Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I in no way claim ownership of any rights to the Harry Potter Universe.
Chapter 3: Welcome to the Wizarding World
Author's Note: Thank you to all my reviewers, and a big thanks to Maggie and Christine for their help with the chapter.
“We need to talk.”
Harry looked up at Ginny and, seeing the serious expression on her face, conjured a bookmark and closed the text he had been reading, giving Ginny his full attention. He leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees and asked, “What is it?”
“I didn’t want to bring this up right away as it was clear that you had things weighing on your mind yesterday.” There was no doubt as to the things she was speaking of. He had given her a full account of the battle at the Patils, after all, and she had witnessed firsthand how difficult it was for him to talk about the Exploding Curse on the stairs. Intellectually, he knew that it was foolish to feel guilt or remorse without even knowing for certain that he had ended any lives that day, but the very real possibility had shaken him. That and the fact that he knew he would be forced to kill again before the war was over.
He felt torn. He was sickened at even the thought of killing anyone, yet he was well aware of exactly what the Death Eaters did to their victims. Anyone willing to do such unspeakable acts to someone, let alone innocent children, needed to be stopped by any means necessary. He was unwilling to kill Death Eaters on sight, but he knew that he needed to do whatever it took to stop them. If he was unable to take them alive, their lives were worth less to him than his own, his friends’, and those of their future victims.
He noticed Ginny looking at him expectantly and nodded for her to continue. “I need you to understand that I am very upset that you refused my help and went into that situation alone. You nearly got yourself killed while I was left here with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs.”
Her voice was tight and measured with a dangerous undercurrent to her tone, but he was unwilling to capitulate on this point. “When your brothers asked me to train them, I made it clear that I would not let them fight with me until I deemed them ready, and the same applies to you. You’re not ready yet.”
“I can whip both Fred and George’s arses without a wand,” she countered heatedly.
“So could most Death Eaters,” Harry commented, careful to keep his voice even. “With a wand, of course. There’s a reason I won’t be taking them out with me any time soon.”
“Well just what is it going to take before you deem me ready?” she demanded hotly, stepping forward and towering over him on the sofa.
“An attitude adjustment, for starters,” Harry replied, standing up right in her face. Her mouth opened, but Harry hastily inserted, “I need to know you will follow my lead and take orders without hesitation.”
“You bloody hypocrite!” she spat. “So it’s okay for the Great Harry Potter to do as he damn well pleases, but the rest of us, we couldn’t possibly survive without his leadership.”
Harry bit back his initial retort, not wanting to turn this into a screaming match. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” He turned away from her and walked several steps before turning back. She continued staring at him, breathing heavily through her nose. “I don’t want to argue with you, Ginny, but you’re right that this is something we need to discuss and figure out. I just don’t want to do it shouting at each other.”
He watched her carefully as she digested his words, and he could slowly see her body start to relax and her breathing level out. “Okay,” she said. “No shouting then.”
He frowned but walked back towards Ginny and took her hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze before pulling her down onto the sofa. They sat in silence for a moment before Harry began, “I know how hard it is for you to just watch as the war is being fought by others around you, people you care for, while you’re left behind. That’s a large part of the reason I started training myself last summer, after all. But I did all of that myself. You have to understand; I brought you into this, Ginny. I’ve trained you. I brought you here, and when you do go into battle, it will be me that put you there. If something were to happen to you, it would kill me.”
She lifted a hand to his cheek and brushed her thumb lightly over his skin. “How do you think I would feel,” she responded softly, “if something were to happen to you while I was sitting here waiting for you to come back? This works both ways, Harry, and while you may have given me the tools to fight, it’s my decision. This is war, and people are going to die. You’re the one that’s spent countless hours helping me prepare. You’re the only reason I have a fighting chance, Harry. When we go into battle, I will follow your lead. I’d be an idiot not to, given your experience. I want to do this with you, Harry. I want to fight with you, but make no mistake. If you keep pushing me aside, I will find my own way, just like you.”
Harry sighed heavily. “I always knew this was coming; I guess I just hoped it would never actually come, you know?”
“So does that mean you’ve changed your mind?” she inquired hopefully.
Harry frowned deeply. “I will change my mind,” he stated, “but not quite yet.” When Ginny opened her mouth to respond, Harry held up his hand and requested, “Please, just hear me out for a second.” He waited for her to nod in acquiescence before continuing. “First off, you need to learn to Apparate. I can make you a Portkey, but you really need to be able to escape on your own should the need arise.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” she said while nodding her head.
”Also,” Harry said slowly, “I want you to get some more duelling practice with someone besides me and the twins. You’ve improved a lot since the end of term, but there’s no room for mistakes with Death Eaters, and fighting a Death Eater is a lot different than duelling with me or Fred and George.”
“You’re talking to the woman who’s been helping nurse you back to health after your battles,” Ginny retorted with a bland smile.
Harry returned hers with a rueful grin. “Right. My point is that the more experience you have beforehand, the better off you’ll be.”
“Let me guess,” Ginny interjected. “Remus and Tonks?”
Harry smiled and offered her a shrug. “Not many other choices, are there? They have a lot more experience and know a lot more spells than I do, and their style of fighting is more similar to Death Eaters than mine, so they should give us a much better idea of how you’ll fare in a real fight.” Nodding to himself, Harry turned his gaze to Ginny. “I think that’s our best bet. We’ll see how you fare against each of them and go from there.”
“So how long do I have to duel them before I’m ready?” Ginny asked with an arched eyebrow.
Harry held up his hands in a defeated manner. “I don’t know, Ginny. It’s not as if there’s a handy little test that can show me whether or not you’ll survive against Death Eaters.”
