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SIYE Time:7:02 on 19th October 2017


Splinters
By GHL

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Nymphadora Tonks, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 277
Summary:

In the secret mists of time, a truth has been shattered. The path to victory has been cursed with despair... and nobody realizes it.

It is 1995 -- the summer of their discontent. Sequestered within the grimy walls of Grimmauld Place, Harry and Ginny begin having strange dreams of an era long past and events yet to come. Are the dreams somehow real? Is fate taunting them with tragic visions of doom, or are they being granted a precious chance to survive... and fall in love?

Note: this story presumes canon until Chapter 4 of OotP... beyond which things begin to go haywire.


Hitcount: Story Total: 38551; Chapter Total: 1805
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:

Well, it's taken longer to get to this point than I'd originally thought, but hopefully worh the wait. Longer chapter than usual (I'd planned to keep them short and snappy for this story) but there was a lot that had to happen. Hope you enjoy!

Many thanks for readers and, especially, reviewers. This story was a looser shell than most of my previous ones, so some of you will see your feedback echoed in what later reaches your eyes.





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Chapter 8. Knowing (August 12, 1995)

Harry's eyes flickered open, and he blinked away the sleepy haze.

It was morning… albeit still rather early. The light creeping its way through the ragged curtain on the west-facing window was quite frail, but it was truly dawn, which meant that Harry had actually slept through the night! No dreams or nocturnal trips up or down the stairs — at least none that he could remember.

If only a good night's sleep was enough to make him feel a bit better. Harry rolled over and groaned as he remembered what today held in store for him — a hearing. More precisely, it was a hearing likely to involve lots of misinformed, judgmental adults scrutinizing him with jaded eyes and hypocritical postures, all acting according to their own untold agendas.

With that thought, Harry squeezed his eyelids shut again and stuck his head under the pillow.

But suddenly, in the dim muffled world between pillow and mattress, everything suddenly felt... okay… Even better than okay!

Still puzzled by the sensation — almost like his first experience with Pepperup potion, Harry pulled his head back out of hiding and looked around at a fresh new morning — one that braced him; invigourating like a fresh dry breeze blowing in after a storm.

Harry rose to his feet without even lingering at the edge of his bed. He quietly opened a drawer and withdrew the last clean, pressed pair of trousers and shirt for the big day, and was just fastening the final button when he heard a soft knock on the door.

With a glance at the still-slumbering Ron, Harry slid quietly across the room and peaked through the door… to find a disheveled Arthur Weasley.

“G'morning Har...” Arthur coughed a bit to clear his froggy thoat. “Sorry about that — I'm barely awake...”

Harry stepped quietly out into the corridor and closed the door. “You're up early, Mr. Weasley?”

Arthur nodded. “So I am. It was the strangest thing; an owl banged on my window a little while ago with a note from the Associate Curator of Records — odd fellow by the name of Achaius Duff — saying that Ginny had been granted an extra hour in the Archive. The rub is that we now need to get her into the Ministry by 7:30, which is bloo...” He coughed awkwardly. “… which is unusually early by Ministry standards.”

Harry glanced at his watch. “Okay...”

Arthur looked him over. “Ginny's already up. I was going to see if you thought it possible to pull everything together to catch the 6:46 train, but by the looks of it, you're already nearly ready to go?”

“Sure. Do we have time for breakfast?”

Arthur nodded. “A quick bite or two. Ginny offered to start some toast for us.”

“Just need to get my shoes on.” Harry edged back toward the bedroom door. “I'll meet you in the kitchen in two minutes.”

Arthur gazed at him for a moment then smiled wistfully. Ah, the energy of youth!



The security wizard, a scruffy bloke named Eric Munch, handed Harry his wand back. Pocketing the wand, Harry gazed back at Ginny and spontaneously, for about the fifth time the morning, grinned at his friend, who happily reciprocated.

Caught up in their shared good spirits (so glad for the company on what might have otherwise been a bleak and stressful venture) neither Harry nor Ginny noticed as Munch's thin metal rod twitched on its circuit of Ginny's jumper. Munch frowned momentarily, then shrugged and asked Ginny for her wand.

A minute later, Harry, Ginny and Mr. Weasley all made their way across the Atrium toward the ostentatious and somewhat vulgar 'Fountain of Magical Brethren' where they paused to regroup. Arthur glanced over at a large timepiece that was levitating at the far end of the Atrium and then scanned the crowd for the Associate Curator of Archives who had suggested that they rendezvous here.

Ginny watched as Harry wandered over to the edge of the monument and gazed down into the rippling pool at a marble surface sprinkled with numerous Knuts, a few Sickles and, here and there, the occasional Galleon.

Ginny came up softly behind Harry and brushed lightly against his arm. “Going to make a wish?” she asked. Smiling, she held out a few Knuts that had collected, forgotten, in the pocket of her jeans, and gestured toward a sign indicating that the proceeds would go to magical maladies research at St. Mungo's.

Harry nodded. “Sort of, yes. I just promised myself that if we learned something really useful today, I'd toss in a few coins on my way out.”

“Each to their own wish!” Ginny winked at him. Without bothering to elaborate, she tossed in her Knuts, and turned back toward her father who was now talking to an attractive but serious-looking witch wearing the rust-coloured robes of the Archives Department.

Arthur beckoned Ginny over, and Harry followed.

The witch extended her hand to Ginny. “Rosalind Hilliard, Magical Archives. A pleasure to meet you, Miss Weasley.”

Ginny grinned and shook the woman's hand.

“Mr. Duff asked me to come up to meet you; he said to apologise for his absence and to thank you for your willingness to appear an hour earlier than originally scheduled.”

Arthur's eyes widened. “Thank us??”

“Oh yes!” Rosalind nodded to Ginny. “Mr. Duff has made Miss Weasley's visit a personal priority, and was most gratified to receive approval from our Department Head for a second hour to ensure a successful visit. We're grateful that you too were flexible enough to accommodate the change in plans”

Arthur blinked then shrugged. “Oh, well you're perfectly welcome Miss Hilliard. It's no bother to us all... well aside from Harry here having to spend an extra hour sitting on a stack of books waiting for his own, er, appointment.”

The witch glanced over Arthur's shoulder to where Harry was listening in curiously. “Oh yes, and so this is Mr. Harry Potter, then?”

Harry fidgeted uneasily, half expecting the woman to stare at his fringe of hair, looking for the scar. When he reluctantly turned to face her, however, she had her hand extended and was projecting a crisp, professional demeanour.

Harry shook her hand, a bit surprised by the firmness of her grip. “How do you do, Ms. Hilliard?”

