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Free Life Posted on 8/16/2014 1:03:46 AM
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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.

Author's Note: Thank you Matt for putting up with my stubbornness, my arguments and my lousy grammar.

Chapter 2: You're a Wizard Harry
Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. ~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Harry plopped down onto the entirely too feminine floral print sofa as the absurdity of the situation came crashing down on him with a vengeance. He slumped forward, elbows on his knees as he grasped a fistful of hair in each hand.

After all he had just seen and heard that evening, after all the years of accidental bursts of who-knew-what and after all the years of feeling like a Freak, he finally had a chance to get some answers. All the extraordinary things he’d seen tonight, were they related to the things he could do?

But where to start, what questions should he ask first?

He wanted to know how a person could put their head in a flaming fireplace without getting burned or travel through one for that matter. He wanted to know how it was possible to petrify someone with a wooden stick and a Latin phrase. Stringing all these questions together, the one word that kept recurring throughout the evening was the one word that kept ringing in his head: Magic.

Harry had spent a considerable amount of his life in solitude. His very nature seemed to separate him from others. First with his mother’s family and then at the orphanage, his isolation forced him to reflect upon the imponderable, insensible questions that ruled his life. There was very little that Harry could count on in life, but of two things he was certain he could rely; his intellect and his strength will. These were the tools that guided him, that drove him to control his gift and reign it to his will and bidding.

He felt Ginny’s small hand upon his knee and turned to face her. Ginny was the key, the one who could answer his questions. She was the one person who could tell him about his gift. No, not his gift, it had a name now – his magic.

“I’m ready for those questions now,” he told her solemnly.

He watched her take in a deep breath as she turned concerned eyes towards him. “I know. I’ve a lot to tell you. But I don’t think this is the place to have this conversation. My friends will be back, and this is probably going to take a while.”

She lowered her lashes, and her cheeks took on a slight blush. He found that the light shading of pink on her skin was very becoming.

Turning her gaze to him once more, he saw the stubborn lift of her chin. ”I sort of led them to believe that we were coming back here to snog…” she trailed off, the pink of her cheeks turning scarlet now.

“That was very low on my list of questions, but what exactly is a snog?”

“Oh, umm, well, if you must know, that’s what we call an intense kissing session,” she stammered out.

“You can ‘snog me senseless’ later, questions first.” Harry winked and then laughed as he watched her face flame. He’d definitely provoke her embarrassment in the future just so he could see her face turn that lovely shade of red. Ignoring his last comment, Ginny stood from the couch and held her hand out to him. Once he was standing, she took both his hands in hers and gazed into his eyes earnestly. “We’re going to Side-Along Apparate to Devon where I live,” she started.

“I’m sorry, Side-Along Apparation, what’s that?” he interrupted.

“Oh, sorry that’s a form of wizarding travel,” she explained. “The place I have in mind is secluded, and we won’t be interrupted there. I think it’s the best place to have this discussion.” She hesitated a moment before continuing, “Side-Along Apparation is going to feel uncomfortable.”

She took another deep breath and began to explain. “The first thing you’ll notice is that everything will go black - best to keep your eyes closed. Then you’ll feel a tightening of your chest as if a great weight is pressing down. You may also feel a strong pressure in your eyes and your eardrums. Bill explains it as the effect of traveling faster than the speed of light. When I tell you to open your eyes, you’ll find yourself in a clearing near a river.”

That didn’t sound uncomfortable, that sounded downright painful. He’d much rather Teleport.

She looked deeply into his eyes as she explained what he was going to experience as if she wanted to ascertain his ability to process what she was saying. “Got it.”

“Good.” She nodded then lifted her chin again in determination.

“All right then, I need you to grab onto my left arm tightly. I’m going to use my wand to Side-Along Apparate us to Devon.”

He linked his arm through hers holding on tightly but trying to be as gentle as possible in turn.

“Close your eyes.” Following her edict, his eyelids fluttered closed. “We’ll go on the count of three. Ready?” He nodded his head; eyes still closed, and took a deep breath in preparation as she slowly began her count. “One, two, and three...”

No amount of explanation would have prepared him for what came next. It was one thing to understand the words, quite another to experience the too-painful constriction of his chest and the inability to take in a full, unfettered breath. The pressure in his eyes, ears and head was almost unbearable, but just as quickly as it began, it was over. Harry felt as if he’d just been shot out of a rocket. If he were to describe what his body was currently feeling he would say that his insides felt as if they were all stuck to his spine by the force of speed that no human body should ever be subjected to.

Harry took several gasping breaths, trying to stave off the nausea that was threatening to bring up the contents in his stomach.

Apparation and Teleportation: Same end result vastly different experience.

“Harry? Are you all right? You can open your eyes now.” Ginny’s concerned voice came from directly in front of him.

Harry opened his eyes to stare directly at Ginny’s lovely face, her brow furrowed in concern.

“I never want to do that again!”

“I was never very keen on it either. We avoid Side-Along as much as possible. It’s much better when you’re in control.”

“That’s my personal philosophy as well.” Looking down upon her, he was struck again with the thought of how petite she was, and yet her quiet strength seemed quite formidable to him.

He lifted his eyes from hers and took note of his surroundings. They were indeed by a river. While there were some trees surrounding the area, they did not block the full moon’s glow that cast an eerie silver light on all it touched. He could hear the rustling of the leaves in the summer breeze and the soft lapping of the water against the river bank as it flowed past. He glanced up at the night sky and was awed by the blanket of stars. Having been raised in Boston, he’d never seen but a handful of stars that weren’t obscured by city lights. It was breathtaking.

He returned his gaze to Ginny; her skin seemed luminescent, ethereal. At that very moment he could believe that she was indeed a magical, fey creature. With her skin aglow and her fiery red hair, her brother had called her a Sprite, and she was. Magical, fantastical – beautiful.

Ginny cast her eyes about the clearing. Taking his hand she walked him over to a large, hollowed-out log that lay across the river’s edge. Wand still in hand she pointed it at the deadwood and it changed before his eyes into a cushy brown sofa. She sat and tugged at Harry’s hand until he sat alongside her on the surprisingly comfortable couch that had once been a log.

Now there was a neat magic trick, changing a log into a sofa.

Mumbling a phrase in Latin he didn’t quite catch, she waved her wand at the branches that were directly above them and conjured paper lanterns that shown with a soft glow, casting swaying shadows from the warm August breeze.

“We might as well be comfortable,” she explained with a sheepish shrug. “I’m ready for your questions now.”

Where to start though? He rifled through his mind on all he’d seen and heard that night and latched onto the one thing that would answer his most pressing question, one that would naturally lead into the long chain of questions to follow; on to the heart of the matter.

“You keep using the word Magic. Is that what you are, Magical?”

She simply nodded her head.

“Am I -” He paused almost afraid to ask the question. His need for an answer, however, overrode any trepidation. “Am I Magical too?”

She gave him a brilliant smile. “You’re a wizard Harry.”

“So, umm, that makes you a…”

“Witch? Yes, Harry, I’m a witch.”

While he was expecting the response, it still threw him for a proverbial loop and made his head spin. They sat in silence as he pondered his next question.

“Your magic stick…”

“Wand, Harry, not magic stick,” she corrected with a lopsided grin.

“Yeah, yeah, your wand,” he dismissed with a wave of his hand. “Do all witches and wizards use one to do magic?”

“Yes,” she answered concisely.

“How do you know I’m really a wizard if I don’t use a wand?”

