AYNIL: Chapter Five: Dursley Dilemmas

Everyone looked as though they too had been stupefied.

“This has got to be a joke,” Ron spoke up. “There’s no way he can be . . . “

Harry, who was easily the most surprised at this revelation, felt as if his brain was reeling so fast it was going to explode. How could Dudley, one of the most magic fearing people in the world, be a wizard? Ron was right, this had to be some sort of a joke. If Fred and George had been there Harry would have been assured that they had a hand in this.

But as time went on, things started to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

Aunt Petunia had always been very indulgent to her son. Harry had never really considered this as being anything more than his Aunt and Uncle’s way of showing their son they cared. Uncle Vernon always seemed to do whatever Aunt Petunia wanted. It must have been her decision to spoil her son rotten. When Dudley threw a tantrum it was just so that he could get whatever he wanted more quickly. He had never really been upset in his life. Harry recalled that the times he had performed unintentional magic was when he had been under stress. It seemed likely, in fact probable, that a lot of the way Dudley had been treated by his parents was so that he would not exhibit those magical tendencies.

As all of these connections ran through his head like a speeding train, a conversation from about a year ago flooded to the forefront of Harry’s mind.

“You have never treated Harry as a son. He has known nothing but neglect and often cruelty at your hands. The best that can be said is that he has at least escaped the appalling damage you have inflicted upon the unfortunate boy sitting between you.”

At the time, Harry had thought he meant that Dudley had been spoiled. Now, however, it seemed painfully obvious that Dumbledore was referring to the fact that they, or more likely Aunt Petunia, had been denying Dudley the chance to be what he actually was.

“What now?” barked Uncle Vernon, looking at the shocked expressions on the faces of everyone in the room. He could really be surprisingly dense sometimes, Harry thought. “Are you all barking mad, or what?” He looked at his wife for reassurance of his position.

Aunt Petunia was wide-eyed. She had her hand over her mouth. From her reaction Harry was sure he had been right, she had not told her husband about the fact that his own son was magical.

“Petunia?” asked Uncle Vernon quietly and uncertainly. “They’re talking nonsense, are — aren’t they?” his voice wavered uncharacteristically.

Aunt Petunia very slowly lowered the hand that was covering her mouth.

“Vernon, I . . .” she said so quietly they all had to strain to hear her. “I wasn’t sure . . .” she said, looking at her husband with a pleading expression. “I mean Lily was and I wasn’t, and you aren’t so I hoped . . . but then when he came —“ she jerked her head at Harry, “ — there were . . . incidents . . . .and I knew we couldn’t have our son be one so I asked Mrs. Figg, and she —“

Aunt Petunia suddenly stopped talking. Tears, real ones, were starting to stream down her face. Uncle Vernon however was not crying. He was once again inflating like a balloon.

“SEVENTEEN YEARS PETUNIA? YOU HAVE KEPT THIS FROM ME FOR SEVENTEEN YEARS? YOU KNEW THAT OUR SON HAD THIS — THIS — ABNORMALITY, AND YOU SAID NOTHING. WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?”

He actually looked quite scary. Harry had seen his uncle mad before, furious, in fact. This level of rage however surpassed anything that Harry had ever experienced.

“I think we should leave them alone,” Mrs. Weasley said. When Aunt Petunia had started spluttering her explanation the others had backed away. At Mrs. Weasley’s suggestion they all piled out, closing the door behind them.

Uncle Vernon’s shouting wasn’t much quieter out here, and had woken the portrait of Mrs. Black again.

“Don’t bother with the portrait for now.” Lupin told everyone. “If he’s going to keep shouting like that it’s just going to keep setting her off. Let’s go back to the kitchen and try to eat something.”

They did just that. The basement kitchen allowed them to block out most of the shouting, both from the portrait and from Vernon. It was impossible to distinguish what either shrieking voice was saying.

“Blimey, he’s got quite the pipes on him, hasn’t he?” Tonks said.

“Yeah,” Harry agreed. Tonks had screwed up her face in an effort to block out some of the noise.

