|SIYE Time:7:29 on 23rd February 2018|
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Category: Alternate Universe
Warnings: Death, Disturbing Imagery, Intimate Sexual Situations, Violence
Story is Complete
Summary: A bored Ginny Weasley finds her world turned upside down when a handsome and mysterious young wizard with a dark reputation offers her a job. Together, they seek a lost treasure and battle monsters while she learns many new things about herself.
Hitcount: Story Total: 21738; Chapter Total: 2157
Awards: View Trophy Room
More tough choices for Ginny in this chapter and she’ll have a very difficult decision to make before she leaves Germany. On the plus side, you’ll get to learn where we’re heading for in Chapter 4 towards the end.
Oh, Arnel suggests I post an ‘arousal warning’ for the end part. I’m not sure that such a thing exists, but I’ve done it, anyway. Huge thanks to her for usual wonderful work and apologies that I caused her to have to fan her face. Snigger.
Chapter 3 — A Step into the Abyss
Feeling dispirited and confused, Ginny trudged along behind Harry as he made his way further into the forest. To further add to her misery, it had started to rain again and her inadequate outdoor clothing was doing little to protect her. She was sure there was a charm that would have helped, but she couldn’t remember it and she was damn sure she wasn’t going to ask him about it.
As they continued through the damp woods, she began to seriously question why she was here. Potter had offered her the chance to simply leave — why hadn’t she taken him up on it? This certainly wasn’t what she’d signed up for. She’d been expecting excitement and adventure, not this exhausting trek through a near impenetrable forest, soaking wet and freezing cold. While she couldn’t deny the trip had provided excitement, she hadn’t counted on nearly being ripped to pieces by a rabid pack of werewolves and the sickening slaughter that had followed. Why was she still here? What was she trying to prove?
Those questions made her think. Why was she here? She’d told Harry that she wasn’t a quitter and wanted to see this through, but there was more going on here than just her plain stubbornness. In the back of her mind, she’d tried to imagine what her friends and family would have said if she’d turned up unexpectedly at the door, announcing that she’d quit the job. Her parents would have undoubtedly been sympathetic, if not outright relieved, but she could almost see the slight note of smugness in her mother’s eyes, silently saying ‘I told you so’. Her brothers would be even worse.
But was that sufficient reason to stay here?
If she was honest with herself, Ginny had to admit she was scared. The werewolf attack had been like nothing she’d ever experienced before. Although her parents had supported Dumbledore throughout the conflict with Voldemort, the war had never touched the walls of Hogwarts and she’d been largely sheltered from its effects. Her family had emerged from the conflict unscathed and she’d never had to worry about fighting, other than throwing the occasional minor hex at the odd annoying Slytherin. To be suddenly placed in a life or death situation was a major shock to the system. The smell of the burning bodies would probably stay with her forever.
It was with a measure of guilt that she thought of the accusation she’d thrown at Harry. Calling him a cold-blooded killer had clearly upset him greatly, and perhaps not unreasonably, either. Had he been right? Had they simply cut down a pack of vicious animals that viewed them as nothing more than food? Logically, she would have had to say yes, but the thought of that small child still haunted her. Desperately, Ginny had tried to remember the look in the child’s eyes, hunting for any sign of humanity in them. Unfortunately, there had been none.
So, Potter had probably been right and saved her life, to boot. And what had she immediately done? Insult him. Even so, he could have been a bit more sympathetic…
Ginny almost snorted with disgust at herself. Sympathetic? What had she wanted him to do? For him to pull her into his arms and hold her as she cried, perhaps? She’d always hated being treated like a weak little girl, and here she was blubbering because a man had avoided doing just that. How hypocritical of her!
Was that why she stayed? Here, she was expected to pull her own weight. Potter had never once asked if she could manage this long march through these terrifying woods, he’d just assumed she was capable. He’d placed his faith in her, and she’d nearly let him down. Of course, he needn’t have been such a pig about it afterwards, but still.
As Ginny walked along in silence, she came to a new realisation. Yes, she was cold, wet and tired. Yes, she was walking into awful danger willingly, and, to top it all off, she was placing her trust in a man with a terrible reputation who she barely knew. Yet, despite all this, she knew now that she wouldn’t give up and go home, for the simple reason that she could never return to the life she’d been leading previously. How could she return to working in a shop after all this? Unthinkable.
