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SIYE Time:21:55 on 25th September 2017


Homecoming
By Brennus

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Nymphadora Tonks
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: Death, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: R
Reviews: 219
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: 42799; Chapter Total: 2734
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Please find attached the next chapter, for your reading pleasure. I must confess, I’m rather fond of this one, as it has a lot of different elements to it. Oh, and Jill? I know you hated the Tonksmobile but I just couldn’t bring myself to let the poor thing die.

My huge thanks and apologies to Arnel. Quite how I managed to make so many mistakes with this one is a mystery…




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Chapter 12 — Corrosion



“Honestly, Harry, why are you dragging me down here?” Dora asked plaintively.

“Just come on. I’ve got something to show you,” Harry said, pulling his reluctant friend along.

“Can’t you just tell me what’s going on?” she griped.

Harry just grinned as he led her down the steps that led from their block of flats and down into the designated car park attached to the building. Once they reached the small parking area, he turned to Dora with an evil grin on his face.

“Ta-da!” he yelled, spreading his arms wide.

“What?” she snapped a little irritably.

“This,” Harry replied, pointing at a small black car parked in the spot Dora normally used.

“So, some cheeky sod has nicked my parking space. There’s no need to be so bloody cheerful about it,” Dora complained.

Shaking his head, Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys which he then tossed in Dora’s direction. She caught them instinctively and stared at them in wonder.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“Your new car, dum-dum,” Harry laughed. “A 1998, 1.6 litre, VW Golf with full service history and only 15,000 miles on the clock, and it’s all yours.”

“Eh? Where did this come from?” she gasped.

“Well, I admit I paid for it, but as I’ve been living here rent free for a couple of months now I thought I ought to show my appreciation somehow. Besides, we really need a car for work and I don’t want to buy one until I get settled into my own gaff,” he smiled.

“Harry, I can’t…” she began.

“Actually, you don’t really have a choice as it’s completely unsellable now, as it’s been extensively modified.” He grinned. “We weren’t sure exactly what charms you had cast on the old Tonksmobile, but Bill reckons this one has pretty much everything you had in the old one in terms of abilities. In fact, he and his dad went a bit mad on fixing it up, so Merlin knows what it will do now.”

“Bill and Arthur charmed the car?” she gasped. “But that’s… I really don’t know what to say.”

“How about ‘thank you, Harry, you’re wonderful’?” he suggested.

“You bloody are,” she laughed and pulled him into a hug, before planting a very loud, wet kiss smack on his lips.

“Don’t let Bill see you doing that,” Harry smirked.

“Oh, that’s nothing compared to what I’m going to do to Bill,” she said fiercely. “Come on; let’s take it for a test drive!”

Dora practically sprinted round to the driver’s side of the car and leapt in. Harry climbed into the passenger’s side rather more sedately and grinned at Dora as she pushed buttons and flipped switches with a manic gleam in her eyes.

“Come on, then,” Harry urged. “Let’s hit the road.”

“You’ve changed your tune,” she smirked. “It wasn’t so long ago that you were terrified of my driving.”

“Yeah, but at least now I know what spells and charms have been cast on the vehicle I’m in. Bill assures me that there are a lot of extra Safety Spells on this baby,” he said, patting the dashboard reassuringly.

“Ha! Then I’ll have to try even harder to scare you,” she laughed. “Did you get to meet Arthur Weasley while he was working on this beauty, by the way?”

“Nah, Bill brought it over after they had finished so, no, I’ve yet to meet either of Ginny’s parents if that’s what you’re getting at,” he replied.

“See, I knew Ginny was ashamed of you,” Dora teased.

“Actually, I do get the impression she’s a bit worried about what her mum will make of me,” he admitted. “I’m told Mrs Weasley gives Bill a hard time about his long hair and earring, so God knows what she’ll make of me.”

“I have to admit, Molly can be a bit old fashioned, but she does have a good heart,” Dora said. “Besides, you’re the Boy Who Lived and the vanquisher of You-Know-Who! You’re a bloody hero, Mr Potter; she can’t very well object to her daughter dating the saviour of the Wizarding world, can she?”

“Dunno, Ginny says that her mum adored that prat she used to see, and is still convinced that them breaking up was all some sort of misunderstanding. He was a bit of a charmer, this Michael bloke, and he had Molly Weasley wrapped around his little finger,” he explained. “Of course, Ginny couldn’t tell her about the bloke being skint because she was never supposed to have looked at the man’s bank account. Apparently, Ginny has little faith that her mother can keep that a secret.”