“I’m sorry to say that I think he has a point in this case,” said Mr. Weasley as he pushed away his empty plate. “Regardless of how he feels about magic, his wife should have told him what she suspected. If there’s one thing that you need in a marriage its honesty.”

“Absolutely right Arthur,” said his wife. “They should have talked about this ages ago. You lot —“ she rounded on all of the young people sitting at the table. “- bear this in mind when you do get married. If you keep things secret this is what can happen.” She seemed suddenly stern.

“Right mum,” said Charlie with a smile on his face. “But none of us are likely to be getting married here any time soon. Well maybe —“ he shot a mischievous glance at Lupin and Tonks, who both blushed and looked away from him. Charlie chuckled. “But seriously mum. You should really be having this conversation with Bill and Fleur. They are the ones that are getting married in a month.”

“Oh, I will be, don’t you worry,” Mrs. Weasley said, as she started to serve dessert.

It was delicious as usual. She had made another rhubarb crumble. Harry didn’t talk much as he ate his dessert. It was the same dessert he had the first night he had come to Grimmauld Place. He listened despondently to the conversation that was going on around him. It was happy chatter. The direness of the evening’s events seemed to have dissipated, and talk had turned to much happier topics, like Bill and Fleur’s impending nuptials.

Harry didn’t take part in the conversation. He was looking around the room in vain, hoping that something here would have left more of a reminder of Sirius. Nothing stood out in his mind.

After a time the house seemed to quiet a little. Mrs. Black was still shrieking her insults, to no one in particular, but Uncle Vernon’s voice could no longer be heard.

“I think it’s safe to shut up that portrait,” Charlie said. “It looks like he’s finally lost his voice, or something.” Mrs. Weasley gave her son a disapproving look at the comment, but said nothing.

“I’ll help you,” Lupin offered, and the two left. A few moments later there was silence once again

“Finally,” Ron and his mother said at the same time.

“You should all get to bed. It’s after midnight,” Mrs. Weasley advised, checking the clock. “It’s going to be a tight squeeze in this house with all of us,” she looked fretful for a second. “I suppose we’ll manage. At least this house has more rooms than the Burrow.”

“How long are you guys going to stay here?” Ron asked.

“We don’t know yet.” It was very slight, and had he blinked he probably would have missed it but Harry was sure he saw Mr. Weasley’s eyes flick from himself to Ginny.

“Oh,” Ron said. He stood up, Hermione following him. “Well goodnight.” The two of them left the kitchen, followed shortly by Charlie, Lupin and Tonks.

“Alastor are you sure that you don’t want to stay tonight?” Mrs. Weasley asked as Moody pulled on his traveling cloak.

“No thanks, Molly. I’ve got to go home. There are a few things that I have to take care of.”

“All right, if you’re sure,” Mrs. Weasley said as if she didn’t think much of Moody’s plans. She went back to putting away the remains of the dinner that she had just served. Both Harry and Ginny had offered to help her, but she had refused.

“I’ll walk you out.” Mr. Weasley and Moody left. The three remaining inhabitants did not speak. The only sound was the crackling of the fire, and the clinking of the dishes that were washing themselves in the sink.

A few minutes later Mrs. Weasley stowed her wand back in her apron, everything having been cleaned up and put away.

“Well you two I think you ought to consider going to bed too.”

“— DON”T CARE JUST LET ME OUT OF HERE,” came Uncle Vernon’s bellow, closely followed by fresh shouted from Mrs. Black’s portrait.

“What now?” Mrs. Weasley cried wearily as she, Ginny and Harry rushed out of the kitchen to find out what the renewed shouting was about.

“CALM DOWN MAN!” Moody’s growl-like shout was the next thing they heard.

“I DAMN WELL WILL NOT CALM DOWN. I WANT OUT OF THIS DAMNED HOUSE AND AWAY FROM ALL OF YOU PEOPLE. I AM GOING TO MARGE’S.” Uncle Vernon screamed just as Harry, Ginny, and Mrs. Weasley came up the stairs from the basement kitchen.

