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 1: Magical Encounters
Author's Note: There are a few people I need to thank but most particularly Matt; he keeps me in check, with humor, sarcasm and his own brand of cyber butt kicking.
For this chapter thanks also go to Lemondrop aka the lovely Jane, Daron aka Princess Potter, thanks ladies for your suggestions and comments.
The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic. Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Part One – Return of the Savior
The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness, and in human responsibility. Václav Havel Czech Writer/Playwright
Chapter 1 Magical Encounters
“Winnie, I really don’t think this is such a good idea,” Ginny hissed, grabbing onto her friend’s arm and bringing her up short.
“Honestly, Ginny, it’ll be fun,” Winnie replied. “All the Highers from the Uni come here. Trust me, it’s perfectly safe.”
“I just don’t feel comfortable going to a dodgy Muggle pub,” Ginny argued, feeling extremely uncomfortable about being amongst so many drinking and rowdy Muggles.
She wasn’t so much afraid of being able to handle herself as much as needing to. If she had to pull out her wand to defend herself, she’d be in a heap of trouble with the Ministry and face the very formidable fury of Molly Weasley. Worse than that would be her father’s disappointment when he found out she’d lied about her whereabouts.
As adventurous as Ginny was, she didn’t feel quite right about lying to her parents and brothers. She’d told them she would be staying the weekend with Winifred Fairfax, her Muggle-born friend and dorm mate at Hogwarts.
To be fair, it had been the truth until she arrived in Kent and Winnie told her they would actually be staying with her older sister at her flat in Oxfordshire near the university. Ginny liked Wilhelmina well enough, but she was a bit of a tart. It had gotten them in a few tight spots already, so she wasn’t looking forward to going to a pub with a bunch of drunken blokes trying to chat her up.
When they had left Willie’s flat the sun was a bright orange ball slowly descending over the trees as they walked along the wide, brick-laid streets of Oxford, and, as they were reaching the shop lined district, the sky was in the purple haze of twilight. She’d been trying to dissuade Winnie about going to the pub during their brief walk but to no avail.
“Nothing is going to happen,” Winnie insisted, shrugging off Ginny’s grip. “Will you stop worrying?”
Linking their arms together, Winnie dragged her along as they followed Wilhelmina toward the pub. Above the door a round wooden sign displayed a red eagle carrying a swaddled baby in its talons below the words “Eagle and Child.” Taking a deep calming breath, Ginny entered the pub.
Upon crossing the threshold, Ginny was assailed by the hazy smoke, the buzz of loud conversation and the malty, pungent smell of stale beer. She pulled on her too-short skirt and then tugged on the low neckline of her blouse. She was unaccustomed to the Muggle clothing, but both Winnie and Willie assured her it was perfectly decent Muggle wear and that she would not stand out in the least. As she looked around the room at the other girls she wasn’t so sure.
She kept a tight hold on Winifred’s blouse as they navigated the crowd to try to find a corner to sit or stand in. The pub was crowded, and the noise was deafening, making her a bit uncomfortable. Since Willie was of Muggle age she went off to get them some pints. Whether real or imaged Ginny felt as is if every male eye in the pub was on her. Winnie, however, seemed quite content with the attention. Ginny had always thought of her as a bit boy crazy, but she was a sweet girl and could be level headed when the situation called for it. This, however, did not seem to be one of those situations.
Willie returned with the pints and handed them over. They chatted of inconsequential things, and several young men came over to chat. They would introduce themselves, and Ginny would smile politely but would not join in on the conversation, or would respond to questions with one word answers, effectively cutting off any further questions or comments.
Ginny felt the weight of someone’s stare. Glancing around the room, she finally spotted a pair of bright emerald eyes looking in her direction. Startled, she immediately lowered her gaze, but peered up through her lashes a moment later.
To say that he attracted her attention was an understatement. From across the pub, she could see he was relatively tall, with raven black hair. He had a chiseled, boyishly handsome face and those eyes - those striking green eyes that stared at her through round rimmed spectacles.
He smiled at her; she blushed and hastily looked away, flustered to be caught staring. Chancing another glance in his direction a moment later, her heart sped up when she found him walking towards her, a full pint in his hand.
“Shite, Winnie, talk to me,” Ginny hissed, grabbing her friend’s arm to get her attention.
“What?” Winnie asked loudly, turning toward her.
“I said talk to me!”
“Why?” Winnie asked, her expression amused as she looked at Ginny. “Are you…” Her voice faded as she glanced over Ginny’s shoulder before breaking into a sudden smile. “Hi.”
Spinning almost guiltily, Ginny looked up.
“Um, hello,” he said his eyes still on Ginny. “I thought I’d walk over and introduce myself.”
His voice, with an accent she couldn’t quite place, was deep and a bit scratchy. It didn’t quite match the youth he portrayed but Ginny liked it instantly; it pleased her in ways she never thought someone’s voice could.
Winnie’s shoulders slumped at his obvious interest in Ginny and returned to the conversation with the group she was previously chatting with. Ginny felt a sense of panic at the loss of her friend’s buffer between herself and the young man that was standing before her.
He pointed at her pint with his own saying, “I couldn’t help but notice you’ve been nursing that pint for a bit. Not a drinker, are you?” Ginny shook her head in the negative. He gave a self-deprecating laugh and said, “Neither am I. I’ve been holding this thing since I got here; bitter, warm beer just isn’t all that appealing to me.” He smiled, and she noticed the way his eyes crinkled at the corners. It was endearing, and she couldn’t help but return the gesture.
