CT: Chapter Fifteen: Colin’s Photos

Harry sat back on the sofa to think over everything Hermione had said. It was starting to fit together. His scar bled when the Dark Mark appeared, the only remaining thing of Voldemort’s creation. It didn’t answer questions about why the Dark Mark had been cast where it was. Other than the fact that they were places where Harry had been . . . Damn, another thing Tougas had got right.

There’s something else . . . Again its just a theory, but I think there’s a connection between the missing Muggle-borns, the work the Department of Mysteries is doing on fear, and you.” She cringed as she started to speak, but by the end of her statement, Hermione was back to her usual self, annoyed that she wasn’t able to find the connection.

“That’s an easy one,” Ron said, coming into the room at last. “Malfoy and Lestrange are both crazy and think that they can resurrect Voldemort.”

Harry and Hermione exchanged a look and Harry was sure she was thinking the same thing he was: that could not be the reason.

“You can’t bring back someone from the dead,” Hermione stated.

“We know that,” Ron said, “but crazy people don’t live in the same reality as we do.”

“That’s a fair point,” Harry replied. “We have to take into account the fact that Bellatrix Lestrange has gone around the twist, probably even more so without her precious Dark Lord.”

He fell silent for a minute, thinking about what Hermione had said. If she and Briony were right about fear, that led to more questions. What could Malfoy and Lestrange possibly want with fear, and how would that relate to bringing Voldemort back from the dead? And how did Hermione know about that research in the first place? The Department of Mysteries might be a lot more accessible under Kingsley’s leadership, but they still weren’t in the habit of giving out information to every person who inquired.

“How do you know what the Department of Mysteries is up to, Hermione?”

“I have my sources,” she said evasively. Harry watched her for a minute to see if she was going to elaborate. When she didn’t he chuckled.

“You know . . . I’ll never understand why you didn’t become an Auror. You’re ten steps ahead of most of the people in my department. If you had joined up you’d probably be running the place by now. Is there anything I can do to convince you to change your mind?”

“A girl’s got to have her secrets.”

* * *

The following day Harry was back at the Quidditch stadium with the remainder of the task force. They were giving the place a more thorough inspection. While he hoped it would yield something they could use, Harry was not optimistic. Everyone could make mistakes but thus far Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange held perfect records. He wasn’t entirely convinced that the phial of Polyjuice potion that had been left behind had been a mistake. It would be very like the two Death Eaters to leave it behind as a taunt to the Aurors.

Today he was once again working with Brazill, something Harry was glad for. Not only was she an exceptional Auror who was more than willing to share her expertise, she could also be very funny. In many ways she reminded him of Tonks, although not quite so nosy, and definitely not a Metamorphmagus.

“There?” Harry asked an hour into their investigation, pointing to a small door that was easy to overlook. “D’you think that they might have squeezed in there?”

“Out of the way, easy to miss . . . That’s probably it,” Brazill said excitedly, hurrying over. She started casting spells before she reached. “This door has known magic recently. I can’t imagine it would be used frequently by the team, do you?”

Brazill waved her wand over the door as she spoke, her excitement apparent. Harry was in full agreement with her feelings. This would be further proof of his suspicions and, while it would not lead directly to the capture, the more information they had, the better.

“D’you think it was Malfoy and Lestrange?” Harry asked watching as Brazill continued to inspect the area.

“Almost positive. It’s subtle, but do you see this?” Brazill pointed to the wall. Harry looked, but at first saw nothing but the green that adorned al of the walls of the Harpies stadium. He didn’t notice anything odd about that. Upon closer inspection, however, he saw a tiny section of the wall where the paint was chipped, likely caused when the door was blasted open with enough force to hit the wall and rebound.

“Excessive force? Are you thinking Bellatrix Lestrange?” he asked.

“Very good. We can’t really say for sure it was her. She wouldn’t be the first witch to be violent . . . but its one more possibility. When we start getting enough of those it narrows our list of suspects substantially.”

“Yeah it does.” Harry was looking around more carefully now. If they could find traces of the flourish that he’d read exemplified Malfoy’s wand work they’d have enough evidence to link him and Lestrange to the abductions. Then it would just be a matter of finding them.

After spending all day examining every part of the stadium for clues Harry thought his love for Quidditch might be dashed just a little. They were unable to find any physical sign that Malfoy and Lestrange had been there, other than the circumstantial. The interior of the stadium was sweltering in the June heat. When they were able to escape to the outside they were baking in the intense sun, something that did not improve their moods.

Dawlish, who was known to have replaced Moody as the leader of the task force, spent most of the day fending off owls. Many of the letters were from frightened and concerned people who thought the Ministry was again reverting to tactics like they had when Fudge was still Minister. They worried that Voldemort had again returned and it was being kept quiet. Harry couldn’t believe it.

“I know he’s definitely dead,” he said as they stood sweating in the sun. “He can’t come back. Why can’t people understand that this time’s different?”

“Because they don’t know this time’s different,” Brazill said. “Not many people know the whole circumstance, do they Potter?”

This was quite true but it didn’t help Harry when he wanted to rant. Several times he’d been in close proximity to Dawlish as a Howler came in. The various shrieks of angry and upset people were most unwelcome in conjunction with their frustration at their lack of success and the high temperatures.

When they had been over every inch of the place to Dawlish’s satisfaction Harry was not the only one who sighed in relief. Even Tougas was too exhausted to add a snide comment. He walked away and Disapparated without a backward glance at Harry.

“I’ve got our notes mostly compiled.” Brazill said, rolling up the scroll of parchment that had been trailing them all day. “It’s no problem for me to write up this report. You go and check on that girl of yours.”

Harry couldn’t’ begin to express his gratitude to Brazill for what she was doing. It would be a lot of work for her to do on her own and he felt bad for that, but his desire to check on Ginny had been growing all day. More than once he found himself wondering if there was more to her condition than exhaustion.

The chickens were strolling across the yard when Harry appeared there. He also thought he heard the unmistakable sound of Fred and George teaching Riley and Simon some new prank that they would get into trouble for later.

“Hello?” Harry called as he entered the house. The kitchen was again empty but the house most certainly was not. Within seconds of his call Molly poked her head out of the scullery.

“Hello, Harry. We thought you’d have been here a lot earlier. How did it go? Did you find anything to help you capture the people who cast that awful mark?” She was looking worried and very likely could have written her own Howler to the Ministry.