“I know, Harry, but I need to know that you won’t keep pushing this off. I need something more concrete than just ‘we’ll go from there’ because if you delay me in some stupid effort to keep me safe, I’ll end up resenting you, just like you resent Dumbledore.”
Harry pulled Ginny towards him and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly. He knew she was right. He would never truly feel that she was ready, but if he was honest with himself, he suspected she was probably at least as prepared as he had been when he had Apparated to Diagon Alley a year ago to save her and Ron from the Death Eaters, or she would be as soon as she learned to Apparate.
He felt her arm snake around his middle and squeeze him back. He allowed himself a moment to bask in her embrace and collect his thoughts before clearing his throat. “I tell you what,” Harry began. “After you’ve duelled against both Tonks and Remus, we’ll talk after each session, and if I can’t give you a solid reason why you’re still not ready, then I guess that means you’re ready.”
“And if I manage to beat Tonks or Remus?” she queried mischievously.
Harry swallowed. “If you can beat Remus or Tonks, then I guess I can’t really stop you, can I?”
“Not without being a hypocrite,” she added with a slight smirk.
Harry forced a smile but was not sure how well it succeeded. Ginny reached a hand up to his face and cupped his cheek. “I know this isn’t easy for you, Harry, but thank you for not just blowing me off.”
“Like you said, I couldn’t do that without being a hypocrite,” Harry replied. “I just need some time to get used to the idea.”
She stroked his cheek with her thumb. “I love you, Harry,” she whispered.
Harry smiled without any effort this time, reaching a hand up to tuck a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. “I love you too, Ginny.” He leaned in and pressed his lips to hers in a short kiss and then pulled her in for another hug.
They settled back into the cushions still locked in their embrace, and Harry stopped himself from dwelling on the dangers she would be putting herself in. There would be plenty of time to worry over that later; for now, he just wanted to hold her. Eventually Harry removed his necklace and wrote a message to his co-conspirators, explaining to Ginny, “I’m letting them know I need them for some help in training. We can get you started against them as soon as they’re able to make it.”
She stroked his chest and pressed a kiss into his neck, whispering, “Thanks.”
A silence descended over them, and Harry allowed himself to just bask in the moment and in the warm feel of her body beside his. As several minutes passed, though, Harry began to feel an inexplicable need to go somewhere – anywhere – just so long as it got them out of the house.
“Do you want to take Sirius’s motorbike for a ride?” he suddenly asked Ginny before the thought had even taken root in his head.
She leaned back and looked at him with an amused smile. “Sure. Do you know how it works?”
Harry frowned and shrugged. “Yeah, I think I’ve worked it out.” Ever since Remus had brought the bike over, Harry had spent a few spare moments each day taking it up and down the drive, teaching himself how to operate it. Actually driving it – and with someone else on the bike with him - would be a slightly different story, but he was fairly confident he had a handle on it.
“I need to visit the loo; I’ll meet you out there.”
Nodding, Harry went into the garage and straddled the bike. Inserting the key into the ignition, he put his foot down and pulled the bike off the stand, kicking it up. He walked the bike out of the garage and sent the door closing with a wave of his hand. Ginny exited the house a moment later, and he asked, “Ready?” She nodded. “Well, climb on.”
She stuck her tongue out at him but complied, climbing behind him and wrapping her arms around his middle. He revved the engine and gave a whoop of joy as they sped into the street.
Not being at all familiar with the streets, he kept their road trip rather confined. He could always Apparate them back home if they got lost but did not want to rely on it. Remus had warned him about performing magic directly on the bike as it could interfere with its inner workings. Sirius had apparently spent a lot of time and research on the additions he had made, and Harry vowed to look for some books on charming Muggle machines – and not only for the bike. As more time passed, the electricity in his home was acting wonkier, and he feared it was only a matter of time before it gave out entirely. He did not need the electricity, but he preferred his home be a mix of Muggle and magical.
Harry drove around the park where they went on their daily jogs. He wound through a few different streets while being careful not to stray far from the only real landmark he recognized in the area. As they drove down a street near the opposite end of the park, Harry stiffened as he picked up two magical presences in the area. The bike nearly stalled due to his inattention, and he quickly fought to get the machine back under control.
“What’s wrong?” Ginny worriedly asked.
Looking towards the source of the magic, Harry half-turned his head and loudly replied, “I think there’s a magical family nearby.” He paused a moment before adding, “Either that, or someone may have found us.”
“Could it be the family we saw in the park?” she asked, her voice fighting against the wind.
Harry slowly nodded his head. “You’re probably right.” He did not recognize the magical presences enough to identify them, but it was very likely that they did in fact belong to the two children from the park. After all, it would only make sense that they lived in the area if they went for a casual stroll along the trails. As they passed by, Harry made a note of the address and kept a mental picture of the house he sensed them in. It never hurt to be too cautious.
“I can tell you with all honesty that I have not had any contact with Harry since before your attack on him,” she told him challengingly.
Albus sighed and leaned back in his chair. It had been several days since the Order meeting where she had publicly called him to task for his actions, and she remained every bit as frosty towards him on the subject. Not that he could blame her. He met her stare for a moment before allowing his gaze to wander to the silver instruments around his office. His eyes narrowed in on one in particular, the monitor keyed into the Blood Wards on Privet Drive. Pretty soon there would be nothing left to restore.
“If you intend to continue your search for Harry, you will be doing so without me, Albus,” she added, her tone unyielding.
He turned his gaze back to her and nodded his head sadly. “May I ask you about your conversation with Harry following your discovery of his alternate identity?”
