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SIYE Time:21:14 on 20th October 2017


Gothic
By Brennus

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: Death, Disturbing Imagery, Intimate Sexual Situations, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: R
Reviews: 158
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: 20476; Chapter Total: 1929
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Huge thanks to Arnel, as always, and also to (ex-) Mrs Brennus for her continued support and extensive knowledge of all things weird. Probably why she married me, originally.




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Chapter 5 — Death Shall Rise




They stood in a secluded, paved area that was well-lit by Muggle electric lights. Around them, only half visible in the darkness, were various tombs and crypts, all organised into neat rows with paths running between them. Although by no means cold, there was a definite chill in the air.

“Where is he, then?” Ginny demanded. “It’s past midnight.”

“I rather got the impression that strict timekeeping wasn’t one of Samedi’s great strengths. He came over as too anarchic to worry about things like that,” Harry replied casually. He seemed far too comfortable in this creepy location for Ginny’s taste.

“You don’t think this was just a hoax, do you? That he won’t show and we’ll be standing here like mugs all evening?”

“No, I suspect Samedi likes a contest. Virtually all of yesterday evening he was challenging me to something: who could drink five shots the quickest, who could tell the filthiest joke, that sort of thing.”

“Oh, who won that one?” she asked with interest.

“I did,” Harry replied with a grin. “I told him the one about the two Veela and the lonely centaur.”

“I don’t think I’ve heard that one before,” she admitted.

“Trust me, Ginny, you’d need a few stiff drinks in you before I’d risk telling it in your presence,” he chuckled. “My godfather normally reserved it for whenever he met pureblood ladies he decided needed a shock to their sensibilities. He was thrown out of a lot of important functions for telling it.”

Ginny laughed. “You’ll definitely have to tell me it now.”

“Yeah, white boy, tell the sweet young thing your joke. I’d like to see a nice glow in dem pretty cheeks.”

They both spun around, and were shocked to see Baron Samedi perched on top of a nearby tomb, grinning at them manically. He looked radically different to when they’d last seen him, however. He wore a black tail coat and a top hat, while his face had been painted a ghastly shade of white, as if to resemble a skull. In his hand he held a staff with various objects tied to it, and he was also smoking a fat cigar.

“Ah, Baron Samedi,” Harry said in greeting. “Glad you could make it. I must say, your appearance tonight is far more in keeping with how I imagined you would look. You seemed far too restrained back at the house.”

“Well, white boy, what can I say? I don’t wear my work clothes while I’m relaxing. Now, as I recall, you two are wanting this pretty little trinket here, ain’t you?”

Samedi held up something in his free hand that dimly glinted in the artificial light. Ginny assumed that it was the part of the Moon Hare that they had come to New Orleans seeking.

“That’s correct,” Harry confirmed. “So, what task have you in mind to allow us to win it?”

Without warning, Samedi sprang into the air like a frog and landed gracefully on the ground in front of them. He turned and gave Ginny a lustful smile that made her take a step back fearfully. Then, with a dramatic flourish, Samedi produced a single white rose which he offered to her.

“A rose for the beautiful English rose,” he informed her silkily. “All you two gots to do is lay this rose on the tomb of a great friend of mine, Marie Laveau. Her tomb is to be found three blocks down. You’ll recognise it instantly ‘cos of all the flowers laid out in front of it. She was so dearly loved, was my Marie.”

“That’s it? We just have to find her tomb?” Ginny blurted in surprise.

“That’s all, my sweet little angel,” Samedi purred, before turning and walking back towards the tomb he’d previously been on top of. Before he reached it, however, he turned suddenly and brandished his staff.

“Maybe you’s right! Maybe that’s just too easy for powerful magicians such as yourselves,” he said thoughtfully, before making a sweeping downward motion with the staff. Something instantly appeared in his free hand. “Maybe this will make things a bit fairer.”

Ginny suddenly realised what he was holding and her hand immediately went to her back pocket, which she found to be empty.

“Our wands!” she cried.

“Yeah, let’s see how you two do without your little sticks,” Samedi said with glee. “Oh, did I forget to mention that I’ve brought some of my friends along to join in the fun? Come and meet them now!”

There was a scrapping noise to their left and the pair of them turned to see the door of one of the crypts slowly open with a horrid grinding noise. For a moment, nothing could be seen inside the dark tomb before a hand slowly emerged into the light. The hand was practically skeletal, with lumps of rotting flesh hanging from it. The whole arm emerged, with a few dirty rags hanging from it, before the whole body could be seen. A horrid, rotting face glared at them with malicious intent, broken teeth bared, and its fingers outstretched towards them.

