard conversations and rowdy laughter coming from another part of the building.
“Did you hear something?” she heard someone say, and she froze.
“Sounded like a door.”
“Yeah, let’s check it out.”
She snapped out of her stupor when she heard heavy footsteps coming closer, and she snuck away from the sounds as quietly as possible. She quickly encountered a solid wall, but she didn’t think she’d be discovered here, wearing Harry’s invisibility cloak. Two men then came around the corner at the far end of the long and narrow room. Their torchlights occasionally shone on her hiding spot, but they didn’t react to her. They stopped at the door and one of them opened it.
“Sounds like it was this door,” he said to the other. They both had thick American accents, which only added to the mystery. Who were these people?
“Don’t see anyone here, though,” the other said, casting another look around the room. “Must’ve been the wind or something. It’s an old building, you know. Come on, let’s go back.”
“You got it,” the first man said. He shut the door and they slowly walked back the way they came.
Ginny stayed in the same spot for another minute or two, and then followed them across the room. The sounds of conversations she heard earlier became louder and louder. She rounded up the corner at the end of the wing, and she found herself at the edge of the main hall. Under a roof reinforced with a network of thick wooden beams, a large table had been set up in the centre of the hall. All the men she’d seen enter the building were gathered here, eating and drinking in what looked like a hastily set up mass picnic.
“Alright people, your attention please!” someone called. His strong voice reverberated around the large hall. With shaking legs, Ginny fully entered the room, and now she could see the man wearing a purple sweater standing at the end of the table, with his hands raised to gather everyone’s attention. The chatter and laughter died down. The man tucked his long grey hair behind his ears before he spoke.
“Thank you! Now, as you all know, our dear British friend Callum Savage has finally managed to get the all-important car back.” Jeers rang around the table. “Yes, excellent work, Callum. I didn’t think you had it in you,” the leader said. The men laughed at that. “So now we can finally go ahead with our main mission, and I wanna just quickly rehearse it with you all. Callum, please join me.”
Savage stood up from his place at the table and moved to stand next to the leader. Ginny knew she had to look for Harry, but her curiosity convinced her to remain standing here, and hear what these people were planning.
“Thanks boss,” Savage said loudly. “Alright, everyone. Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde is a tough nut to crack and it’s built to keep it safe from exactly the thing we’re about to do. The British armed forces are going to be pissed if we steal one of their nuclear submarines, and we think that it’ll take about half an hour before reinforcements arrive in the shape of helicopters and Eurofighter Typhoons. Which means that we have twenty minutes at most to overpower the base, steal a submarine, and get the fuck out.” Ginny didn’t know half the words he said, but she knew enough to deduce that these men were planning an incredible heist. “Let’s start with getting into the base. We’re in luck here. Usually all the roads leading there are chock-full of cameras, but the Scottish are angry at Britain for maintaining this naval base on their shore. So, using a fake identity, I told a traffic controller I was planning an anti-nuclear demonstration and I’ve managed to convince him to keep his eyes closed for a while. This gives us the element of surprise.” His tone of voice screamed arrogance, and Ginny wondered how Harry could have ever worked with him without going barmy.
“And now comes the tricky part, namely getting the car in place. The reason why I chose this car specifically is because it’s the exact same type one of the higher-ups drives. He tragically died in a traffic accident today, but no one knows that yet, because his body is sadly unrecognisable. I reckon he won’t be missing this.” Grinning widely, he held up a small card. Ginny thought it looked like the access cards all Ministry personnel had to wear on them. It had been part of Kingsley’s policy to modernise the magical governance. “So once I’m in place with the car, I’ll activate the EMP we’ve mounted on it, and then the power will be out for a short while. They have an emergency power network, but we should have enough time to open the gate and let you lot in. After that, we bee-line for the submarine, get in, and sail out of the loch before the air support arrives. Right, any questions?”
Ginny had heard enough. It was time to get to Harry. Whatever these people were planning wasn’t a priority now. First she needed to get her and Harry out of here, and after that they could alert someone and see if there was a way to stop this group. With her mind made up, she turned around and exited the farmhouse the way she came in, hoping that the men inside would still believe that it was the wind opening the door.
She circled the building again, but she couldn’t remember where they’d taken Harry. Hoping for the best, she entered one of the barns close to the central hall. It was cold and dark inside. Straw covered the floor and tickled her feet, but the interior had been stripped bare, and the small building was completely empty. No Harry. She exited again, and immediately ducked her head down when she saw two people walk by a few yards from her. It only then occurred to her that she was invisible anyway. She noticed the purple sweater and Savage’s blond hair and, intrigued, she set off after them. They approached a shed further into the fields, and she trailed behind as close as she could, holding her hand in front of her mouth so that the two wouldn’t feel her breath in their neck. Lucky for her, they seemed too preoccupied with their quiet conversation to notice her tiptoeing behind them.
The door was opened, and they all stepped inside. Ginny slipped away from them and quickly darted to the end of the room, hiding behind a wooden work bench. The last barn she was in was completely stripped bare, but this one seemed to have been left alone. The whole shed was filled with all sorts of bits and pieces, all rusted away. Chains hung from the support beams, old shears, spades, drills and other tools hung all over the four walls, and the work bench she used as hiding spot was cluttered with hammers, nails and other things she couldn’t quite identify in the dark. The only source of light here was an oil lamp that hung in the centre of the room, right above a chair that had a person bound to it. She stifled a gasp when she realised that person was Harry. His arms were bound to the armrests and his legs to the chair legs, but otherwise he looked okay. Savage leaned against the doorframe to her right, and the leader approached Harry slowly, a calculating look on his face.
“So this is the man who has been thwarting my plans,” he said. “Harry Potter. Callum tells me I should be honoured to meet you, that you’re the famed Boy Who Lived, and that you went on to become the one who defeated the darkest lord of this century when he was just seventeen. You’ve made quite the name for yourself, and I can respect that. In fact, I think we two are quite alike in that sense.” Ginny frowned. She’d assumed that he was a Muggle, but apparently he knew about Harry and Voldemort.
“Do I know you?” Harry asked, staring up at the man.
“Oh, I’m sorry, where are my manners. The name’s Bruce Skinner, founder and CEO of SkyTech.” He paused at Harry’s confused look. “Are you telling me you’ve never heard of SkyTech before?”
Savage cleared his throat. “Magicals live quite secluded from our society, boss. I know he’s used a computer before, but he’s one of the few in our Ministry who has.”
“Interesting…” Skinner said, not once taking his eyes off Harry. “Well, no matter, no matter. We’re not here in the name of SkyTech anyway. No, we’re here for something bigger, Mr Potter. Much, much bigger. We, my wizarding friend, are stealing a submarine! Now you’re obviously wondering how we’re going to do that. And why. And I’ll tell you that. See, aside from being a multi-billionaire and one of the most powerful men in the world, I’m also… an historian of sorts, and I’m particularly fascinated by colonialism toward the end of the nineteenth century. You magicals know of the Congo, right? Of course you do. Huge country in Africa, jungle, poverty, wars and all that, assigned to Belgian monarch Leopold II during the Conference of Berlin in 1885 yadda yadda yadda. Good old Leopold controlled a vast area of pure jungle and river, seventy times as large as his Belgium, and because the European powers wanted to stave off war, they gave it to him as his personal dominion and he was told to do whatever the fuck he liked with it.” He started pacing in front of Harry.
“And he did, Harry. He did. See, originally he wanted to make it profitable through ivory trade, but the elephants were already almost hunted to extinction by slave traders from the east. Lucky for him, some guy invents the rubber tire in 1888, and guess what Congo is full of? Rubber! Leopold is soon one of the richest kings of Europe, and his Belgium gets decorated with palaces and gardens and all sorts of fancy places for Leopold and his friends.” Ginny saw a manic gleam in his eyes as he paced around the middle of the room. She wondered at first what the purpose of his speech was, but now she considered that there simply wasn’t a purpose to it, and that this man was simply raving mad.
“So how do they collect the rubber? Now that’s the interesting part. The Congo gets divided into districts, with a collector at the head, and the local population had to go collect the goods. That took time and energy, time and energy they needed to grow their own food in the first place. So obviously they’re very much against this rubber business. But Leopold had a simple, but unforgiving system: the more rubber the collectors provided, the more money they got. The collectors are only humans and they crave more wealth, in short: the local population was violently repressed and forced into the jungle again and again to collect as much rubber as they could. ” He took a breath turned toward Harry.
