|SIYE Time:21:58 on 20th January 2018|
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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Nymphadora Tonks
Warnings: Death, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Summary: After four years working overseas for the shadowy Department M, a world-weary and dispirited Harry Potter returns to the land of his birth. He meets some old friends and makes some new ones, as he learns that much has changed since he left home. AU, a ‘Harry never went to Hogwarts’ story.
Hitcount: Story Total: 45052; Chapter Total: 3136
Awards: View Trophy Room
Another rapid update, courtesy of my brand, spanking new computer. Now, if I can only get my head around Word 2013, I’ll be okay. Why does the saved folders section look so weird?
Huge thanks as always to Arnel for beta reading. Apparently having a monitor twice the size of my old one didn’t help me to spot all my errors…
Chapter 11 — Reconciliation
“I’m an idiot,” Bill moaned.
“Yes, you are,” Harry said, rather more harshly then he intended.
“How was Tonks today?” Ginny asked her boyfriend.
“Angry, and she took it out on me a lot, too. Thanks a bunch for that, Bill,” he growled.
The three of them were sitting at a small table in the Leaky Caldron, having agreed to meet there after work. Bill was staring mournfully into his tankard of ale, a picture of misery.
“Did Tonks tell you exactly what my idiot brother did to upset her?” Ginny asked. “This big git won’t tell.”
“Oh, let me explain, then,” Harry said forcefully. “It appears that in the middle of sex Bill decided to ask Dora to use her metamorphic abilities to alter herself.”
Ginny turned to her brother in horror. “Please tell me that you didn’t ask her to look like Fleur!” she practically begged.
“No! Of course not. I wouldn’t do anything that stupid,” Bill snapped. “It was only meant to be a bit of fun.”
“He asked her to enhance her chest area,” Harry clarified.
“You bloody tosser!” Ginny raged.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” Bill said meekly. “I just thought it might be fun, you know. Remember when she used to pull those weird faces for you and Ron when you were younger? I just thought it would be like that.”
“Yeah, ‘cos that’s exactly what any girl wants to hear in the middle of sex, isn’t it? Why didn’t you ask her to put on a clown nose and have done with it,” she hissed at him.
“Bill, I don’t think you understand how much this has hurt Dora,” Harry said. “All her life, she’s had blokes coming up to her and asking her to become someone else. How do you think that feels to just be some toy that men can use to pretend they’re with their favourite celebrity, or something? They were effectively saying to her ‘you’re not good enough for me, but if you pretend to look like someone else, I’ll sleep with you’. Imagine how that feels!”
“This isn’t like that,” Bill protested.
“Yes, it bloody is!” Harry yelled, banging his fist on the table. “It’s exactly like that! You told Dora that just being herself isn’t good enough for you.”
“Okay, let’s cool things down and try to decide what to do now,” Ginny said calmly.
“There’s not much that can be done at the moment,” Harry said, trying to get his temper under control. “Dora won’t discuss you at all, Bill. I think your best bet is to let her calm down a bit before you try talking to her. Let me tell you now, when that happens you’d better have a bloody good apology worked out, mate!”
“How long do you think I should give her?” Bill asked with a frown.
“A couple of years ought to do it,” Harry replied. “Bill, you have to understand that Dora’s not been in a good place recently. I don’t think she ever really got over Remus dying and she’s been running on autopilot ever since. She works too hard and drinks too much. Things were starting to improve since she started dating you, but now I’m afraid we’ll be back to square one. I know she comes over as strong and sassy, but she’s pretty vulnerable at the moment and your actions have just made that a lot worse.”
“Shit,” Bill mumbled and put his head in his hands.
“Do you think it would help if I tried to talk to her?” Ginny asked.
“Only if you came bearing Bill’s head on a spike,” Harry replied. “Seriously, give it a few days. I’ll try and smooth things over with her, and we’ll see how things go from there.”
“I can’t believe this,” Bill moaned. “I never meant to hurt her in a million years. If I had any idea other blokes had asked her to do those things I would never have suggested it. I just thought it was a bit of fun, a bit of sexual experimentation, if you like.”
“Bill, if you’re going to try experimenting in bed, it really pays to discuss it with your partner first,” Ginny noted irritably.