“Mr. Dursley — er — Vernon —“ Mr. Weasley started, “Surely you realize how dangerous it is to be out there, what with You-Know-Who running around unchecked. This would really be —“

“I’D BE IN MORE DANGER HERE WITH YOU LOT THAN AT MY SISTER’S.”

“NO YOU WOULDN’T, UNCLE VERNON,” Harry yelled to make himself heard over the screaming portrait. “Voldemort hates Mugg — people who aren’t magical. He’s causing havoc all over the place. All those accidents that happened last summer — those were his doing — the Dementors are running around the country. Death Eaters membership is growing exponentially — and they’re starting to invade everywhere. There have been several mass-Muggle disasters associated with him. It would only be a matter of time before —“

“I don’t want to hear any more of this rubbish,” Uncle Vernon said through clenched teeth. At least he had stopped shouting again. “I have had enough of you and your whole freaky family. I am going back to normal society, where puddings don’t explode, tongues don’t swell up, and sisters don’t swell either. I’m just going.”

He headed for the door, which was magically locked. He started at it for a few minutes. The locks on this door were not ordinary Muggle deadbolts, or door knob locks. They were chains and bolts that would take a Muggle several hours to disconnect.

“How the hell do I get out of here?” he asked the door.

“You can’t, at least not without magic,” Mr. Weasley explained, stepping up behind Uncle Vernon, who jumped and turned to face the wizard before him, with fear on his face. He was suffering from the delusion that he was going to be attacked or hexed.

“Vernon, do you really think that it’s going to be the best thing for your wife and son for you to leave them at this time, when there is so much danger out there?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“I want nothing more to do with them,” Uncle Vernon said, his face turning red, wearing an angry expression.

“You don’t really mean that,” Mr. Weasley responded with a small smile on his face. “The discovery that your son is a wizard is a nasty shock, no doubt about that. But surely after you have had some time to think it over, it won’t be so bad. You and Mrs. Dursley can work this out.”

“No, we cannot. Now, how do I get out of this freak show house?” Vernon Dursley turned his attention back to the door, although he kept shooting nervous glances back at Mr. Weasley.

“Arthur a word, please?” Mrs. Weasley called. She and Moody were standing back engaged in whispered conversation. Harry moved closer to them so he could hear what they were saying.

“I think we should just let him go,” Mrs. Weasley stated. “He’s obviously in shock, and if he doesn’t want to stay here we really can’t force him. Some time apart would probably do more good than harm.”

“Molly you can’t really think that a man abandoning his wife and child is a good idea.” Mr. Weasley said. Harry was surprised to hear a note of anger in his voice. Mrs. Weasley was usually the one that got worked up at things; Mr. Weasley was the laid back one of the pair.

“No Arthur, of course not. But given the circumstances . . . “

“How are we going to explain this to the boy?”

“We don’t have to. His mother can do that,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Moody can apparate him to his sisters. I bet a few days there, some time away from us, and he’ll realize that he’s made a mountain out of a molehill.”

Harry snorted at this statement. Time away might be a good idea. It would certainly make the house quieter. But he doubted that his uncle would be able to get over the shock that his own son had magical ability in a few days. Harry was willing to bet that his Uncle would have permanent psychological damage owing to the great trauma that he had just experienced.

“Fine,” snapped Mr. Weasley. “But I think this is the wrong thing. I’m going to bed. Good night Alastor. See you in a few minutes Molly.” With that he headed up the stairs, stopping to yank the curtains over Mrs. Black’s still wailing picture.

“Right,” Moody said. “You. Dursley. Where does this sister of yours live?”

“Come on you two, bed,” Mrs. Weasley sighed, motioning Harry and Ginny to go upstairs. “I am just going to check on your Aunt Harry. You two will be in the same rooms that you were in before,” she added before she opened the drawing room door and entered, closing it behind her.

Harry and Ginny just stood on the landing staring at the closed door.

“Well, never a dull moment in your life is there?” Ginny asked Harry, smiling.

“Nope.” Harry smiled at her.

“You didn’t have any idea that your cousin was a wizard?” Ginny asked.