With a renewed determination in her heart, Ginny pulled her rucksack a little higher on her shoulders and continued walking. Looking ahead, she could see the trees starting to thin ahead of them, and very soon they emerged from the edge of the treeline to find themselves overlooking a deep valley.
“I’m pretty sure this is the middle of the pack’s territory,” Potter told her quietly. “This is the centre of their range, so we’ll need to be extra careful.”
Ginny nodded, but her attention was drawn to something on the opposite slope of the valley.
“Harry, what’s that over there?” she asked, pointing across the basin.
Potter looked for a moment before he spotted what she had seen. He frowned.
“I’m not sure, but it looks like a house.”
“That’s what I thought, but that’s not possible, is it? I mean, who would live out here?” she protested.
He said nothing, but instead pulled out the compass he’d been using off and on, and flipped it open. He held it to his eye, and pointed it at the mysterious dwelling.
“Odd it might be,” he said after a few moments, “but that’s where we have to go. There’s strange magic over in that direction, and I have a feeling that we’re going to find our missing piece of the Moon Hare over there.”
“The valley’s pretty steep. Do you think we can get down okay?”
“I think it’s time we cheated a little, Ginny,” he said with a smile. “We can clearly see where we’re going. Let’s just Apparate over there.”
“I’m so glad you said that,” she said in a relieved voice.
He laughed lightly. “Let’s not arrive too close to the house. See that small clearing about a hundred yards to the right of the building? Aim for that.”
“Right,” she agreed, and twisted slightly. A second later, she appeared in the clearing, with Harry arriving almost exactly at the same moment as her.
Potter held up his hand to motion her into silence. He peered keenly around him, listening intently. Ginny copied his actions, but could hear nothing, not even the sound of bird song. There was definitely something unnatural about this forest.
With a slight motion of his hand signalling her to follow him, Harry started towards the house, his wand held at the ready. Ginny trailed behind, making sure to take the occasional glance behind them. She definitely had the feeling that they were being watched, even if there was nothing in sight.
They reached the sturdy log building and paused. There seemed to be no signs of life and Ginny started to wonder if the place was abandoned. She voiced this opinion to Harry, who just shook his head and pointed up at the chimney. Although very faint in the dim light, she saw smoke coming from it. Someone was definitely home.
“What do we do?” she asked softly.
“I think the polite thing to do would be to knock, don’t you?” he smiled mischievously, and stepped up to the door. He rapped his knuckles sharply against it, before stepping back.
There was a long silence, before Ginny heard a door slam somewhere within the house. After what seemed an agonisingly long wait, the door opened and a man emerged. He appeared to be in his fifties, but was broad-shouldered and muscular. His long hair was greying but still had streaks of black in it. The most remarkable thing about him was his eyes, which were a brilliant amber colour.
“Yes?” he said simply.
“Good morning to you, sir,” Harry greeted the man in a jaunty voice. “We are weary travellers who have become lost in this vast wood. We were wondering if we could impose on your hospitality for a while and warm ourselves by your fire?”
Harry then folded his arms in front of him, with his wand very prominently displayed in his right hand. The man looked at it impassively, before stepping back into the house slightly.
“You’d better both come in,” he grunted, the Translations Spells they had been using flattening out his guttural accent, somewhat.
Harry turned and gave Ginny a lopsided grin, and gestured for her to enter first. She stepped into the house and followed the strange man as he walked through the narrow hallway and into what must have been the living room. The room was sparsely furnished by the standards she was used to, although the roaring fire looked most welcoming. What caught her eye first, though, was that the room had another occupant. A tall woman sat in a chair by the fireplace, knitting peacefully. She appeared to be about the same age as the man, and when she looked up at Ginny, she noted the woman had the same amber eyes.
“Visitors. How unusual,” the woman noted, putting down her knitting and standing to greet them.
“Wizards,” the man muttered, before indicating that Harry and Ginny should seat themselves on a small couch.
“Thank you for inviting us in,” Harry said once he had sat down.
Ginny found she was pressed up against him on the small couch, but she actually found that somewhat comforting. There was something about this pair that put her on edge.
