Harry and Ginny were much too tired to do anything other than sleep, so they headed upstairs to the master bedroom where they found clean pyjamas (for both of them) laid out on the bed and toothbrushes and combs on the counter by the sink in the en-suite. They cleaned their teeth, donned their pyjamas and, by mutual consent, climbed into bed, curling up together under the covers. It felt a bit unusual, but perfect all the same. They would talk more in the morning.
Harry woke first, stretched, and almost fell out of bed in surprise. Slowly the previous days events re-played themselves in his mind, and he remembered why he was in a giant bed curled up next to a beautiful flame-haired girl. He lay there for a few minutes simply enjoying the sensations, before the call of nature forced him to scramble out of bed and hurry to the loo.
When he returned, he found that Ginny was now awake, eager to exchange places with him. Looking around the room, he notice two piles of clean clothes stacked on one of the chairs near the door to the dressing room. He grabbed his pile and emerged a few minutes later clad in new clothes that actually fit. House elves were amazing!
When Ginny re-emerged, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes, he called her attention to her pile of clothes.
Ten minutes later, the two were happily devouring a large breakfast at a round wooden table in the kitchen. They kept exchanging shy glances, blushing, and dropping their eyes back to their plates. Finally, Harry decided that this was ridiculous - after all they were bond-mates. They couldn’t continue behaving this way forever.
“Come on, Ginny,” he urged, extending his hand, “Let’s go outside and find a place to sit and talk.”
Ginny flashed him a grateful smile and eagerly took his proffered hand, following him out into the bright sunshine.
It was an uncommonly beautiful day, and both children were eager to take advantage of the excellent weather. Their explorations led them to a large shade tree overlooking a quiet pond, and they sat down cross-legged facing each other, knees barely touching.
Harry began. “I’m sorry for sneaking you out of your home last night. I hope your Mum won’t be too angry.”
“Harry, I’m not sorry,” responded Ginny earnestly. “Thank you for rescuing me. As for Mum, she’ll have gone spare by now, but I don’t see how we could have avoided that. In case you didn’t notice, it was loony in there last night.”
“Yeah. What was all that about?” Harry asked curiously. “I couldn’t make heads or tails of what they were talking about.”
Ginny reached across and brushed a stray lock of hair out of his eye before answering. “It was about what happened at Diagon Alley,” she explained bashfully. “Mum was going around the bend. She was furious with you and even more furious with Dumbledore for allowing it to happen. She kept insisting that someone had to do something about it. ‘She wasn’t going to stand for it.’”
Ginny paused, then looked inquiringly at Harry. “The thing is, I don’t know what she wasn’t going to stand for. Every time I tried to ask, she told me it wasn’t important, and I didn’t need to worry my pretty head about it.” She lowered her eyes again, and Harry was barely able to catch her next words. “But I think you know what it is, and I’ll bet a stack of Galleons that it is important.”
Harry took both of her hands in his and gently rubbed his thumb across the backs of them, as he sorted out the proper words with which to reply.
“Ginny,” he began gently, “do you know what happened yesterday? Did anyone explain anything to you?”
“Er, I know something happened when we touched. I think there was a bright light. I vaguely remember being surrounded by a dome, but not much else.” She bent her head forward, red hair hiding her fiery blush, as she continued. “I remember everything feeling right, like I’ve always known you.” She peeked up at him, trying to gauge his reaction.
Harry simply tightened his hold on her hands and continued to run reassuring circles over the backs of them.
“I felt that way, too,” he confessed quietly. “I knew I could trust you, even though we’d never met before. This is the first time I’ve ever felt that way about anybody.” He paused, inwardly debating whether or not to share his next set of thoughts with her. “I’ve never even had a friend before,” he confided. “Dudley always made certain of that.”
At her puzzled expression, Harry explained. “Dudley is my cousin. He hated me and threatened anyone who even attempted to speak with me.” He shrugged. “But that’s in the past. Things are different now. Now I have you,” and he flashed her a hopeful smile.
Ginny returned it, a bit tentatively, and then spoke. “But there is more to it, isn’t there, Harry? I wish I’d been able to go with you to Gringotts when the Goblin invited me, but Mum insisted we had to go home. She said Dumbledore would fix everything.”