“I do well, thank you Mr. Potter. And you yourself would do well to reconfirm your own plans. I strongly suggest that you ask Mr. Weasley to escort you down to the Minister's suite for clarification regarding the time and location of your… appointment. Mr. Duff believes that there might have been some last minute scheduling adjustments, and that you may find yourself with a fair bit less free time to spend… sitting on books, as it were.”

Harry, Ginny and Arthur glanced at each other, startled. Arthur nodded. “Er, yes, thank you Miss Hilliard. May I ask you where this information is coming from?”

The witch shook her head. “I'm not the right person to ask — I'm simply conveying Mr. Duff's message. Exactly where he came by the information, I don't know; he is a very private person and very rarely involves himself in others' affairs. Yet, in my experience, if he bothers to offer advice he is very rarely, if ever, wrong.”

Rosalind turned to Ginny with a brusque efficiency. “Now please come along Miss Weasley. We would like to ensure that you're able to derive the maximum possible benefit from your Archives access.” Without another word, the witch spun on her heel and began striding toward the lifts.

Ginny turned toward her father and Harry, with a slightly bewildered look on her face.

Arthur rolled his eyes. “Don't worry sweetheart — Harry and I will sort out his situation. But in the meantime it looked like you're off and running — places to be and things to see! Good luck, and please meet us right back here when you're done!”

Ginny nodded. She flashed Harry a hurried smile, basking for the slimmest split second in his look of gratitude, then she turned to rush after Rosalind, catching her just as the lift door opened.

“My apologies — I didn't intend to be unduly short, but time is of the essence,” the archives witch said the door closed. She pulled several scrolls out of a rucksack and began examining them as the lift plunged an indeterminate depth down into the ground. “Mr. Duff is somewhat eccentric, but rather exacting as a superior, and his instructions were quite explicit. He has not shared with me the precise motivations for your investigations, but...” Rosalind paused to give Ginny an analytical once over, noting with satisfaction the earnest, engaged expression on Ginny's face. “… they clearly must be important. Mr. Duff is prepared to extend you the rather uncommon courtesy of personal assistance in your labours.”

“Oh?!” Ginny hoped that in her surprise she managed to hide the sense of discomfort suddenly weighing upon her. An extra pair of eyes might certainly seem useful, but it was rather unsettling to learn that a Ministry official had found some reason to take an interest in something she and Harry had both hoped to pass off as a simple, non-controversial scholastic exercise.

Unconcerned, Rosalind directed her focus back to one of the scrolls from her collection. “Of course, you are free to accept his offer, or not, as you see fit.”

“Oh, well thank you!”

The witch nodded. “Think nothing of it.” She off-handedly pulled out her wand and pointed it at the scroll, causing several phrases on the parchment to glow bright green.

The lift door finally opened, and Rosalind strode through it, leading Ginny down a torch-lit, stone corridor, around a corner, and into a cavernous chamber with huge shelves of books, scrolls and documents, all annotated with a mixture of seemingly random letters and strange symbols that Ginny assumed were runes of some sort.

“You'll pardon the dim, reddish lighting I hope. Low light is best for old documents, since even magic can't preserve them forever,” Rosalind explained as she led Ginny along through the stacks. She paused briefly to examine her annotations, then reached up onto a shelf to retrieve a scroll which she handed to Ginny. The title, embossed along the side in elaborate Gothic lettering, read:

Fall of the Queen's Magic: the Decline of Brythonic Shamanism after A.D. 61

The witch continued leading Ginny along through the gloomy stacks for several minutes, handing her various scrolls, and other books, such as:

Classical Darkness: The Rise of Magical Xenophobia in the Greco-Roman Era

The documents continued to pile up in Ginny's arms as she hurried to keep pace. Most titles she merely skimmed or didn't catch at all in her haste, but for obvious reasons one book in particular did catch her eye:

Dream Magic from the Neolithic to Modern Times

The exceptional relevance to questions on her mind struck her, but more disturbing was the fact that nowhere in her Archives access request letter had she ever mentioned anything about dreams. Had the rather useful book ended up in her arms by coincidence and accident, or…? Or what??

After collecting another half dozen documents, Rosalind led Ginny to an open space with a cluster of chairs and research tables, gesturing for her to take a seat. “That should keep you busy until Mr. Duff can see you. If not, then here is a summary of the Archive shelf indexing system.” She handed Ginny a scroll, with a lengthy list of numbers and strange symbols, accompanied by a plain English translation key.

“Thank you so much for your assistance!” With an effusive smile, Ginny hoped that she was effectively disguising just how disoriented she was by all the unexpected attention. No prior visit to any library had ever prepared Ginny for this sort of… experience.

As Ms. Hilliard strode off, Ginny stared diffusely at the research material arrayed in front of her, then shook herself into focus and began sorting through the books and documents.

As she browsed through the remaining items, Ginny noted that most did cater directly to the specific topics she had outlined in her original letter — the circumstances behind Boadicea's defeat and possible magical interventions therein; possible Roman motives for undermining truces with Celtic tribes in Britain, and general surveys of magical skills and objects from the early first millennium A.D. However, one old scroll that had accompanied her to the table was just as perplexing to Ginny as the Dream Magic book. When she carefully opened the scroll, she read the title.

Time Paradoxes from Spirit Magic to Contemporary Turner Technology

Ginny frowned, shaking her head at the title and the implications it might have to her and to Harry; wondering how anybody not named 'Hermione Granger' could possibly have guessed that the subject might be of interest. She began to skim quickly through the essay's introduction to confirm that it really did treat what she expected it to.

She was several inches down the scroll when she suddenly felt a strange chill… It took her a moment to diagnose the sensation, but soon recognized it as exactly the same sort of dire but vague premonition that… the princess might feel when the Publican was in trouble!

Her breath caught. Trembling slightly, Ginny's hand crept to the neck of her jumper and slipped inside. Beneath the thick wool, closing the neck of the blouse she wore underneath, was an object that almost nobody knew that she had on her possession. Her fingers reached down to caress the polished silver, and…

Door!

Dim, stone corridor... a single black door at the end!

Concentrating on the vision that had popped into her mind, Ginny detected a blur of other extrasensory inputs — the feel of thick, stagnant subterranean air; her father's voice chatting amicably about something or other; the clop of his loafers on a polished stone floor, and the scuff and squeak of Harry's trainers. Yet none of those mundane details blunted the sharp, sudden feeling of alarm she had detected from Harry's first glimpse of that... black door!