“No problem,” the man replied bluntly, and sat down in the chair the woman had recently occupied. She, in turn, came and stood behind him, resting one elegant hand on his shoulder.
“May I ask who I have the pleasure of addressing?” Harry asked. To Ginny’s ears, he actually sounded faintly amused.
“I’m Karl, this is my wife, Agatha.”
“Very pleased to meet you. My name is Harry Potter, and this lovely young lady is my assistant, Ginny Weasley. May I say, what a fine house you have here, and in such a beautiful location, too.”
At the mention of Harry’s name, both Karl and Agatha looked startled. Clearly, Harry was known to both of them, certainly by reputation, anyway.
“I’m honoured to meet such a famous and distinguished wizard,” Karl said slowly. “Can I ask why you are here, in this forest?”
“Of course. I’m seeking a precious object, actually. I’m looking for part of a fabulous item called the Moon Hare, which was foolishly cut into five pieces and scattered to the winds. I have reason to believe a wizard was carrying it when he was attacked by werewolves in this very forest. In fact, if I’m not very mistaken, that piece is hanging around your neck at this very moment.”
Ginny gasped and looked at the man closely. He did appear to be wearing something around his neck, but it was hidden under the man’s shirt. Karl didn’t seem surprised by Harry’s statement, she noted.
“You might be correct,” Karl said grudgingly.
“I thought I was,” Harry smiled. “I did come here with the intention of offering a fair price for the piece but, really, what would a fine couple like yourselves want with money? You appear to have such a rich and wonderful life here in the forest. Still, I’m surprised all the werewolves don’t give you trouble. Is there a reason for that, I wonder? A valid reason why the most vicious and unruly pack of werewolves in the world just leave you to live here peacefully?”
“You know the answer to that, wizard!” Karl spat angrily at him.
“I assume I’m addressing the pack’s alphas?” Harry asked, and Ginny saw he had his wand resting casually against his leg, ready for instant use. She immediately copied his actions while trying to hide her shock at his revelation.
“You are, and if you think you can threaten us here, in our own range, then you are a fool. You might be a powerful wizard, Harry Potter, but we are not your average werewolves!”
“Oh, I’m quite aware of that,” Harry agreed calmly. “In fact, I believe one of the most notable abilities senior members of your pack possess is that of being able to transform at will. No waiting around for those pesky full moons for you, eh? No doubt the pair of you could change into werewolves and attack us in a matter of mere seconds.”
“We could, and what’s to stop us doing just that?” Agatha demanded.
“The fact that you’d never make it,” Harry informed them in an off-hand manner. “Both Ginny and I know spells that would be instantly lethal to the pair of you. The second you sprouted a single hair we’d cut you down without hesitation. We’ve already eliminated a hunting party that attacked us, with remarkably little effort, if I do say so myself.”
“Sigfrid!” the woman cried in distress, but Karl just raised a hand and she became silent. Ginny wondered exactly who Sigfrid was, and whether he was one of the werewolves they had slaughtered that morning. Their son, perhaps? A brother? Grandchild?
“It seems your reputation isn’t unfounded,” Karl said in a quiet, angry voice.
“My reputation was created by idiots who for the most part have never even met me,” Harry countered. “Yours, however, seems to have rather more substance to it. Tell me, I once heard a rumour that your pack was the only one in the world that possessed knowledge of a secret ritual that stripped a person of their humanity, and reverted them back to the state of being a wild animal. Is that true?”
“Civilisation is an evil and immoral place,” Karl growled. “The people who come here requesting the ritual be performed on them all do so willingly, because they want to be free of the memories of their dreadful lives as so-called human beings. Here, there is no false morality or deception. Only the law of the wild must be obeyed, and we lead a simpler, more honest way of life. Do not presume to judge us, Harry Potter!”
“I don’t. As I implied, you have to know someone well to be able to judge them. For instance, I’ve known several werewolves in my time. One of them was the kindest, most learned man I’ve ever met. On the other hand, I’ve also met a brutal killer who tried to make himself alpha over every werewolf in Britain, and gloried in blood and infecting every child he could. Judging people is very hard unless you’ve actually met them. However, by your reasoning, most of your pack aren’t actually human, are they? They just act as any wild animal would, and that includes raiding Muggle settlements and taking people to eat, doesn’t it? With that line of reasoning, I should just view you all as dangerous animals and kill the lot of you.”