“An Inferius,” Harry hissed.

“Oh, more than one!” Samedi cackled. “Take a look around, white boy! Oh, and we call ‘em zombies around here. Good luck and have fun, you crazy kids!”

Samedi vanished from sight, but Ginny barely noticed. Her attention was caught by the fact that every single crypt or tomb around them was opening, and bodies in various states of decay were crawling out. She stared at them in horror.

“Feeling energetic?” Harry asked.

“If by that you mean, ‘am I ready to start running?’, then the answer is bloody right!” she snapped.

“Come on, then!” he yelled and launched himself forward. Ginny was hot on his heels, but even so she narrowly missed being grabbed by the clawing hand of one of the Inferi.

“Where are we going?” she yelled as they ran blindly into the dark, with only the pale shapes of the tombs to guide them.

“Towards Laveau’s tomb,” Harry called back.

“And where the hell is that?” she demanded, her breathing starting to become laboured.

“Damned if I know, but I think we should keep running, anyway!”

Ginny risked a glance back, and she was horrified to see that the Inferi were not only coming after them, but that they seemed capable of running at a surprising speed. For some reason, she’d always assumed that they would only be able to move at a shambling pace. These ones, however, appeared more than capable of running.

“Shit! They’re right on our heels!” Ginny cursed.

“Eyes front and keep moving,” Harry yelled back.

Deciding to save her breath, Ginny bit back her sharp response and did as she was instructed. It was fortunate that the pathway that ran between the tombs was quite level, because in the dim light they could have easily tripped and fallen. As it was, they had virtually no warning when the path abruptly stopped before a high, stone wall and the pathway split both left and right. After only a moment’s hesitation, Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand and pulled her down the right-hand path.

“What do we do when we find the right tomb?” Ginny managed to gasp as they sprinted down the footpath, which was even darker than the main throughway had been.

“Nothing, we can’t do anything with those creatures right behind us,” Harry replied, his breathing ragged. “I doubt that even placing the rose on it will persuade Samedi to call off his zombies.”

It came as something of a shock to Ginny that she was still clutching the white rose in her hand. With a growl of frustration, she shoved the flower into the front pocket of her jeans.

“What can we… do without… wands?” she demanded, really starting to struggle for breath. Running wasn’t something she could ever claim to do on a regular basis.

“We need to put some distance between us and them,” he said. “Come on, we need to pick up our pace.”

Ginny was about to angrily reply that she couldn’t run any faster, but a quick glance over her shoulder convinced her that Harry was right. The Inferi were only about ten yards behind them. Their pursuit was all the more sinister as the undead monsters were completely silent as they ran.

Digging into reserves she didn’t know she possessed, Ginny lengthened her stride and began to push as hard as she could. Harry comfortably matched her increased pace, and it suddenly occurred to her that he had been deliberately holding himself back, and that he could probably have ran much faster if he’d wanted. She felt a surge of gratitude that he’d had no thought of leaving her behind.

They continued running and it dawned on her that they were moving along the perimeter of the cemetery and that safety probably could be found on just the other side of the wall. Unfortunately, it was an extremely high wall and had metal spikes running along the top of it, so climbing it would be impossible unless they found a ladder or something similar. Besides, she suspected the Inferi would just follow them over the wall, anyway. They seemed very singular in their purpose, which was probably to rip her and Harry to pieces with their bare hands.

Unexpectedly, the row of tombs on their right hand side ended and they emerged into an open space which in the dark looked to be a garden. Ginny was filled with the horrible feeling that they might just run into a wall or gate and be trapped. At least the pathway had offered some comfort in that respect.

“There! Over there!” Harry cried suddenly.

He started to veer to his right and she found herself running over a neatly cut lawn. A moment later, she saw what Harry had been heading for — a long, low building. They screeched to a halt in front of it and Harry tried the door. Even in the darkness, Ginny could see a padlock securing it.

“Shit!” she cursed.

“Don’t worry. I know a little wandless magic, enough to get this open, anyway,” he announced, grabbing the padlock. It sprang open in his fingers, and Harry pushed the door open.

Not needing to be told, Ginny leapt into the building, closely followed by Harry. He slammed the door shut and put his shoulder to it, not a moment too soon. The door buckled as something impacted against it hard.