Ginny's focus shifted as Harry turned a corner and made his way toward a staircase leading down to another level of the Ministry. The intensity of Ginny's vision slackened. She was vaguely aware of her father grousing about how ludicrous it was to be meeting down here… then the scene faded…

Disconcerted by Harry's visceral emotion, but completely unaware of what it meant, Ginny withdrew her hand from beneath her jumper and stared straight ahead of her…

It took her several seconds to realize that she was staring, open-mouthed, at the Associate Curator of Archives… who was speaking to her.

“… but your friend has nothing to fear...”

“Huh?!” Ginny gasped in confusion as she registered the figure and voice in front of her. Blinking away the vestigial effects of the vision, she beheld, in profile, a hunched old wizard with wild white hair tumbling all about a wrinkled set of rust-coloured robes, similar to (but far less stylish than) Rosalind's apparel. Slowly, he turned to face Ginny…

And she looked into his… eerily clouded… blue eyes.

The man's face crinkled like an arctic ice flow in June as he grinned. “I said that your friend may have a somewhat unpleasant morning, but really he has naught to fear. I suspect that his… appointment… will go fairly well, and there are no perils — known or unknown — awaiting him here.” He chuckled softly to himself. “Or none for the time being, anyway. But be a good dear, will you? Please consider all facts very carefully before you ever let your friend return to the Ministry… Oh, and I suggest that you leave the dog at home.”

Ginny was still so baffled by everything about the bizarre old wizard that his cryptic statement was largely lost on her. “Er, I beg your pardon??”

The man looked kindly on her, but ignored the question. “So very pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Ginevra Weasley — I was most concerned that I might never have the opportunity. Now, may we speak about your research project?”

Ginny wrestled her perplexity aside. “Uh, you're Mr. Duff I presume?”

The wizard nodded earnestly.

Her eyes narrowed. “Mr. Duff, while I greatly appreciate your offer of assistance in this project, could you tell me why you're interested in this work… if you please?”

“If I please?” He tilted his head to the side and cackled softly under his breath for a moment, before returning his diffuse gaze toward her. “Oh, nothing would please me more, and I dare say it might please you too... but no.”

Ginny blinked. “No??”

The old man shook his head. “No, I cannot give you a clear explanation. I would have expected you and your friend to know much more about why I should be interested in your research than I myself do. Or if you do not already know, then I assume you will learn long before I do. If so, would you be so kind as to tell me all about it some day? I can only imagine it will make for a fascinating story.”

Ginny stared, speechless.

Duff gazed at her curiously, studying her bewildered expression. “I gather than my answer was not to your liking. I have never been very good with answers, and nor am I very adept at questions.” He smiled benignly. “Would it help if I simply assured you that I truly do know almost nothing of your situation, and would be most disinclined to make any attempt to interfere with your work or tell anyone about it? You can simply consider me your servant. Assume that I have orders to assist you and that I will do so discretely, humbly and unquestioningly.”

“Errr, okay...” Ginny bit her lip for a moment as she continued to try to distill some sense from the situation. In spite of many strange, half-glimpsed contradictions, her instincts told her that she could trust him.

“Splendid!” The wizard renewed his enthusiastic, if ancient, grin. “In that case, I will assume that you already have many elaborate plans mapped out for searching our archives. I shall not distract you from those, but would merely wish to borrow a few minutes to discuss what you appear to be overlooking.”

Ginny stared at him dubiously. “Yes, and what would that be?”

“Time, my dear! You have such a limited grasp of time!”

Ginny's left wrist inadvertently twitched, exposing the inexpensive watch she'd been given several years back before starting at Hogwarts.

The old wizard burst into laughter that quickly spawned a sputtering cough. “Oh merciful Circe! Your humour delights me, dear princess! But of course you know that I speak of time not as a schedule or calendar, but rather as an atlas of wonderful places.” Duff gazed fondly off into the dimly lit rows of stacks. “Time is our great adventure. The present is our home. Each memory is a place we have visited. Tomorrow is our next destination.”

Ginny nodded, as she processed the abstract analogy.

Duff smiled and continued. “In every past destination, we had many opportunities to meet people — enemies, friends, family and so on. Yet our most important temporal acquaintances are none other than our past selves. You, my dear, may have fond memories of little Ginevra sitting on her father's knee, but recognize that she was not exactly the same person as the self-assured young woman sitting across from me. You know little Ginevra well, but she would scarcely have recognized you.”

Ginny gazed diffusely, then slowly nodded again.

“The past, of course, is a very expansive land. It has many places we have never visited, but some of them we have heard about them from recollections or books.” Duff gestured at the books and documents Ginny had just begun to examine a few minutes ago. “These are really just travel brochures, opening your mind to exotic lands of the past. But consider how wondrous it would be if we had so many detailed brochures of the realms of our future?”

Duff paused to meet Ginny's eyes. “Yes, just as little Ginevra has never met you, there are future Miss Weasleys whom you have never yet encountered, even though these charming women of tomorrow might claim to have intimate knowledge of this studious young researcher sitting before me.”

Ginny was about to signal her understanding when, in the instant before Duff opened his mouth again, she had the sudden eerie anticipation of his next question… “And yet you, Miss Weasley — so much younger than a goat such as myself — have traveled and seen much. You have visited places that I could barely even dream of, have you not, young lady?”

Ginny looked pointedly away, not daring to meet the man's disconcertingly clouded yet perceptive gaze.

Heedless of her discomfort, the old man's gaze drifted off and he continued heedlessly. “I have always wished to wander and explore. I do believe that some day I will, but in the meantime I must simply envy you.”

Ginny eyed him warily for a long moment, but then nodded slowly. “Yes Mr. Duff, I have… traveled.” She took a deep breath and met his gaze. “But haven't you also traveled? How would you know what Harry and I have experienced, if you haven't experienced it yourself… Mr. Druid wand-maker?

Duff tittered and shook his head. “Ah, my dear friend, once again I assure you that I remain but a humble servant, blind to the powers of those such as yourself. I know not this Druid Wand-maker acquaintance of yours, although I have been indeed told a little about him.”

“Told by whom?” Ginny's eyes narrowed again.

“I'm not certain… but I assume he is my future self.” Duff shrugged. “He is a dream visitor; he seems somehow reminiscent of myself… but also a bit different — more learned; more cautious; somehow vaguely frightened.” He paused for a long moment, stroking his beard. “Whoever he may be, the visitor implies important reasons for sharing with me some modest aspects of your goals and interests. Perhaps he knows your future or past selves? Perhaps he knows a friend of yours? Maybe he has heard only stories. He was ever vague on circumstances, yet specific in his instructions...”

“His instructions?”

The old wizard nodded. “Yes, instructions to help you. My future self is the reason that I am sitting before you right now, speaking to you about time.”

Ginny rubbed her temples, exasperated with the abstract circular responses. Out of the blue, however, a very basic question occurred to her. She raised her head and fixed his gaze. “How is any of this possible?”

