Chapter 19. Good Guessers (Aug. 16 - Sept. 1, 1995)
Pulling his chair up closer to the now-quiet kitchen table, Ron leaned in and eyed his friend conspiratorially. “You didn't tell Mum and Dad the whole story, Harry.”
“True.” Harry raised his eyes above the tea cup he was drinking from and turned to Ron. “How did you guess?”
Ron glanced at Ginny, then shifted in his seat to face Harry more directly. “You two told a great story over lunch, but there was one big hole.”
“Oh really?” One of Ginny's eyebrows had spiked impressively.
Ron nodded. “Here's the thing. In the last four school years we've had four huge adventures, so you'd think maybe we'd gotten the knack for figuring out how to solve mysteries, but every year it still seems to take nearly a whole year to figure out all of the riddles and solve them. So, how the hell did you pull this one off in, like, two weeks?” He paused for a moment to scratch his head. “I mean, how did you realise that the reason you were going back in time was because you needed to stop Malfoy from sabotaging Dumbledore's wand?”
Having asked his question, Ron leaned back and realised, to his discomfort, that Harry, Ginny and Hermione were all staring at him. After an awkward moment, Harry nodded slowly, searching for the right way to answer.
“Er, I said it right, yeah?” Ron turned his nervous gaze back to Harry. “The big plot was to put a curse on Dumbledore's wand so that he wouldn't be able to defeat V-, er, you-know-who. If so, then how did you know that Malfoy was up to? He only messed with the wand at the very end of the story and, well, it seemed pretty obvious that even Dumbledore himself barely had a clue about the scheme before you explained it to him.”
“Yes, basically.” Harry gave his friend a slight smile. “It's a good question. Has anyone else around here been asking stuff like that?”
“No, I don't think so.” Ron shook his head seriously. “I was going to ask you at lunch, but by the time I thought of it, Sirius was already chasing everyone else out of the kitchen. Thinking about it later, I figured that maybe it was a good thing I never got to ask it in front of the others. I wondered if the reason you never told us in the first place was because, well, maybe it was the sort of thing best discussed between just the three, er, four, of us.”
Hermione looked uncomfortably at Harry and Ginny who both shrugged. Ginny turned to Harry. “How much should we tell him?”
“Hmm...” Harry scrunched his face thoughtfully. “A bit now. More after tomorrow's meeting?”
Ginny nodded and turned to her brother. “I'm going to give you a hint, Ron, but please don't repeat it to anyone, okay? At least not until we've had a chance to discuss this with Dumbledore.”
Ginny gazed intently at her brother, gauging his sincerity, then she took a breath. “It wasn't just the past that we saw.”
Ron nodded avidly for a moment before he realised what his sister was saying. His bobbing head lurched to a halt and he gaped. “Not just the past? You, uhhh… saw the… ?”
“Future.” Hermione nodded. “Yes, versions of it.”
“Yes, that's the big secret that we haven't told anyone yet.” Harry took another sip of tea. “Knowing things about the future helped us to figure out whether we were doing the right thing in the past.”
“Wow!” Ron's jaw dropped. “You seriously saw useful stuff? Real stuff? Not just made-up crap, like Divination?”
“Peh, forget Divination, Ron.” Ginny rolled her eyes, but her face had taken a grim cast. “Yes, it was real stuff, in the sense of vivid images that I can't imagine we'd ever have been able to make up on our own.”
“Vivid?” Ron stared at her. “What did you see?”
“I saw terrible things, Ron.” Ginny paused for a moment to pour more tea, but nobody interrupted or even took their eyes off her. After stirring in some milk, she finally met her brother's gaze stoically. “Yes, I saw terrible things but, if anything, what Harry and Hermione saw was even worse.. There are details I hardly feel comfortable discussing with anyone right now… and I have no intention of risking one of Mum's panic attacks.”
“We will tell Dumbledore, though?” Hermione's glance darted between Ginny and Harry. “I know that his judgment has been a bit suspect lately, and it may not be easy to trust him with stuff that's really important, but a lot of what we've learned really involves him — as Headmaster, as leader of the Order, and, well… for the sake of his own personal future.”
After exchanging a quick glance with Ginny, Harry nodded. “Yes, Dumbledore needs to know. We just have to hope that he doesn't do anything foolish with the information.”
“Errr…” Hermione's gaze shifted uneasily among the other three teens. “Harry, do you suppose we should… er, could… let Ron attend the discussion tomorrow?”
Harry gazed intently at Hermione for a moment, then aimed an inquiring glance at Ginny.
Ginny looked her brother up and down, pursed her lips, then shrugged.
“Okay then.” Harry nodded and turned back to Ron. “Ron, we'll be meeting Dumbledore tomorrow afternoon up in the library. Would you like to sit in?”
Ron's wide eyes scanned the other three faces, not quite certain yet if they were serious. Without encountering any smirks or snickers, He raised his head… and nodded slowly and emphatically.
The Elder wand sat in the center of the table, resting equidistant between three faces — those of Professor Dumbledore, Ginny and Harry; each of whom seemed lost in thought.
Sitting quietly with Ron at the other end of the table, Hermione stirred, a frown on her face. “So… it all comes down to this? ”
“Yes, that's it. Verbatim.” Ginny nodded. “Harry, tell them what you always say.”
“Er, okay.” Harry cleared his throat tentatively and straightened up as if making a speech. “So it all comes down to this. Does the wand in your hand know its last master was disarmed? Because if it does, I am the true master of the Elder Wand."
Dumbledore frowned. “So you said this happens in 1998… and you believe that by such time you will actually have a claim to mastery of the Elder wand?”