“Not one,” Harry replied. “I mean I heard that sometimes it’s not until later in life that some people show their abilities. Look at Neville, what was it he had said. It wasn’t until he was eight that he showed any magic. But seventeen? Isn’t that a bit late? Wouldn’t he have shown something earlier?”

“I don’t know. I suppose that if he never had a need to use his powers, he might not have.” Ginny said uncertainly. “If his reaction to the idea of magic is anything like is father’s, he probably would have pushed that ability deeper inside himself or something too.”

“I guess.” Harry was thinking about her comment. “But that time we were attacked by Dementors in Little Whinging. I would think that would be a stressful situation, he should have showed something, then, shouldn’t he?”

“Against a dementor? The thing that sucks all happy thoughts out of you? The thing that drains a wizard of his powers?” Ginny asked Harry. “I don’t think that would be the best thing to test unknown powers on.”

“Right,” Harry said. He agreed with her, now he thought about it. But why hadn’t Dudley seen the Dementors? Knowing his cousin, Harry wouldn’t have put it past him to lie about it. But maybe Dudley was in suck shock he hadn’t really seen them, or at least hadn’t recalled seeing them.

“Bed you two.” Mrs. Weasley’s head peered around the door.

“OK mum,” Ginny said. As the door closed she rolled her eyes. “I guess we should go.” They started to walk up the stairs. “Honestly, doesn’t she realize that it’s the holidays?” Ginny asked grumpily as they reached the second landing, and the door to the room that Harry and Ron shared.

“I mean really, do we really need to be up at the crack of dawn? It’s not like we’re ten years old,” Ginny ranted on. Harry chuckled softly.

“Good night Ginny.” Harry opened the door and had taken a step into the room when the most unexpected scene met his eyes. He was so dumbstruck that he couldn’t do anything, even move. His sudden cessation of movement caught Ginny by surprise. She peered in from behind him and could barely keep from bursting into fits of laughter.

Ron and Hermione were sitting on the edge of Ron’s bed. Their arms were wrapped around each other, and they were kissing passionately.

“When did this happen?” Ginny asked Harry quietly. He shrugged. Surely, this didn’t happen during their time at Privet Drive.

“OI. When did this happen?” Ginny called. Ron and Hermione jumped up quickly, looking very embarrassed. Both of their faces were bright red. They didn’t say anything. Instead they shuffled their feet, looking anywhere but at each other, or at Harry and Ginny.

“C’mon now, we’re waiting.” Ginny had a huge grin on her face.

“Butt out Ginny,” Ron mumbled, still with his head down.

“Nope, we need details, out with it,” Ginny demanded. She had pushed Harry into the room and walked in herself, closing the door behind her.

“Ginny, we really would rather not,” Hermione said. “It’s not something that we want everyone to know.”

“Oh puh-lease.” Ginny rolled her eyes. “It’s great. We’ve all been waiting for this to happen for ages.”

“What do you mean all?” Ron asked, looking at her.

“Oh, no one really,” Ginny replied nonchalantly, “Just pretty much everyone that knows you two. Right, Harry?” Ron and Hermione turned to look at their best friend.

“Yeah, it’s true,” Harry said.

“You have?” Hermione asked in a surprised voice. “Exactly how long have you suspected this?”

“Since Ron started acting even more like a prat around you,” Ginny answered. “That was what, your fourth year?’ She turned to Harry for confirmation.

“Yeah, the whole Krum thing,” Harry said remembering. “Ron, I seem to recall that you didn’t take that very well.” His grin grew wider. “A little jealous I think, don’t you agree Gin?”

“A lot jealous if I recall correctly,” she replied nodding her head.

“Well he was from Durmstrang,” Ron said indignantly. “Who knew what he was capable of?”

Harry and Ginny burst into laughter at the look on Ron’s face.

“What?” Ron asked, looking completely lost at what was so funny about what he said.

“They’re teasing you Ron,” said Hermione, who was still highly embarrassed looking, but found Ron’s reaction funny too. She was trying hard not to laugh, but was fighting a losing battle as the corners or her mouth threatened to give her away. “Because you were actually quite ridiculous with that whole thing.”