“You’ve a lovely smile.” He complimented. “You seemed as out of sorts and uncomfortable here as I am.”
Ginny shrugged one shoulder giving him a sheepish smile, hoping it was enough to confirm his speculations about her seeming discomfort.
“I’ve been trying to muster up the nerve to come over here and see if I could bring out your smile, ” his free hand came up to rub at his neck in a nervous gesture that strangely put Ginny at ease.
“She speaks.” He teased in mock exaggeration.
She gave him a flirtatious wink and was shocked by her action. She hadn’t really meant to; it was an impulsive reaction, but it seemed to break her out of the tension she initially felt at his approach.
“I can’t quite place your accent. Where are you from if you don’t mind my asking?” Ginny had drawn closer to him so that she could be heard above the dissonance of the crowd.
He leaned in as well dipping his head further so that he could be closer to her eye level. “I’m from Boston. I’ve only just arrived.”
There were a few questions rolling around in her head, she was very curious about this Muggle boy – curious and very attracted. At a loss for which question to voice, Ginny took a sip from her Muggle beer and scrunched her nose in distaste; she would have preferred a butterbeer.
Gathering her courage she returned his intense gaze with equal interest. “So you’ve not been in England long then?” She inwardly cringed berating herself for the unnecessary question.
“I was born here, but I left when I was very young. I’ve only been here a week, and term at the University doesn’t start for another few weeks, so I’ve not had a chance to pick up a British accent yet.” His eyes sparkled behind his glasses
“I’m sure before long you’ll be speaking like a Brit, picking up our quaint vernacular, especially if you’re studying here. You’ll probably have one of those upper-crust accents, all stiff and precise.” He chuckled at her prediction.
His laugh was rich and deep, and she found that she liked that about him as well. He was recounting his experiences with their ‘common’ language. She laughed at the appropriate times but found she wasn’t really paying close attention to his story. Her eyes were too busy detailing his features; his eyes were a verdant green, his cheeks held ruddy patches on his otherwise pale skin, his raven black hair was a stark contrast. His lips were full, and she watched them as he spoke, wondering how they would feel if she traced them with her fingertip.
“Look, I hope you don’t think me too forward, but this really isn’t my ‘cup of tea’ either, but the guys I’m rooming with insisted I get out. Would – would you like to go for a cup of coffee, um I mean a cup of tea? I know there‘s a tea shop a few shops down; I usually have a scone and tea there for breakfast. I’ve taken a liking to hot, just-out-of-the-oven scones in the mornings.” He had returned to rubbing his neck, and the gesture alleviated her nervous tension just as his question put her on the alert. It was a rather strange to have such a dichotomy of feelings.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I mean we just met. I don’t really know you, and that’s a bit…” she trailed off unsure how to continue.
She wanted him to convince her to go with him against her better judgment. She really didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get to know him, and she’d love some tea, but she didn’t want to be foolish and trust a complete stranger.
“I don’t even know your name,” she blurted out.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. Harry, Harry Potter.” He held out his hand in introduction
Ginny started at his name. Here was a Yank with the name of the Wizarding World’s long-dead savior. Harry Potter had been the object of her fancy for as long as she could remember. She grew up on Harry Potter stories for Merlin’s sake! When she was told that he’d died in a car crash when he was merely a boy, she had cried on her father’s shoulder inconsolably. And here stood a bloke with the same name of the boy she’d fancied herself in love with at the tender age of five. The irony was not lost on her, and she couldn’t help but laugh.
“Come on now. It’s not that bad is it?” He responded to her laughter with mock indignation.
“No, no I’m sorry. It’s just funny that you would have that name. We’ve a bedtime story over here about a boy named Harry Potter. I had a bit of a crush on him when I was little. Used to tell my mum I would marry him one day.”
“Hero type, knight in shining armor and all that?”
“Something like that yes. Not quite a slayer of dragons, but pretty darn close.”
“So what’s your name then?” He asked an open friendly smile on his face.
“Ginny, well Ginevra really, but no one who values his life or limbs calls me that. Just plain Ginny, Ginny Weasley,” she replied holding out her hand to be enveloped by his much larger one. It was warm and calloused. It was a bit silly to like the way his hand fit in hers, but it was true nonetheless.
“About that cup of tea then, Ginny, we could tell your friends where we’re going, and I promise I’ll bring you back in say an hour or so? Look, I don’t know anyone here, and I’m not usually this umm, talkative with girls. Fact is you’re the first girl I’ve ever really wanted to, umm well, talk to. I don’t want to miss the chance to get to know you.”
Ginny bit her lip. He’d mirrored her feelings exactly. She really didn’t want to miss out on getting to know him either. She’d never felt such a strong attraction to anyone before. Sure she’d had her crushes here and there while away at school, but they were never enough to deter her from focusing on academics. Her hard work had paid off earning a position as Head Girl and Quidditch Captain. She had her wand, she argued. If he tried anything he’d have a taste of her Bat Bogey Hex, Statute of Secrecy be damned. Though she really didn’t think she’d need it where he was concerned. There was just something about him that engendered her trust.
“All right?” he asked with a tone of incredulity.
Ginny simply nodded in response.
“Really?” He repeated.
She nodded her head again, this time adding an indulgent smile, charmed by his boyish reaction.