“You wizards, you’re all alike!” Agatha yelled. “Arrogant and judgemental! I think you just like the idea of imposing your will over others!”
“Frankly, my dear woman, I couldn’t give a shit about imposing my will on anyone. Half the time I don’t know what my own will is, anyway, and I certainly have no desire to rule over others. But let’s just backtrack a moment. You two are the alphas of this pack, the only pack in the world that knows of this de-humanising ritual. I don’t suppose this is a secret shared with many others. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was handed down only from alpha to alpha. So, let me ask this: if I kill you both now, would the secret of that ritual be lost forever? Would no one else be able to revert themselves back to the level of an animal? Would your brutal pack eventually just die out?”
Both of them stared at Harry with hate-filled eyes, which seemed to be answer enough.
“What do you want?” Karl demanded through gritted teeth.
“Why, I already said. The piece of the Moon Hare that you possess,” Harry said with a smile.
“That’s it? If I give you the piece, you just leave us in peace? No, Potter, I don’t trust you! I’ve heard dark things about you. Besides, you said it yourself, killing us would mean the ritual could never be performed again. Knowing that, why would you let us live?”
“Perhaps I just don’t care?” Harry replied in a nonchalant tone.
“Don’t trust him, Karl. He is a wicked man who has killed hundreds! He would slaughter us for nothing,” Agatha hissed.
Karl looked at Harry intently.
“No, it’s not that straightforward. Potter claims to know spells to kill us instantly, but he has no way of knowing how fast we can transform. Even if he hits us with his spell, we might still have time to rip out his throat before we die, and the throat of his pretty little whore over there, too. I think he did actually come here just for the golden jewel. That would fit everything I’ve ever heard about the man,” Karl pondered. “Well, Potter, is it that simple? If I hand over the piece, do you just up and leave?”
Harry paused a moment. “Actually, I don’t think it should just be up to me. Ginny, what do you think? Do we take what we came for and just leave, or do we kill this pair and rid the world of the threat of this pack forever?”
“What? Why are you asking me?” she yelped in surprise.
“Because this is a moral decision, and it’s only been a few hours since you questioned my morals. That’s your prerogative, so I’m quite happy to leave this choice up to you.”
Ginny stared at him in surprise, before turning to look at Karl and Agatha. They, in turn, were looking right back at her questioningly.
“I… I can’t choose. This is your expedition, Harry. You make your own difficult decisions and don’t try and palm them off on me!” she snapped.
“So you have no opinion on this matter? You don’t care what happens to this pair?” Harry pressed.
“Of course I care, I just… I… why are you doing this to me?” she demanded.
“Because you need to learn to make difficult choices under pressure,” he replied calmly. “Now, what do we do?”
She looked back at the two werewolves. They clearly were powerful, she could sense that even in their human bodies, but otherwise they looked quite normal. Quite… human. She didn’t doubt for a second that Harry wouldn’t butcher them if so instructed. Why the hell was he putting this pressure on her? Did she let them live and potentially kill the Muggles who lived nearby, or did they walk away, sparing them both more bloodshed?
“I… I’ve seen enough killing today, Harry,” she said eventually. “Just take the bloody jewel and let’s leave.”
“There you go,” Harry said to Karl and Agatha. “It appears you’re getting a reprieve. Now, the piece of the Moon Hare, please.”
Karl reached into his shirt and withdrew something that glittered in the firelight. With a grunt, he tossed it in Harry’s direction. With lighting reactions, Harry snatched it from the air and tucked it into a pocket.
“Well, I must say it’s been a pleasure meeting you both,” he said, rising to his feet. “Shall we, Ginny?”
“Umm, yes,” she replied, hastily getting up.
“Straight back to the hotel, I think. Karl and Agatha, I will bid you farewell. Pray that you never have cause to cross my path again.”
And with those words, Harry twisted slightly and popped out of sight. Ginny paused for a moment, and looked at the werewolves. She could see the relief etched into their faces.
“Thank you,” said Agatha.