“Do you see, my friend? Do you see how this works?” He bent over Harry and tapped head. “System thinking, Harry,” he said softly. “We only act according to the system we live in. The input is a few inhuman decrees and laws here and there, and the output is a society of monsters. Just look at the rulers of the Congo, they were of the most vicious kind this earth has ever seen. Oh, we know they chopped off hands if they suspected someone had stolen something, but did you know that they also sometimes used those hands to decorate their gardens back in Belgium? Like little rotting garden gnomes. Oh, can you imagine the smell?” He chuckled. “Free will doesn’t exist, Harry. Normal men are turned into monsters by a simple set of decrees from the monarchs. People are turned into law-abiding citizens, regardless of what those laws are. We are all but pawns in the system, moulded by our world, shaped by our superiors, and enslaved to the world order.” He rose up and started pacing again.
“And it wouldn’t be a problem if the world order wasn’t rotten, you know. Terrorism that was created by the West sticking their heads in parts of the world that were never theirs is now biting back at the West. The US, that shining beacon at the top of the hill, is impoverishing, declining into infighting because of that damned two-party system. But most of all, Harry, most of all, it’s the inequality in this world. Do you know what I see when my driver drives me to work? Do you know what I see from the backseat of my big, fat, expensive car? I see people living on the streets. Ever since this damn financial crisis started. People, families, unshaven, unwashed, and all so hungry and thirsty. I see mothers crying because they don’t have money to give their kids a haircut. I see kids hanging around under the bridge doing heroin because they can’t to go to school. And I drive past them, on my way to work in a multi-billion dollar industry that runs entirely on people procrastinating on the internet. It’s fucked, and I can’t, can’t, can’t get that image out of my mind.” He emphasised his point by banging his fist on the work table.
“You’re mad,” Harry said, astonished.
“Mad?” Skinner threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, of course I’m mad! I work eighteen hours a day, and I sleep six hours a day. I have no family, I have no friends, I have nobody! You see, I alone, Harry,” he rapped his finger on his own chest, “I alone run a company that’s bigger than most countries in the world, I mean, one would have to be mad to live the life I’m living. And I am, Harry. I am. You can trust me on that.” He sighed, and some of the energy seemed to leave him.
“But the word “mad” has such a negative connotation,” he said, absently inspecting some of the tools on the work bench Ginny was hiding behind. “See, I prefer the word visionary. And that’s how we find ourselves here, on a run-down farm in the middle of Scotland. We are going to reshape this world, Harry. And that starts with a submarine. Do you have any idea how powerful a nuclear submarine is, hm? It’s untraceable if it’s hidden properly, and it has nuclear missiles on board that are more accurate than the average Joe at the shooting range. It’s a moving, uncatchable weapon of mass destruction. One submarine, and you can bring an entire country down to its knees to do your bidding, just by aiming a warhead at their capital city.” He paused again. “What happens after that will be a nice surprise, I think. For the normal people, I mean. You’ll be dead by then, of course. I’m a realist, so I don’t think you’ll be watching the show from above in the afterlife.” He shook his head. “I’m rambling like a motherfucker. Well, Harry, it’s been nice meeting you. I’ll leave you to the care of Callum now. Goodbye!” He gave Harry a gentle slap on the cheek and made his way to Savage.
“Oh, and one last thing,” he said as the door opened and three more men entered. They all had heavy guns in their hands. “You’ll get a nice demonstration of what I told you about system thinking before you go. Gents, I see plenty of tools here. Extra commission for creativity. And I do want pictures and videos of it later. Just to check, you know? Understand? Good.” He turned to Savage before he exited. “I’ll fly ahead, I’ll see you with the car.” And then he was gone. Savage slammed the door shut behind him.
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Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Author's Notes: Have another one, bois. If you're wondering about chapter length: this is the shortest one, the ones after this are much longer
Savage slammed the door shut after him and got up from his place at the door frame.
“Callum, listen to me,” Harry began as the Auror approached him. “The guy is completely bonkers, you don’t have to do this. Come on, untie me, and we can all just go home.”
Savage didn’t react. Instead, he fished a handkerchief out of his pocket, balled it up and then rammed it into Harry’s mouth.
“Much better,” he said. Harry made muffled sounds, but he couldn’t speak anymore. “You know, I’m sure you’re getting sick of all these monologues, but I’m afraid you’ll have to bear with me for a little longer. Cos I want you to understand why I’m doing this before I kill you.”
He turned away from Harry and started inspecting the tools that lay around in the shed. Ginny drew her wand. “It’s really quite simple, you know. The pay’s good. That’s all. Took me long enough to prepare this whole heist, and it certainly isn’t without danger, isn’t that right lads?” The other three murmured their agreement. “But bloody hell, Harry, we’re all getting loaded off this. That Bruce Skinner bloke hands out dollars like candy.” He picked up a hammer, turned around and measured it against Harry’s head. Ginny was reluctant to fire off a spell, with the other three men around.
Savage put the hammer down again and began rummaging around the work table. “And it all went swimmingly, all until you decided to rent the exact same car we had prepared for this. And I wondered, right, was it pure coincidence, or did you know about this part-time project of mine beforehand?” He paused, then spun around and backhanded Harry’s cheek. “Answer me! Just nod or shake your head, mate, did you know about me?”
Harry paused, and then he slowly shook his head.
“Are you absolutely sure?”
Savage veered up and turned back to the work table. “That’s good. That’ll make things a lot easier. See, this is nothing personal. Alright, it feels good to finally show you up, but I’m not a serial killer. I don’t kill just for the sake of it.” He took a battered saw off its hook against the wall and held it against Harry’s neck. Ginny had a spell on her lips, but then he seemed to change his mind and he hung the thing back up. “No, Harry, I only kill when I need to. Like the director of the naval base we’re going to storm. I didn’t burn him alive in his car because I enjoyed it. No, I did it because I needed him completely out of the picture until we’re done here. And it’s the same with you, Harry,” he said. He kneeled down and stroked the pointy tip of a ground drill that was leaned against one of the wooden pillars. “I don’t really want to kill you, per se. You’re a good boss, you’ve set the department up excellently, and you’re a damn good copper in general.”
Ginny noticed he never used any magical terms. She was sure now that the other mercenaries were Muggles. But their weapons still looked deadly. Could she risk fighting them? She heard the flying machine start up on the other side of the farm.
“But, if I let you live, you’ll just blab your little story to everyone, and I’ll end up in prison. No, don’t deny it. You’re too righteous not to do it. I did wonder if simply erasing your memory wouldn’t be enough, but there’s still the matter of your girlfriend. Plus, Harry Potter suddenly developing amnesia is far too suspicious, and you might get your memory back later. It’s far too risky. No, I think dumping your mutilated body parts somewhere prominent and planting a dark mark near it should be good enough. Is somebody filming this?” He asked the others.
“Hang on, let me grab my phone,” one of them said. He shouldered his rifle and took a small, strange-looking tablet out of his pocket that looked nothing like the phones Ginny knew. He held it in front of his face, pointed it at Harry and then pressed it. The rumbling sound of the helly copter became louder. Maybe the others inside the farm wouldn’t hear it if they started fighting…
“Good, thanks. Now, as I was saying, I’m sorry Harry. I tried, but I don’t see a way to keep you alive without risking my own life,” Savage said. He grabbed a large pair of rusty pincers and tested them before walking over to Harry again. “Remember, this has nothing to do with you. It’s just a solution to my problem, nothing more.” He stroked the fingers of Harry’s tied hands. Ginny heard his breath quicken.
Savage paused again. “Alright, I’ll make it a bit easier for you. Tell you what, when I find that Harpy of yours, I’ll make it quick. No toying around with her before I kill her, okay?” A chill ran down Ginny’s spine. Savage grabbed Harry’s hand and inspected it closely. He pulled the pincers open and placed Harry’s pinkie in it. Ginny heard his rasping breath and saw beads of sweat roll down his forehead.
“Now, enough chatter,” Savage growled. “Let’s start with the bits that stick out, shall we? This might hurt a little, so just bite down on that handkerchief. Trust me, it’ll make it easier. One… Two…”
Savage reacted quickly, and he ducked underneath the red beam. He whipped his head around toward her with a murderous gleam in his eyes.
“What the fuck was that?” one of the mercenaries shouted.
“It’s the girl,” Savage said, dodging another stunner. “There, behind the work table!”
“I don’t see anything, Callum!” the mercenary said.
“Who the fuck cares, just shoot the cunt!”
And then the gunfire began. The roar of the guns and the barrage of bullets were deafening and Ginny covered her ears as the work bench she hid behind was torn to shreds by the salvo.
Then there was a pause. Ginny’s head throbbed and her ears buzzed. Sawdust and splinters covered her pyjamas. She threw a spell over the table without looking, and heard a cry of pain, followed by the sound of someone falling over.
“What are those lights?” a panicky voice cried.
“Keep shooting,” Savage said.