“I can just see Molly going round and hexing that twat if she found out,” Dora agreed, “but, even so, she should trust Ginny more. Mind you, Bill says much the same about her, and she’s always seemed a bit controlling of her kids when I’ve met her.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait to be introduced,” Harry said sarcastically.

“Arthur’s a really nice bloke,” Dora assured him, “really easy going. I think you’ll like him. You might want to wear that shiny Order of Merlin medal of yours when you meet Molly, though. That’s bound to impress her.”

“I’ll bear that in mind. Now, are we going to go for a drive, or sit here yakking?” he moaned.

“You asked for it, Harry! Off we go!” Dora yelled, sticking the key in the ignition, slamming the car into gear, and hitting the accelerator nearly all in one movement.

“Oh, FUCK ME!” Harry yelled as the car shot forward like a bullet from a gun.

Things were indeed back to normal.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPH PHP

A couple of days later, Harry and Dora were entertaining their preferred Weasleys in Dora’s flat. In deference to her cooking skills, Dora had insisted they get dinner from the local take-away.

“So, what’s all this I hear about you and Ginny having dinner with some stuck-up pureblood family?” Bill asked, before he reached over and stole a chip from Tonk’s plate.

“Hey!” Dora squealed and slapped his hand.

“It was Ginny’s idea, actually,” Harry said, a little defensively. “The Greengrasses have been acting a bit strangely lately, and she thought that we might get a few clues as to what they are up to by accepting their dinner invitation.”

“Besides, it will be a chance to wear my nice, new robes,” Ginny smirked.

Harry grinned at his girlfriend. He managed to convince her to let him buy her a new set of formal robes for the occasion, mainly by claiming that he could claim the cost back as expenses. In truth, Kingsley would have laughed in his face had he attempted such a thing, not that he had the slightest intention of doing so, of course.

“Hmm, as long as they don’t try anything funny,” Bill frowned. “I don’t like the sound of this lot.”

“I hardly think they’re going to try and poison us, or kidnap Harry, or anything,” Ginny snorted. “Ophion Greengrass invited us in front of dozens of people, so he’d be pretty stupid to try anything nasty, wouldn’t he? Besides, do you really think he’d want to take on the man who took the Dark Wart down?”

“I don’t think Voldemort had any warts. Not that I could see, anyway,” Harry pointed out mildly.

“They might have been genital warts,” Dora suggested helpfully.

Harry, Ginny and Bill all mimicked being sick.

“Thanks for putting me off my dinner,” Ginny complained. “Ick!”

Dora just took a bite out of her burger and smiled at the younger woman sweetly.

“Is the new car still running alright?” Bill asked his girlfriend, presumably in a desperate attempt to change the subject.

“Oh, hell yes!” Dora exclaimed around a mouthful of food. “The Tonksmobile Mk 2 is even faster than the old one.”

“I can confirm that,” Harry agreed mournfully.

“Really, sweetie, I can’t thank you and Harry enough. Oh, and your dad, too. I’ll have to send him a nice thank-you gift,” Dora continued.

“That’s not necessary,” Bill said shaking his head. “He absolutely adores you, you know. Mum, too. Oh, speaking of Mum, I know she’s very keen to meet your new boyfriend, Ginny. She’s told me that, what, seventy-six times this week.”

“That will be fun,” Ginny grumbled. “She’ll probably spend the first hour making snotty remarks about Harry’s hair and earing, before starting to drop hints I should find out what Michael’s up to these days. Never mind about Harry being a hero, or anything.”

“I’m not a hero,” Harry said instantly.

“When you’re meeting my mother you bloody are,” Ginny told him flatly. “You’re a kind, dashing, wealthy hero with a heart of gold, and a halo round your head, who would never touch me inappropriately unless you had put a wedding ring on my finger first. That’s the image you’re going to present, got it?”

“Got it,” Harry sighed as Bill and Dora both sniggered at him.

“Seriously, though, are you two any closer to catching the bugger who totalled the Tonksmobile Mk 1?” Bill asked.

“Nah, we’re not,” Harry admitted. “We’re pretty sure they’re staking out that cake shop, but we have no idea why. We can’t ever seem to catch them, though. Anytime we get close to them they just vanish into thin air. We can never get an Anti-Apparation or Anti-Portkey Jinx in place in time.”