“Maybe. Its really too early to tell,” he said, trying to sound off-hand.

“Thank goodness,” she replied, also sounding like she was trying to make light of things. “Ginny’s upstairs. She’s been lying down all day.”

“She has?”

Something that should have pleased Harry alarmed him. The times Ginny had actually listened to a healer and stayed in bed longer than an hour were so few and far between that they could easily be counted as nonexistent. What could have happened to make her finally listen?

Harry made his way up the winding staircase to the third landing. He listened for a few seconds for noise from her room. There was only silence so he lightly tapped and entered.

The curtains were drawn, making the room much darker than it should have been. Everything was cast in shadow, including the bed where, had Harry not already been told she was, he wouldn’t have known Ginny was lying.

“Gin?” he called in a low voice. He didn’t want to wake her if she was still sleeping. She definitely needed the rest. The Harpies had been working hard over the past weeks and therefore it wasn’t surprising that she was exhausted. If she were suffering from something more she’d probably be in here for a few days.

There was no answer to his call.

Quietly as he could, Harry crept into the room. He just wanted to reassure himself that Ginny was indeed OK. He found her asleep in her bed. Despite the heat she had the covers drawn up to her neck.

Harry watched Ginny for some time. Even in the semi-dark and though she was sleeping he could see she was not resting peacefully. There were dark circles under her eyes and she was twitching as though she was in the throes of a bad dream.

Worried that she was dreaming about her time as Voldemort’s captive, Harry considered waking Ginny. She should not have to endure recollections of that time. He reached out to shake her awake but she relaxed and a peaceful expression replaced the previous tension so he stayed his hand.

“Harry?” Hermione called softly from the doorway. He turned and saw her beckoning him out of the room. With one last glance at Ginny he heeded her call. When the door closed Hermione asked, “how’s she doing?”

“She’s still sleeping,” he said, purposely keeping his answer simple. He didn’t want Hermione reading things into Ginny’s expression when he hadn’t worked anything out himself. He was troubled by it and wanted some time to think things over and to talk to Ginny before he was inundated with everyone else’s pet theories. Hermione already had some theories of her own judging by the expression on her face, but she followed Harry’s lead and said nothing.

“So . . . feel like divulging your source of information yet?” Harry asked as they returned to the lower floors of the Burrow. He was keen to change topics.

“No, but I will tell you its no one of consequence, just someone I know in the Department of Mysteries.”

Harry stopped ten stairs from the bottom. That department had become a lot less secretive in the years since the war, but it still seemed like someone was getting awfully chatty, or was it several people? The latter idea was even more disturbing. Percy, Briony and now Hermione were able to get confidential information out of the department. Who was to say that Malfoy and Lestrange weren’t as well; Voldemort had always had spies in the Ministry so why wouldn’t his two strongest and most loyal supporters? Malfoy would surely be watching his back, and Lestrange might be crazy but she certainly wasn’t stupid.

“Are you going to stand here all day, blocking traffic?” Fred inquired, poking Harry in the back.

“Sorry.” Harry quickly walked down the remainder of the stairs, careful to keep an eye on Fred. It wasn’t wise to feel safe with one of the Weasley twins behind you. Fred, however, behaved himself. He didn’t even make one of his usual jokes about Harry stopping to think inappropriate thoughts about Ginny. This was such unusual behaviour that Harry couldn’t help commenting on it.

“That was odd,” he said to Hermione going on to explain what had happened.

“They’re worried about Ginny. The whole family is,” Hermione replied. “Molly’s been trying to talk to her all day . . . when she’s awake, that is . . . Ginny just keeps insisting that its all due to exhaustion, but —“ Hermione stopped and scrutinized Harry. “ — We know that can’t be true. She trained harder last year.”

“Yeah,” Harry said, acknowledging this for the first time. He had, of course, known that Ginny wasn’t being entirely truthful, but having the comparison was reinforcing his worry.

“You spend the most time with her. What’s she been like lately?” Hermione was still watching him like she was looking for a flaw in his story. Though he was unnerved by it, Harry almost hoped she would find one. Any explanation would be appreciated right now.

“I dunno. We had a rocky patch for a while, but for the last month or so things have been really good. I know she’s been having some trouble sleeping, but Ikey gave her a dreamless sleep potion to take . . . it wasn’t until yesterday that she started to look really ill anyway.” Harry could hear the defensive tone in his voice and was annoyed by it. As he told Hermione everything he was even more irked that he hadn’t questioned things earlier. Ginny could be stubborn but she’d never before flat out refused to follow the orders of a mediwizard, even Ikey. Harry thought back to when he had first noticed Ginny’s trouble sleeping. He thought it had started around the time Dudley had walked in on her in the shower (something he still had to talk to the git about) when she had recalled what had happened with Voldemort. But . . . she’d been suffering from insomnia for weeks before that too, making Harry unsure of how to react.

“Hmmm.” Hermione said, chewing her bottom lip. Harry could see she was thinking again, but shrugged when he looked at her curiously.

Ron, Bill and the twins came in a minute later.

“Where’s Moody?” Harry asked, surprised he hadn’t already seen him. Hermione rolled her eyes.

“He’s in talking with Arthur and Molly.” She pointed to the sitting room. “He’s trying to persuade them to help convince my parents to go into hiding. He also wants —“ a huge eye roll, punctuated with a large sigh “- me to stop working and go into hiding too.”

“Not stop,” Ron said aggressively, “but to work from home. He thinks it would be easier to manage your protection there. You couldn’t be snatched mid-transport then. It’s a good plan, isn’t it?”

“Er . . . “ Harry was reluctant to give an opinion when faced with Ron’s eagerness and Hermione’s surliness. He could see benefits and drawbacks to both plans and thus wanted to know what Moody’s rationale was. One thought did occur to him though, and he voiced it. “If its safety you’re concerned with, why not stay at Grimmauld Place? The Fidelius Charm is still active so they wouldn’t be able to get you.”

Ron was all for that idea, and Harry was rather partial to it himself and was ready to go tell Moody when Hermione put her foot down.

“No. I’m not being driven from my home,” she said firmly.

“I understand that you want to stand up to them, but this isn’t the way to do it,” Ron said.

“Remember what happened the last time someone didn’t listen and stay at number twelve?” Harry added for good measure, pointing upstairs to indicate he was talking about Ginny.

Hermione’s firm resolve wavered a bit, but she recovered quickly.