Dumbledore kneaded his brow for a long moment and exhaled. “And you're certain, as far as this vision can be assumed to be accurate, that the wand in Riddle's hand really will be this one on the table?”
Harry and Ginny both nodded.
Ginny gazed thoughtfully at the wand. “Riddle will possess it, but people's expressions and body language will really appear to support Harry's assumption of wand allegiance. Harry will be convinced that Riddle is not the real master… and Riddle will be a bit rattled by the prospect.”
“Right.” Harry turned to Dumbledore. “That suggests to me that by 1998, various things will have happened to make it reasonable to conclude, by the sort of wand lore that you explained to Ginny, that the wand should obey me rather than Riddle. Unfortunately, we found time and time again that the wand would always kill me anyway. Seemingly, the wand was refusing to acknowledge its allegiance to me.”
“Until now.” Ginny's eyes blazed with an unquestioning certitude.
“Until now?” Dumbledore eyed her appraisingly. He turned toward the window, stroking his beard contemplatively, slowly turning various responses over in his mind. “So, what exactly do you believe now? You're concluding that aspects of British Magical history have been changed and then corrected, and that the current version of our history supports a future in which Harry, less than three years from now, will be given a realistic chance to defeat Riddle? That the Elder Wand in Riddle's hand will refuse to kill its legitimate master?”
Ginny and Harry both nodded again, as Hermione and Ron stared, wide-eyed, from the periphery.
“But you are not certain.” Dumbledore straightened in his seat. “You have not had another dream of the future in which you had a clear, unambiguous dream-victory over Riddle.”
Harry shook his head. “It's true that we haven't had another dream of the future since we finally sorted out the past, but I truly believe now that we nailed it. I'm certain that Malfoy's desperate interference in A.D. 61 was all about trying to salvage a victory for Riddle in 1998, and we screwed him over quite thoroughly.”
“Right.” Ginny reached absently for the Elder Wand with a casual ease that still made Dumbledore flinch. Ginny didn't notice (or ignored) the reflex, and picked it up, examining it visually, and pondered the sensation of its magic, confirming the wand's character.
Satisfied, Ginny returned it to the table and continued thoughtfully. “If there was one thing that we could rely on in this wild adventure, it was the premise that whenever something changed in the past, it affected something about the spring of 1998. Every time Antioch got closer to irreversibly eliminating the Ignotus Peverell line, we would learn something new about a terrifying future society where Voldemort was consolidating power with great efficiency, and where Harry Potter had never been born. As a separate plot, whenever Malfoy lined up another piece necessary for arranging the Thestral's killing, Harry might still have a chance to exist, but the 1998 battle would take a turn for the worse. On the flip side, every time Harry and I managed to fix something in the past, the situation in 1998 would begin to look better.”
“Based on the way Malfoy acted at the very end, we're pretty well convinced that we hit the sweet spot.” Harry tapped his chin. “With Antioch neutralised, and with the Thestral having fled to safety, I believe that Malfoy saw his plans in shambles. I think he saw only two remaining options — kill us all on the spot, or else let us all escape, and try to find some other part of history to disrupt.”
“So we chose option three.” Ginny grasped Harry's hand across the table, and beamed a smile at Hermione. “We let the brooch's Cupla charm kill itself off and short circuit all the tomfoolery. When Hermione... or, Hettie Gravener I suppose... stacked three brooches, all of the different pasts and futures collapsed back into the one we're living right now. It was the perfect chance to end the insanity with a good outcome.”
Harry grinned. “The look of sheer panic on Malfoy's face said it all. If you could have seen it, you'd be every bit as convinced as we are.”
Dumbledore smiled at the youthful confidence evident around the table, but his voice remained cautious and subdued. “I agree that many things seemed to align with your hypothesis, but…” His brow furrowed. “What I do not understand in this is how Malfoy should also have recognised the outcome that you did. You seem to be suggesting that he understood quite well what the brooch was doing; he knew how to use it and, seemingly, was aware of its greatest weakness.”
The teens nodded tacitly.
Dumbledore regarded Harry and Ginny gravely. “Do you have any idea how he came by this knowledge?”
Ron watched as Harry, Ginny and Hermione all exchanged speculative glances. The teens all shrugged but, after a moment of quiet deliberation, Hermione stopped chewing the nail of her little finger and shifted in her seat. “Sir, I can offer a guess.”
Dumbledore turned to her. “I have always liked good guessers. What is your hypothesis?”
Hermione lowered her gaze to the table. “I believe sometime in the future, maybe even years after Malfoy may have witnessed V-, er, Voldemort's defeat in 1998, Malfoy found the brooch and somehow discovered its secrets.”
“As good a guess as any, Miss Granger, and very likely better than most.” Dumbledore nodded. “If so, I wonder whether, in this future that you've seemingly locked down for us, he may still learn something useful? Or dangerous?”
“I don't think so. I assume that without the chance to examine a living cupla charmed by the great Paternas Peuerellius, he'll never figure out the magic but…” Ginny exhaled slowly, teasing a few strands of hair that were tickling her forehead. “I suppose we should probably be careful to not share details of our stories and not tell anyone else about the more sensitive parts of what we've just discussed.”
Harry frowned. “What about this fellow Duff? Do you think he could ever be compromised, say if Malfoy kidnapped him?”
“Achaius Duff?” Dumbledore's expression fell. “My friends, you need not fear for him. Kingsley alerted me a while ago to a Ministry memo stating that Mr. Duff expired peacefully in his sleep yesterday morning.”
“Oh!” Hermione's hand covered her shocked mouth.
The teens hung their heads. Harry massaged the bridge of his nose for a moment. “What a shame — I should have liked to meet the man… or at least the 1995 version of him.”