Ginny just nodded, and immediately Apparated. A moment later, she found herself outside the hotel they were staying at, with Potter standing nearby evidently waiting for her.
“You took your time. I was getting worried,” he said.
“Why did you do that?” she demanded, ignoring his words. “Why did you put that pressure on my shoulders?”
He smiled gently at her. “Because you had to learn that sometimes there are no right or wrong choices. Yes, we walked away and left that pair unharmed, but who’s to say that they won’t immediately go on a killing spree amongst the local Muggles. I’ve seen what their type can do, remember. That werewolf I mentioned was called Fenrir Greyback and I once saw him tear the throat out of a three month-old baby. As I said, to them we’re nothing more than meat. Even worse, those pair have the ability to turn regular people into deranged animals who hunt and kill by pure instinct. We could have potentially ended that.”
“Then why didn’t we?” Ginny nearly shouted. “If those two were so terrible, why didn’t we kill them?”
“Because we’d seen enough blood spilt today,” he replied, echoing her words. “Besides, it was just speculation that those two were the only ones who knew of the de-humanising ritual. There might have been others in the pack that knew of it. Besides, do we actually know the pair have committed any crime? Do we know for sure that they might take life in the future? The situation was different with those werewolves that attacked us. We were just defending ourselves against them. Did we have any right to judge Karl and Agatha without conclusive evidence?”
“I… I don’t know,” Ginny admitted.
“Neither do I,” Harry replied, grinning at her. “As I said, nothing in life is ever black and white. There are always two sides to a story. You also have to remember that a lot of what other people tell you can often turn out to be a pack of lies.”
“Then how can we ever be sure of anything we do?” she demanded.
“We just have to use our best judgement, based on the information we’re given,” he said. “Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I need a hot bath. We have an hour or so before lunch, so I’m going to have a soak before then. I’ll meet you in the dining room later, okay?”
“Yes, I’ll see you then,” she agreed, and watched as he strode into the hotel.
A few moments later, she forced herself to move in search of her own hot bath. Her mind, however, was a jumble of confused thoughts and ideas. Frankly, she’d never felt more out of her depth in her life.
They arrived back at Grimmauld Place around lunch time the next day. Harry had decided that they should stay in Germany overnight so they could rest and recuperate, and Ginny had to admit she did feel better this morning. She was still beset with doubt about virtually everything that had happened to her in the last few days, but she was also greatly relieved to be back in England. Maybe things would make more sense now she was home.
As soon as Harry entered his house he immediately shed his rucksack which he casually dropped in the hallway. Ginny followed his actions, and a second later Winky popped into sight.
“Master Harry, you’se being home! Was your trip successful?”
“It was indeed, Winky,” Harry confirmed, “although we had a few complications along the way. Would you be so kind as to take care of our packs? If you could serve lunch around one o’clock that would be most excellent.”
“Of course, sir!”
The little elf vanished from sight, clutching the two rucksacks which were nearly as big as she was.
“You’ve been very quiet today.”
The statement caught Ginny by surprise, and she turned to see Harry looking at her questioningly.
“I’ve had a lot to think about,” she replied.
“I suppose so. Anyway, let’s head up to my study. We have things to discuss.”
She meekly followed Harry up the stairs and into a room she’d only ever been in once before. Harry’s study was a cosy area lined on two sides by bookcases and otherwise dominated by a highly polished desk. Harry walked around it and dropped into a rather worn, but comfy-looking leather chair. She sat herself in a more frugal chair situated in front of the desk.
“Are you angry at me for making you chose what to do yesterday?” he asked.
“Not angry exactly,” she admitted, “more confused. Harry, I have no experience in these sort of matters. I was working in a shop just a couple of weeks ago, for Merlin’s sake! I’m terrified that I’ve made the wrong decision.”
“Do you believe you have?”
“I… I don’t know.”
Potter looked at her for a moment, before reaching down and opening a desk drawer. From it he retrieved a bottle half full of amber liquid and two glasses. He poured a generous amount into both glasses and pushed one towards Ginny.
“It’s not even lunchtime,” she protested.
“Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so,” he replied. “Besides, you should be pleased your employer if forcing you to drink ridiculously expensive blended Scotch whisky in working hours.”
She picked up the glass and gave it an experiment sniff.