“That’s a fair question,” she paused to contemplate her answer. “What you performed back in the alley is what we call wandless or maybe even accidental magic. Accidental magic is usually manifested by magical children. Once they obtain a wand, bouts of accidental magic taper off and then disappear all together,” she explained.

“Okay, I’ll bite, if there is wandless and accidental magic, why would you ever need a wand?”

“Accidental magic is just that, accidental, and wandless magic is rare - very rare. In fact I only know of one person who can actually perform it and at that within limits.”

“So the wand is…”

“The focus of our magic. A wand itself is infused with magical elements that can be predisposed to certain areas of magic. For example my wand is made of ten inch hazel with a Chimaeras’ scale which, according to the wand-maker, is good for just about any area of magic.” She shrugged her shoulders apologetically. “But there’s a lot of lore and legend associated with wands, so fact and fairy tale are sometimes intermingled.”

He nodded his head in understanding, and then clarified for his own assimilation “So what you’re saying is that the wand is a conduit to your magic?”

“Succinctly put, yes.”

“So then what’s with all the Latin abracadabra mumbo jumbo?”

She stared at him in confusion and then gave a short, sharp laugh. “That’s actually a great question and something that was only recently covered in my NEWT’s level Charms class on magical theory this last semester. But to answer in the simplest terms, we use Latin words and phrases to cast spells.”

“But why Latin and not say, Italian or English?”

“It unifies spells by the use of a common language. So that when I, or anyone for that matter, say Lumos,” she lifted her wand giving it a swish as a small beam of light shone from its tip.

“You have light,” he supplied amusedly. “I would imagine it would also avoid the unintentional casting of a spell. So that if you’re holding a wand in your hand and say the word fire in casual conversation; you’re not going to accidentally have fire shooting out of it.”

“Exactly, good point,” she acknowledged. “To expand on that a bit, Latin is the language that’s been used since before Merlin’s time. It’s simply a tool we utilize to focus our magic.” She paused for a moment in thought. “Well there is also intent to be considered. Intent is another component in casting spells. Transfiguration, for example, requires only a few incantations since it's all about focusing your intent on the object that is being transfigured.”

They sat in silence while Harry absorbed the information he’d heard so far. Ginny didn’t try to break the lull in conversation with mindless chatter but allowed him to assimilate and digest at his own leisure. He rather liked that about her.

He turned to look upon the black and gray silhouettes that were created by the trees and rocks in the areas beyond the illumination cast by the magical lanterns Ginny had created. They seemed macabre-like, something you might find in a story by Edgar Allen Poe or Washington Irving. He gave an internal chuckle at his fanciful thoughts of headless horsemen and fiery jack-o-lanterns, which in a way seemed appropriate to the situation he found himself in

Turning once more towards Ginny who was waiting patiently, he chose to refocus his questions for now, “You said that Latin was the common language of spells, so it follows that England isn’t the only place in Europe with magical people?”

“Not only Europe - all over the world,” she corrected.

His brow furrowed in confusion. “Well that doesn’t make any sense. If that’s so, how come I never met up with any wizards and witches back in Boston? Don’t they have magic schools in Boston? If I was magical wouldn’t they have approached me? Or do magical parents enroll their children in magical schools and since I was an orphan I didn’t have anyone to enroll me…”

“Harry, hold your Hippogriffs.” She placed a hand on his forearm forestalling any more questions. “Let’s tackle one question at a time. Okay?” She waited for him to nod his head before continuing.

“I honestly don’t know why you never came across any magical folk back in Boston, other than the fact that you never had to save anyone from a mugger before,” she teased bumping her shoulder with his. “As far as your not being approached by a magical school I can only really theorize.”

“By all means theorize away,” he conceded.

“Well first off, I can’t attest to the way things work outside of Europe,” she clarified.

“Okay, theory and conjecture, with a smattering of facts. Got it, continue.”

She gave him a mock glare and a smack on the arm for good measure before settling back comfortably on their conjured sofa.

“Well, when a magical child is born in Britain their name is magically inscribed in the Hogwarts’ Book of Names. It’s kept in the headmaster’s office, I believe, and when the child turns eleven he receives his acceptance letter to attend Hogwarts,” Ginny explained.

“So to answer one of your many questions, no, a magical parent doesn’t enroll a child in a magical school. Add to that the fact that there are magical children who are Muggleborn.”

“I’d forgotten about that question, it was on my long list. You’ve mentioned the word Muggle several times tonight; what does it mean exactly?”

“Muggle is the term we use for non-magical folk.”

“Okay well that answers that quandary,” he chuckled. He thought back to the questions he’d spewed out earlier and remember to ask, “So why wasn’t I approached by a wizarding school in Boston, you never gave me your theory on that one?”

“Again this is just conjecture on my part, but, if you were down in the Hogwarts’ Book of Names you wouldn’t have been listed in an American wizarding school, they wouldn’t have known about you to seek you out.”

“So if I was in the Book of Names as you say, how come I never received a letter from Hogwarts?” was his rejoinder.

“I don’t really know, other than being separated by the Atlantic Ocean. We could always ask the current headmaster of Hogwarts. If he doesn’t know I don’t know who would.” She paused briefly before continuing, “Honestly Harry I’ve no idea why such a powerful magical object wouldn’t be able to find a child it had inscribed in its pages regardless of distance.”

“Well, it’s as good a theory as any, and if you ever do get the chance to ask your headmaster, I’d really like to know.”

“Maybe you’ll be able to ask Professor Dumbledore yourself one day, Harry.” There was a question in her statement, one that was tinged with a bit of hopefulness as well.

“Who knows, maybe. I mean if someone had told me this morning I’d be having a conversation with a pretty redhead that just happened to be a witch, I’d have told them they were bonkers,” he laughed at the total absurdity of his current situation.

“I know what you mean. If someone had told me I’d be talking to Harry Potter today, I’d have thought they were barmy too,” she sympathized as she laughed right along with him.

His mind returned to that moment in the alley when she’d shouted his name as if she’d just realized who he was.

You’re Harry Bloody Potter!

“Ginny?”

His tone must have been so serious that she stopped laughing abruptly, “Umm, yes?”

“In the alley,” he stopped not sure what he wanted to ask. “You said my name, almost like a curse, and just now, you made it sound as if talking to me was a momentous occasion or something…” he trailed off not really asking a question, but again not really knowing what he wanted to ask.

She worried her bottom lip a look of worry clouding her features. “Well,” she hesitated, looking away from him. She stood up and walked a few steps towards the river’s edge with her back towards him.

Harry leant forward resting his forearms on his thighs as he stared at her back wondering what could possibly be so upsetting about his name.

She turned around to face him but did not return to the couch. “Do you remember back in the pub when I was surprised that your name was Harry Potter?”

He thought back to their conversation earlier that evening.

”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?”


“Yes, something about Harry Potter and a bedtime story,” he summarized

“Well it is a bedtime story mums tell their children. The thing is, Harry, it’s based on a boy who at the age of fifteen months defeated the dark wizard. That baby’s name was Harry Potter, and he came to be known as The-Boy-Who-Lived.”

He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like what she was going to say next.

“You’re that boy Harry. You’re The-Boy-Who-Lived.”

“Okay,” he strung out the word questioningly, “what does that mean exactly?”

She walked back towards him and sat down, taking his hand in hers and looking into his eye earnestly, compassion shining in her gaze. “Harry back in the tea shop you told me that your parents died in a car crash.”