Ginny nodded sadly.
Dumbledore sighed. “It is solemn news, but perhaps it would help you to know that his assistant found him sitting at his desk in the Archives, with a placid smile frozen on his face. Upon the desk was a single parchment, on which he had inscribed simply, 'It is mended and done. The world is one. My labours are complete.'"
Ginny and Hermione both stifled quiet sobs, as Harry gazed silently at the desk for a long moment before reaching for Ginny's hand. He attempted a smile. “Just like the brooch, Duff was a cause of great suffering, but key to the cure. With him and with the brooch die secrets to powers far greater than any Iceni staff or Coritani wand.”
“Well put, Harry.” Dumbledore smiled softly around the room at the subdued teens. After a moment, though, he settled back in his chair and steepled his fingers thoughtfully. “I do believe a great danger has passed but, in the spirit of prudence, I do recommend that we speak to nobody else about anything that we've just discussed… at least until we have confirmed that the brooch has truly been rendered magically inert.”
“Ah.” Harry regarded his mentor. “It would be nice to be sure about that. When do you expect to know for certain?”
Dumbledore equivocated. “Fairly soon. I've already run some cursory tests, but those were mostly just to verify that it wasn't harmful. I think I can give it more thorough scrutiny tonight, and will let you know soon thereafter if I find anything worrisome or interesting.”
The room fell silent. As they waited quietly to see whether any other discussions might emerge, the teens could not help but notice a frail cast to Dumbledore's face as he gazed distantly out into the distant grey clouds framed by the window, looking every bit the 114-year-old wizard that he was.
Lamps were burning low in the Grimmauld Place library. Ron pulled his quill back and forth across the parchment, his eyes flickered, he shook himself slightly, scribbled his way through a few more characters, then… scrawwwwllll!!
Jumping, Ron blinked his eyes wide, then stared down in dismay at his summer essay on transfiguration. “Blimey! I dozed off in the middle of a sentence and now there's this big black streak across everything.”
Hermione leaned into him, not minding the not-so-incidental physical contact she had initiated. She pointed her wand toward the parchment. “Tergeo! ”
Ron stared in fascination as the last several seconds worth of still-moist ink disappeared. He grinned. Then frowned. “Er, thanks Hermione, but you're not supposed to be… OW!”
Ginny removed her elbow from her brother's ribs. The precise glint to Ginny's grin conveyed to Ron remarkably quickly that ink stains would be the least of his worries if he continued to harp about 'underage sorcery'.
Hermione, however, was content to simply ignore the qualm and focus on more immediate issues. She patted Ron's shoulder amicably. “Ron, if you're falling asleep, then the quality of your writing will suffer. You've less than six inches left to write — why not just go to bed, and finish it tomorrow?”
“Eh?” Ron stared. “Did you seriously suggest I should go to bed? As in, like, before the essay is… OWW!” He turned on Ginny. “Ginny, would you quit jabbing me with your elbow?! That hurts!”
Ginny smirked. “I'll quit jabbing you with my elbow when you stop quibbling with every single sentence out of your girlfriend's mouth!”
“I was NOT quibbling with everything out of my gir…” Ron's eyes suddenly went very wide. “Glerfrn…?”
Hiding his face behind a large book, Harry snorted. “Go to bed, Ron. I'll be down in a little while.”
“Huh? Oh right.” Ron rose from the table with a somewhat stunned look on his face and began stumbling toward the door.
Watching him concernedly, Hermione leaped up from her chair. “Wait Ron, don't you think someone should walk you down? I…” Chewing on her lip, she glanced at Harry's bemused look. “You can see how very tired he is, right? I'd hate for him to trip on that… uh, loose step? You know?”
Ginny coughed slightly. “Good night, Hermione.”
Hermione blushed. “Good night? But I, well, was not planning to… I mean…”
“Good night, Hermione.”
“Ginny, this is not what you… umm…” Hermione paused in inarticulate consternation for a moment, then suddenly realised how distant the sound of Ron's footsteps had become. “Uh, yes, good night!” She straightened up and scurried from the room.
Harry and Ginny sat in breathless silence as the library door clicked closed behind her; as footsteps trailed off down the corridor and made their way onto the stairway. Very quietly, Ginny picked up her wand from the table, and whispered, “Muffliato.”
Then she and Harry collapsed into sputtering, wordless hysterics.
It took a while for Harry to stop bonking his forehead against the table, but eventually he did so, and simply subsided, lying his cheek flat against the open book with a silly grin on his face. It took Ginny about as long to stop laughing, but the spasms did recede, leaving her sprawled back in her chair; her neck arched limply over the back of the chair as she emitted a long, soothing breath. “Ahhhh… Now that was funny…”
The two teens took a moment to catch their breath, before bringing their heads back to a reasonable semblance of normal posture, and grinning at each other. Harry gazed thoughtfully at the closed door. “You know, I may have to rethink my promise to go to bed in a little while.”
“Ah yes.” Ginny nodded seriously. “Unless you're curious to learn how Hermione plans to take care of Ron.”
Harry shivered. “Right. Why don't I just stay here and read a while longer.”
“Such a pity.” Ginny pursed her lips. “What's worse, I don't think I dare go to bed either, in case they lost count of landings on their way down and have instead taken root in the first floor bedroom.” She huffed. “I'm afraid you'll be stuck with me.”
“Stuck with you?” Harry's hand found its way beneath the table until it encountered tantalisingly soft skin. “Stuck? As in, 'my hand appears to have gotten stuck to your leg, and I don't believe it will ever be possible to pry it loose?'”
“Perhaps…” Ginny smiled softly, but her face had a solemn, pensive cast to it. “Unfortunately, I don't know how much time we're going to have for carefree snogging tonight.”