Harry swallowed nervously. “The truth is, Ginny, Mr. Dumbledore can’t do anything about it. Please don’t hate me for what I’m about to tell you. I didn’t do anything on purpose.”
“Harry, stop babbling and just tell me what’s happening. I promise you, my imagination is probably worse than anything that you have to say.” Ginny pulled one of her hands free and rubbed it against his cheek.
Harry blushed and covered her hand with his own. “I swear to you, I didn’t even know what happened, until Mr. Ragnok explained everything to me,” he assured her earnestly. “You see, Ginny, because of what happened yesterday, you are now my bond-mate.”
Harry held his breath. He hoped she knew what a bond-mate was, and that he wouldn’t have to explain everything to her. There had to be some advantage to having grown up in the magical world. This beautiful, enchanting girl was his first friend, and, if the Goblins were right, his wife. He couldn’t bear for her to turn against him because of what had happened.
Ginny closed her eyes and concentrated on Harry’s words, which were repeating themselves in her mind in a seemingly endless loop. She was his bond-mate. His bond-mate. How could that possibly be true?
She had always been fascinated by the story of Harry Potter, and dreamed of meeting him and falling in love with him some day. But that day purported to be some time in the far distant future, not here and now. If Harry was telling the truth, that would never happen. She no longer had a choice. That concept was a bit strange, seeing as she was still only nine, and everything was rather surreal. She wondered if there would come a time when she would regret not having a choice, but, as of this moment, she didn’t mind in the least. She was with Harry, and it was right.
Of course, she knew what a bond-mate was. What magical child didn’t? Especially witches. It was what they all dreamed of - a fairy-tale come true. But everyone also knew that that was all it was - a fairy tale, like those found in Beadle the Bard. Yet, if Harry were to be believed, it wasn’t a fairy tale, after all, and it had happened to her. And to him.
Suddenly, Ginny’s head snapped up, a stunned look on her face, and she demanded, “Harry, does that mean we are married? That can’t possibly be true. We’re too young to be married. I’m not even old enough to attend Hogwarts,” she insisted.
Harry drew in a relieved breath. He wouldn’t have to explain everything. And, so far, she didn’t seem to hate him or blame him. Maybe there was hope, after all. “Yes,” he replied quite seriously. “According to Mr. Ragnok, we are married. Even if, technically, we are too young to be married. Apparently, a bond like ours supersedes all existing laws. It is what it is and can’t be changed.”
Ginny looked rather dazed. “Do you think this is what my Mum meant, when she said she wouldn’t stand for it?” she queried softly.
“I’m guessing it is. You do realise, don’t you, that this means we are adults in the eyes of both goblin and wizarding law. We can make our own decisions and do all the things that grown-ups can do,” Harry informed her.
Ginny processed this new bit of information. No wonder her Mum was so angry and hadn’t told her anything - she was afraid of what would happen now. She sat up straighter, pulling her hands out of Harry’s, and looked him in the eye, a new thought having suddenly occurred to her.
“Does this mean I’m no longer a Weasley?” she asked breathlessly, nervously plucking a blade of grass.
“Yes,” answered Harry, a bit smugly. “You’re a Potter now.” He nervously awaited her reaction.
A slow smile blossomed on Ginny’s face. “I think I like that. Ginny Potter. Ginevra Potter. Ginevra Molly Potter.” The smile grew even wider. “Yes, I most definitely like that.” She took Harry’s hand in her own and squeezed it. “Does this mean we are family now?”
“Yes. Yes, you and I, we are family. That is, if you want to be,” Harry quantified. He drew in a deep, ragged breath. “Now, we just have to face your family.”
Ginny’s face grew pale, and she bowed her head. She knew he was right, but she wasn’t looking forward to this at all.
Harry pulled his hand free, and tipped her chin up, so he was looking straight into her eyes. “Before we meet with your family, we need to finish talking about what we are going to do. Mr. Ragnok told me a great many things, and I found out I have more choices than I ever imagined, and you do, too.” He smiled at her reassuringly. “But, first, do you know where we are?” he asked teasingly.
“Erm, not really. Is this your home?” she guessed.
“It is now. This is the Potter family home. It’s called Gryffin’s Den. Do you think you might like to live here?” he queried, his voice a bit unsteady.