“Great, that’s great.” Ginny was so distracted by Harry’s grin that it took her a moment to realize she was staring at him.
Shaking her head to break the spell his smile seemed to cast, she excused herself to talk to the W-sisters. She wanted to tell them where she was going so that they were aware of her whereabouts. She didn’t expect that she would be gone for more than an hour; and they could all head back to Willie’s flat when she returned. She ignored Winnie’s smirk and headed back towards the waiting Harry.
“Ready?” he asked when she returned.
“Yes,” she smiled. “Lead the way.”
Gesturing for her to walk ahead of him, Harry placed his hand at her elbow to guide her through the crowded pub and out the door. It was a warm August night, but a pleasant breeze lifted her hair and felt wonderfully cool on her skin after the oppressive heat of the pub.
Reaching into her Muggle bag for a hair clip, Ginny touched her wand reassuringly. It gave her comfort to know it was at hand if she should need it. Gathering her mass of hair in her hands, she arranged it in a messy bun and immediately felt the relief of the weight and heat of her hair on her neck.
Just as he’d said, a few shops down was a quaint little tea shop.
Harry politely held open the door for her as a bell chimed overhead. The cool air and welcoming atmosphere of the tea shop immediately dispelled any lingering thoughts she had about joining Harry for tea. Finding an empty, round, marble-top table with a pair of comfortable looking chairs, he held out the chair for her to sit.
She thanked him and took her seat. Having grown up with six rowdy and rather uncouth older brothers, she wasn’t accustomed to such gallantry.
Before an awkward silence could settle upon them, an elderly woman with a starched white pinny came over to their table and greeted them warmly.
“Evening loves, my but aren’t you the cute couple,” she cooed.
They both blushed at her comment, but Harry seemed to recover quickly as he winked and smirked at Ginny in response, making
Ginny laugh outright at his flirtatious behavior and easing her discomfort in turn.
“Names Bertie by the by, so what can I get ya’?” the jovial server asked.
Harry politely nodded towards Ginny for her to place her order.
“I’d like an Earl Grey and a scone, if you have it.”
“Oh my dear we have the most scrumptious scones in all of Oxfordshire, if I do say so myself.” Patting her rounded stomach with a self deprecating laugh, she continued, “I’ve sampled enough of them to know.”
“Thank you; that would be lovely then.”
“What’ll you be having then?” The waitress turned friendly eyes towards Harry.
“Well, I’ve only had green tea up until now. He turned to Ginny for her opinion. “Would you recommend the Earl Grey?”
“I think you’ll like it. It has a very distinct flavor and a spicy scent that I prefer.” She shrugged her shoulders; just because it was her favorite tea didn’t mean that he would enjoy it as well.
He turned towards their server with a wide grin. “I’ll have the same then.”
“Two Earl Grey’s and two scones it is then. I’ll be right back with your order.”
“Thank you. I’m not really a tea drinker, and I’ve not been able to find a decent cup of coffee since I arrived here - not quite used to it yet.” He gave her a sheepish shrug of his shoulders.
“Well then, I’ll be happy to introduce you to British tea. You’ve not lived until you have high tea here.”
“I’ll look forward to your tutelage then.”
“My tutoring skills are in high demand; don’t know if I’ll be able to fit you in to my busy schedule,” she teased.
They bantered a bit before Ginny could come up with a topic of conversation, until she remembered him saying that he’d moved to Boston when he was very young.
“You mentioned that you were born in England?” she prompted.
“Yes, I was born somewhere in the West Country,” he answered, settling back into his chair. “I lived with my aunt and uncle in Surrey until I was five, I think.”
“And how did you end up in Boston?” Leaning forward she placed her elbows on the table, raising her hand to rest her chin against it.
“Well, umm,” he hesitated with an almost imperceptible shrug of his shoulders. “I was an imposition to my relatives, so they left me at an orphanage in Boston.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She felt terribly embarrassed for having brought up what must be a painful memory.
“Don’t be,” he reassured her with a wave of his hand. “I won’t say the orphanage was a wonderful place to grow up, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It, well, it kind of put a fire in my belly to succeed and to prove them wrong about me, I guess.”
Ginny was surprised by the open honesty of his words and in his eyes. That he could be so forthcoming about such a personal matter was refreshing in a way that made her feel vulnerable yet privileged as well.
“What happened to your parents?”
She watched as he placed his hands on the hard marble top of the table spreading out his fingers and then retracting them again as he stared at the movements he was making, as if collecting himself. He then lifted his verdant eyes to her once more, the openness from before still present.
“They died in a car crash when I was a little over a year old,” he admitted.
“Do you remember them?”
“I have vague recollections,” he nodded, “certain things I think are theirs like the smell of vanilla and leather.” He shrugged at his own whimsical thoughts. “But no, no actual memories or pictures, none of that.”
Instinctively offering comfort Ginny placed her hand on the hand that was nearest to her.
“I’m sorry; we can talk of something else if you like.”
He turned his hand over, grasping hers in turn and gently squeezing.
“No that’s all right, I don’t mind. It was a long time ago, and I don’t remember them. I’ve made it a personal rule to never dwell on things I can’t change.”
“Good rule to live by.”
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t always that way. I was a bit of a stinker as a kid. I’ve been in more fights and scrapes than I care to admit. I was a scrawny kid when I arrived at the orphanage and I was different so I got picked on a lot.”
The sadness in his tone and eyes only lasted a few seconds before a bright smile split his face.