“Quick, give me a hand here,” he instructed her urgently.

Ginny threw her own meagre bodyweight against the door, even as she felt it shudder. Fortunately, this gave Harry the time he needed to slide a bolt, which appeared to be the only visible lock on this side of the door, into place. They stepped back as the door again shuddered, but fortunately held.

“That’s not going to keep them out for long,” Ginny noted, her heart racing at what seemed like a thousand beats a second. She then jumped as the room was bathed in light.

“Found the electric like switch,” he informed her. Although not as apparently exhausted as she was, his breathing was definitely laboured and he was sweating profusely.

“Where are we?” she asked, glancing around the small building. It looked like it was filled with all manner of tools and objects.

“I suspect we’re in the gardeners shed,” he replied. “Hopefully we can find something useful in here.”

“Yeah, perhaps a set of especially lethal pruning shears. That’s bound to stop them,” she muttered darkly.

“Ah, Ginny, I do think your sense of humour is my favourite thing about you,” Harry chuckled. He’d already started to root through the various implements in the room, intent on finding anything that could help them. A moment later, he handed her a shovel.

“Here, if they break through try swinging that at their heads.”

She took the shovel and hefted it experimentally. It was probably of no use at all, but for some reason having a potential weapon in her hands made her feel a little bit better. Harry went back to his scavenging, until he stopped abruptly in front of what Ginny thought was some large, over-complicated lawnmower.

“A petrol-driven lawnmower,” he murmured to himself. “And what does a petrol-driven lawnmower run on?”

He hurriedly searched around, and a moment later triumphantly lifted a metal can with both hands. With some effort, he gave it a small shake, before breaking out into a wide smile.

“It’s nearly full,” he exclaimed happily. “Now, if I can just find some matches…”

“Harry, I don’t think this door is going to last much longer!” Ginny cried fearfully.

“I’m coming,” he called, running back to her. “Here, let me have that shovel for a second.”

Handing over her only weapon, Ginny stood and watched in amazement as Harry started to ram the head of the shovel forcefully against the corrugated-iron roof of the shed. While the walls of the small building were made of sturdy brick, the roof proved much more flimsy and it took him only a few moments to break through.

“Harry, what are you doing? I’m pretty sure those Inferi are capably of climbing!”

“Fear not, my beautiful assistant, for I have a plan!” he exclaimed in a cocksure manner that annoyed her no end.

Having made an opening in the roof, Harry handed the shovel back to her and then grabbed a ladder that had been propped up against one wall. With a little manoeuvring, he managed to get it through the gap in the ceiling. He then ran back and grabbed the metal can and with some effort carried it over to the ladder.

“Here, help me lift this,” he instructed.

“What are you planning?” she demanded.

“What’s the most effective weapon against Inferi?”

Ginny paused, trying to remember her old Defence Against the Dark Arts classes.

“Fire!” she exclaimed suddenly.

Harry shook a box of matches at her and grinned. “I think it’s time we went on the offensive, don’t you?”

Realising what he intended, Ginny helped him as he lifted the heavy can up the ladder. Eventually between them they managed to get it onto the roof. Although she could now only see his legs, she could hear him pushing the can forward overhead. She then began to smell something pungent; a scent she associated with her visits to Muggle areas and their motorcars. A moment later, Harry ducked his head down to talk to her.

“Okay, I’ve pushed the can towards the edge of the roof and opened it. It’s currently spilling petrol all over our zombie friends. I’m going to throw a lit match down there next, so stand back because I’m not sure if it will explode.”

“You mean, you could just be about to blow us both to kingdom come?” she gasped.

“Very possibly, but as I think the Inferi are just moments away from breaking down the door, can you suggest a better plan?”

Ginny glanced fearfully at the door, which was buckling alarmingly.

“No, go on, you maniac. If we’re going down, we might as well take the bastards with us.”

“That’s the spirit! Get ready,” he advised.

A moment later there was a tremendous whooshing sound, and light flared from underneath the door.

“What’s happening, Harry?” Ginny called out.

“It’s working!” he cried happily after ducking his head back in. “The petrol has spread everywhere, and the Inferi are lighting up like a Christmas tree! Fortunately, they appear to have limited intelligence and keep pushing forward so the whole lot of them are catching fire.”

“Brilliant!”

“Ah, one thing, though. It looks like the shed has caught fire, too. I think we’d better make a rapid exit. Up you come, Ginny, and we’ll crawl over the roof and jump out the back.”