He met her searching gaze unblinkingly, hardly daring to hope for her cooperation. “You may ask,” she finally stated.
“Pardon my bluntness for a moment,” he prefaced, giving her an apologetic glance before continuing, “but you are not one to be easily persuaded into anything. Nor are you one to be easily swayed to look the other way, as it were.” Her face showed no reaction to his statements. “I find myself curious, therefore, as to how Mr. Potter was able to engender your cooperation.”
“Was there a question in there?” she queried with a rigidly raised brow.
He sighed again, doing his best to temper his frustration. Getting angry would do nothing to endear him to his long-time friend and colleague. “You and I have worked together for a great many years,” he stated. “I like to think that you know me as well or better than any other. I also like to think that I am not normally unreasonable, present circumstances notwithstanding. I readily admit to you that the errors in judgment I have made in regards to Harry are multitudinous and date back to the night I placed him on the doorstep of his aunt and uncle. I beg you to help me understand your position because, though I see my recent methods to be flawed, I have great difficulty believing that it is in anybody’s best interests, Harry’s least of all, for the Order to abandon their search for him.”
Silence reigned as he remained locked in her steely gaze. Finally her countenance softened the tiniest margin as she replied, “There are no words that could convince me to advocate a teenager fighting Death Eaters and shirking authority. The argument Harry presented was strong and impassioned, but it was not his words themselves that swayed me, nor would I expect any words to sway you, Albus. It is the man I was swayed by. Harry is no more a boy than Bill or Charlie Weasley, both of whom have already been admitted to the Order. I chose to keep his secrets because he had the conviction to make his choices, the determination to carry them through, and the maturity to take on the repercussions of his actions.”
“And besides,” she added, the barest hint of a smirk playing at the corners of her lips. “Had I not given him my word, I sincerely doubt I would have been able to stop him from fleeing the castle.”
He allowed a brief smile at her small jibe, but it faded quickly as he considered her words. “I dare say you might be correct.” Despite his weekly lessons with Harry throughout the year, it was clear that Minerva had kept in much closer contact with him. Or perhaps it was that she was simply more open-minded. There had certainly been plenty of signs, had he been more open and observant of them, to indicate the full extent of the changes in Harry.
He had been surprised and overcome with pride at the growth and maturity Harry had shown over the course of the school year. It was clear even then what had brought about the change. The death of Sirius coupled with the revelation of the prophecy would have been enough to send most adults into a full-blown depression, but for Harry it only served to fuel his determination and allowed him to finally reach his full potential. In hindsight, he should have suspected that it went far beyond his improved grades and work-ethic. He had convinced himself, though, that teaching the DA and training privately would keep Harry busy enough to distract him from the war raging outside the castle’s walls.
He had vastly underestimated Harry. His strength and courage, his drive to always do what he felt was right, and most of all his guile. The fact that Harry was able to hide his illicit activities for a full year continued to shock him even now. For five years he had done nothing but exemplify every Gryffindor value, but it was clear now why the Sorting Hat had considered placing him in Slytherin.
“Was there anything else you needed, Albus? I have professors to contact and booklists to finalize before the letters can go out.” Minerva’s voice broke into his musings.
He considered the question for a moment before shaking his head. “No, Minerva. I fear I have more than enough to ponder at this moment. Thank you.”
As his deputy headmistress left his office, Albus shut his eyes and settled back into his chair. Plenty to ponder indeed.
It had become second nature for Harry to reach out with his magical senses as they jogged through the park. Ever since his encounter with the magical family he had been careful to remain aware of his surroundings at all times. In the few days that had passed since stumbling over their home, however, Harry had taken to stretching the area he was able to scan until it grew to reach their home. He took an odd sort of comfort in feeling their magical presences at all times while in the neighbourhood. As long as he was aware of where they were he felt confident that no other magical people would be able to enter the area without his notice.
What he was taken aback to notice, as he paid more attention to his surroundings, was that it was not only magical people he could sense. Muggles felt severely muted to him but were perceptible. It was almost like the way a person looked while moving under a Disillusionment Charm, just that slight shimmer and displacement of the air, just enough to know that something is there. He wondered what it meant. Did Muggles have some small trace of magic in them? He had no idea and highly doubted any studies had been done on the matter given the general policy of avoidance Wizarding-kind took towards Muggles.
As if that was not puzzling enough, he noticed a strange anomaly in Ginny’s magic. Unless someone was casting a spell, their magic was pretty uniform; there was not much variation. Ginny’s magic, on the other hand, was different. There was variance there that he could not recall having encountered before. He brushed it off at first since there were not many wizards and witches to compare against, but when he started paying more attention to how others felt in Diagon Alley, he quickly came to the conclusion that it was something unique to Ginny.
His curiosity was piqued, but he did not have the time for such intellectual pursuits and so pushed his thoughts on the matter aside. As they arrived back at the house, they went into the garage where Harry had set up a space for them to do some additional physical training. It was not nearly as spectacular as the Room of Requirement’s facility, but Harry found that he almost preferred the lack of machines. It forced him to get creative, and he felt that the exercises he came up with did more for his agility than any of those machines.
Over half the floor space was taken up by a mat which served to soften their falls - of which there were many. Since they were so dependent on being able to dodge and move quickly in battle, they devised a series of exercises around that very premise. Most important was the ability to hit the ground and pop back up as quickly as possible whether from their knees, front, or back. They also incorporated rolling both from a standing and crouched position and springing back to their feet without losing any momentum. They were tiring exercises but also somewhat fun.