“Too right,” Ginny agreed, getting back some of her composure. “But so were you. That McClaggen business was not the smartest move.”

“What McClaggen business?” Ron asked. Apparently he had not been filled in on Hermione’s real reason for taking the inept Quidditch Keeper to Slughorn’s Christmas Party.

“It’s nothing,” Hermione replied, glaring at Ginny.

“Yeah, it was nothing. Really!” Ginny said. Ron didn’t seem convinced, but also didn’t comment on it.

“What are you two doing in here anyway?” he asked a suspicious note in his voice.

“Mum went to go talk to Harry’s aunt, and she said that it was time for us to go to sleep.” Ginny explained.

“So you come up here with Harry? What exactly were the two of you planning?”

“Nothing, idiot. We came upstairs together, but I only came in when I saw what you two were up to. If we wanted to do that we wouldn’t sneak off and pretend to go to bed. We don’t have to hide it from everyone.”

“All the Gryffindors know that, don’t they?” Hermione said.

“Yes they do,” Ginny replied, glancing at Harry. “See, we don’t need to hide behind closed doors, do we?” As she said this she put her arm around him.

“Nope,” he agreed, putting his arm around her shoulder and pulling her closer.

Hermione’s eyes widened.

“Are you two . . . ?” she didn’t finish her question. She didn’t need to.

“Er . . . “ Ginny looked at Harry.

“No we’re not,” he said, letting go of her at once and sliding a little farther away.

“Oh.” The smile Hermione had on her face faltered. An awkward silence filled the room. Harry didn’t dare look up.

The uncomfortable tension in the room might have stretched on for untold amounts of time if a sharp knock on the door didn’t break it.

“How many times do I have to tell you it’s time for bed?” Mrs. Weasley asked impatiently as she poked her head in the room and saw her daughter there. “Now,” she added sharply.

“Yeah, we’re going,” Ginny said. She looked at Harry one last time. He didn’t dare return her gaze. She sighed, getting up and following Hermione out of the room.

“No more talking. Get to sleep,” Mrs. Weasley told Ron and Harry before she closed the door.

Harry and Ron got changed without saying anything, or looking at each other. When they were both in their beds and the lights were out Ron spoke.

“What’s going on with you and my sister?”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“Well, you broke up with her right? Why you did doesn’t make sense to me- but it’s your decision,” he added when Harry made to interrupt him. “Then there are these things between you two. I mean, there was that day at platform nine and three-quarters. And then tonight . . . I mean you two seem so close still, just – I guess what I’m asking is what are you doing to her, sending mixed signals?”

Harry didn’t say anything for a while.

“I don’t know,” he answered finally. “We’ve talked about this. It’s not a good idea for us to be together right now.”

“Not working so well though is it?” Ron asked. He meant it as a rhetorical question because next second he had rolled over in his bed and said, “G’night Harry.”

“Night.” Harry took off his glasses and put them on the night table. Then he lay back in bed and stared at the ceiling. What was he doing to Ginny, behaving like this? The easy answer was to say that he didn’t know. But if he really thought about it, he knew he wanted to be with her, but couldn’t risk it. She was already going to be enough of a target for Voldemort, should he find out about that little incident on platform nine and three quarters. The ultimate thing would be if there was a way that they could stay together but keep their relationship a secret. Even as he thought it, Harry knew that wouldn’t work. Something that Ginny had said the day of Dumbledore’s funeral made him believe that she might go for it. But like he had told her that day, Voldemort would find out. Even if they were as careful and discrete as was possible to be the Dark Lord always found out. And Harry’s less than stellar ability at Occlumency was no help here.

He punched his pillow into a more comfortable position, hitting it rather harder than usual in frustration. Sometimes it really sucked to be him, he thought bitterly. All he wanted was to have a normal life, and normal relationships, but he couldn’t do that because some crazed, almost immortal dark wizard killed his family and wanted to finish the job.