Harry regarded her quizzically for a moment before recognizing the look in her eyes. “You feel a dream coming on?” He removed his hand from her leg and ran it through his hair. “Wow — I thought that with the brooch done, we would never again… experience this?”
“I don't know. Maybe after experiencing the magic so many times, we no longer require the brooch?” Ginny pulled her chair closer and leaned into him. “Don't forget that we made it out of the void without help from the cupla charm. Perhaps we're capable of something that seems a little like wandless magic?”
Harry frowned. “I really hope not, because if we can do it, does it mean that anybody would be able to? Can you imagine if untold numbers of little witches and wizards started accidentally dreaming themselves into the past or the future?”
Ginny winced. “Dreadful thought. But you and I have never heard of anything like that being reported anywhere else before, yeah? And we would never have been able to do it if we hadn't been exposed to the brooch first.”
“Yes, I guess you may be onto something. Maybe we're sensitised to magic like that because we used the brooch.” Harry nodded thoughtfully. “If so, the world is probably safe from random temporal meddling, right? Accidental magic is almost always a fleeting, spur of the moment response to something very stressful, or to a very specific need. I can't imagine your average tyke getting really upset at his mum and deciding, 'oh, I think I'll go change the outcome of the Goblin Wars.'”
Ginny smiled. She opened her mouth, about to respond, but a sudden wave of discomfort crossed her face.
“Uh oh!” Harry grabbed her hand; projecting a look of concern. “So, this dream you sensed — it's about to come over us, right?”
Ginny nodded. “Yes, I think so.”
Harry glanced at the ottoman. “Do you think we can get ourselves over there where it's more comfortable?”
Ginny agreed by way of squeezing Harry's hand. Holding onto each other tightly, they rose up together and made their way toward the hearth, settling onto their sides atop the worn but comfortable cushions. Facing away from Harry, Ginny nestled close to his chest. She guided his cradling arm into place over her waist, clasped his hand, and they both closed their eyes…
After a while spent in the darkness of their mind's eye, a distant beckoning pulse of light came into being. Without the power of the brooch, the summoning call seemed weaker and more distant but, with their extensive practice, Harry and Ginny were able to orient themselves toward it, and give themselves over to a slow, effortless gravitation, via some force that indeed felt indistinguishable from a cupla charm.
As they approached the light, it seemed to them much quite different from how they remembered it — the colour more golden; the wavering more sporadic; less rhythmic.
Harry stared. “It's a lantern.”
Ginny nodded. “Yes — a lantern flickering in the breeze.”
They found themselves descending through a canopy of spindly branches, shaded the dim grey of a cold mid-winter evening. The lamp hung from a branch outside a bower of evergreens. Within moments, they noticed a warm fire light — likely a magical one — emitting warmth and a soft glow, but lacking smoke or sparks.
Growing closer and closer, they instinctively veered their course slowly to the right of the entrance so that they were finally able to peer into the dim recesses of the bower… and to see faces — some familiar; some new.
Ginny's breath caught. Harry stared with a wondering expression on his face.
Her face weary and hair matted, LanossŽa smiled from within her bed of furs. Facing Heanua, LanossŽa carefully angled a tiny sleeping face upwards — its eyes closed in blissful peace. “Sister, I would like you to meet our son Ffodion, who shall be someday called Ignotus.”
From his position sitting beside LanossŽa, Paternas Peuerellius (an imperial Publican no longer) supported a second tiny head within his one remaining arm. Using gentle wandless magic, he withdrew a soft coverlet. “And I likewise present our young lady Gemina, who in your language shall be called Annisgwyl.”
Heanua smiled and extended her arms to hold the infant Ignotus. After cooing softly for several minutes she returned the baby to her sister. “I apologise, Sister, for not having arrived in time to aid in the delivery. Did it proceed smoothly?”
Both LanossŽa and Peuerellius cringed. LanossŽa shook her head with an intake of breath. “Annisgwyl arrived easily and without incident, but little Ffodion was tangled in his cord. We would certainly have lost him had Terna not known a spell to guide him safely through.”
Heanua stared wide-eyed at the two new parents, and then at the healthy child she had held just a minute before. “By Amaethon, he is well now, though!”
LanossŽa smiled. “By Amaethon, yes, he is strong and well.”
“And you, Lano?” Heanua shifted her focus back to the younger woman. “Has our god of kind fortune smiled upon you?”
“Of course, yes! I'm so happy he has brought me to the end of these last nine moons. So relieved he has given me my own body back.” LanossŽa laughed. “I feel so light, I could fly!”
Heanua smiled. “I know better than to doubt you, Sister, although I would expect that little Ffodion and Annisgwyl will keep you earthbound for a while.”
LanossŽa nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, perhaps we shall all be earthbound, yes? I rather regard this as the first day of the rest of our lives — when the long days of adventure are over, and we commit ourselves only to living our quiet lives deep in this forest, with no more concern for the great events of the ages…”
LanossŽa paused, her gaze suddenly drawn to the baby Annisgwyl in Peuerellius's arms. The tiny girl's eyes had, without any obvious external stimulus, opened wide toward the bower's entranceway… aiming straight toward where Ginny and Harry hovered invisibly in the cool evening beyond.
LanossŽa's gaze followed the baby's focus outward, curiously searching the spindly branches and the quiet, darkening sky for something… a vague sensation; the hint of a half-forgotten dream.
Neither Heanua nor Peuerellius seemed to notice the mother's and child's sudden silent vigil, but Ginny and Harry certainly did — gripped by the odd sensation of two pairs of eyes somehow sensing them, yet not quite seeming to see.