Before Ginny could cast another spell, the shooting started anew. Ginny heard bullets, nails and other things fizz past her head and she curled up under the cloak. When the shooting stopped again, she opened her eyes. A man peeked behind the table to her right, and she reacted immediately. The man fell to the floor, gasping and clutching his face. She sent a stunner his way just to be sure. Emboldened, she glanced above the table, and a well-aimed spell slammed the last mercenary into the wall at the far end. He didn’t get up.
“Stop!” Savage called. “You will get up, drop your wand and stop hiding under that cloak, unless you want to see Potter killed.”
Ginny hesitated, peeked over the table once again and saw Savage standing over Harry, with a gun against his temple.
“I won’t ask again.”
Coming to a decision, she ducked back down, shoved the cloak in her pocket, and slowly stood up.
“Good girl,” he said. “Where’s your wand?”
“Where’s yours?” she countered.
“A, a, no sass, or your boyfriend gets it,” he said. “But I guess you’re right. You’ve knocked out all my colleagues, so I won’t be needing this anymore.” He tossed the gun aside and replaced it with his wand. “Now, your wand. Slowly. Do anything funny, I’ll spray his brains all over the wall.”
She met Harry’s eyes, but his expression was unreadable. Or did she see a faint shake of his head?
“Well?” Savage pressed.
“Alright,” she said. She held up her right hand, her wand lying in her opened palm.
“Excellent. Now, first of all…” He waved his wand at her, and she felt something pass over her, not unlike the feeling of a Disillusionment Charm. “There. No Apparating for the both of you. And now… Acc-”
CRACK! The bindings tying Harry to his chair all snapped at the same time and he threw himself at his captor before he could complete the spell. The two fell to the floor and rolled around in a bitter struggle.
Ginny aimed her wand at the fighting couple, but she couldn’t fire off a spell without hitting Harry.
Harry cut the spell short by kicking Savage in the gut and twisting his wand arm away from him.
“You’ll pay for that, Potter!” Savage screamed. He headbutted Harry, freed his arm, and banished Harry away from him, straight toward Ginny. She dodged him just in time, and he smacked against the wall next to her.
“Hi,” he croaked, before ducking away from the green light of a Killing Curse.
“Do you have your wand?” she asked, pulling him under cover of the table.
“Savage has it, I couldn’t grab it,” he replied.
“Come out!” Savage shouted, and the work table was rocked by a blasting curse. “Come on! I wanna see you when I squeeze the life from you!”
“This table isn’t going to last,” Harry said. “Ginny, I need you to distract him while I go get my wand.” Another blasting curse. “Now!” And then he crawled away from her, to the other end of the table. Ginny chanced another look, but Savage had been expecting that, and she had to duck away from his spell immediately. It singed her shoulder, and a putrid smell of burning entered her nose. The curse had blasted a large hole in the wall the spell behind her.
“I can keep this up forever, you know,” he jeered. “But it looks like the table won’t. Come on out already, I’ll make it quick!” He blocked the stunner Ginny sent towards him with a casual flick of his wand.
Harry signalled to her imploringly from his side of the work table. She racked her brain, and then tried something different. First she banished a hammer towards him, and immediately after that she cast an Incendio, not at him, but at the floor in front of him. The flames caught immediately.
Savage conjured water to douse the flames, but the old wood was dry and her spell too powerful, and the fire spread too quickly. Smoke and vapour billowed up from where the water touched the fire, and Savage jumped back from the rising heat. Harry noticed his distraction and jumped over the table. Savage looked up at the last moment to see his colleague crash into him, and the two stumbled backward, away from the flames.
“You. Will. Never. Hurt. Her. Again,” Harry growled, pushing the man on the floor and punching him as many times as he could wherever his fists could reach. Savage kicked his knee, slapped another fist away and grabbed a fistful of Harry’s hair, tearing his head away from him.
“I’ve got you now,” he growled. Ginny saw the fire reflecting the insanity in his eyes. He grabbed Harry’s fist in his other hand and pushed him off and onto the ground.
“Look at you now. The Boy Who Lived.” He smacked Harry’s head against the floor. “The One Who Defied Death.” And again. “The Saviour of the Wizarding World.” And again. Ginny tried to approach them, but the fire had spread all across the shed now, and her side was completely separated by a wall of flames.
Savage pushed Harry closer to the fire. "Everyone has to die, Harry. Even you. And this is your final act, my friend.” Ginny heard her friend scream in pain as he was shoved closer and closer to the inferno. It was now or never.
“Expelliarmus!” she screamed. Her spell narrowly missed Harry, but it did hit Savage, and the man was knocked back, yet his wand remained firmly in his hand. Harry threw himself on top of the other man, yanked his wand out of his pocket and shakily jumped to his feet.
“Wingardium Leviosa!” he growled. Savage rose in the air, toward the chains that hung on the thick support beam. Harry grabbed them, and turned them three times around the neck of the floating Auror. Savage, his breath coming out in short, raspy sounds, tried to point his wand at Harry, but Ginny disarmed him before he could cast any spell.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” she shouted at him.
“Go! I’ll meet you outside!” Harry let go of Savage and sprinted out the door. For a moment Ginny stared at the man hanging in chains, and then she turned around and crawled out through the hole in the wall.
Once outside, she gratefully sank into the cold, wet grass. A fit of coughing overtook her, and she felt nauseous after having swallowed so much smoke. She coughed until her stomach ached, and when it was over, she laid flat on the ground, gratefully taking deep breaths of fresh air.
Lying there, she saw Harry shakily make his way towards her. His clothes were in disarray and had cuts in them, and he had a wound on his forehead that bled profusely. But he was alive, and through all his bruises he managed a smile at her. She twisted her mouth into what she hoped looked like a smile. Then she became aware of her fatigue. She’d only slept a few hours and had been following Harry all night. It was morning now, and behind Harry the sky had turned grey and orange. The sun peeked just over the hills on the other side of the valley.
He kneeled beside her. “Come on, you need to get up.” It took her a second to comprehend what he said. Groaning, she pushed herself to her knees. Harry helped her to her feet and pulled her into a hug. All the emotions of that night threatened to overwhelm her as she stood there in his arms, listening to his steady and reassuring heartbeat. But she bit her lip and kept it in for now.
“Are you okay?” He asked her, pulling back from their embrace.
“Yeah, he hardly even hit me. How about you?”
“I’ll be fine.”
“You’re bleeding,” she said, gently wiping the blood from around the cut on his forehead.
“You’re hurt as well,” he said, his eyes running over her body. “Let’s get away from this field first. Come on, the cars are parked on the other side. We can sit down there.”
“Shouldn’t we be worried about the other mercenaries?”
“I think they’re all gone. Otherwise they’d already be here, wouldn’t they?”
“Oh. Right.” She chanced a look behind her. The shed was completely wreathed in flames, and the roof on their side was partially collapsed. Inside, at the heart of the flames, she could still vaguely make out the shape of a man, hanging in chains, still jerking, feebly trying to free himself.
“We need to go, Ginny,” Harry said, slipping his arm around her shoulder and guiding her away from the scene, the sight of Savage struggling against the chains as the fire consumed him etched in her mind as they walked away.
The heat of the burning shed grew less intense the further they distanced themselves from it, and by the time they rounded up the corner of one of the farm buildings, they were both shivering from the early morning cold. But, Harry thought, they could safely use magic again now that the mystery about Savage was solved.
“So, now that we know it was just Savage who attacked us,” he said to Ginny, “that means we can use magic again, right?”
“I guess so, yeah.”
“Good, ‘cause we’re going to catch a cold at this rate,” he said, and with that he pulled his wand from his pocket and cast a warming charm over the two of them. Ginny, still tucked under his arm, shot him a grateful smile.
They finally reached the clearing in front of the complex, and Harry was glad to be out of the long, wet grass. Their pyjamas and bare feet didn’t protect them from the cold at all.
“Well, our car is still there,” Harry commented. He patted Ginny’s shoulder and pulled his arm back. “Let’s get in and warm up a bit, alright?” Finding the car unlocked, he helped her into the passenger seat, closed the door and got in on the driver side himself.
“These idiots just left the key here,” he said, shaking his head. He pointed to a phone lying on the dashboard. “Even left their phone here. Rule number one if you want to be a villain: don’t get cocky.”
“I’ll remember that,” Ginny said softly. She still looked shaken up from what had happened, and Harry didn’t blame her. The sight of his colleague being burnt alive would probably haunt him for a long time.
“Your shoulder looks quite nasty,” he said. Ginny reached to feel the burn mark, and winced when her fingers touched it.
“I didn’t notice it until now,” she said. “One of Savage’s spells must’ve grazed me.”
“Do you want me to heal it? I’m not as good as a Healer, but I think I can at least make the pain go away.”
Harry lightly brushed his wand over her skin, and the angry red colour of the burn faded considerably.