“Is that what you and Harry do?” Bill asked angrily. “I warn you now, Potter, if you…”
“BILL!” Ginny yelled. “You’ve already upset Tonks, are you trying to piss me off, too? What Harry and I get up to is none of your damned business. I’m a grown woman and I can do what I like to who I like, and if you try pulling any of this protective big brother crap on me, you’ll be spending a week at St Mungo’s. Got it?”
“Yeah, alright,” Bill said, backing down. “I just don’t like discussing this kind of stuff with my own sister, okay? I know you’re a grown woman, but sometimes I still see that little girl you used to be.”
“Bill, if you ever try and treat me like a little girl again, I swear I will bloody hex your bits off,” she growled. “I’m a curse-breaker just like you, remember. If you start getting all protective at work, you could end up getting us both killed.”
“I know, I just… bugger. I should just keep my mouth shut at the moment, shouldn’t I?” he said plaintively.
“It would save a lot of aggro,” Harry agreed.
Bill pushed his untouched tankard away from him and stood up. “I’m going to head home. I’m obviously not fit company at the moment. Harry, please tell Tonks I’m desperately sorry. Please tell her I need to talk with her, okay?”
“I’ll try, Bill,” Harry promised.
After dropping a small kiss on the top of his sister’s head, Bill headed out the door, looking like a man walking to his own execution.
“Bollock,” Harry muttered.
“I think that about sums it up,” Ginny agreed. “Have you eaten yet?”
“Nah, want to go and get a bite to eat somewhere?” he asked.
“Sounds good, unless you need to go back and be with Tonks?”
“Actually, she made it pretty clear she wanted some time on her own. I suspect there’s a large bottle of vodka keeping her company at the moment,” Harry noted sadly.
“Do you think you can get them back together? Bill’s just been so happy since he hooked up with Tonks, I would hate for that all to fall apart just because of one brainless moment,” Ginny asked with a frown.
“I really don’t know. A few years ago I would have been hopeful as Dora’s one of the most forgiving people I know, but now… I’m really not sure,” he admitted.
“Well, like you said, there’s nothing we can do about it right now. Let’s go and get something to eat. What do you fancy?”
“I could really go for a pizza accompanied by an ice, cold beer,” Harry told her.
“Sounds good to me. Dinner’s on me this time, okay?” she smiled.
“I suppose if I get all belligerent and insist that the man should pay, I’ll get a good hexing, won’t I?” he grinned.
“Damn right, buster!” she warned.
“I guess I’ll have to think of some other way to pay you back for dinner, then,” he said suggestively.
“What did you have in mind?” she smirked.
“Well, if you’re a good girl, I might let you see my new tattoo,” he said.
“Oh, you got it done! What is it?” she asked excitedly.
“I got the words ‘Ginny forever’ tattooed inside a big heart on my chest,” he told her.
“What? You didn’t, did you?” she exclaimed, looking rather horrified. She then hit him when he burst out laughing.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he apologised, “but as for what I did get, well, you’ll have to wait and see.”
“Can’t wait,” she smiled seductively.
“Just be glad that I didn’t let Carla give me a Prince Albert,” he smiled as he helped her up.
“A what?” she asked in confusion.
Harry decided that that was one conversation he was going to avoid.
The night was warm as the two bodies moved together in perfect unison. The only noise that could be heard in the darkened room was the occasional moan of pleasure or a shuddering breath.
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny gasped, her hands caressing his back, urging him to move faster.
Harry didn’t reply. Instead, he began to leave a trail of hot, steamy kisses down his lover’s neck and he continued to gently push himself into her. The feel of her firm breast pressed against his chest was driving him wild, and it was only with supreme willpower that he managed to stop himself thrusting wildly like an animal. The sensations he was experiencing were just too delicious to rush…
Suddenly, the door to Harry’s bedroom slammed open and the room was filled with light.
Before he was fully aware of what was happening, Harry had flung himself to one side and grabbed his wand which was resting on a bedside cabinet. He swivelled, bringing it up ready to cast a spell… before he froze in horror.