Finally, both dripping with sweat, they called a halt. Allowing her first crack in the shower, Harry dried and cooled himself off with a wave of his hand. It was nothing compared to a shower, but it would tide him over until Ginny finished hers. He settled down to do a bit of light reading when he heard a muted crack and felt someone appear just outside the house. It took a moment for him to recognize the magical signature. When he did he called, “Come on in, Remus!”
The door opened, and the aforementioned werewolf strolled inside. “That was eerily similar to Albus,” he remarked.
“I wonder if he has the same ability,” Harry mused aloud. “Or is it just a trick of the office?”
“He’ll never tell,” Remus told. “Believe me when I say that many have asked.”
“Have you ever seen him do it outside Hogwarts?” Harry inquired, finding himself rather curious, especially after his earlier discovery. If the headmaster did have the same ability, was he already aware?
Remus stared off into the wall for a moment before slowly shaking his head. “Not that I can readily recall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
Harry shrugged. “Ah well, maybe I’ll get to ask someday.”
“That’s one thing I admire most about you,” Remus commented idly. “Your never-ending optimism.”
Harry frowned sceptically.
“It’s true. You’re at odds with Dumbledore and most of the Order, and yet you talk as if you know it’s only a matter of time before everything is all patched up.”
“I’ve never really thought of it that way,” Harry replied, turning his thoughts inward. “I guess – well, we’re all fighting Voldemort, right? Sooner or later, we’re going to have to set aside our differences and work together.”
“And you’ve never even considered any alternative,” Remus added as if proving his point. Harry opened his mouth to respond, but Remus waved his comment aside. “So what is it that you needed my help with? And sorry it took me so long to get away.”
“It’s no problem,” Harry assured him. “It’s actually not for me but for Ginny. She’s getting pretty good, but it’s hard to be sure exactly how good when she only has me and the twins to go against, so we were hoping you and Tonks would be willing to practice against her.”
“Are you thinking about bringing her into…?”
“She’s thinking about putting herself into battle,” Harry interrupted, trying to keep any edge off his voice. “And truthfully, I can’t really say she’s not nearly ready, much as I might want to.”
“It’s never easy watching someone you love rush off into danger,” Remus stated. “But you have to respect her enough to allow her to make her own choice.”
“I know, Remus,” Harry said. “Believe me. After spending a year fighting in secret because nobody would take me seriously or give me a choice, I know all too well. Doesn’t make it any easier though.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Remus agreed.
“All we can do is make sure she’s as ready as we can make her,” Harry added. “So don’t go easy on her for even a moment. I want you to throw everything you have at her.”
He nodded solemnly. “I will.”
Remus quickly raised the strongest shield he could manage, struggling to hold it under the barrage of spell-fire being rained down upon him. He should have known what he was getting himself into when Harry asked for assistance training Ginny. Of course, she had not needed his assistance learning a new spell or mastering some concept. No, instead they needed him to test her abilities and help determine whether or not she was ready to begin taking a more active role in the war.
She was determined to prove herself.
Of that there was no doubt. From the very second Harry said go, she was a blur. He barely finished a spell before he was put on the defensive, unprepared for the speed at which she was casting at him. Her fighting style very closely mirrored Harry’s, and that was a high compliment indeed.
Taking a deep breath, Remus dropped his shield and jabbed at the incoming spell, deflecting it aside and returning fire. Side-stepping another series of spells, he weaved his wand through a complex motion, incanting silently in his head. He finished the spell just in time to raise a hasty shield. Taking a deep, steadying breath, he concentrated hard on what he wanted to do. Releasing the breath, he dropped his shield and immediately broke into a run. Nine other identical figures began running in different directions.
Ginny stopped casting entirely, looking from one image to the next in obvious confusion. Her eyes paused on him but moved onto the next, slowly turning so as not to let any one stay in a blind spot for long. He waited for the right moment, when her back was to him, and struck. She noticed the spells at the last moment and rolled to the side, but he kept firing quick, simple spells to keep her on the defensive, all the while directing his illusions. Several came towards him, while others circled behind Ginny.
He kept up the rapid casting while Ginny dodged and returned fire. He was forced to duck and sidestep a few spells, but amidst four of his illusions, her aim was off as often as not. He stopped casting entirely and Apparated himself to the exact spot he was already standing in, causing a cracking sound. He made sure he and the four illusions around him avoided her spells which began to slow as she started looking back and forth between his group and the other group of illusions that had formed to her side.
Ginny began sending spells between both groups, and Remus remained focused on ensuring that none were hit. He kept himself from smirking as he saw Ginny’s frustration increasing. He willed another illusion into existence several metres behind Ginny. Even turning back and forth between the two groups, she was blind to it. He directed it to slowly approach her and with a slight flick of his wand added an auditory illusion to accompany it.
Just as he had hoped, the sound of footsteps behind her caused Ginny to spin back to the illusion, instinctively shooting a spell into it. As the spell went right through the illusion, Ginny spun back with a hand raised, but it was too late. His Stunner met her outstretched hand, and she sunk to the ground.
“You had me worried there for a moment, old man,” Harry commented with a look over his shoulder as he walked to his downed girlfriend.
Remus dispelled his illusory doppelgangers and walked towards them without comment as Harry Rennervated Ginny and helped her back to her feet. Ginny quietly thanked Harry before turning her attention onto him. “Again?” she queried.
Remus chuckled, admiring her moxie. “In a moment,” he acquiesced. “First, I think we should talk about our duel.”
He lifted his wand, but Harry beat him to it with a wave of his hand. A small sofa and armchair appeared. When they were all seated he opened his mouth but again was beaten to the punch by Harry. “You started off strong and fast,” he said to Ginny, “but you failed to capitalize when you had Remus on the defensive. He just fended off your attacks until he found an opening to launch his strategy. And when he sent all those illusions out, you did the worst thing you could in the situation and froze.”