He’s not going to though, Harry thought to himself. Those Horcruxes are out there somewhere, and we’ll find them and destroy them, and then we’ll get him. But where are the Horcruxes though? As this last thought washed over him, he felt that same sense of how impossible this task really was.

How long was it going to take them to find these bits of soul that Voldemort had stashed God knows where? And when they did find them, what were they going to have to endure to destroy them? A picture of Dumbledore’s withered hand entered Harry’s mind, and he shuddered.

It looked like he was going to have another sleepless night.
* * * * * * * *

Harry had fallen into a light and uneasy sleep when he was jerked suddenly awake by more shrieking.

“What now?” he asked grumpily sitting up and reaching blindly for his glasses. He looked around the room, and found that it was a little lighter than it had been when he had fallen asleep, but not much. Ron didn’t appear to be in his bed.

Harry suddenly felt wide awake. Where was Ron, and what was the yelling about this time? Could it be that Ron was in trouble, and it was him yelling for help?

Harry sprinted to the door and threw it open. He stepped into the hall and was almost at the stairs when he knocked into someone.

“Harry slow down,” Ginny said, grabbing the banister to stop herself from falling down the stairs.

“Sorry,” he said quickly, “What’s going on with all the yelling?” As he said the question he realized that the last few words that were dying away were coming from the foul-mouthed portrait of Sirius’s dead mother.

“It’s the portrait.,” Ginny said.

“What set it off this time?” Harry asked, his heart rate starting to return to normal, and the fear being replaced by annoyance.

“Er . . . let’s go and sit down,” she said taking his arm and leading him back to the room he had just vacated. Harry felt the fear that had just started leaving him return in full measure.

“What’s going on?” he asked as they sat down on his bed. His mind was racing. Most of the Weasley’s were here at Grimmauld Place so they were probably fine, but Fred, George, Bill and Percy weren’t. Could it be something with one of the other Order members? Maybe Moody or —

“Well, its not good news,” Ginny said quietly. “The Death Eaters attacked again, and killed —“ she stopped and closed her eyes for a minute as if she was gathering the strength to tell him.

“Ginny, just spit it out,” Harry snapped. As much as he didn’t want to hear about another death, waiting was worse.

“It was your Aunt Marge,” Ginny said quietly. Harry stared at her for a minute. He had a fleeting desire to laugh. At least it wasn’t someone that he was close to. But it quickly passed and he felt worse. How could he laugh over something like this? It wasn’t a humorous situation, regardless of how he had felt about Uncle Vernon’s sister.

“What happened?” he asked.

“I don’t know too much. Moody had side-along apparated him to her house and the Death Eaters were just leaving,” Ginny explained. “There were three of them apparently, and they were casting the Dark Mark when the pair arrived. They had a duel, Moody and your uncle are a little beat up, but nothing serious. Anyway, he was able to call reinforcements and they were able to overpower the Death Eaters. They’ve been arrested, but when they went into the house she was dead.”

“Did they — uh — did she suffer?” Harry asked, he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the answer.

“I don’t know,” Ginny confessed. “Moody didn’t go into too much detail. Your uncle was pretty distraught though. He was downstairs bawling, that’s what set the portrait off,” she explained. “I’m so sorry Harry.”

Harry could only nod. It was very true that there was no love lost between him and Aunt Marge. Even so, he would never have wished her dead. He knew what it was like to lose family, and now so did uncle Vernon.

“I should go down and see him,” Harry said. “To offer condolences.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea right now,” Ginny spoke quickly. Harry looked at her questioningly. “Mum was going to try and get him to take a calming potion. He’s a little frantic.”

Harry sensed that there was something that she wasn’t telling him. He asked her what it was.

“Nothing,” she lied unconvincingly.

“Gin, come on.”

“OK, He . . . he kept talking nonsense. He was saying all kinds of irrational things. I don’t think we could make out half of what he said —“ Harry looked at her when she didn’t answer his question. She shifted a little uncomfortably. “OK,” she said again. The next phrase she uttered in a quiet voice. “He said this was all your fault.”