Standing in the doorway was Dora. She was dressed in a torn t-shirt and her knickers. In her hand was a quarter-full bottle of vodka and she looked barely able to stand.
“Dora?” he said warily.
“Waa… you two… hick… doin, eh?” Dora mumbled. “You… you…fu…kin, eh?”
“Merlin, she’s smashed out of her skull!” Ginny gasped.
“Wanna… wanna…” Dora slurred and started to lurch forward.
Harry was instantly on his feet and grabbed hold of her, uncaring that he was currently stark naked. Dora, for her part, seemed too drunk to even notice.
“You… err… wanna…” Dora mumbled, swinging her bottle about in an apparent attempt to offer Harry a swing. He looked at her with an appalled expression on his face.
“Grab her, Harry,” Ginny called out, and a second later Dora slumped in his arms, her bottle falling to the floor where it spilled on the carpet. Harry looked up to see Ginny standing there brandishing her wand.
“Sleeping Charm,” she explained. “That should put her out until morning.”
“Good idea,” Harry said approvingly, before sliding his arm under Dora’s knees and lifting her up. “I’ll put sleeping beauty to bed.”
He carried his friend to her bedroom and placed her gently on the bed. Pulling a sheet over her, he took the liberty of casting a charm on her so that an alarm would go off if her vital signs started to fluctuate. He’d heard of too many drunks choking to death on their own vomit. He then quietly closed the door and returned to his own bedroom.
Ginny had returned to bed and was sitting up with her arms crossed.
“Well, that was a mood killer,” she complained. “Does she often get like that?”
“That’s the first time she’s staggered into my bedroom like that, although she has been drinking herself into oblivion on a regular basis,” he admitted.
“What was she trying to do? Join in or break us up?” Ginny asked in exasperation.
“I doubt she knew herself,” he sighed. “This can’t go on. Her mum warned me that she was worried about the amount she was drinking, and since this ruckus with Bill she’s gone off the deep end. I did think she was getting better. Damn.”
“What can we do to help?” Ginny asked.
“I think the best thing we can do is eliminate the reason for this latest binge. We need to get Dora and your brother back together. The happier Dora is, generally the less she drinks. She’s definitely one of those people who uses alcohol to mask their pain. The question is, how are we going to get them back together again?” he pondered.
“Well, when Ron and Hermione were dancing around each other back at Hogwarts, I did lock them in a broom cupboard together once,” Ginny smirked, before her smile faded. “Not sure that would work here, though.”
“Why not?” Harry asked. “They’re never going to get back together unless Dora actually talks to Bill. I think we just need to push them together somehow.”
“I think you’re right,” she agreed, before looking at him apologetically. “Harry, after seeing Tonks like that, I don’t really feel like carrying on what we were doing. Sorry.”
“No, it’s okay. I can’t say I’m exactly in the mood anymore,” he admitted. “Let’s just cuddle up and go to sleep.”
Ginny crawled into his arms and with a wave of his wand, Harry extinguished the lights. Both of them were asleep in minutes.
“Do you think I’m overreacting?” Dora asked quietly.
It was the first words she’d spoken in the last ten minutes. Harry looked over at her from his position in the driver’s seat of the VW. After the state she’d been in the previous night, he’d flatly refused to allow her to drive.
“I think you have a certain amount of justification for the way you acted,” he said carefully. “Although I think you should hear what Bill has to say before you do anything too radical.”
Dora remained silent and stared out of the window.
Harry sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy. “Look, I know what he asked you to do was insulting and stupid, but when I saw him yesterday he looked genuinely devastated at what he’d done. I think it was just a stupid idea he had when in the throes of passion. I’m sure he’ll never ask you to do anything like that again.”
Dora just shrugged.
“Look, I can’t tell you what you should do, but do you truthfully want to break up with him? You seemed so happy recently, and this might all just be some stupid misunderstanding. Do you not think the relationship is worth giving him a second chance?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied in a tight voice.
“Dora, I know you. This thing with Bill has got you questioning the whole idea of being in a relationship again, hasn’t it? You can’t think like that, luv. Remus wouldn’t have wanted you to be alone and deep down I don’t think you want to be, either. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but I do think that if you stop seeing Bill because of this you might come to regret it later. Do you honestly not want to see him anymore?” he persisted.