Remus nodded in agreement. “Harry is correct. Now, my plan was not to strike right away, so that moment of indecision did not cost you as much as it could have, but even after you began to regain your bearings, you failed to counter the distraction the illusions provided me.”
“I’ve never seen a spell like that,” Ginny remarked quietly. “I wasn’t sure how to get rid of them.”
“You can never count on knowing the counter to every spell your opponent will use,” Remus lectured. “Instead, you must rely on the spells you do know and your own creativity to find a way around any obstacles that present themselves. In this instance, the illusions may have looked solid, but as you no doubt noticed, your spells went right through them as if they were not there at all. Shooting curses as you did into the clusters of illusions was a rather inefficient tactic because I retained full control of the illusions and was able to keep them all dodging your spells. Even if your spells had managed to connect though, the process would have been entirely too slow and not to mention pointless since, as soon as you turned to the next, I could have simply slipped the last illusion into a group until they all became so muddled that you lost track completely.”
“Now,” he continued, “can you think of a better approach you could have taken to make the process quicker and more permanent?”
He surveyed the couple as each appeared to be contemplating the question. Harry seemed to come to his decision first as his gaze refocused and alternated between Remus and the still-thinking Ginny. After a short moment, Ginny turned her attention back to him and suggested, “I could have shot jets of water into the group. It would go through all the illusions but soak you, making it easy to distinguish the real you from the rest.”
He smiled and nodded in agreement. “Yes, that would be a very good approach, although I should warn you that the illusions were charmed to change to match my own appearance and thus would have appeared to be soaked through as well. However, the water would have provided several clues to point you towards the real me as, while every image would appear wet, only I would have been covered in actual water. The sloshing around alone would have given me away.” He could see that Harry wanted to add in his two Knuts as well, so he prompted, “Harry?”
“I know this wouldn’t have worked for you,” he said with a nod to Ginny, “but Legilimency would have allowed you to verify which figure was actually Remus.”
“True,” Remus replied. “I sincerely doubt you’d find any sort of mental presence in an illusion. However, being unfamiliar with Legilimency, I am uncertain how feasible it would be to perform during a duel of this nature.”
“It would be fine for a one-on-one duel,” Harry stated. “As long as you’re not in a full-on attack mode, it’s possible to concentrate enough on other things to continue the duel. It could even allow you to see what your opponent is about to do the moment before he does it, but I’d have to test it to be sure.”
Remus nodded his head consideringly. “I think it would be worth it to give it a shot, but,” he turned his attention back to Ginny, “I do believe you asked for a rematch?”
Ginny got her rematch several times over. She never managed to beat Remus, but she drew much too close for Harry’s comfort on multiple occasions. The old wolf always managed to worm his way out by the skin of his teeth. If she managed as well against Tonks, Harry knew he would have little in the way of arguments against her readiness. The Auror’s schedule was much busier than Remus’s, though, allowing Harry his peace of mind for just a bit longer.
As the days passed and Tonks was still unable to make time, Ginny grew increasingly frustrated at the delay. Harry kept her busy and taxed her to her limits. In their duels, he was beginning to pull out all the stops, coming at her fast and hard and putting a lot of power into his spells. She struggled to make any sort of headway against Harry, but she was constantly improving, lasting just a bit longer and getting a few extra shots off at him to push him off the offensive. If her time was coming soon, he would have her as ready as he could make her beforehand.
When he was not putting Ginny through her paces, Harry had his face buried in texts. Not for the first time, he sorely wished he had given more thought to the elective classes he had chosen back in the summer prior to third year. He was glad not to have taken counsel from Hermione, but he wished he had avoided Ron’s advice all the same. Runes and Arithmancy may not be easy, but they opened the door for some truly fantastic branches of magic. Had he known what they could be used for, he may not have been so hasty to pass on the opportunity.
Now he was stuck trying to catch up on concepts he could have been learning over the last several years. His study of wards had already introduced him to the world of runes, and now his space-expanding project had led him into Arithmancy. In order to make the changes permanent, some fairly sophisticated calculations needed to be made and, based on those calculations, runes needed to be added in very precise points in the space he was to be expanding.
He spent a great deal of time working on this project as he wanted to convert one of the spare bedrooms into a training facility. Going to the twins’ shop in Diagon Alley was inconvenient and potentially risky. If Dumbledore thought to connect him to the twins, it would not take long before they took notice of the pair coming and going on a near-daily basis, no matter their disguises.
After reading some examples of expanding projects gone wrong, Harry decided to take every measure of precaution to ensure he made no mistakes in his calculations, hence his study into Arithmancy. He read up on the theories and concepts that the formulas were based on to be sure there would be no missteps. He absolutely did not want the room to implode on him.
Progress was slow, and despite the freedom he now enjoyed, he felt as if the days never held enough time for him. Between the physical and magical training, studying up on new spells, helping Ginny harness her burgeoning wandless abilities, teaching her to Apparate, and trying to teach himself Arithmancy, there was hardly any time left in the day. Though his instincts often fought against the practice, he kept their evenings free of any type of training or studying. He knew that if they spent every waking hour at work that they would end up nutters, and, if he was being completely honest with himself, he simply wanted the opportunity to enjoy his time with Ginny.
She was unsurprisingly receptive to the suggestion. They went out a few times to dinner and earlier that evening he had taken her to the cinema. She had never seen a working television or movie before and had not stopped raving about the experience since leaving the theatre.