After an indeterminate time, LanossŽa's gaze finally drifted back to her sister, to respond to the woman's questions about Peuerellius's recovery. As the young mother related her efforts to stem her husband's incurable spell damage, and speculated about his life expectancy (suggesting that the strength of the his magic afforded him years to live, and, with luck, perhaps even decades), the baby Annisgwyl continued to behold her two aethereal visitors from a very distant future. The little girl's magical mind, pure and uncluttered with the subtle prejudices that come with knowledge, seemed to be performing on them some form of gentle, innocent Legilimency that neither Ginny nor Harry made any attempt to resist.
Enthralled, Ginny and Harry absorbed the simple, ephemeral sentience for as long as they could. But finally, two tiny eyelids flickered, and drooped… and the placid bower scene began to fade toward darkness. Within this deepening darkness, the softly pulsing light began to drift inexorably away from Harry and Ginny… as axions and neurons within the mind of a tiny child of another century began to shift and reshape themselves, as part of the gradual, natural process of growing up.
In the silence of the late-night Grimmauld Place library, Harry and Ginny awoke to the faint flicker of the hearth's dying embers. Both remained awake long thereafter, until the early streaks of blue began to grace the north window, yet in all that time neither one spoke. The two teens merely held each other; listened to the gentle rhythm of their hearts; thought about the distant past and what was still yet to be. Without any discussion both concluded that they had just now experienced their last vision of this sort, and both tried to imagine what the rest of their lives would be like if every new dream they ever had was destined to be no more than just a 'dream'.
In the manner of all Order of the Phoenix parties, the gathering seemed unduly awkward. Indeed it was inevitable, with such eclectic mix of eccentric wizards and witches, that a social setting of this sort would produce lots of uncomfortable interactions and subtle frictions. Unfortunately for Harry and Ginny, tonight was proving to be even more tedious than usual because many of the attendees were giving them… peculiar glances.
As far as anyone could tell, it seemed as though almost everybody had somehow heard that the boy who lived and the youngest Weasley had recently experienced some sort of bizarre and stunning adventure, but nobody appeared to know (or would tell) precisely what had happened.
As Harry and Ginny made their distinctly unenthusiastic rounds of the Grimmauld Place conservatory, conversations seemed to spring up or die nearly instantaneously around them, depending on whether they were leaving or approaching any given cluster of people. After a while, weary of tip-toeing about the throng, they retreated to a semi-quiet place along the near wall, close to a long-deceased piano, hoping that they could dutifully fulfill their required appearance and otherwise just live and let live.
No such luck.
“Shuch a lurvely halo ye're sporting this evening, Missh Ginevra!”
“Thank you Mr. Podmore.” Ginny didn't bother to glance upwards at whatever it was that had attracted the inebriated wizard's attention. Instead she took a short breath and smiled politely. “I'm guessing, though, that it's likely only a tea saucer charmed by one of my dear brothers.” She stole a quick glance at a large nearby plant, behind which Fred and George were snorting and sputtering suspiciously. “I wouldn't presume to speak for them, but they probably just decided I wasn't getting nearly enough attention this evening…”
Podmore's nod (vaguely agreeable; distinctly wobbly) was brought to an abrupt end as he nearly choked on an overly ambitious mouthful of pralines, and found himself hastily washing the mess down with something a lot stronger than butter beer, only to gag when he was suddenly elbowed out of the way by Dedalus Diggle.
“Wonderful wonderful wonderful to see you here this evening, Mr. Potter!”
“Thank you Mr. Diggle.” Trying not to grimace, Harry extended his hand downward, resignedly allowing the diminutive, chartreuse-cloaked wizard to begin frantically agitating it.
Fortunately the man ceased his spirited gyrations before Harry's arm went numb. Diggle continued to grin feverishly though. “I must say, Mr. Potter, your hair looks absolutely delightful this evening. I shan't even begin to imagine how many sweet young witches you'll charm at Hogwarts this year!”
“Er, none I hope.” Harry's neck slumped down as if he was trying to retract, tortoise-like, into his collar. He glanced apologetically toward Ginny, but she had turned from his side, and was struggling mightily to suppress a burst of laughter.
“None?” Diggle gazed with a quirked eyebrow. “Yes, I would suppose that such pursuits would seem decidedly callow to a young man who's just had to subdue an army of Lethifolds.”
“Lethi-what??” Harry stared in confusion.
Diggle paused for a moment to consider the response, before twisting halfway around to shake his head and mouth the words, “not Lethifolds ” to a distant Emmeline Vance. He turned back to Harry with a wide grin. “Very well — carry on then. Cheers, Mr. Potter!”
Harry closed his eyes and emitted a long, slow sigh as he watched Diggle waddle away.
Ginny spent a moment discreetly banishing the pesky saucer hovering above her head, then took Harry's hand. “Not much longer now. Let's stay for another twenty minutes, then politely excuse ourselves.”
“Twenty minutes??” Harry gave Ginny a look that was half-way between devastation and petulance.
She smiled sympathetically. “Harry, if we leave too early, we'll raise scads of speculation. You don't want yet another round of gossip, do you?”
“No no, don't want that.” Harry shivered, then sighed. “Okay, we'll stick it out for a while.”
Ginny squeezed his hand. “Of course, if someone was to suddenly distract the attention away from us, then perhaps we could…”
A sudden hush fell over the crowd; a couple dozen necks swiveled toward the doorway so see… Professor Dumbledore.
“Well bloody Nora!” Podmore rubbed his disbelieving eyes. “Ald Albus hashn't come out swallying with the boys all shummer!”