“Things turned around for me when we got a new director at the orphanage, Miss Adams. Said I was a scrapper, but that I was wasting my potential by being angry all the time. She was my anchor in the storm, so to speak, and gave me my love of books and learning. She encouraged me, pushed me to do better – gave me focus.”
This time Ginny was the one to squeeze his hand.
“Man,” he chuckled, shaking his head. “That’s the most I’ve ever told anyone about myself. You’re very easy to talk to, Ginny Weasley.”
“Here you go dears. If you need anything just holler out for Bertie, and I’ll be right out.” Glancing at their entwined hands before walking away, she said, “It does my heart good to see young love, it does.”
Ginny blushed crimson at their server’s comment, but Harry burst out laughing.
“Hey, don’t,” he admonished holding onto her hand as she tried to tug it free. “We wouldn’t want to disappoint Bertie.”
“Oh yes, couldn’t have that,” Ginny rolled her eyes, her face still pink with embarrassment.
“Okay, enough about me, it’s your turn now. I bet you were a cute kid,” he teased.
“Well, not much to say really,” she said with a shrug. Unable to talk about anything magical, she was left with few safe responses. “I’m a bit boring actually.”
“How about telling me where you’re from, where you go to school, your family, that kind of stuff,” he suggested.
“Well, I’m from Devon –“
“Oh, you’re not from around here then?” There was a bit of disappointment in his question.
“No, I’m visiting my Mug – ah my friend Winnie for the weekend. We attend the same boarding school in Scotland. I’m in my last year there.”
“Oh, so you’ll be going back in the fall then?”
“Yes, first of September to be exact.”
“And your family?” he prompted.
“I come from a rather large family. I’m the youngest of seven”
“Seven!” he exclaimed, open mouthed.
“Yes, seven,” she mimicked. “All of them boys.”
“Six older brother’s then?” he questioned.
“Yes, six over-bearing, loud, obnoxious brothers, and I love them all dearly. We’re all redheads, including my Mum and Dad. Only good thing about that is we never lose each other in a crowd. See, being a redhead has its few benefits,” she joked.
“You’ve beautiful hair,” he blurted out and then smiled sheepishly giving Ginny the impression that his mouth had gotten ahead of his brain.
She lowered her eyes to the table and realized that they were still holding hands. She didn’t try to tug her hand free this time though – it just felt right.
“Thank you. I like your hair too.”
”This black mop of unruly hair? You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Not at all, makes a girl want to tame it,” was her flirtatious response.
“By all means feel free to tame anything you want,” he flirted in turn.
“Harry!” she scolded mockingly affronted.
“What I say?”
Ginny poured a dollop of cream and added sugar to her tea, lifting the cup to her mouth to hide the wide smirk that crossed her lips at his blatant flirting. She really liked this boy. Even though she knew nothing would ever come of this, what with the obstacles that lay between them. He was a Muggle, and she was a witch. That in and of itself was a great chasm and one she didn’t think could be bridged easily. He would be worth it, though. She played all kinds of fanciful scenarios in her mind about a relationship with Harry, all of them more outrageous than the last. It couldn’t hurt to dream, could it?
They continued their conversation as they drank their tea and ate their scones, going from topic to topic without pause or moments of awkwardness. After a break in their conversation she happened to glance at the clock on the wall that was behind Harry’s right shoulder, noticing the time. They’d been there far longer than she’d planned. Where had the time gone? Gulping down the last dregs of her tea and sighing with regret, she motioned to the clock. “I need to get back to my friends. I’m sure they’re worried about me.”
Looking over his shoulder, Harry sighed as well. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Taking out his wallet, he left some pounds on the table next to the bill Bertie had left for them.
This time rather than taking her elbow he took her hand as he guided her from the tea shop. Ginny felt as if a flock of Snidgets were fluttering around in her stomach.
They walked in companionable silence. Ginny could see the pub sign getting closer; their time together was coming to an end, and it made her sad to think that she would ever see him again.
“So, how long are you staying in town?”
“Just the weekend,” Ginny replied.
“Oh.” He paused, and, after a moment Ginny turned her head to look up at him, asked, “Well, can I have your number?”
“My what?” Ginny asked, furrowing her brow in confusion.
“Your number,” Harry repeated, pulling her to a stop. "Look, Ginny, I don't want this to be good-bye. I know you’re going back to school, and I’ll be starting university but…well, couldn’t we keep in touch, talk on the phone, write?”
He was looking at her with such a hopeful expression, a look she knew was mirrored on her own face. She didn’t want this to be good-bye either, but she just couldn’t see how that would be possible. Ginny laughed internally at the thought of Harry receiving an owl from her at university – now that would be interesting.
Then a thought occurred to her. “Oh, you mean on the fellytone?”
“The felly – what?”
The confusion on his face made her aware that she had used her father’s term for the Muggle device. “Telephone, I meant telephone.”
She chucked awkwardly.
“Umm – okay.” The hand that was free came up to rub his neck again in that gesture she found so endearing. “Ginny, about what I said. Do you – would you like to keep in touch?”
Against her better judgment, against the warning bells that were going off in her head telling her this was not a good idea, knowing without a doubt that she was probably prolonging the inevitable when the differences between them would be too great to overcome and her feelings would be compromised, she nodded her head.
“Yes, Harry really.” Ginny’s cheek muscles ached. It seemed as if she’d been laughing, grinning or simply smiling at this boy since she’d met him; it made her a bit giddy to be around him.
