It all starts with a handshake.
Well, to be more accurate, it starts as a lot of things start: with Harry and Ginny in bed, curled up beneath what feels like fifty blankets. It’s December, and it’s already beastly cold in London. Ginny’s grateful that she doesn’t play for the Harpies anymore; she can’t imagine training in this weather. She’s done it before, so she can imagine it, actually, which is why she’s so grateful she doesn’t have to now. While she’s thinking about it, she’s also grateful that baby Jamie is asleep in the other room. That’s very helpful, too.
“There’s been a lot of attacks recently,” Harry says, apropos of nothing, and completely bursts her bubble of happiness.
It’s nearly midnight, and Harry only got home a couple of hours ago. Ginny’d been looking forward to spending the night catching up on lost time, since he’s been working more than usual this week.
But this, Harry talking about attacks, can never be a good sigh. Especially when he does it in the dead of night. She knows it’s serious, or he wouldn’t he telling her.
“Okay,” she says slowly. “What sort of attacks?”
“We’re not sure,” Harry says. His eyes are closed, but Ginny can just about make out his frown in the dim moonlight. “They’re random attacks. Someone tried to attack Neville in Diagon Alley last week. Seamus came in two weeks ago, said that he was attacked, too.”
“When you say attacked, what do you mean?” Ginny asks.
Harry sighs. Also not a good sign, thinks Ginny. “I mean, Dean Thomas came up to Seamus two weeks ago when he was in Kenmare visiting his mum, and after a conversation, he tried to Stupefy him. And that’s what Luna did to Neville last week.”
“What?” Ginny says. That has her complete attention. She sits up in bed. She wishes she had Ron’s Deluminator to get the lights on, but she makes do with grabbing her wand from the bedside table and getting the lights on that way. “Dean and Luna attacked Seamus and Neville?” she repeats, incredulous. Those don’t sound like random attacks at all, not one bit.
“No,” Harry says, with another sigh.
Ginny doesn’t know if she’s ever been this confused in her life. “What in Merlin’s name are you talking about, Harry?” she demands.
Harry sits up, too, retrieving his glasses and putting them on. “At the time of the attacks, both Dean and Luna are verified to be elsewhere. Dean was in London with his parents, and Luna was in Bulgaria with Rolf. Both have alibis to back it up, and we’ve double- and triple-checked those. And Seamus and Neville, both picked up that they were imposters, which is how they fended off the attack.”
Ginny takes a minute to think about it. “You’re sure they were both imposters?”
Harry nods. “Both of them, yes. We’re quite sure. And I think that it could be the same person who posed as the both of them. Or two different people working together. I’m not sure, but the two attacks are connected. Both happened outdoors, within the vicinity of other wizards, both were attempts to Stun and not kill or attack, and both happened within a week of each other. But we don’t have too many leads. Except that it’s almost definitely Polyjuice Potion. But that leaves the question of how they got Dean and Luna’s hair or nails or whatever, because we’ve interviewed both of them and neither noticed any unusual activity around them…”
From the other room, Jamie starts to cry, interrupting Harry’s rambling train of thought. Harry gets up before Ginny can, and returns with Jamie in a few moments. He sits back down in bed, holding a now quiet and half-asleep Jamie in his arms.
“They’re both war heroes, though. I mean, we’re all used to idiots trying to attack us,” Ginny says.
“This feels different, though,” Harry says. “Both were connected. And we’ve never had someone try to pose as other people before. I can’t figure out why they’d do that, whoever it is. Whoever they are. I don’t know.”
He sounds completely exhausted, so Ginny places her hand on his chest and gently pushes him back down onto the bed. “They’re both okay, right? Seamus and Neville?” she asks.
Harry nods. “They are, yeah.”
“Then let’s get some sleep. The mystery will be there in the morning, ready to solve,” Ginny says.
Harry’s eyes are already drooping. “‘Kay,” he says. Jamie’s already asleep on Harry’s chest, and Harry rests his hand on Jamie’s back, holding him close even as he goes to sleep himself.
Ginny doesn’t sleep for ages, though. When she finally sleeps, she dreams of imposters and surprise attacks, and her sleep is disturbed through the night.
The next morning, Harry leaves for work before she wakes up. It’s fine. It is. She isn’t worried. She wakes up and he’s gone, with a note left on the bedside table saying Had to go to work but I changed Jamie and let you sleep in so you’re welcome. Love you — H and it’s fine. Everything’s fine.
“Stop looking at me like that, Jamie,” she tells James, once she gets the both of them downstairs. He’s looking at her very judgementally in his highchair, holding his stuffed owl like it’s a precious commodity.
“Mama no bababa,” he responds, gesturing very emphatically with his owl.
She supposes he has a point. “Alright, fine, Jim-Jam. Maybe I’m a little worried.”
“Baba,” says James.
“It’s your stupid dad’s fault. Got me all worried about imposter attacks and then left,” Ginny grumbles.