“Ah, young lady, now that is a question for an Unspeakable!”

Ginny smiled wryly, frustration beginning to wear through her veneer, but Duff tittered under his breath. “Ah, despair not Ginevra, for the Unspeakable who shall answer you is none other than myself. Until two years ago, I researched within the Time Office of the Department of Mysteries.”

“Oh, okay then.” Ginny examined him skeptically. “So do you know how it's possible for your future self to instruct your present self?”

“It is not.” The old man smiled in an inscrutable manner that Ginny was beginning to find increasingly aggravating.

Ginny took a deep breath. “It is not what?”

“Strictly speaking, it is not possible,” Duff explained. “Yet it is happening. Unless I've simply imagined it all…?”

For a moment, blood coursed hot through Ginny's veins… then she suddenly imagined the state of apoplexy Hermione would be in from a doddering, tortuous conversation like this. She couldn't help but laugh…

The old man joined in; his eyes twinkling in the lamplight. The mirth, stretching for nearly a minute, seemed to clear Ginny's mind of the distracting irritations, and she was hit with unexpected insight. “So, by all current principles, what your future self is doing in contacting the present you is impossible…” She gazed thoughtfully over the man's shoulder. “But perhaps he's found some way to do it in the future?”

Duff giggled in delight. “Almost, almost, almost exactly!”

With a quizzical look on her face, Ginny waited patiently for the wizard's agitation to subside.

Finally restoring his equanimity, Duff continued. “Yes, my visitor seems capable of casting his influence across temporal barriers in ways that remain very likely impossible. However, I do not believe that he himself was the one who 'found some way to do it '. Rather, I am led to understand that it became attainable for him due to circumstances outside of his influence.”

Ginny frowned, grasping the distinction. “So something, errr, changed, that is allowing him to reach back to you?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“Do you have any idea what?” Ginny asked.

Duff shrugged. “Perhaps… It's highly theoretical...”

“Can you speculate?”

“Of course I can, young lady. Neither answers nor questions are my forté, but I excel at speculation!” Duff grinned toothily. “Let me begin by stating my belief that this bears no semblance to the function of any known Time Turner.”

Ginny nodded, silently urging him to continue.

“Time Turners act by tearing small holes in time — large enough for a human to physically enter into a different era for a while, yet small enough and short enough in duration that the holes can quickly heal themselves. The last time I experienced a visitation, I was able to probe myself and surroundings for the magical signature of a Turner, and found none.”

Ginny examined the old wizard thoughtfully. “So, without using a Time Turner, your visitor has been able to connect with you in your dreams?”

Duff shook his head. “No, no. Not in my dreams. He travels to me in his dreams. I am often quite awake for the visits; awake but disoriented — voices in my head; thoughts that are not quite my own but not exactly somebody else's.”

Ginny cringed inwardly as she began to imagine what her own dreams might feel like to the princess. “So, are you sure that this will only be possible in the future? That it isn't yet possible for someone in the present to dream into the minds of people in another time? Because Harry and I have… er, I mean we would be interested in, um, knowing a bit more.”

“Because you and your friend have interacted with people from other times, you mean?” The old wizard winked knowingly at Ginny. “I may be wrong, but I do not think your dreams have actually influenced any events past or future. Not in any way that will affect your present lives.”

“They haven't??” Ginny's eyes widened in dismay. “The dreams have no effect?”

“Well, for all the wild happenings in your dream past, you have never yet managed to complete negate your existence or do anything else to irreparably alter your real waking life, correct?”

Ginny shook her head. “Okay, I see your point, but they seem so real — I can't believe we're only just... dreaming...”

Duff's eyes twinkled. “Well now. I hardly said that it was mere dreaming.”

Ginny stared at him dumbfoundedly.

Duff shook his head. “What you have experienced is far more interesting and powerful than the dreams that most people have. However; based on all of the studies recorded in the Time Office, I am guessing that your dreams may be among the most amazing temporal effects we have ever seen to have not occurred.”

Ginny blinked. “Er, amazing non-occurrence??”

“Allow me to explain.” The old wizard jittered in his seat excitedly. “Miss Weasley, are you familiar with the three D's of apparition?”

Recalling the twins' recent obsession with the skill, Ginny resisted rolling her eyes. “Yes. Destination, determination and deliberation.”

“Well, in our Department, we always considered the Time Turner to be comparable to a portkey that pulls you through time instead of space. From that analogy, we have long theorized that it might also be able to push oneself through time, the same way that one apparates through space.”

Duff struggled to his feet and began to pace. “Compared to Time Turners, there would be clear advantages to such temporal apparition. Turners are dangerous across long temporal expanses because the further you go, the greater the size of the temporal hole that is opened, and hence the greater the destabilisation of time itself. Theoretically, however temporal apparition would not be limited by temporal distance — if the apparator has an excellent sense of destination and determination, an excursion across many centuries should be no more disruptive than a short hop of several hours.”

Accepting the distinction, Ginny nodded.

“What I am theorizing, my astute listener, is that you have found some way to accurately perceive several interesting destinations in time, and you are somehow able to focus on them with the same level of determination required for apparition…”

Ginny frowned at the concept. The old wizard had never made any explicit mention of the brooch, and perhaps was not aware of its existence, but she herself could well imagine that the cupla might be giving them the clear visualization of past and future scenes required for 'destination', and that the charm's powerful emotional tug could mimic the 'determination' process.

“Destination, determination...” Duff held up three fingers then lowered two of them. “That leaves only deliberation — the intense infusion of magic required to actually make it happen. In order for Time Turner charms to be capable of tearing the fabric of time, multiple wizards must cast multiple spells over and over again, gradually suffusing the Turner with the immense power required. We have always assumed that no witch or wizard, save perhaps Merlin himself, has ever been able to summon an instantaneous burst of magic strong enough to open a temporal hole — not even the tiniest prick required to transmit a bare mental message.”

“I don't understand.” Ginny fixed Duff with an exacting stare. “How is it that Harry and I feel like we can dream our way across years and centuries, but you believe it's not real time travel? At the same time, you believe that a future 'you' actually is able to send a message from the future, and this message seems to imply that Harry and I need to understand more about time?”

The old wizard grinned bemusedly. “Once again, I believe that you are better equipt than I to explain how you and your friend dream the future and past, but perhaps you wish for me to speculate what it means?

Ginny shrugged.

“I can see two possible implications of your dreams, Miss Weasley.” Duff's hazy blue gaze swept analytically across her face. “One interpretation is that your minds have somehow acquired remarkably detailed and accurate information about several stories from other times; your understanding may be so accurate that when you explore this information in dreams, you are able to reliably infer how actions in one time frame would affect situations in another.”