“I really - well, I really like you. When I came over here I promised myself that I would take every opportunity that came my way, so I wouldn’t have any regrets and well...”
Ginny felt such an affinity towards him at that moment, and, not knowing how else to convey her feelings, she squeezed his hand gently in understanding.
He smiled and lightly tugging on her hand as they resumed walking toward the pub. “Okay, so how are we going to do this?”
“We live a bit off the beaten path and we don’t have a telephone, but I guess you could write to me at the postal office in Ottery St. Catchpole.”
“How about when you’re away at school?”
“That’s a bit trickier. I’ll have to make arrangements with the Deputy Headmistress. We’ve never received correspondence from a Mug – umm I mean, correspondence is very strictly monitored at my school,” she hedged.
“Look, Ginny, if you’re not interested, that’s fine…”
“What? No, I am it’s just complica – “
Suddenly Ginny’s hand was violently wrenched from Harry’s.
Rough hands had painfully wrapped around her throat and waist, and Ginny struggled to keep her feet as she was pulled deeper into a darkened alley.
Ginny could hear her attacker hissing instructions at Harry, but did not comprehend the words. She was suddenly aware that she was no longer holding her bag as her eyes wildly cast about; she was so concerned about getting to her wand that everything else seemed to fade from consciousness. If she could just get a hold of her wand! She was afraid of the repercussions of her using it against a Muggle but even more afraid of what would happen if she did not diffuse the situation quickly.
Slowly, as if coming through a fog, her senses were coming into focus. She became aware of the roughly calloused hand that gripped her throat. The acrid smell of her attacker mingled with the putrid smell of the rubbish bins that lined the alley. The too sharp bones of her attacker’s emaciated body pressed painfully against her back. All of these sensations crashed around her and through her in waves, making bile pool at her throat in fear.
“Give me your wallet.” Their assailant’s foul breath hissed against Ginny’s cheek, his grip tightening around her throat making her cry out in pain.
“Okay, you can have it, just…don’t hurt her.” Harry slowly brought his hand to his back pocket, walking forward, his wallet in his outstretched hand.
His grip tightened around her throat once more, causing Ginny to whimper in pain and making Harry stop in his tracks.
“What ya’ take me for mate, some plonk? Throw the wallet towards me.”
Ginny could feel the tensing of her attacker’s body against her back as his grip tightened once again. She could sense his growing agitation in the trembling of his body against her.
“Please, let her go,” Harry pleaded, throwing the wallet at Ginny’s feet before putting up his hands in a sign of submission. “Please, don’t hurt her. Just take the wallet and go.”
As soon as the wallet hit the ground, the man released her waist and reached around behind him and then jabbed something painfully against Ginny’s lower back.
“Pick it up, slowly,” he ordered squeezing her throat threateningly before he released her. “Wouldn’t want me gun ta go off by accident.”
Ginny bent down slowly; blessedly Harry’s wallet had fallen near her bag. If she could conceal her movements with her body as much as possible, she could surreptitiously open her bag and reach her wand. Something in her movements must have alerted their desperate attacker, for he started to shout obscenities at her. There was fear and desperation in his tone and it scared her far more than had there been true menace in his voice. Desperate men did desperate things.
Ginny quickly turned to face him, eyes wide, her wand steadily pointing at her attacker only to find herself staring down the barrel of his Muggle weapon.
“No!” She could hear Harry’s desperate shout behind her through the rush of her own heart beat in her ears. She could feel a burst of magic surround her protectively, she watched in shock as the gun clattered from their attacker’s hand as he flew into the air, landing in a heap at the far end of the alley. She stared in fascinated horror at his limp body, one of his legs contorted under him in a grotesque, unnatural appearance.
Like a puzzle coming together and forming a picture, Ginny’s thoughts began to formulate and coalesce in her mind.
Harry Potter? The Boy-Who-Lived!
But he was dead! The wizarding newspaper had reported that Harry Potter had inconceivably died in a car crash, along with his Muggle family when he was five!
Her mind began to reel with possibilities as their conversation repeated over and over in her mind.
They died in a car crash when I was a little over a year old.
I lived with my aunt and uncle until I was five.
I was different, so I got picked on a lot
Turning towards him in disbelief, she walked with a stumbling gait as she drew nearer to him. She seemed to be searching for answers in the depths of his green eyes that now held confusion and a hint of fear. She raised the hand that still held her wand, her thumb keeping it in place as her fingers lifted the fringe of hair from his forehead.
“Bloody hell! You’re Harry Potter!”
Harry’s heart beat painfully in his chest, as he gulped in shallow breaths. Fear coalescing in the pit of his stomach.
Now he’d done it!
The thought foremost on his mind was flight. He just wanted to get as far away from the alley and Ginny as was humanly possible. But he couldn’t just leave her, not here alone and with a mugger lying unconscious not a few feet away from where they stood. At least he hoped he was just unconscious. He had to get her back to her friends where he knew she would be safe. What would she tell her friends? Shit! The familiar sense of shame made his stomach roil, and he could feel a cold sweat trickling down his spine. All he could hear was that voice that haunted and taunted him still, the voice that instilled doubt, insecurity and fury even after all these years, the voice of his Uncle Vernon screaming: Freak!
He stared at Ginny’s shocked expression, waiting for the familiar look of fear or even revulsion that always followed one of his accidents. What he didn’t expect was what she would do next.