“I know you both mean well,” she said, “but this isn’t the same situation. We’re not dealing with the same villain here. And we’ve got Moody. He’s the best Auror out there, isn’t he?”

“He’s also getting older,” Ron stated fiercely. “Hermione, this isn’t all a game. Those two Death Eaters are really after you, and —“

“Oh we don’t even know that for sure,” she snapped. “It’s just a pet theory of that stupid task force —“

“Not really,” Harry interrupted and then paused before he went on, wondering how much he should reveal. Finally he decided to tell her what the evidence seemed to indicate: that he was the target and they were targeting Muggle-borns increasingly closer to him. When he finished talking Hermione was speechless and he thought he might have won her over, but no such luck.

“Its still just a theory,” she said, a trace of doubt entwined with her words. “But I’m still not going to let those two drive me from my home. We’ve got Moody. Between him and myself . . . I think we’re enough to stave them off until reinforcements come, if necessary. And anyway . . . we’ve got enough chaos in our lives what with the wedding and all — we don’t need to add to it.”

A few strings of profanity began to form in Harry’s mind at Hermione’s ill thought out decision. He, and from what he could see, Ron were both ready to argue with Hermione on this point but she put up her hand.

“I’ve already made my decision. There’s no use arguing about it.”

Despite the finality in her tone, Harry and Ron kept at Hermione for another fifteen minutes until she blew up and forced them from the house at wand tip.

“Was it something you said?” George asked, having overheard the last of Hermione’s words. Unlike Fred he was grinning dangerously. “C’mon you two, Fred and I are teaching the twins how to fly.”

Harry and Ron looked at each other and at once knew they were thinking the same thing: Fleur would not like this at all.

“C’mon Harry, Ron,” Fred echoed.

Reluctantly they followed the elder set of twins to teach the younger ones to fly.

“If Fleur catches us, you two are answering to her,” Ron said. He explained his cowardice when they started to laugh. “Fleur’s part Veela. Hermione’s bad enough when she gets angry. She just conjures birds, she doesn’t turn into them.”

“Fair point, dear brother,” George replied. “But we’ll pluck that feather when it comes to it, eh?”

Their flying lessons reminded Harry very much of watching as the Dursleys taught Dudley how to ride a bike. There was a lot of steadying and not much actual flying. For the most part he stood back and watched as the twins ran around the back garden of the Burrow, chasing toy brooms. It gave him time to wonder if this was how he had learned to ride from his dad, or if there had even been time.

As Fred and George raced off on some daredevil stunt with the toy brooms, Harry couldn’t stop from thinking about himself and Ginny. Would they ever be the ones worrying about their children falling off toy brooms? He looked up at her window and saw her looking down at him thoughtfully. Smiling, Harry raised his hand and waved at her. She returned a small, uncertain smile of her own. Even from this vantage point Harry could see she didn’t look any better awake than she had asleep.

“What are you doing?” Fleur cried, rushing from the house and making straight to Fred and George. “’Ave you no sense? These are les enfants. They are too small for ze brooms.”

Harry looked away from Fleur and back to Ginny’s window, hoping she was still there, but the curtain had fallen back into place. Trying to hide his disappointment he turned to see if Fleur had shown more than just her temper.

“C’mon. We don’t need to hear them being told off,” Ron said and led the way back inside where they saw Ginny making her way down the stairs.

“Hi. How are you feeling?” Harry asked, meeting Ginny at the foot of the stair case and giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Fine,” she said. “I keep telling people that. I’m not dying.”

Hermione pursed her lips at Ginny’s comment but kept quiet. In and of itself this was an odd occurrence. Harry wanted to ask her what she was thinking but wasn’t afforded the opportunity because of the hustle and bustle of the Burrow.

They were eating outside again. In an attempt to show everyone she was fine, Ginny led Harry out into the yard and tried to be the life of the party. While she did make a good show of it, Harry wasn’t the only one who noticed that Ginny ate very little.

“You’ve got to eat something,” Molly said. “You need to keep up your strength while you are recovering from your exhaustion.”

“Fine,” Ginny snapped and forced down the rest of the foot on her plate. As she was eating a loud crack sounded and a second later Lupin came running around from the front of the house.

“Tonks had the baby — a boy,” he cried, looking too overwhelmed to have any other reaction.

Cheers sounded up and down the table. Everyone rushed over to wring his hand. Everyone, that was, except Harry and Ginny. She hung back, looking on warily. Harry stayed with her, watching from afar.

“Exciting news,” she said, watching Fred and George summon a bottle of Firewhiskey.

“Yeah.” Harry put his arm around her. They both watched the scene for another minute. Lupin was smiling now, some of his shock leaving him. “He seems to be taking news of the birth better than he did the news Tonks was pregnant.”

“Yes,” Ginny said. She turned to look at Harry and he could tell that there was something she wanted to say but couldn’t quite find the words. She hesitated, on the verge of speech for so long that Harry started to prompt her but she turned away. “Let’s go offer our congratulations before Fred and George get him plastered.”

The minute he saw Harry, Lupin broke free of the crowd.

“Congratulations.” Harry gave Lupin a quick hug. “What’s he called?”

Theodore Remus. Teddy, after Dora’s dad . . . “

“Teddy Lupin?” Harry asked, trying the name out. He found that it fit well.

“My son, Teddy Lupin.” He rubbed the stubble on his day old beard. “Who would have thought?”

“I bet my dad did,” Harry said.

“Oh yes.” Lupin smiled. “Your dad loved to talk about the little cubs that would be roaming around in the moonlight. He had whole monologues for us after you were born. If you ask me he had a few embarrassing pranks stored up for when the rest of us had kids . . . “

“Fred and George would have loved him,” Ginny said, squeezing Harry’s hand.

“Definitely.” Lupin’s smile faded and he was again looking serious. “He was a good friend to me, as have you, Harry. Not many people would want someone like me around . . . I don’t know how to say this eloquently so I’ll just — I’d like you to be godfather to Teddy.”

“Me?” Harry asked, not really sure he had understood the request. He hadn’t done anything to deserve this honor. “I . . . don’t really . . . Sure, I guess.”

“Brilliant.” Lupin clapped him on the back. “I think we have time for another drink before I need to get back.”

Harry declined the drink. The Aurors were on alert for any suspicious activity or display of dark magic. None of the other members of the task force would appreciate him showing up drunk.