“If you know approximately where they’ll be, use pre-Hexed Wardstones,” Ginny suggested, before sucking a blob of tomato ketchup off her finger.

“Pre-Hexed Wardstones?” Harry frowned. “What are those?”

“Oh, they’re not very common as they’re devilishly tricky to create, but more advances curse-breakers use them in dangerous situations,” Bill explained. “Basically, you take a normal stone, apply the hex or charm of your choice to it, and then use a series of runes to lock the spell in place. You can then leave the stone in the location you will need to use it, and the encased charm can be activated either on a timed release or with a simple wave of your wand. You could apply Anti-Apparation and Anti-Portkey Jinxes to one of these stones and it would be ten times faster than trying to cast the Jinx yourself.”

“Wow, that would be really useful,” Dora exclaimed. “I can think of dozens of uses for something like that.”

“Me, too,” Harry agreed. “So, what would it take for us to convince a pair of highly-skilled, utterly wonderful curse-breakers such as yourselves to create a few of these Wardstones for us?”

Bill and Ginny shared a quick look and both broke into wicked grins.

“We’ll think of something,” they said simultaneously.

Harry shook his head and laughed.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP

Harry stood and looked around Diagon Alley in dismay.

“How many of these bloody things are there?” he demanded.

“I have no idea, my dear boy,” Dedalus said sadly.

“There must be thousands of them,” Dora muttered.

“At least. We’ve already cleared up several hundred of them, but it’s not easy. The damnable things appear to be charmed to resist simple Summoning Spells,” their small boss sighed.

Diagon Alley was virtually covered in A4 sized posters which all displayed a similar hatred of the Ministry, and Kingsley in particular, as the ones in Hogsmeade had. What Harry couldn’t understand was how someone had managed to paste so many of them in such a busy place without anyone noticing.

“These ones seem even more venomous then the last batch,” Dora noted as she examined the poster in her hand.

“Indeed, these also appear to include a direct threat to Kingsley. The language is rather flowery, but the intent is obvious,” Dedalus confirmed. “Clearly, whoever did this is very angry and has great magical potential.”

“Did any of these blow out of the Alley and into the Muggle streets?” Harry asked.

“No, there is a weak Containment Spell covering the whole area, although not many people are aware of it. We’ve had problems before with newspapers and such like catching in the wind and ending up who knows where,” Dedalus assured him.

“How are they doing this though?” Dora demanded. “How can someone just turn up in Diagon Alley, paste-up thousands of bloody posters, and then vanish without a single person seeing them? You’d have to be Merlin himself to pull-off a trick like that!”

“I really have no idea,” her boss replied. “You don’t think this is related to your current investigation, do you?”

“I can’t see how,” Harry said, shaking his head. “I’ll tell you what, though, this is going to rake up a lot of pureblood bullshit.”

“Quite. Security around the Minister is being tightened up and the entire DMLE is being put on high alert. The section is going to be put on a protection rota from now on, too. We can’t afford to take any chances.”

Harry ripped a poster off a nearby wall and screwed it into a tight ball. “Yeah, better safe than sorry,” he agreed.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP

The twentieth came around entirely too quickly for Harry’s taste and, before he knew it, he and Ginny were arriving at the Greengrass residence in South Yorkshire to have dinner with them. He had to admit a certain sense of excitement at the prospect; the thrill he used to get when being tasked with missions back during his early days with Department M returning in force.

They had been ushered into the large, but not grandiose, manor house by a neatly presented house-elf and led to a reception room where the Greengrasses were awaiting them. Ophion Greengrass was dignified and impressive in his immaculate formal robes, while his daughter, Daphne, was positively radiant in her tasteful cream-colored dress, perfectly accompanied by a beautiful emerald neckless. They greeted Harry and Ginny warmly and glasses of sherry were taken in the main reception room.

“I’m most honoured to have you both visit us here,” Ophion smiled. “I’ve been looking forward to this evening greatly.

“As have I,” Daphne added. “Ginny, you look enchanting in those robes. They suit you perfectly.

“Thank you,” Ginny smiled politely, “but I’m sure I look positively plain next to you.”

Daphne smiled blandly back and it was all Harry could do not to smirk at the silent battle for dominance that had already begun between the two witches. Ophion, too, must have noticed judging by his faintly amused expression.

“Will it be just the four of us, then?” Ginny asked.