Jamie perks up at that. “Dada!” he agrees emphatically, and then looks around, as if expecting to see Harry pop up. In his defence, Harry does spend a lot of time Apparating and Disapparating in front of James to make him laugh.
“No, you’re right,” Ginny says. She has an article to send in to the Prophet by today evening, and she should be getting to work, but all she can do is think about Harry. She suddenly wants to see him. “Hey, Jim-Jam. We should go see Dada, don’t you think?”
“Dada,” says James. He thinks about it, and then adds, “Peas,” and claps his tiny hands together, and that’s that.
“Exactly,” Ginny says. “Let’s go see Dada.” She bundles him up in his tiny jumper — an early Christmas present from Mum — and then they’re both off.
It’s a pleasant enough walk to the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry, enough that Ginny lets herself get cheered up by it. Jamie amuses himself by pointing and giggling at passers-by from his stroller, keeping up a running, babbling commentary for Ginny’s benefit. She hums in response, and lifts him up once they’re at the Ministry. She taps the stroller with her wand to Vanish it back home; she’s learnt the hard way that navigating the Ministry with a stroller only draws attention to herself.
Ron’s the only one who’s in the office when she gets there. He’s bent over his desk, frowning at a pile of paperwork, but he looks up when they come in and grin.
“Hey!” he says, and lifts Jamie up instantly, kissing the top of his head. “It’s my favourite nephew!”
“And your sister, too. You could greet me, you prat,” Ginny says.
“I was going to,” Ron protests.
Jamie brings a fist up and tugs a handful of Ron’s hair. Ginny approves. “Where’s Harry?” she asks.
“He went to Diagon Alley with Neville. I was meant to go with him, but Robards said that if I don’t finish last month’s case files by tonight then I lose my overtime privileges. Git,” Ron says.
Great. All of that, and he isn’t even in. Ginny’s wondering whether it’s worth going to Diagon Alley to interrupt Harry’s investigation into Merlin knows what — something to do with last week’s attack, probably — when the fireplace in the office turns green and Harry steps out of it.
The private fireplace, which is only connected to the members of the Auror department’s homes. Which isn’t connected to Diagon Alley. Harry could have Apparated home and then Flooed to work, but that doesn’t make sense. He would’ve just Apparated home and assumed Ginny and Jamie are out for a while. Or would’ve just Apparated to work. It makes no sense. Absolutely none.
Ginny and Ron exchange a look, and Ginny leans forward to take Jamie back from Ron. She knows what he’s thinking; they’re on the same page here.
“Hi, mate,” Harry says.
“Hello, love,” Ginny says. She’s never greeted Harry like that once, not in several years of dating him and being married to him.
“Oh, hi, darling,” Harry says. “And you’ve brought James, too! Lovely.”
And then: the handshake.
So Harry and Ron have this handshake. Hermione and Ginny like to exchange eye rolls whenever they witness it, eye rolls tinged with fondness more often than not. It started when they became official Auror partners. It consists of what feels like several minutes of bumping fists, tapping hands, and other hand movements that Ginny tunes out of.
She pays close attention to it today, though. She holds James close to her chest with one arm, but the other one is inching towards the back pocket of her jeans, to her wand.
Ron finishes the handshake with a flourish, and then grabs Harry’s wrist. In one fluid motion, he’s got the Harry’s hands pinned behind his back, and Ginny has her wand pointed at him. “Don’t move,” she says.
Jamie sniffles in Ginny’s arms, and she feels his little arms wrap around her neck and hold on tightly to her.
And then there’s a sudden pop and the real Harry Apparates into the office. Jamie looks from not-Harry, who’s struggling in Ron’s grip, and then at Harry. “Dada!” he says.
Harry only takes a second to realise what’s happening, and then he takes a step towards Ginny. His jaw is clenched, and he gets his wand out, too, standing next to her and pointing his wand at the imposter. Ginny doesn’t move to greet him, keeps her wand pointed at Not-Harry.
“I knew it,” Ron says, looking triumphantly at the real Harry. “I knew this wanker wasn’t you!”
“What the fuck!” the man with Ginny’s husband’s face says. “I did the handshake and everything!”
Ginny and Ron snort at the exact same time. “I think it’d take more than a handshake to fool me about my best friend, mate,” Ron snorts. “And now you’re in Auror custody, so good luck with whatever your plan was.”
“You’re not getting it out of me!” the man says.
“Stupefy ,” Harry says, and the man goes limp. Ron lets go of him. Harry looks a bit pale, but all he says is, “Ron, do you think you could transfer him into holding? We’ll wait, it’ll be easier to interrogate him once the Polyjuice wears off,” he says.
“Course, yeah. I’ll let Robards and Kingsley know, too,” Ron says. “Anyone else?”
“Hermione,” Harry says. “But… maybe not anyone else.”
“No. Wouldn’t want word to get around,” Ron agrees.
Ginny only lowers her wand once Ron’s Apparated to the holding cell, but her hands won’t stop shaking.
“Dada!” Jamie says again, more insistently this time.
Harry puts his wand away and lifts Jamie up above his head, pressing a kiss to his stomach and making him giggle. “How did you know?” he asks Ginny.