Dora sighed. “You do think I’m overreacting, don’t you?” she asked, but her voice sounded weary rather than angry.
“Hey, I’m on your side and I’ll support you in whatever you want to do,” he told her truthfully, “but if it’s advice you’re after, I think you should at least talk to him.”
“I’ll think about it,” she said quietly.
“That’s all I can ask,” he smiled as he hit the accelerator and launched the small car across a roundabout. He might not have been the manic driver Dora was, but he knew that you didn’t hang about in London traffic.
“So, you want to swing by ‘Creative Creations’ and see if anything happening over there?” Dora asked, sounding a little bit more cheerful.
“Not a bad idea,” he agreed. “Heaven knows we’ve got few other leads at the moment, keeping an eye on that place might be our best option.”
“You know, I’ve had this strange feeling something’s going to happen soon,” she confessed. “You can almost feel it in the air; a kind of nervous anticipation.”
“Yeah, those leaflets about Kingsley seem to have kicked over a hornets nest. Shame he’s still insisting all these bloody garden parties have to go ahead. They’re a huge sodding security risk,” he muttered indignantly, while easing the car into lane to head west.
“Have you been allocated a day to attend as a guest yet?” she smirked.
“Yeah, the Cardiff event,” he grumbled. “The only good thing about it is that I’m allowed to take a guest and Ginny’s free that day. I can’t say I’d been very keen, otherwise.”
“Ah, is Ginny going to protect you from Miss Flirty-tits Greengrass, then?” she giggled.
“Actually, Greengrass seems to have forgotten about me for the moment, I’m pleased to say. The fact that everyone I’ve talked to about her can’t stand the sight of her is warning enough for me,” he grimaced.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. She gives me the creeps, actually. She always looks at you like she knows something you don’t. Stick with your little redhead, Harry. Ginny’s a million times better than Greengrass,” Dora said passionately.
“I intend to,” Harry nodded. “I turn down here to get to ‘Creative Creations’, don’t I?”
“Yeah, take this left turn and then go straight over at the traffic lights and we’ll be right there,” Dora nodded. “Probably best if you drive straight past initially and then we’ll ditch the car in the next street. Do you want to put in that order for our wedding cake?”
Harry laughed. “Why not? When it’s finished I thought we could take it into work with us and treat everyone. You know what a sweet tooth Dedalus has.
“Ha! You’d instantly become his new favourite,” she laughed.
Grinning, Harry slowed the car as they pulled up to the traffic lights which were currently red. From here, he could see the shop front of ‘Creative Creations’ although there didn’t seem to be much going on. As he tapped the steering wheel impatiently, he caught sight of a man emerging from a passageway between two shops to his left. With a start, Harry suddenly realised he recognised the man. He was about to say something to Dora, when the man reached into his jacket and pulled out a wand which he immediately pointed straight at the car.
“DOWN!” Harry just had time to yell before a terrific blast smashed into the front of the little VW. For a second, a blinding flash obscured his vision before the car’s airbags (which miraculously still worked after all of Dora’s alterations) inflated and knocked the air out of his lungs.
It took a few seconds for Harry to get his bearings again. When he did, the first thing that went through his head was that there was a hostile wizard outside with a wand pointed at them. Groping blindly, he managed to unbuckle his safety belt. The airbag was already beginning to deflate and he was relieved to see Dora was also fighting to get free. He grabbed the door handle but found that the impact had crumpled the car so badly that the door was wedged shut. Grabbing his wand from his jacket, he simply Vanished the whole door before grabbing the frame and hauling himself out.
Quickly, he looked around for their attacker, but couldn’t see him. Instead, a number of bystanders were hurrying over to help. The first to reach the car was a middle aged man who looked at the crumpled chassis in horror.
“You alright, mate?” he asked Harry.
“Yeah… yeah, I think I am,” he replied. By now Dora had managed to free herself and was steadying herself against the passenger door. “You okay, Dora?”
“I think so,” she replied, looking rather stunned. “What happened?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” the man said. “I was walking down the street and you were just waiting at the traffic lights and then suddenly… boom! The front of the car just exploded! What would cause it to do that?”