Harry noticed that Ginny was also abstaining but wasn’t at all surprised. She wasn’t a heavy drinker at the best of times. Since her disastrous Quidditch party she’d been steering clear of the stuff. Adding ill health to the other two situations created a recipe for sobriety.

* * *

It felt like he had just gone to sleep when Ginny was shaking him awake.

“Five more minutes,” he mumbled.

“You said that half an hour ago,” she said, shaking him more vigorously. “Get up. I’ve made coffee.”

Grumbling, Harry rolled out of bed and stumbled to the shower. When he emerged not only had Ginny made coffee, but she’d made an entire breakfast. She hadn’t missed a day a month.

“You really don’t have to do this,” he said. It was the same thing he’d said every morning for the last four weeks. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate what she was doing, but he worried that she was overworking herself. Breakfast was hardly strenuous, but she still looked off-colour, and spent a great deal of time sleeping. Harry worried that maybe she had been taking too much of the dreamless sleep potion, but the bottle remained untouched.

“It’s the least I could do,” she said. One thing that had returned was Ginny’s appetite. She was eating normally again.

He was running late and so only had time to munch on a few things before he had to leave. Harry muttered a goodbye to Ginny, apologized again for working the long hours.

“You’re getting closer,” she said certainly. “Once they’re caught things will go back to normal.”

Harry wished he could share Ginny’s optimism. They’d been at this case for years and still had no progress. All the tips they were getting turned out to be for naught. The only interview Harry had been a part of that yielded any results was the one with Hera Crane. From the reports he’d been reading and hearing about, no one else had made any progress either. They’d been working very long hours, interviewing the remaining attendees at the Quidditch Semi-finals, and following up on all the new tips that were pouring into the Auror office from panicky witches and wizards. If a quarter of the sightings were true there would have to be twelve Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoys running around.

The most frustrating of all the work they were doing was the complete lack of progress. Not one of the people who had attended the Quidditch match had seen anything suspicious. No one had heard or seen anything about Colin Creevey either. It was this last point Harry brought up with Ginny.

“We’re going to have another go at the Malfoy’s Manor today.” When Ginny looked up, stunned, Harry continued. “We’re looking for anything that will help us find Colin and Justin.”

“You can’t think they’re still alive, can you?” she asked, playing with her food and spending more time looking at it. “After so much time I think that finding Colin alive would be an unbelievable miracle.”

“We’re still going to try.”

Harry had to stop by the Auror office before meeting the other members of the task force outside Malfoy Manor. Briony wasn’t coming today so he needed to drop off his latest sheath of reports for filing. He’d been up until four finishing them. Briony would be able to file them while she was waiting for the task force to return.

Harry didn’t see her at her desk so he left his reports for her. He was running sufficiently late and did not have the time to worry about where Briony was.

Not more than a minute later Harry was back outside, standing in a country lane bordered by tall yew hedges. Halfway along the road between where he had appeared and the drive that led to the Malfoy’s mansion, Harry saw the other members of the task force.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said rushing over. “I just —“

Dawlish put up his hand, which was probably a good idea because Tougas looked like he was preparing to say something.

“We’ve only been here a few minutes ourselves,” Dawlish said. “Now we’re all here we can get to work. You know what we’re looking for.”

Everyone nodded quietly and they started walking to the drive slowly. They knew well enough what they were there for. Their confidence of finding anything that would help their case was low though. Colin had already been gone four weeks and Justin’s abduction had been more than four months previous. If there were any clues to be had here they surely would have found them on previous visits.

“I don’t know what he’s hoping to find here,” Brazill said of Dawlish. “We’ve been here a dozen times in the years past. We removed all the dark objects when Malfoy was first arrested. Our sources indicate that they never came back here for any but the shortest visits after Malfoy was let out of Azkaban by You-Know-Who. All we’re going to find here is a bitter and grieving woman.”

“Maybe,” Harry said slowly. “But Narcissa Malfoy has never been the most cooperative person when it comes to the Ministry. Who’s to say she didn’t lie about her husband and sister staying here?”

Brazill nodded in agreement, a small smile on her face. She apparently approved of Harry’s theory.

“We had thought of that, but there haven’t been any signs that they’ve been back. Its not wholly unlikely, but not many people can cover their tracks that thoroughly.”

Dawlish was speaking to the gate. Harry and Brazill fell silent and watched as the iron twisted into a fierce looking face and began speaking in a resounding metallic voice. “State your purpose.”

He’d never been here before and Harry found it fascinating. He’d seen a lot of strange things since joining the wizarding world, but a metallic gate that contorted into a face and could speak was high on his list of most incredible.

“We’ve always shown up unannounced,” Brazill continued as the gate swung open. “If they were here we’d surely have caught them, too. There’s no way they could cover up so quickly and still have time to disappear.”

For a moment Harry was at a loss for words. Brazill was right, of course, but Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange were just slimy enough to slip out of the house without detection. But, he thought, there was still that unplugged leak in the Auror department. Maybe their arrivals weren’t as unexpected as they thought. As they walked through the gates Harry, who was at the back of the group with Brazill, watched his colleagues. Could it possibly be one of them who were giving information about the case?

The thought was repugnant to Harry but he found himself considering it.

Dawlish was an exceptional Auror but he had been jinxed before. The first few times Harry knew of were the ones Dumbledore had told him about. One couldn’t really include Dumbledore’s jinxing ability with a comparison of everyone else’s but Dawlish hadn’t been working at peak performance lately anyway. Maybe he had been Confunded.

Behind Dawlish were Tougas and Tressa Hyde. Admittedly Harry knew very little about Hyde but she seemed quite straightforward to him. Tougas had given innumerable examples of how he was a git. Much as Harry would love to think that he was the traitor, it seemed unlikely given how fastidious Tougas was about his casework, including all of his annoying suspicions. No, he was too devoted to the case to be of any real suspicion. The same could be said for everyone else on the task force. Harry couldn’t see how any of them, who had forsaken any real personal lives for this case, would be the very ones to sabotage it.

Even though she wasn’t here, the same could be said for Briony. Next to Tougas she would have been Harry’s other immediate suspect because of her ties to Umbridge. At least he would have considered her worthy of inquiry but he had long ago ceased thinking of Briony in relationship to her aunt. She, like the Aurors on the task force, had put any personal life aside and was going way beyond her actual duties to help. Harry knew that he wasn’t alone in thinking they owed a lot to Briony’s contributions. He’d often wondered if she was the reason Tougas had advanced so quickly. She might be a danger to herself and others in practical defensive magic, but she was a genius at research. She’d spotted patterns in the case that no one else had (like following up on the D.O.M’s research on fear).