“Yes, sadly my darling wife passed away a few years ago,” Ophion explained. “It’s just me and my dear Daphne here nowadays.”

“But what about your other daughter, Astoria? Will she not be joining us?” Ginny pressed.

Harry managed to catch the tiny twitch of Ophion’s cheek.

“No, Astoria is out of the country at the moment. In fact, she’s been living in Italy for the last year and a half. She loves it over there,” Ophion explained.

“How nice,” Harry commented. “I heard that Astoria was betrothed to Lucius Malfoy’s son before he died. Knowing my history with the Malfoy family, I hope this doesn’t cause any ill-will between us.”

“Of course not, my dear fellow,” the older man assured him. “Astoria’s betrothal to Draco Malfoy was a long standing obligation between our two families, and one that I think Astoria was delighted to have been excused. For my part, I would never have agreed to such an arrangement if I’d known at the time that the Malfoys had thrown their lot in with Lord Voldemort. The agreement was made when Lucius and I were barely into our twenties, you see, and was a political expediency. It was sometime later that he began to show his more… extreme tendencies, shall we say.”

“I see. It must have been pretty worrying to see the Malfoys turn into Death Eaters knowing your daughter might one day been married into the family,” Harry noted.

Ophion sighed dramatically. “I can see you don’t approve of such practices, Harry, and I admit as I’ve grown older I find the idea of raffling off my flesh and blood for financial or political gain increasingly abhorrent, too. Things were different back then, however. Indeed, it’s amazing to think how much our society has changed in such a short space of time. All for the better, though, I can assure you.”

“You’re absolutely correct, Father,” Daphne agreed. “Why, Ginny here will attest to how much prejudice and snobbery there was at Hogwarts in our time there. Now, just a few years later, I gather such class and race distinctions are a rare thing. Most of the credit for this, of course, can be put down to you, Harry. If you have not defeated the Dark Lord we would all have been dragged back to the Dark Ages, I have no doubt.”

“I had a lot of help. Kingsley Shacklebolt deserves most of the credit for the changes we’ve seen,” Harry insisted.

“Of course,” Daphne smiled radiantly. “That’s why it’s such an honour for me to work for him. I get to see the difference he’s made on a daily basis.”

Ophion just smiled benignly at his daughter. Harry was about to ask the man his opinion of the Minister when he was interrupted by a loud ringing sound.

“Ah, that’s the bell to call us to dinner,” Ophion explained. He offered his arm to Ginny. “Please, if you would accompany me, the dining room is just this way.

Harry offered his arm to Daphne, and the four of them headed out the reception room and across the tasteful entrance lobby. The dining room proved to be a sumptuous room lavishly decorated in reds and greens, with a large chandelier suspended above a large mahogany dining table. Harry was pleased to see that four places were all set out at one end of the table, negating the need for a lot of shouting.

Ophion took his rightful position at the head of the table with Daphne to his immediate right and Ginny to his left. Harry was seated next to Daphne. The dinner proved an extravagant seven course affair that was far too fiddly for Harry’s taste. By the time he’d finished the veal course, he found himself wishing for a nice, juicy steak followed by some ice cream. He was, he realised, a simple man with simple tastes.

Conversation was muted during the meal itself, and most of the talk revolved around the food and their mutual dining experiences. At least Harry was able to regale them with some interesting tales of exotic food he’d sampled during his travels around the world, although Ginny looked far less comfortable.

After the final course, coffee and brandy was served and the conversation began to branch out somewhat. A comment from Daphne about her work allowed Harry to steer the discussion in the direction he wanted it to go: politics.

“So, Ophion, I have to say I’m surprised that the Dark Lord didn’t attempt to press you into his service during the last war,” Harry commented lightly. “Clearly, you are a man of wealth and influence; did Voldemort not try and coerce you into his service?”

“He did, but without much conviction,” Ophion confirmed, before taking a sip of brandy. “You see, the Greengrass family has traditionally been disinterested in politics and power. Trade and commerce are our forte, and the Dark Lord, or Tom Riddle as I suppose we should now refer to him, seemed very respectful of pureblood traditions.”

“Did he not demand some sort of tribute or financial support?” Ginny asked. “I know the Ministry investigated a lot of families to see if they’d given him money.”