Podmore picked up somebody's nearly full glass of something murky from the coffee table and teetered toward the approaching Headmaster, brandishing the drink solicitously. “Cheers Albush! Hair o' the dog for ye!”
Dumbledore politely declined the drink and maneuvered himself around Podmore as the tippler accidentally sent a large plant crashing down onto Fred and George. The headmaster greeted Harry and Ginny with a tired smile and steered them toward a quieter corner on the far side of the piano.
“Yes sir?” Harry gave the old wizard an inquiring look. “Any news?”
“Not much news, no.” Dumbledore shook his head. “I did want to return this to you though.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew the brooch, handing it to Harry.
“Er, thanks.” Surprised by the gesture, Harry considered the brooch for a moment, then handed it to Ginny. “Would you like it, Gin'? You're the one who always used it.”
Ginny turned it over in her hands for a moment, then stroked it with her finger. “You've confirmed that it's completely dead, I presume?”
“Quite so.” Dumbledore nodded. “Every one of my tests indicated that any magic it may once have held has now been completely drained. For good or for ill.”
Harry glanced at it. “For good, I would expect.”
Ginny nodded. “Right. As both the source and solution to so many problems, I'm glad to see it rendered useless. Although, it does make an interesting artifact. Maybe we should give it back to Hermione?”
Harry smiled. “That's a nice idea. I'm sure she'll be quite…”
“Oi guvs!” Mundungus Fletcher's toothy grin suddenly appeared, a fair bit too close for comfort, accompanied by the tray of sweets he was holding. “'Ave yerselves some nice c'nfections courtesy of some scurvy old bakery just orf Covent Gard'rn.”
“Why, thank you Mundungus; don't mind if I do.” Dumbledore reached for one of the rather gooey objects, popping it quickly into his mouth, and making a self-satisfied noise.
“Wee 'Arry Potter ud shurly want one, neh?” Mundungus pushed the tray at Harry, grinning as Harry flinched. “Don' be timid, boy. This'll put some meat on yer bones.”
“No thank you. I'm allergic to, uhhh, vanilla?”
“Tain't no vaniller in 'em boy. Don' be shy.”
Harry shook his head vigourously.
Mundungus shrugged. “Suit yerself. But oi! Where's me blerdy manners, neh? Must be offerin' one t' the lovely lady Weasel!” He scooped the largest, most gelatinous square off the tray and thrust it ingloriously at Ginny.
In her haste to avoid wearing the strange pudding, Ginny shelved the brooch onto the piano, just in time to intercept Mundungus's goo-laden hand before it collided with her chin.
Mundungus's grin vanished as Harry's hands, white-knuckled, seized both shoulder and tray, impelling him back a step.
“Listen mate!” Harry steered the grimy man forcibly away. “If you had any manners you would have asked her before shoving that thing at her. Now, I hate to be impolite, but we were having a private conversation, so why don't you go take your tray around to some of the others to see if they'd like some of your, uh, stuff?”
“Don' be getting' all shirty fer nuffin', guv. Just thought th'lady might like a dainty, ye know?” In the most fleeting instant of mettle, Mundungus aimed a scowl at Harry, but immediately wilted and turned away. “Right, right, I'm goin'!”
Not bothering to watch him leave, Harry drew his wand and turned to Ginny, who was struggling to contain a confection that was threatening to seep, lava-like out of her two hands and onto, well, everything. Harry cringed at the prospective mess. “Er, shall I do the honours, Gin'?”
Her face beginning to crawl, Ginny nodded, then breathed in relief as the offending mess vapourised.
“Ah valour.” Dumbledore smiled as Harry put his wand away. “Well, Merlin forbid that I be called again to witness, but if need be I will testify that the lady had been attacked by a vicious substance that posed a grave threat to her, ehmmm, constitution and moral rectitude.”
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as Harry and Ginny both laughed, but the sparkle faded and he gazed disappointedly around the room. “I must apologise, though. Crude, weak-willed, uncivil, even boorish — this particular flock of mine does little to awe and inspire in the ways that the old Order of the Phoenix might once have.”
Harry shrugged. “Perhaps not but, on the other hand, they're here aren't they? They heeded your call; prepared to put their lives on the line?”
“Er yes, many of them.” Dumbledore stroked his beard distractedly.
“And they are your flock, sir.” Ginny discreetly wiped her wrist on an antique lace doily. “They still look to you for guidance and inspiration. We should probably not tie you up all evening, depriving them of their leader. Was there anything else that you needed from us before you attend to your people?”
“Ah yes.” Dumbledore regarded the two teens for a moment. “I did have one question.”
Harry nodded. “Go ahead sir.”
“Well you see, last night after I finished the final tests to confirm the brooch's inertness, I was just preparing to retire to my quarters when…” Dumbledore paused and glanced back and forth between the two teens. “A bell went off to alert me to one of my instruments…” He trailed off.
Ginny watched the man closely. “Yes, so what did you learn?”
“I found that an interesting magical spell had just been recorded here — shortly before ten p.m. last night. The spell had a signature very similar to the cupla charms I'd detected here last week.”
Harry shrugged unconcernedly. “That was probably us sir. We were called, quite unexpectedly, way back into the past. I think, perhaps, we were just brought there to say goodbye.”
“Or to say hello, one final time,” Ginny suggested.
“A dream across time? Without the brooch?” Dumbledore raised an eyebrow.
“Yes.” Ginny pursed her lips. “Don't people sometimes say, sir, that a baby's mind is a sponge?”