“Thanks,” she whispered. “Do you want me to fix your head?”
“Don’t bother, it’s hopeless,” he joked as she fussed over the cut above his eyebrow. His throat ran dry from her proximity and gentle touch.
“Ginny?” he asked when she was done. She lowered her eyes from his forehead to meet his gaze, and he did his best not to get lost in those shining brown eyes. She had bruises on her face, rings under her eyes, her hair was windswept and tousled and her pyjamas were filthy and torn. She looked more beautiful than ever.
He swallowed. “I… you were brilliant tonight. Honestly. I don’t know how you found me, but we both know what would’ve happened if you hadn’t. You fought against three armed men and a fully qualified Auror just to save me, and you actually beat them. You were incredible.”
A slight blush blossomed on her cheeks. Whatever else Harry had prepared to say to her left his mind as soon as he saw that blazing look in her eyes.
“It’s okay, Ginny.”
“No, it’s not. When I… when I saw you being taken away to here, I just… all I could think about was that we’re finally talking to each other again after all these years, and still the last thing we did was argue with each other. You nearly died tonight, and the last thing I said to you was that I didn’t have time for you because of some stupid Quidditch game.” She sighed.
“Shh,” he pressed his finger to her lips before she could continue. He wanted to say a million things. He wanted to say thank you, and sorry. He wanted to ask her how her shoulder felt, he wanted to say to her how much he had missed her all those years, how often he laid in bed at night next to another woman, thinking about her, how often he caught himself daydreaming about her hair, her lips, her warmth. But he had no words for that. He lowered his finger and inched closer to her. She closed her eyes and leaned in as well. Their heads tilted slightly. Harry felt her warm breath on his skin as they leaned closer and closer…
And then the cell phone rang. Harry cracked open his eyes. Ginny did the same, and for a moment they could only stare at each other. Then the phone buzzed and rang again, and Harry leaned back in his seat, breathing out slowly to settle his racing heart. He picked up the phone and looked at the screen to see who was calling.
“It’s that bloke Skinner,” he said. “Let’s see…” He only knew so much about mobile phones, but he’d seen how Hermione used one before. He slid his finger across the screen to pick up and pressed the button to put it on loud.
“Callum?” a muffled voice rang through the phone. “Callum, for God’s sake are you there?” Harry shared a glance with Ginny, unsure about what to say or do. “Where is that damn Brit,” Skinner said. “Callum!”
“Mr Skinner?” Harry finally said. It was silent on the other side.
“Who is this?” he finally asked. The anger was audible, even through the phone.
“This is Harry Potter. I’m afraid your friend Callum and your other thugs didn’t make it. We’re in your precious car right now, but seeing as we rented it in the first place, I think we’re going to hang on to it for now,” Harry said, sharing a smile with Ginny. “I reckon that might bother you a bit with your plan to take over the world, and we’re terribly sorry for that. Anyway, I’ve got to hang up now. Goodbye!”
Harry waited a few seconds, but there was no reply from the other side anymore, so Harry hung up and put the phone down on the dashboard.
“So…” Ginny said beside him.
“I reckon we’ve got to go now,” he said. “That man has a helicopter, he could be here soon.”
“Right. Shouldn’t we just Apparate away and contact the Aurors?”
“I don’t think we can. Savage cast an Anti-Apparition Charm over the both of us. Plus, I don’t want to just leave this car here. From what I overheard on the way here, it’s important for their plans, and the harder we make it for them, the better.”
“But can we at least send a Patronus to the Aurors? We now know it’s just Savage who’s gone mad, after all.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Harry said. He took out his wand again and sent his Patronus away toward the Auror office in London. “There. It’s about seven thirty now, so it’s probably still the night shifters in the office. Ron is definitely still in bed. If all goes well, they’ll arrive here in a minute or ten.”
“I thought we were leaving?”
“We are. But we can always send another Patronus later on if we see Skinner.” He paused and then turned to her. “Look, about what just happened… I–”
“Didn’t you just tell me we needed to leave?” she said, the corner of her lips quirking upward. “But Potter? Once this whole thing is finished, you and I need to talk.”
“Definitely,” Harry said. He sighed and started the car.
“So where are we going now?”
“North,” he said.
“Well, our tent is there, for starters.”
“North feels good.”
He nodded, but didn’t react to the dubious look she gave him.
Back to index
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Author's Notes: Penultimate chapter, enjoy!
They were barely halfway along the country lane leading up the hill towards the farm, and Harry had nothing else to say. His thoughts kept drifting to that earlier moment, every intoxicating detail of it, and a part of him wanted to bring the car to a halt immediately and snog her senseless right there, insane villains be damned. In the end he chose to turn on the radio to at least fill the uneasy silence in the car.
With Tina Turner playing in the background, Ginny, probably just as uneasy about their silence as he was, started chatting about everything and nothing. She talked to him about the new Harpies players and how she got along with them, about Molly Weasley’s greying hair, and how she was convinced that George still hadn’t gotten over Fred’s death, but that he hid it by working himself to bits in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. She carefully avoided anything that had to do with what happened tonight, and Harry was glad for it. There, in the warmth and comfort of their Mercedes, his weariness properly settled in. His head throbbed and his body was still sore from the fight with Savage, but luckily he didn’t have to worry about falling asleep at the wheel, despite the long night. The memories raged through him one after the other and kept him awake. Four men bursting into the marital suite. Getting dragged into a car and being bound and blindfolded as they set off. The endless, lonely wait in that farm shed. His long-time colleague placing his finger between a large rusty set of pincers. Ginny sending spell after spell at the mercenaries. He and Savage brawling on the wooden floor as the fire singed his scalp. Savage, hanging, twitching and screaming soundlessly, his throat squeezed shut by those chains. Even still, the thing that kept him busy the most was the near kiss he and Ginny shared. It seemed like false hope after all those years to consider that she’d wanted it as well. But she did, even though he could hardly believe it. He glanced at the witch beside him, and they shared a brief, awkward smile.
He turned back to the road ahead. Cars buzzed by, and the road grew busier and busier as the crisp greyness of the spring morning was dispelled by the rising sun. Harry felt his bum grow numb from all those hours in the car, but he tried his best to ignore the little pains. He promised himself to rest properly once Skinner was dealt with and Ginny was safely delivered to the Portree stadium.
Ginny’s voice had long run out of steam when they turned off the main road at the loch where they set up their tent. That was when they first heard the buzzing of a helicopter in the distance.
“That must be Skinner,” he said, a tenseness settling in his stomach. “Ginny, do you know how to send a Patronus?”
“I want you to tell your brother where we are, and that he needs to bring back up here.”
“I can do that. Where are we now?”
“We just passed Glencoe again, and we’re driving alongside Loch Leven.”
“Got it.” Ginny muttered the incantation, and moments later a silvery, ethereal horse left the car with a blinding speed.
The far end of the loch came in sight, and a small village came close and closer, appearing and then hiding again behind jutting out rocks and small patches of woods that blocked their view. The buzzing grew louder and louder. He and Ginny exchanged not a word as they waited for the helicopter to appear over the mountains. Finally, the buzz grew to a roar, and in the rear-view mirror he could see a rapidly growing speck in the sky just along the edge of the inlet.
“There,” he said grimly. “I think he found us.”
The speck grew larger as the roar increased in volume. Harry sped up as much as he could on the small, winding road but the helicopter still easily caught up with them. It was with a sense of inevitability that the machine finally reached them and flew alongside them. Harry chanced a look, and he could just make out the faces of the occupants, as well as a speck of purple that was Skinner’s strange sweater. They momentarily disappeared behind the trees as the road banked to the right. That was when they reached the outskirts of the village and Harry found himself unable to look away from the roads ahead.
“Watch the helicopter,” he told Ginny. “I have to concentrate on the traffic now.”
“They’re coming closer, Harry,” she warned him. “Do you hear that sound?”
“What, the roar?”
“No, that whizzing noise. Strange…”
Now Harry could hear it as well. From time to time something seemed to whir by their car as they raced through the narrow streets. And why were all those people running…?
“Shit, they’re shooting at us!” he cried. Then he saw it as well. Bullets impacted the houses next to him, he heard a steady ticking sound coming from the roof of the car, and now there were people running away from the helicopter, not paying mind to the black Mercedes speeding through the town.
“Stop!” Ginny screamed as a few people crossed the street ahead of them. Harry slammed the brake pedal as hard as he could, the tyres squealed and the seatbelt dug painfully into his chest as the people ahead of them froze in shock at the sight of the car rapidly approaching them. Harry saw his fear reflected in their eyes and he looked away just as they were about to hit them…
But they never did. They came to a halt a few feet from the two men. They shouted something at them, but apparently they decided they’d rather avoid the helicopter circling above than insult Harry and Ginny, and they disappeared into an alley off the central road. Harry breathed out shakily.