Ginny frowned, unconvinced.

Duff noted Ginny's expression and continued. “The other possibility, is that you are truly seeing other times, but that your involvement in affairs of those times is bound up within bubbles.”

Ginny massaged her brow and exhaled. “… Bubbles?”

“Yes, yes, bubbles!” Duff paced excitedly. “It's highly highly theoretical, but despite not actually tearing through into another time, the strength of your determination might have actually been sufficient to produce a bubble — some equal copy of those times, within which your actions produce consequences identical to those in what you view as real time. As long as the bubbles remain distinct, however, those consequences are walled off from the historical tract that your waking self would consider to be normal.”

Ginny continued to massage her brow. “Uhhh, okay… but where does that leave your future self? How is he able to speak to you?”

Suddenly showing signs of pronounced weariness, Duff took a seat. “I can only assume that something will break… or has broken.”

“Sorry, but what will break? A bubble? Time itself?”

Duff equivocated. “Yes, one or the other, but I'm uncertain which. Something like a devastating Time Turner accident could possibly open a permanent tear in the fabric; the instability of such a tear would be frightening and unpredictable, but a daring and knowledgeable wizard might be able to exploit it for untold temporal meddling. The other possibility is that if there are multiple bubbles close to the surface of real time, that may perhaps weaken the barrier, making is possible for ordinary people to achieve 'deliberation'. The latter is less terrifying perhaps, but either would represent a serious breach in the integrity of time.”

Ginny took a sharp breath, then released it. “Do you know when the future breach will occur?”

The wizard gazed distantly as he pondered the question. “Ehhhmmmm, likely not in the future.”

Ginny stared, uncomprehending.

Duff shook his head. “My best guess, as extracted from vague thoughts and memories that I was able to extract from my visitor, is that...” He tapped his nose distractedly. “Eh, forgive the foolish guesswork, but my best wager is that someone from the future is somehow going to break... the past...”

“Shite!” Ginny gaped in distress. “I mean, uh, sugar!”

“Shite or sugar — either way, my dear young lady.” The old wizard offered her a tired but bemused smile. “I, myself, have said worse.”



Harry sighed in relief.

Given the relentlessly asinine articles printed all summer in the Daily Prophet, Harry had come into the trial expecting nothing better than a farce. The fact that he had first heard about the rescheduling and relocating of the trial from none other than an assistant to the the Associate Curator of Magical History Archives only confirmed his doubts for a fair hearing... but he had been wrong. The final gavel had just fallen upon the Wizengamot's verdict — a nearly unanimous declaration of innocence.

Harry rose from the uncomfortable chair and smiled. Until this moment, he had struggled to sustain an ambivalence about the outcome. If he was expelled from Hogwarts, his absence might lessen the danger to other students but conversely, he would have been unable to help protect his friends. Yes, he would be still be able to maintain an emotional tie to Ginny through the brooch, but no, he could not presume to court her affections if he wouldn't see her again for months…

But now, finally, none of that mattered! He was definitely returning to school!

With a surge of cheer, Harry moved purposefully toward his headmaster (his saviour!), intent on expressing his deepest gratitude… but no sooner had Harry turned toward Dumbledore when the man cast a nervous glance about himself and darted hastily from the room, shouldering his way past several departing Wizengamot members as he did so.

Harry stared in dismay. For a moment he thought about chasing after Dumbledore, but could not imagine jostling his way through a dozen members of Wizarding society's highest elite to do so… especially considering the fact that they had just done him the favour of honest legal deliberation.

His sense of victory draining away, Harry stood dumbfoundedly as the courtroom emptied. However he was not yet quite alone. Gathering her purse and shawl, old Mrs. Figg came up beside him and patted his hand fondly.

Startled, Harry returned her warm greeting. “Thank you so kindly for coming to my aid, Mrs. Figg!”

“Ah Harry! That was the least I could do.” She smiled sadly. “Would that I had been there for you long, long ago but, well… you know how the Order operates, right?”

Harry frowned to himself. No, to be honest, I have no idea how the bloody Order operates… Several uncharitable thoughts about the mysterious organization flitted to the edge of Harry's conscious, but he suppressed the thoughts. No, it was now time to focus on cheerier subjects.

With renewed smile, Harry escorted Mrs. Figg out of the chamber. Refocused by his appreciation for the old lady's sudden expression of friendship, Harry's good humour was further lifted as he thought about his immediate future — especially the excitement of soon rejoining Ginny and finding out what news she might have!

Encountering Arthur outside the courtroom, Harry left it to Mrs. Figg to recapitulate the hearing, while he walked along behind them, letting his thoughts drift back to the many issues Ginny had offered to look into. His mind ran through the various questions he had written on the parchment he had passed her last night — points about the Elder Wand, about the Peuerellius family, about whether any historical texts from the Boadicea era contained any mention of the posting to Britain of a certain…

Legate!

“You!” Harry glared down the corridor; his utterance, uncharacteristically deep and ominous, boomed in the narrow confines.

Arthur and Mrs. Figg jumped aside in alarm, affording Harry a clear, unfettered avenue to confront the startled figures of Cornelius Fudge and Lucius Malfoy.

Fudge's hand flinched back from whatever he was about to accept from Malfoy, while the tall, silver-haired wizard turned slowly, stiffly, to face Harry.

“Well, Mr. Potter…” Malfoy's face twisted into a grin. “It seems you've escaped yet another brush with the law.”

Fresh visions of the Legate 's treachery ran together with smouldering memories of Malfoy's despicable crime against Ginny several years ago. Harry's self-restraint faltered for a moment, but he tamed his rage, channeling it into a hard, acrid glare that tore through Lucius's feigned bravado. “You're messing with fire, Malfoy.” Harry's voice dropped to a menacing whisper. “You can't hide. We're onto you. We know your ploy.” His mouth slid into a frigid smirk. “Let me assure you — when we expose it, you're going to have your own day in this court — begging for mercy!”

Malfoy's eyes darted rapidly from Harry to Fudge and back as one of his hands, semi-discretely wielding a wand behind his back, attempted to magically banish something in his pocket. “I, er, have no idea what you're jabbering about Potter!”

Fudge fidgeted uncomfortably. “Errm, some sort of misunderstanding I'm sure — wouldn't you say Lucius? Now, Harry dear boy, do you suppose you could join me for a spot of tea? Mend a few fences from this morning's… unpleasantness?”

“No thank you sir.” Harry glanced dismissively at the Minister, then turned toward the lift. “Some other time perhaps, but right now I have far more important obligations.”