“I can’t explain it, but I just have this feeling they’ve been here recently,” Harry said to Brazill as they walked down the gravel driveway between the tall yew hedges.

A large house revealed itself to them as they rounded a corner. Harry couldn’t say he was surprised at what he saw. The few times he’d given any thought to what the Malfoy home had been like he pictured it very similar to what he was staring at. He could hear a fountain running in the garden on the other side of the hedge, but all his focus was on the structure they were approaching.

The house gave no outward appearance of being home to some of the darkest wizards in Britain. It carried no signs that Voldemort’s largest supporters slept here (or had some time in the past). The hedges were neatly trimmed all the way up to the brick house with mullioned windows. As they walked past Harry tried to see in the windows but only one revealed anything from inside of the house. Harry cast a glance to the second story and thought he caught a glimpse of blonde hair in the window above the door.

“Why’d she stay here if her husband is off doing all the dirty work?” Harry asked out loud. It was something he’d been thinking of for a while but voiced for the first time.

“Narcissa Malfoy was never a Death Eater,” Brazill said. “I don’t think she really knew half of what they got up to. Suspected, maybe, but she wasn’t really privy to all the inner workings of the Death Eater organization. She’s kept really quiet about the whole thing, but I can’t imagine losing their son would have done wonders for their relationship . . . To lose a child . . . I don’t even want to think of what I’d do if the same thing happened to my daughter.“

“You have a kid?” Though she was ten years his senior, Harry found it incredible to realize that Brazill had a child. He hadn’t spent much time thinking about the personal lives of his coworkers though and therefore he shouldn’t have been as surprised as he was.

“Yes. Here.” She started to reach into her robes but a loud throat clearing from the front of their group made her cease and look up sheepishly. Dawlish fixed Brazill with an impatient look before he turned and rang the doorbell.

Almost instantly Narcissa Malfoy yanked open the door.

“What are you doing here again?” she asked angrily. “Have you not spent enough time harassing me?”

Dawlish tried diplomacy first. He started to tell her about their suspicions that Colin and Justin’s disappearances were connected. They would appreciate her time and cooperation as they conducted their investigation, he said. They were looking for any information that would help them find the two missing Muggle-borns (Narcissa sneered at this) including that which might have been left behind by the Ministry’s two prime suspects.

“Anything that would help us find answers for the families of these two young men,” Dawlish said. His plea for her cooperation by the use of sympathy was the wrong method to take.

“Let them suffer,” Narcissa said and slammed the door.

“Such a pleasant woman,” Schultz replied dryly.

Dawlish raised his hand to ring again, with a firm expression on his face. He had his wand in his other hand.

“I’m going to try once more,” he said. “If she reacts like that again we may have to use more forceful tactics.”

An immediate fission ran through the group. Everyone backed away from him, exchanging wary looks.

“You can’t be saying what I think you are,” Schultz said. “You want to blast our way into the house?”

“I mean precisely that. She might be hiding something in there and keeping us out under the guise of grieving mother; that is tantamount to interfering with an investigation.”

“John, be reasonable,” Brazill said. “This woman lost her child. She’s married to a man who abandoned her after that and took up with her sister. We’ve been invading her sanctuary with more and more regularity . . . don’t you think that is quite enough reason for her incivility?” She allowed some time for her words to sink in. “I’ll give it a go?”

No one objected to Brazill’s offer. They parted to let her walk to the door. She rang the bell again. Not surprisingly there was no answer. Twice more she rang with the same result. Dawlish gave her a significant look.

“Let me try one more thing,” Brazill said. Raising her wand to her throat, she muttered, “sonorous.

“Mrs. Malfoy this is Pamela Brazill. We just want to come in and talk to you and have a quick look around. We don’t want to cause you any undue stress, but from one mother to another —“

The door was yanked open again and Narcissa reappeared, looking slightly flushed and a lot less composed than Harry had ever seen her. Gone too was most of the arrogance she had exuded.

“Turn that thing off, you stupid woman,” she said, pointing her own wand at Brazill, who had already ended her spell. Upon seeing her raised wand, Harry rushed forward to intervene. He wasn’t alone in his actions. Within seconds six wands were positioned between Brazill and Narcissa Malfoy. Seeing this the blonde woman lowered her wand. After looking at them all significantly, Brazill had everyone follow suit.

“Mrs. Malfoy . . . I’m sure you would have wanted someone to tell you what happened to your son. We’re only working toward the opportunity to do the same for —“

“Don’t play your stupid little sympathy card with me,” Narcissa said viciously. “My son is dead because he helped one of your lot. Now you play on that death, asking for my help to persecute my husband and my sister?”

“Not persecute,” Dawlish replied, taking his lead from Brazill and speaking with a softer tone. “We just want to make sure that everyone who has broken our laws is brought to justice.”

Narcissa scoffed at this too.

“I will let you in, if only to show that the Ministry has it in for my family, but do not ask my questions, I shall not answer them.” She turned and walked away, leaving the door open.

Harry was one of the last to enter the house. He quickly looked around, taking in the dark paneled walls covered with portraits (moving as always). They stepped onto a thick rug that covered almost the entire floor just in time to see Narcissa raise her hand and snap.

At once a girl and boy appeared. Harry judged them to be around eighteen, perhaps fresh from their last year at Hogwarts.

“These Aurors are here to inspect the house for traces of Mr. Malfoy and Mrs. Lestrange’s presence. See they don’t make a mess. Alert me when they’re gone.”

With one last haughty look at the seven Aurors, Narcissa turned on her heel and disappeared.

“So much for her not being arrogant anymore,” Schultz said shaking her head as they split up.

Harry had hoped to partner Brazill again but Dawlish, for reasons best known only to him, set him to work with Tougas. The look on his face made it clear to Harry that Tougas wasn’t enthusiastic about this pairing either. It had been months since they’d worked together one-on-one and they had been much better for it. But, Harry thought as they ascended the wide staircase, Tougas was still his supervisor and he should expect to work with him more often.

“I’ll trust you to check out those rooms down there,” Tougas said, pointing to the rooms on their left.

“What?” Harry asked in shock. He’d been prepared to have Tougas breathing down his neck since he thought Harry had some nefarious connection to this case.