“That was too damn close.”
Then the shooting started anew. The helicopter appeared over them, the trees next to the street waved around violently in the sudden wind and Harry shook out of his stupor when he heard bullets rain down on their car.
Muttering curse after curse, he changed gear and willed the car into motion again. The helicopter above them swerved away and set off after them again.
“We need to get off this road,” he said as they crossed the bridge over the river. “They won’t be able to hit us so easily when we’re in those woods there.”
Something splintered behind them and Harry ducked his head.
“It’s the back window,” Ginny moaned, raising her voice as the wind rushed in through the shattered glass. “Whatever you’re planning, just get us away from them!”
“I’m trying!” Harry shouted back. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’ve got a fucking helicopter! We’re turning right now, hang on!”
He steered the Mercedes off the central road and onto a steep, small one that finally led away from the village. Thick canopy surrounded them on both sides and the helicopter finally disappeared from view. That at least allowed him the chance to try and think.
“Okay, I don’t think they can shoot us for the moment, but we’re not safe. We need to find some way to chase the helicopter away, or make it land.”
While they drove down the road at breakneck speed, someone knocked on his window. He looked up in surprise. Ron Weasley was floating alongside the car. Harry slid open the window, his mouth hanging open in shock.
“Hi Harry!” he called. “Fancy seeing you here!”
“Good to see you, Ron,” he said weakly.
“Hey Ron!” Ginny said from beside him.
“Listen, I can’t fly here forever. Just keep driving, I’ve got about a dozen Aurors on brooms flying around. We’re taking down that flying thing!”
“Helly copter,” Ginny informed him.
“Right, whatever it’s named. See you in a minute!” He pulled up the front of his broom and shot up, over the trees.
“It’s called a helicopter,” Harry said, closing the window again. “Not a helly copter.”
“Not important now, Harry. Look, there’s a clearing up ahead.”
“Right, keep your head low,” he warned as they shot past the last line of sparse birches and onto a bald part of the hill. The loch stretched out far below to their left and he was amazed at how quickly they’d left the village behind them. But it was the sight ahead of them that made his thoughts come to a stop abruptly.
Skinner’s helicopter ducked and swerved through the air, the black paint glimmering in the morning light, and it was surrounded on all sides with Aurors. People on brooms swarmed the air, firing curse after curse at the helicopter. For a brief moment his heart soared at the scene, but he quickly noticed that none of the spells seemed to connect with the machine. Every time the Aurors came within spell range, their brooms were blown out of control by the gusts emitted by the rotors and they had to pull back again. The few spells that actually reached the machine disappeared into thin air, as if there was a shield charm cast on it. To make matters worse, they were being shot at with rifles from the helicopter itself. One man, his red Auror robes billowing behind them, spiralled out of control, the currents toying with him as if he was a measly fly, and then stiffened. Time seemed to slow down, and Harry watched in horror as the man slowly lost his grip and slipped bonelessly off his broom. He plummeted towards the ground and disappeared behind the trees.
Ginny shouted something beside him, and then he realised he was swerving dangerously close to the edge of the narrow mountain road. He yanked the wheel, the car fishtailed for a few heart-stopping moments, and then the tires caught grip again.
“Bloody hell, that was close!” Ginny shouted.
“Don’t tell me you’re turning into Ron in the heat of the moment,” Harry said back.
“Did you see who that person that fell was?” she asked, ignoring his rather poorly timed quip.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. It wasn’t Ron. He would recognise the red hair, he told himself. At that moment another Auror flew off his broom, his body tumbling through the air like a ragdoll. And still not a single spell impacted the helicopter. That was enough for Harry.
“Right, I’m bloody well not losing any more people today. Do you still have your broom?”
“What? Harry James Potter, you’re not going up there, it’s madness! Do you see how useless the others are up there? You’ll get yourself killed!” she said, gesturing wildly at the windscreen.
“We should be doing something down here, Ginny! If things stay as they are right now, we’re going to see a lot more deaths today, and I will not lose any more Aurors to this! Look at it, they’re all getting killed up there!”
“What can we do, though? Our spells can’t reach them up there, and you’re only going to hit the Aurors instead of that helly copter if you try it!”
“I know, I know, we just need something with more range, like a… a…”
“Spit it out!”
“Bloody hell, Ginny, that’s it!”
“Not you too? What do you mean?”
“Remember what we’ve got lying in the boot?”
“Some sandwiches from yesterday, I presume–” she stopped, and her mouth formed a perfect ‘O’.
“You’re a genius, Potter. How can we reach them from here?”
“You can grab them if you crawl over to the back seats. There should be enough space between the headrests and the back window to pull them to you.”
“What back window?” she asked, pointing to the splintered hole that used to be a window.
“Shit, what if they fell out?”
“Only one way to find out,” she said, snapping her seat belt and worming her way through the small space between the front seats. If they weren’t in this bizarre situation, Harry would have thoroughly enjoyed her bum wiggling so close to him.
“There’s a bend to the right coming up, hold on!” he called. He still heard a shriek as he steered the car around the corner.
“Okay, they’re still here,” Ginny called in a slightly winded voice. “Which one do you want?”
“I don’t fucking know!” Harry cried in exasperation. “Just hand me a big one!”
Ginny’s face appeared next to him, and she handed him a big, black rifle that Harry instantly recognised.
“An FAL, that’ll do I think. Does it have bullets?”
“How should I know?”
“See that square thing hanging underneath it?”
“Pull it toward the thin end. Yeah, like that. Is it full?”
“Yeah it is. Harry, how do you know these things?” she asked, gripping both front seats as they swerved higher and higher up the hill.
“Kingsley,” Harry replied, not taking his eyes off the helicopter and the swarm of Aurors ahead of them. They seemed more cautious now and seemed to realize that they couldn’t hit the machine with even a single spell. Savage’s handiwork, he realized. Another Auror got hit then. He had to let go with his injured hand, but he managed to stay on his broom until he could safely Apparate away. “He decided we needed some inspiration from outside for the Auror office when I became Head Auror, so we worked with the Muggle police and secret services for a while. We made it sort of a regular day out together eventually on Thursdays. Shooting practice in the afternoon with a slap-up dinner afterward. That, and, erm…”
“Harry! Ginny!” Ron was back, again hovering next to the driver’s side.
“Ron, you madman! Who went down before?”
“Hornby, one of the new recruits and Proudfoot just Apparated away. I sent some healers for the two further back!” he shouted, straining to outshout the wind.
“Good man! Listen Ron, I think there’s a shield charm on that thing. You can’t hit it with spells!”
“I thought the same! This is madness, and bloody useless as well, so we’re going to fly a bit further away from them! I’ll be damned if those bastards get another one of us.”
“Damn right! Ron, we’ve got another solution here, and I need you lot out of the way!” He pointed to the rifle in his lap. Ron’s eyes bulged at the sight.
“Where in the bloody hell did you get those?”
“Came with the car!”
“Bloody Muggles are mad! Okay, I’ll pass it on to the others. Be careful!”
“You too!” He said as Ron veered away from the car again.
“Right. Ginny, I’m going to ask you something, okay?” They turned right again, reaching the top of the hill and immediately starting the descent again.
“Okay?” She said in trepidation.
“I need you to take the wheel for now while lean out of the window and shoot.”
“What?! Have you lost your mind? I can’t drive for shit, Harry, I told you that!”
Harry didn’t respond, but he pulled her toward him with one arm and placed a firm kiss on her lips.
“You’ll be brilliant. Now get over here.”
She didn’t protest anymore, and squeezed herself next to him into the seat.
“Right, you know the basics?”
“Clutch, brake, accelerator?” she asked, pointing to the pedals from left to right. “Change gear if the engine sounds funny?”
“Good enough. Okay, here we go, hand me the rifle when I’m ready.” And with that, he opened the driver’s window and carefully climbed out, wand in his hand. Using the edge of the seat as a footrest, he shakily let go of the roof rack with his wand hand and charmed himself stuck to the door.
“Okay, I’m ready!” he shouted at Ginny, and he took the rifle when it poked out of the window.
Rifle in hand, he flicked off the safety, and then turned to the helicopter flying in the distance. The Aurors, true to Ron’s word, had put a considerable distance between them and the machine, and were now chasing it in a spread-out formation, not unlike a Chaser formation in a Quidditch match.
“We’re turning left, Harry!” Ginny cried, rapping against his leg to catch his attention.
He held on to the roof rack and the rifle as they went round the corner, descending further and further downhill. Ginny’s steering was sloppy at best and he was amazed they made it through unscathed.
“Sorry!” she shouted.
“Just keep going, you’re doing great!”
The road ahead straightened out somewhat, and Harry took this chance to finally properly take aim.