Harry leaned back against the wall. He felt like he had been hit with a sledgehammer. His aunt and uncle had always blamed him for everything that went wrong in their lives, he was too used to it to be much affected by their statements. Yet, this assertion by his uncle really got to him. This one was actually true. If he hadn’t gone to live with the Dursleys Aunt Marge would still be alive.

“This isn’t your fault. Don’t you dare think it is,” Ginny stated, as she hugged him.

“Of course it is. If I wasn’t living with them they wouldn’t have got dragged into this whole mess.” All previous thoughts of staying away from Ginny were long gone as he pulled her closer to him.

“You didn’t ask for this to happen. The fact that Voldemort is crazy doesn’t have anything to do with you Harry,” Ginny said. “It’s sad that your Aunt is dead. Unfortunate, aggravating, scary, and whatever else, but it’s not your fault.”

Harry didn’t see the point in arguing with her.

They stayed there together, embracing each other on Harry’s bed for several more minutes. They were both starting to fall asleep when someone cleared their throat from the entrance to the bedroom. Harry’s eyes snapped open. There stood Mr. Weasley. Realizing how this must look to her father, Harry let go of Ginny quickly. She just looked disgruntled.

“What dad?” she asked looking at him, not moving from her spot.

“I need to talk to you two,” He said. His tone was serious, but his eyes were crinkled and the corners of his mouth were shaking as if he were trying to hide his amusement. “Now please.” He added as he headed downstairs, with Harry and Ginny following him. He led them to the basement kitchen. Mrs. Weasley, Lupin, Tonks, and a very exhausted Moody were sitting at the table. They all looked up when the three new people entered.

“Breakfast?” asked Mrs. Weasley yawning, and getting up.

“Later Molly,” Mr. Weasley said as they sat down at the table.

“What is this about dad?” Ginny asked. She looked at Harry. Surely they weren’t about to be told off for what her father had just walked in on. If that were the case he could have done it upstairs.

“Molly please sit, you haven’t heard this either, and I don’t think that you would want to hear this news standing,” Mr. Weasley told his wife. The amusement that he had shown a few minutes before was completely gone, and he looked very serious now.

“What’s this about Arthur?”

“It’s about Harry and Ginny,” Lupin said. He too was looking very grave.

“What?” Ginny questioned. She looked at Harry. From the expression on her face it seemed that she was wondering the same thing as he was. Were they actually about to get told off in front of a number of order members because of how they had been found a few minutes ago?

“Your mother told me about the . . er . . . goodbye you shared when you got back from school.” Mr. Weasley remarked. Both Harry and Ginny blushed. For a few seconds the amusement was back in Mr. Weasley’s expression as he quipped, “Don’t worry Harry I’m not going to hurt you. I’ll leave that to my sons.

Harry actually started to worry that he was serious before Ginny squeezed his arm as she whispered in his ear, “he’s just kidding.”

“In all seriousness now, we wanted to talk to the two of you because some very worrisome news has reached our ears,” Lupin said.

“What Remus?” asked Mrs. Weasley nervously. “What sort of news could the Order have obtained that would affect Harry and Ginny?” Her eyes widened and contracted as she tried to work out what this could be. Before Lupin had the chance to answer her question she gasped, clearly coming to the worst possible conclusion. “You two haven’t – You’re not – ?” She didn’t seem able to finish her question as she rushed over to her daughter. “Ginny please tell me you’re not —“

Ginny stared at her in confusion for a minute, then she seemed to understand what her mother was asking.

“NO, I’m not!” Ginny snapped at her mother blushing furiously. “We’ve never . . . I mean . . . I’ve never . . . “ her face was almost as red as her hair now. She wouldn’t look at any of them.

“Oh thank God,” Mrs. Weasley breathed in relief placing a hand over her heart. “Because you’re both too young. I mean you’re just kids yourself.”

Harry groaned audibly. He had just clued into what she was talking about. He was sure he was now as red as Ginny. This was absolutely the last thing that he wanted to be discussed in front of her father and mother.