“I confess we did provide some financial support, but only in a very limited way. In fact, we donated far more to the Ministry, and in particular the administration of Rufus Scrimgeour, than we ever gave to Riddle and his horde. The money we did give bought us some freedom, but I confess it left a bad taste in my mouth. You must understand that I had two daughters and a wife to worry about, and the last thing I wanted was for something to happen to them in retribution had I refused to support Riddle. That damnable betrothal agreement with the Malfoys virtually tied my hands, you understand,” Ophion explained grimly.

Harry nodded. His initial reaction was that Ophion was a coward who bought his family’s safety, but in truth he doubted the man would have had many other options.

“Tell me, Harry, what was your opinion of Tom Riddle?” Ophion asked suddenly. “As his greatest foe, you must have had some observations about his character.”

“He was mad,” Harry said simply. “Stark raving insane. He was interested in only one thing: power. He wanted to be immortal and to rule the world. All this crap about us being superior to the Muggles was just a ruse to allow him to gain support. Wizards, witches, Muggles, goblins; you name it, Riddle thought he was superior to all of us. It wasn’t just the Muggles he was trying to subjugate, it was everyone.”

Ophion nodded. “An observation that I must agree with. I’ve also heard said that his experiments to achieve immortality warped him, and not only in appearance. Some have said that he was less than human in the end.”

Harry looked at Ophion carefully. He had the uneasy feeling that the man knew exactly what Riddle had done to try and achieve that dreamed-of immortality.

“I’ve heard similar things,” Harry agreed carefully. “As I said, Riddle was mad and would stop at no lengths to get what he wanted.”

“Quite so, irrespective of the ultimate price he might have to pay, I suspect,” Ophion smiled. “I’ve never trusted men who have no respect for the long game. Short-term triumphs are all too frequently just that.”

“Exactly,” Harry nodded, now convinced Ophion knew of Riddle’s Horcruxes.

“Still, he makes an interesting comparison to, say, Grindelwald, don’t you think? Grindelwald always seemed to actually believe in his agenda of leading the wizarding population to become masters of the world. He obviously employed an awful lot of Muggles in his service, for instance,” Ophion noted.

“And got millions of them killed,” Harry said sharply. “There’s nothing to be admired in his actions.”

“Not at all! Please don’t think for a moment that I admired the man or his ideas. I was simply comparing the differing ideologies of the two Dark Lords that have blighted the twentieth century. Do you not find it remarkable that two men, with such similar superficial beliefs should have such divergent philosophies in the attainment of their goals? Moreover, isn’t it strange how they both managed to sway such a large number followers to their sides? I think it says much about the nature of the average human being that they achieved such levels of support.”

“In what way?” Harry asked suspiciously.

“I confess I find it somewhat disappointing that most people are content to be mere followers,” Ophion explained. “The average person in the street always seems to be receptive to the ideals and goal of a handful of more forcefully natured individuals. These ‘natural leaders’, as I suppose you might call them, radiate such charisma and personality that the population will willingly throw themselves behind them, no matter how twisted and harmful their ideas might be. The populous, I believe, wishes to be led.”

“Do you believe yourself to be such a person as to lead them?” Harry asked, his anger mounting.

“Oh, heavens, no! I was rather thinking you would be more suited to such a role,” Ophion grinned.

“Me?” Harry gasped.

“Why not? You, although I suspect that you would deny it, seem to inspire loyalty in those around you. You are one of those strange individuals that seem to have a light surrounding them, a light that attracts people and makes them trust you. After the defeat of Voldemort, if you had so chosen, you could have easily have become a great leader in our world, I believe. Shacklebolt, I have no doubt, would have willingly have stood aside for you, and from that position I have no doubt that you could have spread your wings globally. By sheer force of personality you could have achieved without bloodshed what Grindelwald and Voldemort laboured so long and hard for.”

“Mr Greengrass, sir, I really think you’re barking up the wrong tree,” Harry laughed.

“I think not,” Daphne disagreed. “Although it does raise a number of questions about your actions after the Dark Lord fell. You, who could have had the world at your feet, conspired with the Ministry to hide your role in the victory. Indeed, you almost seemed to run away from the people you saved. Why did you choose to take that role with the ICW, Harry?”

For a second, Harry was inclined to tell the girl to mind her own business, but he bit his tongue. Instead, he said, “In truth, I was running away. I may have been victorious, but it was a bitter and hollow victory. So many people I loved died in the war, and the bad memories here in Britain were too painful for me at the time. I needed to get away for a while, and the ICW job seemed a good opportunity to do that. I’ve since realised that was a mistake and I would have been better served staying here with what little remained of my family, but I wasn’t really thinking straight at the time.”