“I have no idea,” Harry lied.
Sometime later, Harry and Dora were sitting in the section’s office, having just debriefed Dedalus about the incident. The small man had just finished reviewing Harry’s memory of the attack in the Pensieve they kept for such eventualities.
“Hmm, interesting,” Dedalus noted thoughtfully as he withdrew his head from the bowl. “Having viewed your memory, Harry, I have to say that I don’t think this was an attempt to kill either of you.”
“You could have fooled me,” Dora snorted.
“No, it could well have been an attempt to scare you off, but not kill you. You will note that the attacker made direct eye contact with Harry moments before he cast his rather destructive spell. For only a brief second is the man’s wand actually pointed at Harry. The man then deliberately shifts his aim slightly downwards, meaning he meant to hit the car, not its occupants,” Dedalus reasoned.
“Actually, now you mention it, I think you could be right,” Harry agreed reluctantly. “If he’d wanted to kill me he had a clear shot.”
“So why did he attack us? What the hell does this bastard want?” Dora asked angrily. Earlier, she’d been quite tearful at the loss of her beloved car, but that sorrow had now turned to anger.
“Perhaps Dedalus is right and they’re trying to scare us off. Let me ask you something else. When we burst in on this man and his mate torturing Sudsy, how come they didn’t use any really nasty spells against us? Sudsy got a Killing Curse for his troubles, but we got nothing more dangerous than a Severing Charm thrown at us,” Harry pointed out.
“That could kill you easily enough,” Dora objected.
“True, but did you get the feeling that they were trying to do that? Now I think back, I don’t believe they were trying to cause us any serious harm. Why just save the Unforgivables for Sudsy?”
Dora frowned. “I don’t know. Actually, that really doesn’t make sense, does it?”
“I’m coming to the conclusion that very little about this case makes sense,” Dedalus sighed. “We could really have done without all this at the moment. The whole Ministry is jumpy enough already what with those anti-Kingsley leaflets the other day. An attack on members of his personal staff will just make things worse.”
“Has Hestia had any more luck tracking down our mysterious bill-border?” Dora asked.
“I’m afraid not, my dear,” Dedalus said. “We’re hearing whispers of insurrection and discontent from numerous sources, but nothing concrete has emerged. Oh, we investigated that mob of ex-snatchers your contact mentioned and one of them was foolish enough to attack Gregory. The misguided youth is currently in St Mungo’s and his companions are cooling their heels in the Ministry’s detention block.”
Harry grinned. Gregory was a large, powerful wizard who had been part of the section for a number of years. Personally, he felt that only an idiot would attack him and anyone who did probably got what they deserved.
“Right, as you two seem none the worst for your adventure, I suggest you get back out there. The fact that you were attacked so close to this intriguing cake shop of yours seems quite telling to me. I suggest you cautiously investigate the establishment again,” Dedalus suggested.
Harry looked over at Dora who nodded in agreement. They both rose from their seats and headed out of the office. They had only gone a few steps when a voice called out to them.
“Dora! You’re alright!”
They turned and saw Bill Weasley running towards them, with Ginny just a few feet behind her brother. Once Bill was a yard from Dora, he pulled up and stood awkwardly looking at her. Ginny, on the other hand, ran straight past him and flung her arms around Harry.
“Thank Merlin you’re okay!” she exclaimed. “When we heard you’d been attacked we feared the worst!”
“We’re fine, although Dora’s car’s a write-off,” Harry said, slipping his arms around her middle. “How did you know we’d been attacked, though?”
“Ron contacted us,” Ginny explained. “He just said that he’d heard there had been an incident and that you two were involved. We came as soon as we could.”
“Sorry for worrying you,” Harry said, looking into her large, brown eyes. “Honestly, we’re fine. In fact, we think that the attack might have been a warning of some sort rather than a deliberate attempt to harm us.”
“But why?” she asked.
“That is a very good question,” he replied. He then tore his gaze away from his beautiful girlfriend and saw that Dora and Bill were still standing there staring at each other awkwardly.
“I’m sorry, Tonks!” Bill suddenly blurted. “I never meant to hurt you. I was stupid, I know, and didn’t think how asking you to do that would affect you. I’m a complete moron.”