Ginny leans back against Ron’s desk, suddenly exhausted. The adrenaline is leaving her, leaving only fatigue in its place. “He called me love. And called Jamie James. And I said, ‘hi, darling’, and he didn’t say anything. Those were the biggest red flags, really. But me and Ron suspected as soon as he Flooed in.”
Harry frowns. “He Flooed in?”
“Yeah,” Ginny says. She can see Harry add up the pieces in his head, and his frown increases, but all he does is sit down at Ron’s desk and hold Jamie in his lap.
“You know what Kingsley’ll say, right?” he says, after a few minutes of silence.
Ginny shakes her head. She doesn’t think she’s ever known less in her life. “Until two minutes ago, I had no idea I’d have to point a wand at someone who looked just like you,” she points out.
“Fair point,” Harry agrees.
“What will Kingsley say?”
“He’ll say that an imposter got access to our home, and access to the Auror office,” Harry says.
Both of those things are true, Ginny thinks.
“If you and Ron hadn’t been in, if it had been one of the other Aurors, then they might have been fooled. If it had been anyone who didn’t know me so well. They even learned my fu–my handshake, for Merlin’s sake,” Harry says.
Ginny has to hold back a smile. Both of them have received several lectures from Mum about swearing in front of Jamie, but it’s a hard lesson to learn.
Harry, on the other hand, doesn’t look like he’s smiling at all. “He could’ve gotten to Jamie, Gin. You all could’ve been in real danger.”
“I know,” Ginny says softly. It’s kind of terrifying to think about, really. “So what do we do?” she asks. She’s not going to dwell on the sort of otherworldly horror and dread that fills her heart at the thought of her baby, of tiny Jamie, being in any sort of danger. It’s easier like this, to focus on something she can control.
“I don’t know,” Harry says quietly. He leans in, rests his head against Ginny’s hip, and holds Jamie close.
Ginny loses track of how long they both stay like that. Her heartbeat’s only now starting to return to normal, but it’s still hard or stay calm and rational to think past the waves of panic and stress that keep washing over her.
“I just heard,” says the deep and reassuring voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Gin ny jumps. Jamie dimples up at Kingsley, perfectly angelic and settled now that he’s in Harry’s lap.
“Hi, Kingsley,” Harry says, sounding just as exhausted as Ginny feels.
“Hi, Minister,” Ginny echoes.
“Min,” Jamie puts in, and then says, “Mamama.”
Kingsley gives Jamie a smile — it’s impossible not to, in Ginny’s opinion — but then focuses his serious gaze back on Harry and Ginny. “Ron’s told me about the situation. It seems as if these attacks are connected to the earlier ones. You were right in your suspicions,” he tells Harry. “Robards and Ron are going to interrogate him in an hour, once the Polyjuice wears off.”
“I want to interrogate him, too,” Harry says immediately.
Kings ley shakes his head. “Whoever this imposter is, he’s gained access to your house. If he knew the details of your handshake with Ron, he must have been following you for a while.”
“It is ridiculously complicated to learn,” Ginny agrees. She’d given up after one attempt.
“I believe…” Kingsley hesitates. Never a good sign. “From the information at hand, I believe you both, and James, are in danger. Immediate danger, potentially. Especially since both your house and place of work has been compromised.”
Ginn y should be used to this. She’s been in immediate danger more times than she can count. A shiver runs down her spine despite this. “What do we do, Kingsley?” she asks, and her voice comes out more pleading than she intends.
“I believe the best course of action would be to go undercover. For as long as it takes for us to figure out how this breach of security was possible and who is behind it. I’ve already spoken to Robards. We’ll organise a cottage, in a Muggle village. No one will know its whereabouts except me and a Secret Keeper of your choosing. You’re familiar with the Fidelius Charm?”
“It’d be weird if I wasn’t,” Harry says. “What with my parents, and Grimmauld Place, and, you know, everything.”
Kings ley smiles.
“You don’t think this is an overreaction?” Harry asks. “We’ve been in more dangerous situations.”
“We’v e never had a criminal successfully gain access to your home and private Floo before,” Kingsley says quietly. “And I’ve seen the security measures in your home. It isn’t easy to infiltrate.”
Ginny thinks of Grimmauld Place, of the years of protection that the Order’s put on it, in addition to all of the spells she and Harry have added themselves. Kingsley’s right; it isn’t easy to infiltrate. Whoever did this knows what they’re doing, that’s for sure.
Harry seems to agree with her, because he says, “Yes, I suppose you have a point.”
“It won’t be for long, hopefully,” Kingsley says. “But… until we get to the bottom of this, we can’t be too careful.”
“And I won’t be able to come to work or work on this case?” Harry asks.
“You can work remotely. We’ll send you the details as we learn them,” Kingsley says.
“Wait. I’m confused. What does this mean?” Ginny asks.
Harry looks at Kingsley, and then turns to Ginny and sighs. “We have to go into hiding. It means… it looks like we’re going undercover, Gin.”