“Ah, understandable,” Daphne nodded.

“Ophion,” Harry said, turning to address the man. “Please do not compare me with Grindelwald or Voldemort. I am nothing like either of those men, and I would never want to be. I have no lofty ambitions and I don’t want to lead anyone. I may have become a leader at the end of the war, but that was only because the role was thrust upon me and, believe me, I was happy to shed that responsibility as soon as I could. I’m a simple bloke, with simple desires and goals. If I have one ambition in life it’s to be happy, and I’m not going to achieve that by turning myself into some puffed-up, egocentric leader. I’m just Harry, and that’s all I want to be.”

There was a long silence before a smile came into Ophion’s face.

“That’s good to know, my young friend,” he said.

Harry looked over at Ginny, who was staring at him with wide eyes. He had the distinct feeling that something significant had just occurred, but he had absolutely no idea what.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPH PHP

They arrived back at Tonk’s flat a little after eleven o’clock and found the place quite. Apparently, Dora had decided to spend the night at Bill’s place. Harry could sense his girlfriend’s unease.

“Want anything to drink?” he asked her as they entered and hung up their cloaks.

“Nah, I’m good,” she replied quietly, sitting herself down on the sofa.

Harry sighed. “What’s the matter, Ginny?” he asked.

“I… I guess it’s just hit me exactly who I’m dating,” she said in a soft voice.

“Oh? Did you think I was someone else, then?” he asked, trying to sound light hearted.

“Those things that Greengrass said,” she began, “it just finally hit me that you’re Harry Potter. You’re the man who defeated Voldemort and brought the Death Eaters to their knees. You’re the only person to have been hit by the Killing Curse and lived. You’re… a legend! Greengrass was right; you could have become Minister or anything you wanted!”

Harry sat down beside her.

“I didn’t want any of that,” he replied firmly. “What I wanted I couldn’t have: my family back. I wanted my mum and dad, Sirius and Remus, Dumbledore and Moody, and all those other people who were my friends, but I couldn’t. I’ve never wanted to be special or for anyone to treat me differently. I don’t suppose a man like Ophion Greengrass would understand, but not everyone craves power and control, you know. I certainly don’t.”

Ginny smiled weakly. “You know, when I first met you in that pub, I was so embarrassed because I thought you were this really hot guy who looked so cool, and I looked so boring and drab. I knew all the stories about what you’d done, but I never really matched them up with you. I was so busy thinking about how sexy you were, I never stopped and thought about who exactly you were.”

“I hope you still think I’m that sexy guy,” he grinned, before his smile faltered. “Ginny, like I said to Greengrass, I’m a simply bloke. I like to have my friends and family around me, to eat nice food and have a few pints now and then, and generally be a normal bloke. Hell, my time at Department M taught me how much I missed being a regular guy. Please, what you see is what you get with me. I beg you, don’t treat me any differently than you have been doing.”

“Doesn’t it ever bother you that no one knows exactly what you did?” she asked.

“Actually, it seems like a lot of people seem to know what I did,” he countered, “but generally? No, not in the slightest. I’m glad about it.”

Ginny smiled. “You know, Potter, you’re one weird bloke.”

“Well, I’m going out with you so I must be,” he said in a deadpan voice.

“Pig!” she laughed and hit him with a cushion.

“Gah! I’ll get you for that, woman!” he yelled and leapt at her.

After a bit of good-natured grappling, Harry managed to pin her down on the sofa. He looked into her eyes with a wicked grin on his lips.

“Now I’ve got you where I want you,” he smirked.

“Harry, promise me you won’t change,” she said, suddenly serious.

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve thought about it and I realise I like you just as you are; my long-haired, scruffy, ultra-cool boyfriend who I can go out and have a few drinks with and have a laugh. I don’t want some noble hero who’s too perfect to be real. Promise me you’ll always just be the Harry I know and love,” Ginny begged.

“Love?” he repeated. He tried to sound jokey but he failed miserably. Instead, he just sounded needy.

“Love,” she confirmed, and reached up to kiss him.

Harry returned her kiss, and felt his desire for her bloom instantly. Before he knew what he was doing, he had slipped her dress robes of her shoulders and was covering her exposed breasts with kisses. She, in turn, began to pull at his clothing desperately and, in mere moments, they were both naked.