“Sip it slowly,” he advised. “Hold it in your mouth a moment before swallowing. Savour the taste.”
She did as she was instructed, before shivering involuntarily as it burned down her throat.
“Good, isn’t it?” Harry said. “Some people like a peaty taste in their whisky, but I’ve always favoured a mellower, creamy flavour. It has hints of toffee, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah… I guess it does,” she managed to gasp.
“Sorry, I thought you looked like you needed a stiff drink,” he said unrepentantly. “Do you want my take on your choice yesterday?”
“Yes, I do,” Ginny replied firmly. She’d begun to despair that he’d elaborate on what he’d said outside the hotel.
“Personally, I don’t think there was a right or wrong answer. Both choices had merit to them, and both choices had drawbacks. As I said, do you condemn someone for something they may or may not do in the future?”
“So, what you’re saying is that it didn’t matter what decision I made yesterday?” she demanded.
“Not at all. You’re working for me now, Ginny, and that entails a measure of responsibility. Sometimes you will be put in the position where you will have to make a decision in my name, and I need to know what your choice is likely to be. Frankly, I’m glad you took the less violent route. In my life, I’ve so rarely been in the position where that’s even been an option, hence I frequently overlook the benefits of taking a more… measured… approach, shall we say.”
“You’re saying you were happy with what I did?” she pressed.
“I suppose so,” he nodded, before taking a swig of his drink. “I mean, if it had been left to me I would probably have killed them both without a second thought, but equally I had no problem just walking away. We got what we came for, after all.”
“Yeah,” she agreed reluctantly, before draining her glass.
“And on that subject, we’ll need to find out where the next piece is,” Harry informed her. “As I explained previously, I have discovered a ritual which will allow us to discover the location of the next piece of the hare. I was lucky to find the spell, actually. The book I discovered it in was extremely old, but I confess to having a preference for old magic. It seems to me that nearly all the spells created in the last two hundred years or so are all so prosaic, don’t you agree?”
“I really couldn’t say either way,” Ginny admitted. “I don’t recall them teaching us at Hogwarts how old any of the spells we learnt were.”
“I doubt anything you learned there would have been particularly old. Modern education is so lacking in so many areas, in my opinion.”
“If you say so,” she shrugged. “So, what does this ritual entail, exactly?”
“Well, obviously, we’ll both need to be naked for it and…”
“WHAT?” Ginny shrieked, leaping from her chair.
Harry began to chuckle. “Sorry, just my little joke. More wishful thinking on my part, actually. No, you won’t even be directly involved in the ritual, but I will need you nearby to listen out for anything I say. I’ll probably pass into a trance state during the spell, and I’m likely to blurt out the location of the next piece while being totally unaware of what I’m saying. That’s why I’ll need you nearby with parchment and quill handy.”
“Oh, okay,” she nodded, still feeling a bit unsettled by Harry’s little prank. The two of them getting naked was ‘wishful thinking’ on his part?
“Perhaps it would be best if we perform the ritual now,” Harry decided. “That way we’ll know what to prepare for. I assume you’ll be wanting a few days off after our little jaunt to the continent?”
“Well, if that’s okay,” Ginny confirmed, relishing the thought of a couple of days at home so she could get her head together.
“That’s fine. After our fun and games with the werewolves, I could do with putting my feet up for a while, anyway. Before you pop off, let’s head down to the ritual room and find out where we’re heading next.”
“You have a ritual room?”
“Ah, you haven’t seen it yet, have you?” Harry said with a mischievous grin. “It’s down in the cellar. Sirius set it up for when we had to perform high-level spells and rituals which we didn’t want the Ministry to know about. The room is heavily protected, which is just as well as we’ve had a few unfortunate mishaps in the past. The time we accidentally summoned that demon was about the worst.”
Ginny followed her employer as he headed out of the room, pondering if he was joking about the demon. Frankly, she couldn’t tell if he was being serious or not half the time, which she found extremely frustrating. For someone who could normally read men like an open book, Harry Potter was a vexing puzzle to her.
They headed down the stairs and through the kitchen where Winky was busy preparing lunch. Harry then took a narrow flight of stairs that Ginny had never noticed tucked away in one corner, which led to a heavy, black door.