“That’s how I got this.” He pointed to the lightning bolt scar on his forehead. “I don’t remember it though.”

“No, Harry, your parents didn’t die in a car crash. They died trying to protect you; they died so you could live.”

Harry sat in stunned silence. Of all the things he’d seen and heard today this was perhaps the most shocking. Everything he thought to be true, everything he’d been told by his relatives, was a lie.

“Harry, I know you’ve been hit with way too much information tonight, but…” she paused. It seemed to Harry as if she was searching for the easiest way to land her next bombshell.

“Look, it’s up to you, we don’t have to talk about this now. It’s not as if much is known about what happened that night. The events of that evening were sealed by the Ministry and are now a part of the Department of Mysteries. What happened to you after that night is all shrouded in mystery. You just seemed to disappear. I can tell you what little I do know at a later time. I just wanted you to know that in our world you’re a hero, Harry.

Postponing the knowledge wouldn’t really lessen the hearing of it later on. Might was well get it over with now.

Old wounds were about to be opened, but he would finally know, what happened to his parents. He was not allowed to talk about them at his aunt’s home; he was never allowed to ask questions or even cry about them. Whenever there was even the hint of longing on Harry’s part to know about his family, it was met with severe punishment. As a little boy he came to associate his parents with pain, yearning and finally apathy. He could not experience pain if he did not feel.

He felt a tightening in his chest and took a slow, deep breath trying to alleviate the constriction but to no avail. Taking another calm, determined breath, he said, “Tell me what you do know.”

He could see the doubt and concern on her face and spoke up before she could argue. “It’s okay, Ginny. In for a penny, in for a pound – yeah?” He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile.

His reassuring smile must not have been very convincing. “If you’re sure…”

His smile was more genuine the second time. “I’m sure.”

“Do – well, I’m not sure where to start actually. Maybe, I’m not the person to tell you this. What I know is what I’ve been told in bedtime stories and overheard conversations between my parents and their friends at the dinner table.”

“I don’t really know what to ask either. Well maybe, I mean, were my parents magical or um Muggle?”

“Magical. James Potter was from an old pureblood family. I’m not sure about your mother, though I think she was Muggleborn,” she answered with a sort of relief in her tone, he assumed because she had a question to answer.

“Pureblood?”

“Umm that’s what we call magical families who’ve not married Muggles or Muggleborns. I’m not sure how far back one has to go to be considered a pureblood.” She shrugged. “It never really mattered to me or my family one way or another, but in our world some wizarding families take it very seriously. It was that prejudice actually that led to the rise of the dark wizard that killed your family and gave you that scar.”

His hand went automatically to his scar as he rubbed it with his fingers in a nervous gesture.

“Ironically, the wizard that gave you that scar,” the hand that wasn’t holding his pointed to his forehead, “was a Half Blood, with one wizard and one muggle parent, who managed to recruit followers to his side. He acquired followers by force of will. Some were drawn in by the promise of power or their belief in the pureblood ideology; others were brought to his side through force and intimidation. It was what my parents called a very dark time.” As she spoke she stroked the back of his hand with her thumb in a soothing motion.

“Why?” He cleared his throat. For the first time that evening he was feeling his emotions getting the better of him. “Why would he kill my parents?”

“No one knows why Voldemort went after your parents, maybe because they were loyal followers of Dumbledore, the only wizard Voldemort ever feared, or maybe because they refused to be recruited.”

“Is that his name, Voldemort, the name of the Dark Wizard who killed my parents?”

“That’s the name he gave himself, to instill fear. Few people dare to speak it, as if saying his name will call down his wrath upon them. It’s all rubbish. He’s referred to as the Dark Lord by his followers or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or You-Know-Who, by all those who fear him.”

“You don’t seem to have that problem though?”

At his question Ginny sighed deeply and turned her face away from him, staring towards the river. “I lost my fear of Tom a long time ago.” He could only see her profile, but from that vantage point he could see the corners of her mouth turned down in a sort of painful grimace. Her nostrils flared as she took in shallow breaths. She lifted a hand to the cheek that was opposite his line of vision as if wiping away a tear. He wanted to take her into his arms and offer comfort. He wanted her to tell him who Tom was, though he could guess, and he wanted her to tell him what event precipitated her loss of fear for such an evil, by her own terms, dark wizard. She lifted her chin in that determined way he was now associating with her and turned to face him once more.

“That’s his real name, Tom Marvolo Riddle. A Half-Blood wizard who advocated the total annihilation of his own kind – that’s poetic justice, to have all those pure-blooded Death Eaters groveling at the feet of a half-blood. Beautiful irony.”

“Death Eaters, is that what he called his followers? Seems just as ridiculous as Voldemort,” Harry scoffed.

“Yes, that’s what he called his followers, a group of sadistic thugs the lot of them. When Voldemort was defeated, they scattered like a bunch of scarab beetles during a tomb raid. A few of the more fanatical, the faithful, were sentenced to Azakban. That’s our wizarding prison. Others sang like Fwoopers, naming names and in the processes obtaining complete pardons or reduced sentences. A fair few claimed that they were Imperiused, their money and standing in wizarding society greasing the proverbial wheels of justice.”

“Imperiused?” he questioned.

“It’s an Unforgivable curse and punishable to the greatest extent of our law. It renders the victim under the complete will of the caster,” she clarified. “The caster could command their victim to kill, and they’d do so without thought, helpless against the power of the curse.” Ginny lowered her eyes, then lifted them staring off into space. “There are three Unforgivables: the killing curse, the torture curse and the Imperius. All are equally repulsive, but to me the Imperius is the most Unforgivable of all.”

She didn’t expound on why she thought that was so, but he could certainly understand why she did. To be commanded against your will to hurt or even kill someone - it was inconceivable to him.

He nodded his head absently in understanding, pausing once more to take in everything she’d said thus far. Disengaging his hand from hers and placing it on her lap, it was his turn to walk towards the edge of the river. He looked into the inky black water as if the answers to all of his questions could be found there.

“All my life, I resented my parents for leaving me, for consigning me to the hell that was living in my relatives home.” He was so lost in his thoughts that he started when he felt Ginny place one hand on his shoulder as the other traced down his arm to take his hand in hers. He shivered at the contact and was surprised how much the gesture soothed him.

“I need to know, Ginny. I need to know what happened that night.”

“Come sit down, Harry.” She tugged on his hand until he followed her back to the couch. “Are you okay? We can take a break; we don’t have to do this now.”

He was grateful for her consideration, but he didn’t want to stop now that he was so close to knowing about his parents’ fate.

“I’m okay, Ginny. Please, go ahead.”

She looked at him steadily, as if debating the truth behind his words. She squeezed his hand gently before continuing.

“Very little is known of the actual events, but what is known is that your father died trying to protect your mother and you. He confronted Voldemort knowing full well that he was facing certain death so that you could both get to safety.” She paused again to gauge his reaction and at his nod continued with her recounting of the events of that night. “It was rumored that your family was targeted by Voldemort and went into hiding. They were put under the Fidelius Charm…”

“Fidelius? A loyalty charm or sorts?” he interrupted to ask.

“Yes exactly, the Fidelius Charm basically hid your parents from sight; they were untraceable to all but the Secret Keeper, the person that the secret was entrusted to. A Secret Keeper was chosen, and only he could have broken the charm as the secret is kept in his very soul, but the charm is only as infallible as the person you put your trust in. Your parents chose the wrong person; he betrayed them to Voldemort.”