Ginny nodded her head. “Yes, I think I would. I like the feel of your house.”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t you know? Every house has it’s own feel. The wizards and witches who live in a house rub off on it, contributing to its feel. Yours has a rather nice feel. It feels peaceful, and beautiful, and quite comfortable. Real people have lived here.”
Harry looked at her in astonishment. He had never thought about houses in that way before, but, now that she had explained things, it made perfect sense. “I’m glad you like it here,” he ventured shyly. “This can be your home from now on, if you’d like. We can live here together.”
Ginny nodded her head, then thought to protest. “But what about my family? Won’t I have to live with them? How could we live here alone? I don’t know enough to live by myself.”
Harry placed his finger against her lips. “Ssh, calm down. Relax.” He waited until she quieted, then removed his finger. “You don’t have to live with your family, if you’d rather live here,” he assured her.
“I don’t know your family, but if you’d rather live with them, I will go with you to live there,” he gamely offered, although he would really rather not. “Remember, we are family now. Where you go, I will go.” Harry caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. “If you’d rather live here, or if we have to live here because your family won’t accept me, we will figure things out. We have the house elves, who have taken very good care of me since I’ve arrived. Honestly, though, I’d prefer having a grown-up around to aid us. The problem is, I don’t know any adults I trust.”
Harry frowned as he continued. “You may not be used to living by yourself, but I’ve had plenty of practice.” He sounded quite disgruntled. “I’ve had to do all of the cooking and cleaning at my relatives’ house, and they’ve never lifted a finger to help me or take care of me for as long as I can remember.” He indicated his clothes. “These are the first clothes I’ve ever owned that fit me. I’ve always had to wear my cousin Dudley’s hand-me-downs, which wouldn’t have been quite so dreadful if he weren’t four sizes larger than I am. I had to filch a bit of string to hold up my trousers. They couldn’t even be bothered to get me a belt.”
Ginny reached across and gave him a comforting hug. Even though the prospect terrified her, it was nice to know that at least one of them knew how to live independently. She thought about her life at the Burrow. They didn’t have a lot of money, but at least they had had love. It seemed as if Harry had had neither. She had an overwhelming desire to provide all the love he had been missing up until now, and it startled her.
A terrifying new thought crossed her mind. “But Harry, you’re supposed to start Hogwarts in September, and I’m not old enough to attend. I can’t stay here alone,” she practically wailed.
Harry smiled a sly sort of smile. “Ah, that is where you are wrong. I almost forgot that we needed to discuss what we are going to do for school. Thank you for reminding me.”
Ginny gave him a rather puzzled look. “What am I wrong about?”
“Well,” he drawled, “You aren’t necessarily too young to start–“
“Of course I am,” she insisted. “Everyone knows you can’t start Hogwarts until after you turn eleven.”
“That may be true, but who said we had to go to Hogwarts?” Harry tossed out.
Ginny stared at him incredulously. Did he really suggest what she thought he was suggesting? Was he truly considering not attending Hogwarts? The thought verged on blasphemy. Everyone attended Hogwarts, or at least she supposed they did. What could Harry possibly mean?
“Did you know that Hogwarts is not the only school of magic in the British Isles? There are at least two others that I know of. On top of that, there are quite a few more scattered throughout Europe,” Harry continued.
Ginny’s eyes widened. This was news to her. Her family had always attended Hogwarts, the best school of Witchcraft and Wizardry there was, according to her mother. If there were other options out there, she’d never heard of them.
“No. Mum and Dad went to Hogwarts, and so have all my brothers. Nobody’s even hinted that there might be other schools out there. Hogwarts is the best,” she assured him.
“Actually, according to Mr. Ragnok, that’s not necessarily true. They may call themselves the best, but not everyone agrees with them, certainly not the Goblins,” insisted Harry.
“But, Harry,” Ginny protested, “don’t you want to go to Hogwarts? Professor Dumbledore is the Headmaster there, and he’s supposed to be the greatest wizard there is.” She was truly puzzled by his seeming reluctance to attend the school she had always dreamed of attending.
“That’s just the problem, Ginny,” Harry replied. “It was Mr. Dumbledore who decided I needed to live with my Aunt and Uncle. The thing is, though, he wasn’t supposed to do that. I found out I have a godfather. He was the one who should have taken care of me. The only problem was they put him in Azkaban for something he didn’t do,” he continued sadly.