Taking one look at the wooden door which was now clearly on fire, she hastily scrambled up the ladder and followed Harry as he climbed fully onto the roof. It certainly didn’t feel very secure and she was afraid they would just fall straight through. Harry flattened himself out, presumably to spread his weight, and began to slowly crawl towards the back of the shed. Ginny copied him, praying the fragile roof would hold. It was with great relief that they reached the far edge and simply rolled off. They landed with a thump on a patch of grass.

“Do you think we got all the Inferi?” Ginny asked nervously as they climbed to their feet.

“There might be the odd survivor, and I think we’d better try and take them out or they’ll be at our heels. Still got that shovel? Good. Let’s see what’s left.”

They edged back around the shed, through billowing clouds of smoke that had begun to form. The night sky was lit up by the flames and Ginny’s nostrils filled with the disgusting scent of burning flesh. Unlike in Germany where the smell had appalled her, this time she took it to be a good omen.

As they reached the corner, Harry took a quick peek round.

“There’s just one left,” he informed her. “The stupid thing is just standing there like it can’t figure out why all its chums are laying on the floor burning. Still, we can soon take care of that. Shovel please, Miss Weasley, if you’d be so kind.”

“Of course, Mr Potter,” she replied, handing him the tool. His confident attitude seemed to be infectious.

Giving it one experiment swing, Harry took a deep breath and charged. Ginny was hard on his heels, although she came to an abrupt halt when she caught sight of the carnage in front of the shed. The whole area was like a huge bonfire, with bodies burning brightly everywhere. Harry ignored all this, and headed straight for the one figure that remained upright, standing near the edge of the flames.

The Inferi saw him running towards it, but didn’t have time to react. With one mighty swing, it’s head was severed from it’s shoulders by Harry’s shovel. Comically, it remained standing, it’s arms outstretched and grouping blindly. With measured calmness, Harry walked behind it and, with a shove of his boot, pushed it into the flames. The Inferi toppled into the fire and began to flail wildly as it started to burn. It took some minutes before it ceased to move.

“Well, that’s taken care of that,” Harry announced, walking back towards her with a smug grin on his face.

“What’s to stop Samedi just raising more of these things?” she asked warily.

“Absolutely nothing. I therefore suggest we find Marie Laveau’s tomb as quickly as possible. You do still have the rose, don’t you?”

Ginny reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out the white rose. It was rather mashed after being shoved in there so roughly.

“Ah, well. I don’t suppose we get bonus points for presentation,” he said. “Come on, let’s head back the way we came. I think I have a rough idea where to look.”

In the end, they found the tomb with remarkable ease. They’d headed back down the narrow pathway with the wall running alongside it and, about halfway down, they encountered a small, rectangular tomb that was surrounded by flowers. A plaque was mounted next to the door, and Harry squinted at it in the dim light.

“This is it. We must have run straight passed it earlier.”

“We had other things to worry about then,” Ginny pointed out, before bending down and placing the white rose on the concrete step. Almost immediately, she heard the sound of a slow handclap coming from nearby.

The both spun round and saw Baron Samedi standing just a few feet away from them. He’d arrived completely silently, and stood there looking at them with a hard expression on his face.

“So, white boy and da pretty rose gave my pets the slip, did they?” he drawled in an unfriendly tone. “Well, ain’t they just the cat’s whiskers!”

“We’ve done what you asked, Samedi. We’ve beaten your challenge,” Harry said firmly, before stepping forward with his hand outstretched. “Now, I believe that you have something for me?”

Samedi spat.

“You think I’m just gonna hand it over to you, white boy? You think that beating a few of my zombies gives you some sort of power over me? Man, you’re dumber than you look!”

“Do I take it you’re reneging on our bet?”

“Reneging? Well, just listen to Mr Cultured Englishman there! I never had any intention of handing that pretty little jewel over to you, boy. I was just playing with ya. Are you really so arrogant that you think you can make a deal with Baron Samedi? I’m a Loa, fool, and I don’t make no deals with shitty little wizards like you. Ain’t much use without your little stick, are you, boy?”

“You treacherous bastard,” Ginny growled.

“You’d best be nice to me, little rose,” Samedi snapped, turning towards her. “In fact, you’d best be real nice to me, unless you want the same thing to happen to you that’s gonna happen to your boyfriend here.”

“What are you planning to do?” she demanded, almost shaking with rage at the man’s duplicity.