“You heard me right, Potter. Now get out of my sight before I change my mind.” He turned on his heel and strode down the hall on the right.

Harry stood there for at least a minute. Tougas had been adamant about ending Harry’s continued involvement in the case. When someone took that strong a stance on something they generally didn’t back down all of a sudden.

Such was his worry that Harry actually contemplated finding Dawlish and relaying the whole scene. Running his suspicions back though, he realized how ridiculous it sounded to say he thought Tougas was an imposter because he wanted Harry to do his job. Dawlish didn’t seem to understand the nature of Harry and Tougas’s relationship anyway, which would just make Harry’s story less believable.

In the end Harry resolved to keep an eye on Tougas and to say something if he displayed any other nearly human behaviour. He decided to start at the end of the hall and work his way back to the stairs.

The very first room he stepped into was an extravagantly decorated bedroom that matched its owners perfectly. All the colours were green or silver and while there were no actual snakes present, the bedposts and tables gave the feel of a serpent.

Doubting that he was going to find anything in a room that looked like it hadn’t been touched in years, Harry set to work. Not having a particular object or article in mind, he couldn’t summon anything and had to resort to manually looking. In some ways he felt odd going through someone else’s drawers but he felt better when he thought that there might be something in that armoire, or under the bed, or in the closet that would help them find Colin or Justin.

After twenty minutes in the first room Harry was confident he had been over everything and this room had nothing further to hide, so he moved onto the next room, which was similarly decorated and yielded the same lack of results.

Harry opened the door to the third room and stepped in.

This room, he knew, had once belonged to Draco Malfoy. It was not done up in the Slytherin colours, but rather in midnight black and silver. On the walls were pictures of various things, including what looked like Malfoy’s favorite Quidditch team (the Wimbourne Wasps of all teams!), the wizard rock group The Weird Sisters (Ginny had that same poster in her room at the Burrow), and some pictures from what were probably the last days Malfoy had spent at Hogwarts with his fellow Slytherins.

Fascinated and appalled at the idea of seeing where Draco Malfoy grew up, Harry came in further. He ran his finger along the top of the dresser and didn’t see a single line of dust. A few things were strewn over a high-backed leather chair as though they would be picked up later. A half-finished letter was lying on Malfoy’s desk. When Harry went to have a look, he saw it was to Pansy Parkinson, one of Draco’s fellow Slytherins. The parchment had faded to an aged yellow, the quill and ink long since dried up and wilted. All evidence was that this room had been turned into a shrine. Harry seriously doubted that any dark magic was hiding in this room and turned to go.

“What — Are — You — Doing — In — There?” Narcissa was standing in the doorway her face flushed again, a furious fire in her eyes.

“I was inspecting this room —“ Harry started, tightening his grip on his wand.

“You? Of all people? You dare to come into my son’s room and nose around in his personal things? You — the boy who nobody can kill but who can get others killed at the drop of a hat — standing here in my son’s room? I won’t have it! The murderer cannot be allowed to come into this room. Get out!”

“I didn’t kill Malf — your son. He was the one who ran. If he’d have just stayed —“

“Don’t you dare blame Draco for this. Don’t. You. Dare.” She was on him so fast she might have flown. They were practically nose-to-nose with their wands raised.

“Lower your wand,” Harry said evenly, not flinching. When she didn’t comply with his demand he repeated it. “Lower your wand or I will stun you. You have to the count of three. One . . . “

Narcissa lowered her wand, her fury slowly giving way to a sinister smile.

“You’ve sure become a mass of overconfidence, haven’t you, Harry Potter? Perhaps you feel good about your lot in life: vanquisher of the Dark Lord and all that?” A look of triumph was growing on her face. “Overconfidence is a dangerous thing sometimes.”

Harry knew what she was doing. She had flat out told them she was not going to help. He assumed this meant making threats that could inadvertently lead to clues. She was trying to rattle Harry. Realizing this allowed him to keep his cool. He was not the leak, and was going to make sure he didn’t become it.

“That’s just how your husband first got arrested, wasn’t it? Its also how Draco got roped into service with Voldemort which eventually led to his death.”

Narcissa backed away a few paces looking like she’d been slapped. She regained herself quickly, but not quickly enough to disguise her pain.

“And because you let these things happen your son is dead and your husband taken up with your sister.” He hadn’t quite been sure Brazill meant what he thought she meant earlier, but Harry used this to his advantage, hoping to rile Narcissa into becoming the one who revealed something. She looked angry for a minute but once more composed herself and replaced her anger with a menacing smile.

“Things are not always as they appear Potter. You should know that by now.”

“True. But sometimes they are, and we just refuse to see it,” Harry replied immediately.

This was not the reaction she had expected out of him. Harry watched as Narcissa bit her bottom lip for a second before looking around the room. He saw a resigned expression appear on her face as she took in the emptiness. Harry saw her try and fail to disguise the grief that Brazill had mentioned in passing earlier.

“I never approved of Draco’s involvement with the Dark Lord, as you well know. It is not as if we had a choice. Sometimes things just happen when you’re not watching as closely as you should be.” Harry thought he saw her surreptitiously glance at him as she spoke but he couldn’t be sure.

The doorbell rang.

“Pity our little chat is cut short, Potter. There’s so much more I could have told you; so much more you would love to know.” She was already walking out of the room.

Harry followed her and moved onto the next room, wondering if there was anything behind the words and emotions Narcissa had expressed. Though her grief did seem genuine he was troubled by the fact she was spending so much time watching his reaction. It was almost as if she had been coached on what to say — to try and rattle him. Was he right? Had she been speaking with Bellatrix or Lucius? This would lend more support for Tougas’s theory.

He’d just turned the knob on the fourth room when he heard raised voices. One was Narcissa Malfoy. The other, though loud and angry, he couldn’t make out, but it did have a familiar ring to it. He only clued in to why it was familiar when Tougas came speeding from one of the rooms halfway down the right hall. Harry followed suit.

At the top of the stairs Harry almost literally knocked into Tougas and Briony.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Tougas asked, clutching her arms and looking at Briony with deep concern. She tried to speak but her voice failed her for a minute, trying to regain her breath.

“Here, let me draw you up a chair.” Tougas raised his wand to do this very thing but Briony waved him away.

“Just . . . a minute,” she gasped, leaning on him for support. It took another minute or two before she could speak, and when she did it was Harry and Tougas who were breathless. “We may have found out what happened to Colin Creevey.”