“It’s one thing to learn about it in class,” Ginny gushed as she lay against his chest on the sofa. “Or even to hear Dad talk about it, but I had no idea. That was bloody amazing!”
He chuckled at the realization that he had no idea whether she was talking about the actual movie itself or the technology. “No wonder Dad loves to play with plugs and things so much,” she murmured with a hint of awe.
“Well, not all technology is as exciting as a movie,” Harry commented.
“And people have those tellies in their homes?” Ginny asked, undeterred.
“Yes, most people do,” he responded, kissing the top of her head.
“Do you think we could get one?” she asked excitedly.
Harry laughed and shook his head. “We could,” he responded after a moment. “But I’ve noticed the lights and appliances starting to act up with all the magic around. I think it’s only a matter of time before they stop working all-together.”
She let out a puff of air and, as Harry leaned forward to peek at her face, he could barely repress a chuckle at her pouting lips. “Tell you what,” Harry said after a moment of contemplation. “Tomorrow we’ll take a look at Flourish and Blotts and see if we can find anything that might help keep electronics working around magic.”
“And then we can get a telly?” she queried, leaning her had back and looking up into his face.
“If we can get the electronics we already have stable then we can get a telly,” he agreed. “But our work on that is going to have to come out of our free time,” he cautioned. “I don’t want anything interfering with our training.”
“Yes sir,” she responded, and they settled into a comfortable silence. Holding Ginny in his arms, Harry came to the sudden realization that, though there was a war raging and he was at odds with most of the people who should be his greatest allies, he had never felt so content in all his life. He had never imagined, not once in even his wildest dreams, that he would share a home with someone he loved. With a sudden clarity, Harry saw a glimpse of his future – their future – and it was so much more than he had ever contemplated.
Though he knew he loved Ginny, he had never thought about a future with her. Perhaps he had never allowed himself to truly consider the possibility of actually surviving the war to settle down and start a life and family of his own, or perhaps he would not even have known what to imagine had it even occurred to him. But now that he had a taste of it, a taste of what his life could be with Ginny after the war, he felt himself fill with renewed purpose. This is what he was fighting for, not for the Ministry or the Wizarding World or Dumbledore. He would fight, and he would end this bloody war once and for all just for the chance to make this new dream a reality.
Of course that was easier said than done. The Portkeys and the map had been great ideas, but he could not rest on his laurels. The Death Eaters knew by now that his students had a ready means of escape available and knew that he was alerted in some way to each of their attacks. Their ambush had been proof enough of that. Since then, though, there had been no further attacks on any of his students. Through the twins, Harry received copies of the Daily Prophet which featured daily cover stories of attacks on Muggles and Muggle-borns.
While such attacks had been going on for a long time, being in the castle and still hiding in the shadows had given Harry’s conscience some measure of rest. No more. There was no excuse now. He was out in the open and ready to fight the war, but he had no way of knowing where the Death Eaters would strike next. He was powerless to stop them. He spent long hours brainstorming alone or with Ginny or Remus and Tonks or Fred and George, all to no avail. The targets were too unpredictable.
Despite the frequency of the attacks, Harry had not endured a vision since Ginny had moved in. He did not miss them at all, but he could not help but wonder if they could provide some insight to help them fight back. But then common sense took over. He had been experiencing daily visions for months at Hogwarts, and all he had learned from the experiences were the pains of sleep deprivation. It was curious, though, that the visions had stopped so abruptly and completely. He could not fathom how, but he was sure it was Ginny’s presence that kept them away. Regardless of how it was happening, though, he was feeling well-rested for the first time in months.
Ginny sighed and shifted slightly, and Harry held her a little more tightly in response. She squeezed his arm for a moment and murmured contentedly. Harry smiled and kissed the top of her head. They should really move to bed, but he was so very comfortable that he was loathe to move. Though he was likely to regret it in the morning, Harry conjured a thin blanket and set it over them. “I love you, Ginny,” he whispered into her hair.
Her deep, even breathing was the only response he received.
As he lay down his spoon, Bill eyed his brothers across the table warily. He had insisted they wait until after the meal before getting down to business. It was difficult just to arrange everything. Regardless of the fact that Ron was of age, their mum had been extremely reluctant to let him out for the evening. It was only Bill’s assurance that he and Charlie were members of the Order and fully capable of looking after their younger brothers that finally broke through. Although he was forced to give his solemn promise that should any situation arise, he and Charlie would both grab their brothers and get them back to the Burrow right away without any unnecessary attempts at heroics.
So now they sat gathered around the table in a private room of the Leaky Cauldron – all the brothers minus Percy. He had been meaning to track down his wayward brother for a while now, but between Gringotts and the Order there never seemed to be any time. He sighed when Ron finally finished his pudding.
Fred and George glanced at each other before simultaneously turning their gazes onto him. “So what’s this about then, oh brother mine?” Fred asked. Bill could never articulate how he could tell the two apart, but somewhere along the way he had started being able to pick one out from the other.
“Charlie and I have been doing some talking,” Bill started, gesturing to his brother beside him. “When we first heard about Ginny leaving with Harry, we were alarmed but reckoned it would blow over in a few days, and she would come back home.” Both twins snorted while Ron just eyed him speculatively. “Obviously we were mistaken.”
“Obviously,” George agreed.
“Harry seems like a decent bloke,” Charlie commented lightly. “But this is our sister we’re talking about. Mum mentioned that the two of them have been dating for several months, and we all know that Harry’s not exactly been a good little boy this past year.”
“Are you worried about Harrykins taking advantage of our ickle Gin-Gin?” Fred asked.