“I’m the god of the dead, baby, and I can turn a living human being into a rotting zombie with a wave of my hand. White boy here needs to learn his place in the world, and that you don’t be going trying to make deals with gods. I’m gonna turn him into one of the undead, and then find a nice, cosy tomb to stick him in. He’s gonna lie in that coffin, fully aware of what’s happening to him, until I decide to fetch him out. Who knows, I might think about doing that in a few hundred years or so.”

Ginny gasped in horror.

“As for you, sweet-cheeks, you gonna be warming my bed until I get bored with you. When the Baron wants a woman, that woman best be spreading her legs for him pretty damn quick, if she knows what’s good for her.”

“You bastard! You bloody bastard! If you think I’m just going to roll over and drop my knickers for you, you’ve got another thing coming. We’ll fight you any way we can! Right, Harry? Harry?”

Ginny looked over at her employer in concern. Ever since Samedi had revealed his treachery, Harry had remained rooted to the spot, just looking at the man dispassionately. Slowly, he turned his head and looked at her without expression. Without saying a word, he turned his head back to Samedi and took a step forward.

“Do your worst,” Harry said.

Samedi sneered at him.

“Oh, white boy, you all big and brave now, but just wait until you’ve been rotting in your coffin for a few years. You’re just about to find out what hell’s like, boy!”

The man flourished his staff, and gave an almost inhuman cry, before slamming the wooden pole into the ground at Harry’s feet. Samedi grinned evilly, his perfect white teeth gleaming in the dark.

Slowly, the smile began to slide from Samedi’s face. Again, he struck the ground with his staff, but nothing appeared to happen. He repeated the action again and again, each time with no noticeable effect.

“You know what, Samedi? You’re an idiot,” Harry said suddenly, before lunged forward and snatching the staff from the Loa’s hands. Then, quick as lightning, Harry swung it and smashed the man in the face. Samedi was knocked backwards and collapsed in a heap on the ground. He shook his head once and looked up at Harry in surprise.

“How? How did you do that? I’m the God of Death, man. I can snatch a man’s life away like it ain’t no thing! How did you resist me?”

“You might be the God of Death, but I’m the Master of Death!” Harry announced imperiously. “I have already passed through the veil of death, and returned to walk this earth once more. I have united the Deathly Hallows, and wield their power. You, you back-stabbing arsehole, have no power over me!”

Ginny stared at him in shock. The Deathly Hallows? They were just a fairy story, weren’t they? Some fanciful tale in a children’s book. And what did he mean, ‘passed through the veil of death and returned’?

“Our wands, please,” Harry said, standing threateningly over Samedi.

“Okay, okay. You got it, man,” he replied and, a moment later, their wands appeared in Samedi’s previously empty hand. Harry reached down and snatched them from him, before turning and handing one of the wands to Ginny. She took the familiar piece of wood gratefully.

“And now, Samedi, I believe you owe me a piece of the Moon Hare,” Harry announced, still holding Samedi’s staff like a weapon.

Samedi looked at Harry hatefully, but a second later something appeared in his hand which glinted in the faint light of the moon. Harry reached over and took it, holding it up to his face so he could admire it.

“Is that definitely it?” Ginny asked, not trusting Samedi an inch.

“Yes, this is definitely part of the Moon Hare,” Harry confirmed, gazing at the small piece of gold as it spun from a thin chain in his hand. “It has a rather distinctive magical signature, and this feels exactly the same as the other piece.”

“Happy now, white boy?” Samedi sneered from his position on the ground.

“What are we going to do with him, Harry?” Ginny asked, glaring at the Loa angrily. “He tried to kill us and then backed out of the bet. You’re not going to just let him go, are you?”

“Oh, of course not,” Harry said, in mock surprise. “You don’t think I’d let him get away with a stunt like that unpunished, do you? No, the only trouble is, being a demi-god, we can’t kill him. We can hurt him, though, but I doubt we’d cause him any lasting damage. No, I actually have a better idea.”

“What’s that?”

“We let Maman Brigitte deal with him,” Harry smirked.

For the first time, Ginny saw actually fear in Samedi’s eyes.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP


Despite the fact that the sun was now high in the clear-blue skies over New Orleans, the room they were standing in seemed frigidly cold. The reason, Ginny suspected, was due to the almost palpable waves of cold fury emanating from Maman Brigitte.

“Brigitte, honey…” Samedi began.