Ginny wasn’t sure how to respond to this information. Surely it couldn’t be true. The Ministry would never let something like that happen, would they? Her father worked at the Ministry. He wouldn’t work for people who imprisoned Wizards falsely, would he?
“But Harry, how could that have possibly happened? Didn’t they give him Veritaserum during his trial?” Ginny asked, a faint frown marring her features.
“That’s just it. They didn’t give him a trial, they simply sent him to Azkaban.” Harry looked exceedingly angry at the the thought. “And Mr. Dumbledore was the Chief Mugwump, or at least that’s what Mr. Ragnok told me. He should have done something about it, shouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he have had the power to make sure that my godfather was given a trial?”
Harry picked up a stone lying next to his leg and threw it into the pond, scowling as he did so. “Plus, Mr. Ragnok told me that the Goblins tried to tell Mr. Dumbledore that my godfather was innocent, but he refused to listen to them. The Ministry wouldn’t listen to them either. Just thinking about it makes me extremely angry.” He pounded his fist into the ground.
It took him several minutes before he was able to regain his equilibrium. “It reminds me of what happened to me in primary school. I once tried telling a teacher about my life at the Dursleys, but they wouldn’t listen. They told me I had a vivid imagination, and that I should be careful about what I said about my guardians - that I wouldn’t want to get them in trouble. The Dursleys had the foresight to warn them that I was prone to telling fantastical tales. And Dudley obviously wasn’t neglected.” He clenched his fist in helpless rage.
Ginny scooted over so that she was sitting next to Harry. She pulled his hand in to hers and rubbed the back of it. “I’m so sorry, Harry. I wish I could make everything better for you, but I can’t.”
“It’s not your fault, Ginny,” Harry flashed her a tight smile. “You couldn’t have done anything, even if you had known. Grown-ups don’t tend to listen to children. Not the ones I’ve known. Maybe things are different in the magical world and in real families,” he added hopefully.
Ginny squeezed his hand reassuringly and called to mind all she knew about the Ministry and the Wizengamot. “I think you’re right, Harry. As the Head of the Wizengamot, Professor Dumbledore should have had the power to make certain that all prisoners received trials.” She cocked her head to one side. “I wonder why your godfather didn’t receive one. It sounds a bit fishy.”
“I agree. Now do you understand why I’m having a hard time trusting Dumbledore? He seems to mean well, but it sounds like he’s been careless, at least where my godfather and I are concerned.”
Ginny sat there, hard at thought. She weighed what her parents had told her about Dumbledore against the new information Harry was presenting her with. She was getting two very different pictures of the same man, and she was naturally having a hard time reconciling the two opposing viewpoints. Given what little Harry knew about the Headmaster, it certainly wasn’t surprising that he was uncertain about trusting him.
“What else have you heard, Harry?” she asked softly.
“Mostly small bits. As you can see, I have this wonderful house, where I could have been living all along. It’s quite safe. The Goblins have checked the wards, and they are some of the best they’ve ever seen. Mr. Ragnok said something about them being powered by powerful ancient magic. Then, there’s my vault at Gringotts.”
Ginny turned a questioning gaze upon him. “What’s wrong with your vault?”
“Well, nothing really. It’s just that the Goblins have been sending me statements and reports, and I’ve never received them. And Mr. Dumbledore had my key, which was rather peculiar, since he’s not one of my guardians. The Goblins don’t know how the key came into his possession.” Harry grimaced. “If I’d known I had money, I could have spent some on food and clothes. But then maybe my aunt and uncle would have tried to take it from me, just like they’ve been taking the money intended to provide me with food and shelter. All these years, they’ve complained about how expensive it has been to raise me, even though they hardly fed me, and never bought me clothes. The funny thing is, the Goblins assure me they were being paid monthly for my expenses.”
Ginny was biting her lip trying to hold back her tears. She knew Harry would never tolerate anyone pitying him, and it wasn’t that she was feeling pity, rather her heart was breaking to think of anyone treating someone as wonderful as Harry so poorly. He’d lost his parents, lost his guardian, had been forced to live with relatives who hated him, and been denied his heritage, yet he was still this loving, caring person. It was truly a miracle he had survived at all.
Before she could say or do anything, Harry leaped to his feet, grabbed her hand and pulled her up. “I’m famished! Let’s see what the elves have made us for lunch. Race you to the house. Last one there is an ugly troll.”