“Well yes — that the youngest infants do not filter their experiences; they soak up anything and everything they encounter…” Dumbledore's eyes narrowed briefly, then sparked and began to twinkle in recognition. “But much of what the wee children seem to understand fades quickly as the world rises up to meet them. The child learns to pare down much of that initial knowledge unless it has an obvious use.” He looked at her thoughtfully. “So, are you suggesting that a very young ancestor of yours may briefly have mimicked the magic of a cupla? “
Ginny shrugged. “That's my best guess.”
“Well, as I said before, I love a good guesser.” Dumbledore smiled. “Well, in that case, I see little threat from one final farewell. I hope it was a sweet denounement?”
Harry and Ginny merely smiled in response.
Dumbledore returned a subdued smile. “Ah, but speaking of farewells, regrettably I haven't the time to act upon your well-intended admonitions, Miss Weasley. This humble flock will have to take care of itself, and apparently a great quantity of Firewhisky, without me tonight as I have other pressing matters. So, if you will accept my apolog… Oh dear!”
Dumbledore stared at the top of the piano and frowned in worry. “I hate to say this, but it appears that somebody may have nicked the brooch.”
Harry's and Ginny's eyes followed the Headmaster's gaze.
Harry scowled. “Dung! That sticky-fingered little…!” He scanned the room for the rogue, but saw only the man's half-emptied confection tray lying unattended on the coffee table.
Ginny laughed. “Let it go, Harry — the only use the brooch will ever have to anybody now is if someone needs to pin a cape. Let Mundungus pawn it off to whomever he wants to.”
“Er, you mean…” Harry grinned. “Sell it to Malfoy?”
“Malfoy, or Borgin… or some friend of a friend who knows a dark wizard...” Ginny smiled and shrugged.
Puzzled, Dumbledore glanced from one teen to the other. “Miss Weasley, if Mr. Fletcher took the brooch from you, I'm certain I could persuade him to return it.”
“No thank you, sir,” the teens answered in unison.
Hand in hand, Harry and Ginny made their way lightheartedly through the door, leaving behind a bemused Headmaster and a room full of off-handed whispers.
“Bloody hell!” Ron scowled at the rapidly filling train cars. “We've practically camped in the station's back yard all summer, and we still can't find a way to get here with more than 45 seconds to spare. Now we'll never get seats together.”
“Don't fuss, Ron…” Hermione interrupted her frantic purse-rechecking ritual to meet her boyfriend's eye. “I, for one, think it was well worth our time for Ginny to persuade Sirius to say his goodbyes early and remain at the house. I shudder to think of the risk he could have placed himself in by coming to a busy place like this.”
Ginny gave her friend a fleeting gracious smile, before turning away again, gazing pensively off into the distance down the track.
“Besides…” Hermione slung her purse around shoulder and grasped Ron's hand firmly. “You and I needn't worry about seats anyway — we have reserved spots in the Prefect's car.”
“Oh.” Ron actually looked somewhat disappointed. “I guess I'd thought we could skive off as quickly as possible to go sit with Harry so we could, you know… discuss… things…?”
Harry smiled. “Don't worry — I'll catch you up later, Ron. Besides…” He took a couple of steps to the side to wrap an arm around Ginny. “I was actually rather hoping for a chance to sit with Ginny and her friends. Gin', do you suppose someone may have saved us a seat or two?”
“Seats?” Ginny looked up in surprise, then a grin slid across her face. “Oh, of course! We can sit with Luna Lovegood, Harry. She's uh, quite adept at saving seats. You'll see what I mean.” She winked.
Harry gave her a squeeze. “Wonderful. Lead on, then? I guess we'll see you two later.” He flashed Hermione and Ron a quick smile, then turned to help Ginny steer the trunk toward the train.
Clouds raced against the cool, moonlit sky. Against the starry backdrop, anyone watching from the ground might have seen a dark shape (or make that two dark shapes) gliding rapidly and silently from horizon to horizon. Above the high, rugged hills to the north of the moon-speckled Black Lake, one shape (the smaller one) would have been seen to cut sharply left, then right several times in a quick random evasive pattern, but the larger trailing shape hung steady and split the difference, honing in with unerring precision, and…
Her hair wild, and her eyes briefly even wilder, Ginny glared at her pursuer, then laughed. “How do you always do that?!”
“Seekers always seek, I guess.” Harry winked, pulling his quarry in closer. “Besides I, uh, guess I have a better broom.”
Ginny nodded. She was intensely competitive and always thought that if she tried hard enough, she could always find a way to win, but… in this case she had to admit that her competition had some distinct advantages. Nonetheless, despite the mediocre broom and her lack of hard on-pitch experience, she still hoped to finally turn some heads this year in Quidditch tryouts and line herself up as a potential starter for next year. It certainly wouldn't hurt that she finally seemed to have found a willing flying partner who could challenge her more rigourously than any of her brothers had been willing (or able) to. Yes, this could truly be the year when she finally learned to… errr, learned to…
Learned to hover above a Scottish hillside at night with Harry Potter's arm around her waist…?
Quidditch meant an awful lot to Ginny Weasley, but there were times when even that couldn't quite compete with an extraordinary milieu — moon, lake, mountains, and an unforgettable sweep of windswept dark hair...
All thoughts of Quidditch swept away in the brisk evening breeze, she turned to her partner with a ravenous grin.
One thing led quickly to another.
Without any clear instructions, the two brooms (sensing their riders to be clasped tightly to each other, eyes closed and lips searing) quietly switched to factory-default settings and collaboratively managed to steer Harry and Ginny in a gentle spiral downwards until the two lovers' legs settled onto the top of a large flattish mossy boulder.
Eyelids startling open at the unexpected grounding, Harry and Ginny glanced around at the unfamiliar surroundings. After several seconds, their gaze settled on the distant lights of the castle in the valley below.