“Shut up,” the imposing woman snapped. Samedi instantly lapsed into silence.

“Do you know what you’ve done?” she continued, glaring at her husband.

“I, you see…” the man spluttered, but whatever he was going to say died on his tongue. His shoulders slumped and he just nodded in a resigned manner.

“How could you do this to me, Samedi?” Brigitte growled. “Why do you think the people worship me, fool?”

“Because you’re the Goddess of Justice,” he replied quietly.

“Damn straight! But for some reason that I can’t quite fathom, I stupidly married you, fool! As my husband, I thought that you might at least respect and honour my attributes, the reasons why I’m worshiped, but clearly that was too much to hope for from you.”

“Sugar, honey… I do honour you! Everyday! It’s just… they’re wizards! They don’t follow our rules or care about our customs! Dat arrogant white boy thought he could just mossy up and make a deal with me. Why should you or I care about them?”

“Damn, you’re a fool, Samedi!” Brigitte cursed, raising her voice for the first time. “We got rules we have to work by, just like them! They might not worship us, but you made a deal with them, you idiot. That binds you to the contract. It don’t matter if they are wizards, gods or chickens — if you make a deal, you got’s to stick by it, you asshole!”

“What you gonna do?” Samedi asked nervously.

“Oh, husband, put it like this: you ain’t gonna be having no fun for a very, very long time,” she informed him, her voice dripping with malice.

“Umm, Brigitte? Perhaps it would be best if we just leave you to it,” Harry suggested.

Brigitte looked round at him in surprise, perhaps having forgotten that he and Ginny were even still in the room.

“Yes, perhaps that would be a good idea. I’ll see you both out,” she agreed, before turning and pointing at her cringing husband. “You stay right there, Samedi!”

Samedi nodded meekly.

The tall woman escorted them to the door. She paused on the landing as they stepped out into the clear morning sunshine.

“I guess I owe you both an apology,” Brigitte stated. “A deal’s a deal, and Samedi was an idiot to try and break it. You might be wand-wavers, but that doesn’t mean he can treat you like shit, now, does it?”

“Our very thoughts,” Harry agreed with an amused smile on his face.

Brigitte looked carefully at him. “Master of Death, huh? That’s some old magic you’ve been messin’ with. No wonder I couldn’t read you.”

“It’s a long story and I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details,” he said with a gracious nod of his head.

“Fair enough, but I would appreciate it if you stayed the hell away from Louisiana from now on. That sort of magic makes us Loa kinda nervous, if you know what I mean.”

“I do,” he confirmed. “Goodbye, Maman Brigitte, and thanks for all your help.”

The woman just nodded and they turned to leave. They had nearly reached the front gate when Brigitte called out to them.

“Hey, Ginny honey, you remember what we talked about that night Harry and my husband had their little drinking contest? Well, you just think about it, girl. My comments still apply, but for very different reasons. That pretty boy next to you is one dangerous mother. You tread carefully now.”

And with that, the elegant woman turned and closed the door behind her.

“Do I want to know what she meant?” Harry asked.

“Nah, she didn’t say anything I didn’t know already,” Ginny said with a shrug.

“Fair enough. I think we’ll cheat a bit to get back. Let’s find a nice quiet spot and Apparate back to our hotel rooms.”

“Sounds good.”

They turned and headed down the street, intent on finding somewhere a little more secluded to travel from. Ginny managed to hold her tongue for a good two minutes before curiosity overcame her.

“Master of Death? The Deathly Hallows? Really?”

Harry chuckled. “What do you want me to say? I didn’t just defeat Voldemort by throwing a few Stunning Spells at him, you know. His life was protected by the Darkest of magics, and I needed to pull something rather specular out of the bag. Before you ask, yes, the Hallows are real and, yes, I have the title Master of Death. Neither of these things really mean much, however, at least not in regards to how I live my day-to-day life. Gathering the Hallows to me has given me much greater powers, but they are only relevant to certain situations. Aside from that, I’m just a normal person.”

Ginny snorted before a thought occurred to her.

“Wait a minute! This is why you’ve never explained exactly how you defeated Voldemort, isn’t it? It has something to do with the Deathly Hallows, and you don’t want to advertise that fact.”

“Quite correct, Ginny, and I would remind you of the Oath of Secrecy you swore when you took employment by me. The history of the Hallows is littered with tales of violence and betrayal, and if it’s even suspected I might have united the objects, every half-wit villain out there will try to seek me out. Not a word to anyone.”