Dora remained still, looking at him with a conflicted expression on her face. Harry suddenly realised he needed to do something.
“Bill, would you give Dora an Unbreakable Vow that you’d never ask her to change for you again,” he called out.
“Absolutely!” Bill said instantly. “In a heartbeat.”
“Dora, you said you were afraid that Bill might only like you for your abilities and what you could turn into. I think he’s just proved that he’s more interested in you,” Harry pointed out gently.
Dora looked at Harry with a blank expression for a moment, before she turned back to Bill. She signed loudly. “You don’t need to give me a Vow, Bill. You know how dangerous those things can be.”
“I don’t care. If that’s what I need to do to prove to you that it’s you, and not whoever you can change into, that I want, then I’ll do it,” Bill said adamantly.
“No, just promise me that you won’t be such a massive dickhead again, and I’ll forgive you,” Dora told him quietly.
“Oh, he can’t do that, Tonks,” Ginny called over. “He’s a bloke, after all. He’s genetically incapable of not being a massive tool occasionally.”
“Thanks, sis,” Bill said sourly.
Dora giggled. “You’re right, Ginny. I guess I’ll just have to settle for hexing him the next time he does something stupid.”
“I think I prefer that idea,” Bill smiled shyly.
With a smile on her lips, Dora stomped forward and pulled Bill into a hug. Bill broke into a huge grin and fiercely wrapped his arms around her.
“Well, it seems that someone throwing a Blasting Curse at us was a good thing, after all,” Harry smirked.
“Apparently so,” Ginny said before kissing him soundly.
Harry smiled, glad that everything was back to normal. He was with Ginny, Dora was with Bill, and someone may or may not be trying to kill them.
Situation completely normal.
“You know, I think Robards was actually a bit disappointed that you and Tonks weren’t injured in that attack,” Ron said, before taking a healthy swig from his tankard.
“The more you tell me about your boss, Ron, the more I think he’s a total wanker,” Ginny snorted.
Harry grinned at his girlfriend. The three of them were currently propping up the bar at the Leaky Cauldron having all finished work for the day. He was finding that he enjoyed Ron’s company, and they seemed to have hit it off. Shame the bloke was a Chudley Cannons fan, but no one was perfect.
“He’s not the most inspiring of leaders,” Ron admitted. “He’s a safe pair of hands, though. Everything by the book, that’s his motto. You can imagine then how much he hates your mob, Harry.”
“Yeah, Dora told me as much. She never got on with the bloke. He’s far too much of a belts and braces type of character for her,” Harry told them.
“I can imagine,” Ron grinned. “Not that us Weasleys have ever been known for doing things according to regulations. Hell, some of my best arrests have been a result of some creative thinking on my part.”
“Wow, I’m amazed that you admit to doing any thinking, at all. You normally avoid that,” Ginny grinned.
“Are you sure you want to be involved with this one, Harry?” Ron asked, tilting his head towards his sister. “She can be a right mouthy little cow, you know.”
“Quite sure,” Harry laughed, as Ginny kicked her brother in the shin, just as he was about to take another swig of ale, too.
“Ow! Take it easy, sis,” Ron complained, wiping the front of his robes. “You’re wasting good beer, here!”
“That is a sin, you know,” Harry nodded.
“My apologies… to the beer,” Ginny said loftily.
Both men laughed. Harry was again impressed and slightly envious of the easy banter shared by the Weasley family, or at least the three he’d met. They seemed a pretty close-knit bunch.
“So, you have any luck tracking down the bastard who threw that curse at you?” Ron asked.
“Nah, the area was thoroughly searched, but the bloke was long gone. A couple of other section members posing as Muggle Police even went into the cake shop and asked if anyone had seen a man answering that description, but the staff there claimed they didn’t know anyone like that. Hestia was pretty certain they were telling the truth, too,” Harry grumbled.
“Of course, the attacker may have been wearing a Glamour and the shop staff know him as someone completely different,” Ron suggested.