Her face smarting from a combination of the bracing wind, a fair bit of smiling, and a pleasurable (amorous) workout, Ginny's expression grew subdued. She sighed. “We ought to get back soon. Welcoming Feast is probably winding down now, yeah?”
Harry glanced at the half-occluded moon as if it could tell him the time (no such luck — Astronomy wasn't his strongest subject) and then shrugged. “I haven't a clue. For all I know, Madam Toad-cheeks is still bloviating.”
“Probably.” Ginny giggled. “Do you suppose she might have taken umbrage at our mid-speech exit?”
Harry nodded. “Yes, from what I saw at my hearing, the woman doesn't have a bone in her body that's not at least somewhat vindictive.”
“Oh really? I couldn't tell if she had any bones in her body, period.”
“Touchť, mademoiselle.” Harry grinned. “Nonetheless, I propose a fireside chat before bed to discuss how we'll respond if she proves to be as meddlesome and trying as I fear she probably will.”
“Good idea.” Ginny sighed again as she continued to gaze at the castle. “It's going to be an interesting year, yeah?”
Harry nodded quietly, his eyes fixed on the moody skies, within which a thick bank of dark clouds was verging toward the moon.
Ginny followed his gaze upwards and stood there pensively for a while. Shivering slightly in the chill, she pulled herself closer into the folds of his robe, watching as the silvery light above them wavered and dimmed.
Harry stirred somewhat, tugging his collar so that it wrapped more fully about her shoulders.
She turned to glimpse his placid, distant face the low light, and reached up to touch his cheek. “Harry, do you ever wish that we could still… see into the future?”
A long moment hung between them, silent but for the blustering night.
Just as Harry began to open his mouth to respond, the moon cut its way back through a fissure in the clouds, showing Ginny his face.
“To be honest, Gin', I really don't need to see all the details. Every trial and peril, every celebration, every dull day by the fire — all of that will work out okay.” He smiled slightly. “Everything will be fine as long as I can always see in my future what I see right now.”
Puzzled, Ginny regarded him questioningly… then her breath caught.
For Harry was peering deeply into her eyes.
I f you've managed to read all the way down to this point, then my sincerest thanks!
If at any point you've left a review to steer, cajole or even cheer, then do know just how grateful I am!
Finally, in no particular order, let me ramble effusively about some of those people who really do their best to inspire people to write for this site.
MisterBlack -- thank you for leading me on a fascinating post-facto revisitation of my own work through the eyes of a most evocative reader. Every time I answer questions like those, I see just a bit more of myself through the remarkable opportunity of reflection availed from within someone else's eyes.
Martin (Gin110881) -- not only are you one of the greatest cheerleaders on SIYE, but I'm convinced you will never rest until fanfic rights every canonical injustice ever inflicted upon our beloved Ginny, and for that we're deeply indebted. And furthermore, the next time you make it past the third glass of fine uisgi, give a thought to Gemina; she holds you forever fondly in her heart!
RighT3rantZ -- the man who plays Trix like a Djembe drum has also provided me with great splinters of wisdom! It is a celestial truth that 17 hours after reading any of your reviews, I will invariably understand more about myself, and more about the story. Sometimes I will even understand what you told me. While offering your many thoughts, you made only one real request in Splinters, and I hope you agree that noble sacrifice is juju every bit as powerful as overwhelming triumph.
David (WolfScream) -- to say I'm indebted to your keen eye for historical details and glitches is a vast understatement. Thank you so kindly for doing so much to make the story better for everyone else, for chiming in with such loyalty, and for your little gems of insight!
MollyandArthur -- my conscience and plot barometer; after every chapter, I have eagerly awaited your recalibrating words. You are incontrovertible evidence of the influence a thoughtful reviewer can have on a story in progress, and I love how you're a quiet protector of every Weasley, great and small.
Hannah (ginnyweasley777) -- have I ever said how much I appreciate what you quietly, routinely do for the site? Should I say it again? Don't be modest -- you're super! Thank you!
Kate (KateP) and Silvia (Lunaganger) -- two of the most loyal readers and reviewers one might ever ask for, taking time to write in sickness and in health, under technical duress, and in all sorts of weather. Your thoughts never fail to cheer me and guide me. Sincerest appreciation!
mdauben, Arnel, Anne Marie (HPMum2014), Barbara (hgromance), Mark (brennus), shalli, Robert (DukeBrymin) and Alicia Rose Potter -- any time an authour takes time away from her or his own labours to comment upon and foster someone else's story, it is worth extension of special gratitude. Let it be known that I will definitely reciprocate any chance I get, especially because I've derived hours of entertainment from your stories!
John (Dad) -- always rely on you for wise, well grounded thoughts and a wry wit. Thank you time and again, and may your malts be smoky and sweet!
PsychoGeek -- no other reviewer has inspired more total revisions based on a single review than you. I may have responded a bit sourly to your bitter medicine, but in retrospect I'm deeply grateful for your opening my eyes to a stylistic tick I hadn't really considered.
Debra (DreamingHaven), Gene (Aragorn), BkRmGrl87, Mark (Cole) and Mike (mjc) -- I may have heard your voices a bit more in the early going than later on, but I know all too well that authours crave feedback in the dawning of a new story as they seek to gauge the story and audience. Your thoughts were all well timed and immensely encouraging!
nesciamema, Grace (gracepark), Lys (lyscsuri), Dann (dannbard), Tom (potternut190) -- you too always managed to find the perfect time to leave a perfectly encouraging comment. Diolch yn fawr iawn!
Adelinda (zorica) -- last in this list, but first to the mark. Don't think I don't appreciate it!
There are others of course, and although my weary fingers are stumbling, I'm grateful to you too. Thank you all!