“Of course, I’m not stupid,” she grumbled, annoyed that he might think she wouldn’t keep his secret.

“Sorry, not that I meant to doubt you for a moment,” he apologised quickly. “How about once we get back to the hotel I buy you an enormous lunch to make up?”

“That might sooth my wounded feelings,” she admitted. “Perhaps I might even indulge in a few of those cocktails you seemed to like so much.”

Harry broke into a wide smile, before offering her his arm.

“Then let’s head back as quickly as possible. For some reason, zombie hunting has given me a thirst.”

They vanished, with only the sound of two soft pops and their lingering laughter remaining.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP HP

Humming tunelessly to herself, Ginny scanned her shopping list one more time, determined to make sure nothing was missed off. As excited as she’d been at the prospect of a trip to America, the latest destination that she and Harry had arranged practically had her bouncing with delight.

Just the previous evening, Harry had again enacted the ritual to identify where the next piece of the Moon Hare was located. Unfortunately, the combination of so much raw, untapped magic and Harry’s semi-nakedness had the same effect on her that it had the first time. Fortunately, this time she was better prepared for it, and at least had made sure that she had a clean pair of knickers with her. Besides, as soon as she had heard where she was going, even her sudden sexual desires had taken a backseat.

Egypt! She’d wanted to visit the country again badly ever since her first trip when she had been just eleven years old. At the time, a fortuitous lottery win had allowed her family to travel en masse to visit her eldest brother, Bill, who was working there. As it should happen, Bill was back working in the country again and Harry had guaranteed Ginny that there would be enough time in their schedule for her to visit him. She was so excited about seeing her favourite brother again! True, things had been a bit strained between them of late, but that didn’t mean that…

“Hello, Ginny.”

Ginny spun round as the sound of her name called, and saw a young woman with long, straggly, dirty-blond hair and a dreamy expression on her face.

“Luna! I didn’t know you were back in the country,” Ginny cried and leapt forward to hug her friend.

“I just got back,” Luna confirmed, returning the embrace warmly. “I visited your brothers’ shop, but they said you didn’t work there anymore.”

“No, I’ve got a job working as Harry Potter’s personal assistant, would you believe!”

“So Fred said. Do you have time for a cup of tea? I’d love to hear about it,” Luna exclaimed.

“Yeah, let’s grab a cupper and catch up. Harry’s pretty relaxed about my work schedule, as long as I get everything done in time.”

Arm in arm, the two witches headed for a small tearoom that was situated at the far end of Diagon Alley. Soon, they were fortified with a mug of steaming tea and a slice of cake each, and could get down to some serious nattering.

Before revealing anything about her current employment, Ginny had insisted that her friend tell her all about her latest adventure first. Luna was an explorer and magical naturalist, roaming the world in search of undiscovered plants and animals. She’d already published a book, not to mention several well-received articles, and was considered an important up-and-coming zoologist. If she was honest, Ginny had to admit that at times she’d been jealous of her friend’s success and globe-trotting lifestyle. She listened in fascination as Luna detailed her latest trip to the Korean peninsula. Sometimes her friend could be a little hard to follow, but apparently Luna had discovered a breed of miniature dragons during her adventure and she was extremely excited about it.

“Wow, that all sounded pretty amazing,” Ginny exclaimed after Luna had finished her account of her trip. “A previously unknown type of dragon, eh? Amazing!”

“Yes, the largest of them was less than a foot long. I can’t wait to publish my findings,” Luna confirmed, her smile lighting up the whole room. “But that’s enough about me. Tell me all about your new employer.”

Ginny hesitated. “I… I’m not sure I can describe him. I’ve never met anyone quite like him before.”

“Really? In what way?”

“It’s just that he’s seen and done so much, and he has such incredible magical knowledge. Honestly, Luna, he manages to surprise me every day with something new.”

“I see,” Luna said, nodding slightly. “What sort of work do you do for him?”

“I’ve actually taken an Oath of Secrecy, so I can’t tell you too much,” Ginny admitted, “but, in a nutshell, I do a bit of everything. Harry is an adventurer, and likes to make trips overseas hunting for exotic magical items and treasure. I’ve been organising his most recent trips, and helping wherever I can. Today, for instance, I’m shopping for supplies and equipment for our next journey.”

“Can you say where you’re going?” Luna asked.

“I guess that would be alright. We’re going to Egypt, but please don’t ask about what we’ll be doing there.”