Minutes later eight people hurried out of Malfoy Manor and headed back for the country lane where they Disapparated and reappeared in a London flat even smaller than Harry’s.

A tiny man was sitting at a small table staring into a cup of tea. When they all appeared he jumped up, knocking his cup of tea over the surface of the table. It missed an expensive looking camera by inches.

This had to be Mr. Creevey. He had the same large ears, mousy hair, and wispy build as his son. Harry rather thought that he was staring at the spitting image of Colin thirty years in the future.

“You’re Colin’s father?” he asked and received a mute nod.

“What do we have here, sir?” Dawlish asked, looking around the seedy flat. “We were told you have information on your son’s whereabouts.”

Mr. Creevey’s shoulders already lowered when they arrived, slumped even further.

“No. I don’t know. I was just told to let you know if anything odd happened here. I was just around yesterday to water the plants and everything was in order. This morning when I came in Colin’s camera was sitting right here in the middle of the table. The door was locked and all, so I don’t think it could have been kids or anything . . . even if they would have left his camera . . . “

Harry hadn’t given the camera more than half a second of his attention. Now he was looking at it he could have sworn it was the very one slung around Colin’s neck the night of the Quidditch match.

“Did you disturb this camera at all?” Tougas asked, not unkindly, stepping forward.

“No. I did what I was told. As soon as I saw it here I got in contact with your office. If this camera can help to find my son . . . I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.” He had a desperate look in his eyes that Harry couldn’t help comparing to that of Narcissa Malfoy. No trace of deception was hiding in this man’s eyes. His only concern was for the whereabouts of his son.

Harry watched Tougas collect the camera, careful not to touch it. They did not know what this was meant to show them. It could be just a simple camera, but there could be all sorts of spells and dark magic on it as well. The last thing they needed was to run into some dangerous spell when they weren’t properly equipped to deal with it.

Dawlish and Brazill were waving their wands around and muttering incantations under their breath. They were testing for any sign that magic had been used here, anything to link the camera’s sudden appearance with Malfoy and Lestrange. The grim looks they wore when they lowered their wands were more than enough of an indication to Harry that they weren’t having any luck.

Dawlish told Harry, Brazill, Schultz, Hyde and Kitson to do a physical sweep of the flat to make sure they weren’t missing any signs that their two suspects had been there. He and Tougas bent over the camera and began doing some preliminary tests to make sure that it was safe for transport. Once more, Harry and the others rustled through the flat without much conviction. They were not disappointed when they found no evidence that someone had been there.

“We’ll take this back to headquarters,” Dawlish explained to Mr. Creevey. “Once we’ve completed our analysis we’ll let you know what we’ve found.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Creevey said weakly. He sank down into his chair and stared at the table with the same lost expression on his face. Harry looked around at his fellow Aurors, all of whom were exchanging nervous glances, unsure of how to react. Surprisingly it was Tougas who stepped forward.

“Would you like a hand getting home, sir?” The sincerity and empathy in his voice was so uncharacteristic that it wasn’t only Harry who cricked his neck turning to look at his supervisor. The only person not surprised by Tougas’s behaviour was Briony. She just shrugged and went to stand by Tougas.

“I . . . “ Mr. Creevey looked around the flat hopelessly. Harry thought he was going to refuse, to say that he wanted to stay here a little longer, but his shoulders slumped again and he nodded, saying, “thank you.”

“I’ll come with you,” Briony offered.

Out of respect the rest of the task force waited until Tougas and Briony were gone before they Disapparated.

“Welcome home,” Schultz said as they reappeared in the Auror office. Harry looked around at the brightly lit corridor and breathed a sigh of relief. The others were doing the same.

They filed into the briefing room while Schultz ran to get the appropriate potion to develop Colin’s film. As they waited the excitement was palpable.

“So what do you think was up with Tougas back there?” Brazill asked Harry. “I didn’t realize they knew each other.”

“I don’t think they do, but now you mention it its not the first time he’s acted decent today.” Harry recounted his shock at what Tougas had done earlier. “Maybe he finally took that dose of congeniality potion.”

Brazill chuckled softly but Harry’s amusement faltered.

“You don’t think he’s been replaced by an imposter? Maybe he’s been polyjuiced or something?”

“No. Not everyone can pull off the Polyjuice trick. And besides that, you know that the Minister enhanced security around here tenfold. If there’s even a hint of concealment or disguise we’d know about it straightaway. No, I think this change has a much more pleasant origin.” Brazill winked at Harry and nodded in the direction of the door where Briony was entering, followed by Tougas.

“You don’t think . . . “ Harry said, catching her meaning.

“Oh, I do think,” she said quietly. “Its actually quite obvious. Schultz and I have a bet on as to how long it’s going to take them to get together. I’ve called six more months.”

Harry snorted, but it went without comment because Schultz returned seconds later. She was shuffling through a stack of pictures, looking grim.

“Here,” she said, flinging the pictures down on the table. “Have a look at what Malfoy and Lestrange think is funny.”

With the others Harry leaned over. Though Colin was still using a Muggle camera the pictures had been developed in the appropriate magical potion so that they moved. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

The very first picture Harry looked at showed Colin hanging upside down. He looked terrified and abused. Both of his eyes had been blackened; he’d been hit in the jaw, which was swollen and deformed. Harry had no doubts that there were similar injuries on the rest of his body: the bloody stains and tattered state of his clothing attested to that fact

“Oh my,” Briony said faintly, covering her mouth with her hand. “Oh.”

Briony sped from the room closely followed by Tougas. Though it looked like everyone else would have loved to follow suit they could not.

Harry felt his stomach turn each time he looked at a new photo. The first was the tamest of the dozen that were laid out across the table. Several of the photos showed Colin scrunched up as best he could be in his suspended state, his mouth open wide and his eyes scrunched up.

“The Cruciatus,” Brazill said, pulling out her trusty parchment and writing down her comment. She looked angry.

The other photos showed Colin in various states of fear and pain. The second to last was the worst. A streak of green light shot towards Colin and the look of abject fear in his eyes was enough to silence any questions as to what spell had been cast. The final photo removed the last vestige of doubt. Colin was lying on the ground, motionless. The photo had been taken with sufficient focus on his face for Harry to recognize the stare of death.