She walked towards him on shaky legs, raising her hand; he noticed for the first time that she held a baton-like stick in her grasp. Slowly and with trembling fingers she lifted his hair and traced his lightning bolt scar with gentle fingers. No one had ever touched his scar before; it made him feel small, vulnerable. His body trembled at the contact.
He watched her closely for the reaction he knew was sure to come. The reaction he hoped he wouldn’t see – not from her. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in shock. Closing his eyes against the pain her reaction would invoke. Taking a shaky breath he steeled himself for the words of rejection and disgust.
“Bloody hell! You’re Harry Potter!”
Yes, I’m a fre – wait! What did she just say?
His eyes flew open as he took in a much needed deep breath. He was sure his expression was identical to hers, slacked jawed and wide eyed.
“Merlin and Morgana! You’re Harry bloody Potter!”
She stood, hand on hips with a hurt expression upon her face. “Why didn’t you tell me you were Harry Potter!”
Why didn’t I tell her I was…what the hell, I told her my name! He looked at Ginny with concern.
The confusion and concern must have been written on his face, as she responded to the question that was running through his mind. “You’ve no idea what the hell I’m talking about, do you?”
He cautiously shook his head in response, afraid that the stress of the situation would make her hysterical as well as delusional.
She furrowed her brow in bewilderment for a moment, and then her eyes seemed to clear with understanding. He had no idea what was going on in that red head of hers, but he didn’t have time to wonder.
He shut off all questions, fears, and insecurities; there would be time enough for that later. He did what came naturally to him. He took charge.
He stepped closer to Ginny, placing a hand on her arm. “Are you okay?” His voiced sounded gruff even to his own ears. He noticed the bruising at her throat, and he grit his teeth in anger at what she had endured in those few moments she was at the mercy of her attacker.
She nodded her head slightly in affirmation.
Good, that’s good, he thought as he gently squeezed her upper arm trying to give her a reassuring smile, but he was sure he failed dismally.
“Stay here,” he ordered and then briskly walked passed her, wanting to make sure that the mugger was all right. Please, please be alive, he voiced his fear to himself.
When Harry reached the mugger, he came down unto one knee and immediately noted that his leg had a bone protruding from his thigh and quickly averted his eyes. He placed his hand on the man’s chest firmly and could feel the rising of his chest and the beating of his heart, though it seemed faint to him. He didn’t know what the equivalent of 911 was across the pond, but he was sure someone at the pub would know.
Sighing deeply, he stood up and walked towards Ginny. She’d not moved from where he’d left her and still appeared to be in shock.
“Ginny, are you sure you’re okay?” he asked once he stood in front of her again. He placed both his hands on each of her arms, turning her towards him. Her pupils were dilated, and she was taking in shallow breaths.
“Ginny, we need to get back to the pub and call the police or whatever it is you call them over here. He’s breathing, but I don’t know how badly he’s injured. He’s definitely got a broken leg; he’s going to need medical attention.”
That seemed to bring her out of her shocked stupor.
“No, we can’t call the Muggle authorities! Shite! Think Ginny!” She pulled herself from Harry’s grasp and started to pace the width of the alley. He could hear her mumbling to herself, but nothing made sense. Muggle? Is that what policemen were called over here? Ministry of Magic? Azkaban? Floo?
“Harry, we’ve got to get back to Wilhelmina’s flat. I think she’s connected to the Floo. I’ve got to get a hold of Bill; I think he’ll be willing to help without too many questions. At least for tonight. Tomorrow is another matter, but I’ll worry about that later. Bloody hell, I’m in a lot of trouble.”
She grabbed his hand and started to drag Harry out of the alley and back towards the pub. He tried to pulling on her hand to bring her to a halt and have her explain what the hell she was talking about, but she kept pulling him along.
“Ginny, wait! What’s a Floo? Who’s Bill?” When she kept walking without answering, he jerked her to a stop, the motion turning her to face him.
“Stop. You need to tell me what’s going on.” He wasn’t just going to go along without some answers to his questions. They didn’t have time to plod around blindly.
“Harry, I’m going to ask you to trust me right now. It’s for your own good, okay? Be patient, and as soon as I get a hold of Bill, he’ll sort out the Muggle in the alley, and then we’ll go somewhere where I can explain everything to you. Well as much as I know anyway. Can you do that for me?” Her brown eyes stared at him with such pleading and urgency, that he found himself nodding in agreement. He would trust her, for now.
“Good, let’s go.”
They were quickly at the pubs entrance. She turned toward him again. “I’m going inside to talk to my friends. Wait here; I won’t be long.” He nodded, though rather reluctantly.
He watched her walk into the pub with a sense of anxiety. It took all of his considerable willpower not to follow her inside. He didn’t want her out of his sight. There was something about her that raised his protective instincts. He also needed action just so he could keep the thoughts that were currently racing through his mind at bay.
At the forefront was the condition of the mugger they’d left behind in the alley. He knew that the first order of business would be getting him medical attention. He wouldn’t be in trouble with the authorities for defending himself and Ginny, would he? He hadn’t meant to hurt him, just stop him from firing his gun. He ran both his hands in an agitated gesture through his hair. It was self defense; of course he wouldn’t be in trouble. Shit, at least he really hoped not.
Over the years Harry had learned to harness his gift – unless he found himself under stress as he was in the alley. Then his gift would wreak havoc and take on more power than he’d intended. He remembered the first time his gift had come to his defense when he’d broken the arm of one of the bullies at the orphanage when he was seven.