“This room is heavily protected, and magically keyed to myself. Don’t ever try and come down here by yourself,” he advised.
“No, of course not,” she agreed rapidly, watching in fascination as he pressed his hand against a metal plate fixed onto the door roughly where a handle would normally be. There was a faint glow of light, before the door swung open.
They stepped into a pitch-black room. Harry waved his hand, and dozens of candles sprung into life. She looked around in shock and not a little apprehension. The room was fairly large, perhaps ten yards square. To Ginny’s eyes, it resembled a dungeon more than anything else, and was painted a solid black throughout. The candles were mounted in alcoves set into the walls at regular intervals, but they seemed to do little to alleviate the gloom. Most concerning of all, however, was the large white pentagram marked out on the floor. The edges of the star were marked with intricate writing and symbols, none of which she could begin to understand. There was also a strange, unidentifiable smell in the air that made her very uneasy.
“Have you got your quill and parchment handy?” Harry asked, sounding strangely muffled in the claustrophobic space.
“Yes,” she confirmed, displaying the items she’d taken off his desk before they came down here.
“Excellent, I should only need a moment to prepare, and then we can get cracking.”
The door behind her shut with an alarming clang. The candles all flickered for a moment, but remained lit. Ginny couldn’t help shuffling her feet nervously, and fidgeted with the quill as Harry turned his back on her and placed something on a table which was the only piece of furniture in the room. Then, without warning, he pulled off his shirt and threw it on the table.
“What are you doing?” she gasped. He turned to face her, and shot her one of his trademark lop-sided grins.
“Don’t worry, Miss Weasley, I assure you my trousers will remain on. It’s just that this ritual can be quite strenuous, and that shirt is rather expensive. I was removing it purely as a precaution.”
She nodded in understanding, but said nothing. In truth, she doubted she could have spoken at that point if her life depended on it.
If she was honest, Ginny would have had to admit that she found her employer extremely attractive. Whatever doubts she had about his morals or personality, and she was confused on both counts, she never doubted for a moment that he was a very handsome man. What she hadn’t expected was that he had the body of a god. Obviously, their strenuous hike through the German forest had demonstrated his athletic abilities, but this man didn’t appear to have an ounce of fat on him.
The flickering candle light seemed to accentuate his toned abdominal muscles. He had a lean build which suggested a wiry strength, emphasised by his developed biceps. His flesh was lightly tanned, and he had a wisp of black hair that ran down the center of his chest almost to his bellybutton. The light also vividly showed his scars, of which he had several. Of course, she knew about the legendary lightning bolt scar on his forehead, but Ginny had been unaware that he sported a similar one on his chest. As the visible scar was always reported as being caused by being hit by a Killing Curse when he was a toddler, she couldn’t help but wonder how he’d received the other one.
“Are you ready, Ginny?”
Harry’s voice brought her back to reality, and to her embarrassment she realised she’d been staring at him. Fortunately, he gave no indication that he’d noticed.
“Yes, ready when you are,” she confirmed hurriedly.
“Good,” he replied, and headed to the centre of the pentagram with the piece of the Moon Hare dangling from his fingers. As he turned, something glinted against his chest and she realised that he was wearing some sort of necklace. Interestingly, it almost looked like a golden snitch, which was odd as Harry had previously indicated that he’d lost interest in Quidditch. She’d have to ask him about it later.
Harry knelt down inside the pentagram and placed the small piece of the jewel on the floor in front of him. He then began to chant. At first, he spoke so softly that Ginny couldn’t hear what he was saying, but, ever so slowly, he began to increase in volume.
Whatever he was chanting, the words meant nothing to her and sounded like they were in some obscure, foreign language that she’d never encountered before. What struck her, however, was the strange cadence that Harry maintained, and she found herself nodding her head in time to it.
He continued to chant louder and louder, his delivery becoming more forceful and urgent. Before she knew what was happening, Ginny began to feel something in the air around her. At first, she felt alarmed, before a familiar feeling began to wash over her. Magic. The room was becoming infused with raw magic. She’d never felt anything like it, and it made her tingle all over.