Betrayed. His parents had been betrayed, killed by a Dark Wizard. His world seemed to narrow and all he could hear was the sound of Ginny’s voice as she retold the events of that terrible night. The night his parents were killed.

“These are all things that were told and retold in the wizarding papers, but Dumbledore is the only one who knows some of what really occurred, and he’s never spoken to the wizarding press about it. I don’t think even he fully knows what happened, but what is said is that your mother also faced Voldemort pleading for her baby’s life.”

“My mother, what – “ he cleared his throat once more. “What happened to her?”

“She…she died protecting you, Harry. They both died so that you could live. They loved you so much that they – they died for you.” He could hear the emotion in her voice, and he could see unshed tears glistening in her eyes.

“And when Voldemort pointed his wand at you and cast the third killing curse that evening, somehow the spell rebounded. They never found his body or any traces of him in the house, which was all but practically destroyed. The papers say that you were found among the ruins, that you survived, that you were…that you were – The-Boy-Who-Lived.”

He could see that she was moved by the things she was recounting, and, without thought, Harry reached over and gathered her into his arms to give and receive comfort in turn.

They didn’t die in a car crash in a drunken stupor as his aunt and uncle had claimed. They died to protect him! They died because they loved him!

All those lonely, unloved, years hidden away in a cupboard under the stairs like so much rubbish, the only touch he’d ever known was pain. The only words he ever heard were castigating and cruel. All the bitterness he had secretly harbored in his heart for the parents that had abandoned him – drunken, worthless, freaks. Cast aside and left to languish, unloved and unwanted by the only family he had known. Raised in the sterile apathetic environment of the state run orphanage, where he clung to the meager praise and affection that was doled out so sparingly.

They loved him, loved him enough to die for him. They were the heroes, not Harry. He was vaguely aware of the soothing fingers that ran lightly through his hair and the hand that drew circles across his back. He felt the tears that were now wetly adhering to her neck and the warmth of her body against his. The scent of her skin enveloped him and soothed him as nothing ever had. He was only vaguely aware of her voice and its peaceful cadence.

And then he knew no more as he slept, surrounded by the gentle sounds of the balmy August evening and the comfort of Ginny’s arms.


*

Harry awoke with a start to the sound of screeching and the flutter of wings near his head.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed as his body lurched at the unexpected disturbance, managing to fall face first on the floor with an expelled, “Oof!” as the wind was knocked out of him.

“Bugger all, that hurt!”

There were a series of hoots that Harry would have sworn was laughter coming from the owl that was now perched a few feet away. “If I knew how, I’d turn you into a feather-duster you damn cuckoo bird!” Harry grouched under his breath as he dragged himself from off the floor.

Harry smiled.

It hadn’t been a dream; he’d not stepped through a wardrobe into an imaginary magical world of lions and witches. All that he had seen and heard was true and real and damned brilliant. And while not imagined it was certainly magical and there was most definitely a witch.

When Harry had awoken in the clearing the previous morning, Ginny was nestled in his arms as if she belonged there all along. He’d taken the opportunity to observe her in her sleep. The dark crescent lashes along her cheeks that were tipped with a reddish gold. Taking note of the light smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks – smiling when he’d lost track several times. He admired her plump pink lips and the complexion he was sure was as soft as silk to the touch. He wanted to know everything there was to know about her and about her world. He knew he was a bit infatuated with her already, but he didn’t want that to cloud his judgment or influence his decisions. Harry had the distinct feeling that would be a Herculean task.

Harry had never felt so at ease so quickly with another person. Ever. It caused no small amount of consternation, and yet it filled him with wonder. Harry was never the type of person to trust easily. His trust was rarely given, but once earned he’d never been obligated to retract it. His cautious nature would not allow for such easy confidence. He relied heavily on his instincts to guide his decision when logic would not dictate a reasonable conclusion, especially when it came to people. There were always so many variables to consider; after all human nature was never simple or straight forward.

With Ginny his instincts seemed to gravitate towards unconditional trust. He was attracted to her, of that there was absolutely no doubt. However, he refused to believe that his intuition in this particular instance was being ruled by the sudden and inexplicable onslaught of long dormant hormones.

When she’d finally stirred in his embrace, Harry had thought to slowly remove his arms to spare her the embarrassment he knew was sure to follow. However, a boldness he was not aware he possessed just wouldn’t allow it. He’d watched as she slowly came awake, rubbing her cheek against his chest unconsciously, taking in a deep breath, a small smile playing along her lips as her arms tightened along his waist.

Harry had felt something he could not describe stir deep inside of him as he’d continued to observe her as she slowly started to awaken. The sun had begun to peek through the trees and he knew their time that morning must soon come to an end, so he’d gently shaken her in his arms to hasten the process of her waking.

She stretched all along his side causing Harry no small sense of discomfort as she unconsciously rubbed against him.

“Mmm, Mum I had the most wonderful dream...”

Do tell, Harry had thought, a wide appreciative smile splitting his face.

She’d stretched once more, her eyes fluttering open, reflexively tightening her hold along his waist as if she were hugging her pillow.

Then without warning she’d squeaked, pushed away from Harry forcefully and proceeded to land on her quite attractive little bum.
Harry had laughed but offered her a hand back up onto the conjured sofa. She’d blushed, stammered and stuttered out an apology and then quite suddenly laughed with him.

Some arguing later and much to Harry’s dismay she had Side-Along-Apparated them to the alley where they’d been attacked the night before. He hated the fact that they would be returning to the ‘scene of the crime’, as it were, and the effect that might have on Ginny as much as he hated to Side-Along.

It was the only place, Ginny had said, where they could safely Apparate near campus where she could be assured they wouldn’t seem to suddenly appear and that she had been before. “There’s nothing there that can hurt me now, so there would be no reason for me to be upset, Harry. I know I may seem fragile to you, but I’m stronger than I look,” she’d chided him and Harry couldn’t help but agree with her.

They’d had tea and scones as they’d done the previous night although their server was the one that usually attended Harry in the mornings. They continued to talk about anything and everything that had to do with the magical world.

Harry asked a myriad of questions that ranged from Hogwarts to magical history and back again, filling the notebook in his mind. Ginny, to her credit, never seemed to tire, answering whatever question popped into his head. Her eyes sparkled as he’d jump from topic to topic, and when he would ask about her family, she’d become even more animated. Harry could almost picture each family member as she impersonated their speech and mannerisms.

They’d parted much later than either of them had anticipated - Ginny to receive her lecture from Bill and Harry to return to the flat near campus that he shared with three other students. She’d given him a mischievous grin and told him to expect an owl from her today, Bill’s owl to be exact. That had spurred another question and answer session. Neither one of them it seemed was very keen on parting, and they stretched their time together as much as they dared. Ginny hadn’t wanted to tempt the fates on the very real chance that her over-protective older brother would ‘call down the wrath of the mighty horde upon her’, and that would not bode well for either of them.

They would meet today if she could get off with nothing more than a lecture and a slap on the wrist from Bill and if she could pull off getting away without any of her family being the wiser.

She’d asked if he had a window in his room and advised him to leave it open unless he wanted to educate his flat mates on the wonders of magical owl post. Harry had escorted her back to the alley, again walking hand in hand. She’d peeked at him from under her lashes shyly and quite suddenly risen up onto her tip toes brushing her soft lips briefly against Harry’s cheek, and before he could react she’d disappeared with a small pop. Hah! She likes me! He’d thought, as he returned to his flat not quite comprehending how he’d made the trip.