20 shots, he thought to himself. The odds were never in his favour, but it was this or nothing. He leaned into the barrel after making sure it was on single fire, took aim, and fired off one shot.
The bullet disappeared into the air, but nothing happened. Growling in frustration, he fired off another two rounds, but they did nothing either. It was useless.
“This is useless!” he shouted.
“Did it not work?” he heard Ginny ask from inside the car.
“Nothing happened! We’re going too fast and they’re too far away!”
“Come back inside then, this is madness!”
“No! This is the only chance we’ve got!”
“Watch your head at least, we’re about to enter some woods!”
Harry looked to his right and immediately ducked away from the branches and leaves that emerged around the bend. When he thought the danger had passed and he lifted his head slightly again, he had to duck away again from even more foliage. While his cheek rested against the sun-heated metal of the roof, he racked his mind. There had to be something.
If possible, the roar of the helicopter got even louder, and it drowned out even the wind rushing past his ear and the vibrations of the car travelling through his body. He looked up in surprise to see the helicopter fly closer than ever. He could clearly make out the enraged faces inside, and the rifle that tried to aim at him, but couldn’t shoot because of the trees blocking their view from time to time.
“That’s it!” He screamed. “They’re flying closer because they can’t see us through the trees!” They were so close now, this was his chance. He made sure there weren’t any branches at head height coming up, veered up and readied his rifle again.
His first shot visibly pinged off the thin bodywork of the machine. Emboldened by his success, he fired off more rounds, this time aimed more to the area in front of the helicopter. The bullets all connected, and now they impacted the glass. It started cracking under the pressure. He was about to fire off even more rounds, but then he had to duck away when bullets wheezed so closely past him that he heard them over the shrieking wind. He took aim once again when he thought the shooting had stopped.
“The road’s turning to gravel here, Harry, hang on!” Ginny shouted. The car began to vibrate and shake even more now with the new surface, and aiming became even harder. Then there was that oddly familiar pull. He’d felt it before, when they left the farm a few hours before. It’s what made him decide to come this way. But that wasn’t the first time he’d felt this strange sensation. Grindylows, a dead body at the riverbank, and an inexplicable urge to dive into the river...
“I don’t know how long this road goes on! Hurry up!”
“Keep driving!” he cried. He couldn’t let this distract him now. He aimed the barrel at the pilot of the helicopter, then shifted it a bit to the right, and fired again. This time, the glass of the cockpit door shattered. The panic of the occupants was clearly visible to him. He fired again, but this time he missed. He gritted his teeth. Another shot. It pinged harmlessly off the bodywork. He aimed even more up this time, and he pulled the trigger.
He hit his target. The pilot’s head flew to the side, and in his motion the cycle stick was yanked harshly to the left. The noise of the engine rose an octave and the tail swished to the side while the passengers hung on for dear life in the out-of-control machine. He whooped in joy, adrenaline rushing through his veins.
“We got them! Scoot, I’m coming back in!”
Ginny awkwardly shuffled back to the passenger seat while still holding on to the steering wheel. Harry threw the rifle behind the driver’s seat and sat back down again. He watched the helicopter spinning increasingly out of control in fascination.
“Did you see those amazing shots?” He asked Ginny.
But Ginny didn’t reply. He looked over to her. Her face had gone ghostly white. Her eyes were almost black, her skin was clammy, and she clutched her stomach with both hands.
“What’s wrong, Ginny?” he asked. She didn’t react, and now he started to panic. “C’mon, Ginny, answer me!”
She looked down at her stomach and removed her hands. Then he saw it. A red spot in her heavenly blue pyjamas, slowly spreading out.
She looked from her wound to him, beads of sweat running down her ashen face.
“Harr- ow…” She bent double as she spoke, clutching her stomach again as she convulsed in pain.
“You’re going to be fine,” he heard himself tell her. “You’re going to pull through this, you hear me?” She clamped onto his forearm, nails digging into his skin.
“It hurts,” she stammered, squeaking as she breathed in. “Fuck, it hurts!”
“I know, I know, baby, but you need to stay with me. Stay with me, Ginny, I know you can do this,” he rambled and rambled, without knowing what he was saying. This couldn’t be happening.
“Har… ry…” she croaked.
“Don’t do this to me, love. Not now. Please–”
“Harry… look…” she pointed at the windshield, barely able to hold her arm up. Harry finally looked away from her and at the road again…
But there was no road anymore. This was the end. There was nothing he could do. The car raced over the rocky edge, and the next thing he knew was that they were soaring through the air. The engine bucked wildly and then went still as he took his foot off the accelerator. Harry looked around. A lake stretched all around them, surrounded by a mountainside that looked intimately familiar to him, a scenery that brought back long forgotten feelings from his childhood. Next to them, to his right, the helicopter spun out of control in the air. The men inside were barely able to hang on to whatever they could find as they slowly but surely descended further and further toward the water.
And behind that, the castle of Hogwarts emerged in the distance, its many wings and towers and the arched stone bridge in front of it basking in the glorious rays of the morning sun.
Slowly, his whole world tilted. The castle no longer stood straight up, but instead the blue-tiled roofs all pointed almost horizontally. The mountains in the distance shifted the same way. Guns, rifles and bullets fell past him and landed on the windscreen. And he felt weightless as the car arched gracefully through the sky, until he could see nothing in front of him but the deep, dark water of the Black Lake.
They broke through the surface, and he knew no more.
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Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Author's Notes: This is the final chapter. Enjoy.
His ears throbbed. That was the first thing he noticed. His ears throbbed, as if there was a great pressure pushing against them. Then he noticed the uneven, cold surface against his back, and he realised he was laying down. Part by part, he became aware of the rest of his body. He was lying on his back, he concluded, on a rocky, cold surface, and the place smelt stony, dusty. He felt fine, if oddly heavy, but the bruises and wounds from the fight the past night with Savage didn’t hurt anymore. Most unusual, though, was that he was completely naked.
He opened his eyes. He saw nothing but water above him, but for some reason he was on dry land. He had no trouble breathing, either. He looked down at his own body. He was indeed as naked as the day he was born, and the light breaking through the water above him gave him a blue-ish glow. It occurred to him that he saw clearly, even though he wasn’t wearing his glasses. Confused, he sat up, and took in his surroundings.
He was in a cave. An enormous cavern. The walls were built up of innumerable stone layers stacked atop each other. The ceiling was arched, much like that of a cathedral or a temple, and it was abundant with stalactites, some small, some so large they almost reached the ground. Harry guessed that the room must’ve been at least 60 or 70 feet high. And all up above there was a hole. He saw grey-blue water above it, and light shone through that danced playfully off the walls and the ground. But the water somehow halted at the ceiling of this subterranean hall. It was like he was in an enormous underwater air bubble. He felt impossibly small, sitting there on the uneven rocky floor. Like an insignificant insect within these ancient walls.
The feeling of waking up naked in a mysterious, unknown place was strange, he thought, but it wasn’t completely unknown to him.
Am I dead? he thought.
“Not quite,” a voice said behind him, echoing through the cavern.
Harry jumped up and spun around, and saw a woman approach him from a dark end of the hall. She stepped into the watery light. She had red hair, but darker than Ginny’s, and much wavier. Her tall, bony body was clad in nothing but a myriad of strange, dark-green plants that wrapped around her hips and chest. Her face was drawn with harsh lines around her mouth and on her forehead, and her eyes were dark brown, almost black, and entirely unreadable. Her gaze never left him, and the closer she approached, the more self-conscious he felt about his exposed state. She stepped up a small and crooked stone stairway and stopped about five feet away from him, still looking at him, still with her unreadable expression.
“Who are you?” he asked. “And where are we? Where is Ginny?”
She cocked her head to the side for a brief moment before answering. “You have many questions, lad. Let me introduce myself: I am many. Some call me Boann, some Clota. In times long gone I was named Abnoba, or Icaunus. It is the belief of man that names and makes me.” Her voice was heavy. She held out her thin arms, her palms opened up to him. “I am the goddess of rivers, and guardian of waters. And you, Harry Potter, are in the place that has called out to you and has pulled you in for so long. This is my sanctuary.”
Harry glanced around, then looked back at her, millions of thoughts streaming through his head. The thought that he was stark naked in front of her prominent among them, but he found that he didn’t care as much about that as he probably should.
“I didn’t know goddesses existed,” he said eventually.
“And you didn’t think magic existed either, until you saw it,” she rebuked. The corner of her mouth curved up at his shocked expression. “Come now. You are but one of many children I have seen grow into maturity here. I have seen you, and I know all about you. Your feelings, your past… your trials…” She took a few steps towards him and gently traced her finger over the faded scar on his forehead. He let her. She stepped back again. “Magic is about intent. And as long as it is intended, I, and many other deities, are as true as the rivers flowing from mountain to sea.”