“Or that Ginnykins will be joining ickle Har-Har in his Death Eater hunting?” George finished.
“Both,” Bill stated seriously. He paused, briefly meeting each of their eyes. “I know you guys are friends with Harry, and we’re not asking you to betray him or anything. We just want to get a better idea of what’s going on here. Ron, you’re his best friend. You have to have some inkling of what he’s up to.”
His youngest brother shifted in his seat without breaking his gaze. “If you had asked me about Harry a year ago, I could probably tell you all you wanted to know,” Ron said, his voice low and purposeful. “To be honest, lately I’ve been wondering whether I know him at all. He was always working on something this past year and going for jogs in the morning, and he was so bloody secretive. It nearly drove me ‘round the twist. It never occurred to me what he was doing. It still seems bloody impossible that he managed to pull it off.”
He was silent for a long moment, and Bill wondered if that was all he had to say when Ron suddenly shook his head and refocused his gaze. “I can’t really tell you what his plans are or what is going on. I can tell you this, though; Harry would die before he let anything happen to her. He’d throw himself in front of a bloody Avada Kedavra to save her without a second thought. I don’t know what they’re doing together, and I don’t want to know. But there’s not a bloke in the world I’d trust with Ginny more than I do Harry.”
The twins jumped onto their feet clapping. “Bravo!”
“Would you two knock it off!” Charlie snapped.
“Knickers in a twist there, Charles?”
“Or perhaps it’s been too long since someone’s twisted your knickers?” He turned to his twin and stage-whispered, “I hear he likes that, you know.”
Bill shared a long look with Charlie and finally shrugged. This was getting them nowhere. “If you do hear from either of them, will you let us know?”
The twins shared a look before glancing at Ron. All three shrugged at once, and Bill felt a headache coming on.
“Might just do that,” Fred finally replied.
“Course I seem to recall being called too young, inexperienced, and immature to be trusted with anything serious. I just can’t seem to remember the circumstances,” George added contemplatively.
Bill held a hand to his pounding head as they carried on. “Indeed, my good man. I do believe you are referring to when we asked to join the Order.”
“Right you are, my dashing twin. How could I forget?”
“Quite all right, you handsome devil. I daresay they may have been right after all.”
“Too true. There really is no reason to trust we’ll be anything but a bother, wouldn’t you say Ronnikins?”
“Oh yeah,” Ron input as all heads turned his way. “Merlin knows you two are as immature as it gets. Didn’t even finish school, so how can you ever hope to show some responsibility and find decent jobs? And me? Well I’m just a kid, aren’t I? I mean, what have I ever had to deal with? Wouldn’t know the first thing about battling dark creatures or Death Eaters.”
“Well said,” Fred acclaimed, slapping Ron on the back.
“So don’t worry, oh great and powerful big brothers…”
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, cut it out,” Bill finally snapped. “As if we have any say over who is or isn’t included in the Order.”
“They don’t even put it up to a vote,” Charlie added with a nod. “If Dumbledore says you’re in, then you’re in; otherwise….”
“So you can hold the fact that we’re in the Order against us, or you can be mature about this and work with us,” Bill stated. “I don’t know Harry well enough to say whether what he’s doing is right or wrong. I do know one thing, though. He helped save my life in St. Mungo’s. He shouldn’t have been there, but if he hadn’t then I might not even be here right now. As far as I’m concerned, he can keep on doing what he’s doing, and if I meet him in battle, I’ll fight right beside him.”
“This isn’t about Harry, though,” he said, brushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes and swallowing a sigh.
“You can go ahead and stop right there,” Fred interrupted, waving his hand back and forth.
“Ginny’s not a little girl anymore,” George inserted.
“So just keep the big brother posturing to yourself.”
“And Merlin help you if you ever try to feed her this load of bull.”
“You two seriously don’t have a problem with this?” Charlie interjected uncomprehendingly. “Ginny living with her boyfriend? Possibly even going out and facing Death Eaters?”
“Like Ron said,” Fred stated.
“We trust Harry.”
“And so should you.”
Harry took a step back to admire his handiwork; several weeks worth of hard work literally spread out before him. He felt Ginny’s arms wrap around his middle and her chin rest on his shoulder and took a long, deep breath. “Wow,” Ginny whispered.
Harry smiled widely and turned to press a kiss to her temple. “You like it, then?”
“Harry, this is amazing!” She let go and wandered into the room, spinning in a circle with her head moving around and up to take it all in. “I can’t believe this used to be just a tiny little bedroom.”
“I know what you mean,” he said tiredly, leaning against the doorway.
Harry held his hand up to cover a yawn and rested his shoulder against the door frame.
“You look dead on your feet,” Ginny commented, walking towards him.
“I’m bloody knackered,” he admitted with a wan smile. “Takes a lot out of you.”
“Come on,” she said, grabbing his hand and swinging his arm over her shoulder. “Let’s get you to bed.”
She led him to their bedroom, and Harry followed without comment. When she tucked the covers around him and stepped back, Harry forced his eyes opened and murmured, “Join me?”
She smiled warmly and nodded her head. Harry returned the smile and allowed his eyes to drift back closed. After a moment, he felt the bed shift and a warm body press against his back as an arm snaked around his middle before coming to a rest on his chest. Harry took the hand in his and brought it to his lips. He took a long, deep breath and drifted off to sleep.
He awoke to the feel of her gently running her fingers through his hair and along his scalp. “Did you sleep at all?” he asked groggily.
“A little,” she whispered in reply. “I like to watch you sleep.”