He blearily took in his surroundings and realized he’d still not put on his glasses. He felt around on his nightstand until he grasped his glasses, as he groggily recalled taking them off and placing them there for safe keeping the night before. He placed the spectacles on the end of his nose, and pushing them into place with a forefinger, his world coming into focus. He blinked rather owlishly at the bird that blinked its large orange eyes in return. Yes, that was most definitely an owl.

Harry mentally added this to the ever growing list that he was beginning to catalog in his mind. He sub-referenced this bit of information under the heading Magical Creatures: P for Post Owl, and closed the notebook in his mind with a loud snap. Then he suddenly re-opened the notebook, leafing through until he came to the page titled Ginny Weasley, going past the sub-heading titled Parents: Arthur and Molly, proceeding to Brothers: then stopping on Bill and adding the mental text of: Owns eagle owl named Horus. Giving a mental nod he again closed the notebook with a satisfied snap.

When they had parted yesterday morning, Ginny had told Harry to expect Bill’s owl with a note letting him know when to expect her.

They were going to meet up today. Harry had teased her about a second date and whether or not he’d finally get personal, hands-on experience on what a snog was, just so he could see her face heat up in that lovely shade of pink he so enjoyed. She’d muttered something under her breath about him being a ‘right cheeky bloke’ but chose to ignore his remark, causing Harry to laugh at her antics.

So here he was staring down an eagle owl that presumably arrived to deliver a letter from the witch Harry was very much eager to see again. Harry balefully stared at the haughty owl. “Well, do you have a letter for me or not?”

The owl ruffled its feathers and turned its head away from Harry. If Harry was the type to anthropomorphize animals he’d have sworn that damned owl had just given him a contemptuous look. The owl turned its overly large orange eyes back towards him, and a staring match ensued. If it wasn’t for the fact that the letter was from Ginny, Harry was stubborn enough to out-stare the blasted owl.

“I can’t believe I’m going to kowtow to a feather duster,” he muttered under his breath, then cleared his throat and raised his voice. “Horus, may I please have the letter from Ginny you have so kindly brought to me?”

Horus stared at him with an air of disdain that seemed natural coming from the owl, and then stuck out its leg, which Harry could see did indeed have a letter tied to it.

He reached over and pulled on the red string divesting the owl of the letter and received a nip on his fingers for his trouble. Harry yelped in surprise and was going to reach over and smack the owl on its feathered head as another series of hoots that resembled laughter were heard from the bird, causing Harry to pause, hand still raised in the air. Then the bird did something totally unexpected; it leaned over and rubbed its head affectionately against Harry’s raised hand.

Harry opened his mental notebook again going back to the sub-heading labeled Bill and erased his original annotation to add: Owns a crazy feather duster named Horus that delivers mail.

Harry looked at the letter he held in his hand. There was no envelope, only a softly textured yet rather thick yellowed parchment. It was folded at the corners to resemble an envelope and there was a rounded wedge of red wax sealing it closed. He turned the letter over to see that it was addressed in a loopy yet bold style that read: Harry Potter’s Room, Oxford.

Breaking the seal with his thumbs he unfolded the letter and read.

Harry,

I hope this letter finds you rested and well after your little adventure. I’ll meet you at our tea shop at nine this morning. I’ll be the one with red hair. I’m looking forward to seeing you again; I hope you are too.

Yours,
Ginny

PS. Since you don’t have owl treats, Horus likes to be scratched behind the ears as payment for a job well done. I explained that to him, so he shouldn’t be too surly with you. Let him know you don’t have a response, and he’ll head back to Bill.


Harry glanced at his watch and noted that it was a little past eight in the morning, plenty of time for him to shower, dress and walk over to the tea shop. Our tea shop, she’d called it; he rather liked the sound of that. If he were truthful, he was eagerly looking forward to seeing her as well.

“Well Horus, I’d say she likes me. What do you think?” Harry scratched behind the owl’s ears as Ginny had suggested and received what he assumed was a contented and affirmative hoot in response to his question.

“Yeah I think so too.”
*

Shortly before nine found Harry standing at the entrance to the tea shop. His eyes scanned the crowded room for a head of red hair and immediately zoomed in to her seated at a table in the farthest corner of the room. She smiled at him brightly as she waved him over. Harry could feel the wide smile that split his face as he navigated the crowded shop towards her. When he reached her, he bent at the waist and placed a brief kiss upon her cheek. When he straightened he could see the surprised yet pleased look upon her face as he sat next to her at the intimately small table.

“Good morning, Harry,” she greeted him warmly.

A white ceramic tea pot was set on the table with what Harry hoped was already steeping tea. While he’d still prefer a strong coffee, the morning caffeine boost was still very much desired, and he was beginning to acquire a taste for tea. Ginny poured the steaming tea into the mug directly in front of Harry and then her own. He prepared his tea and took in a grateful gulp before he greeted Ginny in turn, sighing contentedly.

“So, how’d the lecture with Bill go?”

“It was awful, he was sitting on Willie’s sofa when I got back, and he was livid. I swear he was channeling Mum at one point,” she shuddered. “After the very long lecture he proceeded to ask me about you. I’m so glad I’m related to Fred and George where I learned the fine art of plausible deniability. The innocent doe-eyed baby sister act goes a long way as well.”

“I’ll bet it does,” he chuckled. “So what’s on the agenda for today then? Are we going to some craggy old castle where we’ll stand in front of a boiling cauldron containing eye of newt and wing of bat while chanting ‘bubble, bubble, toil and trouble’with the Weird
Sisters?” Harry joked as he took another swig of tea from his mug.

Ginny’s tilted her head a bewildered look upon her pretty face. “Umm, no, I wasn’t planning on taking you to Hogwarts today. And as far as I know the Weird Sisters haven’t played there since the Yule Ball my third year.”

“Huh?” Now it was Harry, he was sure, that had that confused look upon his face. “You know what never mind. I don’t think I want to get into the confusing yet I’m sure highly entertaining comedy of errors that will follow that explanation.”

She shrugged her shoulders at Harry’s statement as they sat comfortably drinking their tea. He noted that there was a plate of fresh plain scones at the center of the table and a pot of what looked like strawberry marmalade. She had liberally spread some of the marmalade on her scone and, breaking off a piece, popped it into her mouth.

“Not as good as Mum’s but still very good. Would you like a bite?”

Harry was enthralled as he watched her lick a bit of the marmalade from her upper lip, wondering if he were bold enough to lean over and taste the sweetness of it from her lips. His eyes then focused on the scone that she held out to him and was only a few inches from his own mouth. He leaned over and took a bite thinking that he was sure it would have tasted better had he actually tasted the strawberry from her mouth. He closed his eyes, inwardly groaning.

“Good?” Harry heard her ask and opened his eyes again to see her sweetly smiling face. Damn but she was pretty.

He wouldn’t have cared if they were actually going to some craggy old castle to chant in front of a disgustingly boiling cauldron that probably smelled like wet socks as long as he got to do it with Ginny.

“Very,” he responded, “although I’m sure your mum’s is better.”

“You’ve not lived until you’ve had my mum’s cooking. Actually, speaking of my mum’s cooking…” Harry watched as she blushed prettily, sure that whatever she was going to ask him next would give him no small amount of amusement.

“Yes, speaking of your mum’s cooking…” he prompted.

“Well, umm you see, I well…I sort of told my mum that I would be bringing a boy home for dinner tonight.” By the end of her mumbled speech she’d lowered her eyes to the table rather demurely, Harry thought, as her blush increased in intensity.