Harry took it all in as well as he could. It was hard to believe that this was true, but the cave they were in was otherworldly enough to convince him that this wasn’t just a normal place. His feelings of shame were quickly rising, though, and he gingerly tried to cover his crotch with his hands.
“Do not worry about scrutiny. I am older than shame and privacy,” the woman said.
“Perhaps, but I’m not,” Harry said, feeling his ears heat up. She didn’t react to him. “Hang on, you said that this place has been calling out to me… is that why I felt that pull all the time?”
“You’ve always been quick to weave things together,” she said, a trickle of amusement showing in her gaze. “Yes, that is why you’ve felt yourself drawn to the river a few moons before now. And it is also why you have travelled here this morn.”
“That, my lad, is a very good question. Come, walk with me.” She turned on her spot, and descended down the small malformed stairway again. He stared at her for a moment, and then took off after her.
The slight tapping noise as his feet connected with the rock underneath him echoed faintly through the hall. But he heard no sound from the woman in front of him. She walked, but she could just have well have glided over the eroded ground. He followed her all across the cavern, until they reached one particularly jutted rock. The sharp point towered above him and reached toward the watery ceiling, but the goddess seemed more interested in the alcove underneath it.
“Come closer,” she said, with her back turned to him. He obliged, and stepped next to her. She pointed to a small, square hole in the rock that looked just about the only artificial thing in the cave.
“Look inside,” she ordered. He bent over and looked closely into the dark space. A ray of light descended from the ceiling and briefly lit up what lay inside it. It was a wand. A familiar wand. He gasped and took a step back.
“Yes,” the goddess said. “The Elder Wand.”
“How is that possible?” he asked. “I broke it in half and threw it away!”
“Foolish boy!” she snapped. He shrunk back from her outburst. “Did you ever think that a powerful artefact such as this can be broken with such a simple action? You may have broken the wood, but the wand did not die. Because of your actions–”she pointed a bony finger at him–“this foul thing has floated into my domain. And it is corrupted! My reach is infected with filth, because it is drawn here by this curse of nature!”
“I’m sorry! But I swear I didn’t know it could do such a thing!” he protested. That did explain the Grindylows and other Dark creatures.
“Perhaps not, but any wizard should know better than to act so carelessly with such a powerful thing.”
“I’m sorry,” he said again.
The anger seemed to leave her. “Perhaps you are, but nevertheless, the evil has already been done,” she said. “I will show you to your friend now. She is injured greatly.”
Harry, who had been staring at the hole in the rock, looked up in shock.
“Where is she?” he demanded. She didn’t respond, but gestured to a place further to the middle of the cavern. He could just see a figure lying there, and without hesitating, he sprinted towards it. He stumbled over stones and seems in the rocks, and almost lost his balance tripping over a stalagmite, but he soon reached the elevated platform she laid on.
“Ginny!” he called when he reached her. He kneeled down next to her. She, like him, was fully naked, but the sight of her gorgeous body was marred by a grisly mess of gunshot wounds on her stomach. Her face had lost all its colour.
“Ginny, wake up! C’mon, you’ve got to wake up, please!” He felt nor saw a breath. His breath hitched, and he stroked a few stray locks of hair out of her face and gently traced around the wounds. “Please, Ginny, wake up. Don’t do this to me,” he whispered.
“She won’t wake.” Harry turned around. The goddess approached the platform slowly. “The damage is too great. She is bleeding inside, and her body is failing. She is dying.”
“But can’t you do something? You’re a goddess!”
“Alas, I can’t. I have but a limited influence on the flow of life above,” she said, showing not a trace of remorse as she looked down on them.
“But there must be something we can do. I can’t… I can’t let her die here.” He felt his throat tighten. “Please, help me.”
“As I said, I cannot help,” she said, unapologetically. “There is, however, a way to save her still.”
“Anything,” Harry breathed. “I’d do anything to save her.”
Her gaze bored into his, and for a moment he couldn’t look away from the silent power that lay behind those eyes. “A normal wand cannot heal her. She is too far on her way for that. There is only one wand that has the power to heal her, and summon her back.” She slowly took her hand from behind her back, and revealed in her open palm the Elder Wand. He stared at it open-mouthed. “This is what pulled you here, Harry Potter. You are the next successor in the history of this artefact. You have been chosen, and nothing will change that. Accept the wand and be its new master, and you can still save your mate. It is destined to be this way.”
Harry didn’t know what to do. He saw, and felt, that wicked pull. In his mind, he saw the bloody history of the wand, the countless treasons, murders and destroyed lives it caused. But he felt the power. He felt it in every fibre of him, and he remembered, faintly, that thrill that ran through him as he first held the wand, and the pang of loss he felt as he broke it in half and threw it off the bridge right after the Battle of Hogwarts.
He was afraid. There was no doubt that the Wand would affect him, but he didn’t have the slightest idea how. And Ginny’s life was slipping away as he sat there next to her.
“If I accept the wand,” he asked slowly, “how can I save her?”
“You’ll know what to do,” was her reply.
He stared at the wand. Then at Ginny. She looked peaceful, and if her face wasn’t so pale and if it weren’t for her bleeding stomach, he would have thought she was sleeping.
He didn’t want that wand. That much was certain. He felt revolted at the hunger it called up in him. But imagining a future without Ginny was more painful than a Cruciatus curse. He could imagine himself walking into the Burrow today, Ron by his side, silent, but in tears. He imagined Molly Weasley, her red hair thinning and greying, embracing him as she heard about her daughter. Arthur, crumpled in his chair, his body shaking with sobs. He saw nights spent alone, crying for his lost love, and a longing loneliness that would never fade with time.
“Everything’s going to change,” he said.
“Oh, Harry,” the goddess said, and for once he heard a motherly compassion in her voice that touched him in a place he’d never known before. “If only you knew how true that is. If only you knew what trials are still waiting for you.”
He nodded, and wiped the tears off his cheeks as he stood up. “I’ll do it.” He walked over to her and without hesitation, he took the Elder Wand from her.
If he were asked to describe how he felt in that moment, he couldn’t possibly think of an answer. Moments of change bring up many feelings. Sometimes they made him feel fearful for the future, but on other times they left him hopeful beyond words instead. The change that occurred when he reclaimed the wand, however, was different, muddled.
The goddess stepped back. Harry turned around and sat back down at Ginny’s side. Slowly, he dragged the tip of his wand over her exposed belly. And as he completed the movements and murmured the incantations, it felt like the wand was whispering things in his ear, telling him forbidden knowledge of incantations he’d never heard of before. And it showed. His ears thrummed as a faint golden glow began to form around the three wounds. The thin, angry red lines of the veins around it retreated and returned to a normal colour, and the wounds slowly shrunk in size. Three bullets were pushed out and fell on the stone floor with a soft tinkling noise, and then the wounds closed entirely, leaving barely a scar. And finally, her face regained its normal healthy colour. She breathed in again, and even though she didn’t open her eyes, he knew she was going to be okay now.
“It is done,” the goddess said behind him. “Look up.”
Harry gazed up at the watery ceiling. Countless forms that looked like small creatures swam by, occasionally blocking the sunlight that trickled into the cave.
“The Grindylows…” he said. “They’re retreating.”
“Yes. Now that you’ve accepted the Elder Wand, the pull those foul beings felt has gone. My domain is free once more. I thank you.”
He wondered what that meant for him.
“Look at me, lad.” He turned toward her. Her stern look at disappeared like snow in the sun, and she smiled warmly at him. Some of the heaviness that had been resting on him ever since he woke up here lifted from him. “I will send you back shortly, but I must tell you this. What you did today was a noble act, and I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice you made.”
“I couldn’t do this to Ginny. Or her family,” he told her truthfully.
“And that is what I will always admire about you. Remember this: I know you are afraid. Some acts have terrible consequences, and they may haunt you for the rest of your life.” He began to see dark edges in his vision, and his eyelids drooped as she spoke. “But even in your darkest days, even if it seems the end of all hope, remember why you did this. I have seen your heart, Harry, and I know why you took the wand from me today. Remember that, Harry. Remember…” He slumped down next to Ginny and closed his eyes.
When he opened his eyes again, he was back in their car, surrounded on all sides with water as they slowly sank to the bottom of the lake. Ginny was next to him, her eyes still shut. Water streamed in from the smashed back window, and it already stood halfway up his shins. They had little time.