“That’s entirely possible, but I just don’t get the feeling that anyone in ‘Creative Creations’ is involved in anything illegal. They genuinely seem to just be a bunch of talented bakers. I get the feeling that our attacker was watching the place, too, for some reason,” Harry said thoughtfully.
“But it was definitely the same bloke who killed Tonks’s informant, was it,” Ron asked with a frown.
“Yes, I’m certain,” he nodded.
“I just don’t see the connection,” Ron sighed. “Of course, it doesn’t help that Robards is still insisting that the murders of Andris Topa and this Sudsy character are completely unrelated to the attack on you.”
“You lot still working on the assumption that Topa’s killing was something to do with illegal potions?” Harry asked
“Yeah, even though we haven’t a scrap of evidence that the bloke was involved in anything like that. We have widened our inquires to include all ‘illegal items’ but we’re still not having a lot of luck. You still convinced that Topa had Muggle explosives on the premises?” Ron asked.
“Pretty sure, although for what purpose is unclear. Back in my old mob, we used plastic explosive when we wanted to hide all evidence of Magical involvement, so I assume someone wants to do the same. What the target is, however, is anyone’s guess,” he sighed.
“There’s a lot of negative feeling being directed at the Minister lately,” Ron pointed out in a concerned voice.
“I know. Believe me, I know,” Harry said darkly.
A worried silence descended for a moment, before Ginny decided things had gotten too gloomy.
“Right, enough shop-talk,” she decided. “Where are my handsome boyfriend and my not-so attractive brother taking me for dinner?”
Ron laughed. “Sorry, sis, you’ll have to con your dinner out of Harry here alone. I’ve got a hot date with a witch from the Improper Use of Magic office.”
“Not another one! How many witches have you dated in the last two years, Ronald?” Ginny demanded.
“Why deny myself to the witches of the world?” he asked smugly. “Seriously, I need to head home to get washed and changed. I’ll catch you guys later.”
Ron drained the last few drops of ale from his tankard before vanishing out the door. Ginny watched him go sadly. “I wish he’d find someone,” she noted.
“It sounds like he’s finding a lot of someones,” Harry pointed out. “Maybe he’s just not ready to settle down yet.”
“Or maybe he found the true love of his life and then broke up with her because he was too young to handle the relationship,” Ginny replied.
“Are you talking about Hermione Granger?” Harry asked curiously.
“Yeah, I am. I don’t think he ever really got over losing her, you know. He was just too immature at the time to make it work. I wish she’d give him another chance. Ron has really changed since he left school,” she said despondently.
“Perhaps I should drop a few hints. I did get Bill and Dora back together, after all,” he pointed out.
“You did,” Ginny smiled brightly. “Well, aren’t you just the perfect little cupid? Seriously, I think if Hermione did give Ron a chance she’d been pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, every time she looks at him she still sees that lazy, undisciplined, uncouth schoolboy she dated once.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Harry promised. “So, what do you fancy to eat?”
Ginny grinned before kissing him firmly on the lips. “A nice juicy steak would hit the spot around now,” she admitted.
Harry grinned back. Ginny was most definitely a girl after his own heart.
“This seems to be going well,” Ginny noted before taking a sip from her glass of white wine.
“This is the third of these events, so everything is running pretty slickly by now,” Harry noted, smiling at her. She was wearing a light blue summer dress with a wide-brimmed black hat. He was used to seeing her in jeans and a t-shirt, so was impressed she could pull-off a look of casual elegance, too.
“I haven’t seen Tonks about, though,” Ginny said, looking around.
“Oh, I think she’s disguised as someone else, today,” he replied. “She said she was getting out of practice doing that sort of thing.”
“So any of the security staff around here could be her?” Ginny grinned. “We’ll have to behave ourselves, then. Was she annoyed that she had to work today while you stand around sipping champagne and stuffing yourself from the buffet?”
“Nah, besides, he gets to be a guest at the next one in Bristol. I gather your brother isn’t looking forward to wearing a suit,” he chuckled.
“No, not at all! Still, I have to say you scrub up nicely, Mr Potter, even if you did nearly give me a heart attack turning up with your hair like that,” she smirked.
Harry had once again shortened his hair to appear more respectable. Unfortunately, he’d neglected to tell Ginny about his ability to change the length of his hair at will, and she’d been very upset at him. Apparently, men with long hair did it for her.