“I’m hoping you mean me, right?” he couldn’t help but tease; it was so much fun after all.

Her eyes snapped up and narrowed on his widely smiling face. “Of course you. Who else would it be?” she huffed irritably.

“Don’t be mad, Ginny. If you’re going to blush like that, I can’t help but tease you. It’s your own fault.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and mock glared at him as he kept his hang-dog expression in place. It didn’t last very long as her lips slowly curled at the corners where he noticed a dimple appear.

“Fine, then. I’ll not give you opportunities to tease me then.”

“What would be the fun in that?” he winked.

“You, Mr. Potter, are an incorrigible tease,” she groused good-naturedly.

“I’m not usually; you just bring it out in me.” He really couldn’t help teasing her. He rather enjoyed it. “So you want me to meet your parents already? Isn’t that a bit soon?”

“Yes, Harry, I was rather hoping you’d propose by the end of the week. I’m not getting any younger after all. I’m practically an old-maid.” She rolled her eyes at him as he laughed.

“I’d be happy to meet your family. After all you’ve told me about them, I’m rather curious.”

“Yes, well even though I told Mum not to invite the barbarous horde, it’s not very likely she’ll listen to me. You’ll meet Ron, since he lives at home and Hermione, his girlfriend, since they’re practically attached at the hip. Who knows about the other five – are you okay with that?” She’d placed her hand over his on the table; it was warm, slightly calloused and much smaller than his own.

Being raised in an orphanage, Harry had always wondered what it would be like to be adopted and have a mom and dad. After the Dursleys had left him there, he’d stopped wondering about his own parents, thinking it was always best not to dwell on the things he could not change. Instead he’d hoped for the possibilities of things that could be. Meeting Ginny’s family would be a new and hopefully pleasant experience for him.

Turning his hand palm up, he entwined their fingers, squeezing gently in reassurance. “Yes, actually, I’m very okay with that.” She smiled at him warmly, and he could tell she was very pleased by his response.

“So where are we going then?”

She gave him a sheepish half smile. “Well I know you’ll be disappointed, but I was rather hoping you’d give me a tour of the Oxford grounds.”

“Oxford?” He asked, watching her nod in response, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”

She nodded again giving him an encouraging smile. He felt a bit deflated by her choice. He was really looking forward to visiting all the wizarding communities she’d told him about.

Seeing his disappointment she assured, “I have several reasons why I don’t think it’s a good idea to take you to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or any other wizarding community, at least not today.”

“Okay,” he responded with little enthusiasm, lowering his eyes to their joined hands so she wouldn’t see how dejected he felt. He knew he was acting like a spoiled child, but he’d so been looking forward to learning more about the world his parents had come from, the world she was from.

Her thumb caressed the back of his hand as the fingers of her other hand trailed along his jaw to end at his chin, gently lifting it until he was looking into her eyes that seemed to plead for his understanding. “I’m sorry, Harry. There are good reasons why I think it’s a bad idea.” Her hand lifted again to rest her palm against his cheek.

Damn but she had the most beautiful eyes. He nodded his head, and he could feel the slightest caress against his cheek at the action. He reveled in the small gesture having only been touched, really touched, so few times in his life. He didn’t realize how much he craved simple touch until, well until he’d met Ginny.

He could feel the smile tug at his lips, a small lifting of the corners of his mouth; he felt it grow wider as he warmed to the thought of showing her his world.

“All right then, that’s what we’ll do. Did you have a particular destination in mind?” He watched as her countenance turned from gentle concern to enthusiasm as his own excitement for the day grew within his chest.

“Not really, I’m not at all familiar with the Muggle world so anything you show me will be new and exciting. My dad would sell one of us to the gypsies to be where I am right now.” The utter pleasure she felt in the prospect of their outing was palpable, making him realize that it didn’t matter where they were going as long as he was going to spend the day with her.

“What? Holding hands with a devilishly handsome fellow such as myself in a tea shop?” He laughed as she rolled her eyes at his
banter.

“My dad is crazy for all things Muggle, and if he knew I was going to visit a Muggle university he’d have baby kneazles.”

Kneazle. Harry opened his mental journal and flipped to a page titled Unknown and added the word kneazle to his list. In the short time he’d known her, he’d become accustomed to Ginny peppering her conversation with words he had no reference for whether they were British-isms or Wizard-isms, and if he stopped to ask her each time she added a new word to his growing vocabulary they’d wind up jumping from topic to topic without ever finishing an original thought.

“Well, then take down as many mental notes as possible so you’re able to relate your day to him later,” he suggested as he sat back to take a final sip of his tea. He gestured to her plate and cup of tea. “If you’re done we can head out.”

He watched as she took the last piece of her scone and popped it in her mouth with relish. “I am now. Let’s go.”

He stood from the small table with her, deciding that being anywhere with Ginny would be a good day.

*

The balmy summer breeze was a warm caress as the sun bore down on the pair that lay on the grass in companionable silence.

Harry’s head was laying on Ginny’s stomach, his eyes closed and a smile curving his lips. The position was quite intimate and more than she would ever have allowed anyone else, but there was a comfortable familiarity with Harry that she’d never felt with anyone before. Her eyes took in the clear crystalline sky with its spattering of nebulous cotton white clouds before becoming completely entranced by the ruffling of his hair in the warm early afternoon breeze, swirling the mop of jet black hair into an attractive windblown mess. At those times, she would give into the temptation and run her fingers through his hair, eliciting a wide smile from him for her own intimate gesture. Her other hand skimmed the grass in a hypnotically soothing back and forth motion as the blades tickled her palm.

They’d toured Oxford all morning and had yet to see half the halls and universities. They’d finally crashed in a grassy patch to catch their second wind.

God’s in his heaven – All is right with the world. Those words mirrored her current state of being. She was here with Harry and all seemed so right with her world. She remembered reading those lines in her Muggle Studies class when their professor had added classical British Muggle literature to their curriculum. She signed up for Muggle Studies to please her father and didn’t really care for it at first but grew to love it as time wore on. She even obtained an Outstanding in her O.W.L.’s, which pleased him to no end, and she planned on getting a N.E.W.T. on the subject as well, which made him beam all the prouder.

Thinking of her father brought her back to the moment. She had invited Harry to supper at the Burrow, a frightening proposition to say the least. It was unlikely that her mum would follow through on Ginny’s request that she not invite the horde. She wasn’t intimidated by her brothers in the least; quite the contrary, she intimidated them. Now that she could perform magic outside of Hogwarts they all had a healthy respect for her repertoire of jinxes, hexes and curses, though she rarely utilized them against her brothers. Just the threat was enough to keep them in line. That was one of the many things she absolutely loved about magic; it evened out the playing field between witch and wizard.

Her brothers would no doubt do their best to intimidate Harry. Merlin knew their size and sheer volume was sufficient to threaten most blokes. They would test his mettle, and she would allow it to a degree. If she were honest with herself, if any boy she brought home couldn’t stand up to her brothers she’d be shot of them pretty quickly. If a little thing like her could make her brothers toe the line, she just couldn’t see herself with someone who wouldn’t be able to stand up to them. Her brothers were not really a major concern, nor was her oh-so-very domineering mother. It was her dad’s opinion that mattered to her the most. If her father found him lacking in any way, she would certainly follow her own counsel on the matter, but she would have a terrible time going against her father’s judgment. With perhaps the exception of Albus Dumbledore, Ginny respected her father’s opinion above all others, and she’d never disobeyed a direct decree from him and couldn’t imagine doing so.