He cast a Bubble-Head Charm on the two of them and unbuckled his seatbelt. He tried to free Ginny too, but the belt was stuck. He pushed the button, and again, and again, but it wouldn’t budge, and his movements were sluggish. Everything went impossibly slow as the entire car filled with water. He finally pulled his wand and cast a severing charm at the seat belt. He opened the passenger door and finally swam out of the car, pulling Ginny along with him. He watched the Mercedes descend further into the deep, dark depths for a moment, and then started the ascent towards the light above. He briefly paused halfway through to watch the swarm of Grindylows far away in the lake. The school was accompanied by a much larger shape he couldn’t quite make out in the dark and murky water, and they slowly disappeared into the distance.
He turned his head up and dragged them both to the surface, and they breached soon after.
He tried to Apparate them to the nearby shore, but then he remembered the Anti-Apparition Charm Savage had cast on the two of them. He turned on his back, laid Ginny’s head on his chest, cupped her ears to keep her in place, and started swimming to shore.
She looked relaxed, but her hair was darker now that it was wet, and she looked paler than before. Worryingly, her lips had turned blue from the cold.
They reached the shore. With Ginny scooped up in his arms, he stumbled through the rocks and fallen trees further uphill. He gently laid her down on a large, flat rock, and immediately set to casting a warming charm on her. He bent over and put his head on her chest. He heard the reassuring, steady beat of her heart. She was breathing normally as well. A heaviness he hadn’t noticed before lifted from his stomach.
“Ennervate,” he said, his trusted holly wand pointed at her.
She breathed in deeply, and finally opened her eyes.
“Hi,” he said, breaking out a grin.
“Hi,” she replied, confused. Harry couldn’t hold it in anymore, and gathered her in his arms.
“I’ve been so worried about you,” he whispered in her hair, and he squeezed her tightly. “I thought I’d lost you.”
“Where are we? What happened?” She hesitantly wrapped her arms around him as well.
“What do you remember?”
“Well, it’s kind of foggy. I remember the helly copter, and you with that bloody gun of yours… but nothing after that,” she murmured into his chest. “Did we get him?”
“Yeah, we got him. They crashed into the lake – so did we, actually. Look where we ended up.”
He eased out of their embrace and gestured her towards the castle at the far end of the valley.
“That’s Hogwarts,” she whispered. “How in the bloody hell did we end up here?”
“Where’s the car?”
“In the lake.”
“Wow.” She leaned against his shoulder, and he wrapped an arm around her.
“Remember we said we needed to talk?”
“There’s also something else we need to do.” She shifted her position and looked deeply in his eyes, her expression unreadable, and he was in that moment strongly reminded of the goddess he’s just seen.
“That kiss you gave me? Back in the car?” He nodded. He’d always admired the smattering of freckles on her cute nose, and they were even more noticeable now. “Not good enough. I need another one.”
“I can do that,” he breathed. They leaned in, and finally, finally, their lips pressed together. He closed his eyes and moaned lowly at the incredible sensations running through his body. All the insecurities, all the loneliness of the past years and all the pent-up desire he never lost for her. And it felt so right. He poured all those emotions into their kiss. He never wanted to lose that feeling of her lips pressed to his.
She pulled away, and looked deeply into his eyes. He breathed out shakily, his heart beating wildly in his chest.
“Much better,” she said, her eyes flicking down to his lips. Her hand snaked around his head and pulled him in again. It felt just as good as the first one, and so did the one after that. Her lips drove him wild, and he ended up flat on his back, Ginny half draped over him. He relished the intoxicating feeling of her small body pressed so close to him.
Finally, they broke the kiss, and she laid her head down on his chest.
“So what happened after you shot the helly copter?”
“Helicopter,” he corrected her.
“Same difference. Just start talking.”
He only now noticed the way the Elder Wand was pressed to him in his back pocket. “Well, after I shot it, and those shots were amazing by the way, I sat back down in the driver’s seat. But you were shot in the belly.”
Her head veered up. “I was shot?” she asked him.
“Yeah, you were.”
She lifted her pyjamas to look at her stomach. There was barely a scar, Harry was happy to see. “So how come I don’t feel anything now?”
“I’m getting to that. I was way too busy looking at you, so I didn’t see the road ahead. And then there was no road anymore, so we drove off, and fell right into the lake.” He paused. “I think I lost consciousness for a moment, because when I opened my eyes, we were really deep, and there was water pouring in from the broken back window. So I cut us loose, cast a Bubble-Head Charm on us, and swam us back to shore.”
“So did you heal me?”
“I did, yeah. Like I said before, I’m not a healer, but I’ve learnt a lot about healing as an Auror. I extracted the bullets and healed the wounds. Then I woke you up, and now we’re here.”
She stared at him. He stared back.
“You must be very good then. I mean, I hardly see a scar.” She patted her belly.
She cast another glance at him. There was something in that look. She’d always seen right through him. Even when he was fifteen and worried that he was possessed by Voldemort, she knew exactly what bothered him, and she dispelled those worries with only a few words. He’d never been able to lie to her, and at this moment it was perfectly clear that she knew he wasn’t telling the full truth.
But then her eyes softened. She put one hand on his chest and leaned in for another languid kiss. “I guess that another one on the list of ‘Harry saves Ginny’s life’, isn’t it?”
“Just because you can’t stay out of trouble,” he said, grinning.
“Hey! It’s your fault that we were even chased by those lunatics!” At his frown, she hastened to continue. “And no, that does not mean you can start blaming yourself for all this. I thought we’d kicked that habit of yours!”
“Just an old feeling that creeps in now and again,” he said.
She sighed. “You are incorrigible, you know that?”
“Wouldn’t have me any other way, though.” He stole another kiss.
“Hmm, it would be nice if you could get a less intense job,” she mused. “Harry the Handyman, that sounds much safer, don’t you think.”
He snorted. “Says you, Miss Professional Quidditch Player. Also–”
She gasped. “The game! Oh, bloody hell, I completely forgot about it!”
“Relax, it’s only Thursday. There’s still three days until the game.”
“Yeah, but we need to go to the training grounds as quickly as possible. Mrs. Henderson will have a fit if she hears what I’ve done. She hands out those “unfit to play” cards like they’re candy!”
“Need an Auror to guide you?” he asked.
“Yeah, I do, actually,” she said, smirking. “Speaking of which…”
Something large and heavy impacted with Harry, and he and Ginny suddenly found themselves in the bone-crushing embrace of Ron Weasley.
“Bloody terrifying… Saw you dive into the water... Never do that again, hear me?!” Harry heard him shout.
“Ron!” Ginny shouted. “Gerrof, you’re breaking us!”
He mercifully obliged, and for a moment the three stood there, panting, grinning madly at each other.
“So,” Ron said, panting slightly as if he’d run a long distance. “What happened to you two?”
“Mate, that’s a long story, and we’re cold and wet and tired…”
“Hungry…” Ginny added.
“Gravely wounded…” Harry mused.
“In desperate need of a bath…”
“Right, right, I get it. let’s get out of here, then,” Ron interrupted. “Harry, the office has been absolute chaos this morning, and you’re gonna have to sort it out. The sooner, the better, I think.”
“Oh God, imagine all the paperwork,” Harry groaned.
“Glorious paperwork,” Ron said gleefully. “And all for you to deal with. Ginny, normally I’d act like a big brother and ask you if you’re alright, but seeing how you and Harry here–” He stopped when they both punched him in the arm. “Right, anyway. I say we Apparate to your homes and get you two washed and dressed. There’s barely anything left of those pyjamas.” Harry indeed noted the wasted, torn state of their nightwear.
“Can’t Apparate, mate. Savage put an Anti-Apparition Charm on us.”
“Oh, I’ll Side-Along you two then. Wait, Savage? From the Auror Office?”
“Yeah. Again, long story, I’ll tell you later.”
“Alright. Well, the others are waiting just up this hill, so I’ll, erm… I’ll go and tell them they can go report back to the Ministry. Don’t go anywhere!” And with a crack, Ron disappeared.
Harry turned to Ginny. “Listen-”
“No, it’s okay, Harry. We’ll talk later. We’ll have all the time from now on.”
“We will,” Harry said, the words of the goddess still ringing in his ears. “Brilliant.”
Ginny smiled radiantly, and he wrapped his arms around her and ducked his head to give her another kiss. At that moment, standing in her arms, basking in the light of the beautiful spring morning, he felt that his decisions back in the lake felt absolutely worth it. He hardly felt the oddly heavy weight of the Elder Wand that clung to him.
Thank you very much for reading. Once again I'd like to thank moon_potato, Alresha, Selethe and NaughtyGaymer for their amazing help and support. Thank you also to the people who reviewed this story on ffn.net and her on SIYE, the response has been nothing short of amazing!
Now, let's talk about where this story ended. Obviously there's a lot of room for a sequel, and I've got plenty of ideas written. Given the very positive feedback I've gotten so far, but most of all the sheer fun I've had writing this, I'm definitely down for writing that sequel. Please do let me know what you think, I appreciate the input! I'll see you in the next story.
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