“Oh, Egypt! I love it there,” Luna gushed. “Will you be able to visit your brother Bill while you’re there?”

“Yeah, I hope so,” Ginny confirmed, pleased that her friend was excited for her and not merely intent on casting aspersions on Harry’s character as some others had done.

“Where else have you been?”

“Well, our last trip was to New Orleans in America, and before that we visited the Hurtgen Forrest in Germany.”

“The Hurtgen Forrest?” Luna repeated. “Where the wild werewolves are? Ginny, that place is incredibly dangerous. Even I wouldn’t go near it.”

“Oh, tell me about it! Still, Harry seemed more than capable of handling a few werewolves, even if we did end up in a few sticky situations. The trip was… enlightening, to say the least!”

Luna gave her a strange look for a moment, before smiling.

“I’ve heard rumours that Potter knows some secret and exotic magic, and that was how he managed to defeat You-Know-Who. I know a lot of people say he’s a Dark magician, but I doubt you’d have anything to do with him if he was, so I’m inclined to believe that he just has some strange powers or knowledge.”

“I… I can’t say, Luna,” Ginny replied. “You’re right that I wouldn’t have anything to do with a Dark wizard, though. Actually, I doubt you’d believe the truth even if I could tell you.”

“What, me?” Luna asked with a giggle.

“Yes, even you!” Ginny confirmed, laughing at how ridiculous her last statement had been.

“So, have you had sex with him yet?” Luna asked with a mischievous glint in her eye.

“What? No! He’d my bloody employer, Luna! Besides, I’ve only known him for a few weeks.”

“Hmm, if you say so,” Luna acknowledged, before adding, “but do you want to have sex with him?”

Ginny gave her friend a very hard stare.

“It’s just you seem to be quite glowing in your praise of him, and I’ve heard he is very handsome,” Luna said. “You seem different now you’re working for him, too. Happier.”

“Really? I wasn’t aware I came over as unhappy before.”

“Oh, Ginny, you were!” Luna exclaimed. “Anyone could see you were miserable. You were trapped working for your brothers in a boring job. I could see it was grinding you down — you lost your normal sparkle and just seemed to give up, a bit. You dressed really plainly and half the time never bothered to do your hair. Now look at you. You’re wearing stylish clothes that make you look really sexy, your hair is fantastic, and you’re even wearing some makeup. Your whole demeanour has changed and you’ve got your old bounce back.”

“Umm, do you think so?”

Luna’s statement gave Ginny pause to think. True, she had splashed out on some new clothes, mainly as Harry, delighted at the progress they had made in finding two parts of the Moon Hare already, had given her a bonus. She’d felt that working for Harry Potter carried a certain status, and as such she had to look the part. She hadn’t really thought about her hair and makeup, though. Had she really been trying to impress him?

“You won’t be able to go back to the way things were, you realise,” Luna said suddenly.

“What?”

“I can see it in your eyes: the excitement. You’ve tasted what it’s like to travel the world and get into adventures now. You’ll never be able to go back and ‘just’ be a shop girl, no matter what. You’ve caught the disease, and you’ll never be the same again.”

“You might be right,” Ginny admitted after a moment’s thought.

“I am, trust me. I get angsty just from sitting and writing about my travels. After being home for a week, I’m ready to be off again. It sounds like your Harry is much the same.”

“Perhaps, but he seems equally happy just puttering around his library sometimes. I think he just has a thirst for knowledge. He also just likes beautiful things and likes to surround himself with them. He told me once that he’s had so much ugliness in his life, he feels compelled to collect beautiful things to make up for it.”

“Perhaps that’s why he employed you,” Luna said with a smile.

Ginny snorted. “Yeah, right. Been out in the sun too long, have we?”

“I don’t think so,” Luna said seriously. “This Harry Potter sounds a powerful and intelligent man. I doubt he’d surround himself with anyone he didn’t particularly want around him, which suggests that he must like you. I’m sure he could have employed some empty-headed bimbo with big boobs to be his assistant, but instead he picked someone who was brave, beautiful, intelligent and fiery. My opinion of him is rising by the minute.”

“Luna,” Ginny protested.

“You must let me meet him, sometime,” Luna continued. “I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about.”

Ginny just nodded in a non-committal manner, much as she’d done to Hermione when she’d badgered her to arrange a meeting with her employer. She might only be his personal assistant, but she was damned if she was going to let any other witch get their claws into him.





























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