“Molly, do you think the Order keeps tabs on their sex lives?’ Tonks asked. Harry chanced a glance at her and saw that she was shaking with suppressed laughter. “We might keep tabs on him, but we don’t watch that close.”

“No, of course not,” Mrs. Weasley said sheepishly as she regained her seat, “I’m sorry, the last few days have just made me a little tetchy.”

“This meeting is about their relationship though.” Mr. Weasley was chuckling again. Like Tonks he seemed to find Harry and Ginny’s embarrassment highly amusing.

“Yes, we think that Voldemort knows about Ginny, Harry. Actually I take that back. We’re certain he knows about her,” Lupin was looking at him with a very serious expression as he said these words. In his eyes Harry could see that Lupin had some understanding of how Harry was going to take this unwelcome bit of information.

Wow that was fast, Harry thought to himself. For some reason he had come to believe that he had at least a few months before he had to worry about what Voldemort would know. He could not explain why he had come to this conclusion, but it had been a firm one nonetheless.

“Of course he knows about me,” Ginny said as though she thought this conversation was so obvious. “I’m sure that Lucius Malfoy would have told him about the diary,” she shuddered at the recollection.

“No, Gin, he knows about us,” Harry said quietly, as he rested his face in his hands the full weight of this news starting to sink in. He had feared this very thing, but a small part of him had hoped that by some miracle Voldemort would not learn about Ginny.

“Oh,” she said quietly.

“How?” Harry asked. One name popped into his mind — Snape. Ginny had said that he knew about them, and when he had left Hogwarts the night he had killed Dumbledore he had surely gone straight to Voldemort. Did he tell him that very night?

“We don’t really know,” Lupin said. Seeing Harry’s reaction he added, “not Snape. We think that it might have been Malfoy, Draco, that is. Voldemort seemed pleased.”

“I bet he was,” Harry growled through gritted teeth, his face still resting in his hands. How could he have been so stupid as to even think that Voldemort wouldn’t find out quickly? He was sure now that it wouldn’t matter if they were actually together; Ginny was going to be in a huge amount of danger.

“But we’re not together anymore,” Ginny said. She looked at Harry again. “Voldemort can’t really think that he can use me to get to you?“

“That’s exactly what he thinks.”

“Really though, don’t you think if he found out about us being together he’d know we’re not together anymore?”

“And how would he know that? We didn’t exactly act like that the last time we were in public,” Harry said bitterly. “Damn it. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid.”

“Well, we’ll just have to deal with it,” Ginny stated. She was taking the news that she was in danger very stoically.

“Yes, and the first thing is that we have to stay away from each other,” Harry said determinedly.

“And what good’s that going to do? You said it yourself, it doesn’t matter if we’re together or not, Voldemort’s not going to leave me be.”

“We’ve been through this already Ginny,” Harry moaned exasperatedly. “The Chamber of Secrets was bad enough, and that was just when you were Ron’s little sister. I don’t even want to think of what ends he would go to, or what he would do to you if we were together.”

“Oh don’t be stupid Harry,” Ginny snapped. ”I know that you think that you are doing the right thing here. And I really do appreciate it. But I don’t understand why you have to be this way. If he knows about us, the official status of our relationship is going to matter little. Look at your aunt. What kind of relationship did you have with her? Yet, Voldemort still saw fit to murder her. You and I are much closer than you ever were with her. I’m probably safer with you than without.”

“She has a fair point Harry,” said Tonks. “You are The Boy Who Lived after all. How many times have you come face to face with You-Know-Who and come out of it OK? That’s something that no one else —“

“Yeah, but that doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot of good to those around me. My parents, Cedric, Dumbledore, Sirius —“ he stopped and looked around the room, feeling that sense of guilt again that he didn’t have more recollections of his godfather in number twelve Grimmauld Place. “ — and now even Aunt Marge. Honestly, I’ve had enough of the people I love dying. I’ve made my decision. I’m sorry Ginny but we can’t see each other anymore.”

Harry ignored the remonstrations of everyone in the room as he stood up and walked out. This was getting to be a habit of his.

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