The lift door sprang open the moment Harry's finger grazed the button, and he strode through with Arthur and Mrs. Figg hurrying after him.

The moment the lift door closed and the creaky platform had begun its ascent, Arthur released the pent-up air in his lungs and gasped. “Blimey Harry! I, uhhh…” By his wide eyes, it was unclear if Mr. Weasley was appalled, on the verge of riotous laughter, or perhaps both. Instead he opted to wheeze. “Er... do you suppose that was a, uh... good idea?!”

Harry lifted a wry eyebrow. “Do you suppose I care?”

Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Figg both stared at him, but Harry merely shrugged. “Why should I pretend to be friendly with either of them? One is a lackey and a thug who wants me dead. The other is a deluded, self-aggrandizing peacock who wants me to disappear. Neither would ever offer me anything other than a bad end. Mr. Weasley, I do promise you that I'll learn diplomacy someday, but not today and not for them.”

Arthur continued to stare at Harry for a few seconds… then he chuckled. “Ah Harry, son… You're truly something else!”



Clutching a dragon-skin portfolio that Rosalind had given her to keep her notes safe, Ginny drifted through busy mid-morning atrium. With her thoughts completely occupied by bizarre revelations — strangely shaped puzzle pieces that had not yet been fitted together — Ginny's feet carried her along a random path toward the fountain.

A lot of purple drifted past the corner of her eye…

Ginny whipped around to see a sizable cohort of purple-robed witches and wizards make their way out from the lifts. It was the Wizengamot!

Ginny had been in the Ministry complex many times before, but only rarely when the Wizengamot was in session, and she had never seen them trooping past en masse before. Looking discretely to the side, she pulled a random parchment from her pocket (her Mum's recipe for Bakewell tarts) and pretended to study it intently, effectively disguising her true interest — eavesdropping upon the passing conversations.

“… fully corporeal Patronus at his age??”

“Younger, in fact! Supposedly he was only...”

“… rather suggests to me that Fudge is losing his grip...”

“So, do you suppose, er, you know who, is really back?”

“Well, Potter ought to know, right? There's supposedly some sort of link...”

The conversations continued to drift past, but they vanished from Ginny's mind as, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a familiar mane of long white hair and beard emerge from the lift. “Professor Dumbledore!”

Dumbledore lurched to a halt; his gaze darting around anxiously.

Ginny hurried up to him. “Professor Dumbledore, could you spare a moment?”

Dumbledore's gaze fixed on his student; his tension diffused and he offered Ginny a warm smile. “Miss Weasley, how wonderful to see you here! And how might I help you this fine morning?”

“Sir, I was wondering if I could ask you a question for some independent research I've been doing?”

“Ah?” His eyes twinkled merrily. “Independent research in August? I do believe this is the finest academic spirit I've seen from a Weasley since William's final two years at school — how lovely of you my dear! What is your question?”

“Er, I was wondering...” Ginny paused to rifle through her portfolio to find a parchment and a self-inking quill. “I was wondering what you might know about the Elder Wand?”

For a split second, all colour drained from Dumbledore's face. Then he assembled a tremulous smile, and cast several wandless, nonverbal privacy spells around their vicinity. “Er, well Miss Weasley, the Elder Wand is another term for what was known as the Wand of Destiny in Beedle the bard's 'Tale of Three Brothers'. I would assume you've heard the story?”

Ginny nodded, discretely studying the unease apparent in her headmaster's face. “Yes sir, I know the children's story, but I'm more interested in a hypothetical scenario involving a real wand.”

Dumbledore's non-twinkling eyes narrowed. “Do continue.”

“In this hypothetical case, the Elder Wand truly does exist, but there is a question of who is the master of the wand?”

Dumbldore nodded, frowning.

“My question, sir, is... what does it mean to be the master of the wand?”

Dumbledore's face relaxed somewhat, and he stroked his beard thoughtfully. “Well, strictly hypothetically, if the Elder Wand did exist, it would sustain an allegiance to anyone who had earned the wand's trust.”

Ginny nodded. “How does one earn the Elder Wand's trust?”

Dumbledore coughed. “Speaking hypothetically, Miss Weasley?”

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “Yes, hypothetically speaking.”

“Well…” Dumbledore began nervously curling a fold of his beard around his finger. “On the barest level, the wand would theoretically shift its allegiance to anyone who defeats its master in a duel.”

“But supposedly the wand can never be defeated?”

“Yes, the wand may never be defeated, but no bearer of the wand has been so infallible.” A momentary twinkle returned to Dumbledore's eyes with this opportunity to engage in rhetoric. “As master of the Elder Wand, one is assured that no spell one casts will be outdone or undone by one's opponent, but… dueling is not merely about casting spells...”

Dumbledore's expression turned somewhat grim. “The Elder Wand has inspired more folklore than what was written in Beedle's tales. The history of the wand… I mean of course, the collection of anecdotal musings about the mythical wand… is strewn with cautionary tales of miscalculation and death. Indeed, many duels are won or lost in moments of hesitation or indecision. Thus even someone in possession of the Elder Wand may lose a duel through inaction or omission. It has been whispered through the centuries that the Elder Wand confers a curse of a sort on its bearer.”

Ginny have her headmaster a quizzical look.

Dumbledore met her look and nodded. “Yes, a curse. A very human curse — that of overconfidence.”

Ginny stared thoughtfully into the distance. “Could a situation ever arise where somebody had possession of the wand, but was not its master?”

“Certainly.” Dumbledore nodded sagely. “ However, the possessor would find the experience fairly disappointing. For example, if someone was to steal the Elder Wand, their attempts at regular magic with it would achieve mediocre results, and any attempt to wield it against its true master should produce utter failure.”

Ginny chewed her lower lip and scratched out a hasty note on her parchment. “Now can you imagine a scenario where one person is the legitimate master of the Elder Wand, but some other wizard was nonetheless able to use the wand to kill its master?”

Dumbledore's eyebrows shot up. “Again, you're speaking hypothetically, of course?”

Ginny nodded.

The old wizard thought for a long moment, then shook his head. “Not that I can think of, Miss Weasley. That is not how the wand operates. In theory.”

Ginny leaned against the edge of the fountain for a contemplative moment… then rose again. “Sir, might I ask just one more thing?”

Dumbledore examined her thoughtfully. “Yes, I believe so. One more question, then I must be on my way.”

“Professor Dumbledore, may I see your wand?”

Dumbledore's eyes flashed in momentary alarm… but the look subsided. With a resigned nod, he reached into his pocket and held out his wand for her to view.