The night was warm and humid, and the pair of them made love all through it.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPH P

“Anything yet?” Harry heard Dora’s voice whisper quietly in his ear. The magically enhanced earrings they were both wearing were working perfectly.

“No, nothing down here,” Harry muttered under his breath. The back alley that he was walking down was indeed completely deserted.

“Still nothing out front,” Dora admitted. “I’m going to head down the side street where we last saw that bastard.”

Picking up his pace, Harry walked rapidly to the end of the alley. From there he would be able to turn left and head down a road that ran parallel to the one Dora was walking down at that moment. In the past few weeks they’d come to know the area around ‘Creative Creations’ pretty well, and had most of the local geography memorised. He knew that if he carried on much further up this road he would be out of Shoreditch and heading towards the more residential areas of Hackney.

“Harry, I think I’ve spotted something,” Dora said into his ear.

“What is it?” he asked instantly.

“It might be unconnected, but there’s a bloke ahead that just seems a bit off, to me. I’d lay odds that he’s a wizard. I’ve never seen him before, but I get the vibe that he’s keeping an eye on the bakery,” Dora informed him.

“There’s no reason there should just be two members of this gang,” Harry agreed. “Where are you, exactly?”

“I’ve just gone past the school and I’m heading back towards the main road,” she explained. “I think that if… oh, wait! He’s seen me. He’s definitely made me! Bugger, he’s heading north up Provost Street.”

“I can cut him off,” Harry told her, turning around and starting to run. “Stay with him.”

“Okay, hurry, though,” he heard her gasping. “This bloke moves like greasy lightning.”

“Try and force him to turn east at the end of the road,” Harry urged as he picked up his pace. “We’ve got Wardstones covering that area and we can stop him Apparating!”

“I’ll try,” she puffed.

As he ran, Harry looked around. Fortunately, the street was pretty quiet. The nearest Wardstone was two streets over, so should be close enough that the Anti-Apparation and Portkey Jinxes cast on it would cover this area. Taking a risk, Harry pulled out his wand and pointed it roughly in the direction he thought the Wardstone would be. He no sooner had cast the Activation Charm then he felt the distinctive feeling of the Jinxes coming into force.

“Did you just activate one of the Wardstones?” Dora’s voice demanded.

“Yeah, are you still with him?” Harry asked as he sprinted down along the pavement, leaping out into the road at one point to avoid a woman with a pram.

“Bloody good job,” she panted. “The suspect just stopped and tried to Apparate, right in the middle of the sodding road! He should be heading straight towards you.”

By now, Harry had reached the end of the road he’d been running down and could see the junction ahead. Suddenly, a man in a denim jacket bombed past him, missing him by a few feet. Harry cursed.

“Bollocks!” he heard Dora yell. She was on the man’s heels. Harry dropped his shoulder and made a sharp turn right, determined to catch the fleeing man.

The man clearly knew the area well, and he vaulted over a set of railings without hesitation and ducked down a small pedestrian passageway between two rows of houses. Harry had always prided himself on his fitness, however, and was slowly gaining ground on the man. He could hear Dora just behind him, too, and was hopeful that they could catch the suspect before he reached the hustle and bustle of the East Road.

At the end of the passageway, the man turned sharply and ran straight over a road, narrowly avoiding being hit by a car. With only slightly more caution, Harry darted over the road and was now only a few yards behind the man, who was clearly starting to slow down. The man turned his head, and looked at Harry with a panic-filled expression on his face.

Abruptly, the man turned into a small alleyway and Harry felt a surge of elation. This alley was just a service entrance for number of shops and was a dead-end. They had him! The man, however, did not slow his pace and continued to run as fast as he could. When he was about half way down the small alley, however, he suddenly vanished.

“What the fuck?” Harry gasped as he slowed to a trot.

“Bollocks! How did he do that?” Dora cursed as she pulled up beside him. “The Jinxes are still in place: I can feel them!”

“I don’t think he Apparated, anyway,” Harry said, gasping for air. “No noise.”

“I didn’t see him activate anything that could be a Portkey, either,” Dora panted, her hands on her hips as she struggled to get her breath back.

Warily, Harry walked forward to the spot where the man vanished, but he couldn’t see anything that would explain the sudden disappearance. He continued walking to the end of the alley and back again, his wand extended before him, but could find no clues.

“Aw, this is shit!” Dora moaned. “We bloody had the bloke! How did he do that?”

“I have no idea,” Harry admitted looking around him. “No idea, at all.”















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