Harry smiled and turned to face her. He reached a hand up and cupped her cheek, looking into her eyes as he leaned in for a brief kiss. “Thank you,” he murmured against her lips. Leaning back slightly he added, “I always sleep better with you.”
She held his gaze for a moment before saying, “I’ve gotta pee,” and bouncing out of the bed.
Harry chuckled as he sat up and stretched. When Ginny returned a minute later, he asked, “What do you want to do tonight?”
“Let’s stay in,” she responded after a moment of thought.
“And research how to make electronics work around magic?” he queried.
Her only reply was a smile as she led him out of the room.
After dinner, which they cooked together, the pair settled onto the sofa each with a book. They spent a couple hours in quiet study before finally putting down the books and discussing their findings for the evening.
The next morning dawned brightly with hardly a cloud in the sky. Harry built up a good sweat as he jogged alongside Ginny, and he was thankful that they worked out in the morning before the day really heated up. They were about halfway through their circuit when Harry felt three magical people pop into existence nearby. He stopped short and swore as Ginny turned and ran back to him asking, “What’s wrong?”
“I think,” he paused and met Ginny’s worried gaze. “I think that Muggle-born family is under attack.”
“I’m coming with you,” Ginny stated immediately, her gaze openly defiant. Harry opened his mouth to protest, but Ginny spoke over him. “I know where the house is and can Apparate there myself. Besides, you don’t have time to wait for Remus or Tonks.”
Harry hesitated just a moment before warning, “You follow my lead and do as I say.”
She nodded, and Harry grabbed hold of her arm as he Apparated them a house away from the attack. A quick glance confirmed that the front door had been blasted open, and he felt five magical presences inside the house. “Stay behind me,” he commanded, taking off for the front door.
He slowed as he reached the front porch and turned back to Ginny. “There are at least three of them. I’ll run in first and draw their fire. Use my distraction to take out whomever you can.”
Ginny nodded her agreement, and Harry paused a moment to add, “I love you.”
“I love you too, Harry,” Ginny whispered to his back as he began to creep into the house.
The sound of pained screams greeted their entrance as they quickly and quietly made their way down the hall. He paused just outside the door and glanced back at Ginny for just a moment before turning around and mentally preparing himself.
He rushed directly into the room, silently sending Stunners and Bludgeoners at the three cloaked figures in the room. “Get away from them,” he shouted as one Death Eater was thrown into a wall. The other two raised shields to block his spells as Harry placed himself between the Death Eaters and their victims.
Harry kept up a constant stream of curses as he did his best to shield himself and the family from the spells being fired. He banished a footstool into the path of what looked to be a Cruciatus and barely managed to intercept a Killing Curse aimed for the children with a sofa. He stumbled back as a piece of wood from the exploding sofa struck his chest but maintained his feet and, more importantly, his shield. With all their concentration focused on Harry and the Muggles, Ginny was able to send two Stunners into their opponents, knocking them out before they even realized she was there.
Harry walked over to check first on the children when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. As he turned towards the source, a green light erupted, and without a second thought, Harry lunged towards Ginny, extending his hand and firing off three Blasting Curses before tackling Ginny to the ground. Three rapid explosions sounded as he quickly sprang back to his feet and looked for the attacker. A dull thump sounded behind him, but Harry was too shocked at what he saw to pay it any mind. A hole was blown right through the wall, but that was not the most shocking thing. Around the hole were red splotches that could be only one thing. There was no mistaking it this time; he had killed.
He turned as Ginny rose next to him. Harry grabbed and squeezed her hand as her gaze swept the room. “Oh my God!”
Harry felt his heart lurch as he knew she must have seen the damage he had done. She stepped away from him, but he quickly noticed she was not looking anywhere near the blown-out wall. He turned to follow her gaze and felt his stomach drop. There, on the ground, lay a man with glassy eyes that held no life in them.
The two children shook their father, begging through their tears for him to wake up, but Harry knew that would not happen. Their father could not hear their pleas. He was gone. Harry turned his head and met Ginny’s worried gaze before turning back to the family. The woman, who could not be much older than thirty, stood and turned towards them.
“Who – the – hell – are – you?” she demanded in a cold tone, carefully punctuating each word.
He shared a quick glance with Ginny before stepping forward. “I’m so sorry,” he began. “We’re here to help you. I don’t know how they found you, but we came as soon as we knew. I –“ he paused, not sure how to proceed.
“I assume you’re all magical?” she forcefully interjected.
“Wait,” Harry stated, holding up his hand. “You know about magic?”
“We learned of it just yesterday,” she answered dismissively. “And now my husband is dead.” Tears tracked their way down her face as she continued to stand defiantly before them, staring them down.
“How did you…?”
“A woman came by with a letter,” she interrupted. “Said Jonathon was magical and that he’d been accepted to the most prestigious school of magic in all of Europe.” Harry cringed at her tone but allowed her to continue as she raged at them. “What she failed to mention was the fact that you’re bloody homicidal freaks!”
Harry cringed at the word and ruthlessly squelched the emotional response threatening to erupt. Taking a deep, calming breath, he stated, “We’re not all like that…”
He stopped as Ginny loudly spoke over him, “We came here to help you! I’m sorry about your husband and for whatever you and your children had to endure, truly, but…”
Harry tuned out of her outburst as he made a frightening realization. “I have to go,” he cut in sharply.
“There are more attacks,” Harry quickly explained. “They’re all being attacked. All the incoming Muggle-borns.”
Ginny’s eyes widened as his words sunk in. “Stay here,” he told her.
“Harry,” she began sternly.
”No,” Harry interrupted. “You need to stay and guard them. I need to get to Minerva now!”
The second she relented and nodded, Harry Disapparated.
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