Looking down at Harry as he knelt, his arms outstretched and his lips in constant motion, Ginny couldn’t help but feel strange stirrings within her. He was starting to sweat now, and his body was gleaming in the candlelight. The magic that was all around her, she could sense that it was originating from him and the thought that he was so powerful wildly excited her. How could one wizard generate so much raw, untapped power? What exactly was he capable of? Why, at that exact moment, did she long to run her hands over his naked flesh so much?
She let out an involuntary gasp. Harry’s semi-naked body and the pure power he was generating was arousing her on a level she’d never experienced before, and would never have believed was possible. Her nipples were becoming painfully hard as her eyes roamed over his exposed skin, and she could feel her knickers were already soaking wet. She ached for him to touch her, to run his hands over her body, to kiss her… hell, she wanted him to rip her clothes off and have her right there on the floor. Despite her almost painful longing, she was unable to move an inch. It was the most exquisite form of torture imaginable.
Suddenly, Harry ceased his chanting and let out a blood-curdling scream. Ginny’s eye’s bulged and she fought against her invisible bonds, but without success. Then, Harry’s body began to jerk and twist like he was a puppet on a string. He began to mutter in a guttural, crazed tone. Listening carefully, she strained to hear what he was saying, and managed to faintly hear his words.
Then, abruptly, everything stopped. Harry gave a cry, and fell forward. Ginny, suddenly released from her paralysis, leapt forward and ran to him. As soon as she touched him, he raised his head and gave a weak smile.
“That was somewhat more potent than I was expecting,” he gasped.
“Are you alright?” she demanded, sounding a little panicky to her own ears.
“Yes… yes, I’m fine. I just need a moment or two to catch my breath. Help me up, would you?”
Ginny stood and helped pull him to his feet, aware of her hands on his gleaming, naked flesh and the lingering effects of her arousal. She couldn’t help letting her fingers rub up and down his chest, ostensibly offering comfort, but in truth fulfilling her own need. She shivered slightly at the feel of his skin, and at the taut layer of muscle she could detect underneath.
“It’s alright, Ginny, I’m fine,” he assured her, covering her hand with his own. She looked up and found herself staring into his vivid green eyes. From the moment she’d first seen him, she’d thought his eyes were his most striking feature, and now she found she couldn’t look away. Minutes seemed to drag into hours, and it was all Ginny could do to control herself. She’d never wanted anything more in her life than for him to lean down and kiss her.
Eventually, Potter broke the gaze. He pulled her small hand to his mouth and placed a gentle kiss on her knuckles.
“Thank you for being here, Ginny,” he said softly.
“You’re welcome,” was all she could find to say.
He released her hand and stepped back, still breathing rather heavily. “Did I say anything useful during the trance?” he asked.
“Oh… yes. You kept saying two things, over and over again.”
“What were they?”
“You kept saying ‘The Baron’ and ‘New Orleans’ repeatedly,” she revealed.
Harry grinned broadly. “New Orleans, huh? Are you up for a trip to America, Ginny?”
Despite her confused and stimulated condition, she couldn’t help but feel a twinge of excitement at the idea of visiting the States, and New Orleans in particular.
“Yes, that sounds great,” she managed to say in a level voice.
“Superb. Now, I’m afraid that the mere smell of me must be making your stomach turn, so I’ll head up and take a shower. You’ll be staying for lunch, won’t you?” he asked.
“Yes, that would be nice.”
“Wonderful, let’s head upstairs,” he said, before retrieving his shirt and bending down to pick up the piece of the hare, which he slipped into his pocket. With a wave of his hand, the solid door swung open and he disappeared through it.
Ginny followed slowly, determined to allow him a few moments to get ahead. She could feel herself trembling slightly, and her heart was beating rapidly. More worryingly, she could feel that her knickers were completely drenched, and she could smell her own arousal. Before lunch, she would need to nip into the bathroom on the first floor and clean up a bit, herself.
The question was, what the hell had just happened and why had she reacted so strongly to Harry? If she was honest with herself, her attraction to him was one of the reasons she’d taken this job, but what had just happened was several orders above mere attraction. That was out and out lust. Was it just the strange magic that had affected her, or was it Harry himself?
Shaking her head, she quickly headed up the stairs and through the kitchen. She just hoped that she could quickly find a way to sate her raging desire before Harry returned, otherwise it was going to be a very awkward lunch.
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