“Ah, Harry, you made it,” a silky voice said from behind him. He turned and barely managed to suppress a groan. Daphne Greengrass was rapidly approaching with an alluring smile on her lips.
“Hello, Daphne,” Harry said politely. “We were just commenting on how well everything seemed to be going.”
“Yes, so far everything has been going like clockwork, I’m pleased to say,” Greengrass nodded, before turning and looking at Ginny. “And you must be the lucky young witch that Harry mentioned he had started dating recently. Ginevra Weasley, isn’t it? I seem to remember you from school.”
“Ginny Weasley,” she corrected pointedly. “I remember you, too.”
“Of course, you were in Gryffindor, weren’t you? You’ll have to forgive me for my behaviour back then. The crowd I ran with back in those days were definitely a bigoted bunch, and I did rather fall into line with them just to fit in with them. Peer pressure, I suppose. Anyway, I’m not proud of the way I acted back in those days and I’m sorry if I ever did anything to offend you,” Daphne said.
“Well, thank you,” Ginny replied, sounding extremely surprised.
“Times have changed and we have a new, progressive Minister,” Daphne continued. “I like to think that my work in helping arrange events like today go some way to proving that that I’ve embraced Minister Shacklebolt’s message. We need people like him in charge, you know. The likes of You-Know-Who would have just led us to ruin. It’s time for some positive changes in our world.”
“That’s a very commendable attitude,” Harry agreed.
“Thank you,” Daphne said, smiling. “I just wish some of my former friends thought the same way.”
Ginny was about to say something, but was interrupted by the arrival of a tall, distinguished-looking man with iron-grey hair and a short, tidy beard. He wore an expensive suit and carried himself with dignity.
“Daphne, my dear, are these the people you were telling me about?” he asked.
“Indeed,” Daphne replied before turning back to Harry and Ginny. “May I introduce my father, Ophion Greengrass. Father, this is Harry Potter and his girlfriend, Ginny Weasley.”
“Delighted to meet you both,” Ophion said, offering his hand. “I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time, Mr Potter. We all owe you an enormous vote of gratitude.”
Harry sighed. Mr Greengrass was clearly another person whole knew all about his activities in the war. He was beginning to wonder if there was anyone in Britain who didn’t know.
“Really, it was nothing, sir,” Harry said formally. “I had an awful lot of help.”
“You’re being far too modest,” Ophion insisted. “I don’t think that the few of us who do know what you did give you enough credit. I dread to think what would have happened to us all if You-Know-Who had gained complete control.”
“This probably isn’t the best place to discuss such matters,” Harry pointed out, feeling a little embarrassed.
“You are quite right,” Ophion nodded. “Therefore, I would like to invite you and your charming companion to dinner at my home. I would relish the chance to talk with you and hear your opinions of our society today.”
“We’d love to,” Ginny said before Harry had a chance to open his mouth.
“Splendid! Would the twentieth work for you both?”
“Works for me,” Ginny confirmed. “Harry?”
“Umm, yes, that should be alright,” Harry mumbled in confusion.
“Well, that’s settled then. I’ll send you both formal invitations as soon as possible. Shall we say about eight o’clock that evening? Wonderful,” Ophion smiled. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, my beautiful daughter and I have some matters to discuss.”
“I’ll look forward to seeing you both for dinner,” Daphne said by way of farewell, before taking her father’s arm and disappearing into the crowds. Harry turned to his girlfriend.
“Why did you accept their invitation?” he demanded.
“Because you’ve been trying to figure out what Greengrass is up to, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so,” Ginny replied with a shrug.
“Okay, I admit that makes sense, I suppose,” he frowned, trying to think of something wrong with her idea.
“Really, Harry, I thought you were supposed to be the spy. You’ll never find out why Daphne has been so interested in you unless you actually talk with her,” Ginny grinned.
“And if she’s actually interested in me romantically?” he asked teasingly.
“Then I’ll hex her from here to kingdom come,” she replied with an evil grin.
“Just as well I’ve got you to protect me,” Harry noted, before they headed back to the buffet table for something to eat.
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