It all started with one of his accidents. One of the house-mother’s had taken a disliking to his messy hair and cropped it off with a razor, leaving him with less than an inch of hair. He’d been so angry, he’d gone to bed that night fuming with rage, wishing that his hair would grow back quickly. The next morning when he awoke his hair was the same unruly mop it had been before she’d cut it. She’d screamed holy hell at him the next morning, demanding to know how he had done it. He hadn’t had an answer.
A few of the older boys cornered him later that day; they were taunting him and pushing him around between them. Tony, their ringleader, and the most brutal of the group was particularly vicious with his taunts and his punches. Small as he was, Harry fought back and got in a few good blows and kicks. One of Harry’s blows connected, and blood started to spurt from the bully’s broken nose. Tony had then clouted him a good one to the head, making Harry dizzy. Right before he swung his meaty fist to hit Harry again, he yelled, “Freak!” What happened next was a total blur in Harry’s memory, except for the sound of snapping bone and Tony’s anguished yells. The bullies had given him a wide berth after that. They still taunted him, but they stopped pushing him around.
“Damn that Winnie. Honestly, as if I’d take someone I just met to her sister’s flat to snog him senseless!” Ginny was muttering to herself again as she exited the pub, bringing Harry back to the present. Despite the dire situation they found themselves in, he couldn’t help but smile to himself. He’d have to add the word snog to his list of questions for later.
She took his hand and started off at a brisk pace as she guided him across the street. “Willie’s flat is not very far, thankfully - only a few of blocks.” She squeezed his hand. “Are you okay? You looked a bit out of it when I came out of the pub.”
“I’m fine, I was just lost in thought,” he assured her.
“Harry?” Looking at her profile he noticed how she worried her bottom lip between her teeth. Under other circumstances he would’ve found that sexy as hell, though he could still appreciate how attractive the action was.
“Thank you for trusting me. As soon as I get things sorted out, well, we need to talk. Okay?”
She turned towards him slightly to catch his reaction, never once slowing her pace. Harry’s long legged stride kept up with her brisk trot effortlessly. She was so petite, but there was boldness in her walk, and even though he could tell she was agitated and still upset over what happened – could it only have been moments ago, it seemed like hours – she’d taken charge of the situation. Something Harry wouldn’t normally have allowed. It just wasn’t in his nature to let others do for him. He’d been accused of being too noble for his own good on more than one occasion.
“Harry?” she continued to worry her lip with her teeth. “You’re about to see some things that are probably going to defy logic and reality as you know it. To be honest they may even be frightening. I need you to be patient and not go barmy about what you’re going to see. I promise to answer each and every one of your questions. Can you promise me to keep your questions until after we sort things out?
Harry frowned at her; he didn’t like to make promises when he didn’t know exactly what he was getting himself into. But here she stood nervously awaiting his reply, and when they were back in the alley she never once looked at him with disgust or fear. She seemed to take what he’d done as a normal everyday occurrence. If she could look beyond his gift then he could give her the time she needed before he started asking questions.
“All right, I promise to hold my questions until all this is sorted out. Can’t promise I won’t go barmy, but I’ll do my best.”
“Thank you Harry.” She gave him shaky smile and resumed walking.
A short while later they reached a block of quaint old red brick buildings.
“Here we are.” She briskly climbed the brick staircase leading to a frosted glass and mahogany colored door. She walked through and led them up a carpeted staircase. Two flights of stairs later, she lead them down a wooden railed hallway to a door with a brass number 9 adhered to it. He watched as she took out the polished wooden stick, he’d seen in her hand earlier in the alley and then pointing it at the brass door knob she said, “Alohamora.”
“Just add that to your list of questions. Okay?”
“Yeah, well I have a feeling that is going to be a pretty long list,” he muttered.
“It’s about to get longer.” Shutting the door behind them, she led him to a sofa that faced a fireplace.
Harry watched from his perch on the sofa as she pointed her baton at the fireplace and distinctly heard her say, “Incendio.”
He looked on in fascination as a fire roared to life in front of his startled eyes. He continued to observe her in rapt fascination as she put her hand into a white pot with painted purple posies, casting what looked like ashes into the flames. As the flames turned green she practically yelled, “37 Hummingbird Way.”
Then she did something that made his heart stop in his chest; kneeling down on her hands and knees, she put her head into the flames. He made to stand up to pull her out, but then sat back down with a thud as he listened to what was obviously a one sided conversation.
“Bill, Bill!” She screeched. “Bill, oh for Merlin’s sake! Well, I’m sorry I spoiled your little tryst, but I’m in trouble! Shite! Bill, wait, let me explain! Okay, okay, I’m standing back.”
As she stood up from her knees, Harry realized, rather belatedly, that he missed the opportunity to appreciate the view.
“Umm, Bill’s coming through.” She shrugged her shoulders to his quirked brow.
She stood a few feet from the fireplace as he sat on the couch awaiting the arrival of Bill. Almost instantly the green flames seemed to fill the expanded fireplace, and a redheaded young man walk through.
He strode over to Ginny and immediately took her in his arms. “Merlin, Ginny are you all right?”
“Oh, Bill, I’m so glad you’re here. I was so scared!” Whatever courage Ginny was holding onto seemed to give way in what Harry assumed was one of her brother’s arms. He watched her trembling shoulders as her older brother stroked her hair.