“I hope he went quickly,” Hyde said quietly. “But judging from the changes in his bruising as well as his facial hair, best guess is a few days . . . more likely a few weeks.”

Dawlish looked like he wanted to kick something.

“We’ve got to find these monsters,” he said through clenched teeth. “We can’t let them alone out there killing people and flaunting it. We’ll have Tougas and Briony go back to the father’s. They seem to have a rapport with the man. Hyde, Kitson — you keep following up on those reports. Brazill and Schultz, I want you two back at Creevey’s flat and go over every inch of that place. I have to go talk to Moody. Potter, come with me. Once Moody hears this he’s going to want to have another go at changing Ms. Granger’s mind.”

“OK,” Harry said, not able to tear his eyes away from the last photo in the array. He knew that Hermione wasn’t going to change her mind no matter how many times they talked to her. When she made a decision it was extremely difficult to change it.

As predicted she still refused to listen to any requests that involved her leaving her house.

“I’ve already got Ron stopping home twelve times a day,” she said irritably. “And Moody is here. I’m not going anywhere, so stop asking.”

“Be reasonable,” Ron tried to persuade her. “You haven’t even listened to what they have to say. Harry and the others can’t have stopped by just to have another go at getting you to change your mind. Something must have happened.”

“He’s right,” Harry said with an encouraging nod from Moody and Dawlish. “We . . . er . . . found out what happened to Colin tonight. He’s dead.”

This was the last thing that Ron and Hermione had been expecting Harry to say. Ron swore under his breath and Hermione gasped, covering her mouth with her hand.

“You’re sure? It’s not a hoax or anything?” Ron asked, putting his arm around Hermione.

“No hoax,” Moody replied. “He was tortured for weeks. Only after he was too weak to put up any more resistance did they kill him. That is the fate that awaits you if you don’t start listening to us.”

Even Harry, who was very much in agreement with Moody, thought this was going a little far. He wanted Hermione to reconsider, but Moody was almost threatening her. It was a scare tactic that didn’t work well with Hermione. She bristled, pulled herself to full height and affixed a determined look on her face.

“I’ve already told you that I will not be run out of my home. We don’t even know for sure that I am on their list of victims for starters. Even if I am though, we already know that if they want something bad enough they’ll find a way to get it. You’ve already got me working from home. Step up security here if you must, but do not ask me to leave again. I will not let them win.”

Harry, Ron and Moody tried to tell Hermione that it would not be letting them win to leave her house. Malfoy and Lestrange were not trying to frighten her; they were trying to kill her. Letting them win would be getting captured. Hermione wouldn’t back down though. She insisted that this was not the same as what had happened with Ginny and that she was prepared to go down fighting. Ron didn’t like this at all. Harry, Moody and Dawlish left as Ron and Hermione started in on what promised to be a spectacular row.

“She’s a fool,” Moody said, back at his tent. “We can’t properly protect her here.”

“Let’s just hope Tougas is wrong about this one then,” Harry said, crossing his fingers.

It was nearing midnight when Harry finally returned home. He felt like he’d been gone for three days, rather than the sixteen hours he’d actually been away.

All was quiet and the lights were low, making it hard for him to take in an accurate picture of his surroundings. The first thing he did see when his eyes had adjusted was Ginny asleep on the sofa. She’d been waiting for him to return again. Tonight was the one night Harry really wished she hadn’t done so. He’d spent a good deal of time at Ron and Hermione’s thinking about how he was going to break this horrible news to Ginny. She was the closest to Colin, of course.

He walked around as quietly as he could, hoping not to wake her, but Ginny was up almost at once.

“Hi,” she said groggily. When Harry turned around she was already sitting up. “You’re late. Did something happen?”

Harry debated about lying, but this sort of thing wasn’t going to stay secret for long, and it was better for her to know anyway.

“Yeah,” he replied. He joined her on the sofa, trying to think of how best to tell Ginny what had happened. Hesitantly he began to speak. “We got some information on Colin . . . he’s — Gin, you were right about him.” He watched her closely as she processed his words.

“You . . . found him?” she asked quietly, wearing an unclear expression. “Was he badly injured . . . or —“

“We haven’t found his — him yet, no. But we know he’s gone.” Ginny really didn’t need all the gory details.

Without betraying anything of what she was thinking or feeling Ginny stood up and walked once around the sofa.

“How?” she asked. “How do you know if you haven’t already found him?”

“We saw him get hit with the killing curse,” Harry said eventually when Ginny continued to stare at him, waiting for an answer. “They took photos.”

This was as far as Harry was willing to go. Ginny didn’t need to be troubled by the exact nature of Colin’s death. It was better she thought he’d gone quickly.

“I’m so sorry, Gin.” Harry also stood and pulled her into an embrace. She didn’t resist, but seemed numb. Her eyes were still dry.

“At least he’s out of their grasp now,” she replied after a minute. Her voice was heavy with unshed tears as she extracted herself from his embrace and walked over to a shelf in the corner of the room where she pulled down a large photo album: a present from Colin on her last birthday.

“Come have a look?” she asked, sitting down once more. Harry joined her.

Ginny began thumbing through the photos, most of which were from their years at Hogwarts. There were pictures with Ginny and her classmates from first year all the way up to the last year she and Colin were at the school together. There was a picture of her at the Yule Ball with Neville Longbottom, another from her fourth year when they had been heavily involved in Dumbledore’s Army. There were several of her playing Quidditch at Hogwarts, including the final game that she had played while Harry was still at Hogwarts, the one he’d been forced to miss because of that detention with Snape.

The very last picture was taken during Ginny’s last Quidditch game with the Harpies in her first season. They’d won that game but hadn’t played well enough to make it to the finals. The previous four pictures had shown some of her game play, but this was a post-match picture of herself and Harry taken during the Harpies celebration.

Ginny turned the page and read the tiny inscription Colin had written:

We’ll fill up the rest of these pages with the wedding and baby photos.

He had drawn a smiley face beside the sentence and it winked playfully at them as they read. Ginny traced a finger over the writing.

“I guess he won’t be doing that,” she said.

Not knowing how to respond to this Harry remained quiet, just stroking her hair. “He really thought he was going to be around for all of that.”

“So did we,” Harry replied.

“Yeah.” Ginny looked from the book to Harry. “Things don’t seem to work out the way we want them to.”

A single tear appeared at the corner of her eye. She wiped it away quickly but there was another, and then another and soon she wasn’t fighting it anymore.

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