Ginny had never introduced a potential boyfriend to her family. She’d never had a boyfriend, period. She would have thought that keeping her eccentric family away from a boy she was very seriously attracted to would be the wisest course if she wanted the relationship to have even the slimmest wildest chance of working. But it was because she was so seriously attracted to Harry that she felt compelled to introduce him to her family. As much as Ginny complained about their quirkiness and over-protective tendencies, she knew that she was loved unconditionally. She respected their opinions, and if she were honest she desperately wanted their seal of approval. But dear Merlin, how exactly does a girl go about introducing a national hero to her family? This was, after all, The Harry Potter, Savior of the Wizarding World, The-Boy-Who-Lived. She just couldn’t go in and say, ‘Hey folks, I’d like you to meet Harry Potter. Yeah, that Harry Potter’.

Since having met him, Harry Potter had taken over her every waking thought and not just those thoughts that pertained to the problems that came with being Harry Potter. No, her thoughts revolved around the boy himself and her ever increasing attraction to him. She was trying but not quite succeeding in reining in her fanciful thoughts. She needed to be level headed in her emotional dealings with him. She was falling for him hard and fast, and it scared her.

Outwardly Ginny always used her academic pursuits as her excuse for avoiding any form of romantic entanglements with boys at Hogwarts, and while that was true to some degree, it was hardly the most important; it was just the most convenient. Her experiences in her first year shaped her in ways that still had a knack of springing up on her. At first it was a general distrust of anyone who was not her family or Albus Dumbledore. She gave her trust slowly and sparingly. She especially didn’t trust older boys, although the majority of her friends were boys from her year.

When she was being brutally honest with herself, she knew that her greatest fear was losing herself so completely to another person ever again. She had loved Tom desperately; she would have done anything for him willingly That kind of power through the illusion of love frightened her. She held no fear for Voldemort, not in the sense that most did, for they feared his very name, the beast he had become. No, what Ginny feared was the beautiful fallen angel, the boy that had charmed her, lied to her, and made her love him.

It always came back to Tom and the horror of having given her mind, body and soul to a boy who told her pretty lies, told her that he loved her, used her in ways she had buried deep in the recesses of her mind, and laughed at her naiveté.

But Harry was different. She’d never felt such a physical and emotional attraction to anyone, not even Tom. Harry had garnered her trust almost instantly. It scared and thrilled her all at once. And the very fact that Harry was different had her stomach tied up in knots. The burden of responsibility weighed heavily upon her shoulders. She knew that she had to broach the subject about his future plans but quite frankly didn’t know how to go about it. The fact that he was here in England at this particular time was not lost on Ginny. Death Eaters were once against wreaking havoc in her world, and if they found out that Harry was alive, he would become an immediate target. The fact that he was an untrained wizard walking about in England only made him that much more of a target.

Her stomach rumbled, and she looked down at Harry who began chuckling. She could feel the vibration of the action against her abdomen, bringing an embarrassed smile to her lips. She looked up to gauge the position of the sun directly above them, trying to determine the time of day.

*

“Hungry are you?” Harry teased, turning his head sideways on her stomach to give her a lopsided grin.

“I’m a Weasley; we’re always hungry. Do you have the time?” she queried, unconsciously running her fingers through his hair.

Harry lifted his wrist directly in front of his eyes to block out the sun. He squinted against the sudden glare, and it took his eyes a moment to adjust. “It’s a quarter to one. No wonder your stomach is protesting.”

Ginny slowly sat up, and Harry could feel her abdominal muscles contracting with the movement, bringing his head from its position on her stomach to her lap. Her own position above him blocked out the sun, and Harry saw her face in shadow. She had her bottom lip between her teeth in the tantalizing way he was beginning to associate with her.

“Harry,” her voice held a lilting query in its tone. He assumed she wanted to tell him something but was in doubt as to his reaction and therefore reluctant to bring it up. He smiled inwardly.

“Yes, Ginny?”

She looked away from him for a moment, took a deep breath and then returned her to gaze at him. She opened her mouth as if to say something then seemed to change her mind. “I’m hungry.”

That was obviously not what she was going to say, but he chose not to pressure her. She’d tell him what ever was bothering her in her own time. “Yes, I gathered as much.”

She gave him a nervous smile. “It’s so lovely today; how about we find some place that has take-away and then somewhere we can sit outside to eat?”

“That sounds like a brilliant idea.” He stood up and then held his hand out to give her a hand up.

“Thank you. I do have those from time to time.” Holding out his hand to her, he pulled her up, and she didn’t let go as they started off into the city proper.

“Though I don’t know why you’d want to come back here. You didn’t seem all that impressed by the grounds or the buildings,” he observed, unconsciously bringing Ginny closer to him as they walked.

“Harry, I go to school in a magical castle, nothing much of Muggle architecture impresses me, well other than the fact they were built without the aid of magic. Now that is amazing to me. I mean Oxford is old, but Hogwarts is older.” There was amusement in her tone - not quite condescending, but certainly mischievous.

“Being raised in Boston where the oldest architecture is some 200 years old, buildings that have been standing for over a millennium is awe inspiring. And in a way I feel as if it’s a part of me, a part of my history. Growing up, I always felt a sense of connection to England, and I knew that someday I’d come back.”

Ginny tugged on his hand to bring them to a stop as she looked up at him. “I’ve always felt that way about Hogwarts. The first time I saw it I felt like I was coming home.” She worried her lip, lowering her eyes, then staring back at him openly. “I think you’ll feel the same way too when you get your first glimpse at Hogwarts.” Shaking her head as if to clear it, she started walking again as he followed.

They found a pub a few blocks off campus that served large roast beef sandwiches and chips. They purchased a couple of soft drinks to wash them down and two large wedges of treacle tart before heading back to a relatively isolated, grassy area with shady trees where they could eat their lunch in relative peace. Ginny made sure they were alone as she pulled out her wand and conjured a blanket for them to sit upon.

They sometimes chatted and sometimes sat in companionable silence as they ate their meal. It was comfortable, as if they’d known each other for ages. There were times, however, when Ginny would look over at him worrying her lip between her teeth in a nervous gesture. He wanted to ask her what was bothering her so much but decided to wait her out. When they finally got to the treacle tart, Harry decided it was his favorite dessert and that if Ginny worried her lip one more time he’d have to say something.

“Harry?” She started hesitantly.

Finally! “Yes, Ginny.”

“I wanted to talk to you about your situation…” her voice faltered when Harry sat up and turned to face her, his piercing eyes boring into her own cinnamon colored orbs.

“My situation? What situation would that be exactly?” Harry asked with intense curiosity.

She reached out and took his hand in hers, returning his openly curious gaze

“There are several things I think you need to think about, Harry, umm now that you know you’re a wizard that is. I mean, well, I guess just for starters have you thought what you’re going to do about your education?”

“What about it? I’m going to be attending the University in a few weeks time, but I’m sure I told you that.”

“Well yes, I know that was your original plan, but wouldn’t you say that’s changed now that you know you’re a wizard?”

Harry stared at her as he contemplated her question, weighing the knowledge he possessed but coming up short in his equation for lack of information. “I’m not sure I follow. What does my being a wizard have to do with my plans to study at the University?”