Without touching, Ginny leaned in to examine the instrument. It was coloured a rich, dark brown; the handle was worn smooth from extensive use over a long time of unknown extent. The carvings — far more elaborate than any other wand Ginny had ever seen — showed a very distinct, repeated motif… graven clusters of elderberries…

Ginny was about to pull back and thank her Headmaster when something else caught her eye. She drew closer and clearly discerned, running diagonally across much of the midsection of the wand, a faint hairline crack. She reached her finger towards it. “Sir, did you ever notice...”

Dumbledore yanked the wand away. “My apologies, Ginevra, but I just realized how terribly late I am for...”

A slight cough obscured Dumbledore's final syllables. The man swept away and, in scarcely the blink of an eye, he had (seemingly impossibly) crossed half the length of the atrium, blending into a crowd of foreign visitors.

Watching Dumbledore's hasty departure in bafflement, Ginny didn't notice as her father and best friend approached from behind.

Harry snorted. “What the…?? I'm really starting to think that man doesn't like me.”

Ginny turned and beamed a quick smile to Harry and her father. She shook her head. “No Harry — not your fault. I think I scared him off by asking him too many questions.”

Eyes wide, Harry's mouth formed an 'O' shape, then he nodded slowly. “I think you and I are set for an interesting chat, yeah?”

Arthur turned on Ginny, rolling his eyes. “Not you too, Ginny! I swear, you're both getting as bad as Fred and George — let you out in public for a few hours, and you scandalize every second person we meet!” He chuckled for a moment then refocused on his daughter. “So, did you learn anything useful this morning, sweetheart?”

“Yes.” Ginny held up her portfolio for the others to see. “Yes, I've learned a lot more than I've had a chance to even contemplate.”

Harry met her eye inquiringly.

Ginny nodded.

Harry smiled. He turned toward the fountain and withdrew from his pocket a bulging sack.

As they walked together toward the exits, the tinkle of gold raining down into the marble basin followed them, resounding in their ears.



The afternoon at Grimmauld place had been uncommonly cheerful and boisterous. Lively discussions of Harry's Wizengamot experience had held sway before, during and after lunch, and by the time Arthur, Tonks and Kingsley returned from work, an improvised party had sprung up. Consequently, it wasn't until well after supper that Harry and Ginny finally managed to discreetly escape from the bustling downstairs and make their way up to the library. A heavy rainstorm had turned the evening unseasonably cool, and the upper floors of Grimmauld Place were dank and draughty, so they had lit a fire and were sitting side by side on the ottoman, leafing through Ginny's notes.

Harry furled the scroll he had been reading and put it aside. “So you're telling me that Malfoy may well be the perp, but it's quite possible — quite likely even — that he doesn't yet have any idea… er… about any of this?”

Ginny shrugged. “Yes, basically.”

Harry's eyes widened. “Oops...”

Ginny giggled. “No worries. We can rest assured that he's up to no good anyway, so might as well keep him off balance, yeah?”

Harry grinned.

"In the mean time, though...” A serious cast came over Ginny's face again. “The key is going to be to figure out what he might eventually do to disrupt the past, and hence the future.”

Harry frowned thoughtfully. “Well, we know who he cavorts with among the Romans, so that gives us something to work with. And those are rather interesting inferences you've made...” He browsed through the other scrolls and unrolled the one marked 'lineage'.

“Okay, here...” Harry tapped on Ginny's diagram about half way down the scroll. “On one hand you have what we knew of Tio and Mus Peuerellius. So you juxtapose them with what's been written about Antioch, Cadmus and Ignotus Peverell?”

Ginny nodded. “It lines up pretty well. Tio and Mus are natural diminutives for Antioch and Cadmus, and you recall how they were obsessing over the coming of a third brother.”

“Hmmm...” Harry ran a hand through his hair. “A third brother who, at that time, is unknown… and Ignotus means unknown...”

“Exactly!” Ginny shifted to trace imaginary lines of connection on the parchment with her finger. “I have to admit that I was biased by how much the Publican and Tio resembled you, but what most sold me was that you and Ignotus, or at least his descendants, both derived from the same small village. I really think that you're descended from the Publican...”

“Sounds logical.” Harry arched his neck back and gazed at the flickering shadows on the ceiling. “So, the Elder Wand…?”

Ginny nodded.

Harry fell silent for a moment, then turned back to face Ginny. “The Elder Wand may have originated in our family? Somehow Dumbledore has become its master… except that he'll lose it to Voldemort….?”

“Yet, in 1998, you'll believe that you're the rightful master,” Ginny added quietly.

“And, that would imply… what? That I'll kill Dumbledore?” Harry shivered. “Blimey — no wonder the man hates me all of a sudden!”

Ginny shook her head emphatically. “We don't know any of that. Besides, he came to your defense at the hearing, right?”

“What, and let me be thrown out of Hogwarts?” Harry scowled to himself. “You've heard the old adage, right? Keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer?”

“Harry, don't be ridiculous — you're not Dumbledore's enemy, and you're not going to kill him!”

Harry winced at Ginny's ferocity; he stared into her eyes, watching as they softened from frustration into pain. ”I'm sorry, Gin'… I don't mean to sound so negative, but his behaviour around me has been so bizarre. Ever since I arrived at Grimmauld, he's been avoiding me like the plague, and, well, I guess I'm just scrabbling around trying to make sense of it...”

Ginny held his gaze for a long minute, then sighed and looked away. “Apology accepted… but you have to stop underselling your strength. You're far too kind and far too smart to ever let something ghastly like that happen, regardless of the circumstances.”

She turned her head back to recapture Harry's eyes. “Harry, listen...” Ginny's tone remained level, but her expression gleamed like hard, polished steel as she caught Harry's hand in a fierce grip. “There are countless ways was that Dumbledore could lose the wand and leave you as the master. For all we know, it might somehow even happen in the course of you saving his life, yeah?”

Harry nodded. “I suppose so. And ultimately, so many aspects of that possible future keep changing because of the past, so who knows what will truly happen, right?”

“Know...” Ginny laid her hands on Harry's shoulders, gazing intently. “ 'For all we know ' this, and 'who knows ' that. Harry, who knows?”

Harry gave her a quizzical look and shrugged. “Sorry, I'm not sure I know what you're asking?”

“Who knows, Harry?” Ginny gave his shoulders a small shake. “We will know — that's who! The brooch and our dreams are perfect laboratories for learning all we need to know. Through trial and error, we can solve all of these mysteries in ways that nobody else would even dream of!” She grinned.

Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, I agree… but we can't afford to get so wrapped up in learning things that we lose sight of trying to prevent Malfoy from meddling with time.”

“Yes.” Ginny frowned. “Do you think it's worth the risk?”

Harry nodded without reservation. “Yes, we can give it a shot — as long as we're careful and smart.” He grinned. “It sure doesn't hurt that you're so brilliant.”