“Sprite? What happened?” her brother tried to soothe.
“He attacked me - and then he pulled a Muggle weapon - and then it was over. All I could think to do was to Floo you.” Her half phrased jumbled explanation ended on a sob.
Suddenly, the tall redhead seemed to notice Harry sitting on the couch, and he watched with trepidation as the blue eyes narrowed in righteous fury. He extricated Ginny from his arms and placed her behind him, and in one stride reached Harry, grabbing his shirt front and pulling him off the couch.
“You son of a bitch!” He pulled his arm back to land what Harry was sure would be one vicious punch. All Harry had time to do was close his eyes in preparation for the blow. He heard Ginny yell Petrificus Totalus. When the punch he was expecting didn’t connect, Harry opened one eye, and then they both opened wide at the sight before him.
Standing there, immobile with his arm frozen in the forward motion of a right hook, stood Ginny’s brother.
“Not him! If it wasn’t for him who knows what would have happened,” she admonished. “Typical Weasley, hex first ask questions later!”
There stood Ginny, wooden stick in her hand, shaking it at her brother in rebuke.
“Before I release you, I need you to be calm while I explain what happened. I also need you to promise not to lecture me tonight, Floo the horde or ask too many questions. I promise you that I’ll answer all your questions tomorrow, but right now we’re in a fair bit of trouble, and I need your help.” Harry watched in fascination as she took on a commanding posture in front of her much larger, formidable looking brother.
“Blink once if you agree.” Her brother did not blink, either because he couldn’t or wouldn’t agree.
“Please, Bill. You can lecture me all you want tomorrow. Just please, please don’t call the horde or tell Mum and especially not Dad.” If it were Harry she was pleading with, he knew he’d be helpless in the face of those doe brown eyes.
After a moment’s hesitation, her brother blinked his eyes once in agreement.
With a wide smile she raised her stick again as Harry heard her say, “Finite Incantatem.”
Standing on tip-toes she threw her arms around her brother’s neck. “Thank you, Bill.”
Turning to Harry she introduced them. “Bill, this is Harry. Harry, this is my brother, Bill.”
Harry cautiously held out his hand. With a slight hesitation on his part and nudge of Ginny’s elbow to his stomach, Bill held out his hand in turn. Harry felt the hard squeeze of his hand and returned the gesture. He stared down Ginny’s brother, not willing to give in to what Harry supposed was the threat of bodily harm.
With a feral smile, Bill released his hand, “I’d say it was a pleasure to meet you, but under the circumstances it would be a lie.”
“Bill, please. Don’t take this out on Harry.” Ginny had placed a calming hand on her brother’s forearm, her eyes again pleading for her brother’s patience.
“Give me the abridged version of your story. First off, what the bloody hell are you doing in Oxfordshire? You were supposed to be in Kent.”
“That part will have to wait for tomorrow. Okay? I need you to help us first.”
“All right, tell me what you need,” he agreed, Harry noted, with forced calm.
She sighed deeply and began. “There’s a Muggle man unconscious in an alley a few stores down from the Bird and Child pub. Harry says he has a broken leg, but other than that we don’t know how badly hurt he is. Bill, I need you to get him sorted out. We can’t have the Ministry find out we used Magic in front of a Muggle; I don’t want to get Dad in trouble at work.”
There were those words again. Magic and Muggle.
At the conclusion of her explanation Bill’s calm demeanor seemed to break. “What the bloody hell! Were you in a pub Ginevra?” Bill was shaking her roughly by the shoulders, yelling something about meat eaters or something else just as ridiculous to Harry’s ears.
Harry saw red. Stepping between them, he effectively cut Ginny off from her bother and placed her behind him.
“That’s enough. She didn’t do anything wrong. We were just coming back from a tea shop when that guy just came out of nowhere and grabbed Ginny.” Harry tried to placate. Ginny was warily looking over Harry’s shoulder at her brother, her hands at his waist.
“So help me Godric, if you lied to us just so you could go out on a date with a Muggle…” Suddenly her brother’s eyes seemed to zero in on her throat, noticing the bruise around her neck for the first time. He hissed an obscenity and a stick much longer than Ginny’s seemed to materialize in his hand. Harry saw him point the baton-like stick at her neck and whisper some word in Latin he didn’t quite catch and watched, yet again in fascination, as the bruise seemed to fade before his very eyes. His list of questions was getting longer by the minute.
Bill took his sister into his arms, whispering soothingly, “That feel better Sprite?”
“Yes, Bill, thank you.” Harry noticed as her fiery hair swayed across the small of her back as she nodded, her brother stroked the length of her mane of hair in a soothing motion
“I need to sort out this Muggle of yours. Are you going to be okay?” Ginny nodded her head against her brother’s chest in response. It made her seem so childlike, so small and vulnerable within the circle of her brother’s arms.
“He might be sporting a few more bruises before I drop him off at the Muggle hospital though,” Bill growled but continued to stroke her hair soothingly. “Be prepared for the lecture of your life tomorrow. I’ll want answers,” her brother warned as he placed his sister at arms-length and stepped away from her.
“You said he was in an alley between a tea shop and the Bird and Child right?” Bill asked, an inscrutable, determined expression upon his handsome face.
Ginny simply nodded.
With that he lowered the stick to his side, turned on his heel and disappeared with a pop.
She’d been staring at the space where her brother was standing just moments before. She turned to face him. “Yes?”
“That list? It just got longer.”
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