Ginny took a moment to respond. Her thumb was absentmindedly rubbing circles against the back of his hand as she contemplated her options. He heard her mumbling under her breath. Something about going about this all wrong and going round her elbow to get to her arse. He decided to wait her out and let her get her jumbled thoughts in order so that he might better understand where the hell she was going with her line of questioning.

“Let me ask you another question then. Are you planning to live your life as a Muggle or a wizard?”

Harry’s brow furrowed at the question. “I hadn’t really thought about that. It’s a good question, but I’m not sure I have an answer.”

Ginny came up to her knees in front of Harry, her gaze intense. “Harry, it’s a very important one. You are a wizard; there is no escaping that fact. In order for you to choose between the two worlds you need to know everything there is to know about being a wizard. I assume that the power you do posses is raw, untapped, and maybe even sporadic in your ability to control it.”

Harry contemplated her words. Yes, he’d learned to control his gift to a degree but it could be erratic at times and could sometimes be set off by strong emotions or dire circumstances. The question she had asked was very intriguing. Did he wish to continue his life as a Muggle or should he embrace his magical birthright? Were the two mutually exclusive? Why couldn’t he attend University as he had planned and then learn to become a wizard? He really couldn’t make such a monumental choice without knowing what it meant to be a wizard, but even the idea of giving up all he had worked so hard to accomplish was unthinkable.

Yet his reason for being in England had brought him to this very crossroads. Had he not worked so hard to achieve the scholarship, had he not chosen to study in Oxford, had he not made the seemingly inconsequential decision to go to the pub that fateful night, he may never have known that he was indeed magical.

Why couldn’t he be both? He was raised a Muggle, and had he not met Ginny he might never have known he was a wizard. Who knew what turn fate would have dealt him. He’d have gone on with his life blissfully unaware of the magical world. But he was a wizard, and his intrinsic curiosity demanded that he learn all there was to know about being a wizard.

“Harry, I think there is something you need to consider. I think that…” She stopped, her brow furrowed in concentration or perhaps consternation. “I think that our meeting is not necessarily an act of coincidence. You, well not just you but Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived, being here in England at this moment in time when things are just at the boiling point in our world.”

“I’m not sure I follow where you’re trying to lead me, Ginny. What does any of this have to do with my choosing to continue with my plans for university, or choosing to live as a wizard or Muggle?”

Ginny inched closer to Harry taking his hands and placing them on her lap as she looked at him with such fierce intensity that Harry supposed he could see her very thoughts if he concentrated hard enough.

“My world - Our world,” she amended, “is on the very brink of war. The Death Eaters I’ve been telling you about have recently stepped up their attacks on Muggles and any wizarding families that are considered blood traitors.” As she spoke she unconsciously gripped his hand with increasing pressure, her eyes unfocused as she began to recount the things that she said were occurring in the magical world.

“You’ve not been here long enough to notice, but in the Muggle news you’ll hear reports of gas mains exploding in residential areas and attacks on the Muggle underground trains by unknown terrorist factions and attacks on families where the cause of death is unknown or unexplained. These are all attacks by Voldemort’s followers. There have been rumors coming from Eastern Europe, though not widely known, that Voldemort himself has returned by some dark ritual.” As she recounted the events that were taking place her voice became softer, and it became increasingly difficult to follow. She was lost in her own world, a dark world, filled with fear and preparing for war.

“Ginny, I, well while I understand how this can be distressing to you and that it affects you in ways that frankly frighten me, but I, well I don’t want you to think me callous, but how does this affect me and my decisions?”

When Harry had begun to speak, she startled, her eyes refocusing on his face searchingly. She took one of her hands and placed it on his cheek, as he unconsciously leaned into her touch. Her hand was warm from holding his, slightly calloused yet soft and gentle, caressing.

“Oh, Harry, I’m not afraid for myself, I’m afraid for you. You and my family. We were and are very prominent in our beliefs against the pureblood purists; we’re one of those blood traitors I mentioned earlier and staunch followers of Albus Dumbledore. That puts us on a hit list of sorts. But I’m also frightened about what this means to you.”

“Again, I’m not sure I follow, Ginny. What does this have to do with me? I’m not British, I’m not a follower of Dumbledore, and I don’t know enough about your world and its social issues to have an opinion one way or the other about this conflict, though I’m pretty sure which side I’d choose if I had to make one. How does this concern me and why are you afraid for my well being?” It wasn’t that he didn’t care about what she was saying. It mattered to him greatly if it affected her, but it still didn’t seem to have any bearing on the choices he made about going to university. She had yet to make a valid point for her argument.

“Harry, whether you chose it or not, you are a wizard. Whether you consciously chose a side or not, that side was chosen for you when Voldemort killed your parents when you were a baby. You are here in England right now when we are very likely going to enter into a conflict that not only affects our world but will ultimately affect the Muggle world as well. And you’re as vulnerable as a babe in the woods because you don’t know the first thing about magic and how to defend yourself.”

She then took both her hands and placed them on either side of his face staring earnestly into his eyes.

“If by some wild chance the Death Eaters get wind that Harry Potter is back in England, you might as well tattoo a bull’s-eye on your arse, because you will become number one on the Death Eaters’ most wanted list, and they will not stop until the Boy-Who-Defeated their leader is dead!”

“What are the chances of that actually happening though?” Harry decided to play Devil’s Advocate to her questions.

“What were the chances of you meeting a witch in a pub in Oxford?” came her sharp response.

“Point,” Harry conceded.

“Look Harry, I’m not trying to scare you, nor am I asking you to make a decision right away. I would like you to think about experiencing our world as much as possible before you start class at the university. Go with me to Diagon Alley, and visit Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. See a dragon with my brother Charlie or a Hippogriff with Hagrid” At this last suggestion she smiled.

“Meet with Albus Dumbledore at Hogwarts, talk to other wizards that could give you advice.” At this last bit she lowered her eyes, and Harry wondered at the action but decided not to question it for now. He had a lot to go on with as it was.

Harry stood up and walked towards the edge of the green, his back towards her. He chuckled to himself as he realized that this was the second time Ginny had dropped a proverbial bombshell on him. It was a silly thing to focus on, but it was a bit farcical nonetheless. He didn’t want to look at her worrying her bottom lip or looking at him with her doe eyes, pleading for understanding. He needed to make a logical and dispassionate decision that was not hormonally induced.

What she was asking wasn’t all that outrageous nor would it inconvenience him in any way. Quite the contrary really, she was in essence asking him to spend time with her in her world, getting to know a world he had, only two days ago, had no knowledge of. That prospect was actually quite appealing to him.

No, choosing to spend time with a beautiful girl and learning about the world he was born into was not a difficult decision. What concerned him was the very real possibility of facing the reality of his situation. He’d promised himself long ago never to be ruled by fear of the unknown but to face each situation and challenge as it presented itself. This had the very real potential of becoming his greatest challenge and the most important decision of his life. Oh it was presented in a lovely package in the form of one Ginny Weasley, but that also came with the very real and pressing danger of war looming over his head. It was daunting, and it frightened him. Much like Ginny his concern was not for himself so much as it was for her and the family he had yet to meet but felt he knew from her descriptions of them.

It was an unknown variable that he would have to face eventually. In for a penny, in for a pound. Harry heaved a deep sigh and turned to face her. She was indeed worrying her bottom lip, and her eyes while not pleading did hold concern for him in their depth.

“So, I was thinking Hogwarts first.”

Ginny gave him a brilliant smile, bounced on the heels of her feet for a moment and then bounded up to him and gave him the warmest hug he’d ever had to date.


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