Ginny blinked at the unexpected compliment. “I, uh… well so are you!”

Normally Harry would have blushed or stammered a weak denial, but… everything tonight was just a bit different. He leaned in a bit closer than they already were, and offered a smile of genuine affection. “Thanks Gin'. Thank you especially for all of your hard work!”

“You're welcome, Harry,” Ginny breathed, suddenly aware of just how close they had become…

Their noses were practically touching.

And neither of them pulled back.

“Er, Ginny?”

“Yes?”

“I think our situation has changed a bit...”

“Situation?” Ginny studied his face curiously. “Changed?”

“Yes, I mean now that we know that we'll both be at Hogwarts this year. Together.”

“Yes, so we will, Harry.”

Harry began to speak, but his breath rasped nervously. His eyes flickered shyly to the side, but then he restored them to their intended focus and found his voice again. “I think that's a good thing...”

Ginny nodded, her hair tickling Harry's forehead. “Yes, of course it's good news. I know you wanted to be brave about the possibility of being expelled and didn't want me to worry, but I would truly have hated to go off to school without you.”

“Yeah, and the uncertainty was sort of a barrier… to, er, you know...”

“Yes, I know… I think.” Ginny searched his eyes.

“There are some other little barriers, though.”

Harry looked down uncomfortably, but Ginny continued to study him. “Such as?” she asked patiently.

“Well, you see, things are soon likely to get, well, a bit dangerous. I would hate to put y-pffh...”

“No!” Ginny shook her head sternly, then removed her finger from his lips. “Do you want me to list a dozen reasons why that argument makes no sense, or should I leave you to come up with them on your own?”

Harry chuckled shyly. “I didn't think I'd get too far with that.”

Ginny's face remained utterly serious. “Are there any other barriers, Harry?”

“Just one more...” Harry fell silent for a long moment, then he nodded to himself. He lifted his gaze. “Gin'… you, errr… you've been wearing the brooch all day, right?”

Ginny nodded. She hung her head sheepishly for a moment, then dared to meet his eyes. “Yes, I put it on when I got up. I thought it would help give you the courage to face the morning.”

I know — I could feel it,” Harry whispered. “And it did help.” He reached across to find her hand and give it a squeeze. “Thank you.”

Ginny's face brightened a little, although Harry remained solemn. He shifted awkwardly. “So, does Hermione know that we, uh, went back on our word?”

“Yes.”

Harry gaped. “Yes??”

Ginny nodded. “Yes, I asked her first thing this morning.”

Harry blinked twice. “Seriously? And she… said that it was okay??”

Ginny's mouth twitched. “Er, well technically she said 'Ginny, do you have any idea what time it is?!' But after I returned the pillow she'd thrown at me, she calmed down and decided that since we had respected her request, she would respect our judgment… er, as long as I'd please be quiet and let her go back to sleep.”

Harry grinned broadly for a moment, then refocused. “Anyway, having the brooch to prop me up was wonderful — especially in those vile first twenty minutes in the courtroom, facing the Wizengamot alone before Dumbledore arrived...”

Ginny shivered, and stroked his hand consolingly.

“But the issue is...” Harry met Ginny's eyes earnestly. “When it comes to you and me — I want to know that whatever we have between us truly is US, not some magical charm. I mean, what if the brooch was acting like a love potion or something?”

Ginny stared deeply into his eyes for a long moment, then she pulled back.

Harry was about to protest; to ask her not to leave; to urge her to stay and talk things through… but then he realized what she was doing.

Without letting go of Harry's shoulder, Ginny reached her other hand into the loose neck of her jumper, and she withdrew the brooch. She weighed it in her hand for a moment, then tossed it gently onto the carpet by the fire. Exhaling, she returned her attention to the young man beside her.

Harry's gaze flickered toward the brooch for a moment, then back to the beautiful girl in front of him. He studied her wide, glistening eyes — eyes that were searching him, seeking from him the same truth that he sought within her.

Harry understood very little of the mysterious ways of love, but he somehow understood that seeing was not the same as knowing...

… so he closed his eyes.

Without the reassurance of the brooch, without the benefit of any experience with girls, Harry leaned forward, propelled by hope — a profound hope that what he was about to do was not merely permissible, but expected… and maybe even longed for.

Harry knew what Ginny had meant to him in the difficult days since he had arrived at Grimmauld Place. He knew that she had done everything in her power to help him prepare to face some of the most terrifying prospects that the Wizarding world might ever encounter. In return, she had asked for nothing.

Or almost nothing…

And so, even without the steadying pulse of the brooch, Harry's modesty and insecurities could no longer hold him back...

Unseen by eyes, but sensed by every yearning, tingling nerve in both of their bodies, two pairs of lips… brushed tentatively.

A faint, tantalizing tickle of two nervous breaths… grew ever-so-slowly into soft, indescribable warmth…

Their limbs wrapped and threaded together in ways that seemed perfectly natural. Although Harry could scarcely have dreamed the incredible luxury of such an embrace, it was mere harmony within a powerful, joyous melody...

It was euphony that Harry had not known in many many years.

It was a sensation of trust…

Of love...

Of home…



Draped together across the ottoman some time later, Harry stirred. His eyes flickered open to the distant sound of outraged howling and cursing.

He yawned — standard Grimmauld Place fare — Walburga excoriating some poor soul in the entranceway…

He shifted slightly to better balance the warm weight placed restfully on his chest. Mesmerised for a moment by the glimmering reflections of the dying fire playing on fine coppery hair, Harry's eyes had nearly drifted off into a happy dream, when he suddenly jolted, waking Ginny.

“Hmm? Ev'thing okay, Harry?”

Harry pressed his lips on his sleepy girlfriend's forehead for a moment. He sighed and whispered, “Mrs. Black just started yelling at people in the foyer, Gin'. I think that means the party is breaking up.”

“Oi!” Ginny leaped to her feet. “Must get back to our rooms before people notice!”

Harry smiled sadly. “Yes, I'm afraid so...” He captured her hand and was about to hurry out of the library with her when he remembered something. “The brooch!”

Harry reached down by the hearth and picked it up, handing it to Ginny.

“Right… thank you...?” Ginny gave him a smile, tinged with pensive inquiry.

Harry gazed at her knowingly.

The question that she had asked, without speaking it, was important. Now that they had set aside the brooch; now that they had discovered who they truly were without it… was it time already to pick it up again?

Harry wrapped his hand around hers, and they both felt the magic of the brooch coursing through their bodies and minds.

Harry nodded. “Yes, we're going to need it. I have the feeling that tonight is going to be… one of those nights.”

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